Joining Commodore Matthew C. Perry’s Expedition to Japan, a Line Drawing and Rigging Plan for Converting
the U.S.S. Macedonian to a “Razeed” Sloop-of-War
Click to enlarge:
This ship plan shows the design for the U.S.S. Macedonian to be converted from a 36-gun frigate into a 20-gun sloop-of-war “razee,” (from the French raser, “to shave”) a warship that has been lowered in height by removing the spar (main) deck. The vessel’s sails were also enlarged in the process. The changes made the ship faster and lighter for Perry’s mission, but both alterations required new standing (support) rigging, and hull reinforcements, shown in red in this plan. U.S.S. MACEDONIAN.
Line drawing and rigging plan, on waxed linen, c. 1851-1852, 36 x 25 ¾ in. “Razee a Spar Deck Ship”
written in different hand than plan design’s hand and initials.
The U.S.S. Macedonian was launched as the British frigate H.M.S. Macedonian in 1810. During the War of 1812, the U.S.S. United States, commanded by Commodore Stephen Decatur, captured the vessel off the Canary Islands and took the ship first to Newport, Rhode Island, for repairs, and then to New London, Connecticut for the rest of the war. The Macedonian was the first intact British vessel (but second overall) to surrender to the fledgling American Navy during the War of 1812. The first, the H.M.S. Guerriere, was defeated by the U.S.S. Constitution but too badly damaged to be of any use as a prize. Although she saw little action after the War of 1812, the now-U.S.S. Macedonian sailed under Decatur during the Second Barbary War in 1815 against Tripolian pirates, and then patrolled both Atlantic and Pacific coasts protecting commercial shipping interests.
In 1836, the vessel was in such disrepair that it required a complete rebuild. Controversy exists as to whether the 1810 vessel was rebuilt using the original keel, as has sometimes been reported; whether it was completely rebuilt along the original design using minimal pieces of the ship’s original wood; or whether it was constructed entirely anew in Norfolk in 1836. Much of the disagreement has to do with the navy’s rather fluid definition of “rebuilding,” a term often used for budgetary subterfuge. Either way, in 1832, a frigate named Macedonian was rotting at the docks in the Gosport (Norfolk) Navy Yard, and in 1836, a new ship was launched under the same name, with the same figurehead. This ship plan shows further modifications to the vessel that slid down the launching ways at Norfolk in 1836.
The frigate was “razeed,” that is, had its upper deck removed, to make it a faster, lighter, and more maneuverable craft. The modifications were made at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1851-52, and the trim new vessel accompanied Commodore Matthew C. Perry on his 1852-1854 expedition to Japan. On his first visit, which arrived in early 1853, Perry took four vessels into Edo (Tokyo) Bay, Japan. He vowed to return the following spring. The Macedonian joined Perry’s fleet in August 1853 fresh from the shipyard and one of the fastest sailing ships in the Navy. On Perry’s second visit, the Macedonian ran aground while searching for the entrance to Edo Bay, but was freed by Perry’s steam frigates in time to be part of the full squadron that stood off Tokyo to force the Treaty of Kanagawa (1854), which opened Japan to American trade. The Macedonian then patrolled Pacific waters until the onset of the Civil War, after which the vessel mostly patrolled Caribbean waters, with one foray to Portugal in 1863 seeking out the C.S.S. Southerner.
After the war, she served as a naval school ship until being sold to private interests in 1875. There is no evidence that the vessel ever sailed as a merchant ship, because her next reported tour of duty was as the “Macedonian Hotel” and then the “City Island Casino” at City Island, New York, from 1900 until the ship burned in 1922.
James Tertius de Kay, The Chronicles of the Frigate Macedonian, 1809-1922
(New York: Norton, 1995).
Francis L. Hawks, Narrative of the Expedition of an American Squadron to the
China Seas and Japan (Washington: A.O.P. Nicholson, 1856).
“Dictionary of American Naval Sailing Ships.”
Ink smear on left side, moderate finger-soiling on left and right, otherwise fine.