USS Rockport – a Mystery From Bill Hubbard
Bill Hubbard writes-
Did you now that the Town of Rockport had a ship named for it in 1917? But, her name was changed to USS Nantucket only 115 days later. She was first the USS Ranger, later USS Rockport then USS Nantucket (PG-23/IX-18), was a gunboat of the United States Navy.
A screw steamer with full-rig auxiliary sail, Ranger was destined for a very long 65-year career, serving first as a U.S. Navy gunboat from 1876 to 1920, and later as a training ship with the Merchant Marine Academy from 1920 to 1940.
After completion of fitting out, Ranger was assigned to the Atlantic Station, remaining at the Gosport (Portsmouth) Navy Yard and Hampton Roads until 8 March 1877, when she was assigned to the Asiatic Fleet. Following a special fitting out for her new duty, Ranger left New York 21 May 1877, arriving Hong Kong 24 August 1877, via Gibraltar, Suez Canal, and Malacca Straits. The ship served on the Asiatic Station until the fall of 1879, protecting American interests and national policy in the Far East.
Later, she was assigned to protect American seal fisheries in the Bering Sea. On 31 January 1894, she relieved Alliance in protecting American interests in Central America, where she remained until placed out of commission 26 November 1895, except for temporary duty in the Bering Sea in May 1894.
Re-commissioned 1 November 1899, she was a survey ship for 2 years off Mexico and Baja California, then operated with USS Wisconsin (BB-9) off Central America, protecting American national interests. She was again decommissioned from 11 June 1903 to 30 March 1905 at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. She departed Puget Sound 16 April 1905 for the Asiatic Station, arriving Cavite 30 May. Due to recurring maintenance problems, she was decommissioned again at Cavite from 21 June 1905 to 10 August 1908. Departing Cavite 16 August, she arrived Boston 12 December via the Suez Canal, and was decommissioned immediately.
On 26 April 1909, she was loaned to the State of Massachusetts as a school ship to replace Enterprise at the Massachusetts Nautical Training School. Her name was changed to Rockport 30 October 1917 and then to Nantucket 20 February 1918. As Nantucket, she operated as a gunboat in the First Naval District during World War I, as well as a training ship for Navy midshipmen. Designated PG-23 in 1920, Nantucket was re-designated IX-18 on 1 July 1921. On 11 November 1940, she was transferred to the Maritime Commission for final disposition, to be used as a school ship for the Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point, N.Y. During the winter term of 1928 – 1929 the decision was made to paint the outside hull of the Nantucket black, instead of the usual white as in the past. Her four boilers were also updated.
On 30 November 1940, she was struck from the Navy list and was returned to the state of Massachusetts as a school ship. Where is she today? Why was she named Rockport for only 115 days? I’ve been trying to figure that out for a year now. Maybe one of your readers knows.
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