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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Maritime Logistics Professional

USS Demologos

Posted to Maritime Musings (by on November 29, 2013

World’s first steam-powered warship

During the War of 1812, concern arose regarding a possible attack by the Royal Navy on the Port of New York.  After all, the British had attacked and burned Washington, DC and the US victory at Baltimore was a near-thing.  On 9 March 1814, Congress appropriated the sum of $500,000 “for the purpose of building, equipping, and putting into service one or more floating batteries of such magnitude and construction as shall appear to the President of the United States best adapted to attack, repel, or destroy any ships of the enemy which may approach the shores or enter the waters of the United States”.  Only one such vessel was ever built.  It was designed by Robert Fulton, the inventor of the steamboat and was to be the largest steamboat built to date.  As a warship, it was deemed that the vessel’s engine and paddlewheel must be protected from enemy fire.  Fulton adopted a unique design.  Basically, he built a catamaran, using two separate hulls, with the paddlewheel located between the two hulls.  The steam engine was located below the waterline of one of the two hulls for further protection.  The vessel was capable of a maximum speed of five and one-half knots.  The war ended before the vessel, which Fulton named Demologos, entered into service.  As a floating battery, it was designed to be fitted with twelve 32-pounder guns on each side and three more each on the bow and stern, for a total of 30.  It was also fitted to carry two large caliber Columbiad cannons.  The Columbiad had only entered into production in 1811 and was designed for coastal fortresses.  Its use on a vessel, even a floating battery like the Demologos, would have been revolutionary – and probably would have damaged the vessel when fired.  As the war was over, the Columbiads were never installed on the vessel.  After the death of the designer, the vessel’s name was informally changed to Fulton the First.  The Demologos was laid up immediately after the war, but was later converted into a floating barracks at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.  On 4 June 1829, a crew member brought a lit candle into the vessel’s powder magazine.  The ensuing explosion killed 25 sailors and largely destroyed the vessel, which was then stricken from the rolls.