Van Buren, 1839

U.S. Revenue Cutter

April 21, 2020

Van Buren, 1839

The eighth president of the United States and the names of cities in Maine, Arkansas, Missouri, and Ohio.

Builder: [John J.] Abrahams & [Hugh A.] Cooper Shipbuilders, Philpot Street, Despeaux’s Wharf, and down Fleet west of Ann Street, Baltimore, Maryland *
Cost:  Unknown
Rig: Topsail Schooner
Length: Unknown
Beam: Unknown
Draft: Unknown
Displacement: 103 tons
Keel Laid: Unknown
Launched: Saturday, October 13, 1839 *
Commissioned: 1839
Decommissioned: Probably 1847
Disposition: Sold on 1 June 1847 for $1,200.
Complement: “Normally, four officers and sixteen seamen (and boys), including the Boatswain, Carpenter, Gunner, Cook and stewards.” *
* According to GMCM William R. Wells, II, USCG (Ret.): "As of 1840 four medium nine-pounders made at the Georgetown Foundry plus small arms taken off the McLane when she was laid [up] and sold.” *

* As of 1845, (according to Wells who notes) that “she had four iron carriage twelve-pounders, 12 muskets; 12 carbines; 12 brass pistols; 12 iron pistols; 12 brass pistols (note all the above small arms were ‘Caliber 18 balls to the pound [.69];’ 23 cutlasses; 12 boarding pikes; 6 hatchets; 5 passing boxes; 4 tube boxes; 4 cannon (firing) locks; 5 powder horns; 98 12-pdr round shot; 14 12-pdr grape, stand; 49 cannister (sic).” Wells also notes that “The cutlasses may not have been of the traditionally held type. There were swords in service called the ‘Roman’ or ‘Artillery’ sword. The word ‘cutlasses was on the form used by Secretary [Robert J.] Walker. The first standard ordnance form.” *

Cutter History:

Construction at Baltimore, Maryland, of the revenue cutter Van Buren was authorized on 26 June 1839 and Lieutenant J. C. Jones was ordered to superintend her construction.  She may have been built to the lines of the revenue cutter Morris. The cutter was ready on 29 November 1839 and her logs began on 23 December 1839. She may have originally been stationed in Boston as we have a record of her actions during the terrible storm that hit the Massachusetts coast on 15 to 16 December 1839. As reported in David M. Ludlum’s The History of American Weather – Early American Winters II, 1821-1870 (Boston: American Meteorological Society, 1968, p. 35) in Gloucester:

“In the midst of this scene of terror, the hardy and noble fishermen of Cape Ann, full proved that a sailor seldom covers a craven heart. They manned two boats, the Custom House boat and the Van Buren; and fearlessly risked their lives for the safety of their fellow creatures. Vessel after vessel was visited by them; they made their way over the tops of mountain-waves, and through the gaping chasms of the hungry waters; and from the very teeth of greedy death, plucked many a poor, despairing, and exhausted fellow; bringing him safe to shore. Excellent, generous men!”

Van Buren was transferred to naval control on 2 August 1841 as the Seminole War went into an offensive stage.

The cutter returned to revenue service on 18 August 1842. The cutter was eventually assigned at Charleston, South Carolina until May 1846 when the cutter was ordered to cooperate with the Army and Navy in the war against Mexico.

The cutter made one passage to Veracruz, Mexico before being found to be unseaworthy and was sold in New York on 1 June 1847 for $1,200.

Commanding Officers *

December, 1839 – 3 August 1841:   Captain Henry Prince, Jr.

August, 1841 – August, 1842:     Lieutenant, “comdg”, J.B. Marchand, USN

17 August 1842        “transferred to 1st Lt. Francis Martin”

August, 1842 – May, 1843      “Captain William W. Polk (took command at Norfolk and took Van Buren to Charleston).”

April, 1843 – August, 1843      Captain Lewis C. F. Fatio

May, 1844 – March, 1845      Captain Caleb Currier

February, 1845 – September, 1845  1st Lt. “comdg” Napoleon C. Coste

September, 1845 – April, 1847      Captain Thomas C. Rudolph

Notes & Sources:

* GMCM William R. Wells, II, USCG (Ret.). Much of the information contained here comes from the extensive research of historian and scholar GMCM William R. Wells, USCG (Ret.) who kindly shared it with us and we gratefully acknowledge his assistance.

David M. Ludlum. The History of American Weather – Early American Winters II, 1821-1870. Boston: American Meteorological Society, 1968.

Donald Canney. U.S. Coast Guard and Revenue Cutters, 1790-1935.  Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1995.

U.S. Coast Guard. Record of Movements: Vessels of the United States Coast Guard 1790 – December 31, 1933. Washington, DC: USCG HQ (reprint, 1989).