Military Wiki
USS Sumter (1863)
Career (US)
Ordered: as CSS General Sumter
Laid down: date unknown
Launched: in 1853 at Algiers, Louisiana
In service: April 1862
Out of service: August 1862
Struck: 1862 (est.)
Captured: by Union Navy forces
circa 6 June 1862
Fate: sank, August 1862
General characteristics
Displacement: 525 tons
Length: 182'
Beam: 28' 4"
Draught: depth of hold 10' 8"
Propulsion: steam engine
side wheel-propelled
Speed: not known
Complement: not known
Armament: two 32-pounder guns[1] or four 32-pounder and one 12-pounder gun[2]
Armour: steel plate, cotton bales

USS Sumter (1863) was a 525-ton steamer captured by the Union Navy during the Union blockade of the American Civil War.

Sumter was the cottonclad ram CSS General Sumter. She was placed into service for a short period of time before she ran aground and was destroyed.

Acquired by the Confederacy in 1861

Sumter was a side wheel steamer built as Junius Beebe, in 1853 at Algiers, Louisiana. She operated on the Mississippi River and its tributaries as a towboat until early 1861 when she was purchased by the State of Louisiana from Charles H. Morgan's Southern Steamship Company.

In January 1862, she was acquired by Capt. James E. Montgomery, CSN, for the Confederate War Department's River Defense Fleet. The steamer was refitted at Algiers as a cotton-clad ram by the James Martin yard. Her bow was strengthened by 4-inch oak sheathing covered by 1-inch iron plates. In addition, cotton bales were compressed between double pine bulkheads for added strength.

Serving the Confederacy as CSS General Sumter

Renamed General Sumter, the ram proceeded to Fort Pillow, Tennessee, on 17 April to be armed.

On 10 May, defending the main avenue to Memphis, Tennessee, Montgomery's fleet of eight attacked the Federal ironclads. In this action at Plum Point Bend, 4 miles above Fort Pillow, General Sumter, Raphael Semmes in command, steamed within 20 yards of Mortar Boat No. 16, whose projectiles were threatening the fort, and fired everything she had, including a rifle volley; two 32-pound shot pierced the iron blinds of the Union floating battery.[3]

Then CSS General Sterling Price and General Sumter cooperated in a well executed coordinated attack, one after the other, ramming USS Cincinnati at full speed so that she lost her rudder and much of her stern; Cincinnati (which Montgomery reported as Carondelet had to be run ashore to avoid sinking. Next, General Sumter rammed and damaged USS Mound City, but was damaged by artillery fire herself.[2] Thus, the Southern rams held off the Federal flotilla until the fort was successfully evacuated on 1 June. They then retired to Memphis to refuel.

Quickly following up the capture of Ft. Pillow, Union Flag Officer Charles H. Davis appeared off Memphis in force on 6 June. Montgomery, cornered without coal enough to retreat to Vicksburg, Mississippi, yet unwilling to scuttle his fleet, fought it out desperately in the Battle of Memphis. General Sumter rammed and seriously damaged USS Queen of the West, but eventually most of the Confederate vessels were destroyed or surrendered.[4]

Captured by Union forces, renamed USS Sumter

General Sumter did not sink; badly shot up, she ran on the Arkansas shore, was captured, refloated, and renamed Sumter by the Union Navy.

Abandoned after grounding

In August, she grounded again, downriver off Bayou Sara, Louisiana, and was abandoned except for spare-part raids on her machinery by the rest of the squadron at periods of low water. Before the local populace completed stripping her, Confederate authorities succeeded in setting fire to the hulk.

See also


  1. DANFS
  2. 2.0 2.1 Angus Konstam, Mississippi River Gunboats of the American Civil War 1861-1865, New Vanguard 46, Osprey Publishing, 2002, ISBN 1-84176-413-2.
  3. Source: DANFS note on Sumter. However, according to DANFS note on General Earl Van Dorn and A. Konstam, Mississippi River Gunboats..., it was General Earl Van Dorn to damage Mortar Boat No. 16
  4. According to A. Konstam, Mississippi River Gunboats..., Queen of the West was rammed by CSS General Beauregard, while Sumter tried to ram USS Monarch, but in effect collided with General Beauregard

This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entries can be found Confederate service here and Union service here.

Coordinates: 30°45′40″N 91°23′55″W / 30.76108°N 91.39852°W / 30.76108; -91.39852

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