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The Fleets

Ocean Steamship Company of Savannah / Savannah Line, Savannah, Georgia, 1872-1951

The Ocean Steamship Company of Savannah, generally known as the Savannah Line, was founded in 1872 to assume the operation of the Empire Line of steamships from William R. Garrison to operate passenger and cargo steamships between Savannah and New York. The newly founded company took over six steamers from the Empire Line to start the service. The company was to provide a major travel link over the next 70 years moving passengers, agricultural products, principally cotton and fruit from Georgia and Alabama to New York and Boston.

Although at first an independent company owned by the Central Rail Road, after 1874 the Ocean Steamship Company of Savannah became a wholly owned subsidiary of the Central Rail Road and Banking Company of Georgia, except for a few shares owned by the directors at that time. The two first newly built passengers ships the CITY OF MACON (1) and CITY OF SAVANNAH joined the fleet in 1877, followed in 1878 by two slightly larger ships the CITY OF COLUMBUS (1) and the GATE CITY. The CITY OF AUGUSTA was completed in 1880. The service was prospering in the 1880’s and the company ordered three more steamships from the yard of John Roach & Son, Chester. The GATE CITY and CITY OF COLUMBUS (1) were sold to help to finance the new three ships, which came in service in 1882 as TALLAHASSEE, CHATTAHOOCHEE and NACOOCHEE.

The KANSAS CITY built in 1889 was the company’s biggest vessel of 3,679 gt at that time. In 1902 the CITY OF MEMPHIS of 5,252gt built by John Roach & Son, Chester joined the fleet, followed in 1903 by a sister ship the CITY OF MACON (2). The fleet was further modernised in the later years by two other new buildings from the same yard the CITY OF COLUMBUS (2) and CITY OF ATLANTA and older tonnage was sold. In 1907 in a surprise move Edward Henry Harriman managed to acquire a controlling interest in the Central of Georgia Railway ( the new name for the Central Rail Road and Banking Company) an with it the Ocean Steamship Company. Two new passenger ships built by Newport News in 1910 the CITY OF ST. LOUIS and the CITY OF MONTGOMERY were delivered to the company.

The CITY OF MEMPHIS was captured shelled and sunk in March 1917. That same year the company took over two relatively new steamships from the Merchant & Miners Transportation Company and renamed the ships CITY OF ROME (ex Suwannee) and CITY OF ATHENS (ex Somerset), only to lose the CITY OF ROME in 1918 in a collision with the French warship Gloire.
In 1923 what would be the last two new built passenger ships built for the company; the CITY OF CHATTANOOGA and CITY OF BIRMINGHAM (2) were delivered from Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Company. In 1928 the fleet consisted of eight steamships. After 1929’s Stock Market crash at Wall Street ( the great Depression) the company started to operate in the red every year, also, the competition of the Clyde Mallory Line with its more modern ships was greatly felt.

When war started in September 1939 in Europe it did not first affect the shipping along the American coast. The CITY OF CHATTANOOGA was chartered by the Government to transport troops to Iceland in 1940. From September 1941 the passenger service was ended and the ships only carried cargoes. The CITY OF ATLANTA was on January 19, 1942 torpedoed and sunk by German submarine U.123 near Cape Hatteras with the loss of fifty four crew members. On July 30, 1942 the CITY OF BIRMINGHAM (2) was torpedoed and sunk by German submarine U. 202, two passengers and seven crew members lost their lives. The CITY OF SAVANNAH, CITY OF MONTGOMERY and the CITY OF ST. LOUIS were purchased by the American Government on May 25, 1942, followed by the CITY OF CHATTANOOGA on June 6, 1942. When the war ended in 1945 the company was left with no ships. Immediately after the war the company was disposing of all of its smaller vessels mostly tugs to American tug companies.

The Ocean Steamship Company of Savannah did purchase two C1A standard type cargo ships from the United States Maritime Commission (USMC) but never used them in their service, the Cape Nome was acquired on January 31, 1947, followed by the Cape Race on February 26, 1947. Both ships were chartered out to other shipping companies and in 1951 the Cape Nome and Cape Race were sold to the Arrow Steamship Company an Isbrantsen Steamship Co. subsidiary and renamed Flying Spray and Flying Foam respectively.
A study was done to review the feasibility of restoring its services, but the outcome was negative due the development of an adequate national highway network (trucks), the high prices to built new ships and the continually rising cost of terminal operations and the decision was made to wind up the company and was liquidated in 1951.

Many thanks to Henk Jungerius and Ted Finch for their assistance in collecting this data. The following list was extracted from various sources. This is not an all inclusive list but should only be used as a guide. If you would like to know more about a vessel, visit the Ship Descriptions (onsite) or Immigrant Ship web site.

  • Routes:
    • Savannah-Boston-New York
    • Savannah-Philadelphia
    • Savannah- Fernandina-Jacksonville
     note:  *  signifies paddle wheeler        

Funnel & Flag:

Fleet: before 1930 (approx.) after 1930 (approx.)
Vessel Built Years in Service Tons
Cape Nome 1944 built by Pusey & Jones Corp., Wilmington, Del. | ex- Cape Nome, standard type C1-A built for United States Maritime Commission, 1947 purchased not renamed, 1951 sold to Isbrandtsen Steamship Co. (Arrow Steamship Co.) renamed Flying Spray, 1968 sold to Sunfast Maritime Co., Panama renamed Tia Pepita, February 1970 scrapped at Hong Kong. 5,092
Cape Race 1944 built by Pusey & Jones Corp., Wilmington, Del. | ex- Cape Race standard type C1-A built for United States Maritime Commission, 1947 purchased not renamed, 1951 sold to Isbrandtsen Steamship Co. (Arrow Steamship Co.) renamed Flying Foam, 1959 sold to American Union Transport Inc. renamed Transborinquen, February 1970 scrapped at Kaohsiung. 5,092
Chattahoochee 1882 built by John Roach & Son, Chester | 1909 sold to Merchants & Miners Transportation Co. renamed Quantico, 1927 scrapped. 2,676
City of Albany 1919 built by Great Lakes Engineering Works, Ashtabula, Ohio | ex- Lake Elmhurst built for United States Shipping Board, 1926 purchased renamed City of Albany, 1929 sold to Moore McCormack, assigned to MGL renamed Commercial Orleanian, 1938 sold to USSR renamed Sahalinneft, 1945 renamed Moskalvo. 2,674
City of Athens 1911 built by New York Shipbuilding Co., Camden | ex- Somerset, 1917 purchased from Merchants & Miners Transportation Co. renamed City of Athens, 2 May 1918 rammed and sunk by the French cruiser Gloire with the loss of 106 lives. 3,648
City of Atlanta 1904 built by John Roach & Son, Chester | 19 January 1942 torpedoed and sunk by German submarine U.123 off Cape Hatteras with the loss of 54 lives. 5,433
City of Augusta 1880 built by John Roach & Son, Chester | 1924 scrapped. 2,869
City of Birmingham (1) 1888 built by John Roach & Son, Chester | 1889 passenger accommodation added, 4 November 1907 stranded in Boston Harbour and abandoned, later scrapped in situ. 3,066
City of Birmingham (2) 1923 built by Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Co., Newport News | 1942 chartered to Alcoa for war services, 30 June 1942 torpedoed and sunk by German submarine U.202 250 miles east of Cape Hatteras. 5,861
City of Chattanooga 1923 built by Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Co., Newport News | 1942 sold to US Government (War Shipping Administration ) refitted as a training ship renamed American Navigator, 1948 scrapped. 5,861
City of Columbus (1) 1878 built by John Roach & Son, Chester | 1881 sold to Boston & Savannah Steamship Co. not renamed, 18 January 1884 stranded and sank at Devilís Bridge near Marthaís Vineyard. 2,250
City of Columbus (2) 1904 built by John Roach & Son, Chester | 1935 scrapped at Trieste, Italy. 5,433
City of Macon (1) 1877 built by John Roach & Son, Chester | 1902 sold to Merchants & Miners Transportation Co. renamed Lexington, 1918 sold to Northern Transportation Co. not renamed, 1923 scrapped. 2,870
City of Macon (2) 1903 built by John Roach & Son, Chester | 1916 sold to Barber Steamship Co. renamed Macona, 18 January 1920 struck rock and sank near Gothenborg, Sweden. 5,311
City of Memphis 1902 built by John Roach & Son, Chester | 17 March 1917 captured shelled and sunk by German submarine near Fastnet Rock. 5,252
City of Montgomery 1910 built by Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Co., Newport News | 1942 sold to US Government (War Shipping Administration ), 1947 scrapped at Mobile. 5,425
City of Rome 1911 built by New York Shipbuilding Co., Camden | ex- Suwanee, 1917 purchased from Merchants & Miners Transportation Co. renamed City of Rome, 1928 sold to Sunnyland SS Co., renamed Veramar, 1928 repurchased by Merchants & Miners Transportation Co. renamed Somerset, 1938 scrapped. 3,648
City of Savannah (1) 1877 built by John Roach & Son, Chester | 29 August 1893 foundered in storm near Hunting Island. 2,029
City of Savannah (2) 1896 built by Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Co., Newport News | ex- La Grande Duchesse, 1901 purchased from Plant Line renamed City of Savannah, 1905 sold to New York & Porto Rico Steamship Co. renamed Carolina, 2 June 1918 torpedoed and sunk by German submarine U.151 off Cape May with the loss of 13 lives. 5,017
City of Savannah (3) 1907 built by Delaware River Iron Shipbuilding & Engine Works (John Roach & Son), Chester | 1942 sold to US Government (War Shipping Administration ), 1947 scrapped at New Orleans. 5,654
City of St. Louis 1910 built by Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Co., Newport News | 1942 sold to US Government (War Shipping Administration ), 1947 scrapped at Mobile. 5,425
Dessoug 1864 built by Denton, Gray & Co., Hartlepool | ex- Dessoug, yacht, 1881 purchased from Khedive of Egypt and converted into a cargo ship not renamed, 1886 sold to American Towing & Lightering Company, Baltimore and converted into a barge, 1908 foundered while in tow. 1,367
Florida * 1879 built by James Rees, Pittsburgh | 1881 sold to Georgia & Florida Navigation Co. not renamed, 1886 out of service. 474
Gate City 1878 built by John Roach & Son, Chester | 1881 sold to Boston & Savannah Steamship Co. not renamed, 1887 repurchased by Ocean Steamship Company of Savannah, 8 February 1900 stranded at Moriches, Long Island and abandoned. 1,997
General J.K. Barnes * 1865 built by Lawrence & Foulkes, Greenpoint | ex- General J.K. Barnes built for Livingston, Fox & Co., 1870 purchased by Empire Line (Garrison & Allen), 1872 taken over with Empire Line fleet, 23 October 1878 foundered of Cape Hatteras. 1,365
Herman Livingston * 1864 built by Lawrence & Foulkes, Greenpoint | ex- Herman Livingston built for Livingston, Fox & Co., 1870 purchased by Empire Line (Garrison & Allen), 1872 taken over with Empire Line fleet, 1879 laid up, 1880 converted into a barge. 1,314
Juanita 1860 built by Harrison Loring, East Boston | ex- South Carolina built for Boston & Southern Steamship Company ( mgr. B. Spraggue & Co.), ex- USS South Carolina 1861 for U.S. War Department, ex- Juanita1865, 1881 purchased from Philadelphia & Savannah Steamship Co. and rebuilt as a cargo vessel not renamed, 1889 sold to Plant Line, 1890 sold to Philadelphia owner and converted into a schooner barge, 1902 foundered in Atlantic Ocean while in tow. 1,320
Kansas City 1889 built by John Roach & Son, Chester | 1909 sold to Portland & San Francisco Steamship Co. not renamed, 1915 sold to Union Iron Works, San Francisco, resold to Alaska Steamship Company renamed Alaska, 6 August 1921 stranded and sank at Bluntís Reef, California. 3,679
Magnolia * 1852 built by William H. Webb, New York | ex- Augusta built for New York and Savannah Steam Navigation Co., (S.L. Mitchell & Sonís Line), ex- Magnolia 1867 for Empire Line (Garrison & Allen), 1872 taken over with Empire Line fleet, 30 September 1877 foundered in strong wind and heavy seas. 1,310
Nacoochee 1883 built by John Roach & Son, Chester | 1924 scrapped at Philadelphia. 2,680
Rapidan * 1865 built by Lawrence & Foulkes, Greenpoint | ex- Rapidan built for Livingston, Fox & Co., 1870 purchased by Empire Line (Garrison & Allen), 1872 taken over with Empire Line fleet, 1878 sold to John Roach & Son as part payment for new building, 1882 sold to Old Dominion Steamship Co., 1884 sold back to John Roach & Son, 1885 sold to Edward P. Kennard, 1886 went missing at sea with all hands. 868
San Jacinto * 1859 built by Harlan & Hollingsworth, Wilmington | ex- Benjamin Deford built for Merchants & Miners Transportation Co., ex- San Jacinto 1865 for Empire Line (Garrison & Allen), 1872 taken over with Empire Line fleet, 1878 sold to John Roach & Son as part payment for new building, resold to Spanish owners at Cuba, 1885 laid up, 1887 scrapped at New York. 1,100
San Salvador * 1861 built by Harlan & Hollingsworth, Wilmington | ex- S.R. Spaulding built for Merchants & Miners Transportation Co., ex- San Salvador 1865 for Empire Line (Garrison & Allen), 1872 taken over with Empire Line fleet, 1878 sold to John Roach & Son as part payment for new building, resold to George McCulloch, New York, 1880 apparently foundered in Gulf of Mexico. 1.100
Tallahassee 1882 built by John Roach & Son, Chester | 1905 sold to Winsor Line renamed Persian, 1907 Winsor Line taken over by Merchants & Miners Transportation Co., 1928 scrapped at Boston. 2,677

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