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USS Delaware (1861)
USS Delaware
USRC Louis McLane, formerly USS Delaware.
Career (US)
Name: USS Delaware
Builder: Harlan & Hollingsworth, Wilmington, Delaware
Laid down: 1860
Launched: 1861
Acquired: 14 October 1861
Commissioned: 12 December 1861
Decommissioned: 5 August 1865
Struck: est. 1919
Fate: sold on 12 September 1865 to the US Treasury Department for $40,000
Notes: Commissioned as USRC Delaware, 1865
Commissioned as USRC Louis McLane, 1873
Merchant steamer Louis Dolive, 1903
General characteristics
Type: Gunboat
Displacement: 357 long tons (363 t)
Length: 161 ft (49 m)
Beam: 27 ft (8.2 m)
Draft: 6 ft (1.8 m)
Depth: 8 ft 3 in (2.51 m)
Propulsion: 1 × walking beam engine
side wheel propelled
Speed: 13 kn (15 mph; 24 km/h)
Complement: 65 (Navy), 33 (Revenue Cutter Service)
Armament: 4 × 32-pounder guns, 1 × 12-pounder rifled gun

USS Delaware (1861) was a steamer acquired by the Union Navy for use during the American Civil War. She had a very active wartime career as a gunboat, and after the war served as a revenue cutter. The steamer was sold to the private sector in 1909, and disappeared from shipping registers in 1919.


The Delaware — a sidewheel steamer — was the fourth ship to be named Delaware by the Navy. She was built in 1861 at the Harlan & Hollingsworth Iron Shipbuilding Company of Wilmington, Delaware. The steamboat, initially called the Edenton, was ordered in 1860 by the Albemarle Steam Packet Company. This company was made up of 24 businessmen from northeastern North Carolina who wanted to operate a steamboat in the Albemarle Sound area of North Carolina. According to the agreement, the steamboat would be built using "timbers of bar iron, attached to the hull plating via keepers." The Packet Company's president, Edward Wood of Edenton, grew concerned over the deteriorating situation between the North and the South. Wood ultimately stopped payments over fear that the steamboat, now called the Virginia Dare would be detained. (Hayes Collection, SHC) Later the Virginia Dare was purchased by the Union Navy on 14 October 1861, and renamed USS Delaware. Lieutenant S. P. Quackenbush was placed in command.

Assigned to the North Atlantic blockade

Delaware's task — during the course of her patrols — was to sink or capture Confederate ships, and to bombard forts and other military installations. Assigned to the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, Delaware sailed from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on 12 December 1861 and stood up the James River on 26 December on patrol. On 12 January 1862, she sailed for Hatteras Inlet, North Carolina as part of General Burnside's expedition against Confederate forces in the North Carolina sounds. Delaware took part in the capture of Roanoke Island on 7–8 February, and on 10 February she took part in the attack on Elizabeth City, North Carolina, where she shared in the capture or destruction of five Confederate gunboats and two schooners. On 19 February, Delaware and seven other gunboats made a reconnaissance up the Chowan River. The purpose of this voyage was to destroy two railroad bridges above the town of Winton. It was during this foray that she was nearly ambushed at the town wharf by a force of Confederate soldiers and artillery hiding among the brush near the dock. Union commander Rush Hawkins, who was in the crosstrees of the foremast, spotted the Confederates and warned the helmsman in time to sheer off. Delaware's superstructure was severely shot up by rifle fire, but fortunately the artillery overshot its mark. After pulling away from the dock Delaware returned fire and dispersed the Confederate militia. The next day, Delaware and the other gunboats returned to Winton. Finding it deserted, the town was burned, partly in retaliation for the ambush. (Barrett 1963) On 13–14 March, Delaware participated in the capture of New Bern, and captured four vessels.(DANSF)

Virginia river operations

Delaware arrived in Hampton Roads on 2 June for service in Virginia waters until 30 October. She had several encounters with enemy batteries and captured a number of small craft which she sent in as prizes. She returned to operations in the rivers and sounds of North Carolina from October 1862-February 1863, when she sailed with Valley City in tow, arriving at Hampton Roads on the 11th.

Until 5 April 1863, Delaware cruised in the James and York Rivers and Chesapeake Bay, then on the North Carolina coast until 27 November, when she sailed to Baltimore, Maryland, for repairs. On 27 March 1864, she returned to the waters of Virginia, to patrol and perform picket duty, transport men and ordnance stores, and clear the rivers of torpedoes (mines) until the end of the war.

U.S Revenue Cutter Service history

Arriving at Washington Navy Yard on 27 July 1865, Delaware was decommissioned there on 5 August and sold on 12 September to the United States Revenue Cutter Service. Commissioned as the USRC Delaware, she served as a Revenue cutter homeported at Galveston, Texas in 1865. In 1868, she underwent extensive repairs at Baltimore, Maryland and was then reassigned to Mobile, Alabama. Delaware was homeported in Pensacola, Florida and renamed the USRC Louis McLane in 1873, honoring the twelfth Secretary of the Treasury Louis McLane. In 1877 she served out of Key West, Florida until 23 October 1903, when she was sold to the private sector for $4195. Renamed the Louis Dolive, she operated until 1919, when she was removed from shipping registers. (Canney, 1995), (Lytle-Holdcamper, 1975)


  • This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.
  • Naval Historical Center Online Library-US Navy ship listings retrieved on 10-11-07
  • Wood Family Papers in the Hayes Collection, Southern Historical Collection, UNC Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
  • John G. Barrett, The Civil War in North Carolina, UNC Press, North Carolina,1963.
  • Donald L. Canney, U.S. Coast Guard and Revenue Cutters, 1790-1935, Naval Institute Press, 1995
  • William Lytle & Forrest Holdcamper, Merchant Steam Vessels of the United States, 1790-1868, Steamship Historical Society, New York, 1975.

External links

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