USS Advance (1862)

USS Advance (1862)

USS "Advance" (1862), later known as the USS "Frolic", was a blockade runner captured by the Union Navy during the closing years of the American Civil War. She was purchased by the Union Navy and outfitted as a gunboat and assigned to the blockade of the waterways of the Confederate States of America. She also served as dispatch ship and supply vessel when military action eventually slowed down.

Service with the Confederacy

The second U.S. Navy ship to be so named, "Advance" -- a schooner-rigged, sidewheel steamer built at Greenock, Scotland, by Caird & Co. was launched on 3 July 1862 as the Clyde packet "Lord Clyde" -- was jointly purchased by the state of North Carolina and the firm of Lord, Power & Co. to serve as a blockade runner during the Civil War. She was renamed "Advance" in honor of the Governor of North Carolina, Zebulon B. Vance. She completed more than 20 highly successful voyages and 40 close calls with Union ships standing blockade watches,

Captured by the Union Navy

"Advance" was captured by "Santiago de Cuba" on 10 September 1864 when she attempted to put to sea from Wilmington, North Carolina. Condemned by the New York prize court, "Advance" was purchased by the Navy that same month; then renamed USS "Advance" and commissioned at the New York Navy Yard on 28 October 1864, Lt. Comdr. John H. Upshur in command.

Civil War service

Assigned to the bombardment of Fort Fisher

"Advance" departed New York City on 30 October; arrived off Wilmington, North Carolina, on 14 November; and joined the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron. In addition to her reversed role -- catching blockade runners as opposed to being one -- she participated in the two expeditions against Fort Fisher, located on Confederate (Federal) Point at the mouth of the Cape Fear River.

The first – abortive -- attempt was carried out between 24 and 26 December 1864 after a bizarre attempt to flatten some of the defenses by running what amounted to a fire-ship stocked with some 30 tons of gunpowder aground at a point some 250 to 300 yards north of the fort. Needless to say, that unique shore bombardment proved to be a huge flash in the pan causing little or no damage. When the fleet moved in on the 24th, "Advance" was in the 1st Reserve Division which appears to have constituted a second line of bombarding ships behind the ironclads. She fired only her large 20-pounder rifle and stopped that when she had to go to the assistance of the stricken "Osceola" and tow her to a safe anchorage.

The following day, Christmas 1864, she and five or six other warships moved off to draw fire from Half Moon Battery as preparation for the Army's landings. Though an 8-inch gun in the Confederate battery drove off other vessels in the division as well as some Union Army transports, "Advance" claimed credit for silencing that gun with her heavy rifle. The Army landed late Christmas Day. Firing continued through the day and intermittently that night -- fire that degenerated into covering fire to protect the bogged-down Federals instead of a bombardment preparatory to the by-then cancelled assault. "Advance" retired from Cape Fear on the 26th and the remnants of General Butler's Army force embarked on the 27th.

After a visit to Norfolk, Virginia, for supplies between 31 December 1864 and 11 January 1865, "Advance" returned to her blockade station off the Cape Fear River mouth on 13 January – Friday the 13th, to be exact, an ominous day for the Southerners defending Fort Fisher. Before dawn that day, the Federal fleet unleashed a terrific bombardment on the fort. Not long thereafter, around 0800, about 8,000 Union troops began landing on the peninsula north of the fortifications.

The following day, the fleet resumed its bombardment while the Union Army began landing its own supporting artillery. "Advance", in one of the reserve divisions, helped support the landing of the Army guns and supplies while the bulk of the fleet continued to batter the Fort Fisher defenses. The main attack commenced on 15 January 1865. The Army, aided by sailors and marines from the fleet, stormed the Southern positions. Heavily outnumbered and outgunned, the Confederates fought with the tenacity and ferocity of desperation -- more often than not at close quarters with bayonets and rifle butts. They fought the entire day and into the evening but to no avail. The last fortifications, Battery Buchanan and the Mound, gave up at about 2200 (10 p.m.) that evening. The Navy had closed the eastern portion of the Confederacy's last avenue of contact with the outside world.

North Atlantic blockade operations

"Advance" resumed duty on the blockade. With the last deep-draft Confederate port closed, few runners tried to make the run. Those that did were of very shallow draft and of even more limited cargo capacity than that characteristic of their deep-draft predecessors. That fact made blockade running a highly unprofitable venture considering the danger involved. As a consequence, "Advance" participated in no captures.

Instead, she served as a dispatch and supply ship for the remainder of her tour of duty with the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron.

End-of-war activity

On 11 February, she put into Norfolk for a month of repairs before embarking passengers and sailing for New York City on 13 March. She reached that port the following day and entered the New York Navy Yard. On 16 March 1865, "Advance" was detached from the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron and was placed out of commission at New York City. She remained inactive for about three months during which time hostilities ended in most essentials. On 22 April, almost a fortnight after General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia, "Advance" was renamed "Frolic". On 12 June 1865, she was recommissioned under her new name, Lt. Comdr. John H. Upshur again in command.

Post-war operations as USS "Frolic"

On 24 June 1865, "Frolic" departed the east coast to join the newly formed European Squadron and arrived at Flushing in the Netherlands on 17 July. Over the next four years, she made ceremonial visits to ports in Europe including many on the Mediterranean littoral. Those events reached a particularly high frequency during 1867 and 1868 when David Glasgow Farragut commanded the squadron. On 22 March 1869, the ship departed Lisbon, Portugal, to return to the United States. She arrived in New York City on 30 April and was placed out of commission there on 8 May 1869.

1869 recommissioning

Recommissioned on 24 September 1869, "Frolic" patrolled the fishing grounds off Nova Scotia between April and October 1870. She arrived at Washington, D.C., on 26 October 1870 and was decommissioned there on 11 November for repairs. On 18 January 1872, she was recommissioned at Washington, Lt. Comdr. G. C. Remey in command. On 19 February, "Frolic" departed Washington, D.C., to relieve "Tallapoosa" on patrol off the New England coast. She concluded that assignment in May and returned to Washington on the 24th.

Between 12 and 16 June 1872, she made the passage between Washington, D.C. and New York City. At the latter port, she became station ship and, on the 29th, broke the flag of Vice Admiral Stephen C. Rowan. She served alternately as station ship at New York and on patrols at sea until 30 April 1874 at which time she was decommissioned at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for repairs. Recommissioned on 18 August 1875, "Frolic" departed Philadelphia for duty on the South Atlantic Station a week later. She cruised the coasts of Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil for a little over two years.

Final decommissioning

She returned to Washington, D.C., on 20 October 1877 and was decommissioned there for the last time on 31 October 1877. "Frolic" remained at Washington, in ordinary, until sold to Mr. J. P. Agnew, of Alexandria, Virginia, on 1 October 1883.


Additional references:
* [ USS Advance/Frolic]
* [ USS Advance/Frolic]

See also

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

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