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USS Gettysburg
Gettysburg in the Bay of Naples, 1878
Name: 1858—1862: Douglas (1)
1862—1864: Margaret and Jessie
1864-1879: USS Gettysburg
Port of registry: File:Civil Ensign of the Isle of Man.svg Douglas (1858–62)
File:US flag 38 stars.svg United States Navy (1862-79)
Builder: Robert Napier & Sons' Govan
Laid down: 1858
Launched: 1858
Acquired: by capture, 5 November 1863
Commissioned: 2 May 1864
Decommissioned: 6 May 1879
Fate: Sold, Genoa, Italy, 8 May 1879
General characteristics
Type: Sidewheel gunboat
Displacement: 950 long tons (970 t)
Length: 221 ft (67 m)
Beam: 26 ft 3 in (8.00 m)
Depth of hold: 13 ft 6 in (4.11 m)
Propulsion: Steam engine
Speed: Trials: 17.75 kn (20.43 mph; 32.87 km/h)
Service: 15 kn (17 mph; 28 km/h)
Complement: 96 officers and men
Armament: 1 × 30-pounder Parrott rifle, 2 × 12-pounder rifles, 4 × 24-pounder howitzers

The first USS Gettysburg was a steamer in the Union Navy.

The ship was built in Glasgow, Scotland in 1858, named Douglas, and operated for the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company between Liverpool, United Kingdom and Douglas on the Isle of Man until November 1862. She was then sold to the Confederacy, renamed Margaret and Jessie, and operated as a blockade runner until her capture by the Union on 5 November 1863. The ship was renamed Gettysburg, and commissioned into the Union Navy on 2 May 1864.

During her military service, Gettysburg operated with the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, was involved in both the first and second attacks on Fort Fisher, helped lay telegraph cables between Key West and Havana and undertook navigational surveys of the Caribbean and the Mediterranean.

Gettysburg was decommissioned on 6 May 1879 and sold two days later.

Pre-Civil War[]

Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, 1858-1862[]

Due to increasing passenger traffic between the Isle of Man and England, it was decided in 1858 that a larger, faster ship would be ordered for the packet fleet. During trials, she achieved 17.75 kn (20.43 mph; 32.87 km/h), and was declared the fastest Channel Steamer in existence during the period. In November 1858, she was sold to Cunard, Wilson & Co, on behalf of the Confederate agents, Fraser, Trenholm & Co. She was renamed Margaret and Jessie and sailed in gray livery for the Confederate States.

1863 capture[]

Margaret and Jessie was captured as a blockade runner on 5 November 1863 by Army transport Fulton, Keystone State, and Nansemond off Wilmington, North Carolina. She was purchased from the New York Prize Court by the Navy and commissioned Gettysburg at New York Navy Yard on 2 May 1864, Lieutenant Roswell Lamson commanding.

Civil War[]

North Atlantic Blockading Squadron[]

A fast, strong steamer, Gettysburg was assigned blockading duty with the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, and departed New York on 7 May. She arrived at Beaufort, North Carolina on 14 May and from there took station at the entrance to the Cape Fear River.

For the next seven months, Gettysburg was engaged in the vital business of capturing blockade runners carrying supplies to the strangling South. She captured several ships, and occasionally performed other duties. On 8 October, for instance, she rescued six survivors from schooner Home, which had capsized in a squall.

Battle of Fort Fisher[]

Gettysburg took part in the attack on Fort Fisher on 24–25 December 1864. Gettysburg assisted with the devastating bombardment prior to the landings by Army troops, and during the actual landings stood in close to shore to furnish cover for the assault. Gettysburg's boats were used to help transport troops to the beaches.

With the failure of the first attack on the Confederate works, plans were laid for another assault, this time including a landing force of sailors and marines to assault the sea face of the fort. In this second attack on 15 January 1865, Gettysburg again engaged the fort in the preliminary bombardment, and furnished a detachment of sailors under Lt. Roswell Lamson and other officers in an assault, which was stopped under the ramparts of Fort Fisher. Lamson and a group of officers and men were forced to spend the night in a ditch under Confederate guns before they could escape. Though failing to take the sea face of Fort Fisher, the attack by the Navy diverted enough of the defenders to make the Army assault successful. Gettysburg suffered two men killed and six wounded in the assault.

Gettysburg spent the remaining months of the war on blockade duty off Wilmington, North Carolina, and operated from April-June between Boston, Massachusetts and Norfolk, Virginia carrying freight and passengers. She was decommissioned on 23 June at New York Navy Yard.


Caribbean, 1866-1875[]

Recommissioning on 3 December 1866, Gettysburg made a cruise to the Caribbean Sea, returning to Washington on 18 February, and decommissioning again on 1 March 1867.

Gettysburg went back into commission on 3 March 1868 at Norfolk and put to sea on 28 March on special service in the Caribbean. Until July 1868, she visited various ports in the area protecting American interests, among them Kingston, Jamaica, Havana, Cuba, and ports of Haiti. From 3 July-13 August, Gettysburg assisted in the laying of a telegraph cable from Key West to Havana, and joined with scientists from the Hydrographic Office in a cruise to determine the longitudes of West Indian points using the electric telegraph. From 13 August 1868-1 October 1869, she cruised between various Haitian ports and Key West. Gettysburg arrived at the New York Navy Yard on 8 October, decommissioned the same day, and entered the Yard for repairs.

Gettysburg was laid up in ordinary until 6 November 1873, when she again commissioned at Washington Navy Yard. She spent several months transporting men and supplies to the various Navy Yards on the Atlantic coast, and on 25 February 1874 anchored in Pensacola harbor to embark members of the survey team seeking routes for an inter-oceanic canal in Nicaragua. Gettysburg transported the engineers to Aspinwall, Panama and Greytown, Nicaragua, and returned them to Norfolk on 10 May 1874. After several more trips on the Atlantic coast with passengers and supplies, the ship again decommissioned on 9 April 1875 at Washington Navy Yard.

Recommissioned on 21 September, Gettysburg departed Washington for Norfolk, where she arrived on 14 October. Assigned to assist in another of the important Hydrographic Office expeditions in the Caribbean, she departed Norfolk on 7 November. During the next few months she contributed to safe navigation in the West Indies in surveys that led to precise charts. She returned to Washington with the scientific team on 14 June, decommissioning on 26 June.

Mediterranean, 1876-1879[]

Gettysburg recommissioned on 20 September 1876, for special duty to the Mediterranean, where she was to obtain navigational information about the coasts and islands of the area. Gettysburg departed Norfolk on 17 October for Europe. During the next two years, she visited nearly every port in the Mediterranean, taking soundings and making observations on the southern coast of France, the entire coastline of Italy, and the Adriatic Islands. Gettysburg continued to the coast of Turkey, and from there made soundings on the coast of Egypt and other North African points, Sicily and Sardinia.

While visiting Genoa on 22 April 1879, Gettysburg rescued the crew of a small vessel which had run upon the rocks outside the breakwater.

Decommissioning and fate[]

Her iron plates corroded from years of almost uninterrupted service and her machinery weakened, Gettysburg was decommissioned on 6 May and sold two days later.


  • This article includes text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.
  • Lamson of the Gettysburg: The Civil War Letters of Lieutenant Roswell H. Lamson, U.S. Navy, James M. and Patricia R. McPherson, eds. (Oxford Univ. Press 1999)

External links[]