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Three previous ships have been named in honor of the great maritime history of Nantucket.


The first USS NANTUCKET served in the US Navy’s South Atlantic Blockading Squadron during the Civil War.  A PASSAIC-class, single-turret monitor, it was built by Atlantic Iron Works in Boston, Massachusetts. Commissioned on February 26, 1863 under the command of Commander Donald McNeil Fairfax, the Monitor NANTUCKET primarily operated in the waters around Charleston, South Carolina. She participated in assaults on Confederate-held forts in Charleston Harbor in April and July 1863 and again in May 1864. While on blockade duty at sea in mid-September 1863, the NANTUCKET captured the British steamer JUPITER.


Following the end of the Civil War, NANTUCKET was decommissioned at Philadelphia Navy Yard, where she remained in ordinary for about a decade until it was transferred to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in 1875. She was briefly placed in commission for six months in 1882 and for four months in 1884 while operating along the northern east coast. NANTUCKET was eventually transferred to the North Carolina Naval Militia in 1895 before returning to US Navy service during the Spanish-American War while stationed in Port Royal, South Carolina. Eventually condemned as unfit for further service, the first NANTUCKET was sold on November 14, 1900 to Thomas Buller & Co. of Boston.

During World War I, two ships named in honor Nantucket served simultaneously in the US Navy, although neither were ships of war.


The first to enter the naval service during World War I was the wooden light ship NANTUCKET. Built for the Lighthouse Service in 1907, it was transferred along with the rest of the Lighthouse Service to the US Navy by an Executive Order on April 11, 1917. While serving in the Navy, it continued its peacetime role of warning shipping away from Nantucket Shoals and guarding nearby waters against German U-boats. The Navy returned Light Ship NANTUCKET to the Commerce Department on July 1, 1919.


The second ship named for Nantucket to serve in the Navy during the Great War was the iron-hulled, screw steamer with full-rig auxiliary sail built by Harlan and Hollingsworth between 1873 and 1876 in Wilmington, Delaware and initially served as the fourth USS RANGER. Serving as RANGER, the Ship served in the Atlantic Squadron on the Asiatic Station before conversion to a survey vessel in 1880. Over the next two decades it was placed in and out of commission serving along the Pacific coast and in the Asiatic Station before transferring to Boston in 1909 when she was decommissioned and loaned to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as a school ship. RANGER was renamed ROCKPORT (October 30, 1917) and eventually NANTUCKET (February 20, 1918). While serving as NANTUCKET, the ship operated as a gunboat in the First Naval District and a training ship for Navy midshipmen. Designated PG-23 in 1920 and then IX-18 in 1921, the Ship was returned to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as a school ship. On November 11, 1940, the Ship was transferred to the Maritime Administration for final disposition as a school ship for the Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, New York and was stricken from the Navy list at the end of the month.








“Nantucket I (Monitor).” Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Naval History & Heritage Command.

“Nantucket II (Light Ship).” Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Naval History & Heritage Command.

“Ranger IV (Screw Steamer).” Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Naval History & Heritage Command.

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The first USS NANTUCKET. Lithograph by Endicott & Company, New York, published circa the mid-1860s. Courtesy of Charles Moran, 1935. U.S.
Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

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USS NANTUCKET (PG-23), 1873-1940.

Formerly USS RANGER and USS ROCKPORT, then loaned to the State of Massachusetts for use at Massachusetts Nautical School, 1933.

Courtesy of Mr. Gershone Bradford.

Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

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