James P. Delgado
"GREAT LEVIATHAN OF THE PACIFIC": THE SAGA OF THE GOLD RUSH STEAMSHIP TENNESSEE.
(Under the direction of William N. Still, Jr.) Department of History, East Carolina University, August 1985.
This thesis represents an examination of the history of the 1848 sidewheel steamship Tennessee. It specifically addresses the factors in influencing her construction for a new steamship line linking New York with the Southern cotton port of Savannah, Georgia for the the first time, how design and construction fits within the general development of American-built, ocean-going steamships of the late 1840s, and Tennessee's subsequent career. Tennessee was the first American steamer to be interrupted in service and sent to the Pacific to participate in the great sea-borne migration to California following the gold discovery of 1848. The emphasis of the thesis is on the Gold Rush activities of Tennessee, particularly discussing her unique and representational nature and roles in the transportation of passengers, mail, baggage, freight, and specie to and from California via the Isthmus of Panama.
Tennessee was wrecked during the height of her Gold Rush career while attempting to enter the Golden Gate on March 6, 1853. The remains of Tennessee now lie in the water and sand of Tennessee Cove, one of California's few onomastic landmarks to shipwreck. Tennessee Cove is a part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, a part of the National Park system. National Park Service archaeologists and historians are currently conducting maritime archaeological research activities at the wreck site of SS Tennessee and at another site comprised of the remains of the 1851 sidewheel steamship Winfield Scott, which lies within the boundaries of Channel Islands National Park, California. The thesis concludes with a discussion of the archaeological research, drawing comparative conclusions from data gathered at both sites, and assesses the potential for additional, meaningful data from both sides.