Forward, 1882

Jan. 8, 2021

Forward (Walter Forward), 1882

Walter Forward was appointed to be the 15th Secretary of the Treasury after Thomas Ewing resigned. This was one of many appointments in President Zachary Tyler's reorganized cabinet. He served as Secretary of the Treasury from September 13, 1841 until March 1, 1843.

Forward was born in 1786 and died in 1852.

Type/Rig/Class: Topsail Schooner / Brigantine Steamer

Builder: Pusey & Jones, Wilmington, Delaware

Commissioned: 1 November 1882

Decommissioned: 19 August 1912

Disposition: Sold

Displacement: 267 tons

Length: 155'

Beam: 25'

Draft: 7' 6"

Machinery: 2-cylinder steam engine; 2 propellers

Complement: 7 officers, 31 enlisted

Armament: 2 guns of unknown type and caliber

Cutter History:

Forward was an iron-hulled twin-screw vessel that cost $72,750 to construct.  She was placed in commission on 1 November 1882 under the command of Revenue Captain George W. Moore.  Captain Moore had “been ordered to take charge of her and accept her on behalf of the Government” on 23 September of that same year.  During her Government career, Forward served along the east coast and in the Caribbean. The Forward was considered a model ship at the time, and one source noted that she was “a fine model for cruising” but was severely underpowered and had unreliable machinery. The cost of repairs before 1897 was $52,000. 

She was assigned to Mobile, Alabama, where she cruised the Gulf of Mexico and enforced customs laws and assisted mariners in distress.  She cruised as far east as Cedar Keys, Florida and made monthly port visits at Key West during her cruising season. 

After undergoing repairs in Baltimore from 1888 to 1890, she transferred her duty station to Key West, Florida.  It was during this time prior to the Spanish-American War that the Revenue Cutter Service undertook another mission, preventing the smuggling of men, guns and ammunition to Cuba.  A former crewman who served aboard Forward at this time, Mess Cook H. G. Locke, described in a personal letter to Captain Frank Leamy, USCG, what happened:

P.S. During the period before the Spanish American war, the whole Revenue Cutter fleet was located in the Gulf, to prevent gun running and movement of men bivouacked on the many keys near Key West.

They consisted of the side wheelers “Colfax”, “Seward”, “McLean”, “John A. Dix”, and screw propellers “Walter Forward”, “Winona”, “Galveston”, afterwards revamped and named the “Apache”, “Guthrie”, “Hamilton” and the “Morrell”.  There wasn’t a single ship of the whole fleet that could log over 12 knots except the “Morrell” who could make 16 knots.  Consequently, fast towboats like the “Commodore” “Dos Hermanos” and “Echo” could get away from us unless we caught them in a harbor which we rarely did, due to the “grape vine” which they really knew.

On 9 February 1898 she was ordered to Charlotte Harbor to “Keep lookout for filibustering expedition” and was then ordered to Baltimore on 28 March 1898 stopping as ordered at Key West on 2 April.  She arrived at Baltimore on 23 April 1898. 

Forward was ordered for duty at Charleston, South Carolina on 10 January 1900.  She transferred back to Key West in 1904.  She made one cruise to Havana, Cuba in 1905, where she escorted the U.S. Public Health Service & Marine Hospital Service Barge Senator from Havana to Key West.  Forward was placed out of service from 1905 to 1907 at the Depot in South Baltimore and then again resumed her station at Key West after being activated by the crew of the Fessenden who transferred aboard Forward on 7 August 1907. 

During this period in her history she was called upon to carry out some unusual duties.  On 19 September 1908 she was ordered to proceed to Tampa to “confer with Collector relative to sponge smuggling.”  She towed the Marine Hospital Service Steamer McAdam from Knights Key to Key West and then convoyed the barge Senator from Key West back to Knights Bay, commencing her voyage on 26 January 1909.  In May of that same year she was ordered to search for the missing schooner Albert B. Mills which had been reported in distress and after assisting the schooner she steamed to Mobile.  On 20 June 1910 she was ordered to “enforce law among sponge fishermen” off Tampa.  On 19 October 1910 she was ordered to search for the overdue tug Jones off the coast.

On 27 July 1912 she was ordered to the Depot in South Baltimore where her crew transferred to the cutter Miami, arriving there on 15 August.  She was then sold on October 24, 1912 for $4,151 to the Boston Iron and Metal Company of Baltimore.


Crew onboard Forward


In a 1952 letter to the Captain of the Port of New Orleans, Captain F. A. Leamy, USCG, Forward Mess Cook Harry Goodwin Locke, aboard at the time this photo was taken, made a few interesting comments about some of the crew:

“The Officers were as follows: Capt. Brann (Crews’ nick name ‘Branny’) [;] Lieut. McLellan, the inventor of the McLellan Self-bailing lifeboat used at life saving stations.  Our nickname for him was ‘Bees Wax’ as he was for ever pouring bees wax in cracks, shakes, etc. in timber heads, cracks in timber and what have you. [;] Charels Nash, 2nd Asst. Engineer; Leon T. Jones, 3rd Asst.; Lieut Scott, ‘Scottie’; Lieut. Bertholf ‘Bertie.’ 

Of course you know these nicknames were ‘scuttlebutt’ but we knew well that their nick names were known to them.

James Russell, the fellow lying on deck near the breach of the Howitzer received the medal on his chest from the Carnegie Assn. for saving the mess boy, Julius Damon from drowning in Mobile River.  Damon afterward became the Chief Boatswain on the Coast Guard Cutter ‘TAMPA’ which was torpedoed [in 1918], and perished.

The old fellow [with] the whiskers was really a hardboiled boatswain and when he piped up all hammocks they had better be lashed and in the hammock netting PDQ or else.  The other fellow by him, Connely, was no cream puff either.  An old Navy Master at Arms and ‘Spread the mess gear’ meant cleanliness and neatness.”

Mess Cook Locke also noted that the photo “was taken by Mr. Jos. Humphrey Chalker then 1st Assistant Engineer of the ‘Forward.’  This photo is an enlargement of the original taken in the year 1894.”


Forward Cutter History File, U.S. Coast Guard Historian’s Office.

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

U.S. Coast Guard.  Record of Movements: Vessels of the United States Coast Guard: 1790 - December 31, 1933.  Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1934; 1989 (reprint).