USS James Adger (1851)


USS James Adger (1851)

USS "James Adger" was a sidewheel steamer in the United States Navy during the American Civil War. She retained her former name.

Before being pressed into service by the United States Navy, the SS James Adger was a United States Mail Steamship operating between Charleston, SC and New York, NY. Owned by James Adger II (James Adger & Co) of Charleston SC, she was seized while in New York, NY at the outset of the Civil War and converted for military duty by the United States Navy.

"James Adger" was built at New York City in 1851, was purchased at New York from Spofford, Tileston & Co., 20 July 1861; and commissioned at New York Navy Yard 20 September 1861, Comdr. John B. Marchand in command.

"James Adger" departed New York 16 October 1861 in pursuit of "Nashville", a Confederate cruiser reported to have escaped from Charleston, South Carolina with the South's ministers to England and France, James M. Mason and John Slidell ("See": Trent Affair). She arrived Queenstown, Ireland, after an extremely stormy passage in October and spent November cruising in quest of her elusive quarry; the diplomats were apprehended by USS San Jacinto on November 8, 1861.

While in port the Captain of the Adger began the legal questions that would be used in the Trent Affair by loudly speaking of his mission while intoxicated on brandy. Earl Russell would hear of his mission and set the Law offices of the Crown to work deciding on the status of diplomats as a form of contraband.

Blockade duty

"James Adger" arrived Hampton Roads, Va., 2 December and 3 days later was ordered to Port Royal, South Carolina for duty in the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron. Rear Admiral DuPont ordered Comdr. Marchand to sail in "James Adger" to Georgetown, S.C., and assume command of the blockade there. She arrived off Georgetown, S.C., 24 December and served with such efficiency that on 7 March 1862, Comdr. Marchand was ordered to Charleston to command the blockade at that critical port.

At Charleston smooth teamwork was the key to success; and "James Adger" was unusually adept in cooperating with other ships in the area to assure the effectiveness of the blockade. As senior ship, she usually remained on station while others chased blockade runners; but, from time to time, she took part in a capture herself. On 18 March 1862 she joined four other Union ships in capturing "Emily St. Pierre" attempting to slip into Charleston with a cargo of 2,173 bales of gunny cloth sorely needed for baling cotton, the South's main export and source of foreign credit. She helped "Keystone State" 29 May 1862 in capturing "Elizabeth", a 250-ton steamer trying to enter Charleston with a cargo of munitions. She assisted Keystone State and Flag in driving off and pursuing her old adversary Nashville, now a blockade runner named Thomas U. Wragg trying to slip into Charleston.

"James Adger" sailed for Baltimore 19 September for repairs and departed for the South 31 December touching at Hampton Roads 2 January 1863 to take monitor "Montauk" in tow before proceeding to Beaufort and Port Royal in preparation for an attack on Charleston. Arriving Port Royal 19 January, the ships learned that "Nashville", now a privateer called "Rattlesnake", was in the Ogeechee River. "James Adger" stood out of Port Royal, monitor "Montauk" in tow, 22 January and steamed to Ossabaw Sound, where she arrived two days later. "Montauk" ascended the Ogeechee independently to begin operations which resulted in the destruction of "Rattlesnake" 28 February. Meanwhile "James Adger", her vital towing service completed, returned to Port Royal 29 January.

On 2 April the veteran ship became flagship for Rear Admiral Samuel F. Du Pont while he supervised final preparations for his powerful monitor attack upon Charleston. After the tough ironclads were driven back by incredibly intense fire from Confederate batteries, "James Adger" towed crippled monitors to Port Royal and on 29 April sailed from Port Royal towing USS Passaic north for repairs, arriving New York 4 May.

Back in Port Royal 16 May, "James Adger" was assigned blockade duty off Charleston. A month later she was recalled to Port Royal to embark prisoners captured with Atlanta for passage to Fort Monroe, whence she steamed to Philadelphia for repairs. She arrived Philadelphia 25 June but immediately after coaling sailed in pursuit of Confederate commerce railer Tacony, then operating against Union merchantmen far up the East Coast. She arrived New York 3 July.

North Atlantic Blockade

Four days later "James Adger", not yet repaired, received orders to Wilmington for duty with the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron. Arriving Wilmington 27 July, she was stationed off New Inlet, where 5 days later she assisted "Iroquois" and "Mount Vernon" in taking Confederate steamer "Kate". On 8 November with the assistance of "Niphon" she captured "Cornubia", an iron side wheeler bringing in a valuable cargo of arms, ammunition, and chemicals. Moreover, a package of documents thrown overboard before the capture, when plucked out of the sea, divulged information so important to the South that Cornubia's captain lamented, "though the Cornubia is a small vessel the Confederate Government could better have afforded to lose almost any other..." The next morning "James Adger" took Confederate steamer "Robert E. Lee" coming into Wilmington from Bermuda with a cargo of arms and Army clothing sorely needed by Lee's soldiers. Schooner Ella, approaching Wilmington with a cargo of salt and yard goods from Nassau, Bahamas, was "James Adger's" next victim, surrendering 26 November.

Without the normal overhaul periods due ships and men, service was taking a daily toll in wear and tear. When the ship's long postponed repairs could be delayed no longer, "James Adger" sailed north and decommissioned at Philadelphia 28 December for the necessary yard work.

End of Civil War

After recommissioning 17 June 1864, "James Adger" served in the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron until the end of the war. On 21 April 1865, Secretary Gideon Welles ordered her to Mariguana Passage (now Mayaguana Passage) in the Bahamas to escort a convoy of California-bound ships. Following a visit to New York, she cruised in the Caribbean off Panama and Colombia from August 1865 to February 1866. Back in New York, she assisted British steamer European after she exploded in New York Harbor 3 April 1866.

"James Adger" decommissioned at New York Navy Yard 2 May and was sold at New York to James B. Campbell 9 October 1866.

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


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