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 Cactus Type: Sidewheel Steamer Tonnage: 176
Length: 110’ Beam: 22’6” Draught: Loaded: 7’, Light, 5’
Speed: Max: 15 knots, Avg.: 8 knots Complement: Not Listed. Class: Not Listed.
Armament: June 6 and November 9, 1864: 1 30-pdr. Parrott rifle, 1 12-pdr. rifle, 1 heavy 12-pdr. rifle
Namesake: The well-known family of green, mostly leafless and spiny, plants of arid climates.

Images:

Image Needed

 

Captain(s):
Acting Master and Pilot Jonathan Evans
Captain Image

Acting Ensign C. E. Beck
Captain Image

Captain 3
Captain Image

 

First Offensive Order of Battle (June 13-18, 1864): York and Pamunkey Rivers and Chesapeake Bay | North Atlantic Blockading Squadron | Union Navy (June 17, 1864)3

  • Captain:
  • Crew Strength:
  • Armament: 1 x 30-pdr. Parrott rifle, 1 x 12-pdr. rifle, 1 x heavy 12-pdr. rifle (June 6, 1864)4
  • Note: On June 17, 1864, this ship is noted as a “side-wheel tug.” 5

Second Offensive Order of Battle (June 19-30, 1864): York and Pamunkey Rivers and Chesapeake Bay | North Atlantic Blockading Squadron | Union Navy (June 20 and 23, 1864)6

  • Captain:
  • Crew Strength:
  • Armament:
  • Note: The Cactus left for Hampton Roads on June 23, 1864. I am unsure where she went between that date and August 17, 1864, when she had returned to the James River. More research is needed. 7

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

  • Captain:
  • Crew Strength:
  • Armament:
  • Note: The Cactus was not listed in the list of vessels in the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron on July 31, 1864. More research is needed to find out where she was located during the Third Offensive.8

Fourth Offensive Order of Battle (August 1-31, 1864): Fourth Division (James River) | North Atlantic Blockading Squadron | Union Navy (August 17, 1864)9

  • Captain:
  • Crew Strength:
  • Armament:
  • Note: The Cactus was not listed on the August 1, 1864 list of vessels in the James River, but seems to have returned by August 17, 1864.  More research is needed to find the exact date of return.10,11

Fifth Offensive Order of Battle (September 1-October 13, 1864): Second Division (Hampton Roads and James River) | North Atlantic Blockading Squadron | Union Navy (September 1 & 16 and October 1, 1864)12,13,14

  • Captain:
  • Crew Strength:
  • Armament:
  • Note: On October 1, 1864, this ship is noted as on the “James River.”15

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

  • Captain:
  • Crew Strength:
  • Armament:

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

Norfolk Navy Yard, Va. (repairing) | North Atlantic Blockading Squadron | Union Navy (November 1, 1864)16

Hampton Roads | North Atlantic Blockading Squadron | Union Navy (December 5, 1864)17

Norfolk Naval Station, Va | North Atlantic Blockading Squadron | Union Navy (December 15, 1864)18

  • Captain:
    • Acting Ensign C. E. Beck (November 1, 1864)19
    • Acting Master and Pilot Jonathan Evans (December 5 & 15, 1864)20,21
  • Crew Strength:
  • Armament:
    • 1 x 30-pdr. Parrott rifle, 1 x 12-pdr. rifle, 1 x heavy 12-pdr. rifle (November 9, 1864)22
    • 3  x “guns” (December 15, 1864)23
  • Note: On December 15, 1864, this ship is noted as a “Class 4” vessel.24

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

Norfolk, Va. | North Atlantic Blockading Squadron | Union Navy (January 1, 1865)25,26,27

James River, Va. | North Atlantic Blockading Squadron | Union Navy (February 15, 1865)28

Norfolk, Va. | North Atlantic Blockading Squadron | Union Navy (February 25, 1865)29

  • Captain: Acting Master and Pilot Jonathan Evans (January 1 & 15 and February 1 & 15, 1865)30,31,32,33
  • Crew Strength:
  • Armament: 3 x “guns” (January 1 & 15 and February 1 & 15, 1865)34,35,36,37
  • Note: On January 1 & 15 and February 1 & 15, 1865, this ship is noted as a “Class 4” vessel.34,35,36,37

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)(at Pagan Creek April 1)42,43

  • Captain: Acting Master and Pilot Jonathan Evans (March 18 and April 1, 1865)44,45
  • Crew Strength:
  • Armament: : 3 x “guns” (March 18 and April 1, 1865)46,47
  • Crew Strength:
  • Note: On March 18 and April 1, 1865, this ship is noted as a “Screw Class” vessel.48,49

 

Siege of Petersburg Battles:

 

Siege of Petersburg Involvement:51

Cactus, an armed side-wheel steamer, was built during 1863 in Brooklyn, N.Y., as Polar Star; purchased at New York 9 December 1863; and commissioned 4 May 1864, Acting Master N. Graham in command.

Assigned to the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron with its task of isolating the Confederacy from overseas sources of supply, Cactus served as a supply ship and tender in Hampton Roads until 28 May 1864. She was then ordered up the York River to guard the Army’s lines of communication. On 20 June [1864], with Morse, she fought an engagement with Confederate batteries along the Pamunkey River. After assisting in covering the withdrawal of the Army from White House, Va., the steamer returned to Hampton Roads 23 June [1864]. Until April 1865, Cactus operated in Hampton Roads and Chesapeake Bay towing launches and supply schooners. She then served in the Potomac Flotilla until placed out of commission at the Washington Navy Yard 8 June 1865. Cactus was transferred to the Light House Board 20 June 1865.

 

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. 49
      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, Series 2, Volume 1, p. 49
      5. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume X, pp. 157158
      6. “Cactus.” Naval History and Heritage Command, https://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/c/cactus.html.
      7. “Cactus.” Naval History and Heritage Command, https://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/c/cactus.html.
      8. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume X, pp. 324325
      9. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume X, pp. 370371
      10. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume X, pp. 370371
      11. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume X, p. 326
      12. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume X, pp. 410412
      13. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume X, pp. 462463
      14. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume X, pp. 514515
      15. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume X, pp. 514515
      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, Volume XI, pp. 3940
      20. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 140142
      21. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 192194
      22. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Series 2, Volume 1, p. 49
      23. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 192194
      24. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 192194
      25. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 398400
      26. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 597599
      27. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 722724
      28. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 2021
      29. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 5455
      30. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 398400
      31. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 597599
      32. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 722724
      33. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 2021
      34. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 398400
      35. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 597599
      36. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 722724
      37. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 2021
      38. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 398400
      39. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 597599
      40. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 722724
      41. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 2021
      42. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 7173
      43. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 9394
      44. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 7173
      45. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 9394
      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. “Cactus.” Naval History and Heritage Command, https://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/c/cactus.html.
      51. “Cactus.” Naval History and Heritage Command, https://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/c/cactus.html.

      ***



      What are your Top 10 Gettysburg Books? See what a panel of bloggers said recently.

      { 1 comment… read it below or add one }

      Lisa Fulton May 7, 2019 at 10:47 am

      Hi Brett, Since most of your posts tell about steamers on the James in the summer of 1864, I know these were the scenes which the 7th SCC (and the Jeffers) saw every day. I especially enjoy being able to connect a passage in the Jeffers’ letters to specific events in these posts. Your previous notes about the involvement of the 7th SCC on 20 June 1864 day explained that Gen Gary’s brigade was not involved, but they heard it:

      Camp 7th Regt., June 20th 1864
      Dear Pa, . . . This morning Gen Gary received a dispatch from Hampton ordering him to send a Squadron to escort a Battery of Artillery from Bottoms Bridge to Tunstalls Station and saying that he would be happy if it was so that Gary’s Brigade could participate in the fight he expected to have. As we are the only troops guarding Richmond between the James and Bottoms Bridge the Brigade could not go. We now hear cannonading in the direction of the White House and suppose Hampton has commenced the fight. If he whips Sheridan again and gets him down between the Chickahominy & James we may have a chance at him.

      Leave a Comment

      Previous post:

      Next post: