Friday, March 8, 2013

A Second Act in American Life--For a Ship

Before it became America's first cruise ship, the Quaker City was a Civil War ship doing duty in blockades and anti-Confederate raids.

      Twain sat out virtually all of the Civil War, but the ship that first took him to France had an illustrious military career.  The U.S.S. Quaker City--later just Quaker City of The Innocents Abroad fame--was a Union Navy ship throughout the war.  It played an important part in the blockade of the Confederate coastline when it was stationed off Chesapeake Bay.  Then it helped hunt down Confederate raider ships that were disrupting Union merchant shipping as a tactic to draw the North's ships away from the Confederate coast.
     After the Civil War,  U.S.S. Quaker City was decommissioned at the Philadelphia Naval Yard and sold at auction--after which it became, according to the ad Twain saw that lured him on board, "a first-class steamer...provided with every necessary comfort, including library and musical instruments" and "an experienced physican."
    It turned out, of course, that one particular passenger--the roving reporter known as Mark Twain--would lend Quaker City its final and greatest cachet.
     For more on the history of the U.S.S. Quaker City, see the official Navy site at


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