When the Bethlehem Steel Company’s Patapsco Scrap Corporation reduced Crane Ship No. 1 to scrap in December 1956, the career of the oldest active ship in the U. S. Navy came to an end.
The ancient crane ship was authorized by Congress in 1895 as the battleship Kearsarge for the rapidly expanding Great White Fleet. The first Kearsarge, named after a mountain in New Hampshire, was a 1,000-ton craft launched by the Union Navy in 1861. In a desperately fierce, hour-long action off Cherbourg, France, the gallant ship won lasting fame and a niche in history by sinking the ever-elusive Confederate raider Alabama—one of the most searched for, yet most dreaded ships afloat. When news of the victory reached the United States, there was great rejoicing. As a gesture of gratitude, the New York Chamber of Commerce gave the ship’s officers and crew a reward of $25,000 for “sending this pest of the ocean to her merited doom.”