U.S.S. Vandalia (1874)

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U.S.S. Vandalia (1874)
Builder: Boston Navy Yard[1]
Laid down: 1872[2]
Launched: 23 October, 1874[3]
Commissioned: 10 January, 1876[4]
Wrecked: 16 March, 1889[5]
Fate: at Apia, Samoa
U.S.S. Vandalia was a screw sloop completed for the U.S. Navy in 1876.


Vandalia's hull was designed by Naval Constructor William L. Hanscom, and her engines were a set left over from an earlier sloop from the cancelled Algoma class of 1864, converted from horizontal to compound layout.[6]


This article includes text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships

After commissioning Vandalia deployed with the European Squadron and spent most of the next three years cruising in the Mediterranean along the coasts of Africa, the Middle East, and Turkey. She put into Villefranche, France, in October 1877, and left on 13 December former President Ulysses S. Grant as a passenger. During the next three months Vandalia visited ports in Italy, Egypt, Turkey, and Greece before President Grant disembarked at Naples on 18 March, 1878. After making several more Mediterranean cruises, Vandalia received orders to return to the United States later that year. She put into Boston on 13 January, 1879 and departed on 7 April, bound for Norfolk and duty with the North Atlantic Squadron.

Vandalia remained with the North Atlantic Squadron for five years. During this time, she performed patrol, reconnaissance, and convoy escort duty off the eastern seaboard of the United States. The vessel was also active off the Grand Banks and in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. Vandalia was detached from the squadron in 1884 and put out of commission at Portsmouth Navy Yard on 14 October for a thorough overhaul.

Repairs continued for over a year before Vandalia was ready for recommissioning on 15 February, 1886. The sloop left New York on 14 August for duty with the Pacific Squadron as the flapship of Rear Admiral Lewis A. Kimberly. Vandalia remained with the squadron into 1889, seeing duty in the Hawaiian Islands and Samoa, as well as along the Pacific coasts of both American continents. The sloop put into the Mare Island Navy Yard for repairs on 11 October, 1888.

While Vandalia lay at Mare Island, relations between American and German officials at Apia, Samoa, became increasingly strained. Late in the winter of 1889, at the behest of the American consul in Samoa, the Vandalia, Trenton, and Nipsic sailed for Samoa. The ships reached Apia Harbor early in March to balance the presence of the German vessels S.M.S. Adler, DE-Olga, and Eber. The British, meanwhile, were ably represented by the H.M.S. Calliope.

On 15/16 March, 1889 the ships suddenly became trapped in the harbor when violent, hurricane-force winds roared out of the northeast, driving mountainous waves before them. The three German ships were all either sunk or hopelessly grounded and torn apart on the sharp reef, and together lost a total of 150 officers and crew killed. The powerful engines and the supreme efforts of all hands aboard the Calliope enabled the vessel to force her way out to the open sea in a dramatic performance that drew cheers from the crews of the American vessels. However, despite heroic efforts by the officers and crews of Vandalia and Trenton, the two vessels tore their bottoms out upon the reef on 16 March. Vandalia struck at about noon and sank until her decks were completely awash, forcing her crew to scramble into the rigging. Trenton grounded alongside Vandalia at 2200 that evening, but enough of her main deck remained above water to allow Vandalia's crew to climb on board. After the hurricane began, Nipsic was driven ashore on a sandy beach and was later salvaged.

American casualties totalled 49 killed. 43 were from Vandalia, including her Commanding Officer Captain Cornelius M. Schoonmaker. The American survivors soon sailed for Mare Island on board a chartered steamer, but the Vandalia and Trenton were so battered that they were soon dismantled and their scrap donated to the Samoans.


Dates of appointment are provided when known.



As Completed

  • one 11-inch smoothbore
  • six 9-inch smoothbores
  • one 60-pounder muzzle-loading rifle


  • one 8-inch muzzle-loading rifle
  • six 9-inch smoothbores
  • one 60-pounder breech-loading rifle

See Also


  1. Bauer and Roberts. Register of Ships. p. 70.
  2. Bauer and Roberts. Register of Ships. p. 70.
  3. Bauer and Roberts. Register of Ships. p. 70.
  4. Bauer and Roberts. Register of Ships. p. 70.
  5. Bauer and Roberts. Register of Ships. p. 70.
  6. Bauer and Roberts. Register of Ships. pp. 69-70.
  7. Register of Officers, 1887. p. 6.
  8. Register of Officers, 1889. p. 6.
  9. Register of Officers, 1889. p. 6.
  10. Register of Officers, 1890. p. 136.
  11. Bauer and Roberts. Register of Ships. p. 70.


  • Bauer, K. Jack and Roberts, Stephen S. (1991). Register of Ships of the U.S. Navy, 1775-1990: Major Combatants. New York: Greenwood Press.
  • Chesneau, Robert; Kolesnik, Eugene (editors) (1979). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905. London: Conway Maritime Press. (on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk).
  • Kimberly, Rear Admiral L. A. (1965). Samoan Hurricane. Washington, D.C.: Naval Historical Foundation. Available online here.
  • Silverstone, Paul H. (2006). The U.S. Navy Warship Series: Civil War Navies, 1855-1883. New York: Routledge.
  • Silverstone, Paul H. (2006). The U.S. Navy Warship Series: The New Navy 1883-1922. New York: Routledge.

Screw Sloop U.S.S. Vandalia