The USS Tennessee was a screw frigate built of wood at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and launched July 8 1865 as the Madawaska. Powered by two Ericsson vibrating lever engines, she departed New York City for sea trials January 14 1867, Comdr. Francis A. Roe in command. Remaining at sea for 1 week, she steamed nearly 1,000 miles before returning when her supply of coal was exhausted.
She was renamed Tennessee May 15 1869 and timbered up to the necessary height to allow a spar deck to be installed. She was fitted with new compound back-acting engines capable of developing 3,200 horsepower. She carried 380 tons of coal but she was also rigged for sail, the area of her 10 principal sails being 22,500 square feet.
Her duties included service as flagship of the Asiatic Squadron under Rear Adm. William Reynolds, with Capt. William W. Low in command. By 1879 she was flagship of the North Atlantic Squadron under Rear Adm. Robert W. Wyman, with Capt. David B. Harmony in command.
In “The Steam Navy of the United States” Frank M. Bennet relates that during the time Tennessee was flagship of the North Atlantic Squadron she was “the largest vessel then in commission in the American Navy, and the era of mastless steel cruisers was yet so far away that she was not suspected, by the youngsters at least, of being obsolete and stood as the type of all that was excellent and majestic in ship construction.”
Her spaciousness and the comfort of her quarters as well as her handling characteristics made her a favorite duty station. Tennessee was sold on September 15 1886 to Burdett Pond of Meriden, Conn.
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