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Hull Number: DD-77

Launch Date: 09/17/1918

Commissioned Date: 09/30/1918





Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, November 2015

Melancthon Taylor Woolsey was born in 1782 near Plattsburg, N.Y. After studying law for a time, he entered the Navy as a midshipman on 9 April 1800. His first assignment was the frigate Adams in which he made a cruise to the West Indies in 1800 and 1801. He served briefly in the Tripolitan War just before its end in 1805. In 1807, newly promoted Lt. Woolsey received orders to Washington, D.C., where he developed a code of signals for the Navy. From there, he was ordered to the shores of Lake Ontario in 1808 for the purpose of supervising the construction of Oneida. At the same time, he received a concurrent assignment as the commanding officer of the shore facilities located there. When the United States went to war with Great Britain in 1812, he was still in command of Oneida and the shore station at Sackett’s Harbor. On 19 July 1812, a British squadron of five ships appeared. Woolsey attempted to escape to open water with Oneida, but the enemy squadron sealed off that avenue. Instead, he returned to Sackett’s Harbor, landed half his battery, and repelled the British convincingly after a sharp two-hour exchange.

Early in October, Commodore Isaac Chauncey arrived on the scene and assumed overall command of American naval activities on the Great Lakes. Woolsey stayed on as second in command and remained commanding officer of Oneida. During the fall of 1812, Woolsey concentrated upon the construction, purchase, and outfitting of additional war vessels. Throughout the entire war, a construction race caused naval dominance on Lake Ontario to alternate between the British and Americans. Woolsey enabled America to grab the lead in the fall of 1812 by acquiring eight schooners to augment Oneida and the three-gun Julia. On 8 November, he commanded Oneida when the 19-gun warship and four of the newly acquired schooners encountered HMS Royal George, a large, 24-gun, ship-rigged sloop-of-war off Kingston and chased her into that port. Later, they followed her in and subjected her to bombardment. In May 1813, Woolsey commanded Oneida as her guns supported the capture of York (Toronto) and the assault on Fort George.

Woolsey was promoted to master commandant in July 1813 and by August was in the new schooner Sylph. Late in September 1813, he commanded his ship in a running fight between the American lake flotilla and Commodore Yeo’s British force. That series of skirmishes resulted in another period of American dominance of Lake Ontario. On 5 October, his ship participated in the capture of the enemy cutter Drummond and the sloops-of-war Elizabeth, Mary Ann, and Lady Gore off False Ducks. In May 1814, after a winter of feverish preparation for the third summer of campaigning, Woolsey went to the supply depot at Oswego to pick up guns, cables, and other supplies needed at Sackett’s Harbor. While he was there, the British squadron appeared off Oswego. By spreading false intelligence about his destination, Woolsey was able to take advantage of a dark night and make good his escape. The British learned of their mistake and sought to overhaul him which they did at Sandy Creek. Woolsey, however, had prepared an ambush in concert with Maj. Daniel Appling and his 150-man contingent of the United States Rifle Regiment. The British landing force was soundly trounced by Appling’s riflemen and 200 Indian allies. Woolsey, in turn, brought his guns to bear on the squadron itself. The Americans defeated the enemy convincingly, killing 10, wounding 52, and capturing the rest. Woolsey then proceeded to Sackett’s Harbor with his ordnance and supplies. Soon thereafter, he assumed command of the new brig, Jones, and retained that command until the end of the war in 1815.

After the war, Master Commandant Woolsey remained at Lake Ontario in command of the naval station at Sacketts’ Harbor. In 1816, he was promoted to captain. He left Sackett’s Harbor in 1824 to assume command of the frigate, Constellation, which he took on a West Indies cruise until June of 1827. He took command of the navy yard at Pensacola, Fla., late in 1827 and held the position until 1831. Between 1832 and 1834, Woolsey served as commodore in command of the Brazilian Station. His last active duty took him to the Chesapeake Bay where he supervised surveys from 1836 until his health began to decline in 1837. Commodore Woolsey died at Utica, N.Y., on 18 May 1838.


Sunk in a collision off Balboa on 02/26/21.

USS WOOLSEY DD-77 Ship History

Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, November 2015

The first Woolsey (Destroyer No. 77) was laid down on 1 November 1917 at Bath, Maine, by the Bath Iron Works; launched on 17 September 1918; sponsored by Mrs. Elise Campau Wells; and commissioned on 30 September 1918, Lt. Comdr. Frederick V. McNair in command.

After trials out of Bath and outfitting at the Boston Navy Yard and the Newport Torpedo Station, Woolsey headed for New York on 9 October to join Virginia (Battleship No. 13) before sailing for Europe. On 13 October, she and the battleship departed New York harbor in the screen of Convoy HX-52. After a relatively uneventful voyage, the convoy was turned over to a British escort force on the 22d. Woolsey then set course for Buncrana, located in the far northern portion of Ireland, and arrived there on 23 October. Two days later, she departed Buncrana and stood down the Irish Sea en route to Ponta Delgada in the Azores. After fueling at Ponta Delgada on the 30th, the destroyer continued her voyage home and reentered New York on 5 November. After about a month at New York, during which time hostilities ended under the armistice of 11 November, Woolsey left New York on her way back to Europe to join the American naval contingent assigned there for postwar duty. She arrived in Brest, France, on 20 December and reported for duty to the Commander, Naval Forces Europe.

For the next seven months, she performed various missions for America’s naval establishment in Europe. Her primary mission consisted of runs between Brest and ports in southern England-notably Plymouth and Southampton-transporting passengers and mail. On 11 March 1919, she was one of the four American destroyers to escort George Washington into Brest, France, when that ship arrived with President Woodrow Wilson embarked. After a four-month return to cross-channel runs between England and France, Woolsey was honored a second time when she was assigned duty as one of George Washington’s escorts for President Wilson’s return voyage to the United States from the Versailles peace conference. She departed Brest late in June 1919 in company with George Washington and arrived in Hampton Roads on 8 July.

Ten days later, Woolsey put to sea again bound for a new assignment, the Pacific Fleet. She reached Panama on the 24th, transited the canal, and headed for maneuvers in the Hawaiian Islands. At the completion of those maneuvers, she returned to the continental United States at San Diego. On 31 May 1920, the destroyer was placed out of commission at the Mare Island Navy Yard, probably for an extensive overhaul because she was recommissioned again on 20 October 1920. For the remainder of her relatively brief career, Woolsey operated with the Pacific Fleet along the western coast of North America. While operating off the Pacific coast of Panama near Coiba Island early on the morning of 26 February 1921, Woolsey was cut in half during a collision with the merchant vessel, SS Steel Inventor, and sank.