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CSS Patrick Henry

Displacement: 1300 tons.
Dimensions: 250ft x 34ft x 13ft.
Armament: Varied. In March 1861 had ten guns- in July 1861 had two 10-inch pivot in broadside; in March 1862 had six guns; from November 1863 had four guns. She carried a mixture, with six 8-inch and one 64-pdr, as well as two 32-pdr.
Crew: 150.

        Patrick Henry was a sidewheel merchant steamer which ran between New York and Richmond, Virginia. Formerly known as the Yorktown, this brigantine-rigged steamer was built in New York in 1859 for the Old Dominion Steamship Line. She was seized by the state authorities when Virginia seceded on April 17, 1861, and turned over to the Confederate Navy. At the time of her seizure she was anchored in the James River. The lightly protected warship was immediately taken into the James River Squadron and served near Mulberry Island to help protect the right flank of the Confederate position on the peninsula.
        In September and December she made brief forays down the James River and fired at long range at the Union gunboats. Later, during the battle between the Merrimack and the wooden Union vessels on March 8, Patrick Henry approached the stranded Congress, assuming that the Union vessel had surrendered. As she neared it, she came under accurate fire from supporting Union vessels and was driven o after receiving a shell in her steam chest which killed four men.
        With the surrender of Norfolk on May 10, 1862, the Confederate force retired up the James River, repulsing pursuing Union vessels on the way. As the Confederate Government needed young officers for its growing navy, the Patrick Henry was chosen as a school ship, taking on its first class of fifty midshipmen in October 1863. Numbers later increased to sixty, , with thirteen teachers in attendance. Sometimes she took part in action with the midshipmen on board.
        On April 2 her career ended when she was set on fire after Richmond was evacuated. Her cadets guarded the public treasure of $500,000 which was destined for the new government seat of Danville. After this they were each given $40 in gold to help them reach their homes.

Source:  "Warships and Naval Battles of the Civil War" By Tony Gibbons

This Page last updated 11/16/04


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