USS Alert (aka Watch)

   

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in Union Navy

Editor’s Note: Do you have information on this ship’s role at the Siege of Petersburg?  Please contact us using the Contact button in the menu at the top of the screen.  We are happy to exchange information with other researchers.

Ship Information (from DANFS)1,2:

Name: USS Alert (renamed Watch on Feb. 2, 1865) Type: Screw Tug Tonnage: 90
Length: 62’ Beam: 17’ Draught: 6’5”
Speed: Max: 7 knots, Avg.: 4.5 knots Complement: 15 men Class: N/A
Armament: October 17 and November 14, 1864: 1 12-pdr. Smoothbore, 1 24-pdr.
Namesake: Not listed.

Images:

Image Needed (Does One Exist?)

 

Captain(s):
Acting Ensign John Bishop
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Captain 2
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Captain 3
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First Offensive Order of Battle (June 13-18, 1864): James River | North Atlantic Blockading Squadron | Union Navy (June 17, 1864)3

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  • Note: On June 17, 1864, this ship is noted as a “tug; temporary torpedo boat, tender and ram to ironclads” and was located “above Wilson’s Wharf” on the James River.4

Second Offensive Order of Battle (June 19-30, 1864):

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Third Offensive Order of Battle (July 1-31, 1864): Fourth Division (James River) | North Atlantic Blockading Squadron | Union Navy (July 31, 1864)5

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  • Note: On July 31, 1864, this ship is noted as a “tug.”6

Fourth Offensive Order of Battle (August 1-31, 1864): Fourth Division (James River) | North Atlantic Blockading Squadron | Union Navy (August 1 & 17, 1864)7,8

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Fifth Offensive Order of Battle (September 1-October 13, 1864): James River | North Atlantic Blockading Squadron | Union Navy (September 1 & 16 and October 1, 1864)9,10,11

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Sixth Offensive Order of Battle (October 14-31, 1864):

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  • Armament: 1 x 12-pdr. Smoothbore, 1 x 24-pdr. (October 17, 1864)12

Seventh Offensive Order of Battle (November 1-December 31, 1864): James River, Va. | North Atlantic Blockading Squadron | Union Navy (November 1 and December 1 & 15, 1864)13,14,15

  • Captain: Acting Ensign John Bishop (November 1 and December 5 & 15, 1864)16,17,18
  • Crew Strength:
  • Armament:
    • 1 x 12-pdr. Smoothbore, 1 x 24-pdr. (November 14, 1864)19
    • 2  x “guns” (December 15, 1864)20
  • Notes:
    • On November 12, 1864, this ship was on picket duty in the James River at “Dutch Gap” and was classified as a “purchased tug.”21
    • On December 15, 1864, this ship is noted as a “Class 4” vessel.22

Eighth Offensive Order of Battle (January 1-February 28, 1865):

James River, Va. | North Atlantic Blockading Squadron | Union Navy (January 1 & 15 and February 1 & 15, 1865)23,24,25,26

Norfolk Navy Yard, Va. | North Atlantic Blockading Squadron | Union Navy (February 25, 1865)27

Ninth Offensive Order of Battle (March 1-April 2, 1865): James River, Va. | North Atlantic Blockading Squadron | Union Navy (March 18 and April 1, 1865) (ordered to Potomac Flotilla on or prior to April 15, 1865)40,41,42

  • Captain: Acting Ensign John Bishop (March 18 and April 1 & 15, 1865)43,44,45
  • Crew Strength:
  • Armament:
    • 2 x “guns” (March 18, 1865)46
    • 1 x “gun” (April 1, 1865)47
  • Note: On March 18 and April 1 & 15, 1865, this ship is noted as a “Screw Class” vessel.48,49,50

 

Siege of Petersburg Battles:

  • Battle 1

 

Siege of Petersburg Involvement:51

The second Alert, a screw tug built in 1861 at Syracuse, N. Y., under the name A. C. Powell, was purchased at New York City by the Navy on 3 October 1861.

Since this small tug’s logs prior to 27 January 1865 have been lost, there are several significant gaps in our knowledge of her career.

During most of the remainder of her service [after 1862] the tug acted as a dispatch and picket boat on the James River. She also made occasional runs to the sounds of North Carolina with messages. During these operations, Confederate forces in the waters she frequented were constantly endeavoring to seize Union warships or to destroy them by guile.

In January 1864 work to fit her with torpedo apparatus began, but the experiment proved to be unsuccessful. As a result, the tug returned to duty in the James in May.

On 2 February 1865, Alert was renamed Watch. Her work on the James reached its climax early in April when she participated in the naval expedition to Richmond which took President Lincoln to the former Confederate capital. Soon thereafter, she left that river and raced to the Potomac, presumably to try to cut off the escape of the assassin, John Wilkes Booth, who had shot the President.

 

Bibliography:

    Siege of Petersburg Documents Which Mention This Unit:

      Sources:

      1. “DANFS.” Naval History and Heritage Command, www.history.navy.mil/content/history/nhhc/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs.html.
      2. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Series 2, Volume 1, p. 237
      3. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume X, pp. 157158
      4. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume X, pp. 157158
      5. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume X, pp. 324325
      6. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume X, pp. 324325
      7. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume X, pp. 370371
      8. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume X, p. 326
      9. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume X, pp. 410412
      10. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume X, pp. 462463
      11. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume X, pp. 514515
      12. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Series 2, Volume 1, p. 237
      13. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 3940
      14. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 140142
      15. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 192194
      16. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 3940
      17. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 140142
      18. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 192194
      19. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Series 2, Volume 1, p. 237
      20. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 192194
      21. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, p. 61
      22. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 192194
      23. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 398400
      24. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 597599
      25. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 722724
      26. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 2021
      27. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 5455
      28. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 398400
      29. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 597599
      30. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 722724
      31. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 2021
      32. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 398400
      33. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 597599
      34. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 722724
      35. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 2021
      36. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 398400
      37. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 597599
      38. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 722724
      39. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 2021
      40. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 7173
      41. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 9394
      42. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 116118
      43. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 7173
      44. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 9394
      45. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 116118
      46. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 7173
      47. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 9394
      48. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 7173
      49. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 9394
      50. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 116118
      51. “Alert II (Screw Tug).” Naval History and Heritage Command, https://www.history.navy.mil/content/history/nhhc/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/a/alert-ii.html.

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