President Abraham Lincoln appointed William P. Fessenden, a senator from Maine, to be the 26th Secretary of the Treasury after Salmon P. Chase resigned. Fessenden served from 5 July 1864 until 3 March 1865. As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee from 1861 until 1864, Fessenden took a leading part in framing measures relating to revenue and appropriations to finance the Civil War. Reluctant to take the position of Secretary due to ill health, Fessenden succumbed to Lincoln's wishes when Lincoln told him "that the crisis demanded any sacrifice, even life itself." Upon assuming office he was immediately faced with the government's need for money. With the aid of Civil War financier Jay Cooke, Fessenden marketed several successful short-term loans bearing exceptional interest rates that were well subscribed to by the American people. During Fessenden's term, the problem created by the inflationary greenbacks, first issued in 1863, began to emerge. Debate would rage for the rest of the century over replacing them with currency backed by specie or taking advantage of the inflationary soft money during periods of expansion. After only eight months, Fessenden resigned and returned to the Senate where he became chairman of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction.
William P. Fessenden was born in 1806. He died in 1869.
TYPE/RIG/CLASS: Side-wheel schooner
BUILDER: Union Drydock Company, Buffalo, New York
COMMISSIONED: 11 August 1883
DECOMMISSIONED: 14 August 1907
DISPOSITION: Sold in March, 1908
DISPLACEMENT: 330 tons
LENGTH: 191' 8"
MACHINERY: Vertical-beam engine
ARMAMENT: 4 rapid-fire guns
The 1883 Fessenden was a purported rebuild of the 1865 William P. Fessenden when in fact that vessel was completely dismantled and her hull and fittings sold for a little over $3,000; the only major part of the vessel kept was her machinery. The work was done by the Union Dry Dock Company of Buffalo, New York. The 1865 Fessenden's machinery was placed in a newly built iron hull which was successfully launched from her builder's yard on 26 April 1883. The "new" vessel was accepted by the Revenue Cutter Service on 11 August 1883. The "rebuild" cost the government $97,379.60.
She was designed for cruising the Great Lakes and was therefore decommissioned and laid-up each winter, usually sometime in December. Her crew was discharged at this time as well. She was re-commissioned each spring for her patrol season, with a new crew hired on for the year. Her home port was originally Detroit and her cruising grounds were Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. After 1893 her cruising ground was Lake Erie to the Niagara River. In 1903 she steamed to Baltimore for repairs and entered back into commissioned service on 14 November 1905. From 1905 until she left the service permanently in 1907, she was based out of Key West, Florida. Her cruising grounds now consisted of the waters off southern Florida and into the Gulf of Mexico.
In 1905 her officers conferred with state officials regarding the protection of the sponge industry. She and her crew were briefly detained at Mullet Key Quarantine Station when a case of small pox broke out on board in March, 1906. She saved a number of schooners that were adrift after a storm in June, 1906 and the following month examined vessels engaged in gathering sponges. That fall and winter she cruised the Gulf of Mexico in search of vessels in distress.
She steamed for Curtis Bay, Maryland in May, 1907, arriving there on 6 June 1907. Here her officers and crew transferred to the cutter Forward on 7 August 1907 and on the 14th Fessenden was decommissioned. She was sold in March of the following year to the Craig Shipbuilding Company of Toledo, Ohio, for $9,100.
Photograph: (Click thumb-nail to see full-size image)
USRC Fessenden; no caption/date/photo number; photographer unknown.