Following the close of the War of 1812 between the United States and Britain, the United States Navy (USN) went to work overseas in an effort to secure American shipping. Theaters included the Caribbean, the Mediterranean Sea, portions of South America and Africa, and sections of the Pacific Ocean. Combating the Slave Trade from Africa took a focus from 1819 onward. From its experiences in the War of 1812, which saw Royal Navy ships enact successful blockades on American ports, the American Congress pushed through a new initiative that involved construction of six new 74-gun warships in an effort to not have that weakness exploited again. The group was ordered on April 29th, 1816.
These warships would be built from a standardized design provided by naval engineer William Doughty. The first was under construction as soon as 1817 and the last joined in 1822. USS Vermont was the sixth ship of the class but all of the group were constructed slowly due to funding issues. As such, the first commissioned warship of the group was USS North Carolina but this not until 1824. USS Vermont herself saw her keel laid down during September 1818 but Navy funds were scarce and she lay unfinished (and aging) for some thirty years before being launched on September 15th, 1848 (still in an unfinished state).
It was only the arrival of the American Civil War (1861-1865) that haste was put into fitting her out. She was armed with 4 x 8" shell guns and 20 x 32-pounder solid-shot cannon of an earlier design. This armament arrangement proved a far cry from her originally intended suite of 32 x 32-pounder smoothbore guns, 32 x 32-pounder light guns, 24 x 32-pounder carronades and 2 x 32-pounder long guns - the latter referred to as "bow chasers" as the vessel would be required to run down escaping enemy vessels, sometimes engaging strictly from the bow.
Her formal commissioning took place on January 30th, 1862 - some forty-four years after her keel had been laid down.
Her profile included a standard three-masted approach and her primary gun decks numbered three. Dimensions included a length of 197.1 feet, a beam of 53.5 feet and a draught of 21.5 feet. The crew complement totaled 820 men made up of officers and sailors. As with other tall sailing ships of the period, Vermont was an imposing sight when viewed up close, her many floors towering above the dock. A large rudder held under the stern provided the necessary steering. Vermont was solely wind-powered and never converted to a steam-and-sail warship as some other Civil War-era warships were.
Despite her design as a frontline warship, USS Vermont was never used in her intended role. Instead she was pressed into service as a supply-and-receiving ship for the USN. Her first assignment was as part of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron where she spent some time in Port Royal, South Carolina. There, she served in various roles related to war supplies and medical service. During February of 1862, she took on damage from a strong northwest gale/snow storm that had pressed into the area. Heavily damaged, she was nonetheless salvaged and reassigned to New York waters for the middle of 1864. Here she served in the receiving ship role for a time longer until September 30th, 1865 when she was decommissioned from service. On July 1st, 1884, she was pulled back into active duty and recommissioned to serve as a receiving ship in New York waters (Brooklyn Navy Yard) once more. Once her usefulness had ended, she was decommissioned for a second time on August 31st, 1901, stripped of her goods and sold off on April 17th, 1902.
The Vermont was not part of a formal named class but, due to the first keel being laid down belonging to USS Delaware, the group became known as the Delaware-class. Conversely, because the first commissioned ship of the group became USS North Carolina, the group also came to be known as the North Carolina-class. Of note is that these two mentioned warships were the only two of the class that were ever used in their intended roles - as frontline warships - for the USN. A further two of the six ships were never completed and USS New Hampshire, beginning life as USS Alabama, was also a supply-and-receiving ship for her part in the American Civil War. Her commissioning came in 1864.
Despite a rather tumultuous career, USS Vermont and her crews received to major awards from the United States government for services rendered - the Civil War Campaign Medal and the Spanish Campaign Medal.
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