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Ship Information (from DANFS)1,2:

Name: USS Althea Type: Screw Tug Tonnage: 72
Length: 70’ Beam: 16’4” Draught: 7’
Speed: Max: 9 knots, Avg.: 6 knots Complement: 15 men Class: N/A
Armament: October 18 and December 31, 1864: 1 heavy 12-pdr. Smoothbore
Namesake: A shrub of the mallow family; the rose of sharon; a hollyhock.

Images:

Image Needed

 

Captain(s):
Captain 1
Captain Image

Captain 2
Captain Image

Captain 3
Captain Image

 

First Offensive Order of Battle (June 13-18, 1864): James River | North Atlantic Blockading Squadron | Union Navy (June 17, 1864)3

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

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

  • Captain:
  • Crew Strength:
  • Armament:

Third Offensive Order of Battle (July 1-31, 1864):

Norfolk (repairing) | North Atlantic Blockading Squadron | Union Navy5

Hampton Roads | North Atlantic Blockading Squadron | Union Navy (until July 26, 1864)6

  • Captain:
  • Crew Strength:
  • Armament:
  • Note: Departed Hampton Roads, Virginia on July 26, 1864 and sailed for Mobile Bay, reaching that area on August 5, 1864.  Althea would never return to the Siege of Petersburg.7

Fourth Offensive Order of Battle (August 1-31, 1864):

  • Not Present

Fifth Offensive Order of Battle (September 1-October 13, 1864):

  • Not Present

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

  • Not Present
  • Armament: 1 x heavy 12-pdr. Smoothbore (October 18, 1864)8

Seventh Offensive Order of Battle (November 1-December 31, 1864):

  • Not Present
  • Armament: 1 x heavy 12-pdr. Smoothbore (December 31, 1864)9

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

  • Not Present

Ninth Offensive Order of Battle (March 1-April 2, 1865):

  • Not Present

 

Siege of Petersburg Battles:

  • Battle 1

 

Siege of Petersburg Involvement:10

Alfred A. Wolkyns, a screw tug built in 1863 at New Brunswick, N.J., by Lewis Hoagland, was purchased at New York City by the Navy on 9 December 1863; renamed Althea soon thereafter; and fitted out for naval service by Secor and Co., of Jersey City, N.J. Since the logs for her first period of service are missing, presumably lost when she was sunk by a torpedo, we have no record of Althea’s commissioning date; but, on 24 April 1864, Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles ordered the commandant of the New York Navy Yard to hurry the tug to Rear Admiral David Glasgow Farragut who then was trying to build up his West Gulf Blockading Squadron for an attack on Mobile, Ala.

About this time, however, Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant was preparing to launch a two-pronged campaign against Richmond: driving south from the Rapidan River with the Army of the Potomac toward the Confederate capital and simultaneously ascending the James River, with a force under Maj. Gen. Benjamin F. Butler, for an amphibious landing at Bermuda Hundred to begin a push through Petersburg. The destructive foray of the Confederate ironclad ram Albemarle from the Roanoke River into Albemarle Sound, N.C., on 17 April and her reappearance on 5 May, the day Grant’s offensives began, increased Union anxiety over the possibility that the Confederate squadron at Richmond might descend the James, wrest control of that vital stream from the Union flotilla, and wreck Butler’s transports and supply ships, stranding his troops in hostile territory where they would be at the mercy of Southern soldiers. To prevent such an eventuality, Welles sent several warships, formerly ordered to the Gulf of Mexico, to Hampton Roads to reinforce the James River Flotilla.

Althea was one of these ships. While the date of her departure from New York is not known, the tug was said to be serving on the James in the dispatch dated 17 June 1864 which reported the locations of the ships of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron. She had been fitted out with a torpedo spar to be used in attacking any Confederate ironclad which might appear and she was prepared to act as a ram should an opportunity for such employment arise. The tug also served as a tender to Union ironclads in the James.

Late in July, the situation in that river seemed stable enough to permit the Union warships borrowed from Farragut to move on to the gulf. Repaired and prepared for sea by the Norfolk Navy Yard, Althea departed Hampton Roads in company with three other tugs on the 26th and reached Mobile Bay on 5 August, the day of Farragut’s great victory there.

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. 33
      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. “Althea I (Schooner) (sic, Screw Tug).” Naval History and Heritage Command, https://www.history.navy.mil/content/history/nhhc/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/a/althea-i.html.
      6. “Althea I (Schooner) (sic, Screw Tug).” Naval History and Heritage Command, https://www.history.navy.mil/content/history/nhhc/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/a/althea-i.html.
      7. “Althea I (Schooner) (sic, Screw Tug).” Naval History and Heritage Command, https://www.history.navy.mil/content/history/nhhc/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/a/althea-i.html.
      8. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Series 2, Volume 1, p. 33
      9. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Series 2, Volume 1, p. 33
      10. “Althea I (Schooner) (sic, Screw Tug).” Naval History and Heritage Command, https://www.history.navy.mil/content/history/nhhc/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/a/althea-i.html.

      ***



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