USS Bazely (1863)

USS Bazely (1863)

USS "Bazely" (1863) (also designated "Tug No. 2" and "Beta") was a steamer acquired by the Union Navy during the American Civil War. She was used by the Union Navy in a tugboat/patrol boat role in support of the Union Navy blockade of Confederate waterways.

Conversion of tugboat role to patrol craft role

"J. E. Bazely" -- a screw tug built in 1863 at Gloucester, New Jersey -- was one of six similar vessels purchased at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, by the U.S. Navy on 3 June 1864 to support other Union warships in all the varied ways in which tugs assist larger ships. These vessels were also needed to help protect Northern men of war and Union Army transports against surprise attacks by Confederate rams, torpedo boats, or other novel craft which had been a cause of great concern since "CSS Virginia’s" first foray on 8 March 1862. The submersible H. L. Hunley’s sinking of the screw sloop of war "Housatonic" and the ironclad ram "Albemarle’s" destruction of the side wheel gunboat "Southfield" later underscored the dangers posed by such innovative Southern vessels.

Redesignation process of names to numbers

When the U.S. Navy Department designated these tugs as patrol boats, "J. E. Bazely" became "Patrol Boat No. 2". Her sister tugs lost their merchant names; and, thereafter, each was referred to by her new designation. In practice, however, for some reason "Patrol Boat No. 2" continued to carry a shortened version of her former name, "Bazely".

Civil War service

Assigned to the North Atlantic Blockade

All six tugs were assigned to the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron; and, although "Bazely" first appeared on its list of vessels on 17 June, she did not reach Hampton Roads, Virginia, until late in July. Commanded by Acting Ensign John Conner, the tug was assigned to the North Carolina Sounds. Towed by side wheel steamer "Nansemond", she and "Belle" got underway for Hatteras Inlet on the 27th; and the trio, along with sister tugs "Hoyt" and "Martin" who had been pulled by "Monticello", entered the inland waters on the 29th. "Bazely" began operations in Albemarle Sound supporting the Union light draft warships which were guarding the mouth of the Roanoke River lest the dreaded Southern ram "Albemarle" reemerge and attempt to destroy the Union forces which were struggling to maintain a tenuous control on the area.

"CSS Albemarle" destroyed by spar torpedo on "Picket Launch No. 1"

After Conner fell ill in mid August, Acting Master’s Mate John Woodman, detached from "Ceres", relieved him in command of "Bazely" that had since added "Tug No. 2" to her list of names. Well into the autumn, most of the tug’s attention -- and that of the other warships within the sounds -- was concentrated upon the Confederate ironclad. Then, suddenly, on the night of 27 October, Lt. William B. Cushing put an end to that menace by his courageous ascent of the Roanoke River in "Picket Launch No. 1" to destroy "Albemarle" by exploding a spar torpedo against her hull.

"Bazely" supports attack and capture of Plymouth, North Carolina

His daring feat freed Union naval forces in the sounds to undertake operations that would strengthen their hold on North Carolina and cleared the way for "Bazely’s" most notable achievement, her participation in the Union expedition that recaptured Plymouth, North Carolina. Before the attack upon that Southern position, Comdr. William H. Macomb, the senior naval officer in the sounds, had a tug lashed to each of the principal warships to assure her propulsion in the event her own engine became disabled. "Bazely" was tied to "Shamrock"; and her new commanding officer, Acting Ensign Mark D. Ames, was praised for working and fighting his ship admirably and was recommended for promotion. Besides taking the town, the expedition captured “22 cannon, 200 stand of arms, 37 prisoners, and all the enemy’s flags.”

A confusion of names as "Bazely" returns to the North Atlantic Blockade

About the time "Bazely" and her sister tugs -- "Picket Boat No. 1" through "Picket Boat No. 6" -- joined the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, and six somewhat smaller craft also appeared on the squadron's list of vessels under similar names: "Picket Launch No. 1" through "Picket Launch No. 6". The profound confusion that resulted from this likeness in nomenclature prompted the Navy sometime between 1 November and 5 December 1864 to rename the former "J. E. Bazely" and her sisters for the first six letters of the Greek alphabet Alpha through Zeta. Thus "Picket Boat No. 2", alias "Bazely" and "Tug No. 2", became "Beta". Nevertheless, she did not get the opportunity to carry this new name for long, if at all.

"Bazely", assisting another stricken vessel, strikes a mine and sinks

More weighty matters than name changes seemed to be occupying the leaders of the Navy in the North Carolina sounds. Besides consolidating the Union position in the wake of "Albemarle’s" destruction, Comdr. Macomb, the senior naval officer in the area, felt concern over the report of another Confederate ironclad rumored under construction up the Roanoke River at Halifax, North Carolina.

On the afternoon of 9 December, an expedition under his command started to move farther up the Roanoke from Plymouth to capture Rainbow Bluff and to destroy the reported ram. That evening, however, the double-ender "Otsego" struck two torpedoes near Jamesville, North Carolina, and sank. "Beta" -- still called "Bazely" in Macomb’s report -- headed for "Otsego" to lend assistance, but herself struck a torpedo (mine) whose explosion killed two men and caused the tug to sink.

Her sister ships return later to destroy the remains of "Bazely"

The surviving ships of the expedition continued upstream, but the necessity of dragging for torpedoes (mines) slowed their progress, a delay that allowed the Southerners to reinforce Rainbow Bluff. Since Union troops -- who were scheduled to cooperate with the gunboats -- did not arrive to support the attack, Macomb decided on 20 December to withdraw his ships. They arrived back at Jamesville on Christmas Day and carried out the task of destroying "Beta" -- which they still called "Bazely" -- lest she fall into Confederate hands.


See also

* United States Navy
* American Civil War
* Confederate States Navy

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