USS Wyalusing (1863)

USS Wyalusing (1863)

USS "Wyalusing" was a double-end, side-wheel gunboat that served in the United States Navy during the American Civil War. She was named for the borough of Wyalusing in Bradford County, Pennsylvania.

"Wyalusing" was built at Philadelphia by C. H. & W. H. Cramp, launched on May 12, 1863, and commissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on February 8, 1864, with Lieutenant Commander Walter W. Queen in command.

Assigned to the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, "Wyalusing" joined the contingent of that force stationed in Albemarle Sound, North Carolina on April 29. Just 10 days before her arrival, the Confederate ironclad ram CSS "Albemarle" had made her long-awaited appearance in battle, ramming two of the blockading Union gunboats in the process. As a result of her support, Confederate land forces recaptured Plymouth, North Carolina on April 20. "Wyalusing" had her first scrape with the formidable Confederate warship on May 5. "Albemarle" steamed out of her haven on the Roanoke River that afternoon accompanied by steamers CSS "Bombshell" and CSS "Cotton Plant" to try to wreak more havoc on the blockaders. The Union picket boats stationed at the mouth of the Roanoke retired to raise the alarm. Gunboats USS "Mattabesett", USS "Sassacus", USS "Whitehead" and "Wyalusing" immediately formed a line of battle supported by USS "Miami", USS "Commodore Hull" and USS "Ceres". When the Southern ram appeared, "Mattabesset", "Whitehead" and "Wyalusing" opened fire almost simultaneously. "Wyalusing" passed "Albemarle" at about 150 yards distance, rounded her, and headed to attack "Bombshell". The latter Confederate, however, had already surrendered, so "Wyalusing" backed clear of her and renewed the attack on the more formidable foe, "Albemarle". A heavy, but inconclusive, gun action ensued. Impending darkness brought the fighting to a close, and "Albemarle" headed back up the Roanoke.

"Wyalusing" and her consorts resumed blockade station in the sound, but all efforts were made over the next fire months to destroy the Confederate ironclad. The first of those missions was concocted and attempted by five "Wyalusing" sailors on May 26. They rowed up Middle River that afternoon carrying two 100-pound torpedoes, and then carried them by stretcher across the swampland separating the Middle and Roanoke Rivers to a point just above and opposite "Albemarle"s mooring place at Plymouth. Two of the sailors then swam across the river with a towline attached to the explosive devices and then hauled them across. The torpedoes were then joined together by a bridle, and one of the sailors guided them down toward the ram hoping to place the bridle across her prow with a torpedo making contact with either side of her hull. He was then to swim clear before another man stationed across the river detonated the torpedoes electrically. Unfortunately, the Confederates caught sight of both swimmer and torpedoes when they were just a few yards short of their goal. A hail of musketry from the shore followed soon after a sentry's hail. The swimmer quickly cut the guide line, retired, and then swam back across the river. The five Union sailors scattered. Three returned to "Wyalusing" on the evening of May 28. The remaining two rejoined their ship the following night after rescue by "Commodore Hull". The five men, Charles H. Baldwin, Benjamin Lloyd, Alexander Crawford, John Laverty and John W. Lloyd, ultimately received the Medal of Honor for their daring attempt.

During the ensuing months, while "Wyalusing" remained on station in the sound, more unsuccessful plans to destroy the Confederate ram were developed. It was not until the night of October 27—28 that Lieutenant William B. Cushing accomplished "Albemarle"s destruction in a steam launch outfitted with a spar torpedo. That event opened the way for the recapture of Plymouth and for further offensive action on the Roanoke and Middle Rivers. On October 29, "Wyalusing", in company with other gunboats, steamed up the Roanoke toward Plymouth; but, just below the objective, impassable barriers barred the way. Undaunted, the warships crossed over to Middle River, journeyed to another crossover point above Plymouth, and then steamed downriver toward the goal. The next day, the gunboats exchanged shot and shell with Confederate shore batteries and rifle pits protecting Plymouth. The Confederates fought stubbornly, but the heavy-caliber Union cannonade eventually prevailed and forced the Southerners to abandon their fortifications. A landing party from "Wyalusing" took possession of Fort Williams, captured prisoners, and helped to retake Plymouth.

On December 9, an expedition, of which "Wyalusing" was a part, moved farther up the Roanoke to capture Rainbow Bluff and another Confederate ram, rumored to be under construction at Halifax, North Carolina. While anchoring near Jamesville, North Carolina, USS "Ostego", another gunboat, struck two torpedoes (mines) and sank up to her gun deck. USS "Bazely", a tug, moved alongside "Ostego" to offer assistance, but she, too, struck a torpedo and sank immediately. "Wyalusing" and the remainder of the expedition left the two partially sunken ships under the protection of their own unsubmerged guns and headed upriver, cautiously dragging for torpedoes as they went. By the time they had reached the point of attack, the Confederate positions at Rainbow Bluff had been so well reinforced and the approaches so heavily strewn with torpedoes that the Union ships had to abandon the enterprise. "Wyalusing" and her consorts returned to Plymouth on December 28, 1864 and resumed blockade and amphibious support duties.

On January 9, 1865, she captured the schooner "Triumph", laden with salt, at the mouth of the Perquimans River. She also helped to clear the various rivers and streams along the sound of obstructions and torpedoes and managed to capture a Confederate schooner in the process. She continued duty in the Albemarle Sound and Cape Hatteras areas until a month after General Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox, Virginia on April 9. She arrived in New York on May 21 and was decommissioned there on June 10, 1865. Later transferred to Philadelphia, she was sold there on October 15, 1867.

As of 2005, no other ship in the United States Navy has been named "Wyalusing".


External links

* [ USS "Wyalusing"]

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