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.

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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
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  • 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
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  • 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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