USS General Putnam aka William G. Putnam

   

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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 General Putnam (aka William G. Putnam) Type: Sidewheel Steamer Tonnage: 149 (or 123)
Length: 103’6” Beam: 22’ Draught: Forward: 7’6”, Aft: 6’6”
Speed: Max: 7 knots, Avg.: 3 knots Complement: 62 men Class: Not Listed.
Armament: June 14, October 18, 1864; January 16, March 31, May 15, 1865: 1 20-pdr. Parrott rifle, 2 24-pdr. howitzers, 1 12-pdr.
Namesake: Not Listed.

Images:

NH 59379: USS William G. Putnam (1861-1865)3

 

Captain(s):
Acting Master Hugh H. Savage
Captain Image

Captain 2
Captain Image

Captain 3
Captain Image

 

First Offensive Order of Battle (June 13-18, 1864): In the Appomattox River | North Atlantic Blockading Squadron | Union Navy (June 17, 1864)4

  • Captain:
  • Crew Strength:
  • Armament: 1 x 20-pdr. Parrott rifle, 2 x 24-pdr. howitzers, 1 x 12-pdr. (June 14, 1864)5

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

  • Captain:
  • Crew Strength:
  • Armament:

Third Offensive Order of Battle (July 1-31, 1864): Fourth Division (James River) | North Atlantic Blockading Squadron | Union Navy (July 31, 1864)6

  • Captain:
  • Crew Strength:
  • Armament:

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

  • Captain:
  • Crew Strength:
  • Armament:

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)9,10,11

  • Captain:
  • Crew Strength:
  • Armament:
  • Note: On October 1, 1864, this ship is noted as in “James River.”12

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

  • Captain:
  • Crew Strength:
  • Armament: 1 x 20-pdr. Parrott rifle, 2 x 24-pdr. howitzers, 1 x 12-pdr. (October 18, 1864)13

Seventh Offensive Order of Battle (November 1-December 31, 1864): James River, Va. | North Atlantic Blockading Squadron | Union Navy (November 1 and December 5 & 15, 1864)14,15,16

  • Captain: Acting Master Hugh H. Savage (November 1 and December 5 & 15, 1864)17,18,19
  • Crew Strength:
  • Armament: 4  x “guns” (December 15, 1864)20
  • Notes:
    • On November 12, 1864, this ship was located in the Appomattox River and was classified as a “side-wheel” ship.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

  • Captain: Acting Master Hugh H. Savage (January 1 & 15 and February 1 & 15, 1865)28,29,30,31
  • Crew Strength:
  • Armament:
    • 4 x “guns” (January 1 & 15 and February 1 & 15, 1865)32,33,34,35
    • 1 x 20-pdr. Parrott rifle, 2 x 24-pdr. howitzers, 1 x 12-pdr. (January 16, 1865)36
  • Note: On January 1 & 15 and February 1 & 15, 1865, this ship is noted as a “Class 4” vessel.37,38,39,40

Ninth Offensive Order of Battle (March 1-April 2, 1865): Detached [Where?] | North Atlantic Blockading Squadron | Union Navy (March 18, 1865)41

  • Captain: Acting Master Hugh H. Savage (March 18, 1865)42
  • Crew Strength:
  • Armament:
    • 4 x “guns” (March 18, 1865)43
    • 1 x 20-pdr. Parrott rifle, 2 x 24-pdr. howitzers, 1 x 12-pdr. (March 31, 1865)44
  • Note: On March 18, 1865, this ship is noted as a “Paddle Class” vessel.45

 

Siege of Petersburg Battles:

  • TBD

 

Siege of Petersburg Involvement:46

The Navy purchased William G. Putnam, a  wooden-hulled  tug built  in 1857 at Brooklyn, N.Y., on 24 July 1861 at New York City and renamed the vessel General Putnam soon thereafter. The vessel’s name later returned to William G. Putnam while in the service of the U.S. Navy.

From mid-April 1864, William G. Putnam operated in joint Army-Navy operations in the James and Nansemond Rivers, covering the landings of troops. She moved ahead of Army transports, dragging for torpedoes from Harrison’s Bar to one mile above Bermuda Hundred, clearing a channel for the landing of troops at City Point and at Bermuda Hundred. She then operated with Brigadier General Charles K. Graham’s gunboats, supporting the occupation of Fort Powhatan and Wilson’s Wharf. William G. Putnam accompanied Army gunboats up the Appomattox River and anchored at Gilliam’s Bar. She reconnoitered the river below the bar and, by order of Brigadier General Graham, towing the U.S. Army gunboat Charles Chamberlain down the channel. Informed that Confederate pickets had advanced in force as far as Gilliam’s Bar, the Union flotilla retreated on 11 May to Point of Rocks and shelled the nearby woods. During the action, William G. Putnam discovered the Confederate battery at Fort Clifton, opened fire on enemy guns and soon obtained the range. The enemy battery replied, but a shell from the gunboat’s 24-pdr. howitzer exploded in the embrasure of their rifled gun, causing the Confederate gunners to break and run. After that action, the Union steamer returned down river and engaged in further combat operations on the Appomattox River almost daily into June [1864], remaining on guard against surprise attacks. Union forces repeated the attack upon Fort Clifton on 9 and 10 June [1864], silencing the enemy battery.

On 28 July 1864, Rear Admiral Lee assigned William G. Putnam to a division under the command of Captain Melancton Smith operating on the James River. The gunboat also served on the Appomattox Rivers and in Mobjack Bay until March of 1865, when she returned to Yorktown. Detached from the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron on 18 March 1865, she patrolled the Rappahannock and St. Mary’s Rivers.

After the collapse of the Confederacy in April, the armed tug was ordered to the Washington Navy Yard with twenty-three other vessels from her division. William G. Putnam arrived there on 14 May and was decommissioned on 2 June 1865. The Treasury Department bought her at auction for use by the Lighthouse Board, and as the tender General Putnam she was assigned to the 3rd Lighthouse District. Rammed and sunk after being assigned to the 2nd Lighthouse District, she was raised and repaired at a cost of $4,738 at Wilmington, Delaware.

Reassigned to the 3rd Lighthouse District, her name was shortened to simply Putnam in September of 1869. She was rebuilt and lengthened to 135 feet in 1877 prior to being transferred back to the 2nd Lighthouse District.  Overhauled in New York in August 1880, Putnam rebuilt yet again in 1889 for $18,500.

The Lighthouse Board transferred her to the 7th Lighthouse District in March of 1891, based out of Key West, Florida. She was taken out of service in 1891 and sold in 1893 for $1,825. She then entered the merchant service as the SS Putnam, operating until 1896.

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. 240241
      3. “NH 59379 USS William G. Putnam USS Satellite.” Naval History and Heritage Command, www.history.navy.mil/content/history/nhhc/our-collections/photography/numerical-list-of-images/nhhc-series/nh-series/NH-59000/NH-59379.html. Photo #: NH 59379 USS William G. Putnam (1861-1865) and USS Satellite (1861-1863) Line engraving published in Harper’s Weekly, July-December 1861, depicting these former civilian tugs being prepared for Naval service at New York City, circa July-September 1861. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 59379
      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, Series 2, Volume 1, p. 240241
      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, Volume X, pp. 514515
      13. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Series 2, Volume 1, p. 240241
      14. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 3940
      15. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 140142
      16. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 192194
      17. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 3940
      18. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 140142
      19. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 192194
      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, Series 2, Volume 1, p. 240241
      37. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 398400
      38. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 597599
      39. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 722724
      40. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 2021
      41. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 7173
      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. 7173
      44. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Series 2, Volume 1, p. 240241
      45. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 7173
      46. “William G. Putnam.” Naval History and Heritage Command, https://www.history.navy.mil/content/history/nhhc/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/w/william-g-putnam.html.

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