USS Tristram Shandy

   

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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 Tristram Shandy Type: Sidewheel Gunboat Tonnage: 444
Length: 222’ Beam: 23’6” Draught: Loaded: 6’4”, Light: 5’8”
Speed: Greatest under steam: 14.5 knots; Max: 15 knots; Avg.: 12 knots Complement: Not Listed. Class: Not Listed.
Armament: 3 12-pdrs., 1 20-pdr. Parrott Rifle
Namesake: The hero, and the shortened title, of the novel, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, which was written by Laurence Sterne between the years 1759 and 1767.

Images:

Image Needed (Does One Exist?)

 

Captain(s):
Acting Volunteer Lieutenant Edward F. Devens
Captain Image

Acting Volunteer Lieutenant Francis M. Green
Captain Image

Captain 3
Captain Image

 

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

  • Captain:
  • Crew Strength:
  • Armament:

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

  • Captain:
  • Crew Strength:
  • Armament:

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

  • Captain:
  • Crew Strength:
  • Armament:

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

Hampton Roads, VA (August 12, 1864)3

  • Captain: Acting Volunteer Lieutenant Edward F. Devens (August 12, 1864)4
  • Crew Strength:
  • Armament:
  • Note: The ship she was commissioned on August 12, 1864, at Hampton Roads, Va.5

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

  • Not present at the Siege of Petersburg.

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

  • Not present at the Siege of Petersburg.

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

  • Not present at the Siege of Petersburg.

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

  • Not present at the Siege of Petersburg.

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

Not listed as part of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, so not present at the Siege of Petersburg (March 18, 1864)6

Asked to be sent from Norfolk Navy Yard to Rear Admiral David D. Porter at Hampton Roads on March 27, 1865.7

Arrived at Fort Monroe (April 2, 1865)8

City Point, James River, Va. | North Atlantic Blockading Squadron | Union Navy (April 1 & 15, 1865)9,10

  • Captain: Acting Volunteer Lieutenant Francis M. Green (April 1 & 15, 1865)11,12
  • Crew Strength:
  • Armament: 4 x “guns” (April 1 & 15, 1865)13,14
  • Note: On April 1, 1865, this ship is noted as a “Paddle Class” vessel.15
  • Note: On April 15, 1865, this ship is noted as a “Paddle Class” vessel and a “dispatch vessel.”16

 

Siege of Petersburg Battles:

  • TBD

 

Siege of Petersburg Involvement:17

Tristram Shandy, a schooner-rigged, iron-hulled sidewheel steamer completed in 1864 at Greenock, Scotland, was originally owned by Matthew Isaac Wilson, a Liverpool, England, merchant. The ship subsequently sailed for the Bahamas, whence she took part in British efforts to continue trade with Southern states during the American Civil War.

On her first attempt to run the Federal blockade, Tristram Shandy outdistanced a Union pursuer by dumping cargo overboard to gain a few more knots of speed. After reaching Wilmington, N.C., she returned to Nassau to pick up another cargo earmarked for the Confederacy.

Successfully slipping through the blockade, she unloaded at Wilmington and took on board a valuable cargo of cotton, turpentine, and tobacco. In addition, $50,000 in Confederate specie reposed in the ship’s safe. On 15 May 1864, the steamer attempted to slip to sea under the protective covering of a rain squall. The ship was darkened to avoid detection by roving Union patrols, but her funnels suddenly commenced throwing highly visible flames. Union gunboat Kansas spotted the telltale light and gave chase. For two hours, Kansas pursued and slowly gained on the fleeing blockade runner. Meanwhile, Tristram Shandy’s master frantically called down for more steam. The fugitive steamer’s engineer zealously carried out the orders from the bridge until a valve failure stopped her engine. Slowly, the blockade runner lost way and lay dead in the water, an easy prey for Union Sailors. A boarding party from Kansas rigged a towline to the prize, and the blockader towed her to Beaufort, N.C. The erstwhile blockade runner was then taken to Massachusetts where the Navy purchased her from the Boston Prize Court.

Repaired and converted to a gunboat at the Boston Navy Yard, the ship proceeded to Hampton Roads, Va., where she was commissioned on 12 August 1864, Acting Vol. Lt. Edward F. Devens in command…

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

On 31 January [1865], Tristram Shandy joined the East Gulf Blockading Squadron and remained with that group into the spring. Returning north, she served as a dispatch vessel with Union forces operating in Hampton Roads. Admiral Porter embarked in Tristram Shandy on 14 April [1865], after the admiral had previously escorted President Lincoln on a tour of the devastated fallen Confederate capital of Richmond, Va. Two days later, the ship moored at Baltimore, where the admiral was greeted with the sad news that the President had been assassinated the previous night in Washington.

On 26 April [1865], the ship returned to Hampton Roads to continue her duties as a dispatch vessel, operating off the Virginia capes, concurrently serving as a lookout and keeping watch for the Confederate ram Stonewall, believed to be still at sea and unaware that hostilities had ceased.

Tristram Shandy then conveyed Confederate prisoners to Fort Pulaski, Georgia, in late May and returned to Hampton Roads on 2 June [1865]. Upon arrival, she was assigned to duty as a roving vessel operating under the direct orders of the Commander of the North Atlantic Squadron, for his use in inspecting the various ships and stations under his command.

On 21 June 1865, her name was changed to Boxer (q.v.). Her service as a warship finished, Tristram Shandy was laid up at Philadelphia in the late summer of 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. 225
      3. “Tristram Shandy.” Naval History and Heritage Command, https://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/t/tristram-shandy.html.
      4. “Tristram Shandy.” Naval History and Heritage Command, https://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/t/tristram-shandy.html.
      5. “Tristram Shandy.” Naval History and Heritage Command, https://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/t/tristram-shandy.html.
      6. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 7173
      7. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, p. 85
      8. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, p. 95
      9. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 9394
      10. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 116118
      11. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 9394
      12. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 116118
      13. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 9394
      14. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 116118
      15. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 9394
      16. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 116118
      17. “Tristram Shandy.” Naval History and Heritage Command, https://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/t/tristram-shandy.html.

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      { 4 comments… read them below or add one }

      Lisa Fulton February 11, 2020 at 12:04 pm

      I was curious as to why she had the name Tristram Shandy; I see her original owner was a Liverpool merchant, and no doubt he named her. The story of her blockade-running and capture is very exciting. Thanks for including that.

      Brett Schulte February 11, 2020 at 12:17 pm

      Lisa,

      Thanks for the comment! You are correct in that the Liverpool owner originally named her. I check Heyl’s Early Marrican Steamers, Volume V, but he does not mention any background on the name. It is definitely one of the most unique names of the ships I’ve posted, right up there with Spuyten Duyvil!

      Brett

      Brett Schulte February 11, 2020 at 12:20 pm

      Lisa,

      Actually, I’m embarrassed to admit that I forgot I include namesake info at the top of these entries. The name comes from the hero, and shortened title of the book The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Stern.

      Lisa Fulton February 12, 2020 at 1:12 am

      I remembered Tristram Shandy from English Literature classes. I had to read up on Spuyten Duyvil; it’s a strange tale. Not far off from my first guess: Spitting Devil 🙂

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