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Title: Charlestown Navy Yard - Boston National Historical Park, Massachusetts
Author: Service, National Park
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Charlestown Navy Yard - Boston National Historical Park, Massachusetts" ***

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                         Charlestown Navy Yard

                    Boston National Historical Park

                        Division of Publications
                         National Park Service

                    U.S. Department of the Interior
                             Washington, DC

    [Illustration: U.S.S. Constitution in Boston Harbor]


  Part 1 The Making of a Navy                                           6
      Prologue                                                          9
      Growth of the Yard                                               11
      The Coming of Iron and Steam                                     29
      The New Navy                                                     45
      The Yard Transformed                                             63
  Part 2 Visiting Charlestown Navy Yard                                78

  _Deep within Boston Harbor, Charlestown Navy Yard was birthplace,
repair center, outfitting base, and port of refuge for thousands of U.S.
naval vessels. This is the story of the yard, the ships it served, and
the people who kept them seaworthy._

    [Illustration: _Boston Harbor; about 1870. Visible in the foreground
    are Charlestown Navy Yard’s timber dock_ (left) _and dry dock_
    (center left, with docked vessel). _The ships anchored off the navy
    yard piers are_ (left) _U.S.S._ Ohio, _the yard’s receiving ship
    (for housing recruits and sailors transferring between vessels), and
    U.S.S._ Wabash _“in ordinary” (that is, out of commission and in

                     Part 1    The Making of a Navy

    [Illustration: _In 1803, U.S.S._ Constitution _was careened at a
    Boston wharf for recoppering before sailing for the Mediterranean to
    confront the Barbary States._]

    [Illustration: U.S. Naval Shipyards]

  Puget Sound
    Washington 1891-present
    Rebuilt five battleships damaged during 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.
  Mare Island
    California 1853-1996
    Established for naval expansion into Pacific.
  Hunter’s Point
    California 1939-1974
    Repaired 600 ships during WW II.
  Long Beach
    California 1935-50; 1951-98
    Reactivated for Korean War. In 1982, modernized battleship New
          Jersey for missiles.
  Pearl Harbor
    Hawaii 1900-present
    Serviced growing Pacific fleet after Spanish-American War. Damaged
          by Japanese air attack in 1941.
  Mound City
    Illinois 1862-74
    Repair facility for Union’s Mississippi Squadron during Civil War.
    Florida 1825-1911
    Burned by Confederates during Civil War. Has served as air training
          facility since yard closing.
    South Carolina 1901-96
    Specialized in the construction of destroyer escorts and LSTs in WW
  Strategically located Great Lakes shipyards built gunboats and sloops
          during the War of 1812.
  Presque Isle
    Pennsylvania 1812-25
  Sackets Harbor
    New York 1812-1870s
    District of Columbia 1800-83
    New York 1800-1966
    New Hampshire 1800-present
    Pennsylvania 1801-1995
    Massachusetts 1800-1974
    Virginia 1801-present
    Of the six original navy yards, only Norfolk and Portsmouth still
          service naval vessels.
  New London
    Connecticut 1868-83
    During WW I was developed as major submarine base.


The U.S. government established Charlestown Navy Yard as the
newly-formed republic was meeting early challenges to its merchant
shipping. In the decade after gaining independence, the young nation
kept no standing navy. But continuing raids on U.S. commerce by Barbary
pirates and French privateers in the 1790s spurred Congress to authorize
the construction of new warships.

Realizing that existing private shipyards were inadequate for the
increasingly ambitious shipbuilding program, the Secretary of the Navy
established in 1800-1801 six federal yards to build, outfit, repair, and
supply naval vessels. These facilities at Portsmouth, N.H.; Boston; New
York; Philadelphia; Washington, D.C.; and Norfolk, Va., were the nucleus
of the naval shipyard system. Except during the Civil War, they launched
most of the Navy’s vessels until the advent of steel hulls in the 1880s,
when private yards began building them in greater numbers.

As with the first six, later naval shipyards were sometimes created to
fill an immediate military need. The War of 1812, for instance, prompted
the building of the two Great Lakes yards. The Mound City yard was
established during the Civil War, strategically located near the
confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers to build and repair Union
gunboats. Although U.S. naval vessels are today built in private
shipyards, four navy yards still actively serve the fleet.

    [Illustration: _1833 view of one of the yard’s wharves, by William
    Bennett. Beyond, decommissioned_ Independence _and_ Columbus _are
    roofed over for protection_.]

                           Growth of the Yard

When Captain William Bainbridge arrived in Boston aboard U.S.S. (United
States Ship) _Constitution_ in February 1813, he had reason to be
satisfied. While the U.S. Army faltered early in the War of 1812, a
string of naval victories over British ships was boosting public
confidence. Two months earlier, the big frigate commanded by Bainbridge
had engaged H.M.S. (His Majesty’s Ship) _Java_ off the coast of Brazil.
_Java_ was the faster ship, but _Constitution_ had heavier guns. By
skillful maneuvering. _Constitution_ kept them trained on the British
frigate, pounding _Java_ with broadsides until its colors came down.

Crew and commander were met with parades in Boston, but Bainbridge had
little time to enjoy the acclaim. He was immediately faced with a task
that, if not as exciting as a sea battle, was nevertheless formidable.
He had temporarily relinquished command of the Charlestown Navy Yard
when he sailed on _Constitution_. While he was gone, Navy Secretary Paul
Hamilton charged the yard with building one of the nation’s first
ships-of-the-line—the battleships of their day. As things now stood,
that was an impossibility: Charlestown simply lacked the facilities for
such an undertaking.

Bainbridge, who at 37 had already seen extensive naval action and been
imprisoned by Barbary pirates, wrote soon after becoming commandant in
1812: “No period of my naval life has been more industrious or
fatiguing.” He was shorthanded and hampered by bad weather, conditions
that must have sorely tested the endurance of a man with his
temperament: aggressive, volatile, not noted for his patience. When he
took command of the Charlestown yard, Bainbridge pressed the Washington
bureaucracy to authorize improvements to a facility that suffered, in
his words, from “mismanagement and neglect.”

    [Illustration: _Captain William Bainbridge was the Charlestown
    yard’s second commandant (1812-15) and captain of the first ship
    built there, U.S.S._ Independence.]

Years later, Bainbridge was typically blunt in depicting for the
Secretary of the Navy what he saw as the Herculean task assigned him in
1812. The yard had been “in a state of perfect chaos. The public
property in a state of ruin and decay ... a boat could not approach at
certain periods of the tide within five hundred feet of the shore ... it
was even exposed to the inroads of the cattle from [the] highway.”

Even allowing for Bainbridge’s penchant for the dramatic, his
description was accurate. The buildings were too few, too small, and in
need of repair. The timber needed to complete the repair of the frigate
_Chesapeake_ was decayed beyond use. But most pressing was the need for
a large stone wharf and building slip. Here was a naval shipyard that
could not service a sloop-of-war, let alone build a large frigate or
ship-of-the-line. Small vessels could tie up at the modest wooden wharf,
but the yard had to rent private wharves for repairing warships.
_Chesapeake_ had been languishing since 1809 in a rented berth at $1500
a year.

The commandant’s hilltop house surveyed 25 acres of scattered buildings
and grassy tidal flats directly across the “stream” (the Charles River)
from Boston. There was a marine barracks, a parade ground, carpenter and
blacksmith shops, a timber shed, a small hospital, a saltwater timber
dock, and piles of cannon, shot, iron, and ballast. The facility
Bainbridge took over in 1812 was in truth more supply depot than

So why, after his exploits aboard _Constitution_, when another ship
command and the chance for further glory were his for the asking, did
Bainbridge return to Charlestown? Because he had also asked to command
the powerful 74-gun ship-of-the-line the yard would build, and he wanted
to oversee construction.

On resuming command in March 1813 he lobbied again for a wharf and
building slip. As a well-known ship’s captain he was used to getting the
attention of the Navy Department. But his sphere of activity had shifted
from quarterdeck to desktop, and he had to watch coveted funds go to
ships bound for sea. He was not, however, one to hold his tongue. He
bombarded the Secretary of the Navy with letters (the tone of which, in
this and other matters, sometimes bordered on sarcasm) until the wharf
and slip were finally begun in April 1813. After the laying of the 74’s
keel in May, Bainbridge was relentless in his requests for more
improvements—a navy store, capstans for hauling out ships, “shears” (a
simple crane) for installing masts, a ropewalk.

But his real passion was the great ship he could watch taking shape from
his window. He even suggested the name: _Independence_. Bainbridge
chafed to “give John Bull an opportunity of testing the strength of an
American 74”—especially after _Chesapeake_ had finally left the yard in
June only to be captured practically within sight of Boston by the
British frigate _Shannon_.

The combative commandant was rarely put off by obstacles—or someone
else’s reputation. Having clashed with workers over compensation they
demanded for days lost to bad weather, he shut out the source of trouble
by ordering a shiphouse 210 feet long and 50 feet high built over the
74’s building slip. To oversee ship construction Bainbridge hired Edmund
Hartt and his son Edward—well-regarded Boston shipbuilders in whose yard
was built the hugely successful _Constitution_. But in a dispute with
Edward Hartt the angry Bainbridge grabbed him “by the shoulder and
carried him out of my office.” Hartt’s father quit in protest, whereupon
Bainbridge quickly engaged another shipbuilder to finish the job.

Bainbridge’s other main duty as commander of the yard was the defense of
Boston Harbor—the importance of which was underscored by the
_Shannon-Chesapeake_ engagement. By spring of 1814 British warships were
raiding the New England coast almost at will, and the Boston citizenry
(many of whom vigorously opposed the war) was anxious over an
anticipated attack on the city. The rising 74, Bainbridge knew, made a
tempting target while it was unarmed and immobile on the ways. He asked
for the New England Guards, a Boston militia company, to stand ready at
the yard as _Independence_ neared completion.

Guarding United States property at the Charlestown yard was normally the
responsibility of the U.S. Marines, stationed there since 1802. But it
was a small detachment, not enough to defend the yard and its ships
against a serious attack. Bainbridge, who earlier protested the
vulnerability of the yard, had other problems with the marines. Though
they were under naval command while at sea, on shore the Navy had no
authority over them. Bainbridge deplored this situation, complaining
that his inability to mete out the same corporal punishment to marines
as was used on sailors was “productive of insubordination.”

In any case _Independence_ was ready for launching by June 1814. But the
much-anticipated ceremony on the 18th was an embarrassing failure.
_Independence_ hung up halfway down the launching ways, much to the
satisfaction of a Federalist quoted in the _Boston Gazette_: “It was no
wonder she stuck ... the war itself sticks.” The next day, when workers
attempted to move the vessel by winch with the New England Guards
pitching in to haul on the lines, a block flew apart and killed master
joiner William Champney.

    [Illustration: _U.S.S._ Independence, _built at Charlestown in 1815,
    was the nation’s first ship-of-the-line. On its maiden voyage the
    74-gun vessel served as flagship of the Mediterranean squadron in
    the Barbary Wars. After the Charlestown yard removed one gun deck in
    1835, turning the slow 74 into a fast, powerful frigate (above)_,
    Independence _served as flagship of the Brazil and Pacific
    squadrons. The frigate spent the last 60 years of its career as
    receiving ship (temporary sailors’ quarters) at Mare Island Navy
    Yard near San Francisco Bay, where it ended a century of service in

    [Illustration: _Ships-of-the-Line were the battleships of their day,
    carrying 64 to 100 guns or more on two or three gun decks (below the
    open decks). Ship-rigged (square sails on three masts), these
    warships took their place in the line of battle in huge fleet

    [Illustration: _Frigates had 22 to 44 guns on one gun deck. They
    were ship-rigged counterparts of today’s cruisers, excelling in
    single engagements and as commerce destroyers. Frigates also did
    convoy duty and served as scouts for battle fleets._]

    [Illustration: _Sloops-of-War had 8 to 24 guns on an open deck and
    were ship-rigged. Fast and versatile—the destroyers of their
    day—sloops provided escort protection and harassed enemy shipping.
    Their shallow draft made them useful in coast defense and in lake

    [Illustration: _Brigs-of-War had about 20 smaller guns on an open
    gun deck and carried square sails on two masts. Designed as small,
    fast cruisers, they served as scouts, blockade runners, commerce
    raiders, and in anti-piracy and slaveship patrols._]

Then, to worsen an already grim situation, the British warships that had
blockaded Boston Harbor for over a year became an immediate threat. A
raiding party from the frigate _Nymphe_ rowed into the harbor in the
early morning darkness of the 21st and burned a small sloop within a
mile of the yard. The next day, with the charred remains of the vessel
tied up at a Charlestown wharf, the leader of the raid publicly taunted
Bainbridge. In an open letter in the _Boston Patriot_, Bainbridge was
warned to better defend his “unfledged Independence.”

On the afternoon of June 22, under the eye of the Guards, the vessel
finally slid down the ways into Boston Harbor. The launching was
celebrated by a gun salute from _Constitution_ and cheers from a crowd
of 20,000. Bainbridge’s friend, the author Washington Irving, couldn’t
attend but wrote Bainbridge that he would drink a “potation bottle ...
to the success of your first cruise.” In the same spirit Bainbridge
entertained with food and drink 300 mechanics and laborers who had, he
said, “worked cheap, and done their work most faithfully.”

But the war he wanted so badly to join remained out of Bainbridge’s
reach. Desertions, along with financial and outfitting delays, held up
the vessel until 1815, by which time peace with England had been

Another opportunity soon presented itself. The predatory corsairs of the
North African Barbary States—Tunisia, Tripolitania, Algeria, and
Morocco—had long been a thorn in the side of American merchant shipping.
Bainbridge, with _Independence_ as his flagship, won command of a
squadron whose mission was to display to the Barbaries the new power of
the U.S. Navy. The assignment was particularly attractive to Bainbridge,
who earlier in his career had surrendered a ship to the Tripolitans and
had another commandeered by the Algerians. But a second squadron under
Captain Stephen Decatur beat Bainbridge across the Atlantic and defeated
the Algerians in battle. His role was thus reduced to persuading the
other Barbaries at gunpoint to end their extortionist ways. The
suppression of the Barbary pirates was nevertheless satisfying to
Bainbridge. As senior officer, he had the honor of commanding the
squadron that initiated a permanent U.S. presence in the
Mediterranean—the first of the Navy’s “distant station” squadrons.

Upon Bainbridge’s return to Boston he attempted to regain command of the
yard from his replacement, Captain Isaac Hull. Unsuccessful, he was
instead appointed Port Captain (“commander afloat” of all naval vessels
in Boston Harbor), with _Independence_ designated station flagship.
Bainbridge settled down to a career as a senior officer, serving as
commandant at the yard twice more in the 1820s and ’30s. He had helped
put Charlestown on the map as the builder of a major warship. More
significantly, after the War of 1812 the yard began building a
reputation as an important repair and supply facility.

The Charlestown yard, and the U.S. Navy itself, owed their existence in
part to the same Barbary pirates who occasioned _Independence’s_ first
cruise. The severing of ties with Britain during the Revolution also
meant the loss of protection from the Barbaries long provided by the
Mother Country’s powerful navy and by the “tribute” Britain paid them.
The United States had no navy to protect its seaborne commerce—so
essential to a coastal nation dependent on overseas trade—and the
treasury could not bear the tribute payments or the ransom demands for
captured ships and sailors.

Thus after independence the Mediterranean trade had been virtually
closed to the United States. There was much unresolved debate about the
problem, but when the pirates spilled out into the Atlantic in 1793 and
took 11 American vessels in a few months, Congress took action. The
following year it authorized six frigates, three of which were launched
in 1797: _United States_, _Constellation_, and _Constitution_.

Congress was spurred to finish the job by the actions of Revolutionary
France during its war with Britain. French commerce raiders so
terrorized American neutral shipping that in 1798 an angry U.S.
government created the Navy Department and prepared for war. (There were
a number of engagements at sea, but war was never declared.) Congress
authorized funds to build, borrow, or accept as gifts 49 vessels,
ranging from galleys to six 74-gun ships-of-the-line.

The 74s were never built, but while the program was still alive, naval
shipyards to build them were established in Portsmouth, Boston, New
York, Philadelphia, Washington, and Norfolk. Boston, wrote Secretary of
the Navy Benjamin Stoddert to President John Adams, from “the natural
strength of its situation [meaning its large, deep, and defensible
harbor], the great number of ship carpenters in its vicinity, and of its
seamen, must always remain a building place and place of rendezvous for
our navy of the first importance.” Thus in 1800 the Charlestown Navy
Yard was established.

For most of its history Charlestown’s primary mission was to keep the
fleet sailing. That is not to say the yard wasn’t a shipbuilder; it
built more than 200 warships over its 174 years of operation. But most
of the new ships were built to meet the immediate demands of war. (Three
quarters of them were launched during World War II alone.) For fully
half of those years no new ships came down the ways. The pattern
established in the yard’s early years was one of ongoing repair,
outfitting, supply, and conversion work punctuated by occasional new

The classes of ships that came down the ways at Charlestown and other
naval yards were the outcome of strategic and political deliberations in
Washington. U.S. naval policy devised during the first half of the 19th
century had its roots in the War of 1812. Before the British blockade
bottled up its warships, the tiny U.S. Navy had successfully fought a
brief _guerre de course_ against Britain, using a strategy that
emphasized single ship actions and raids on enemy shipping with
relatively small, fast frigates and sloops-of-war. The early naval
successes prompted Congress in 1813 to authorize six new frigates (three
of which were built) and six sloops. These, and the nine frigates
authorized in 1816 and laid down in the 1820s (including the
Charlestown-built _Cumberland_), formed the backbone of the Navy until
just before the Civil War.

But the War of 1812, which helped shape a practical role for the
19th-century Navy, also led lawmakers into an expensive attempt to
compete with European navies on their terms. Using the argument that
large, powerful ships were essential to the defense of the nation’s
shores (and perhaps remembering the crucial role of French 74s at
Yorktown), Congress also authorized four 74-gun ships-of-the-line in the
1813 act.

While ships-of-the-line were traditionally used in fleet actions with
set lines of battle (hence their name), they were also deployed to break
blockades and to “show the flag”—that is, remind other nations of the
United States’ military reach. Postwar nationalism, a popular navy still
basking in the nation’s praise, and the country’s demonstrated
vulnerability to blockade prompted appropriations in 1816 for additional

Between 1813 and 1822 fourteen 74s were laid down, including
_Independence_ (1813), _Vermont_ (1818), and _Virginia_ (1822) at
Charlestown. But in the decade after the war strategists cast a
skeptical eye on such large ships. The expensive, provocative, and
easily outmaneuvered behemoths, they said, were only a drag on the
Navy—inappropriate for a young nation that wanted to stay out of
European conflicts. By 1825 only five 74s had gone into service.

In 1835 _Independence_ took a turn in its career that was emblematic of
naval policy. The 74 had lain idle at Charlestown for 13 years. It was a
sluggish sailer, and its great weight and design flaws brought the lower
lee guns too close to the water to be useful during combat. So
_Independence_ was “razeed,” cut down from three decks to two, and
transformed from an unsuccessful ship-of-the-line into a very good
54-gun frigate—the largest and one of the fastest in the Navy.

Only a few present at its 1837 recommissioning realized that
_Independence_ was also among the last of its kind. Fast approaching was
a technology that would displace naval sail; steam would drive the Navy
of the future. In 1839 the Navy’s first commissioned steamer—the
two-year-old harbor battery _Fulton II_—arrived at Charlestown for
repairs. A local paper called it “the oddest looking fish we have ever
set our eyes on.” Four towering stacks spouting black smoke rose from
the deck, on which were mounted engine cylinders four feet in diameter.
The sidewheel covers, likened to “immense fungi,” barely cleared the
sides of the dry dock.

With the dock and other improvements, the Charlestown yard had by the
1840s taken shape as an important repair and shipbuilding facility. The
dry dock (_see pages 40-41_), five years abuilding, had opened in 1833
amid much ceremony. Vice President Martin Van Buren and other
dignitaries watched as the already-venerable _Constitution_, stripped
and demasted, inaugurated the dock. Much of the tidal flats had been
reclaimed behind a granite quay (the yard would triple its original size
by 1869), and the rest of the yard’s uneven grounds had been leveled. A
high stone wall, built to help stop pilfering and protect the ships,
stretched between the Charles and Mystic rivers.

The yard had become more self-sufficient. The boilers for the dry dock
pump engines also provided steam for the new sawmill and blockmaking and
armorer’s shops. In 1837, the yard’s ropewalk (also steam-powered) and
tar house had been completed (_see pages 20-21_). The yard now made its
own paint in the “oil house,” while hardware was supplied by a large
smithy with 12 forges.

Other significant additions: masting shears looming over the new shear
wharf; a sparmaker’s shed, masthouse, and sail loft; new timber docks; a
steam chest for bending wood; an armory with thousands of muskets,
bayonets, and swords; and neat ranks of guns, shot, and anchors in their
respective “parks.” Hundreds of elm trees planted by order of Commodore
Bainbridge softened the yard’s industrial setting.

Anchored out in the harbor were several vessels “in ordinary.” A vessel
in ordinary was out of service and in storage with a skeleton crew until
recommissioned. The ship was demasted, salted to retard dry rot,
whitewashed inside, tightly caulked, and its sides and decks “payed”
with a thick coat of varnish and tar. Tubular windsails directing air
belowdecks and holes cut in the bulkheads insured good air circulation.
Some vessels in ordinary at Charlestown had protective wood and canvas
sheds over their decks, an innovation of Captain Hull.

_Vermont_, _Virginia_, and the frigate _Cumberland_, begun in 1825, had
become permanent fixtures in their great shiphouses. They were still
officially under construction and near completion, but were really in
ordinary. (_Virginia_ was something of an ill-starred vessel. Over the
years at least three people had died in accidents around the ship, and
its reputation was reconfirmed in 1845 when a visitor fell to his death
from its scaffolding.) Construction on _Virginia_ and _Vermont_ had
slowed to a standstill after critics questioned the strategic value of
ships-of-the-line. But economic considerations played at least as big a
role; ordinary was a cheap way to keep expensive-to-sail vessels,
including big frigates like _Cumberland_ (launched in 1842), ready for

In 1848 _Vermont_ was finally launched to “a vast concourse of people
and the firing of cannons.” But the day of the big 74s was over. Neither
_Vermont_ nor _New Hampshire_ (built at Portsmouth Navy Yard), the last
two ships-of-the-line completed by the Navy, ever saw service as a
commissioned warship. In fact most 74s had short careers of little
strategic consequence. _Independence_, first of the class, was the only
one still serving as a warship at mid-century, but it had been cut down
to a frigate.

The launching of _Vermont_ also closed a chapter in the yard’s history.
The second ship laid down at Charlestown 30 years before, _Vermont_ was
the last all sail-powered warship launched there—obsolescent even as it
came down the ways.

Although this was a U.S. Navy Yard run by naval officers, throughout its
history those wielding the caulking mallets and rivet guns were
civilians working for civilian foremen. During the first half of the
19th century the yard’s workforce steadily increased from 89 in 1822 to
370 in 1853. At mid-century the records show most of them were born in
New England—half from Massachusetts. Some 15 percent were Irish, the
majority working as laborers.

So complicated an undertaking as the building of a warship required an
array of specialized occupations falling under the general label of
“mechanics”: carpenters, sawyers, joiners, sparmakers, blockmakers,
painters, gun carriage makers, armorers, sailmakers, blacksmiths,
caulkers, riggers, boatbuilders, coopers, ropemakers, masons,
machinists, plumbers, and coppersmiths. A force of unskilled laborers
was at times supplemented by the ordinary crews and by the sailors
stationed at the yard.

Each shop had its master, quartermen (leaders of several crews),
leadingmen (crew leaders), and crews of mechanics, apprentices,
laborers, and a few boys (before child labor laws eliminated such
positions). In the early years, when the yard’s facilities were sparse,
it was not unusual for the master to have his own shop outside of the
yard. The commandant would in effect contract with the master to do the
work there with his own men. In the 1840s and ’50s the Navy tightened
the regulations, giving the masters less leeway in hiring and ordering
supplies. By the Civil War they were all yard employees.

A look at the young men in the apprenticeship program, started in 1817,
gives a clearer picture of the yard employees they would become. Those
applying for the program—generally at age 16—had to show good character
and be physically able to perform the tasks of their trade. They had to
demonstrate the ability to read, write, and do simple math. The terms of
the five-year indenture (later reduced to four) were generally clear: in
return for exhibiting growing mastery of his trade, the apprentice
received from the Navy room and board, increasing pay, and continuing
education in reading, writing, arithmetic, and theories of the trade.
But because the indenture was technically a personal contract between
the boy’s parents or guardian and the master, not the Navy, questions of
obligation sometimes arose when a new man became master. At the end of
the apprenticeship—usually at age 21—the boy became a yard employee.

                                                   _Continues on page 22_

                 Navy Yard Tradesmen in the Age of Sail

During the early 19th century, Charlestown’s shipyard bell called
several hundred civilian tradesmen and laborers to work each morning.
Laboring from sunrise to sunset under the supervision of naval officers
and civilian shop masters, these yard employees built, repaired, and
supplied United States warships for naval duty around the globe.
Fluctuating government budgets, changing seasons, and the uneven demands
of war and peace made navy yard work intermittent and unpredictable.

    [Illustration: A navy yard rigger tightens a warship’s mast

                              The Ropewalk

Several factors enticed the U.S. Navy into constructing its only
ropemaking facility at the Charlestown Navy Yard in the 1830s: skilled
labor, access to raw materials, and technical expertise. The port of
Boston already boasted more than a dozen ropewalks employing many
skilled artisans. Perhaps most importantly, the Navy was eager to take
advantage of newly developed labor-saving machines like those already in
use in New England’s textile mills. Because rope had to be twisted in a
straight line, the maximum length that could be produced was determined
by the length of the ropewalk (so called because workers spinning the
hemp fibers by hand walked the length of the building). The Charlestown
ropewalk’s quarter-mile length allowed production of rope up to 1200
feet long. Designed by architect Alexander Parris (best known for
Boston’s Quincy Market), the ropewalk complex included the rope “laying”
area running the length of the building, spinning and preparing machine
rooms, the hemp house, and the tar house. The complex was powered by
massive steam engines and tended by men and boys. The Navy’s move to
mechanized rope production came at a critical time, as machine-spun rope
began to replace intricate hand-spinning techniques. The hand spinners’
resistance inspired contests in the 1840s, in which they challenged the
quality of machine-made rope. The results of such a challenge to the
Charlestown ropewalk were somewhat ironic. Though its machine-made rope
proved to be stronger and cheaper to produce, hand-spun rope was
superior in the smaller sizes, and the mechanized ropewalk began
producing some hand-spun rope, doing so until the end of the 19th

    [Illustration: Ropewalk, building]

    [Illustration: Ropewalk, machinery]

    [Illustration: Spinning    Combed bundled fibers called “roving” are
    fed from a can onto the spinning frame. At the spindle they are spun
    counterclockwise into yarn, which is wound on a bobbin.]

    [Illustration: Forming the Strand    Bobbins are mounted on the
    twisting frame. The yarns are threaded through the register plate to
    equalize tension and tied to a rotating hook on the rolling “jack.”
    The jack pulls yarns from the bobbins and twists them clockwise into
    a strand.]

    [Illustration: Laying the Rope    Three or four strands are tied to
    a rotating hook on the jack. While clockwise tension is kept on the
    other ends by rotating hooks, the strands are twisted
    counterclockwise into rope.]

Budget-minded Naval Commissioners in Washington allowed the commandant
to pay just enough to hold on to his workers. He generally matched the
rates of private shipyards in the area to keep workers from being lured
away. The daily rates thus fell with the coming of cold weather and the
slowing of work, since the workers were then in low demand elsewhere.
The Navy defended this hard-nosed practice, maintaining that with fewer
daylight hours (workers mustered at sunrise and were dismissed at
sunset), the yard got less work out of the men. The niggardly pay
policies sometimes backfired: in 1821 the low-paid sailmakers left en
masse to work at private yards.

More than the skilled craftsmen, the laborers’ jobs depended on the
amount of work at the yard, but most of the workforce awaited the coming
of cold weather with some anxiety. The yard’s practice was to retain
only as many people as it could keep working, and bad weather sharply
reduced the volume of work. The completion of a new ship or of a major
repair job also meant the letting go of large numbers of workers, at
least until the next job. In effect many in the workforce were not given
permanent jobs, but only hired on to perform seasonal work, much like
house carpenters, or to complete a single project.

Though the situation was normally weighted in favor of the employer, the
scales could occasionally tip the other way, especially for skilled
workers. In 1825, when the coming of spring coincided with a surge in
building brought on by a recent Boston fire, Commandant William Crane
was forced to raise wages to compete for skilled workers. He sent his
Master Builder Josiah Barker up the coast as far as Portland to recruit

At times skilled workers attempted to force the Navy’s hand, organizing
to protest conditions. When the caulkers struck for higher wages in
January 1835, the commandant, Commodore Jesse Elliott, fired them and
quickly found others willing to work at the established rate. Two days
later the “refractory caulkers,” unable to find work in the middle of
the winter, asked to be rehired at their old wages. Wanting to remain on
good terms with his employees, Elliott allowed the men to return.

Sometimes the walkout worked. Yard workers considered unreasonable a
change in their working hours made in 1852. By this time they were
working a straight 10-hour day. But under the new policy, they had to
work sunrise to sunset if that period contained even a minute less than
11 hours, thus adding up to an hour to their day during the winter. They
walked off the job, forcing the Navy to rescind the policy.

These actions represent a period when the yard workers, though not yet
unionized, could strike—an option later denied to government employees.
While workers were generally forced to accept the prevailing pay and
conditions at the yard, they were not completely without power.

In the Charlestown Navy Yard’s first half-century, world events, U.S.
politics, and sectional rivalries affected the ebb and flow of work and
the hiring and firing of men. The yard was born in the midst of a world
at war and grew to prominence in a time of relative calm—in retrospect,
the lull before the storm of civil war.

    [Illustration: _Sloop-of-war_ (_U.S.S._ Decatur _or_ Dale) _dry
    docked in Charlestown has its rigging tarred and its hull sheathed
    with copper, about 1852_.]

                                                   _Continues on page 29_

                         Building a Wooden Ship

The creation of a wooden warship began in the mold loft. There
carpenters translated specifications from standard plans for each class
of vessel into full-sized wooden patterns. These were used to fashion
hull members, for which white oak or live oak were the favored woods.
(Some 2,000 trees were required for a 74-gun ship-of-the-line.) On the
slightly inclined building ways, joiners first laid the keel, the great
spine of the ship running along the bottom of the hull. Then they
attached the stem and the stern post to the keel and raised the
frames—the vessel’s ribs. The frames formed the contours of the hull
and, together with horizontal deck beams and vertical stanchions beneath
the beams, provided a strong skeleton. After 1829, iron and copper bolts
and spikes replaced many of the wooden “treenails” that secured the
structural members and fastened the deck and hull planking. The rudder
was hung, the hull caulked and sheathed with copper to protect it from
teredo worms, and the ship was launched. Riggers then “stepped” masts to
the keelson, a lengthwise beam bolted to the keel (_see page 19_). After
they rigged the horizontal spars, cordage, and sails, the new warship
was ready for outfitting.

    [Illustration: _Expanding U.S. interests in the Pacific spurred
    Congress in 1825 to authorize a new class of sloop-of-war to protect
    those interests. Charlestown Navy Yard constructed three of them
    between 1825 and 1827._]

  1 Building ways
  2 “Shears”: hoisted heavy pieces
  3 Keel
  4 Stern post
  5 Frames
  6 Deck beams
  7 Planking
  8 Drag chains: arrested ship after launch
  9 Shiphouse

  The Workforce in 1835
    138 Carpenters
    56 Ropemakers
    40 Laborers
    37 Joiners
    34 Blacksmiths
    25 Sailmakers
    19 Riggers
    18 Coopers
    17 Plumbers
    16 Boatbuilders
    14 Sparmakers
    12 Blockmakers
    11 Painters
    6 Caulkers
    6 Masons
    6 Sawyers

                       The Frigate _Constitution_

The first three warships ordered for the infant U.S. Navy in 1794—one of
them the Boston-built _Constitution_—were frigates unlike any others.
Naval strategists knew the nation could afford to build only a few
vessels, so they had to be formidable warships. They were inspired by
French “razees,” ships-of-the-line (_see page 14_) that had one gun deck
removed, transforming them into large, heavily armed frigates. The sharp
lines of _Constitution’s_ hull gave it a frigate’s speed, but in size
and stoutness it was comparable to a small ship-of-the-line. (Its heavy
oak frames, spaced close together and sheathed with thick planking,
proved virtually impenetrable in battle—hence the name “Old Ironsides.”)
The theory was that _Constitution_ would be powerful enough to fight any
frigate, quick enough to flee anything bigger. The British, though,
scorned the new frigates, asserting that they lacked the tactical
strengths of either frigates or ships-of-the-line: too slow to engage
the former, too weak to stand up to the latter. But _Constitution_ more
than lived up to U.S. expectations in the War of 1812, when it bested
two British frigates in separate battles, escaped two more, and captured
a frigate and a sloop-of-war in a third engagement. _Constitution_
fought no more battles, but served honorably for another 40 years.
Throughout its career _Constitution_ has been closely associated with
the Charlestown Navy Yard, undergoing several overhauls there. The first
was in 1833, when the frigate inaugurated the yard’s dry dock. In
1992-95 it was serviced in the same dock. Since 1897 the yard has been
home port for _Constitution_, the Navy’s oldest commissioned warship.

    [Illustration: The 24-Pounder Long Gun

A gun crew of 6 to 14 men wrestled with this 5,600-pound gun. To adjust
elevation, a crew member placed a handspike on one of the steps (A) and
levered the breech (B) up or down; the gun captain slid the quoin (C) in
or out.]

                  [Illustration: U.S.S. Constitution]

    Length overall: 204 ft.
    Beam (width): 43.5 ft.
    Displacement: 2,200 tons
    Draft: 22.5 ft.
    Hull: 15 to 20 in. thick
    Speed: 13-14 knots
    Crew: 450-470
    Armament in 1812: 30, 24-pounders; 22, 32-pounder carronades; two
          24-pounder & one 18-pounder bow chasers on the forecastle

  1 Quarter boat
  2 Quarterdeck
  3 Captain’s quarters
  4 Captain’s day cabin
  5 Officers’ staterooms
  6 Bread room
  7 Ship’s wheel
  8 Wardroom
  9 Cartridge filling room
  10 Powder magazine
  11 Spirit room
  12 Cockpit (junior officers’ quarters)
  13 Anchor capstan
  14 Bilge pumps
  15 Shot locker
  16 Spar deck (open)
  17 Gun deck
  18 Berthing deck (crew hung its hammocks on this deck)
  19 Orlop deck (storage)
  20 Hold
  21 Ballast
  22 Anchor cables
  23 24-pounder guns
  24 Long boat
  25 32-pounder carronades
  26 Galley
  27 Sail locker
  28 Sand room
  29 Rigging blocks
  30 Sick bay
  31 Forecastle
  32 Manger
  33 Crew’s head

    [Illustration: _Constitution’s_ Sails

Sail area, with studding sails (not shown), was more than 43,000 sq.

  1 Flying jib
  2 Outer jib
  3 Inner jib
  4 Fore topmast staysail
  5 Foresail
  6 Fore topsail
  7 Fore topgallant sail
  8 Fore royal
  9 Fore skysail
  10 Mainsail
  11 Main topsail
  12 Main topgallant sail
  13 Main royal
  14 Main skysail
  15 Spanker
  16 Mizzen topsail
  17 Mizzen topgallant sail
  18 Mizzen royal
  19 Mizzen skysail

    [Illustration: _Sinking of Union sloop_ Cumberland _by Confederate
    ironclad_ Virginia (_ex-U.S.S._ Merrimack) _in 1862, by Alexander C.

                      The Coming of Iron and Steam

_Merrimack_, _Virginia_, _Cumberland_: names that point up the ironies
of war. As the steam frigate _Merrimack_ was being launched in July 1855
(_see pages 32-33_), the partially built ship-of-the-line _Virginia_ lay
in another part of the yard. It had been laid down and named in the
1820s, a more harmonious time. Even if the old 74 had finally come down
the ways, it is not likely that, amidst the sectional acrimony of the
1850s, it would have kept the old name—and certainly not after the
secession of the state whose namesake it was.

A year after _Merrimack’s_ launching, the frigate was back in the yard
after going aground during its shakedown cruise (when the crew becomes
familiar with a ship and problems are ironed out). While workers
replaced damaged coppering and repaired the propeller on the big
warship, a smaller sail frigate waited its turn.

Launched 13 years earlier, _Cumberland_ had served as flagship of the
African Squadron, whose mission was to suppress slave running. Now back
home, _Cumberland_ moved into the dry dock soon after _Merrimack_ was
towed out. It was cut down to a fast sloop-of-war with one gun deck of
28 guns and a crew of 376.

_Cumberland’s_ worth as a leaner warship was proven in the first months
of the Civil War. Assigned to the Atlantic Blockading Squadron, the
vessel took eight Confederate prizes in three weeks. But the next year
_Cumberland_, among the last sailing ships launched by the Navy, came up
hard against the future.

On March 8, 1862, _Cumberland_ and other vessels were on blockade duty
in Hampton Roads, Virginia, when the men on deck sighted a bizarre new
war machine steaming out of Norfolk. Approaching them was a dark,
monolithic vessel—decks awash, no masts, no sails, no sailors. C.S.S.
(Confederate States Ship) _Virginia_, the much-rumored ironclad
blockade-breaker, had finally taken the stage.

    [Illustration: _Architect’s rendering of the Charlestown machine
    shop’s “Great Chimney,” 1858._]

It was a slow, clumsy vessel, but menacing nevertheless. Using a full
mile to gather momentum, _Virginia_ steamed steadily towards the Union
vessels. It passed the frigate _Congress_ and headed straight for
_Cumberland_, its sloping iron casement shedding the Union ships’
barrage of heavy shot and explosive shell as if they were “peas from a
pop-gun,” in the words of a _Cumberland_ sailor. But _Cumberland_,
though clearly outmatched, could not avoid engagement. It was at anchor
in a dead calm, the crew’s wash drying in the rigging. The Union sailors
could only take the punishing return fire, clear the decks for battle,
and wait for the inevitable.

Longer than _Cumberland_ by half, with a submerged iron ram projecting
from its bow, the approaching vessel looked to the Union ship’s pilot
like a “huge, half-submerged crocodile.” _Virginia_ tore into
_Cumberland’s_ bow below the waterline (_see pages 28-29_), then backed
off, leaving its ram imbedded in a seven-foot hole. Both vessels now
loosed volleys at point-blank range; dozens of _Cumberland’s_ crew were
maimed or killed.

As the vessel listed and began to sink, the crew abandoned ship, but 121
men—already dead, too hurt to save themselves, or firing guns to the
end—went down with _Cumberland_. (As water flooded the gun deck, a young
gun crew officer barely saved himself by squeezing through a gun-port.
He was Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge, who in 1890 became commandant of the
Charlestown Navy Yard.) Before darkness ended the fighting, the ironclad
also riddled _Congress_, killing more than a hundred men and setting the
vessel on fire. _Congress_ burned on into the night and finally

The frightening weapon that had handed the U.S. Navy its worst defeat
began its career as the hull of a wooden steam vessel. A week after the
surrender of Fort Sumter, the loss of the important Gosport Navy Yard at
Norfolk to rebel troops became inevitable. Evacuating Union forces—under
cover of _Cumberland_—burned and scuttled several warships to keep them
from falling into Confederate hands. But some were salvageable,
including a large steam frigate on which everything below the waterline
was intact. Southern engineers converted the vessel into an advanced
warship, removing the masts and topping the hull with a rooflike iron
shell. The original name of the vessel they retrieved and transformed:
U.S.S. _Merrimack_.

_Merrimack’s_ reincarnation as _Virginia_ embodied two
technologies—steam and iron (and then steel)—that were advanced during
the Civil War and that eventually defined the modern Navy. Steam
engineering had traveled a long road of acceptance in the conservative
Navy. By 1850, the year the Charlestown Navy Yard built its first
steamer, Great Britain had built or converted from sail some 25
propeller and paddlewheel steam warships. The U.S. Navy had launched
only seven. Steam engines were still considered novelties by many old
Navy men—at best auxiliary power, at worst dirty and undependable
nuisances that called for machine tenders rather than sailors.

Their resistance was not entirely unjustified. There was the problem of
range: _Merrimack_, for instance, could cruise only about 17 days with
its coal bunker full. American steamers far from home had to depend on
French or British coaling stations and machine shops in places like Hong
Kong and Shanghai. Unlike self-reliant sail, steam alone could not meet
the demands of distant squadrons. And in the early days of steam, it was
no faster than sail: in fact it was often slower. More crucial, early
steam engines were inefficient and unreliable, so captains would not
trust them in combat. And coal took up valuable space needed for
supplies, crew, and ammunition.

But the main problem was that early steamers were driven by big,
ungainly sidewheels that caused captains no end of problems (_see page
35_). They so harmed a vessel’s sailing qualities that steam was of
necessity the primary power source on sidewheelers—but the Navy wanted
to use steam only as auxiliary power.

Another way of employing steam power for propulsion was needed. The
propeller (called a “screw”) was the answer, allowing naval steam to
come into its own. Construction of the prototype screw sloop _Princeton_
began in 1841, before America’s first sidewheel warships even went into
service. The Navy built only eight more deepwater sidewheelers before
the famous 1854 class of six screw steamers (led by the
Charlestown-built _Merrimack_) made the cumbersome vessels a footnote in
naval history. With the advent of the propeller, enough problems were
solved that auxiliary steam power became feasible in warships. On an
1858 cruise from Honolulu to Acapulco, _Merrimack_ steamed only three
days out of 32.

_Merrimack_, whose subsequent adventures we have already followed, was
in the tradition of large American frigates like _Constitution_. While
its engines were never very dependable, _Merrimack_ was an excellent
sailer, powerfully armed, and on its inaugural European cruise inspired
Britain to build similar vessels with better engines.

    [Illustration: Merrimack _is launched at Charlestown in 1855;_
    Cumberland _was built in the same shiphouse in 1842_.]

The screw sloop _Hartford_, launched at Charlestown in 1858, was one of
a follow-up class of steamers. (These and other screw steamers of the
’50s were all frigates and sloops; no steam ship-of-the-line was built
at Charlestown or any other yard. As we have seen, the era of such large
wooden ships was over by the time the Navy was converting to steam.)
These were smaller vessels with a shallower draft—better suited to
coastal and river operations. As Rear Admiral David G. Farragut’s
flagship in victories at New Orleans and Mobile Bay, _Hartford_ was
perhaps the most celebrated steamer in the Union Navy.

With propellers, even the most hidebound captains could appreciate the
better maneuverability steam gave them during combat. Gradually the
tactical roles of steam and sail were reversed, with increasingly
efficient and dependable steam engines officially becoming the primary
power source and sail the auxiliary. As a matter of economy, however,
American vessels continued to use sail whenever possible on
long-distance cruises.

Steam technology demanded a whole new set of skills of Charlestown’s
mechanics. When the steam battery _Fulton II_ docked there in 1839, the
yard could repair only the vessel’s wooden components, having to
contract work on the engine to local companies. But by 1845 yard
personnel could fully service the screw sloop _Princeton_. While some
carpenters may have made the transition, it is more likely that most of
those working with steam machinery had a background in the field.

As the yard adapted to the new age, it underwent a decade of
modernization and quickened production preceding the Civil War. The dry
dock was lengthened; gas lights were installed; the yard began
manufacturing wire rope in 1857. But the most important improvement was
a state-of-the-art machine shop—its 240-foot stack long a landmark at
the yard—that replaced the old smithery in 1859. It contained such
equipment as a machine that could plane a metal surface 10 feet square
and a huge lathe capable of handling iron propeller shafts 35 feet long.
The facility also helped the yard to incorporate a new technology
dramatized (though not introduced) by C.S.S. _Virginia_: ironcladding.

Sinking of large warships had rarely occurred in naval battle. Solid
shot either bounced off thick wooden hulls or left a small, patchable
hole. So warships normally just blasted away at each other until one of
them, casualties mounting and its deck and rigging a shambles, hauled
down its colors. Yet _Virginia_ had sunk or caused to eventually sink
two of them in two hours. Its ironcladding allowed it to get close
enough to _Cumberland_ to use an ancient but still effective technique,
ramming, and close enough to _Congress_ to pound the ship at close range
with its broadside shot and big rifles. While ramming would not remain a
tactical option, ironcladding was universally adopted as every naval
power raced to design hulls that could withstand ever more powerful
explosive shells fired from rifled guns (_see pages 42-43_).

As in every war, technology helped shape strategy in the Civil War and
strategic considerations helped determine how new technologies were
applied. The Navy’s major role in the war effort was to blockade some
3,500 miles of Southern coastline. The South’s blockade runners were
typically the most advanced examples of British shipbuilding,
steam-powered sidewheelers that were often iron- or steel-hulled. In the
first year of the war, only about one in eleven of these runners were
caught (partly because sidewheelers were still faster than screw
steamers), and the Union Navy continued to build, borrow, and buy every
vessel it could to strengthen the blockade.

                                                   _Continues on page 36_

                            Steam Propulsion

When steam was introduced as an auxiliary naval power source in the
1820s, paddle-wheels were the initial method of propulsion. In the late
1830s engineers began working with propellers—“screws” in naval
terminology. Each technology had its partisans: the sidewheel provided
greater combat maneuverability, was suited to riverine warfare, and
presented no problems of leakage, as did the screw’s underwater shaft
hole. However, the exposed wheels were vulnerable during combat, ate up
deck space needed for guns, hindered sail handling, and created more
drag than a screw when the vessel was under sail. The launching of the
screw warships H.M.S. _Rattler_ in Britain and U.S.S. _Princeton_ in the
United States in 1843 signaled the coming ascendancy of screw
propulsion. In the historic 1845 tug-of-war between _Rattler_ and an
otherwise-identical sidewheeler, the greater efficiency of the screw was
publicly confirmed.


_1857 inboard plan of screw frigate_ Merrimack. _Screw could be hoisted
into a well to reduce drag when the vessel was under sail._]

    [Illustration: Sidewheels: good maneuverability, but vulnerable
    above the water.]

    [Illustration: The screw: more efficient, and protected below the

Thus when naval officers learned of the conversion of _Merrimack_ into
an armored blockade-breaker, they were understandably worried. In the
debate over the type of vessel the Navy should develop to counter the
Southern threat, John Ericsson’s proposal for a turreted,
shallow-drafted coastal ironclad won out over larger, oceangoing designs
with traditional broadsides. His ironclad, called U.S.S. _Monitor_, was
the prototype of the turreted ironclad class named after it. (While
monitors and _Virginia_-type ironclads continued to meet the needs of a
mostly coastal and riverine naval war, two broadside ironclads were
built by the Union. One of them, _New Ironsides_, was quite effective.)

_Monitor_ fought _Virginia_ to a standoff the day after the latter sank
_Cumberland_. It was the first clash between steam-powered ironclads,
and the world took notice. Captain John Dahlgren, creator of _Monitor’s_
two big guns, put it succinctly: “Now comes the reign of iron—and cased
sloops are to take the place of wooden ships.”

It did not happen immediately: _Monitor_-class iron hulls were not very
seaworthy. (_Monitor_ sank in late 1862 while being towed during a storm
off Cape Hatteras.) Wooden ships under both sail and steam power
continued to fight the Civil War’s deepwater battles, but Dahlgren’s
words came true after the war. The evolving iron, and then steel,
warship incorporated elements from both ironclads: the deeper hull and
superstructure of _Virginia_ and, rather than multiple-gun broadsides, a
few large guns in revolving _Monitor_-type turrets that allowed the guns
to be trained without turning the entire vessel.

Only four monitors were built by navy shipyards, but officers considered
them the best produced during the war. _Monadnock_, a double-turreted
monitor built at Charlestown, was generally thought the best of the lot
and the only one of this class to see action. After the war, it proved
its unusual seaworthiness by voyaging around Cape Horn to San Francisco.

Other than _Monadnock_, ironcladding work at the Charlestown yard was
performed on vessels built elsewhere, although the workers clad with
iron the bulwarks of some of the double-ended sidewheelers built there.
These vessels, a temporary reprieve for naval sidewheel technology, were
designed for the narrow, shallow rivers of the South, allowing the
“brown-water” Navy to reverse direction without turning around. The
Charlestown yard built five double-enders—the biggest class constructed
there during the war and, with those built at other yards, the biggest
class of ships produced in the United States before World War I.

The Charlestown yard had in 1858 initiated its first machinist
apprenticeship, acknowledging the inevitable transformation of the
yard’s work. Steam had somewhat prepared the way for the yard’s artisans
to work with iron: those already trained as boilermakers could adapt
their skills to ironcladding. But increasingly the trades related to
steam machinery and ironcladding were formalized with titles and
apprenticeships. Through the 1850s and ’60s, machinists, iron moulders,
and boilermakers accounted for an increasingly large part of the
workforce: from a total of 26 (3 percent) in 1854 to 371 (19 percent) in
1866. But even though such trades were necessary in the yard by the
mid-1860s, they were still in the minority and were paid less,
considered less exacting and more easily mastered than the old wooden
ship trades.

Samuel Cochran, a longtime employee at Charlestown, recalled later in
life that when he arrived at the yard as a young man during the Civil
War “the majority of the men employed were ship carpenters and joiners
and most of the tools they used were cross cut saws and axes.” His own
job was to turn the grindstone on which they were sharpened.

Cochran went on to paint a vivid picture of the yard during the war
years when some 3,000 workers held jobs there: the ordnance workers who
had the dangerous job of retrieving powder from the magazine, donning
canvas slippers to reduce the chance of sparks; the clandestine barrels
of liquor in cellars, complete with drinking straws; the yard
“politicians” who owed their jobs to patronage; sawyers in their
six-foot-deep sawpits; the sailors (“Jackies”) on the receiving ships
finding new ways to get extra grog on board.

A minor labor grievance in 1861 illustrates how the exigencies of war
changed the working atmosphere at the yard and reduced the workers’
leverage. As it had in 1852, the government decided that yard employees
should work sunrise to sunset from September to March, thus bringing
their hours in line with those of private yard workers. Again the
workers protested, although they continued to work, stating in their
petition that they had no desire to hinder the government’s campaign to
“crush out a foul rebellion.” This time the Navy made no concessions.
Two strikes in 1862 over the same issue were half-hearted and futile;
the longer hours remained in effect.

The sense of urgency and focus engendered by war and the accelerated
pace of technological change pushed the yard to extraordinary levels of
production. So it was not surprising that with the coming of peace the
activity here and at other yards fell off. But the drop was precipitous.
At war’s end, in sheer numbers and in engine technology, the U.S. fleet
compared favorably with those of the European powers. In the weeks after
Appomattox, however, the fleet shrank dramatically and continued to
decline thereafter. In the postwar economic and political climate, the
government’s priorities shifted. Massive funds were needed for
reconstruction of the southern states and for war-deferred developments
of the nation’s interior. The Navy would have to wait.

European navies, though, were riding the new wave of technology. In the
1870s their warships began to shed their sailing rigs as steam power
became routine technology. But in America the old guard reasserted
itself in peace, and there was a reaction against steam. After 1869, all
naval vessels, steam or not, were required to have “full sail power,”
and captains were on notice that they would pay for any coal they
consumed other than for emergencies. Four-bladed propellers were
replaced with two blades to reduce drag when under sail—with a
corresponding loss of steaming efficiency.

As the British and European navies rapidly converted to lighter and
stronger iron and then steel hulls on their largest ships, virtually all
U.S. vessels built in the 1860s and ’70s were wooden-hulled (although
some of these contained iron bracing). Even as late as 1885, the _Army
and Navy Journal_ asserted that “a staunch, fast wooden vessel is still
the best for cruising purposes.” But while wooden-hulled U.S. naval
vessels were generally acknowledged to be fine examples of their kind,
many were well past their prime: _Independence_, for example, flagship
of the first Mediterranean squadron, had been a receiving ship at Mare
Island Navy Yard in California since 1857.

It was not only romantic tradition that kept naval shipbuilding in its
antebellum condition. Burning coal in warships cost money; the wind, if
not as dependable, was free. Sails continued to make good sense on
long-distance cruises. America still had no foreign coaling stations to
support a distant steam fleet, and isolationist sentiment hindered their

    [Illustration: _Marines guard the entrance to Charlestown Navy Yard
    in 1874. The gate no longer exists, but the building at right,
    dating to 1813, still stands._]

    [Illustration: _Workers in the gun park, 1890s, load cannon and
    cannonballs onto a cart. Dry dock and carpenter shop can be seen in
    the background._]

    [Illustration: _A baseball team of yard workers poses for its
    picture in front of the machine shop, about 1905._]

For the same political and strategic reasons, America’s was a cruising
navy, made up of ships not intended for naval battle but for scouting,
showing the flag, and commerce raiding. Wooden hulls sufficed for such
roles. The government and private enterprise continued to look inland,
and iron was used instead for rails and bridges to speed westward
expansion. In any case, American metallurgy lagged behind that of
Britain, while diminishing timber supplies made British designers look
to alternate hull materials—not the case in the United States.

If the Navy in general and navy yards in particular declined in the
1870s, Charlestown’s relative position was strong. From after the war to
the early ’80s, Charlestown was the second most productive yard after
New York. A large number of vessels came to the yard for repair—mostly
wooden vessels with steam engines. To service these ships, Charlestown
in the 1870s continued to hire more machinists, engineers, boilermakers,
and patternmakers while retaining a solid contingent of wooden ship

Few new vessels were launched from any yard in this period. In the last
three decades of the century Charlestown constructed three—all in 1874.
The screw sloops _Vandalia_ and _Adams_ were launched on successive
days, the latter (constructed at the yard by a private shipbuilder)
being the last wooden warship laid down by the Navy. A few months
earlier the yard had launched its first iron-hulled vessel, the torpedo
ram _Intrepid_. But it was not part of a general transition to iron. The
Navy built only four other iron-hulled vessels, none of them major
warships. The 1874 launchings at the Charlestown yard reflected the U.S.
Navy’s lukewarm and indecisive response to changing naval technology.

The yard by 1880 had changed little since the improvements of the ’50s.
It had greater capacity now with four shiphouses and two building ways,
but the physical plant also reflected the technological limbo into which
the Navy had settled. There was a coaling wharf to service steamers and
a new rolling mill for iron plate. But the large sail loft and wet
timber dock were still very much in use, and oxen still pulled the
timbers from dock to sawmill.

The dry dock was occupied by _Hartford_ in 1879-80. It was receiving new
engines after long tours in the 1860s and ’70s on Far Eastern stations.
Its two-year stay in the dock—longer than normally needed for such a
job—testified to the general state of affairs. The shrinking fleet had
reduced the work load and slowed the pace at the yard. Under such
conditions it was cheaper to use a smaller crew and take longer to do
the work.

That the Navy was willing to give this much attention to so honored a
ship as _Hartford_ is understandable. But it symbolized the fact that it
was only putting off the inevitable—modernization. By the early 1880s
the U.S. Navy floundered in the wake of Europe’s navies—the victim of
limited funds, tradition-bound officers, political neglect, and popular
indifference. There were but 48 decaying vessels in commission, most at
a Civil War or even prewar level of technology. On top of the other
problems, the corruption associated with the administration of Ulysses
S. Grant had touched the Navy—including the Charlestown yard—in the late
1870s. Here, as at other yards, politicians found jobs for men who were
then expected to vote as they were told. It is easy to see why one
historian has characterized this period as the “low water mark” of the

There were rumors of yard closings. Nothing happened immediately, but
less and less work came to Charlestown. Then, in 1883, the Navy
suspended all repair and construction work at the yard and reduced its
role to manufacturing. So began hard times at Charlestown Navy Yard,
during which it came perilously close to shutting down altogether.

                                                   _Continues on page 45_

                       The Yard’s First Dry Dock

Before dry docks came into use in the 16th century, the only way to
service a ship’s hull was to “careen” it—heave it over on its side,
still floating (_see pages 6-7_), or laying in the mud at low tide. It
was difficult and time-consuming and put great strain on the hull. The
answer was the dry dock. The concept is simple: float the vessel into a
three-sided basin, then close the seaward end and remove all the water.
The vessel settles on a cradle, its hull accessible. To undock: reflood
the basin, open the seaward end and float the vessel out. But the
concept’s execution required a finely-engineered complex of masonry,
engines, pumps, reservoir, tunnels, culverts, valves, and gates—in
effect a huge well-coordinated machine. The Charlestown dry dock and the
one built concurrently at Norfolk, Va., were the first such naval
structures in the country. Six years under construction, the Charlestown
dock was inaugurated in 1833 with the docking of Constitution. It was
305 feet long (extended in 1856 to 370 feet and again in 1948 to 398
feet), 60 feet wide, and 30 feet deep—the Navy’s largest dry dock until
the 1890s. It took the original eight pumps four to five hours to empty
the tremendous basin. Other operations were to some extent governed by
Boston Harbor’s 10-foot tide. After the dock was enlarged the water
level did not rise as rapidly as the tide during filling, so it took two
high tides to do the job. For emptying and filling, the caisson was
filled with water and sunk in place between grooves in the dock walls.
For docking and undocking, the caisson was emptied and floated out of
the way on the high tide (_see inset_). It took 24 men working hand
pumps for an hour and a half to expel the water from the caisson. The
original wooden caisson lasted until 1901, when the steel caisson still
in use today was completed.

    [Illustration: The Yard’s First Dry Dock]

1. After its 1858 launching, U.S.S. _Hartford_ is docked for
installation of its steam engine. To empty the dock, workers opened the
discharge gates (A), releasing water to flow (_red arrows_) down
discharge culverts (B) (on both sides of dock) to fill the reservoir

2. The pumphouse (D), its steam engine driving two pumps in underground
wells (E), pumped the water from the dock via the reservoir and sent it
through an underground culvert back to the harbor.

3. To fill the dock, the discharge gates were closed and the filling
gates (F) were opened. Water flowed (_green arrows_) first to wells (G),
then into the dock through the same culverts used to empty it.

  Steam windlass
  Timber dock
  Swing gates (backed up caisson)
  Caisson (“floating gate”)

                          Ironclad Technology

The clash of ships at sea embodies the ongoing technological battle
between arms and armor: between deploying ever more destructive weapons
and contriving ways to withstand them. As long as solid shot was the
only way to attack a ship’s hull, heavy timbers were usually armor
enough. Big wooden warships were rarely sunk by even the heaviest shot.
(_Constitution_ is a particularly good example.) But the rules of the
game changed with the coming of more powerful and more accurate guns,
and especially with the development of the practical explosive shell in
the 19th century. A shell could open a gaping hole in a heretofore
impervious wooden hull. By 1860 France and then Britain had begun
building ironclads. In Britain, especially, the rising cost of
diminishing timber supplies was another incentive to experiment with
iron, both as armor and for structural elements of the hull. But in the
United States, wood was still cheaper than iron. Also, though the
country had earlier experimented with ironcladding, the Navy resisted
the new technology, putting emphasis on speed rather than armor. But it
quickly made up for lost time after the beginning of the Civil War. The
Confederacy took the lead, for the same reason that the United States
had built “super-frigates” at the end of the 18th century. A country
that could afford only a small navy had to build state-of-the-art
warships. The blockade-breaker C.S.S. _Virginia_ showed the lethal
effectiveness of its ironcladding on its first outing (_see page 28_).
The next day U.S.S. _Monitor_ fought _Virginia_ to a draw in the first
battle between ironclads (_right_). The encounter spurred European
navies to accelerate their ironclad programs, but new breech-loading
rifled guns were demonstrating greater armor-piercing ability. In
response iron, and then steel, armor was made thicker and harder,
leading to still more powerful guns. The gun designers generally stayed
a step ahead, with the biggest guns able to penetrate the thickest

    [Illustration: Monitor and Virginia]

    [Illustration: Inside a Turret]

  Pilot house (did not rotate)
  Turret (23-foot diameter inside) rotated on central spindle
  Ammunition gantry
  Two 15-inch Dahlgren guns

    [Illustration: _The monitor_ Monadnock _(all turreted ironclads were
    designated monitors) was built at the Charlestown yard in 1862-63.
    The only monitor built there, it was quite successful, described by
    Admiral David Dixon Porter as “the best monitor afloat.”_]

  Ventilation shaft
  Auxiliary steering position
  Shot locker
  Ericsson engine
  Stokers’ quarters
  Coal bunk
  Funnel (5-inch armor)
  Officer’s quarters
  Crew’s quarters
  Turret rotation gearing
  Chain locker

    Length overall: 259.5 ft.
    Beam (width): 52.5 ft.
    Displacement: 3295 tons
    Draft: 12 ft., 8 in.
    Armor: turrets, 10 in.; pilothouses, 8 in.; over wooden hull, 3-5
          in.; deck, 1.5 in.
    Engines: Two Ericsson 1426 HP steam engines, 32-in. cylinders; four
    Screws: Two 4-bladed screws, 10-ft. diameter
    Speed: 9 knots
    Crew: 167
    Armament: Four 15-in. Dahlgren smoothbore muzzle-loading guns; fired
          shot or shell

    [Illustration: Layers of Protection]

  1 Typical ironcladding had wooden backing up to three feet thick.
  2 A layer of India rubber or felt might be added to help absorb shock
          and retard corrosion.
  3 The cladding was often made up of laminated one-inch iron plates.
  4 Tallow was sometimes applied to the outer surface on the theory that
          it helped deflect shot.

    [Illustration: _Light battleship U.S.S._ Maine _on its first cruise
    in 1895_. Maine, _part of the new steel navy, blew up in Havana
    Harbor in 1898 under circumstances still unclear. The resulting
    Spanish-American War ended Spain’s days as a colonial power and made
    a popular hero of Theodore Roosevelt, who resigned as Assistant
    Secretary of the Navy to serve in Cuba._]

                              The New Navy

On first looking into the cavernous interior of Shiphouse I, a visitor
during the winter of 1884 would have gotten the impression that
Charlestown was a busy shipyard. Workers crawled over the almost
completed ship-of-the-line _Virginia_, swinging hammers, sawing, pumping
hydraulic jacks—apparently applying the finishing touches. But behind
the house, growing piles of four-foot lengths of wood told a different
story. The workers were breaking up the old 74. _Virginia_ had occupied
the shiphouse for more than 60 years, through all but the first two of
the yard’s launchings. Back in 1824, _Virginia_ had been within two
months of making its own trip down the ways. Now its day had passed, and
its great timbers were being reduced to firewood and sold at auction.

Outside the shiphouse, very few workers could have been found among the
silent buildings. Charlestown was a moribund yard, barely functioning
since its repair and construction duties had been suspended the year
before. Only the manufacturing divisions still showed signs of life. In
1886 the yard would be officially converted to a facility that
manufactured equipment—especially rope—for vessels built and repaired

The yard was also stripped of much of its equipment and ordered to sell
the vessels in ordinary. Repair work fell to an all-time low: between
the 1883 docking of the Charlestown-built double-ender _Talapoosa_ and
1890, the dry dock was used exactly five times to do repair work for the
U.S. Navy—once on the yard tug and four times on the floating gate for
the dry dock.

    [Illustration: _Joiner Shop foreman George W. Burroughs, about

New construction was out of the question. The yard had known for years
that the vessels already in the shiphouses and on the building ways
(labeled “Rotten Row” by a local newspaper in 1882) would never be
launched. So it came as no surprise that the order closing the yard also
condemned _Virginia_, two wooden steamers, and a monitor—the latter
three laid down during the Civil War. Still, it was disheartening that
in the early 1880s a yard that had built and repaired ships was reduced
to taking them apart.

At least the dismantling of vessels provided employment for the workers,
who at this point felt quite vulnerable. Throughout the 1880s,
“suspension” (being laid off) was always hanging over their heads. More
than 500 men were employed at the yard when work was halted in mid-1883.
There were around 300 by the end of the year and their ranks continued
to thin, averaging less than 200 until 1888—most of them ropemakers,
machinists, laborers, and watchmen.

Until World War I, jobs connected with supply would remain more stable
than those related to construction and repair. In the late 1880s and
’90s, managers found ways to transfer men in the latter trades to other
divisions within the yard in order to keep their services on call. But
in the early ’80s the yard could find virtually no work for men skilled
in the craft of wooden shipbuilding—formerly the elite of the workforce.
After _Virginia_ and the other vessels had been turned into stacks of
wood, those who had done the work were sent home.

Now let us look ahead some three decades to 1917, by which time we find
a yard dramatically transformed. Eleven wharves described a great arc at
the confluence of the Charles and Mystic Rivers. The familiar old
shiphouses had been replaced by a large shipbuilding ways and steel
plate storage yards. The timber basin that had long dominated the center
of the yard was gone, replaced by a new dry dock twice as long as the
first one. The other timber basin at the east end of the yard had been
filled in and was now the site of gas and oil tanks, a locomotive shed,
and a gas plant for acetylene torches.

It was a vital place, showing an intensity not seen since the Civil War.
In fact it was again a wartime yard: after almost three years of
neutrality the United States had entered the global conflict that was
later called World War I. Some 4,500 workers worked two ten-hour shifts
or around the clock in three eight-hour shifts, answering to a steam
whistle instead of the bell that had summoned 19th-century yard workers.
The wharves and docks were crowded with three- and four-stacker steel
ships, some carrying the towering cage masts that were a short-lived
experiment of the period. On the building ways, workers had laid the
keel of the fuel ship _Brazos_.

Electric lights illuminated the thousands of men working on ships
through the night. Vessels under repair were alive with the flare of
welding torches and the tattoo of pneumatic rivet guns. Over them moved
the arms of great cranes, including a 150-ton floating derrick and a
colossus that traveled on tracks between dry docks. Materials and
equipment were transported by yard locomotives that had replaced the
oxen (although horses still did service). A mechanized coaling plant
near the old dry dock helped ease the dirty and arduous task of fueling
ships. But it was apparently undependable, and at times ships were
coaled the old way.

Charlestown’s main responsibility was repairing the warships of a
greatly enlarged fleet: steel destroyers, armored cruisers and
battleships, submarines, and wooden sub chasers. The yard also outfitted
and commissioned new vessels, converted civilian vessels to wartime use,
armed merchantmen, and altered seized German passenger liners to
transport U.S. troops to France.

More work came to the yard in 1917-18 than in any other comparable
period in its history before World War II. Some 450 vessels were
serviced during those two years. In addition Charlestown was a supply
depot and embarkation point. In all, an average of 50 ships a day
arrived at or departed from the yard during the war.

By 1918 some 10,000 skilled workers, laborers, and clericals worked at
Charlestown. Reflecting the growth of the labor movement over the last
three decades, many of them belonged to trade unions (although they
could neither strike nor be represented by the unions in wage
negotiations). Women working at the yard were mostly naval yeomen, but a
few worked as radio and telephone operators, radio electricians, and
ropewalk machine tenders.

Yard employees worked in 17 trade shops, the names of which
characterized the needs of modern steel shipbuilding: Shipfitters
(including riveters, drillers, welders, sheet metal workers);
Electrical; Pattern (for cast metals); Chain; Copper/Pipefitting; and
other skills employed in raising a steel ship.

Some of the old familiar shops survived in reduced or altered roles. The
sail loft now produced mostly canvas bags, pea jackets, and hammocks.
The riggers loft had become a versatile shop responsible for an array of
shipyard tasks. They still worked aloft on stacks and steel masts;
directed dry docking and crane operations; prepared shipways for
launchings; dove beneath ships in hardhat diving suits; and continued to
do the traditional rigger’s handiwork, such as the braided rope fenders
that protected ships’ hulls and the fancy leatherwork and ropework still
common on naval vessels. The workers in the joiner shop worked on the
small wooden boats built at the yard, but spent much of their time
making shipboard furniture. The ropewalk continued to turn out the large
quantities of rope still needed on steel ships.

    [Illustration: _These young women were working as civilian clerks
    for the Navy when the U.S. entered World War I. Overnight they
    became Yeomen-F (female) naval personnel. (Yeomen is the naval term
    for clerical workers.)_]

    [Illustration: _Joiners were skilled workers in wood and
    traditionally the elite of the yard workforce. Even in the early
    days of steel ships, they remained among the highest paid of the
    workers. Here joiners are photographed in their shop, about 1897._]

    [Illustration: _Yard’s floating crane, shown here in 1913, could
    lift 150 tons. Dry Dock 1 is visible in left background._]

The traditional shipyard hierarchy was virtually unchanged: the crews of
mechanics, apprentices, and laborers were headed by leadingmen; several
leadingmen were supervised by quartermen; and the quartermen were under
a chief quarterman or they answered directly to the master who headed
the shop.

Unlike the hard times of the 1880s, the employees at Charlestown had
reason to feel secure. Civil Service reforms of the ’90s had already
gone a long way toward making merit, not political advantage, the
criterion for hiring and firing. And now, in the hour of war, the Navy
wanted to keep its shipyard workers. In the months before the United
States entered the conflict, officials had worried that employees swept
up in the popular sentiment for preparedness would enlist. Secretary of
the Navy Josephus Daniels declared it the “patriotic duty” of the
workers to remain at the yard, asserting that “their services to their
country ... [are] as important as if they were actually in the field.”

When the draft was initiated in 1917, the Navy responded by gaining
exemptions for crucial classes of yard workers such as supervisors,
draftsmen, and skilled mechanics and their helpers. The military draft
gave new meaning to the yard’s “six-muster” rule, by which any worker
missing six successive roll calls for any reason could be fired. One
week after any worker was dismissed, the yard informed his draft board.

The demand for workers and the boosted war economy drove up wages. No
doubt prompted by this incentive and by the exemption policy, some
240,000 men applied for work at the yard in 1917-18. But while
Charlestown didn’t lack for applicants, filling the most skilled
positions was a continuing problem. To remedy this (and to help workers
gain exemptions), the yard cut a year from the term of apprenticeship
and established a trade school to train unskilled workers as mechanics.

While World War I sped up Charlestown’s evolution from naval backwater
to modern shipyard, other factors had set the process in motion. Time
and expected technological advances accounted for some of it. But the
transition was accelerated at the yard by a larger transformation of the
Navy, prompted by the country’s position in a changing world and
completed on the stage of the Spanish-American War.

Historians have tagged this transformation the “New Navy.” If we simply
compare the numbers of the 1880 Navy, when its aging fleet of wooden
vessels ranked 12th in the world, to that of the 1900 Navy, when there
were in commission or on the stocks 17 steel battleships and a number of
armored cruisers, the label “new” is certainly accurate. But there was
more to this than simply building new steel ships to catch up to Europe.
The Navy’s mission underwent a strategic shift in this 20-year period.

The early phase involved a strengthening of the Navy’s capacity to carry
out its mission. For a century its job had been to defend the shores and
to ensure that other navies allowed American merchant vessels free trade
anywhere in the world. Its tactical traditions were one-on-one
engagements and hit-and-run commerce raiding. But it was clear by the
early 1880s that the U.S. Navy was inadequate for even these limited
operations. Reformers could point to obvious deficiencies as European
navies converted to armored steel hulls in the 1870s and ’80s. The old
wooden navy had become a disgrace.

Powerful voices were raised in the House Naval Affairs Committee, and in
1883 Congress appropriated money for the steel cruisers _Atlanta_,
_Boston_, and _Chicago_, and the dispatch vessel _Dolphin_. These
vessels could still spread a large area of sail, and by European
standards were not formidable, but the so-called “ABCD” ships were the
core of the New Navy, the first small step towards making the United
States a true sea power.

For Charlestown, they were a mixed blessing. The New Navy’s need for
maintenance and repair bode well for the future, but the immediate
effect was devastating. For the same legislation that authorized new
ships also established a new criterion for repairing existing vessels.
Only repairs that cost less than 30% (later reduced to 20%) of the cost
of a new ship of the same size could be performed. This freed up funds
to build the new ships, but it also meant so little work for shipyards
that both repair and construction work at Charlestown and three other
yards was suspended.

In its new role as manufacturing center, the yard kept the ropewalk,
rigging loft, and sail loft open. The forge began producing chain and
anchors for the new steel ships. But even these activities were sporadic
until later in the decade. A survey done one March day in 1884 showed
that the ropewalk was spinning rope for _Dolphin_—literally the only
thing done that day to help put warships to sea.

During the worst years of the 1880s the ropewalk almost singlehandedly
kept the yard alive. It made itself an indispensable facility by
supplying virtually all of the Navy’s rope. Other shops followed its
lead, and by 1890 the Charlestown yard had become an important general
manufacturing center, the only naval shipyard producing rope, sail,
anchors, and chain. It was still unable to service ships, however. In
August 1890 _Chicago_ was directed to the yard for repairs, only to turn
back because the old dry dock wasn’t in good enough condition to accept
the steel cruiser. “Repairs to engine bolts” for _Boston_ typified the
kind of task the yard could perform.

But 1890 also marked the beginning of the yard’s rebirth. Congress
appropriated $152,000 for new machine tools and modernization of
Charlestown’s crumbling facilities. It wasn’t enough to remake the yard,
but it was a start. It was also the year that Commander Alfred Thayer
Mahan, president of the Naval War College and one-time aide to the
Charlestown Navy Yard commandant, published _The Influence of Sea Power
Upon History, 1660-1783_. This important book helped to stimulate the
world-wide buildup of naval forces prior to World War I. His thesis
(greatly simplified) was as follows: A combination of geography,
population size, and “national character” makes a great seafaring
nation. Essential to the continued well-being of such a nation is a
government that actively promotes a vigorous maritime commerce. “Sea
power”—command of the sea lanes—protects this commerce. Only large
concentrated fleets of capital ships able to engage and destroy the
enemy’s navy can create and maintain sea power.

Mahan’s influence, both as author and adviser to the Secretary of the
Navy, was pivotal. His writings strengthened the hand of imperialists
and reformers who had called for new strategic thinking. The United
States, they reasoned, was a growing industrial power with increasing
overseas interests, and some—among them Mahan disciple and future
Assistant Secretary of the Navy and President Theodore
Roosevelt—believed the nation should have a navy befitting its role, one
able to open markets, protect those economic interests, and project U.S.

In a burst of enthusiasm recalling that for the ship-of-the-line at the
end of the War of 1812, Congress in 1890 authorized the country’s first
full-sized battleships. They represented enormous commitments of
resources, time, and money. Called “coastline” battleships to placate
still powerful coast defense advocates, they were nevertheless another
step in the United States’ emergence by the turn of the century as a
world power with a widening sphere of influence. The Navy kept its faith
in battleships until their vulnerability to air power and the
superiority of aircraft carriers as attack weapons were demonstrated in
World War II.

Although a succession of battleships, cruisers, submarines, and other
vessels were now being laid down, Charlestown didn’t immediately reap
the benefits. The majority of the warships launched between 1883 and
1905 were built by contract in private yards, and Charlestown built none
of them. For most of the 1890s, the yard continued to be primarily a
manufacturing facility. The New Navy’s hulls did account for much of the
yard’s repair work. Steel hulls didn’t rot, but they more easily fouled
with barnacles and seaweed than a coppered wooden hull and were less
resistant to corrosion than iron. Maintaining them became the
Charlestown yard’s bread and butter.

The Spanish-American War broke this pattern, making Charlestown once
again a repair yard. Besides the new warships the United States was
trying out against the Spanish navy, there was also the “mosquito fleet”
(old monitors, converted yachts, and other small craft used for coastal
defense during the war) to be maintained and repaired. In all some 50
vessels were serviced by 1,200-1,400 workers.

To beef up its workforce for war, the yard began hiring more foreign
workers, especially from Scandinavian countries with shipbuilding
traditions. Charlestown thereafter maintained a workforce averaging over
2,000 during the two decades before World War I—compared to the fewer
than 400 workers there through most of the 1890s. The Spanish-American
War was pivotal, marking a permanent expansion in the size and diversity
of the Charlestown workforce.

At war’s end the United States was recognized as a world power with
attendant responsibilities. This new status was symbolized by the
establishment of a coaling station in the recently acquired Philippines.
The capital ship building program continued apace—given renewed vigor by
President Theodore Roosevelt, staunch advocate of big ships and a strong

The yard continued to be mainly a repair facility with a steadily
increasing workload. The new 750-foot Dry Dock 2, authorized three
months after the sinking of _Maine_, was built to receive the Navy’s
biggest ships. But soon after the massive structure’s 1905 completion,
Britain launched H.M.S. _Dreadnought_, ushering in an even larger class
of battleship the dock could not accommodate.

In this period the yard specialized in the smaller battleships and the
newest type of warship: destroyers. These fast, versatile ships had
evolved from British “torpedo boat destroyers” built in the 1880s to
counter the new torpedo boats. The mobile torpedo, also developed in
Britain, was a self-propelled explosive device launched from a warship’s
deck, traveling underwater to open the hull of its target.

Developments in naval technology from the 1880s to the eve of World War
II included nothing quite so dramatic as the epochal shifts from sail to
steam and wood to iron, but the period saw advances in strategic weapons
such as submarines and aircraft carriers, and major innovations that
resulted in ships and shipbuilding essentially like what we see today.
In the period before the age of flight, sophisticated warships were
highly visible embodiments of the state of a nation’s technology, and
the rapidly expanding U.S. fleet was an unmistakable sign of its growing
industrial and technological prominence.

    [Illustration: _Charlestown’s machine shop in 1913. Overhead belts
    transferred power from a central steam engine to the machines. The
    potentially hazardous belts were later replaced with electric motors
    on each machine._]

    [Illustration: _Lathe operator shapes steam turbine rotor for
    destroyer tender Whitney in 1923._]

The major innovations were again in hull material and propulsion. The
transition from iron to steel hulls further liberated naval engineers.
Lighter, stronger, and less brittle, steel allowed them more play in
hull size and proportions. Despite extensive use of ironclads by the
United States during the Civil War, its navy essentially skipped the
iron stage in seagoing warships, moving from _Hartford_-type wooden
steamers to the steel ABCD ships of 1883. While the Charlestown yard
launched no steel warships until the 1930s, it did construct the tug
_Pentucket_ (1903) and training bark _Cumberland_ (1904), both

As steam engines grew more efficient in the 1880s and ’90s, sailing rigs
were made smaller and vestigial masts served mainly as radio antennae
and platforms for directing big guns. But a revolution in steam
technology sent reciprocating engines the way of masts on most large
naval vessels. Steam turbines, which were much more efficient at
sustained high speeds, were developed in the 1880s in Europe and used in
1905 on _Dreadnought_. In America they became truly practical during the
World War I period.

Along with the introduction of turbines came an innovation in the fuel
that powered them. During the 1890s oil was introduced, used in
combination with coal. By 1910 the United States had built its first all
oil-burning warship. Besides providing greater power more quickly, oil
needed less storage space and fewer engine room hands than coal.

These advances and refinements completed the evolution of the U.S. Navy
warship from wooden-hulled sailing vessel to powered steel ship. But
perfecting the new technology was not the only challenge associated with
the transition. The demands of modern naval design provoked growing
controversy over how work should be performed at naval shipyards and how
those yards should be organized. Charlestown Navy Yard played a central
role in the debate.

Since 1868 the nation’s naval shipyards had each been organized into
departments corresponding to those at the Navy Department level. Each
department head, though nominally under the yard commandant, really
worked for his boss in Washington. So each department became in effect a
separate plant protecting its own interests and budget. When a yard
built relatively simple wooden-hulled ships powered by steam engines,
the tasks of the Construction and Steam Engineering departments differed
enough that there was little overlap. The old organization was not then
a problem. But as warships became complex, integrated machines the
system broke down, providing little coordination between departments and
a great deal of duplication. By 1910 it was grossly wasteful and
inefficient, a public scandal.

At about the same time as reformers were calling for a shakeup of naval
shipyards, the phrase “scientific management” was being bandied about.
Everyone recognized that the 19th-century industrial system, while
highly successful, had to be managed differently to best incorporate
20th-century technology. The most famous of the new management systems
was that of Frederick Winslow Taylor. Taylor’s system called for the
strict application of scientific methods to industrial management and
organization in order to produce the maximum output. Specifically,
efficiency experts would study workers’ tasks and break them down into
their smallest components; perform time-and-motion studies to eliminate
wasteful motions and determine the optimum time in which a task should
be completed; and offer wage incentives and penalties for meeting or
falling short of the new standards. There would be no reason for
bargaining or for unions since non-debatable scientific principles,
rather than human foibles and emotions, would govern management

The workers’ response to Taylorism was speedy and unequivocal. They
fiercely resisted any system that would analyze their movements as if
they were machines to be fine-tuned (not an exaggeration of Taylor’s
stated beliefs). Such a system, they said, would demean them and their
skills—robbing them of their autonomy and individuality; eliminating
craft from the job; turning workers into mere cogs performing sped-up,
repetitious tasks “to the physical breaking point”—not to mention the
threat to collective bargaining. So visceral was their reaction to
Taylorism that any kind of management system became suspect.

Thus when the Navy attempted in 1912 to introduce a British management
system—less doctrinaire than Taylorism, though with the same ends of
efficiency and increased production—workers at Charlestown were
immediately on their guard. The system’s reorganization of the yard’s
divisions also upset established power relationships between traditional
sea (line) officers and newer and often younger engineering (staff)
types, tilting the balance in favor of the latter. Not surprisingly,
line and staff were polarized over the merits of the new order, accusing
each other respectively of obstructing progress and overmanaging.

In this charged atmosphere, when two overzealous junior officers
attempted to introduce minute Taylor-like task breakdowns at
Charlestown, the metal workers at the yard took action. They asked their
congressman to hand-deliver a protest to Assistant Secretary of the Navy
Franklin D. Roosevelt. While Roosevelt agreed in principle with
scientific management, he was generally sympathetic to labor and refused
to implement a system that the yard workers opposed.

    [Illustration: _Machine shop workers pose for a group picture in Dry
    Dock 1, about 1905. At this time a little more than 2,000 employees
    worked at the Charlestown yard._]

    [Illustration: _U.S.S._ Whitney _rises amid a forest of scaffolding.
    The keel of the 484-foot destroyer tender—the largest vessel ever
    built at Charlestown—was laid down in 1921. It took two and a half
    years to build. After surviving the Japanese attack on Pearl
    Harbor_, Whitney _served in the Pacific during World War II_.]

Roosevelt’s visit to the yard in 1913, during which he let it be known
that certain junior officers were being reassigned, focused national
attention on the controversy and encouraged other yard workers around
the nation. A delegation representing them lobbied against Taylorism,
eventually persuading Congress to outlaw such management systems in navy
yards. Yet when it was all over, the Charlestown yard was organized
quite differently than in the 19th century, making it a more efficient
builder and repairer of modern naval vessels and helping it to perform
as it did during World War I.

U.S.S. _Bridge_, commissioned as the first American troops were enroute
to France, exemplified the yard’s progress since the dark 1880s.
Following a long campaign by a job-desperate Boston to have the ship
built at Charlestown, _Bridge_ was laid down in 1914 and launched two
years later. It was the Navy’s first refrigerated supply ship, with a
steel hull and a boiler that could burn oil or coal. Its 423-foot length
made _Bridge_ the largest vessel yet built at Charlestown and its first
major ship since the 1870s.

After demonstrating its competence with _Bridge_, Charlestown was
assigned _Brazos_, two other fuel ships, and a destroyer tender. The
war-spurred building program helped Charlestown stay busy when peace
came, as the last three vessels weren’t laid down until after the
armistice. In fact the number of employees actually rose, to almost
13,000 in 1919. Besides the shipbuilding, there was work converting
ships to troop transports to bring the soldiers home and stripping
military gear from ships returning to civilian service. Charlestown
repaired a large number of destroyers, subs, and battleships small
enough for Dry Dock 2. To increase its docking capacity, the yard
purchased in 1920 a new state-built dry dock in South Boston. At the
time it was the country’s largest dry dock, becoming the nucleus of the
yard’s South Boston Annex.

Events conspired in the 1920s to dampen the yard’s postwar prosperity.
The 1922 Five-Power Treaty limited new ship construction and the overall
number of vessels, meaning less repair and outfitting work for naval
shipyards. In any case the political mood was to spend money on other
things. After the destroyer tender _Whitney_ was launched in 1923, there
was no more construction at Charlestown, other than a couple of tugs,
for the rest of the decade. And as the Japanese grew increasingly
expansionist, much of the fleet was moved to the West Coast, further
reducing work at the yard.

Nevertheless, Charlestown kept up its steady repair work, especially on
destroyers, albeit at a more modest level and with a workforce reduced
to below 3,000 by 1922. The addition of a marine railway in 1919 allowed
the yard to more easily service smaller ships of up to 2,000 tons.

By the end of the decade further developments seriously threatened the
Charlestown yard. The London Naval Treaty of 1930 extended the
moratorium on new capital ship construction for another six years. The
treaty further required the U.S. to scrap three battleships and 94
destroyers—the latter a mainstay of Charlestown. The deepening
Depression also hurt the yard, as the government’s austerity program in
the early years of the crisis reduced work at naval shipyards. The
Hoover administration threatened to close most federal yards, including
Charlestown. Yet in the Depression itself we can trace the roots of the
coming boom.

                         Building a Steel Ship

Beginning in the 1880s, steel rapidly supplanted wood as the primary
material in U.S. naval vessels. Charlestown began building large steel
vessels in 1915-20, the period depicted below. Stronger per pound than
wood or iron, steel enabled naval architects to design bigger ships that
could carry more armament. Steel was also better suited to bearing the
massive weight of steam engines and boilers. The structural members of
early steel vessels were riveted together, with limited gas welding in
use by World War I. Shipyard artisans traded auger, saw, and mallet for
pneumatic drill, gas cutting torch, and pneumatic rivet gun. Massive
steam-powered cranes replaced the old hoisting shears. Yet, while a
riveted steel ship demanded vastly more complicated plans and a higher
level of coordination between shops, it was assembled in much the same
way as a wooden vessel. From the keel rose the stem, sternpost, and
frames. Transverse beams, longitudinals, vertical stanchions, watertight
bulkheads, decking, and plating completed the hull, all held together by
rivets. Electric welding (_below_), developed in the 1930s, allowed
still lighter construction and the prefabrication of sections.
Designers, however, still called for rivets for some parts of the hull
throughout World War II.

    [Illustration: _When the Charlestown yard began constructing steel
    ships in 1915, a new building ways was erected on the site of the
    shiphouse in which the wooden screw frigate_ Merrimack _had been
    built 60 years earlier_ (see pages 32-33). _The yard built three
    475-foot fuel ships (“oilers”) on this shipways between 1917 and
    1921, reducing the time between keel laying and launch from two
    years for the first ship to less than a year for the last._]

    [Illustration: Electric welding]

                           Chain for the Navy

Until World War I, forged iron chain was used on naval vessels, and the
forge shop at the Charlestown yard was a leader in the industry. But it
was a laborious process, and the demands of war spurred the development
of cast steel chain, which could be produced more quickly. Charlestown
was soon experimenting with detachable links to connect standard chain
lengths. This led to the development in 1926 of a new chainmaking
process, in which each link was made from half-links joined in a die
under a drop-forge hammer—“die-lock” chain. It was clearly superior:
more uniform, stronger, cheaper to make. By the early 1930s Charlestown
was producing die-lock chain in several sizes, and by 1936 die-lock had
superseded cast steel chain for all sizes. The shop made the chain used
in most U.S. naval vessels built during World War II and was the only
forge to make chain for the largest postwar aircraft carriers.

    [Illustration: Finished chain is loaded for shipping.]

    [Illustration: Decorative background]

    [Illustration: The Die-lock Chainmaking Process]

1 Rolled nickel-steel rods (from ¾-inch to 4¾-inch in diameter) are cut
into shorter bars.

2 The cut bars are heated in a gas furnace to 2100°F. The now-malleable
bars are bent by machine into U-shapes.

3 The U-bars are stamped to form stems, with tapered and ridged ends, or
they have holes punched in the ends to form sockets.

4 Stem is hooked onto last completed link and placed in die; socket is
heated, and the two are joined under a 10,000-pound hammer (_next page_

5 Largest 4½-inch chain for supercarriers could withstand up to 2.5
million pounds. Each two-foot-long link weighed 360 pounds. Red
undercoat and grey paint helped retard rusting.

    [Illustration: 10,000-pound hammer]

    [Illustration: _At a shift change in 1943, departing workers hurry
    past destroyer escorts being outfitted for war. At its peak during
    the war, the Charlestown yard and its annexes employed more than
    50,000 men and women._]

                          The Yard Transformed

It was not a dramatic launch—no gathering speed down the shipways and
plunging into Boston Harbor. Instead, the water flowing into Dry Dock 1
rose slowly around U.S.S. _MacDonough_ until the destroyer lifted off
the keel blocks and was towed out of the dock. The 1934 “floating” was
low-keyed but significant. _MacDonough_ was the first warship built by
Charlestown since the wooden screw sloop _Vandalia_ slid down the ways
in 1874.

The technological leap between the two vessels—partially bridged by the
steel supply and fuel ships Charlestown built in the World War I
period—was considerable. Except for its coal-fired auxiliary steam
propulsion, the 216-foot _Vandalia_ did not differ significantly from
the old _Constitution_. _MacDonough_ was a modern destroyer—the
sloop-of-war’s 20th-century counterpart—incorporating the advances of
the past 60 years. It was powered by geared turbines driven by steam
generated in oil-burning boilers, and relied on sophisticated
electrical, hydraulic, and communications systems. At 341 feet, its
steel hull took up most of Dry Dock 1.

As soon as _MacDonough_ was moved out of the dock, the destroyer
_Monaghan_, just floated from Dry Dock 2, was moved into #1 for
completion and outfitting. Two more keels were immediately laid in #2.
It is noteworthy that neither dry dock was being used to repair ships.
In fact, the whole yard’s traditional role as repair facility had given
way in the past year to a new one as shipbuilder, a status it maintained
through World War II. Charlestown built 12 destroyers in the 1930s and
24 more by the end of the war. Of course the yard built and serviced
other types of vessels—especially destroyer escorts and LSTs (Landing
Ship Tank)—but Charlestown acquired a reputation as a “destroyer yard”
and thereafter specialized in this workhorse of the Navy.

    [Illustration: Navy Yard Complex During World War II

_This map of Boston Harbor in 1942 shows the five units of Charlestown
Navy Yard during World War II. By war’s end the South Boston Annex was
the largest, with dry docks big enough to repair battleships and heavy
cruisers. The Chelsea and East Boston Annexes repaired small vessels,
and the Fuel Depot Annex served the great number of naval vessels
entering the harbor during the war._]

    Chelsea Naval Hospital
    Chelsea Naval Annex
    Fuel Depot Annex
    Navy Yard
    East Boston Annex
    Deep Water Pier
    South Boston Annex

Ironically, the change had been brought about by the same economic
crisis that almost put an end to the yard. After considering closing all
yards but Norfolk and Philadelphia to save money, the Hoover
administration in 1931 proposed closing only the Charlestown yard.
Reaction was swift: committees were formed in Boston; petitions
protesting the closing were signed. But it was probably the fact that
_MacDonough_ had been ordered a month earlier that tilted the scales in
the yard’s favor. The keel was not laid for two years, however, and 1932
was the yard’s bleakest year since before the Spanish-American War, with
only 1,500 people employed.

The Roosevelt administration’s program to stimulate the economy, provide
jobs, and pull the nation out of the Depression was the first step in
Charlestown’s transformation into a true ship construction yard. Under
FDR’s 1933 National Industrial Recovery Act, 32 new warships were
authorized, 20 of them destroyers, of which two were assigned to
Charlestown. The following year, growing worries about Japanese
aggression moved Congress to further expand the Navy.

The yard kept a rapid pace in the 1930s, laying two keels simultaneously
in Dry Dock 2 in 1934 and again in 1935. (As the shipways was inadequate
for destroyers, all keels were laid in this dock until 1939.) After
floating, the hulls were moved into Dry Dock 1 for completion, the whole
process taking about two years.

Repair work was much reduced in the 1930s by federal economy measures
specifying lengthened maintenance intervals. As both dry docks were in
any case usually tied up in construction work, and because most of the
ships in for repair were relatively small, many of these vessels were
floated into a large cradle and hauled from the water up the tracks of
the yard’s marine railway. Others were taken across the harbor to the
South Boston dry dock.

Technological change transformed many of the yard’s oldest trades by the
1930s, while the growing size and complexity of ships required more and
more workers. Such large government employers as shipyards were seen by
policy makers as places to both promote economic stability and save
money. Early in the Depression these two goals were addressed,
respectively, with lower and upper limits for each yard’s workforce—at
Charlestown, 1,500 and 1,800. The workforce stayed generally within
these limits until 1935, when it began growing, reaching some 5,000
workers by late 1939. (During hard times the yard kept its eye on the
future, exempting apprentices from layoffs.)

By the time war had begun in Europe in 1939, with “readiness” again
America’s watchword, the yard was operating at an even faster rate of
production than in the mid-thirties. With the shipways enlarged to
handle destroyers, six ships were in some stage of construction that
summer. In October four destroyers were floated out of Dry Dock 2 on the
same day. The yard also prepared 18 of the old World War I four-stacker
destroyers for transfer to Britain under the 1940 destroyers-for-bases

Then came the war. If the thirties had been a period of gearing up,
wartime pushed the yard into overdrive. It took a great war effort for
the yard to realize its true shipbuilding and manufacturing potential,
confirming a statement by Secretary of the Navy George von Meyer in
1910: “Navy yards are primarily for war and only incidentally for
peace.” One historian’s conservative estimate: under the goad of war the
yard built, repaired, overhauled, converted, or outfitted some 6,000
vessels between 1939 and 1945.

The raid on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 made every naval installation
fearful of enemy attacks. Charlestown installed anti-aircraft batteries
on roofs and camouflaged waterfront buildings. Some security measures
were disruptive of yard routine. Blackouts and dim-outs were in force,
especially in the early years of the war, to reduce the chances of ships
being silhouetted against lights. When the air raid whistle blew,
workers had to stop what they were doing and go to shelters. Throughout
the war, yard officials juggled the conflicting demands of security and

Other security measures had more personal consequences. Some yard
workers were banned from certain areas, and everyone was forbidden to
speak foreign languages while at work. A number of workers were
suspended in 1941 as security risks. “Remarks ... inimical to the
government” were enough to earn an employee a place on the suspension

The huge number of people working at Charlestown was another sign that
the yard had been remade by war. The U.S. Navy became the world’s
largest single employer of industrial labor during the conflict, and the
Charlestown yard held the same status in the Boston area. The yard’s
force rapidly swelled from 5,000 workers in 1939 to a high of about
50,000 at Charlestown and its annexes in mid-1943, working around the
clock in three eight-hour shifts.

As in World War I, the yard again had to protect its essential employees
from the draft board. But voluntary enlistment proved to be the real
drain on the workforce. Although yard foremen tried to dissuade crucial
employees from going, some 13,000 workers left the yard to join the
fight. Throughout the conflict, even when more than 50,000 people worked
there, the yard was shorthanded.

           Mainstays of the Yard: Warship Overhaul and Repair

After the construction boom created by World War II, Charlestown resumed
its traditional role of “serving the fleet” (the yard’s motto). In the
early 1950s it was the home yard for 121 vessels, including U.S.S.
_Cassin Young_, the destroyer now on exhibit at the yard. All types of
ships, but especially destroyers, came for everything from minor repairs
to overhauls on established cycles. The latter, which often involved
some degree of modernization, could require 800 to 900 workers a day.
After the war the yard preserved decommissioned vessels of the Atlantic
Reserve Fleet berthed at the South Boston Annex. Charlestown also
prepared ships for transfer to allies, outfitted vessels built
elsewhere, and repaired equipment, especially sonar.

    [Illustration: U.S.S. Wasp plaque]

    [Illustration: _Charlestown was busy in 1960 with overhauls and
    modernizations. In the foreground: aircraft carrier_ Wasp _(whose
    crew presented the yard with the plaque shown above); floating dry
    dock (in a yard dry dock); heavy cruiser_ Macon (_CA-132_).]

To make up for the shortages, the yard began for the first time hiring
significant numbers of women and African Americans. Their door of
opportunity, unlocked by the needs of a war economy, was kept open by
pressure from civil rights groups on the Roosevelt administration (often
relayed by a sympathetic Eleanor Roosevelt). Women at the yard had
traditionally worked in clerical positions and as phone operators, and
this remained true at war’s outset. But more and more women found work
in the industrial shops, notably as welders and at the ropewalk (the
latter having employed them during World War I). At least in some shops,
however, there were restrictions. Gloria Brandenberg, who worked in the
Paint Shop, recalled that all painter’s helpers were female, supervised
by a woman (the “leading lady”), while all painters were male.
Brandenberg said there was no chance for advancement.

By 1943 female blue-collar workers outnumbered women in clerical
positions. Some 7,700 women were on the rolls in late 1944—far above
their prewar level and about 19 percent of the workforce. Many worked as
welders on ships under construction, but yard officials wary of contact
between female workers and male crews barred women from all vessels in
for repair. Painter’s helper Brandenberg recalled that the women were
not allowed even to talk to sailors.

While African Americans were not officially excluded from Charlestown’s
prewar workforce, few had been employed. When the war created
opportunities for them, some whites openly resisted their presence in
skilled positions. But this was not a universal attitude. Allan Crite, a
black illustrator in the Design Department, said he experienced no
racial problems. Inevitably, though, tensions arose in some areas.
Gloria Brandenberg recalled an evening at a social club with her
coworkers from the Paint Shop, one of whom was African American. She was
asked to leave. The group talked it over; they all left. But the records
show no major racial conflict at the yard. At war’s end more than 2,300
African Americans were in the force of 32,000 workers.

By late 1942, the yard had settled into a wartime routine—to the extent
that routine is possible during war. Normal peacetime constraints didn’t
apply. “During the war there wasn’t much emphasis on estimates,”
recalled plumber Lyman Carlow. “For one thing, there wasn’t time. Here’s
the job; we need the ship right away; get it done and whatever it costs
it costs ... it was just a real frantic pace ... the material just
flowed in ... plenty of people, so we could really get the work done.”

More than the higher level of general activity and the large numbers of
workers (around 36,000 at this point), it was the volume of new
construction that characterized the wartime yard. A walk around the yard
on November 23 would have revealed ships being built in every facility
but Dry Dock 2, used only for repairs.

Workers generally laid down and launched large vessels in pairs. But
while floating two at a time out of a dry dock was standard practice, it
was never approached casually. John Langan, a shipfitter during the war,
recalled: “It was quite a feat, two destroyers right alongside each
other, flooding the dock, and not having them crash.”

A new shipways built in early 1941 helped quicken the pace of
production. In that year 10 destroyers were laid down, the most in any
one year. By late 1941 the yard’s workers had pushed the time for
building a destroyer down to a little over a year and would cut it to
three or four months from keel to launching by the end of the war.

                         Women in the Workforce

  “_We all felt that we were doing our job, and the harder we worked,
  the faster we would get the ships out and the faster it would get
  over. Deep down, everyone was very serious about it, because
  ninety-nine out of a hundred people had a husband or a brother or
  somebody close to them that was overseas.”_
                    —_Gloria Brandenberg, WW II Charlestown yard worker_

    [Illustration: _Welders at Charlestown during World War II._]

As enlistments and competition from private industry depleted the pool
of male workers during World War II, the Navy looked to the large
numbers of women who wanted to do their part for the war effort. Women
had long worked at the Charlestown yard, although almost exclusively
(except during World War I) in clerical positions. But beginning in 1942
the easing of state workweek restrictions for women hastened their
recruitment into the yard’s manufacturing and traditional shipyard
shops. The intention was to have them replace men in relatively
unskilled positions requiring little training. And in fact most women
did work as helpers in their shops, often with little chance of
advancement. But some moved into the trades as machinists, riveters,
painters, riggers, pipefitters, and especially as welders and ropewalk
workers. At the same time women still occupied more than half of the
yard’s clerical positions. Altogether, they made up about one-fifth of
the yard workforce by 1945. Those in the trades knew their jobs would
likely end when the war did, but the point had been made. In 1945, a
yard historian wrote: “Experience over the past two years has proven
that female employees are able to work efficiently on an equal basis
with men on many jobs that were formerly considered to be men’s jobs.”

    [Illustration: _Welders at Charlestown during World War II._]

    [Illustration: _The yard’s clerical workers enlisted as Yeomen-F
    (female) at the outbreak of World War I. Women also worked as radio
    operators and at the ropewalk._]

    [Illustration: _Many responded to posters urging women to fill an
    industrial job and “free a man to fight.”_]

The new shipways was also used to build destroyer escorts (DEs)—smaller,
slower, and less expensive versions of destroyers designed for escort
duty and antisubmarine warfare. Escorted convoys had proven to be the
only effective way to thwart U-boat “wolf packs” preying on allied
shipping. In 1942, after the Navy ordered the first of more than a
thousand DEs, Charlestown built a new dry dock in which it could turn
out four at a time. The next year 50 DEs were laid down at the yard,
half of which were destined for Britain in accordance with the
Lend-Lease Act of 1941. Charlestown got the production of DEs down to an
art: of the 62 it built, workers launched an impressive 46 in the first
eleven months of 1943.

If 1941 was the year of the destroyer at the yard and 1943 belonged to
the DE, 1944 was the year of the LST (Landing Ship, Tank). These
seagoing assault vessels carried tanks and other vehicles during
amphibious landings. The yard laid down 30 in 1944, taking only a month
to complete one of the 328-foot vessels.

In all, Charlestown built 174 large vessels during the war, including 12
barracks ships and four submarines. There were also hundreds of smaller
craft, such as wooden motor launches and diver boats. The South Boston
Annex played a part in the yard’s strong wartime performance, doing much
of the repair and conversion work and fabricating hull sections that
were towed to Charlestown for incorporation into ships under

Not all vessels were built outside: in the summer of 1942, shipfitters
fabricated in their shop 150 fifty-foot LCMs (Landing Craft,
Mechanized)—also called “tank lighters”—for the British-American
invasion of North Africa. Shipfitter John Langan remembered it as a
“crash program.... We just stopped everything else and concentrated on
them and delivered them for the invasion.”

While this kind of rapid, assembly-line construction was Charlestown’s
specialty during the war, there were other claims on the yard’s time. By
late 1942 war’s reality was being brought home to Charlestown in the
shape of battle-scarred ships needing quick repair. When a damaged ship
arrived, it was given priority until it was ready to return to combat.

There was another reason for the air of urgency around war repairs: ship
repair generally called for more skill than did shipbuilding. Because
workers often had to work blind on battle damage until its nature and
extent could be determined, such work called on all the workers’
resourcefulness. John Langan remembered “everybody fighting to get them
[war-damaged vessels], because it is good work.” Langan recalled one
vessel towed into the yard: it had been “torpedoed and cut right in
halves ... and the fireroom was open to the seas ... [They had] tied her
down with big I-beams ... tied them the full length, all the way
around”—to keep the ship afloat until it reached the yard.

Even without the shell-torn hulls and shredded superstructures, war is
hard on ships. Pushed faster, farther, and longer under less than ideal
conditions, they needed more than routine maintenance. And on top of the
already demanding schedule of ship construction, repair, and
maintenance, other tasks competed for time and resources. Yard workers
outfitted naval vessels built at other yards. They converted private
vessels and old naval ships to wartime uses. They manufactured turbines
and thousands of tons of die-lock chain (_see pages 60-61_). They
“degaussed” hulls—neutralized their magnetic fields so they would not
trip mines. Together these activities suggest the scope and grueling
pace of the yard’s war effort.

In such an atmosphere, mishaps caused by fallible humans dealing with
complex machinery were inevitable. One particularly embarrassing, and
nearly tragic, incident was related by electrical shop foreman Mel
Hooper. His men were completing electrical work on the new submarine
_Lancefish_ (built at another yard) in 1945. “Some machinist went down,”
he recalled, “and opened up the front gate on the torpedo tube and
forgot to close it; then he went back in the ship and opened up the
inside one and then it started to flood. And they had a hell of a job
trying to close it, and they couldn’t close it, and everybody ran aboard
the dock to get the hell out of there before they got drowned. And then
the ship sank.”

The stepped-up safety program was almost certainly an improvement on the
pre-war conditions, when, as remembered by plumber Lyman Carlow, “It
seemed to me that everyone was supposed to look after himself.” But
while the program called for more protections for workers from open
machinery, hazardous fumes, and other dangerous conditions, a survey in
1944 noted that workers were rarely disciplined for safety violations,
machines lacked guards, and most workers did not wear their hard hats,
goggles, or ear protection. “You [went] down to the tanks with the
chipping hammers and riveting guns going all around,” recalled Carlow,
“and you wouldn’t be able to hear for a couple of hours afterward. But
nobody did anything about it, or thought anything of it. You just got
deaf, and that was it.”

A shipyard was a dangerous place to work even in peacetime; war
multiplied the hazards. Charles Snell, an apprentice rigger at the yard,
recalled 40 years later, “We had a lot of close escapes, because safety
wasn’t really stressed then as much as it is today ... we lost a lot of
riggers, strangely enough, and I can never account for this, being run
over by the cranes ... the operator of the crane, when it was traveling,
had very limited visibility close ahead. And we lost an inordinate
number of riggers because they’d stumble and the crane would run over
them.... We had quite a few falls into the dry dock, not riggers, but
all trades.”

Snell left the yard in 1943 and served in Europe for the duration of the
war. He recalled his impressions upon returning in 1946, comparing the
yard to “a runner, which was running for an objective, and all of a
sudden, the objective wasn’t there. The need for everything had suddenly
evaporated. And it was a question of what do you finish and what don’t
you finish, and what’s important.”

With peace came the end of Charlestown’s brief period as a major
shipbuilding center. But the war-seasoned yard did not simply revert to
what it had been before. Charlestown found a new postwar role as a place
where old vessels were remade from the inside out, transformed into
modern warships. Old did not necessarily mean long in years. In the
1950s, ships that had performed admirably in the late war were being
left behind in a world of accelerating technological change. Charlestown
extended their careers, installing state-of-the-art electronics. When
advances in missile technology opened a new era in naval weapons and
strategy, Charlestown played a leading role in the changeover. The life
of the crowded and aging yard itself was extended by such activities,
enabling Charlestown to render another three decades of service to the

In the months after war’s end, the level of activity naturally fell off,
but the yard remained busy converting transports to bring home the
troops, inactivating ships, and completing the last few LSTs, barracks
ships, and subs laid down in 1945. Charlestown also carved a niche for
itself in sonar, a technology dating to the World War I period and
considered standard equipment since the 1930s. Beginning in 1948 the
yard became a center for the repair of sonar equipment, establishing a
sonar laboratory and developing techniques adopted by other electronics
repair centers throughout the Navy.

Radar, developed in the 1930s, had come into widespread use during the
war. The yard undertook a major conversion program in 1950 when it began
upgrading radar and sonar systems on a number of destroyers and
destroyer escorts, converting them to radar picket and antisubmarine
warfare (ASW) roles. Charlestown also planned and designed all
alterations, wherever they were performed, to cruisers, destroyers,
escort carriers, LSTs, and several auxiliary vessel types.

While the yard accepted a variety of vessels, including aircraft
carriers, it continued its traditional specialization in destroyers and
destroyer escorts. In 1955 the yard converted the 10-year-old _Gyatt_
into the world’s first guided missile destroyer.

That year the yard laid down the keel of its only postwar vessel and the
last one it built: the LST _Suffolk County_, first of a larger and
faster class of LSTs. Charlestown also served as the design yard for the
other six LSTs, built in private yards.

In the 1960s the yard stayed busy with outfittings, missile and ASW
conversions, and Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization (FRAM) overhauls
that added five to seven years of service to aging warships.
Charlestown’s FRAM program specialized in World War II-era destroyers.
Ranging from brief dockings to major operations of a year or more
costing millions, these projects involved such sophisticated work as
installing or upgrading sonar (_see pages 76-77_), radar,
communications, and computer equipment; major alterations such as
replacing engines and entire superstructures; and the more prosaic tasks
the yard had been performing for over a century: cleaning and painting
hulls, renovating propellers and rudders, and rebricking or replacing

Nevertheless, by 1972 work was falling off at Charlestown, and signs did
not bode well for the yard’s future. For years the Navy had invested
little there for maintenance or modernization, making it harder to stay
efficient. The marine railway and ropewalk had been shut down in 1971.
Elsewhere, superfluous or inefficient military bases were being closed
to save money. (The New York Navy Yard was closed in 1966.) A massive
infusion of funds was needed to upgrade the old Charlestown yard—too
small in any case for proper expansion of its facilities.

The Navy in general was retrenching for economic reasons. The destroyer
fleet, especially—the lifeblood of the yard in the 20th century—had
steadily dwindled since 1960. The fewer destroyers there were to
service, the harder it was to justify the Charlestown yard’s existence.
The failure of the Navy to carry through modernization plans, including
one whereby the majority of the yard’s industrial activity would be
transferred to an enhanced South Boston facility, helped to hasten the
inevitable. Many associated with the yard also suspected that
Massachusetts, as the only state going Democratic in the 1972
presidential election, would pay a penalty for failing to back the

On April 16, 1973, the yard commander, Captain R. L. Arthur, announced
that the Charlestown yard, along with the yard at Hunter’s Point in San
Francisco, was to close. Over the next year it ceased all fleet
servicing and manufacturing operations, and on July 1, 1974, nearly 175
years of service to the nation ended with a formal disestablishment
ceremony. Only one naval activity remained at Charlestown: the
protection and maintenance of the old warship long associated with the
yard, U.S.S. _Constitution_.

    [Illustration: _The launching of a ship celebrates the time, energy,
    and skill spent in its making. Here U.S.S._ Guest, _one of 24
    destroyers built at Charlestown during World War II, slips into
    Boston Harbor in 1942. The big_ Fletcher-_class destroyer took only
    five months to build_.]

    [Illustration: _A destroyer is traditionally named for a
    distinguished naval figure, and if possible the closest female
    relative sponsors the namesake ship. In a centuries-old ritual,
    DD-461’s sponsor Eileen Fairfax Thomson breaks a bottle of champagne
    against the ship’s bow in 1941, sending it down the ways with the
    words, “I christen thee_ Forrest, _and may God bless all who sail in
    her.” Captain French Forrest commanded the Charlestown-built_
    Cumberland _in the Mexican War. Siding with the Confederates during
    the Civil War, he oversaw conversion of the burned U.S.S._ Merrimack
    _into the ironclad C.S.S._ Virginia—_destroyer of_ Cumberland (see
    pages 28-29).]

                         Ships for World War II

From 1933 to the end of World War II, the Charlestown yard moved outside
its traditional role as repair yard and became a shipbuilding facility.
It began with destroyers—ships it had long specialized in
repairing—averaging two a year in the 1930s. This period of steady
production was preamble to the World War II crash building program.
Charlestown launched almost 200 vessels, including 24 destroyers,
between 1939 and 1945. In 1942 it began building destroyer
escorts—smaller, less expensive versions of destroyers designed to
counter German submarines. The final big program was the production of
LSTs (Landing Ship, Tank) for amphibious assaults in Europe and Asia.
LSDs (Landing Ship, Dock) for carrying other vessels; submarines; and
various auxiliary vessels also came down the ways during the war. These
programs spurred major changes at the yard. Greater specialization, for
instance, broke up traditional shops. The biggest change was in
construction methods, most notably prefabrication. Several bow and stern
sections, each with its own keel, were built separately—many in the
Shipfitters Shop, but also “in playgrounds and schoolyards and parts of
the yard, and all around greater Boston,” remembered Rigger Charles
Snell. These were then joined to the midship hull section rising on the
shipways. “Economy was not the name of the game,” recalled Snell. “The
name of the game was time.”

    [Illustration: _Hulls were launched from shipways or dry docks, then
    moored alongside piers for completion. Here, yard workers, who
    labored round the clock during the war, outfit a_ Fletcher-_class
    destroyer as night falls. At top, a five-inch gun is lowered by a
    mobile crane._]

    [Illustration: Destroyer (36 built)

A fast, versatile, relatively small ship, it was equipped for
anti-submarine warfare, escort duty, scouting, antiaircraft warfare,
torpedo or gun surface engagement, and shore bombardment.]

    [Illustration: LST (Landing Ship, Tank; 44 built)

This craft carried tanks and other vehicles for amphibious landings. The
water ballast system allowed it to vary its draft: deep for stable ocean
travel and shallow for moving in close to shore.]

    [Illustration: Destroyer Escort (62 built)

This smaller, more quickly built version of the destroyer was designed
to protect allied shipping convoys from German U-boats, freeing
destroyers for other duties.]

                       New Careers for Old Ships

During the long era of wooden sailing ships, when naval technology
changed only gradually over the decades, a warship’s service lasted as
long as the materials from which it was built. But as the pace of change
quickened in the mid-19th century with the advent of steam propulsion
and iron hulls, a vessel quickly grew obsolete without continual
incorporation of the latest technology. This state of affairs, which
intensified in the 20th century, provided Charlestown Navy Yard with a
new role after World War II: lengthening or transforming the careers of
old ships, otherwise destined for mothballs, through modernization and
conversion. Modernization meant updating old electrical, propulsion, or
weapons systems or performing structural surgery without altering the
vessel’s function. This ranged from installing a sonar dome on the
bottom of the hull to dismantling the entire superstructure and building
a new one. The process normally took several months. Conversion, which
could take years, involved major alteration of a vessel to prepare it
for a different tactical mission. A typical example would be the
conversion of a conventional scouting, escorting, and submarine-fighting
destroyer to a radar picket destroyer, whose role was to provide
mid-ocean radar warning. A notable postwar task undertaken by the yard
was the 1956 conversion of the destroyer _Gyatt_ into the world’s first
guided missile destroyer. Basically, the vessel’s aft five-inch guns
were replaced with a twin missile launcher. But the ship had to be
significantly altered to perform its new function. The yard designed
automated systems that first affixed a booster charge to the missile and
then moved it from the air-conditioned belowdecks magazine to the
launcher. The decks and superstructure had to be reinforced to withstand
the tremendous pressure and temperature of a launch. A system of ducts
and blowout plates was installed to minimize damage and injury in the
event of a premature explosion. Innovative retractable fins at midships
helped stabilize the vessel for firing. With these and other changes,
the yard remade _Gyatt_ into a sophisticated missile-firing machine.

    [Illustration: _In the late 1950s the Navy began installing sonar
    equipment in bow domes. Bow domes reduced hull resistance and were
    less susceptible to bubble noise. The Charlestown yard, already a
    leader in sonar technology, performed a prototype dome installation
    in 1958. To install a dome, workers first cut away part of the old
    bow, then fitted the prefabricated dome_ (next page, on U.S.S.
    _Willis A. Lee_ in 1961).]

    [Illustration: _Sonar works actively and passively. In active sonar,
    the transducer in the dome transmits sound pulses through the water.
    When the pulses reach an object (or the bottom), they are reflected
    and received by the transducer as echoes. Distance is determined by
    time elapsed between transmission and echo. In passive sonar,
    hydrophones pick up noises generated by underwater sources._]

    [Illustration: Installing a sonar dome]

                Part 2    Visiting Charlestown Navy Yard

    [Illustration: _U.S.S._ Cassin Young _at Pier 1_.]

                             The Yard Today

The yard offers the visitor a captivating glimpse into the activities
that for nearly two centuries supported the United States Navy. Here on
the home front, thousands of civilian workers and navy personnel built,
repaired, and supplied warships from the majestic sailing vessels of the
early 19th century to the powerful steel navy of the 20th century. In
1974, the year of its closing, 30 acres of the historic yard were set
aside for the National Park Service as a living museum of the Navy’s
activities here. The remaining 100 acres continue to be developed as
part of the revitalization of Boston’s waterfront.

Nineteenth-century buildings, docks, and piers reflect the yard’s
174-year history. The commandant’s 1805 hilltop mansion overlooked the
activities below. Within view are Dry Dock 1, used by U.S.S.
_Constitution_ as early as 1833 and as late as 1995, the 1842 Carpenter
Shop, the 1852 Pitch House (Building 10) for caulking wooden vessels,
the 1833 Officers’ Quarters, the 1813 Navy Stores (Building 5), and the
1811 Marine Barracks.

Two venerable warships, the 1797 frigate U.S.S. _Constitution_ and the
powerful 1943 destroyer, U.S.S. _Cassin Young_, float alongside the
working piers, illustrating the changing United States Navy. Both the
_Constitution_, an active duty Navy warship, and _Cassin Young_,
maintained by National Park Service rangers and volunteers, offer free
tours daily.

    [Illustration: Tours of the yard]

A National Park Service exhibit, “Serving the Fleet,” and tours of the
yard (_above_) provide visitors with opportunities to explore the
history of the site. The USS Constitution Museum offers a rich
collection of artifacts, paintings, and models relating to the history
of “Old Ironsides.” The museum, located inside the Dry Dock 1 Pumphouse,
is open daily to visitors.

    [Illustration: Key to map]

  Historic structure
  Historic building name
  Historic building letter or number
  Non-historic structure
  Freedom Trail (route subject to change)
  National Park Service boundary
  Public open space

                 [Illustration: CHARLESTOWN NAVY YARD]

Charlestown Navy Yard’s buildings reflect the range of architectural
styles employed over its long history. These structures served a variety
of functions within the working yard, which was home to naval officers
and their families as well as an industrial work place.

Beginning in 1853, the civilian shipyard workers living in surrounding
communities, primarily Charlestown, assembled each morning to the
ringing of the bell atop the octagonal Muster House. For most of the
19th century, the workers mustered there three times daily, in the
morning at sunrise, at lunch, and once more in the evening before
retiring to their homes at sunset.

    [Illustration: Muster House]

Directing the activities was the shipyard commandant, who lived with his
family and personal staff in the impressive mansion constructed in 1805.
Built on the yard’s high ground, the Commandant’s House provided a
bird’s-eye view of the construction and repair activities going on

    [Illustration: Commandant’s House]

Today the house is open to the public for special tours, and numerous
activities, such as historical military encampments, take place on the
expansive lawn through the summer months.

    [Illustration: Historical military encampments]

    [Illustration: The Chain Forge houses the massive hammers once used
    to forge die-lock chain, a unique process developed here in 1926.]

    [Illustration: The country’s only remaining full-length ropewalk was
    for more than 130 years the sole facility in the Navy manufacturing
    rope for U.S. warships. Both buildings (not open to the public)
    await restoration and preservation work as part of the National Park
    Service’s ongoing efforts to preserve the significant industrial
    heritage of the Charlestown Navy Yard.]

                        The Ships at Charlestown

The Navy’s oldest commissioned warship, United States Ship
_Constitution_ and the Charlestown Navy Yard share a long history.
Constructed in Boston between 1794 and 1797, “Old Ironsides” was
repaired and supplied here many times during its active career. U.S.S.
_Constitution_ was permanently berthed in Charlestown in 1897 and has
since been open to the public for tours. Like all wooden vessels,
_Constitution_ needs constant attention. In the 1920s, a major overhaul
was capped with a nationwide tour. Between 1992 and 1995, _Constitution_
underwent the most significant restoration to date in the yard’s Dry
Dock 1. Newly discovered drawings and descriptions were used to help
skilled naval shipwrights restore the vessel to its original appearance.

    [Illustration: _Constitution_ settles on dry dock blocks in
    preparation for its 1990s restoration.]

    [Illustration: A view off the bow of the venerable warship.]

    [Illustration: Caulkers use traditional caulking hammers to seal the
    gun decks.]

The World War II destroyer U.S.S. _Cassin Young_ (DD-793) reflects a
very different kind of sea power than does _Constitution_. Yet both
warships, constructed 150 years apart, served much the same purpose.
Like frigates, destroyers (known as the workhorses of the modern navy)
are smaller and less powerful than the heaviest warships, but they are
fast and remarkably versatile. Boasting five 5-inch guns and made of
steel, _Cassin Young_ was built on the West Coast in 1943 and took part
in major Pacific engagements, including the Saipan landing and the
Battle of Leyte Gulf, where its crew rescued over 100 sailors from the
attack on U.S.S. _Princeton_.

    [Illustration: Free tours let visitors see where the “tin can
    sailors” lived during their long months at sea.]

    [Illustration: Aboard _Cassin Young_, “Rosie the Riveter” programs
    introduce visitors to the work and lives of the women who wielded
    rivet guns and welding rods during World War II.]

    [Illustration: _Cassin Young’s_ bow offers views of the historic
    yard and harbor.]

                              The Exhibits

Today, exhibits and educational activities help bring alive the navy
yard and Boston’s maritime history. At the USS Constitution Museum,
located in the historic Dry Dock 1 Pumphouse and adjacent buildings,
hands-on activities help visitors to appreciate the skills of a
19th-century seaman and get a sense of his life aboard a sailing
warship. Load and fire a replica cannon, try out a sailor’s sleeping
quarters, take a turn at the great wheel of a square-rigger, or command
U.S.S. _Constitution_ in battle on a computer screen.

The museum houses the frigate’s logs, weapons, documents, charts,
journals, decorative arts, and other items illustrating the epic role of
“Old Ironsides” in U.S. history. Skilled craftsmen demonstrate ship
model building, while films and special programs provide greater insight
into the ship’s story. A museum store offers other items relating to
_Constitution’s_ history and to the nation’s maritime heritage.

    [Illustration: USS Constitution Museum]

    [Illustration: USS Constitution Museum]

    [Illustration: A permanent exhibit, “Serving the Fleet,” which
    focuses on the history of the navy yard, is open to the public on a
    seasonal basis in the navy yard’s Paint Shop (Building 125).]


   _Numbers in italics refer to photographs, illustrations, or maps._

  “ABCD ships” 50, 54
  Aircraft carrier 51, 60, _66_, 72

  Bainbridge, William 11, _12_, 13, 15, 17
  Barbary States 9, 14, 15-16
  Battleship 11, 47, 49, 51, 57
  Brig-of-war _14_
  British Navy 11, 13, 15, 16
  Burroughs, George W. _46_

  Chain 50, _60-61_, 70, _83_
  Charlestown Navy Yard: annexes 64;
      and Boston Harbor _4-5_, 13, 15, 16, _64_;
      and NPS _78-79_, 80-86;
      Civil War _28-29_, 29-31, 34, 36-37;
      founding 16;
      improvements 17, 34, 46-47;
      map _64_, _81_;
      mission 16, 45, 47, 50, 63;
      post-Civil War 37, 39;
      post-WW I 57;
      post-WW II 71-72, _76-77_;
      Spanish-American War 46, 49, 51;
      South Boston Annex 57, 65, 70;
      view _back cover_;
      War of 1812 11-15, 16;
      WW I 46-49, 57;
      WW II 62, 63-71, 73, _74-75_
  Coaling plant 47
  C.S.S. (Confederate States Ship): _Virginia_ _28_, 29-31, 34, 36,
          _43_, 73
  Conversion, ship 72, _76-77_
  Cruiser 47, 50, 51, _66_

  Dahlgren, John 36
  Daniels, Josephus 49
  Decatur, Stephen 15
  Destroyer escort 70, 72, 75
  Destroyer 47, 51, 57, 63, 65, 67, 72, _73_, _74-75_
  Dry dock: #1 4, 17, _23_, 34, 39, _40-41_, 45, 50, _56_, 63, 64;
      #2 47, 51, 57, 63, 64, 65, 67

  Ericsson, John 36

  Farragut, David G. 34
  Five-Power Treaty 57
  FRAM (Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization) 72
  Frigate _14_, 16, 17, _26-27_. See also U.S.S. ship names
  Fuel 31, 37, 47, 51, 54, 57, 64

  Hartt, Edmund 13
  Hartt, Edward 13
  H.M.S. (His Majesty’s Ship): _Dreadnought_ 51, 54;
      _Java_ 11
  Hull, Isaac 15, 18
  Hull: iron 37, 39;
      steel 37, 49-54, _58-59_;
      wooden _24-25_, 34, 37, 39, 49

  Ironclad _28-29_, 30-31, 34, 36, _42-43_

  Launching 13, 15, 18, _32-33_, 63, 67, _73_
  LCM (Landing Craft Mechanized) 70
  LST (Landing Ship Tank) 64, 70, 71, 72, _75_;
      _Suffolk County_ 72

  Machinery 34, _52-53_, _54_
  Machine shop _30_, 34, _52-53_
  Mahan, Alfred Thayer 50
  Manufacturing 39, 45, 50, 51, _60-61_
  Marine railway 57, 64-65, 72
  Monitor 36, _42-43_, 46
  “Mosquito fleet” 51

  “ordinary [in ...]” 2, _4_, 17-18

  Propeller 31, 34, _35_, _37_

  Radar 72, 77
  Railway, yard 47
  Receiving ship 2, _4_, 14, 37
  Repair, ship 16, _23_, 39, 50, 51, 57, 63, _66_, 70
  Roosevelt, Franklin D. 55, 57, 64, 67
  Roosevelt, Theodore 46, 50
  Ropewalk 17, _20-21_, 45, 49, 50, 67, 69, 72, _83_

  Sail power 17, 18, _19_, _26-27_, 31, 34, 37, 50, 54
  Shipbuilding _24-25_, 36, 54, _58-59_, 63
  Shipbuilding ways _24-25_, 39, 46, _56_, 57, _58-59_, 64, 67
  Shiphouse 13, 18, _32-33_, 39, 45, 46, _back cover_
  Ship-of-the-line 11, _14_, 16-17, 18, 34. See also U.S.S. ship
  Shipyards, naval _8-9_
  Sidewheeler 17, 31, 34, _35_
  Sloop-of-war _14_, 16, _23_, _28_, 29, 34. See also U.S.S. ship
  Sonar 71-72, _76-77_
  Steam propulsion 17, 31, 34, _35_, 37
  Stoddert, Benjamin 16
  Submarine 47, 51, 70, 71, 74

  Tar house 17, 20
  Taylor, Frederick W. 55
  Taylorism 55, 57
  Technology, naval 31, 34, 37, 51, 54, 63, 72, _76-77_
  Torpedo 51
  Trade shops 17, _30_, 34, 47, 49, 50

  U.S. Marines 13, _38_
  U.S. Navy 15-16, 18, 22, 31, 34, 36, 37, 39, 55;
      policy 16, 37, 49-50, 65, 72
  U.S.S. (United States Ship): _Adams_ 39;
      _Atlanta_ 50;
      _Boston_ 50;
      _Brazos_ 47, 57;
      _Bridge_ 57;
      _Cassin Young_ 66, _85_;
      _Chesapeake_ 12, 13;
      _Chicago_ 50;
      _Congress_ 30-31, 34;
      _Constellation_ 16;
      _Constitution_ _6-7_, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, 17, _26-27_, 72,
      _Cumberland_ 16, 18, _28_, 29-31, 34, 73;
      _Dolphin_ 50;
      _Forrest_ _73_;
      _Fulton II_ 17;
      _Guest_ _73_;
      _Gyatt_ 72, 77;
      _Hartford_ 31, 34, 39;
      _Independence_ _10_, 12, 13, _14_, 15, 17, 18, 37;
      _Intrepid_ 39;
      _MacDonough_ 63, 64;
      _Macon_ _66_;
      _Maine_ _44_, 46;
      _Merrimack_ 29-31, _32-33_, _35_, 59, 73 (See also C.S.S.
      _Monadnock_ 36, _42-43_;
      _Monaghan_ 63;
      _Monitor_ 36, 42, _43_;
      _New Hampshire_ 18;
      _New Ironsides_ 36;
      _Pentucket_ 54;
      _Princeton_ 31, 34, 35;
      _Talapoosa_ 45;
      _United States_ 16;
      _Vandalia_ 39, 63;
      _Vermont_ 17, 18;
      _Virginia_ 17, 18, 45, 46;
      _Wasp_ _66_;
      _Whitney_ _54_, _56_, 57

  Von Meyer, George 65

  Workforce: African Americans 67;
      management 55, 57;
      size 18, 25, 46, 51, 57, 64, 65, 67;
      skills 18, 34, 36, 39, 47, 58;
      women 47, _48_, 67, _68-69_;
      work conditions 18, 22, 37, 65, 67, 71;
      workers _19-21_, _23_, _38_, _46_, _48_, _52-53_, _54_, _56_,
          _60-61_, _62-63_, _77_

                         National Park Service

The National Park Service is indebted to all those persons who made the
production of this book possible. The text greatly benefited from
suggestions by naval architect and historian John G. Arrison and
historian Frederick R. Black. The primary source for the yard history
was the National Park Service report, _The Charlestown Navy Yard
1800-1973_ (_1800-1842_ by Edwin C. Bearss; _1842-1890_ by Edwin C.
Bearss and Frederick R. Black; _1890-1973_ by Frederick R. Black). Other
important sources were Kenneth J. Hagan’s _This People’s Navy: The
Making of American Sea Power_, 1991; Howard I. Chapelle’s _The History
of the American Sailing Navy_, 1949; and Donald L. Canney’s _The Old
Steam Navy_, 1990. The handbook was produced by the staff of the
Division of Publications, National Park Service: Susan Barkus, designer;
William Gordon, editor; Nancy Morbeck Haack, cartographer, assisted by
the staff of Boston National Historical Park.

  _All photos not credited are from the files of Boston National
          Historical Park._
  Mary Altier 84 (bottom left)
  John Batchelor 24-25, 26-27, 40-41, 42-43, 58-59, 60, 74-75
  _Battles and Leaders of the Civil War_ 43 (top)
  Boston Athenaeum 4-5, 30, 32-33
  The Bostonian Society/Old State House 10-11, 46
  George Eastman House 23
  Louis Glanzman 19
  Greg Harlin 21 (right)
  James Higgins 66 (top), 78-79, 82-83, 84 (bottom right), 85, 86 (top,
  _The Kedge-Anchor_, by William N. Brady 14 (bottom)
  Mariner’s Museum back cover
  James McFalls cover, 2-3
  National Archives 14 (top; painting by Rear Admiral J.W. Schmidt), 35
          (top), 69 (bottom)
  Jack Pare 84 (top)
  The Paul Revere Life Insurance Co. 6-7 (painting by A. Lassell Ripley)
  Robert Tope 8-9
  U.S. Marine Corps Museum 28-29
  U.S. Naval Academy 44-45 (painting by Frank Christian Muller)
  USS Constitution Museum 86 (center; photo by Jerry Margolycz)

                    U.S. Department of the Interior

As the nation’s principal conservation agency, the department of the
Interior has responsibility for most of our nationally-owned public
lands and natural resources. This includes fostering the wisest use of
our land and water resources, protecting our fish and wildlife,
preserving the environmental and cultural values of our national parks
and historical places, and providing for the enjoyment of life through
outdoor recreation. The Department assesses our energy and mineral
resources to ensure that their development is in the best interest of
all our people. The Department also has a major responsibility for
American Indian reservation communities and for people who live in
island territories under U.S. administration.

National Park Handbooks are published to promote understanding and
enjoyment of more than 360 National Park System sites representing our
natural and cultural heritage. The handbooks are sold at parks and can
be purchased by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S.
Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402.

  _Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data_
  Charlestown Navy Yard: Boston National Historical Park, Massachusetts.
  p. cm.—(Official National Park handbook; 152)
  Includes index.
  Supt. of Docs. no.: I29.9/5:152
  ISBN 0-912627-60-3
  1. Boston Naval Shipyard (Boston, Mass.)—History.
  2. Charlestown Navy Yard (Mass.)—History. I. United States. National
          Park Service. Division of Publications. II. Series: Handbook
          (United States. National Park Service. Division of
          Publications); 152.
  VA70.B68C48 1995
  359.7’09744’61—dc20 95-12868 CIP

    [Illustration: _1840 view of Charlestown Navy Yard by George Curtis
    depicts the shiphouses that covered four of the yard’s shipbuilding
    ways during the 19th century._]

_For 174 years, the U.S. Naval Shipyard at Boston, now called
Charlestown Navy Yard, played a significant role in the creation and
growth of the U.S. Navy. By the time it closed in 1974, it had built
more than 200 warships and repaired thousands. Historic black and white
photographs, color photos and illustrations, and detailed diagrams tell
the story of evolving technology and naval policy and how they affected
the fortunes of the yard and its workers._

                          Transcriber’s Notes

—Retained publication information from the printed edition: this eBook
  is public-domain in the country of publication.

—Relocated all image captions to be immediately under the corresponding
  images, removing redundant references like ”preceding page”.

—Silently corrected a few palpable typos.

—In the text versions only, text in italics is delimited by

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+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.