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Photographic History of the United States Navy

Lightning (Steam Launch No. 6)

Class: single unit
Displacement: 6,900 pounds / 3.45 long tons
Length: 58' 0"
Beam: 6' 3"
Draft: 3' 0"
Propulsion: one Herreshoff simple expansion 2-cylinder (2"-5" x 10") HP engine, 38ihp
Boiler: one coal-fired Herreshoff Safety Coil boiler, 50.5" diameter
Propeller: single, 38" diameter
Speed: 17.5 knots (design) 20 knots (trials)
Armament: two 100-pound spar torpedoes
Complement: unknown
Building and Operational Data:
Builder: Herreshoff Manufacturing, Bristol, RI (YN 20p)

  • 05 Nov 1875: contracted for $5,000
  • 19 Apr 1876: launched
  • 28 Apr 1876: ran builder's trials
  • 19 May 1876: to Providence and back
  • 24 May 1876: ran government trials under command of LT George Albert Converse (USNA 1865)
  • 25 May 1876: accepted by Navy
  • 01 Jun 1876: delivered
  • 1876 - ????: stationed at Newport
  • before 1900: destroyed
    In 1876, the Bureau of Naval Ordnance ordered Steam Launch No. 6, a high-speed wooden double-ender from the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company, to be built for $5,000. Lightining’s coil boiler delivered performance that proved a revelation. Her partially-decked 58-foot hull was so well built and so light that she made 20 knots on trials and could be stopped within her own length while moving at her design speed of 17˝ knots. Lighting proved a fine test bed, capable of carrying two spar torpedoes. She spent much of her career attached to the Torpedo Station, and was superseded only when it needed something large enough to carry a self-propelled torpedo. For that, it aquired Stiletto.

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    By And/Or Copyright
    Lightning 52k"Lightning, the United States Navy's first torpedo boat in Newport waters, 1876." [The Torpedo Station's 'Archway' can be seen in the left background.]
    Collection: Herreshoff Marine Museum Collection. Copyright: Herreshoff Marine Museum, Bristol, Rhode Island, Used with permission.
    Robert Hurst
    Lightning 113kBow view of the Herreshoff Manufacturing Co.'s spar torpedo boat Lightning (Steam Launch No. 6). She is on a wooden cradle in front of an unidentified building, believed to be located at the Naval Torpedo Station on Goat Island, at Newport, Rhode Island. Source: John Palmieri, Curator Herreshoff Marine Museum/America's Cup Hall of Fame.
    Collection: Herreshoff Marine Museum Collection. (Also in: Southern Methodist University, Central University Libraries, DeGolyer Library, George Albert Converse Papers and Photographs, 1861-1897, Box 2, Folder 8a, Mss 0068.) Copyright: Herreshoff Marine Museum, Bristol, Rhode Island, Used with permission.
    Robert Hurst
    Lightning 17kEngraving of Lightning, published in "Torpedoes and Torpedo Boats." by Allen D. Brown, Harper's New Monthly Magazine, June 1882, p. 36-47. Dave Wright
    Lightning 890k 1876 Navy report on Lightning [PDF]. Dave Wright

    Additional Resources and Web Sites of Interest
    Tin Can Sailors Website
    Destroyer History Foundation
    Official U.S.Navy Destroyer Website

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    This page was created by Fred Willishaw (ex ARG-4, AS-11 & DD-692) and is maintained by David L. Wright
    All pages copyright NavSource Naval History
    Last Updated 08 August 2018