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USS John Hancock (1850)

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Title: USS John Hancock (1850)  
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Subject: David McDougal, USS John Hancock, North Pacific Exploring and Surveying Expedition, John Hancock (disambiguation), David B. Macomb
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USS John Hancock (1850)

Name: USS John Hancock
Builder: Boston Navy Yard
Launched: 26 October 1850
Commissioned: 6 September 1851
Decommissioned: 23 August 1856
Fate: Sold, 17 August 1865
General characteristics (before 1853 rebuild)
Type: Steam Tug
Displacement: 230 long tons (234 t)
Length: 113 ft (34 m)
Beam: 22 ft (6.7 m)
Draft: 10 ft 6 in (3.20 m)
Propulsion: Steam engine, screw-propelled
Speed: 7 knots (13 km/h; 8.1 mph)
Complement: 20 officers and enlisted
Armament: 1 × 6-pounder gun

USS John Hancock was a steam tug in the United States Navy during the 1850s. She was named for the early patriot, John Hancock.


  • Service history 1
    • 1850–1853 1.1
    • Survey ship, 1853–1856 1.2
  • References 2

Service history


John Hancock was launched by Boston Navy Yard on 26 October 1850 for service as a steam tug and water tank in that yard. However, she was soon manned by a temporary crew and dispatched to New Bedford, Massachusetts, to aid in quelling riots. When order had been restored, she returned to Boston, where she served until summer 1851 when she steamed to Annapolis, Maryland, for duty as a practice ship at the United States Naval Academy. At the end of the summer's midshipmen cruises, she sailed to New York, where she commissioned 6 September 1851, Lieutenant J. W. Livingston in command.

Three days later, John Hancock departed New York for Havana, Cuba, to assist in suppressing the last filibustering expedition led by Narciso López which had been launched from the United States in violation of American neutrality laws. She arrived Havana on 29 September, but her duty there terminated four days later when extremely stormy weather damaged the vessel causing her to return to Boston via Charleston, South Carolina and New York.

She was placed in ordinary at the Boston Navy Yard and rebuilt almost entirely. The vessel received a new bow and stern increasing her length to 165 ft 6 in and her weight to 382 tons but not affecting her beam or draft. John Hancock was relaunched on 24 February 1853 and commissioned 19 March 1853, Lt. John Rodgers in command.

Survey ship, 1853–1856

She stood out of New York Harbor on 3 May and joined Commander Cadwallader Ringgold's North Pacific Exploring and Surveying Expedition at Hampton Roads three days later. Secretary of the Navy James C. Dobbin visited the ship at Norfolk, Virginia on 2 June, nine days before the squadron sailed for the Pacific. After stopping at Funchal, Madeira Islands; Porto Praya; and Simonstown, False Bay; the expedition arrived Batavia, Java, 12 December.

Five months were now devoted to surveying the waters surrounding the large islands off the coast of Southeast Asia. Early in May 1854, John Hancock departed for Hong Kong, where she arrived 24 May. The squadron operated from that port as its base throughout the summer, surveying nearby coast, islands, and rivers. At this time China was plagued by rebellion and pirates endangering foreigners and threatening their property. The American ships were a source of stability and order protecting American citizens and interests. While steaming up the Canton River, two armed boats from John Hancock were fired upon by rebel batteries which their own cannon promptly silenced.

Serious illness compelled Comdr. Ringgold to relinquish command of the expedition leaving Lt. Rodgers in charge 11 August. Lt. Henry K. Stevens then took command of John Hancock. She departed Hong Kong 9 September sailing north along the coast of China surveying as she went. She arrived Shanghai 27 November and remained there under repair until 28 January when she resumed surveying operations which took her north along the eastern coast of Asia to the Bering Sea before turning south along the western coast of North America. Besides greatly increasing knowledge of the western and northern Pacific, stimulating commerce, and easing navigation in previously unknown seas, the operations helped to establish friendly relations between the United States and several nations of the Orient.

John Hancock arrived San Francisco, California 19 October. After repairs at Mare Island Navy Yard, she stood out of San Francisco Bay 20 March 1856 for Puget Sound to help suppress Indian uprisings which threatened to wipe out white settlements and Army outposts established in the early 1850s. She arrived Seattle, Washington 28 March and operated from that port as a base until 4 August when she stood down the sound. She arrived San Francisco 17 August.

John Hancock decommissioned at Mare Island Navy Yard on 23 August 1856 and remained there in ordinary until sold at auction 17 August 1865.


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