Category Archives: civil war

Devil Gear, circa 1860s

While the Union Army during the Civil War numbered a whopping 2,213,000 individuals in service between the regulars, USCT, and myriad of state volunteer units taken on the roles, the peak strength of the U.S. Marine Corps during the conflict only hit 3,860 officers and men, making them one of the smallest units in Federal service– and their uniforms among the rarest today.

Washington, D.C. Six marines with rifles and fixed bayonets at the Navy Yard. LC-DIG-cwpb-04148

Assorted studio portraits of individual Civil War era U.S. Marines in the Liljenquist collection of the Library of Congress.

You’d never know their dress uniforms were brilliant blue with gold-yellow facings and epaulets from the existing photos.

The Horse Soldier, an upscale military antique store in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania– which sold many of the above studio images to the LOC– has just an incredible find in their collection. 

On display (and for sale of course) at the shop. One of the rarest Civil War uniform groups. This Marine Corps uniform group belonged to Private John Hammond and includes his dress coat with epaulets, shako, fatigue cap, trousers, and rarest of the rare, his knapsack marked “USM.”

Hammond was a shoemaker who enlisted in the Marine Corps in Boston to serve four years on May 15, 1861, and served until discharge on August 24, 1865, at the barracks in Boston. His trousers have the marking of the frigate USS Santee, one of Farragut’s West Gulf Blockading Squadron’s most active ships, on the pocket.

Happy National Coffee Day

“Campaign sketches. The coffee call,” by Homer Winslow, 1863 lithograph:

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. LC-DIG-pga-03007

A coffee recipe for a Civil War military hospital from the “The Hospital Steward’s Manual,” by Joseph Janvier Woodward, published in 1862:

“No.1. Coffee for ten men.

“Put 9 pints of water into a canteen, saucepan (or other vessel) on the fire; when boiling, add 7 1/2 oz. of coffee; mix them well together with a spoon or piece of wood; leave on the fire a few minutes longer, or until just beginning to boil.

“Take it off, and pour in 1 pint of cold water; let the whole remain ten minutes, or a little longer; the dregs will fall to the bottom, and the coffee will be clear. Pour it from one vessel into another, leaving the dregs at the bottom; add 2 teaspoonfuls of sugar to the pint. If milk is to be had, make 2 pints less of coffee, and add that much milk; boiled milk is preferable.

“REMARKS. – This receipt, properly carried out, would give 10 pints of coffee, or 1 pint per man.”

Woodward, Joseph Janvier, M.D., “The Hospital Steward’s Manual,” Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1862.

History takes a hit…

It should come as no surprise that I’ve always loved living history stuff ever since I was a kid.

In my 20s, I even owned a McClellan saddle– the most uncomfortable saddle I have ever used– and took part in such activities myself.

The thing is, in a state of 20 million, the hobby has now effectively been blackballed.

Following a 6-3 ruling this summer from the U.S. Supreme Court concerning New York’s unconstitutional “may issue” concealed carry permitting scheme, state lawmakers scrambled to pass a flurry of new anti-gun bills in a matter of days. Breathlessly signed into law by Kathy Hochul, New York’s unelected governor, these included NY Senate Bill S51001 which bans the carry of legally possessed firearms– even with a permit– in “sensitive” places.

The thing is, on S51001’s sweeping list are libraries, museums, parks, performance venues, schools of all stripes, and just about any facility owned by Federal, state, or local governments, with zero exceptions. What this means for reenactors at New York’s historical forts and battlefields is that, while they may be welcome, their antique flintlocks, percussion muskets, pistols, and revolvers are not– under a threat of a felony charge.


That’s not just any ordinary Spaghetti Repro

The image above is of an Italian-made reproduction .44-caliber Colt 1851 Navy percussion revolver imported to the U.S. by Val Forgett’s Navy Arms in the 1970s.

Man I miss the old Navy Arms….

While these guns aren’t rare by any stretch and don’t cost a lot of cash– heck, original Civil War-era Colt Navy revolvers themselves only go for about $2K these days at auction, the above Italian repro just brought $17,400 at a Milestone Auction in Ohio last month.

You see, it was one of a pair of replica guns used by Clint Eastwood in the 1976 film The Outlaw, Josey Wales, and was accompanied by two signed certificates from Paramount Studios.

The movie, adapted from Forrest Carter’s western novel, was one of Eastwood’s cowboy stories actually shot in the U.S., filmed across Utah, Arizona, Wyoming, and California in DeLuxe Color and Panavision, and was directed by Eastwood.

A commercial success that brought over 10 times its filming budget despite the hero being a Missouri Bushwacker with a backstory that included “Bloody Bill” Anderson, in 1996, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry of the Library of Congress for being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

One of the certificates identified the gun by serial number and attested to its having been used by Eastwood in his starring role in the classic Western. The gun, marked 1526 and Paramount on the butt, was found in 2000 storage by the studio and logged to the film.

It was then sold at a charity auction while its companion gun is now part of the Smithsonian collection in Washington, DC.

Milestone had estimated the gun would bring $5,000-$10,000. I guess they underestimated the draw of Josey Wales.

Marines do Gettysburg to Prep for Guadalcanal

Some 100 Years Ago This Weekend: Across early July 1922, the Marine Corps East Coast Expeditionary Force, based at Quantico, Virginia, headed to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania for maneuvers and field exercises on the 59th anniversary of the great Civil War battle there. Spearheaded by Brigadier General Smedley D. Butler, the maneuvers and exercises, were also utilized as a method of obtaining favorable publicity and were often attended by the President and other dignitaries at the time.

All photos are via the Marine Corps History Division which has a great catalog of the event.

Two Civil War veterans post for a photograph with Marine Corps artillery in Gettysburg in July 1922

Excercise included road march via vehicle from Virginia to Gettysburg. Note the back tractor tows a 155mm heavy artillery piece.

Marine participants in the reenactment are carried off the field. Gettysburg 1922

Marine perform maintenance on three M1917 FT17 Renault light tanks during the 1922 Gettysburg maneuvers helped win the battle for Confederates

Marines skirmishing along the Emmitsburg Road during the 1922 Gettysburg maneuvers

Of note, Chesty Puller and the gang would use abatis, or chevaux de frise, a classic defensive anti-cavalry measure common in the Civil War, to defend Henderson Field against the Japanese in August 1942.

Cheval de frise/Frisian horses by Ponder House, Battle of Atlanta, Fort X 1864

Chevaux de frise anti-cavalry measures at Fort Blakely, Alabama. Dating to medieval times, they were still effective in the 1860s. photo by Chris Eger

Bamboo cheval de frise gates around the Coffin Corner area covering trails into Marine lines Guadalcanal 1942. Hey, if it works, it ain’t stupid. Those who don’t study history…

Of Hickory shirts and Tiny Pistols

Ambrotype/tintype described as follows: “May 1861. Five enlistees from Co. K, 11th Ohio Infantry Regiment, one in uniform and three in hickory shirts, at Camp Dennison [near Cincinnati], three with bayoneted rifles.”

Take note of the extensive collection of small pistols and large knives in the volunteers’ belts.

Liljenquist Family Collection of Civil War Photographs (Library of Congress)

“Summary: Photograph shows soldiers who enlisted [from] Greenville, Ohio, identified as (left to right) Lieutenant Wesley Gorsuch, Private Francis M. Eidson, unidentified soldier, Brigadier General [Brevet] Joseph Washington Frizell, and Doctor Squire Dickey, a surgeon candidate who did not muster.”

The photo comes from the time in which the 11th Ohio was a “three-month” regiment, formed from 90-day men meeting Lincoln’s call for 75,000 volunteers. Mustered out 20 June 1861, the regiment was reformed the same day as a “three-year” regiment and was soon assigned to Cox’s Kanawha Brigade, seeing its first combat in a skirmish at Hawk’s Nest, Virginia on 20 August.

The 11th would go on to be in the thick of it at Second Bull Run and Antietam (where they have a monument noting their action and the loss of their commander, LTC Augustus H. Coleman), then transfer out West to fight at Chickamauga, the Siege of Chattanooga, and Missionary Ridge (where three of its enlisted earned the Medal of Honor).

Original Veterans of the regiment were mustered out in Cincinnatti in June 1864, then many went on to join new recruits as a battalion in the 92nd Ohio for Sherman’s March to the Sea, and the Carolinas Campaign.

The last of the 11th was mustered out on 11 June 1865, following the Grand Review in Washington, at which point several likely donned plaid shirts once more. 

Warship Wednesday, April 27, 2022: Sparks Paratus

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, April 27, 2022: Sparks Paratus

U.S. National Archives Local Identifier 26-G-01-19-50

Here we see the U.S. Revenue Cutter U.S. Grant, in her original scheme, seen sometime late in the 1890s, likely off the coast of New York. With the Union general and 18th President’s birthday today– coincidentally falling on National Morse Code Day– you knew this was coming, and interestingly, the above cutter, which had served during the SpanAm War, was the first post-Civil War U.S. vessel named in honor of Ulysses S. Grant.

Built at Wilmington, Delaware at the yards of Pusey & Jones Corp in 1871, Grant was a one-off Barque-rigged iron-hulled steam cutter ordered for the Revenue Cutter Service at a cost of $92,500. With the Revenue Marine/Cutter Service one that typically ran quick little sloops and schooner-rigged vessels between 1790 and 1916 when it became part of the newly-formed U.S. Coast Guard, Grant was one of the few built for the seagoing service with three masts.

Some 163-feet in length (overall) the 350-ton ship was the largest of four new steam cutters– the other three were paddle-wheelers– authorized by Congress in 1870 as part of a plan by N. Broughton Devereux, head of the Revenue Marine Bureau, in an effort to revitalize the force that had languished in the days immediately after the Civil War despite having been the sole federal agency tasked with patrolling the broad and wild seas off Alaska.

Cutter Grant via the New York Historical Society

Despite the massive amounts of left-over Civil War ordnance being sold as surplus, Grant was given a battery of four bronze M1841 24-pounder muzzleloading howitzers– field guns that had been considered obsolete at Gettysburg– and a small arms locker made up of rare .46 caliber (rimfire) single-shot Ballard carbines. She was known to still have this armament into the early 1890s. Her crew consisted of about 35 officers, engineers, and men.

Her shakedown complete just after Christmas 1871, Grant was assigned to the New York station on 19 January 1872 a cruising ground that covered from Montauk Point to the Delaware.

For the next 20 years, she maintained a very workaday existence in the peacetime Revenue Service. This included going out on short patrols of coastal waters, assisting with the collection of the tariff, catching the occasional smuggler, responding to distress calls (helping to save the crew of the reefed Revenue Cutter Bronx in 1873, saving the schooner Ida L. Howard in 1882, the British steam-ship Pomona bound from this port for Jamaica in 1884, and the demasted three-masted schooner William H. Keeney in 1887), policing posh ocean yacht races (even hosting her namesake President aboard in July 1875 for the Cape May Regatta), taking President Rutherford B. Hayes’ Treasury Secretary John Sherman (Gen. William T. Sherman’s brother) for a tour of all Revenue Cutter stations along the east coast in 1877, searching for lost cargo (notably spending a week in December 1887 along with the sloop-of-war USS Enterprise on the hunt for a raft of logs towed from Nova Scotia hat had departed its line off New England), suppressing mutinies (the steamer Northern Light in November 1883), and getting in the occasional gunnery practice.

In 1877, Grant had the bad fortune of colliding with the schooner Dom Pedro off Boon Island on a hot July night. Standing by, the cutter rescued all nine souls aboard the sinking vessel and brought them safely into Boston. An inquiry board found the Dom Pedro, who had no lights set while in shipping lanes at night, at fault.

In July 1883, Grant inspected– and later seized under orders of the U.S. Attorney’s office and at the insistence of the Haitian government– the tugboat Mary N. Hogan, which had reportedly been fitting out in the East River as a privateer under finance from certain British subjects to carry arms to rebels in Haiti.

Grant would serve as a quarantine vessel hosting Siamese royalty, as well as Hawaiian Queen Kapiʻolani and Princess Liliʻuokalani, the latter royals stopping in New York on their way to attend the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria in London.

From November 1888 through April 1889, Grant had her steam plant replaced at the DeLamater Iron Works docks– the same plant that had constructed the steam boilers and machinery for the ironclad USS Monitor.

Shortly afterward, Grant landed her ancient Army surplus howitzers for a pair of brand-new rapid-fire Mark 1 Hotchkiss Light 1-pounders, from a lot of 25 ordered by the Revenue Cutter Service from a Navy contract issued to Pratt & Whitney of Hartford.

Unidentified officers around an early 1-pdr on the gunboat USS Nahant. Detroit Publishing Company Collection Photograph. Library of Congress Photograph ID LC-D4-20046.

Her skipper at the time, a man who would remain with Grant for the rest of her career, was Captain Dorr Francis Tozier. Something of a legend in the service already, the Georgia-born Tozier received his commission from Abraham Lincoln one month before the president’s assassination and was awarded a Gold Medal by the President of the French Republic “for gallant, courageous, and efficient services” in saving the French bark Peabody in 1877, while the latter was grounded on Horn Island in the Mississippi Sound.

Tozier, 1895

In July 1891, it was announced that the 11 large sea-going cutters of the RCS would switch to a white paint scheme– something that the modern Coast Guard has maintained ever since.

In October 1893, as part of beefing up the Bearing Sea Patrol which enforced a prohibitory season on pelagic sealing as well as protecting the Pac Northwest salmon fisheries, the East Coast-based cutters Perry (165 ft, 282 tons, four guns)– which had been based at Erie Pennsylvania to police the waters of Lake Ontario– along with our very own Grant, were ordered to make the 16,000-mile pre-Panama Canal cruise from New York to Puget Sound, where they would be based. The two vessels would join the cutters Rush, Corwin, Bear, and Wolcott, giving the RSC six vessels to cover Alaskan waters, even if they did so on deployments from Seattle.

The re-deployment from Atlantic to Pacific was rare at the time for the RSC, as vessels typically were built and served their entire careers in the same region. Sailing separately, the two cutters would call in St. Thomas, Pernambuco, Rio, Montevideo, Stanley, Valparaiso (which was under a revolutionary atmosphere), Callao, and San Diego along the way.

Leaving New York on 6 December, Grant arrived at Port Townsend on 23 April 1894, ending a voyage of 73 days and 20 hours, logging an average of 8.45 knots while underway, burning 358 pounds of coal per hour.

Late in her career, with an all-white scheme. University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections. Oliver S. Van Olinda Photographs and Ephemera Collection. PH Coll 376, no UW22223


Rather than chopping as a whole to the Navy as the Coast Guard would do in WWI and WWII, President McKinley’s Secretary of the Treasury, John D. Long, implemented a plan to transfer control of 20 cutters “ready for war” to the Army and Navy’s control during the conflict with Spain.

Supporting the Army, from Boston to New Orleans, were seven small cutters with a total of 10 guns, crewed by 33 officers and 163 men, engaged in patrolling, and guarding assorted Army-manned coastal forts and mine fields.

A force of 13 larger revenue cutters, carrying 61 guns, staffed by 98 officers and 562 enlisted, served with the Navy. Eight of these cutters, including the famed little Hudson, served under the command of ADM Simpson off Havanna while the cutter McCulloch served with Dewey’s Asiatic Squadron for the conquest of the Philippines. Meanwhile, four other cutters (ours included) served with the Navy on the Pacific coast, keeping an eye out for potential Spanish commerce raiders, and filling in for the lack of Navy vessels along the West Coast at the time.

The four cutters patrolling the Pacific:

Arriving at San Francisco from Seattle on 7 April 1898, U. S. Grant and her crew were placed under Navy control four days later, on 11 April, operating as such through June.

Dispatched northward once again to search for a rumored Spanish privateer thought seeking to prey on the U.S. whaling and sealing fleet in Alaskan waters ala CSS Shenandoah-style, Grant found no such sea wolf and returned to the Treasury Department on 16 August, arrived back in Seattle on 18 September.

Back to peace

Returning to her peacetime duties and stomping grounds, Grant ran hard aground on an uncharted rock off Saanich Inlet just northwest of Victoria on 22 May 1901. Abandoned, she languished until her fellow cutters Perry and Rush arrived to help pull her off, patch her up, and tow her to Seattle for repairs.

Portside view of Revenue Cutter Grant at anchor without her foremast, likey after her wreck in 1901. Port Angeles Public Library. SHIPPOWR206

Fresh off repairs, in December she was part of the search for the lost Royal Navy sloop HMS Condor, which had gone missing while steaming from Esquimalt to Hawaii. Never found, it is believed Condor’s crew perished to a man in a gale off Vancouver. Grant recovered one of her empty whaleboats, along with a sailor’s cap and a broom, from the locals on Flores Island, with Tozier, the cutter’s longtime skipper, trading his dress sword for the relics. The recovered boat was passed on to the British sloop HMS Egeria, and Tozier’s sword was later replaced by the Admiralty, a matter that required an act of Congress for Tozier to keep.

Switching back to her role as a law enforcer, Grant was busily interdicting the maritime smuggling of opium and Chinese migrants from British Columbia to the Washington Territory in the early 1900s.

She also was detailed to help look for one of the last of the Old West outlaws, Harry Tracy, “the last survivor of the Wild Bunch.” After a shootout that left six dead in 1902, Tracy was at large in the region, taking hostages and generally terrifying the citizenry.

The Seattle Star, Volume 4, Number 113, 6 July 1902

By early 1903, with Tracy dead, it was announced the aging cutter would be sold.

The San Juan islander February 19, 1903

To tame the airwaves!

Grant, mislabeled as “USS” at Discovery Bay off Washington’s Strait of Juan de Fuca, October 1903. NOAA photo

Nonetheless, as part of a maintenance period, Grant was fitted by the Pacific Wireless Company while berthed in Tacoma with experimental Slaby Arco equipment to receive wireless messages. Regular use of wireless telegraphy by the Revenue Cutter Service was inaugurated by Grant on 1 November 1903. This was an important achievement for the service, as the Navy had only three ships with wireless equipment installed at the time.

As detailed by the Coast Guard Historian’s office: 

Tozier’s initial wireless tests proved successful, allowing the Grant to keep in contact with the Port Townsend Customs House throughout its patrol area—a 100-mile radius from the cutter’s homeport. After testing and adjustment of the new equipment, the Grant was ready for its first practical use of wireless for revenue cutter duties. On April 1, 1904, the Grant switched on its wireless set and began a new era of marine radio communication between ship and shore stations.

The new wireless radio technology proved very effective in directing revenue cutters and patrol boats in maritime interdiction operations. However, it took another three years to convince Congress of the importance of “radio” (which superseded the term “wireless telegraph” in 1906) to both its law enforcement and search-and-rescue missions. In March 1907, Congress finally appropriated the $35,000 needed to fund wireless installations on board 12 cruising cutters.

However, Grant would not get a chance to use her new radio equipment much, and by 1906 she was reported condemned, although still in service.

The San Juan Islander, Volume 15, Number 49, 6 January 1906

Grant’s last official government duty, in February 1906, was to solemnly transport bodies from the Valencia accident from Neah Bay to Seattle for burial. The affair, the worst maritime disaster in the “Graveyard of the Pacific” off Vancouver Island, left an estimated 181 dead.


Grant was sold from government service in 1906 to a Mr. A.A. Cragen for $16,300, and then further to the San Juan Fishing and Packing Co. who rebuilt her as a halibut fishing steamer. The old cutter was wrecked for the last time in 1911 on the rocks of Banks Island.

Her logs are in the National Archives but, sadly, have not been digitized. 

As for her longtime skipper Tozier, while stationed in Seattle he became a renowned collector of local artifacts. As related by the Summer 1992 issue of Columbia Magazine:

The assignment gave Tozier the opportunity to put Grant into remote rivers and harbors where natives were as eager to trade the things they made and used as their forefathers had been to trade fur pelts. He became imbued with collecting fever, realizing that his was a rare opportunity to bring out from the wilderness, to be seen, preserved, and appreciate, the elements of a civilization that was rapidly being superseded by that of the white settlers.

Captain Dorr F. Tozier, USRC Grant, top row right. He brought the cutter around the Horn from New York in the 1890s and remained in command for 14 years. Here he is visiting Numukamis Village on Barclay Sound, Vancouver Island, BC. Photograph by Samuel G. Morse. 21 Jan. 1902. Courtesy of the WA. State Historical Society. # 1917.115.217

In all, once retired from the RSC in 1907, Tozier sold his collection of some 10,000 artifacts including 2,500 baskets, 100 stone chisels and axes, carved jade pipes, harpoons, war clubs, knives of copper, ivory, shell and iron, a war canoe, and “12 mammoth totems, each weighing between 600 to 20,000 pounds.” In all, the collection weighed 60 tons and required 11 large horse-drawn vans to move to the Washington State Art Association’s Ferry Museum in 1908.

A fraction of Capt. Tozier’s artifacts, c. 1905. Model canoe, house posts, sculptures, part of a house front, masks, and a replica of a copper. The collection was first exhibited at the Ferry Museum (Tacoma,) then removed to Seattle in 1909, and finally to the National Museum of the American Indian under the Smithsonian, WA. DC. This photo c. 1905 courtesy of the WSHS #19543.19

When the Ferry Museum was dissolved in the 1930s, the collection was scattered and spread out across the world, with some pieces making their way to the Smithsonian.

Speaking of museums, the last pistol owned by the Outlaw Tracy is on display at the White River Valley Museum in Auburn, Washington. Bruce Dern portrayed him in the 1982 film Harry Tracy, Desperado.

As for Grant’s name, neither the RCS nor its follow-on USCG descendant reissued it.

The Navy only felt the need to bestow the moniker post-1865 to a successive pair of unarmed Great War-era transports before finally issuing it during the centennial of the Civil War to a James Madison-class FBM submarine, USS Ulysses S. Grant (SSBN-631), which served from 1964 to 1992.

The Coast Guard, however, did mention our old revenue cutter in its last HF CW transmission, sent by station NMN from Chesapeake, Virginia, at 0001Z on April 1, 1995. As an ode to the first wireless message transmitted in 1844, “What hath God wrought,” the message concluded with, “we bid you 73 [best regards]. What hath God wrought.”


Displacement: 350 tons
Length: 163’
Beam: 25’
Draft: 11’ 4”
Machinery: Barque rigged steamer, vertical steam engine, two boilers, one screw, 11 knots max
Complement: 35-45
4 x M1841 24-pounder guns, small arms (1871)
2 x Hotchkiss MK 1 37mm 1-pdrs, small arms (1891)

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Happy 200th, Sam!

On this day in 1822, in Point Pleasant, Ohio, Jesse Root Grant, a tanner and merchant, and Hannah Simpson Grant welcomed their first child to the planet. With his name chosen from ballots placed in a hat, the boy became Hiram Ulysses Grant, although the first name soon dropped out of common use by the family.

Speaking of names, by the time young Ulysses made it to West Point at age 17, his local Congressman had made a clerical error on his nomination to the military academy, enlisting him as U.S. Grant. Classmates soon bestowed him with a simple “Sam,” and he graduated almost dead center of his year, 21st of 39, in 1843.

Leaving the Army after 11 years, which included the Mexican War and the California Gold Rush, Grant went through a period of extreme stability and, in the end, found that civilian life did not suit him.

However, when the great war between the states erupted in 1861, Grant’s efforts to rejoin the U.S. Army were turned down by McClellan (ironically) and Nathaniel Lyon in turn, so he settled for a colonel’s appointment in the Illinois state militia. Before the autumn leaves fell, he was a Brigadier General of Volunteers. 

Soon, the Western Campaigns through Missouri and Kentucky and then along the Mississippi called and Grant’s star rose meteorically, ending as the first four-star general in the nation’s history in 1866, then eventually as the Commander and Chief in 1869.

Good old Sam.

A mosaic of five photographic prints taken in Cairo, Illinois in October 1861, only 6 months into the Civil War. It shows Brig. Gen. Grant (Commander of the District of Southeastern Missouri), in the middle, with his staff officers Clark B. Lagow, William S. Hillyer, John Aaron Rawlins, and James Simons. This photo image is from Library of Congress DIG-ppmsca-55864.

Grant’s ‘Lost’ Remmys

Here’s something you don’t see every day:

The above is a matching set of Remington’s New Model Army revolvers, with ornate work from iconic Master Engraver Louis D. Nimschke. Serial Nos. #1 and #2, they were presented to Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant in the latter half of 1863 or early 1864, as he was transitioning from leading forces in the West, facing foes such as Beauregard, Pemberton, Bragg, and Johnston, to setting up shop with the Army of the Potomac on the center stage of the Civil War in the brutal Overland Campaign, facing Lee.

Late firearms author and expert Steve Fjestad (the guy who started the Blue Book) said of the set, “Without a doubt, these cased Remingtons constitute the most elaborate and historically significant set of currently known revolvers manufactured during the Civil War.”

After being in Grant’s family into the 1930s, they circulated among collectors but were hidden from public display until 2018. Now, they are up for auction at Rock Island next month.

The estimated price runs to as much as $3 million.

Warship Wednesday, April 6, 2022: The Forlorn Hope

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, April 6, 2022: The Forlorn Hope

Photo by F.A. Roe, U.S. Navy First Lieutenant, via the U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command. Catalog #: NH 286

Here we see the recently commissioned Hartford-class screw sloop-of-war USS Pensacola (23 guns) as she appeared in November 1861, off Alexandria, Virginia, dressed and yardarms manned as she is receiving President Lincoln. The image is labeled that the vessel, soon to be on the way to the Gulf of Mexico to join Flag Officer Farragut’s newly created West Gulf Blockading Squadron, is the “Forlorn Hope” of Farragut’s fleet. She would prove a valuable, if somewhat irritating, addition to his force.

Though dubbed sloops by the Navy, if commissioned in any other fleet of the era, the Hartfords would be considered steam frigates. Generally of 225 feet in length with a fully loaded displacement pushing 3,000 tons, they were only gently smaller than the preceding five Merrimac-class steam frigates which went 250-feet and about 4,000 tons.

USS Hartford Spar & Sail Plan, Department of the Navy. Bureau of Construction and Repair. 1862-1940, via National Archives. National Archives Identifier (NAID) 117877200

Built of live oak, the Hartfords were fast on either their sail rig (three masts with two yards on each) or steam plant, capable of hitting 11 knots even with only half the horsepower of the Merrimacs. With 13 gun ports on each side of the below-deck gun deck and room for a topside pivot gun fore and aft, the class was generally able to ship about 20-24 pieces, leaning heavily on IX-inch Dahlgrens. For example and Pensacola was ultimately completed with 16 such smoothbores in broadsides as well as a single XI-inch pivot, although she would sail in late 1861 with a mix of 23 guns mounted.

Under a design by John Lenthall, Chief of the Navy’s Bureau of Construction, the five sloops of the class were built at five different Navy yards close to the cities they were named after– Hartford at Boston, Lancaster at Philadelphia, Richmond at Norfolk, Brooklyn at New York, and Pensacola at Pensacola– meaning they were all slightly different from each other. Specifically, they all had engineering plants that were to be built locally to their respective yards, which, in the 1850s, was almost as ill-fated as having two classes of littoral combat ships built simultaneously.

With that, several of the ships were completed successfully while Pensacola, her hull complete and masts raised, had to be towed in December 1859 to Washington Navy Yard for installation of machinery that was built there to a design by Edward Dickerson and noted inventor Frederick Ellsworth Sickels that was supposed to be top-notch and “produce the highest possible effect from the given amount of fuel and with the least possible weight.

However, as described through the scholarship of Edward A. Mueller in Warship International Vol. 5, No. 2 (Spring, 1968), pp. 96-111 (22 pages), it fell far short:

Following the start of the Civil War and, with all four of the other Hartfords off fighting down South, Pensacola languished in Washington, despite being listed as commissioned in full on 16 September 1861, while the bugs were worked out. This included hosting Lincoln for a short sail to Alexandria in mid-November 1861 while still fitting out.

In the end, she was only able to pass her trials on 3 January 1862, making 8.8 mph on the Potomac. Her final cost was $308,460, well over twice that of any of her sisters, with the much more mechanically reliable Hartford only running $114,400.

Holy stovepipe hat, Batman! USS Pensacola off Alexandria, Virginia, in 1861. Photographed by James F. Gibson. Courtesy of Library of Congress NH 63260

Her skipper, Capt. Henry White Morris, the superintendent of engines and operations at the Washington Navy Yard, seemed a logical choice. The grandson of Robert Morris, signer of the Declaration of Independence, Capt. Morris had joined the Navy at age 13 and by 1861 he had been in the navy for 41 years with 17 of those on sea duty.

Dispatched to join Farragut in the Gulf, at last, she broke down on the way in the Florida Keys for over a week– run aground– but eventually made Ship Island off the Mississippi Sound in early March 1862 and made ready to venture up the Mighty Mississip with the squadron on the push to capture New Orleans.

Flag-officer Farragut’s Gulf Squadron, and Commodore Porter’s Mortar Fleet Line engraving published in Harper’s Weekly, 1862, depicting some of the ships involved in the campaign to capture New Orleans. Identified ships are (from left to right): Richmond, Pensacola, Colorado, Hartford (Farragut’s flagship), and Octorara. NH 59137

Headed to the Crescent City

However, her cranky machinery was in such bad shape that she was instructed to use her sails only– on an upriver trip fraught with muddy bars, confusing currents, and the very real threat of enemy action– while tugs stood by if she got stuck. 

Of course, they would have to run the gauntlet that was the Confederate-held Fort Jackson and Fort St. Philip 40 miles up the river from the mouth, two lines of river obstructions, a score of fire rafts, as well as a fleet of armed river craft, “cotton clads,” and the much-feared steam ram CSS Manassas, the rebel ships mounting some 33 guns between them.

What could possibly go wrong?

To help lighten the load, Pensacola landed most of her coal, provisions, and anything else she could sail without in an effort to raise her draft. The sloop, along with the similarly troubled paddle frigate USS Mississippi, made it over the bar at the mouth of the Mighty Miss on 8 April, then would be in the forefront of the push past Forts Jackson and St. Philip just two weeks later.

Farragut would put the ailing sloop up front, the second ship in line. 

The push, which could have gone horribly wrong, was famously successful, even though the Confederate artillery boss at the forts reported firing no less than 1,591 shells at Farragut’s fleet including “675 VIII-inch solid shot, 171 VIII-inch shells, 13 XIII-inch shells, and 142 X-inch mortar shells.”

“The Splendid Naval Triumph on the Mississippi, April 24th, 1862” color lithograph, published by Currier & Ives, 1862. Depicts Farragut’s fleet passing Forts Jackson and St. Phillip, below New Orleans. USS Cayuga is seen in the top left center leading the Union column past burning Rebel steamers while USS Pensacola is directly after with USS Mississippi in the third spot and the rest of Farragut’s squadron– including three of Pensacola’s better-known sisters: Harford (the old man’s flagship), Richmond, and Brooklyn, following. Courtesy of the U.S. Navy Art Collection NH 76369-KN

Morris’s report to Farragut, filed off New Orleans four days after the fact, making a short reference to the CSS Manassas’s failed attempt to ram the sloop and the brutal artillery duel between the warship and the forts.

Pensacola surely got some sweeping hits in on the cotton-clad CSS Governor Moore, a steamer raked with fire by the Union squadron, practically shooting away all of Moore’s upper hamper. The rebel gunboat drifted helplessly to shore, where her captain, pilot, and a seaman set her afire.

Of her 300~ man crew, Pensacola came off light for the amount of fire that was thrown her way by the Secesh, suffering four killed, and 32 wounded.

Four of her crew would earn the Medal of Honor for the fight, Quartermaster Louis Richards, Seaman Thomas G. Lyons, Captain of the foretop James McLeod, and “Boy” Thomas S. Flood.

— Richards served as quartermaster on board the U.S.S. Pensacola in the attacks upon Forts Jackson and St. Philip, and at the taking of New Orleans, 24 and 25 April 1862. Through all the din and roar of battle, he steered the ship through the narrow opening of the barricade, and his attention to orders contributed to the successful passage of the ship without once fouling the shore or the obstacles of the barricade.

— Served as seaman on board the U.S.S. Pensacola in the attack on Forts Jackson and St. Philip, 24 April 1862. Carrying out his duties throughout the din and roar of the battle, Lyons never once erred in his brave performance. Lashed outside of that vessel, on the port-sheet chain, with the lead in hand to lead the ship past the forts, Lyons never flinched, although under heavy fire from the forts and rebel gunboats.

— Captain of the foretop, and a volunteer from the Colorado, McLeod served on board the U.S.S. Pensacola during the attack on Forts Jackson and St. Philip and the taking of New Orleans, 24 and 25 April 1862. Acting as gun captain of the rifled howitzer aft, which was much exposed, he served this piece with great ability and activity, although no officer superintended it.

— Served on board the U.S.S. Pensacola in the attack on Forts Jackson and St. Philip and the taking of New Orleans, 24 and 25 April 1862. Swept from the bridge by a shell which wounded the signal quartermaster, Flood returned to the bridge after assisting the wounded man below and taking over his duties, “Performed them with coolness, exactitude and the fidelity of a veteran seaman. His intelligence and character cannot be spoken of too warmly.”

As noted of the overall operation by Capt. Theodorus Bailey, who commanded one of the gunboat divisions during the fight to pass Forts Jackson and St. Philip:

In the face of casemated forts, fire rafts, ironclad steam rams, and a fleet of gunboats, we have swept the Mississippi of its defenses as far as Baton Rouge and perhaps Memphis. The United States flag waves over Forts Jackson, St. Philip, Livingston, and Pike, and also the city of New Orleans. We fought two great battles; that of the passage of the forts and encounter with the ironclads and gunboats has not been surpassed in naval history. We have done all this with wooden ships and gunboats.

Reaching New Orleans shortly after passing the forts, at 2 pm on 25 April, Farragut formally accepted the surrender of the Crescent City from the city’s civilian leaders.

The next morning, Pensacola landed Captain Morris with two squads of marines and a few Sailors, and the small force raised the Union flag over the rebel-occupied former U.S. Mint on Esplanade Avenue in the Vieux Carre. It was the signpost that New Orleans had, unofficially at least, rejoined the Union.

The rest of the War

In July 1862, Morris, Pensacola’s first skipper, was promoted to Commodore and, in poor health, was allowed leave to return home to New York where he died soon after.

Pensacola, handicapped by her machinery, was left to the role of a sort of station ship for the next two years following the capture of New Orleans. She remained as a guard vessel on the Lower Mississippi, watching for blockade runners and policing fishing boats.

Sent to New York Navy Yard, where she decommissioned on 29 April 1864– just missing the Battle of Mobile Bay where three of her sisters ran past Forts Gains and Morgan with Farragut and fought a much stronger rebel ram than the Manassas to a standstill– Pensacola was laid up and her machinery replaced with that which had been purchased by the Navy for canceled sloop-of-war USS Wanaloset. She was still in New York when Lee surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse.

West Coast

Recommissioned 16 August 1866, the much improved Pensacola could finally stretch her sea legs.

With that, she rounded Cape Horn and became part of the Pacific Squadron, often serving as her flagship as she patrolled along the West coasts of North and South America, and as far out to sea as the Kingdom of Hawaii.

USS Pensacola off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, circa 1866-1868. Note she has at least 10 guns runs out. Courtesy of Mr. John Sardo, Mare Island Naval Shipyard. NH 76104

She continued this routine for the next 17 years, going into ordinary twice (1870-71 and 1873-74) during that period to refit, inheriting the only gently-used two funnels and boilers from the stricken Confiance-class screw sloop USS Benecia.

USS Pensacola, firing her guns port broadside. Note her new profile that included two short funnels, which she would carry between 1875 and 1888, and now has three yards on each mast rather than two. LC-DIG-GGBAIN-10057

While these were the salad days of her career, members of Pensacola’s crew would earn two more Medals of Honor in this quiet peacetime era: Seaman Patrick Regan and Henry Thompson, in 1873 and 1878, respectively, each for rescuing a man from drowning.

Chile, Town of Coquimbo, showing probably the USS Pensacola, an observer in the War of the Pacific, in 1879. LOC LC-DIG-npcc-20198

She was extensively photographed around 1880, with views of her decks captured in detail for posterity.

View of the starboard reinforced gun deck, during the 1880s, including rifles stored overhead and fire hoses to the right. Note the IX-inch Dahlgren Shell Guns. With some 1,185 such pieces cast at Alger, Bellona, Fort Pitt, Seyfert, McManus & Co., Tredegar, and West Point foundries, they remained one of the most numerous Civil War-era American guns well into the 1880s. With a 9-inch bore and a tube weight of 9,200-pounds, they could fire 90-pound shells or 150-pound solid shot up to 3,450 yards at maximum (15-degree) elevation. NH 63563

View of the spar deck, after an abandon ship drill, during the 1880s. NH 63564

View of the captain’s or flag officer’s cabin. Very swank. Note the spyglasses on the dressed table. NH 42876

European Station

Her Pacific days came to an end, at least for a while, when in June 1883 Pensacola was ordered to Norfolk, the long way. Sailing across the Pacific and Indian Oceans, she transited the Suez Canal, then steamed through the ancient waters of the Mediterranean and crossed the Atlantic to arrive in Hampton Roads on 4 May 1884. After a year of refit, she sailed to Europe with a new skipper in April 1885

Her skipper, from 1885 through 1888 while on European Station, was a young Captain George Dewey (USNA 1858), later of Battle of Manila Bay fame. Dewey of course was familiar with Pensacola as he had been a newly-minted lieutenant on the USS Mississippi when that steam frigate was behind Pensacola in line on the push past the muzzles of the guns of Fort St. Philip.

USS Pensacola ship’s officers, with an Italian commander, at Naples, Italy, circa spring 1886. RADM Samuel R. Franklin and Captain George Dewey are third and second from left in the second row. NH 42872

There are also superb photographs of her Bluejackets and Marines conducting gunnery training and formations, landing drills, practicing repelling boarders, and having cutlass practice on her deck in February 1888, with Dewey looking on.

Ship’s marines paraded for inspection, probably upon her return to the U.S. in February 1888. Captain George Dewey, her Commanding Officer, is right-center, between hatch and skylight. NH 42885

Marine guard paraded with fixed bayonets, probably upon her return to the U.S. in February 1888. Second Lieutenant Joseph H. Pendleton is in the left-center foreground. Note binnacle, hatches, and full hammock rails. NH 42890

Crew paraded for battalion drill, with rifles, probably upon her return to the U.S. in February 1888. Note officers’ swords. NH 42884

Landing force battalion drill on the spar deck, probably upon her return to the U.S. in February 1888. Note hatches “cleared for action” with railings removed. NH 42883

Two crewmen fencing with cutlasses, as others watch, probably upon her return to the U.S. in February 1888. Note revolver worn by one of the combatants. NH 42894

Crew drilling at repelling boarders, probably at the time she returned to the U.S. in February 1888. The photo is taken looking forward from the quarterdeck. NH 42878

USS Pensacola after pivot gun in action during a drill, probably upon the ship’s return to the U.S. in February 1888. The Gun is an old Parrott rifle, converted to breech-loading. Note skylight and rigging details. NH 42881

The ship’s gunner, and the quarter gunners, pose with a landing force field piece, circa 1885-1888. NH 42889


Arriving back stateside from her European vacation in February 1888, Pensacola saw a further refit during which one funnel was removed and her second-hand boilers were replaced with new ones built for the canceled screw frigate USS Ontario.

Then came a lengthy cruise to the coast of Africa, to which she carried a team of scientists of the United States Eclipse Expedition.

As described by the Smithsonian, the embarked big brains included: astronomer David Peck Todd of Amherst College and the U.S. Naval Observatory, Mr. Carbutt (Photographer); Prof. Abbe (meteorologist); Eben Jenks Loomis (naturalist) from the American Ephemeris and Nautical Almanac office (as well as a special assistant to the USNO); William H. Brown (osteologist and naturalist) as well as his brother A. H. Brown (assistant); and Mr. Preston (“observer of magnetics and determinations of gravity”).

The 242-day scientific cruise called at St. Paul de Loanda in Portuguese West Africa, Faial in the Azores, the Cape Verde Islands, Freetown, and Cape Town before heading back by way of St. Helena, Ascension, Barbados, and Nonsuch Island (Barbados), mixing both groundbreaking science experiments and data collection with such mundane naval tasks as gunnery practice.

One Herman S. Davis, an assistant astronomer on the trip, was a bit of a shutterbug. 

U.S. Navy Expedition to observe the 1889 solar eclipse from Africa. USS Pensacola, screw steamer, at Cape Town Docks, South Africa. Note that she is back to her single-funnel profile. Table Mountain is in the background. Photographed by Herman S. Davis, who was the assistant astronomer of the expedition

U.S. Navy Expedition to observe the 1889 solar eclipse from Africa. USS Pensacola, screw steamer, the enlisted crew on deck. Photographed by Herman S. Davis. LOC Lot 7360-3

U.S. Navy Expedition to observe the 1889 solar eclipse from Africa. USS Pensacola, target practice off St. Helena, February-March 1890. Photographed by Herman S. Davis. Lot 7360-15

Same as the above, Lot 7360-16.

As described by Albert Bergman in his journal A Man Before the Mast, the crew was very involved in the experiments and collection process:

Besides the force we had working on the boats, twenty to thirty sailors were detailed to work on shore under the direction of Professor Bigelow, to dig ditches, build foundations, fitting instruments, artificial houses, etc. Another party was detailed under Lieutenant Heilner, to transport the stores to the Eclipse Station. Ten voluntary marines were sent on shore to guard the camp from wild beasts and savages. The latter were found to be plenty.

U.S. Navy Expedition to observe the 1889 solar eclipse from Africa. USS Pensacola Marines on watch, not looking like they are 24 years past the Civil War. A poem by “a sailor” reads, “At last, we had almost finished, and expected a little rest, for those astronomers are hard enough / to work with at the best.” Photographed by Herman S. Davis. Lot 7360-6

The Smithsonian notes:

Along with the magnetic, gravity, and astronomical observations performed, specimen collecting included, but was not limited to entomology, zoology, and ichthyology. A large number of fish were collected at the island locations by William H. Brown. Myriapoda, spiders, and other insect specimens were also brought back by the expedition team.

Layup and semi-retirement in sunny California

In August 1890, Pensacola was dispatched back to her old stomping grounds on the West Coast, arriving at San Francisco on 10 August 1891.

US Navy screw steamer, USS Pensacola, junior officers on deck. Note the sails and rigging. Photographed by Edward H. Hart for Detroit Publishing Company, between 1890 and 1901. LC-DIG-DET-4a13971

U.S. Navy screw steamer USS Pensacola, hoisting the launch. Detroit Publishing Company Postcard, 1890-1912. Lot 3000-G-21

Following a short cruise to Hawaii, the aging steam sloop decommissioned at Mare Island on 18 April 1892.

After a six-year layup, she was reactivated as part of the naval surge that came with the Spanish-American War.

While Dewey was busy in the Philippines, however, Pensacola was destined to be used only as a training ship for Naval apprentices, then, transitioned to a receiving ship at Yerba Buena Training Station.

Pensacola off Mare Island, California, ready to proceed to Goat Island as a naval receiving ship, 1898. NH 63566

Pensacola as a receiving ship at Yerba Buena, California, 1902. NH 63565

Decommissioning on 6 December 1911, Pensacola was struck from the Navy Register on 23 December.

The old girl was unceremoniously stripped and burned near Hunter’s Point the following May.


Little exists of Farragut’s Forlorned Frigate these days.

Her helm wheel was saved and, after being on display on the decks of the old Truxtun-Decatur Naval Museum for decades, is now mounted on a wall of the National Museum of the United States Navy at the Washington Navy Yard.

One wooden helm steering wheel with eight spokes from the USS Pensacola (1859). A metal inlay along the top and bottom of the rim of the wheel reads: “(arrow) LEFT – RUDDER – RIGHT (arrow)”. A metal plaque attached to the middle of the wheel is engraved: “THIS STEERING WHEEL WAS / ORIGINALLY INSTALLED ON THE / STEAM SLOOP OF WAR PENSACOLA / LAUNCHED AT PENSACOLA NAVY YARD / 15 AUG 1859 AND STRICKEN FROM THE / NAVY LIST 23 DEC. 1911. THIS WHEEL WAS IN / USE ON THE PENSACOLA WHEN THAT / VESSEL WAS WITH FARRAGUT’S / SQUADRON IN THE PASSAGE OF FORTS / JACKSON AND ST. PHILIP, APRIL 1862, / AND IN THE BATTLES OF / NEW ORLEANS / AND / MOBILE BAY.” NHHC 1952-3-A

She is also remembered in period maritime art.

USS Pensacola and the CSS Governor Moore, oil by Worden Wood, American, 1880–1943, in the Yale University Art Gallery.

Side view of the warship USS Pensacola at anchor in the Mississippi River at New Orleans with riverbank and structures in the background. The painting shows small service vessels at the stern of the warship and the landing party going ashore. Captain W. Morris with two squads of marines, probably the landing party going ashore, replaced the Confederate flag with the United States flag at the U.S. Mint in the Vieux Carre on April 26, 1862. The Pensacola, one of the Union ships that arrived at New Orleans on April 25, 1862, was in the fleet of Admiral David G. Farragut during the occupation of New Orleans during the Civil War. In the Louisiana Digital Library.

Meanwhile, assorted logs and research from the 1889 United States Eclipse Expedition are in libraries and collections around the country.

Her sisters likewise lived very long– and lucky– lives.

  • Hartford, Farragut’s flagship, was kept as a relic by the Navy until she literally sank at her moorings in 1956.
  • Brooklyn— the scourge of the Mississippi Sound and the Biloxi fishing fleet– retired in 1889 and was sold after having well served her country for over three decades.
  • Lancaster, who served in the Pacific during the Civil War, like Pensacola was recommissioned in 1898 and saw one last war (albeit as a receiving ship) then continued to serve as a quarantine ship on the East Coast as late as 1933.
  • Richmond, who past the Forts in 1862 with Pensacola and company, served as an auxiliary to the receiving ship USS Franklin until after the end of World War I and was sold for breaking in 1919.

As for the old U.S. Mint in New Orleans, the flag Pensacola rose was hauled down almost immediately by troublemaking New Orleanian William Mumford, along with three other men. As noted by the Louisiana State Museum, “Mumford, a well-educated but reckless man with a love of drink, defiantly wore shreds of the flag in his buttonhole. He eventually was arrested and sentenced by U.S. Army General Benjamin Butler to be hanged in front of the mint on June 7, 1862.”

Butler is not well-liked in New Orleans to the current day.

The Mint building, after the facility closed in 1909, was used by the Veterans Bureau as well as both the Navy and Coast Guard for decades, along with other federal agencies, until the state took it over– peacefully this time– in the mid-1960s. Under the stewardship of the Louisiana State Museum Board is now the New Orleans Jazz Museum. 

Finally, while our USS Pensacola was the first U.S. Navy ship to carry the name, the has not been the last, followed by a Great War transport ship (AK-7/AG-13), a “Treaty” cruiser (CL/CA-24) that saw so much service in WWII that she was nicknamed the “Grey Ghost” by Tokyo Rose on her way to earning 13 battle stars, and a Cold War-era Anchorage-class dock landing ship (LSD-38) that served 28 years with the Navy and is still in service with Taiwan after at least 22 years under that country’s flag.

In my opinion, it is past time to reinstall a USS Pensacola to the Navy List.

Specs: (1861)

Displacement 3,000 t.
Length 130′ 5″
Beam 44′ 5″
Draft 18′ 7″
Speed 9.5 kts.
Complement: 259 officers and enlisted (1861)
1 x 11-inch Dahlgren smoothbore
16 x 9-inch Dahlgren smoothbores

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