Thomas Corwin (a.k.a. Corwin), 1876


President Zachary Taylor's death brought Millard Filmore to the presidency.  Filmore appointed Thomas Corwin to be the 20th Secretary of the Treasury.  His term in office began on July 23, 1850, and he served until March 6, 1853.

Corwin had established himself as "the most captivating and effective political orator the country had ever produced" during his years as a Whig senator from Ohio from 1845 until 1850. Like William M. Meredith, the 19th Secretary of the Treasury, Corwin believed in a protective tariff, but he did not want to make sudden or drastic changes in the free-trade tariff law of 1846.  He objected to that law's provisions, which taxed some imported raw materials at a higher rate than the imported manufactured goods made from those materials.  Corwin stated in a report to Congress that, "such provisions certainly take from the manufacturer and artisan that encouragement which the present law was intended to afford." As a longtime Whig, however, Corwin was unsuccessful in passing any tariff legislation in a Congress controlled by Democrats.

Thomas Corwin was born in 1794.  He died in 1865.


Rig: Topsail schooner

Builder: Oregon Iron Works, Portland, Oregon

Dates of Service: 1877 - 1900

Disposition: Sold

Displacement: 227 tons

Length: 140' 7"

Beam: 24'

Draft: 10' 10"

Machinery: Inverted cylinder steam engine; single propeller

Complement: 8 officers, 33 enlisted

Armament: 3 guns, unknown type/caliber


Cutter history:

The U.S. Revenue Marine Steamer Thomas Corwin, also known as simply Corwin, was completed in 1876 and was commissioned on 17 July 1877 in San Francisco, California, which remained her home port during her career with the Revenue Marine.  She was then under the command of Revenue Captain J. W. White.  She sailed for Sitka, Alaska on 30 July 1877 where she began a patrol in the Arctic Ocean, returning to San Francisco on 28 August 1877.

She then made annual cruises to Alaskan waters.  She also patrolled the waters off Washington and Oregon when not in the Arctic.  She enforced fishing regulations, customs laws, prevented the trafficking of liquor with the local native populations, established the authority of the U.S. Government on the new territory, and assisted mariners in distress, among other duties.  In 1882 she participated in the controversial bombardment of the village of Angoon, Alaska, while under the command of First Lieutenant Michael Healy, one of the more famous officers of the Revenue Marine.  On 22 October 1882, a Northwest Trading Company whaleboat chased a whale into the waters near the Tlingit Indian village of Angoon, on Kootznahoo Inlet, Admiralty Island.  The whaling gun aboard exploded, killing Tith Klane, a Tlingit shaman who worked for the company.  The other natives aboard the whaling boat took two company employees, E. H. Bayne and S. S. Stulzman, who were also crewmen on the boat, hostage in an effort to extract payment from the company for the death of their shaman.  They landed at Angoon.  There they, along with the villagers, sought payment of 40 blankets.  

A company representative sought the assistance of the only naval warship in the area, the screw frigate USS Adams, under the command of a Commander [E. C.] Merriman [USN], which was tied up at Sitka.  The Corwin too was in Sitka at the time obtaining coal and Healy offered his assistance to Merriman.  As the Adams drew too much water to get close to Angoon, Merriman readily accepted Healy's offer.  Corwin, with Merriman and 50 sailors and 20 marines from Adams aboard, set sail on 24 October 1882, apparently towing the Company's tug Favorite along with the Adams' launch, to the waters off Angoon.  Merriman had armed the Favorite with a small howitzer and Gatling gun.

According to the official Navy history of the Adams:

"Upon arrival at Angoon, the force collected as many of the Indians' canoes as possible, and Comdr. Merriman held a meeting with some of the Indians during which he made counter demands for the release of the hostages and a levy of 400 blankets in return for which the expedition would spare their canoes and village. To buy time, the Indians accepted the demands at first and released the hostages; however, after they had an opportunity to hide their canoes and gather their forces, the Indians refused to honor the agreement. Thereupon, Corwin and Favorite took the village under fire, destroying a number of houses. When the ships ceased fire, a landing party went ashore and set fire to some of the remaining houses. At that point the Indians submitted. Comdr. Merriman left a party of sailors at Angoon to insure continued good faith, and he and the remainder returned to Sitka in Corwin to reembark in Adams."

The shelling killed seven outright while six children burned to death when the village's houses were torched by the landing party.  The villagers reportedly suffered greatly that winter, having lost their means of livelihood with the destruction of 40 of their canoes as well as their shelter from the weather with only five houses surviving the flames.  [Click here for a compilation of related official correspondence relating to this event as put together and transcribed by the Naval Historical Center -- a "pdf" file.]  In October of 1982 the U.S. Government paid the Tlingit Tribe $90,000 in damages for the their property that was destroyed in the incident. 

On 9 April 1898 Corwin was transferred to the United States Navy during the Spanish-American War.  She served in the San Diego, California area until 15 August 1898 when she was returned to the Treasury Department.

She was sold on 14 February 1900 for $16,500.  She was used as a merchant vessel after her sale and continued sailing the Bering Sea on a charter basis.


Photograph:

A photo of the cutter Corwin

"U.S. REVENUE CUTTER "CORWIN,' DEPARTURE FOR ALASKA."  H. Ex. 153 49I; dated 1887; engraving by Moss Eng Co., NY.  Scanned from the Report of the Cruise of the Revenue Marine Steamer CORWIN in the Arctic Ocean in the Year 1885, by Captain M. A. Healy, U.S.R.M. .


Sources:

Corwin Cutter File, Coast Guard Historian's Office.

Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Vessels, USS Adams entry.

Donald Canney.  U.S. Coast Guard and Revenue Cutters, 1790-1935.  Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1995.

Frederica De Laguna. "The Destruction of Angoon" (taken from The Story of the Tlingit Community: A Problem in the Relationship Between Archaeological, Ethnological, and Historical Methods. BAE Bulletin 172. Washington, DC: USGPO, 1960.)

Michael A. Healy, USRM. Report of the Cruise of the Revenue Marine Steamer Corwin in the Arctic Ocean in the Year 1884. Washington: GPO, 1889.

________. Report of the Cruise of the Revenue Marine Steamer Corwin in the Arctic Ocean in the Year 1885. By Capt. M.A. Healy, U.S.R.M., Commander. Washington: GPO, 1887.

Calvin L. Hooper, USRM. Report of the Cruise of the U.S. Revenue Steamer Corwin in the Arctic Ocean, by Captain C.L. Hooper, U.S.R.M. November 1, 1880. Washington: GPO, 1881.

________. Report of the Cruise of the U.S. Revenue Steamer Thomas Corwin, in the Arctic Ocean, 1881. Ex. Doc No. 204. Senate. 48th Congress, 1st Session. Washington: GPO, 1884.

Naval Historical Center.  "Shelling of the Alaskan Native American Village of Angoon, October, 1882." 

Skookum: Eye of the Beholder website: skookumgeoduck.blogspot.com/2005/07/eye-of-beholder.html; contains more detailed information from the Native American perspective of the incident.

U.S. Coast Guard.  Record of Movements: Vessels of the United States Coast Guard: 1790 - December 31, 1933.  Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1934; 1989 (reprint).


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Last Modified 1/26/2012