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USS Santiago de Cuba

Awards, Citations and Campaign Ribbons

Civil War Medal

Side Wheel Steamer:
  • Built in 1861, as Santiago de Cuba, a wooden, brigantine-rigged, side wheel steamer at Brooklyn, N.Y.
  • Purchased by the US Navy, 6 September 1861, at New York City
  • Commissioned USS Santiago de Cuba at New York Navy Yard, 5 November 1861, CDR, Daniel B. Ridgely in command
  • Initially ordered to Havana, Cuba, USS Santiago de Cuba roamed the Caribbean Sea and along the Southern US coastline seeking out and capturing blockade runners
  • USS Santiago de Cuba was assigned to the newly organized "Flying Squadron," in September 1862, to find and capture the Confederate commerce raiders Alabama and Florida
  • Decommissioned, 30 December 1863, for repairs
  • Recommissioned, 6 June 1864, USS Santiago de Cuba resumed her chase
  • Reassigned to the attack on Fort Fisher in December 1864
  • Decommissioned, 17 June 1865, at Philadelphia Navy Yard and sold at public auction at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 21 September 1865. She was bought by Marshall O. Roberts of the Central American Transit Company for $108,000
  • Re-documented, 16 November 1865, for operation in commercial service
  • After her purchase from the Navy, Santiago de Cuba was registered as a civilian passenger ship. Her interior was rebuilt to convert her from warship to passenger liner. Her first sailing for the Central American Transit Company left New York for San Juan de Nicaragua on 20 November 1865. She made one round trip per month and did good business. She reached New York on 7 June 1866 with 554 passengers and $125,000 of gold on board.
  • On 8 July 1866 she returned to New York with 407 passengers.
  • Santiago de Cuba left New York on 29 September 1866. Four days into the trip she was struck by a storm with high winds and heavy seas. Two passengers and two crew were washed overboard and lost. The stem, rudder, and deck house were damaged and the ship was forced to turn back to New York for repairs, where she arrived 7 October 1866. The ship was repaired and resumed her commute between New York and San Juan de Nicaragua in November 1866.
  • In April 1866, the principals of the Central American Transit Company, led by William H. Webb, and Marshall O. Roberts, rebranded their business as the North American Steamship Company and Santiago de Cuba thereafter sailed under the new banner. In January 1867 control of the company was sold by the investor group led by Roberts to one led by Webb.
  • On 22 May 1867 Santiago de Cuba was on her way back to New York from Nicaragua when the ship grounded near Cape May, at Absecon beach, New Jersey. While the ship was in no immediate danger, prudence called for landing the passengers before weather turned for the worse, or the surf began to break-up the vessel. Unfortunately, one of the boats headed for shore was upset by the surf and capsized. Five passengers and two crewmen drowned. The ship was towed off the sandbank, leaking badly, on 7 June 1867.
  • In December 1867, The North American Steamship Company began sailing to Panama rather than Nicaragua. Santiago de Cuba's first trip to Aspinwall, Panama left New York on 14 December 1867. She completed one round trip per month. On her 8 June 1868 sailing she carried the outlaw Jesse James from New York to Panama. He was on his way to Paso Robles, California where he stayed with an uncle over the winter of 1868–1869.
  • On 28 October 1868 Santiago de Cuba arrived back in New York from Panama for the last time during her Central American service. She had completed eighteen roundtrips to Nicaragua and eight to Panama.
  • After William Webb abandoned the Central America business, he chartered Santiago de Cuba when he could, sailed her occasionally for his own business, and tried to sell her. Many of the charters were of relatively short duration, and there were gaps of months and even years between sailings when Webb was unable to find employment for the ship. It is evident from this pattern of service that the Santiago de Cuba was no longer a foundational part of any fleet, but rather a short-term replacement for more capable ships that were under construction or repair.
  • Santiago de Cuba began sailing for the New York and Havana Mail Line owned by F. Alexandre & Sons in December 1868. She made three round trips for the company sailing from New York to Havana, Cuba to New Orleans, Louisiana and back. She returned to New York for the final time at the end of February 1869.
  • The three Ruger brothers developed a small, short-lived steamship line between New York and Northern Europe. Santiago de Cuba made one trans-Atlantic trip for Ruger's American Line. Advertising began on 30 May 1869 and she sailed from New York on 16 June 1869. She stopped at Cowes on the Isle of Wight, Bremen, Germany, and finally reached Copenhagen, Denmark. A first-class passage was $90, second-class was $60, and steerage was $22, payable in gold. On the return voyage to New York, she carried 423 passengers, many of them immigrants. She arrived in New York on 18 August 1869.
  • Santiago de Cuba sailed one trip between New York and New Orleans for N. H. Brigham's Dispatch Line. She departed New York on 6 November 1869 and arrived in Louisiana on 15 November 1869.
  • At the end of her trip to New Orleans for the Dispatch Line, Webb sent Santiago de Cuba to Le Havre with a stop in Bermuda. She arrived in France on 29 December 1869. She sailed back for New York on 16 January 1870. On 1 February 1870 Santiago de Cuba was inbound to New York when she met the steamer Brunette leaving port. The latter ship attempted to avoid a collision by crossing in front of Santiago de Cuba. She did not make it. Off Squam Beach, New Jersey, Santiago de Cuba crashed into Brunette's port side splintering her hull. Brunette sank in minutes, taking with her two of her crew. Santiago de Cuba was also damaged, and limped into New York leaking badly, but with the rest of Brunette's crew aboard. In the subsequent lawsuit, Santiago de Cuba was found at fault for the collision.
  • Repairs were made and Santiago de Cuba resumed her trans-Atlantic sailings. Webb dispatched her from New York on 3 September 1870 and she arrived in Le Havre on 22 September 1870. Several North American Steamship Company vessels, including Santiago de Cuba, were reported to carry American armaments to Le Havre during the Franco-Prussian War. On her next trip she sailed to Bordeaux, reaching port on 18 October 1870. On this trip she touched at Brouwershaven and Rotterdam before sailing home to New York where she arrived on 21 November 1870. After this trip she was idle for two years as Webb was unable to charter her.
  • On 26 March 1873, she began sailing for the Columbian Mail Steam Packet Line run by O. I. Guilleaume and Company. Santiago de Cuba sailed between New York, Havana, and Matanzas, Cuba. She made a second trip in May 1873.
  • After this last trip to Cuba, Santiago de Cuba was idled again, this time for three years while Webb sought additional charters or a purchaser. Finally, in 1876 the ship was sold to William P. Clyde and Company of Philadelphia. Clyde took the extraordinary step of removing her boilers, steam engine, paddle wheels and associated machinery and rebuilding her as a propeller steamer. She was one of only two paddle-wheelers known to have undergone such a radical conversion. After her refit, Clyde used Santiago de Cuba much as Webb had, mixing charters and sailings for his own company as opportunities presented themselves.
  • Santiago de Cuba was chartered to the Pacific Mail Steamship Company. She left Philadelphia with a load of 1,500 tons of coal suitable for steamboat use, bound for Aspinwall. She arrived there on 22 September 1877. She returned to New York on 24 October 1877.
  • Clyde negotiated another charter for Santiago de Cuba that began promptly after her return from Panama. James W. Quintard and Company used her to provide regular service between New York and Charleston, South Carolina. She completed two round trips per month. She cleared New York for Charleston for the first time on 1 November 1877. She completed her sailings to Charleston in April 1878.
  • William P. Clyde took Santiago de Cuba off charter to support his newly established New York and Havana Direct Mail Line in May 1878. The ship made one or two round trips a month between the two ports.
  • At the end of June 1879, Santiago de Cuba took a break from her runs to Cuba for a general overhaul at the Neafie and Levy shipyard. After three weeks undergoing repairs, on 19 July 1879, she sailed down the Delaware River on her way back to New York to resume her runs to Havana. The 1,194-ton iron-hulled steamship Scots Greys was heading upriver at the same time with a load of iron ore from Carthagena. The two ships collided off Gloucester, New Jersey. Santiago de Cuba hit Scots Greys on her port bow. Damage to the two ships was extensive, and both had to be towed to safety by nearby tugs.The subsequent lawsuit found Santiago de Cuba at fault for the collision. The ship was repaired and continued her sailings between New York and Havana until March 1881. Santiago de Cuba was chartered briefly by the Boston and Savanna Steamship Line operated by F. Nickerson & Co. of Boston. She completed a dozen trips between June and December 1881.
  • Even after the dramatic replacement of her power plant in 1877, Santiago de Cuba was obsolescent. After her runs to Boston, Clyde was unable to find additional employment for the ship and she sat idle in Brooklyn's Erie Basin for the next five years.
  • Engines removed, 7 December 1886, rigged as a schooner, date unknown
  • Sometime in 1886 Santiago de Cuba was purchased by the F. H. & A. H. Chappell Company of New London Connecticut. She was converted to a schooner barge and renamed Marion. Her engine was removed and a third mast added. She could not sail on her own. She was towed by a tugboat and used her sails to help propel the hull in the event of a favorable wind. She was used for transporting coal. On the night of 17 December 1887, Marion was anchored in the Elizabeth River off Norfolk, Virginia with a full load of coal. She was struck by the steamer Guyandotte and sunk. She was raised by 14 May 1888 and placed back into service. The ship disappeared from Federal registration in 1899. Her ultimate fate is unknown.
  • Final Disposition, fate unknown
    Displacement 1,567 t.
    Length 229'
    Beam 38'
    Depth 27'
    Draft 16' 2"
    Speed 14 kts
    Complement 114
    two 20-pdr Parrott rifles
    eighth 32-pdrs.
    Propulsion steam and sail

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    Size Image Description Contributed
    Merchant Service
    Santiago de Cuba 65k Watercolor by Erik Heyl, 1947 of the sidewheel steamer SS Santiago de Cuba painted for use in his book "Early American Steamers", Volume I. Built at New York City in 1861, this steamer was commercially employed as SS Santiago de Cuba in 1861 and in 1865-1886. Between 1861 and 1865, she served as USS Santiago de Cuba. She was converted to a barge in 1886 and renamed Marion.
    US Naval History and Heritage Command Photo #: NH 63852. Courtesy of Erik Heyl.
    Robert Hurst
    USS Santiago de Cuba
    Alabama 186k "Merchant Steamers Converted into Gun-boats."
    Engraving published in "Harper's Weekly", July-December 1861 volume. Depicts thirteen merchant steamships acquired by the U.S. Navy between April and August 1861 and subsequently converted into warships, plus the steamer Nashville (far left), which became a Confederate cruiser. US Navy ships as identified below the image bottom, are (from left to right:
    USS Alabama,
    USS Quaker City,
    USS Santiago de Cuba, (listed as "St. Jago de Cuba")
    USS Mount Vernon,
    USS Massachusetts,
    USS South Carolina,
    USS Florida,
    USS De Soto,
    USS Augusta,
    USS James Adger,
    USS Monticello,
    USS Bienville and
    USS R.R. Cuyler.
    US Naval History and Heritage Command photo # NH 59366.
    Robert Hurst
    Santiago de Cuba 84k USS Santiago de Cuba at anchor, 1 January 1865, location unknown.
    US Naval History and Heritage Command photo # NH 61919.
    Robert Hurst
    Santiago de Cuba
    84k Steamship SS Santiago de Cuba The steamship Santiago de Cuba grounded on Abescom Beach, New Jersey on 22 May 1867. Sketched by A.R. Waud. Harper's Weekly Magazine, 8 June 1867. p. 355. Robert Hurst

    USS Santiago de Cuba
    Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships (DANFS)
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    Last Updated 5 June 2023