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A sketch of the Mohawk by Julia Hedges Potwin, from her privately published journal (Kinghorn)

S.S. Mohawk

Other names: USAT Grant, Chinouk
Sisters: Manitoba, Massachusetts, Mobile
Builder: Harland & Wolff, Belfast, yard number 249
Launched February 25, 1892; delivered May 7, 1892; maiden voyage April 1892; broken up, 1946
Hull: length 445'; beam 49' 3"; 5,678 tons; 1 funnel; 4 masts
Power: single screw; triple expansion engine by builder with cylinders of 22 ½", 36 ½", and 60" diameter, stroke 48"; 611 n.h.p.
Steam pressure 175 lbs; fuel consumption 60 tons per day; 13 knots
Registered in London; official number 99066

 

The Mohawk was one of four freighters built for the African Steamship Company (Elder Dempster & Company). She was first chartered by the Atlantic Transport Line and then purchased by it in October 1896. With her sisters the Mobile was employed on the London to New York service and is recorded in the Morton Allan Directory of European Passenger Steamship Arrivals making 46 voyages between June 1892 and June 1898. Her captain in March 1896 was W. A. Griffiths, who had for many years been in the employ of the recently acquired National Line. Among her passengers in 1897 were Lemuel and Julia Potwin, who kept and ultimately published privately a journal of their extended trip to Europe which includes descriptions of their voyages with the Atlantic Transport Line.

In 1898 the Mohawk and her sisters were among the six Atlantic Transport Line ships bought by the U. S. government for service as transports during the Spanish-American War. This vessel was purchased on July 14 for $660,000, converted in New York, and given the number 20, "in accordance with the policy adopted of changing the names of foreign vessels to designated numbers after they come into the possession of the United States." She could carry 80 officers, 1,000 men and 1,000 horses as well as large quantities of freight including refrigerated meat.

Conversion work was not completed in time for the Mohawk to serve in the war, but she was retained for the new Army transport service afterwards. She was refitted, renamed Grant, and allocated to the Pacific fleet. Grant was the first of the new transports to sail for Manila but the evening before she was to sail her propeller fouled a steel mooring cable as she was moving away from her dock in Brooklyn. The ship was towed to an anchorage off Liberty Island so divers could check to see if it was safe for her to proceed. She seems to have sailed as planned. Grant commenced her voyage fully decorated with flags, and sailed up the North River to General Grant's tomb (so members of the public could see one of the new troop ships) before returning through the harbor; her band playing the whole way. In addition, the Secretary for War instructed each fort in the harbor to fire a Major General's salute as Grant passed in honor of General Lawton, who was on board. Grant was carrying 1,800 troops, and sailed to Manila via the Suez Canal on a voyage that was expected to take from 38 to 42 days. The only passengers on board who were not part of the service were four nurses provided by Mrs. Whitelaw Reid, chairman of the committee on Nurses for the Trained Nurses Maintenance Society. These young ladies were "to occupy the best quarters on the ship and to eat at the officer's table."

Grant ended her voyage in San Francisco in May 1899. Her crew of more than 150 men, all of whom had been hired in New York on the understanding that they would be transported home at the end of the cruise, found themselves instead paid off and discharged in San Francisco, with no arrangements having been made to return them home.

The Grant ended her career in government service rather ignominiously because from 1904 she was used by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a dredge for the Columbia River project, and in this role was renamed Chinouk. (The dredging and dam building along the Columbia at this time permanently altered the river, disrupting its natural flow but also providing electricity, irrigation, navigability and other benefits to the region.) In giving evidence to the Congressional Committee on Rivers and Harbors in 1922 General Taylor noted that, "we took her upper works and cabins off and put bins in her, and converted her into a dredge, but she is so big that we can only use her in the largest harbors." The Steamboat Bill of Facts (Vol. 3, issue15 - Vol. 6, issue 32, p.424) reproduces a note from the 1940s recording that the Chinouk "joined the small dead fleet at Hog Island recently" and that she "still carries four masts and an air of sedate rakishness." She was scrapped in 1946.

Sources: The Atlantic Transport Line, 1881-1931; The Ships List; Passenger Ships of the World Past and Present, Eugene W. Smith, Massachusetts, 1977; The Transport Service, by Patrick McSherry; Merchant Fleets in Profile 2; the Ships of the Cunard, American, Red Star, Inman, Leyland, Dominion, Atlantic Transport and White Star Lines, Duncan Haws, 1979; www.ohiohistory.org; Fourteen Months Abroad, Julia Hedges Potwin, published privately, Cleveland, Ohio, 1911; The New York Times, June 25, 1898, January 17, 1899, January 18, 1899, May 12, 1899; May 1, 1902

A sketch of the Mohawk by Julia Hedges Potwin, published with her journal (Kinghorn)
A sketch of the Mohawk by Julia Hedges Potwin, from her privately published journal (Kinghorn)

The passenger list issued by the London office for the voyage of the Mohawk commencing July 13, 1895 (Kinghorn)
The passenger list issued by the London office for the voyage of the Mohawk commencing July 13, 1895 (Kinghorn)
Click for PDF file (2,935 KB)

U.S.S. Grant saluting Grant's Tomb before departure with troops for Manila, a photograph of a painting by Frank Cresson Schell (Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)
USAT Grant saluting Grant's Tomb before departing with troops for Manila, a photograph of a painting by Frank Cresson Schell
(Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)

Plans of the USAT Grant after her conversion for use as a military transport
Plans of the USAT Grant after her conversion for use as a military transport (Digitized by Google Books)

Sleeping accommodation for troops on board the USAT Grant
Sleeping accommodation for troops on board the USAT Grant

The USAT Grant in harbor (Ian Newson)
The USAT Grant in harbor (Ian Newson)

 

For more information ...

Kinghorn "The Atlantic Transport Line 1881 - 1931" McFarland, 2011

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