Posted by: wadahp | March 17, 2011

PROTECTING OUR SHORES & BUILDING THE FLEET (no. 10)

Early Regional Events in the Revenue Service

Thwarting smuggling and providing assistance to the growing maritime based trade along the Salish Sea served as the two great motivators for creation of the Puget Sound Collection District in 1851. Originally located in Olympia this marked the first port of entry for the Salish Sea. [1] The office was moved to Port Townsend in 1853, then the largest port on the sea. Created in 1790 by then Secretary of the Treasurery Alexander Hamilton, the Revenue Service served as early maritime law enforcement. In 1915 the Service merged with the US Life-Saving Service to form the US Coast Guard.

Source: Artifacts Consulting, Inc. View of: A former United Sates Army fort, Fort Flagler is at the northern end of Marrowstone Island, WA. Property Photographed March 8, 2011 by Susan Johnson.

The series of coves, inlets and rivers as well as nearby British territory made the region ideal for smugglers. The loss of revenue soon prompted the Service to assign the Jefferson Davis to the sea in 1854. This assignment marked the first US Coast Guard association to be stationed in the region. The cutter’s captain received his orders from the Collector of Customs. The Collector also held responsibility for documenting vessels, taking in revenue, administering marine hospitals, inspecting steam boats, and supervising lighthouses.

During the 1850s the Jefferson Davis in addition to its revenue assignments and helping mariners in distress also served as a troop carrier during the 1854-55 War and dispatch messenger during the Pig War.[2]

Briefly in 1862 the Customs Collector Victor Smith succeeded in transferring the port of entry to Port Angeles.  Smith however drowned in a shipwreck in 1865 and the port of entry quickly reverted back to Port Townsend.[3]

By 1894 the Customs House provided sailing orders for the revenue cutters. The Port Townsend Post Office, Court and Customs House built on the bluff overlooking the port served this function.

Naval Ship Repair

Repairing ships was crucial to brining the vessels back to the battle line and establishing the US as a world naval power. The degree of difficulty increased significantly as the size and technology of systems employed in the operation of ships advanced. Often as part of repairs ships would be refit with the latest advancements in military fire control or other weapons systems to allow these advancements to contribute to the war effort in the midst of a conflict. Clean hulls also improved speed and lessened fuel consumption.

The shipyards in the Puget Sound repaired some of the heaviest damaged ships during WWII. During WWII the Puget Sound Navy Yard served as the main repair center for damaged battle ships, aircraft carriers, and smaller ships. The yard was the only West Coast facility that could undertake repairs to damaged battleships. Of the eight battleships bombed at Pearl Harbor, five were repaired and returned to the front lines by the Puget Sound Naval Yard. Over the course of the conflict the yard repaired twenty-six battleships, eighteen aircraft carriers, thirteen cruisers, seventy-nine destroyers and built or fitted out with advanced technology another fifty ships.[4]

Source: Artifacts Consulting, Inc. View of: Port Townsend Post Office, Court and Customs House. Property Photographed February 2, 2011 by Susan Johnson.


[1] (Washington 1941, revised 1950) p. 203

[2] (Noble 1990 ca)

[3] (LeWarne 1975) p. 22

[4] (US Navy Undated)

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