Sunday, October 9, 2011

USS Intrepid Model in a bottle

The Ketch USS Inrepid ship model in a bottle was recently completed by Carl Dunaway, of Arkansas. This model is bound for the Intrepid Air and Space Museum in New York, where our friends from the Intrepid Veterans association hope to hold the official repatriation ceremony aboard the air craft carrier when the remains of the Intrepid crew are finally returned home.

Carl Dunaway notes: "You wouldn't believe the research problems I had with this vessel. I ended up turning to the professionals at various museums including Oxford because of the confusion I found. Basically I found only two pieces of art that have been accredited. One was a painting by Brooking in the 1800's..."

The dark colored Brooking drawing (right, done years later, shows the Intrepid entering the harbor at night under a moon.

Dunaway: "...and the other was a sketch done by Midshipman William Henry Allen at the top of a piece of paper that was his report to the Intrepid's demise. The U.S. Navy has both of them."

The contemporaneous sketch by Midshipman William Henry Allen was probably done from the Constitution, as noted in Rembering Richard Somers: Naval Martyrdom in the Tripolitan War (Robert E. Cray Jr. in The Historian, Vol. 68, Summer, 2006).

Son of a Revolutionary War army officer, Navy Lt. William Henry Allen was born in Providence, Rhode Island and appointed a midshipman in the United States Navy on 28 April 1800. He later served on the George Washington, Philadelphia and United States. He was wounded in combat during the War of 1812 while commander of the USS Argus in an engagement with the HMS Pelican. The Argus, was one of the ships that had waited hopefully for the crew of the Intrepid to row out of Tripoli harbor. It was taken as a prize by the British.

As Chris Dickon notes in his new book The Foreign Burial of American War Dead (MacFarland, 2011), Allen was the first American to be properly buried on foreign soil with full military honors in the churchyard of St. Andrew's, Plymouth, England on 18 August 1813. Allen is quoted as having said, "It is better for civilization to be going down the drain than to be coming up it."

While the Navy may have a copy of Allen's sketch, Gregory Guderian (NJ Latin Inscriptions Project) refers to the sketch as coming from the, "Drawing of the ketch Intrepid, in a letter of 1804. (Papers of William Henry Allen, mss AN 51, The Huntington Library, San Marino, Calif.)"

Carl Dunaway also notes: "The confusion was in the painting it shows the Intrepid lateen rigged and in the Allen sketch it shows her with a full gaff sail. Had to find out which was which. It turned out that James Cheevers at the U.S. Navy solved the problem. She was both. On the initial report of the Mastico's capture it was noted that she was lateen rigged but when she returned from repairs at Syracuse she was gaff rigged. That's why I did her as gaff rigged."

Below is a third sketch of the Intrepid, also apparently contemporaneous, by Midishipman William Lewis, who is listed among the officers assigned to the frigate U.S. Constitution, Commodore Preble's flagship, serving with Midshipman Joseph Israel, who would die on the Intrepid.

Carl also did a model of the frigate USS Philadelphia (36), which was sunk in Tripoli harbor during a daring February, 1804 night time raid led by Lt. Stephen Decatur aboard the Intrepid disguised as a pirate ship, which it once was.

The frigate Philadelphia, one of the largest ships the United States sent to Tripoli, ran aground while chasing a pirate corsair into the harbor. The ship, Captain Bainbridge and its 300 man crew were captured and held for ransom in the dungeons of the old castle fort. When the Intrepid exploded in Tripoli harbor on Sept. 4, 1804, the bodies of the 13 man crew washed ashore and were buried outside the walls of the old castle fort by Dr. Cowdery, the chief surgeon of the Philadelphia and other prisoners.

Remains of both ships - The USS Intrepid and the USS Philadelphia remain in Tripoli harbor. Ed Wilson, the former CIA official who lived in Tripoli in the 1980s, said that when he inquired about the wrecks he was told that they had been covered over with cement, which should act as a preservative for any future nautical archaeologists who want to look for them. Cannon from the Philadelphia should still be buried in the sand along the eastern shore of the harbor where both ships were taken by the tides.

Jim Delgado, who discovered the wreck of the second USS Somers, a Midshipman training vessel that sunk off Vera Cruz, Mexico, is interested in locating the wrecks of the Intrepid and Philadelphia and making a documentary film about it. His expedition was postponed by the earlier breakdown in US - Libya relations. Since that situation has now changed, maybe these wrecks can be located and some artifacts retrieved.

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