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 Lehigh Type: Single-turreted Monitor Tonnage: 1,875
Length: 200’ Beam: 46’ Draught: 11’6”
Speed: 4 knots Complement: 75 men Class: Passaic
Armament: March 23, 1863: 1 15” Dahlgren smoothbore, 1 11” Dahlgren

December 5, 1863: 1 15” Dahlgren smoothbore, 1 150-pdr. Parrott rifle

Namesake: A county in Pennsylvania.

Images:

NH 59436: USS Lehigh3

 

Captain(s):
Lieutenant Commander Alexander A. Semmes
AlexanderASemmesUSNavyv085p4275L4

Captain 2
Captain Image

Captain 3
Captain Image

 

First Offensive Order of Battle (June 13-18, 1864):

  • Not Present5

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

  • Captain:
  • Crew Strength:
  • Armament:

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

Not Present6

  • Captain: Lieutenant Commander Alexander A. Semmes (at least July 2-9, 1864)7
  • Crew Strength:
  • Armament:

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

  • Not Present8

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

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

  • Captain:
  • Crew Strength:
  • Armament:

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

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

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

Not Present (March 18, 1865)(but see the note at the bottom of this offensive, she was at least in the area by this time)20

James River, Va. | North Atlantic Blockading Squadron | Union Navy (April 1 & 15, 1865) (at Trent’s Reach on April 1)21,22

  • Captain: Lieutenant Commander Alexander A. Semmes (April 1 & 15, 1865)23,24
  • Crew Strength:
  • Armament: 2 x “guns” (April 1 & 15, 1865)25,26
  • Notes:
    • On April 1 & 15, 1865, this ship is noted as a “Screw Class” vessel.27,28
    • Lehigh arrived at Fort Monroe on March 14, 1865, and was immediately sent up the James River to increase the strength of Union forces guarding against a sortie by the powerful ironclads in the Confederate James River Squadron.29

 

Siege of Petersburg Battles:

  • TBD

 

Siege of Petersburg Involvement:30

The first Lehigh was launched on 17 January 1863 by Reaney, Son, and Archibold, Chester, Penn., under subcontract from John Ericsson, and commissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 15 April 1863, Comdr. John C. Howell in command.

Rear Adm. Samuel P. Lee intended to use Lehigh, still under construction, in a planned expedition against Wilmington, N.C., but Confederate offensive operations altered the U.S. Navy Department’s priorities. Lt. Gen. James Longstreet took charge of the Department of Virginia and North Carolina on 25 February 1863 and initiated his Tidewater Operations. He directed D. H. Hill, commander of the North Carolina District, to advance on the Union stronghold of New Berne. After some initial success, the arrival of Union gunboats and the reinforcement of the city’s garrison forced Hill to withdraw to threaten Washington, North Carolina in late March. Hill was eventually maneuvered out of his siege works and withdrew on April 15.

[SOPO Editor’s Note: This ship’s earlier Civil War service has been omitted here.]

Lehigh remained assigned to the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron for the rest of the year 1864, engaging in only one more major operation. Hearing that Confederate forces were about to move against the blockaders off Charleston, Dahlgren and Maj. Gen. Foster planned a diversionary expedition up the Stono River, intending to cut the important Charleston-Savannah railroad. From 2 to 9 July [1864], Lehigh, now under the command of Lt. Comdr. Alexander A. Semmes, participated in the joint raid with the monitor Montauk, providing effective fire support against enemy rifle pits and preventing construction of earthworks along the shore.

Lehigh arrived at Fort Monroe on 14 March 1865, and was immediately sent up the James River to increase the strength of Union forces guarding against a sortie by the powerful ironclads in the Confederate James River Squadron. Six days later, Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant telegraphed President Abraham Lincoln and asked him to meet him at City Point, Virginia. There, on 24 March the chief executive joined Grant on the James below Trent’s Reach where the Union ironclads stood guard. With the fall of Richmond imminent, Rear Adm. David Dixon Porter ordered Comdr. William Ronckendorff (Monadnock) to send an expedition up the James immediately, to clear the river of torpedoes all the way to the city.

Ronckendorff charged Lt. Comdr. Ralph Chandler (Sangamon) to carry out the mission. Pairs of boats from ten ships, including Lehigh, formed a line in echelon across the river equipped to drag for torpedoes, while parties of armed Sailors kept just ahead of the boats to cut torpedo wires encountered along each river bank. Lt. John H. Reed from Lehigh led the party on the northern shore. The armed steamer Commodore Perry covered the expedition that took place on 3 April [1865].

On 11 April 1865, Porter placed several ships along the James for the protection of vessels navigating the river. Porter directed Lt. Comdr. Semmes to station Lehigh at Windmill Point. Ordered to Hampton Roads at the end of April, Lehigh, along with the ironclads Sangamon, and Atlanta were sent on 29 May [1865] to watch over the captured Confederate ironclad Columbia at Norfolk.

On 31 May 1865, Acting Secretary of the Navy Gustavus V. Fox ordered the commander of the newly designated North Atlantic Squadron, Acting Rear Adm. William Radford, to reduce the size of his command. Lehigh, among those vessels sent north, was decommissioned at League Island Navy Yard, Philadelphia, on 9 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. 125
      3. “NH 59436 USS Lehigh.” 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-59436.html. USS Lehigh Description: (1863-1904) Crew members exercising with a 12-pounder Dahlgren howitzer (on an iron field carriage) on the monitor’s deck, probably while she was serving on the James River, Virginia, in 1864-65. Probably photographed by the Matthew Brady organization. Note lookout with telescope atop the turret, dents in turret and conning tower from Confederate cannon shot, and the bitt on deck in the foreground. The original negative is # 111-B-612 in the National Archives. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 59436
      4. Alexander A. Semmes image.  MOLLUS-Mass Civil War Photograph Collection, Vol. 85, Page 4275L.  United States Army Heritage and Education Center, Carlisle, PA.
      5. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume X, pp. 157158
      6. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume X, pp. 324325
      7. “Lehigh I (Single-turreted Monitor).” Naval History and Heritage Command, https://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/l/lehigh-i.html.
      8. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume X, pp. 370371
      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 XI, pp. 3940
      13. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 140142
      14. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 192194
      15. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 398400
      16. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 597599
      17. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 722724
      18. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 2021
      19. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 5455
      20. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 7173
      21. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 9394
      22. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 116118
      23. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 9394
      24. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 116118
      25. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 9394
      26. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 116118
      27. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 9394
      28. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 116118
      29. “Lehigh I (Single-turreted Monitor).” Naval History and Heritage Command, https://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/l/lehigh-i.html.
      30. “Lehigh I (Single-turreted Monitor).” Naval History and Heritage Command, https://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/l/lehigh-i.html.

      ***



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