Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Schooner Yacht America Photos

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on October 31, 2016


Following up on last week’s post about the visit of the schooner yacht America, I was able to get some photos of her under sail this weekend. (There’s a lot of other shipping in there, too; it was, as they say, a “target-rich environment.”) Nothing spectacular, but there are a few decent ones in the mix. You can view them here and here.




11 Responses

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  1. Bob Nelson said, on November 2, 2016 at 3:09 pm

    Beautiful work Andy. The one of the “America” under full sail with the lighthouse in the background (second group) is surely suitable for framing. Some of the others also caught my eye. One was of the S.S. “Selma.” I remember seeing her once years and years ago when I visited relatives in Galveston. At the time, my aunt (who lived in Texas City) told me it was the result of the 1947 explosion and I never looked it up until now. She’s a very historic vessel.

    She was one of a number of ships designed to be troop transports toward the end of WWI. Instead of wood or steel, her hull was made of reinforced concrete laid over steel (what we today would call rebar). She was built in Mobile and was launched on June 28, 1919 — the same day that WWI ended. The War Department sold her and she was used as an oil tanker for about a year until she hit a jetty in Tampico, Mexico on May 31, 1920, which resulted in a 60-foot crack in her hull. Towed to Galveston, she was found to be unrepairable so the owners removed anything of value and sank the hulk in a specially designed channel off Pelican Island. I can only wonder — “What the hell were they thinking?” Maybe over the years the cement would simply dissolve. Or maybe she would become an underwater sanctuary for marine life. Probably not. An obvious statement if there ever was one on the lack of concern back then for environmental issues. No wonder we wound up with the Love Canal and other Super Fund sites in the 1970s.

    Question: Why haven’t the authorities had her broken up and removed? Yeah, I know she’s on the National Register of Historic Places, which will make it difficult (damn near impossible) to ever get rid of the old girl. But she really is an eyesore. BTW, she was named for the city of Selma, AL. Here’s a link to a good site for anyone wanting more info about this historic vessel.

    • Andy Hall said, on November 2, 2016 at 4:11 pm

      SELMA hasn’t been removed for the same reason she was abandoned in that location in the first place — it’s out-of-the-way and doesn’t really interfere with anything. At this point she is a famous landmark and has long since stopped being any sort of environmental hazard. In fact, she has been a popular fishing spot for many years, as shown in the photograph.

      My friend and colleague Amy Borgens wrote a piece about the ship several years ago that you can read here:

      • Bob Nelson said, on November 3, 2016 at 1:03 pm

        Nice piece by Amy. Thanks for sharing.

        • Andy Hall said, on November 3, 2016 at 1:20 pm

          Amy has since become the State Marine Archaeologist for Texas. She’s fantastic. She lives and breathes this stuff. I’m glad to count her as a friend and colleague.

          • Bob Nelson said, on November 3, 2016 at 1:36 pm

            The photos of the “Selma” are quite spectacular.

            • Andy Hall said, on November 4, 2016 at 12:02 pm

              Those were taken during a survey looking for a wreck nearby. We found something, along with what appeared to be an anchor chain run out along the bottom, but nothing really definitive or diagnostic. I don’t remember now who took the photographs of Selma.

      • Bob Nelson said, on November 3, 2016 at 3:17 pm

        She reminds me of the two old schooners, which were abandoned at the pier in Wiscasset, Maine in 1932 — the “Luther Little” (a 4-master) and the “Hesper.” Both were built about the same time as the “Selma” and were used primarily along the East Coast and in the Caribbean. When the company that owned them went belly up, a fellow name Frank Winter bought ’em cheap and had them towed to Wiscasset. He had plans to develop a New England shipping company but then in 1932 his other businesses including a railroad all failed and he died shortly thereafter. And they sat there, quietly rotting away for sixty-six years. It has been said that they were the most photographed derelicts ever. Finally in 1998 after large sections of the hulls had rotted away, the Wiscasset Town Council had them broken up and carted off to a nearby landfill. Here’s a link to some terrific photos of the old girls. My wife and I saw them back in the early 1970s.

  2. Bob Nelson said, on November 2, 2016 at 5:22 pm

    The other ship that caught my attention — no, it was not Carnival’s “Freedom” — was the U.S.S. “Stewart” (DE-238). An Edsall-Class destroyer escort, she was the first of 18 Edsall-Class DEs to be built by Consolidated Steel in Orange, TX. For those not familiar with Texas geography, Orange is located about twenty miles above the entrance to the Sabine Pass on the Sabine River, which serves as the boundary between East Texas and Louisiana. On September 8, 1863, less than fifty artillerymen of the Texas “Davis Guards” put a stop to Nathaniel Banks’ Sabine Expedition. Some had been sent to Fort Griffin at the entrance to the Pass for disciplinary reasons. And they didn’t lose a single man.

    World War II DEs (Destroyer Escorts) were smaller and slower than destroyers. Powered by diesel/electric motors not much different from those used on 21st century railroad engines, they were designed to protect convoys in the Caribbean, the Pacific and the Atlantic. They carried no heavy guns. Armaments on Edsall-Class boats consisted of some .50 caliber machine guns, 20 and 40 mm. anti-aircraft guns, three torpedo tubes and 8 depth charge projectors. Of the 85 Edsall-Class boats, only 5 were destroyed or damaged in combat. The “Stewart” spent most of her WWII duty time on the east coast of America and in the Caribbean. She is the only Edsall-Class boat to have survived.

    In total, 461 of the sturdy little boats (in six classes) were built during WWII. All were the same length (306 feet) with a beam of 36 feet and carried a crew of around 185 men. Orders for the final class — the Butler Class — originally called for 293 boats, many most likely intended for use in Operation Downfall (the invasion of Japan). More than 200 of these orders were later cancelled and only 83 were ever built.

    My father was drafted at the age of 34 during the winter of 1944-45. He would most likely have been part of the 2-million-man invasion army for Operation Downfall. Years ago, I was told that one of my Uncle Carl’s younger brothers served on a DE in the Pacific. All this history stuff is nice but it’s especially pertinent when you can make a personal connection. Thanks for sharing Andy.

    • Andy Hall said, on November 2, 2016 at 7:28 pm

      OK, history:

      Torpedoes fired from these tubes sank one of the Japanese carriers from Pearl Harbor.

      • Bob Nelson said, on November 3, 2016 at 4:43 pm

        Forward torpedo room of the U.S.S. “Cavalla” (SS-241)? On her maiden voyage in June 1944 she sank the aircraft carrier “Shokaku,” one of the six Japanese carriers in the task force that attacked Pearl Harbor. Four were sunk at Midway, the other two including the “Shokaku” at the Battle of the Philippine Sea.

        • Andy Hall said, on November 3, 2016 at 9:28 pm

          Yep. She’s right alongside Stewart. The upper two tubes were removed in the 1950s when she was converted to an SSK to make a place for the boww sonar array. SS-244

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