USS Harriet Lane History

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USS Harriet Lane

USS Harriet Lane Characteristics

Builder: William Webb, New York
Launched: 20 November 1857 (USRC Harriet Lane)
Decommissioned: Transferred to naval service 10 September 1861 (USS Harriet Lane)
Length: 180 ft.
Navigation Draft: 10 ft.
Beam: 30 ft.
Displacement: 674 13/95
RIG: Brigantine
Propulsion: sail and side wheel
Shaft Power: unknown
Maximum Speed: 12 knots
Economical Speed: unknown
Fuel Capacity: unknown
Water Capacity: NA
Endurance: unknown
Complement: 100
Armament: 3 x 32-pdrs, 4 x 24pdrs (as of 1 June 1861)

Harriet Lane.jpg
USRC Harriet Lane (1857-1861); USS Harriet Lane (1861-1863) (USCG)

Cutter History

After miserably failing in an effort to build effective steam cutters in the 1840s, Harriet Lane was the first steam cutter built for the Revenue Service for a decade. Designed by Samuel Pook, Harriet Lane was a finely finished vessel and found to be extremely useful for many missions. The US Navy used the cutter for the Paraguayan Punitive Expedition in 1858. Stationed in New York, the cutter served to carry dignitaries. When the Civil War began the Navy found itself woefully short of warships and the cutter was placed under naval orders to relieve the garrison of Fort Sumter in April 1861. During this stand off Harriet Lane fired the first naval shot of the war when the steamer Nashville tried to run into Charleston Harbor without displaying the national flag. A shot across the Nashville's bow hastened the Nashville's crew to hoist the flag.
 
In August 1861, still under naval orders, the Harriet Lane participated in the battle at Hatteras Inlet where she fought forts Hatteras and Clark and provided fire support for infantry ashore. On 10 September 1861, she transferred to the navy. She fought in the Mississippi River, serving with the Mortar Flotilla sent to bombard forts Jackson and St. Philip. She later sailed to blockade Mobile Bay and then Galveston, Texas. On 1 October 1863 the Confederates attacked the vessel, boarded and captured Harriet Lane. After a short tour as part of the Confederate Army's Marine Department of Texas, the department sold her and the new owner converted her into a blockade runner. Renamed the Lavinia, she escaped Galveston on 30 April 1864 and steamed to Havana, Cuba. She remained here for the remainder of the war. In 1867, she was converted to a bark rig and renamed the Elliott Richie. She was lost off Pernambuco, Brazil in May 1884.

Sources: United States Coast Guard and U.S. Naval Historical Center.

Recommended Reading: Naval Campaigns of the Civil War. Description: This analysis of naval engagements during the War Between the States presents the action from the efforts at Fort Sumter during the secession of South Carolina in 1860, through the battles in the Gulf of Mexico, on the Mississippi River, and along the eastern seaboard, to the final attack at Fort Fisher on the coast of North Carolina in January 1865. This work provides an understanding of the maritime problems facing both sides at the beginning of the war, their efforts to overcome these problems, and their attempts, both triumphant and tragic, to control the waterways of the South. The Union blockade, Confederate privateers and commerce raiders are discussed, as is the famous battle between the Monitor and the Merrimack. Continued below…

An overview of the events in the early months preceding the outbreak of the war is presented. The chronological arrangement of the campaigns allows for ready reference regarding a single event or an entire series of campaigns. Maps and an index are also included. About the Author: Paul Calore, a graduate of Johnson and Wales University, was the Operations Branch Chief with the Defense Logistics Agency of the Department of Defense before retiring. He is a supporting member of the U.S. Civil War Center and the Civil War Preservation Trust and has also written Land Campaigns of the Civil War (2000). He lives in Seekonk, Massachusetts.

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Recommended Reading: Naval Strategies of the Civil War: Confederate Innovations and Federal Opportunism. Description: One of the most overlooked aspects of the American Civil War is the naval strategy played out by the U.S. Navy and the fledgling Confederate Navy, which may make this the first book to compare and contrast the strategic concepts of the Southern Secretary of the Navy Stephen R. Mallory against his Northern counterpart, Gideon Welles. Both men had to accomplish much and were given great latitude in achieving their goals. Mallory's vision of seapower emphasized technological innovation and individual competence as he sought to match quality against the Union Navy's (quantity) numerical superiority. Welles had to deal with more bureaucratic structure and to some degree a national strategy dictated by the White House. Continued below...

The naval blockade of the South was one of his first tasks - for which he had but few ships available - and although he followed the national strategy, he did not limit himself to it when opportunities arose. Mallory's dedication to ironclads is well known, but he also defined the roles of commerce raiders, submarines, and naval mines. Welles's contributions to the Union effort were rooted in his organizational skills and his willingness to cooperate with the other military departments of his government. This led to successes through combined army and naval units in several campaigns on and around the Mississippi River.

 

Recommended Reading: Civil War Navies, 1855-1883 (The U.S. Navy Warship Series) (Hardcover). Description: Civil War Warships, 1855-1883 is the second in the five-volume US Navy Warships encyclopedia set. This valuable reference lists the ships of the U.S. Navy and Confederate Navy during the Civil War and the years immediately following - a significant period in the evolution of warships, the use of steam propulsion, and the development of ordnance. Civil War Warships provides a wealth and variety of material not found in other books on the subject and will save the reader the effort needed to track down information in multiple sources. Continued below…

Each ship's size and time and place of construction are listed along with particulars of naval service. The author provides historical details that include actions fought, damage sustained, prizes taken, ships sunk, and dates in and out of commission as well as information about when the ship left the Navy, names used in other services, and its ultimate fate. 140 photographs, including one of the Confederate cruiser Alabama recently uncovered by the author further contribute to this indispensable volume. This definitive record of Civil War ships updates the author's previous work and will find a lasting place among naval reference works.

 

Recommended Reading: Rebels and Yankees: Naval Battles of the Civil War (Hardcover). Description: Naval Battles of the Civil War, written by acclaimed Civil War historian Chester G. Hearn, focuses on the maritime battles fought between the Confederate Rebels and the Union forces in waters off the eastern seaboard and the great rivers of the United States during the Civil War. Since very few books have been written on this subject, this volume provides a fascinating and vital portrayal of the one of the most important conflicts in United States history. Naval Battles of the Civil War is lavishly illustrated with rare contemporary photographs, detailed artworks, and explanatory maps, and the text is a wonderful blend of technical information, fast-flowing narrative, and informed commentary.

 

Recommended Reading: Civil War Ironclads: The U.S. Navy and Industrial Mobilization (Johns Hopkins Studies in the History of Technology). Description: "In this impressively researched and broadly conceived study, William Roberts offers the first comprehensive study of one of the most ambitious programs in the history of naval shipbuilding, the Union's ironclad program during the Civil War. Perhaps more importantly, Roberts also provides an invaluable framework for understanding and analyzing military-industrial relations, an insightful commentary on the military acquisition process, and a cautionary tale on the perils of the pursuit of perfection and personal recognition." - Robert Angevine, Journal of Military History "Roberts's study, illuminating on many fronts, is a welcome addition to our understanding of the Union's industrial mobilization during the Civil War and its inadvertent effects on the postwar U.S. Navy." - William M. McBride, Technology and Culture"

 

Recommended Reading: A History of Ironclads: The Power of Iron over Wood. Description: This landmark book documents the dramatic history of Civil War ironclads and reveals how ironclad warships revolutionized naval warfare. Author John V. Quarstein explores in depth the impact of ironclads during the Civil War and their colossal effect on naval history. The Battle of Hampton Roads was one of history's greatest naval engagements. Over the course of two days in March 1862, this Civil War conflict decided the fate of all the world's navies. It was the first battle between ironclad warships, and the 25,000 sailors, soldiers and civilians who witnessed the battle vividly understood what history would soon confirm: wars waged on the seas would never be the same. Continued below…

About the Author: John V. Quarstein is an award-winning author and historian. He is director of the Virginia War Museum in Newport News and chief historical advisor for The Mariners' Museum's new USS Monitor Center (opened March 2007). Quarstein has authored eleven books and dozens of articles on American, military and Civil War history, and has appeared in documentaries for PBS, BBC, The History Channel and Discovery Channel.

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