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Ship Information (from DANFS)1,2:

Name: USS Wilderness Type: 390 Tonnage: 390
Length: 137’ Beam: 25’ Draught: 6’, Light: 5’
Speed: Max: 13 knots, Avg.: 8 knots Complement: Not Listed. Class: Not Listed.
Armament: October 18, 1864 and June 19, 1865: 4 24-pdrs.
Namesake: A region in Orange County, Va., south of the Rapidan River that was the scene of battles during the Civil War in 1863 and 1864.

Images:

Image Needed (Does One Exist?)

 

Captain(s):
Acting Master Henry Arey
Captain Image

Captain 2
Captain Image

Captain 3
Captain Image

 

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

  • Captain:
  • Crew Strength:
  • Armament:
  • Note: On June 17, 1864, this ship is noted as “fitting for supply steamer.” 4

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

  • Captain:
  • Crew Strength:
  • Armament:

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

Not present at the Siege of Petersburg. (July 1-20, 1864)5

Hampton Roads, Va. | North Atlantic Blockading Squadron (late July 1864)6

Fourth Division (James River) | North Atlantic Blockading Squadron | Union Navy (July 31, 1864)7

  • Captain:
  • Crew Strength:
  • Armament:
  • Note: The Wilderness was commissioned on July 20, 1864. She operated mainly as a supply ship, moving between Hampton Roads and points on the James River, in late July and August 1864.8
  • Note: On July 31, 1864, this ship is noted as “inside transport.”9

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

Hampton Roads, Va. to the James River | North Atlantic Blockading Squadron (August 1864)10

Fourth Division (James River) | North Atlantic Blockading Squadron | Union Navy (August 17, 1864)11

  • Captain:
  • Crew Strength:
  • Armament:
  • Note: On August 17, 1864, this ship is noted as a “transport.”12
  • Note: The Wilderness operated mainly as a supply ship, moving between Hampton Roads and points on the James River, in July and August 1864.13

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, 1864)14

Norfolk Navy Yard, Va. (repairing) | North Atlantic Blockading Squadron | Union Navy (September 16 and October 1, 1864)15,16

  • Captain:
  • Crew Strength:
  • Armament:
  • Note: On September 1, 1864, this ship is noted as a “supply steamer; ordered to fit as gunboat and join blockade.”17
  • On September 16 and October 1, 1864, this ship is noted as “repairing and fitting for blockade.”18,19

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

  • Captain:
  • Crew Strength:
  • Armament: 4 x 24-pdrs. (October 18, 1864)20:

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

Away in North Carolina, not present at the Siege of Petersburg. (November 1 & 12 and December 5 & 15, 1864)21,22,23,24

 

  • Captain: Acting Master Henry Arey (November 1 and December 5 &15, 1864)25,26,27
  • Crew Strength:
  • Armament: 4 x “guns” (December 15, 1864)28
  • Note: On November 1 and December 5 & 15, 1864, this ship is noted as at “Wilmington.”29,30,31
  • Note: On December 15, 1864, this ship is noted as a “Class 4” vessel.32

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

Away in North Carolina, not present at the Siege of Petersburg (January 1-
at least February 15, 1865)33,34,35,36,37

Hampton Roads, Va. | North Atlantic Blockading Squadron | Union Navy (February 25, 1865)38

  • Captain: Acting Master Henry Arey (January 1 & 15 and February 1 & 15, 1865)39,40,41,42
  • Crew Strength:
  • Armament: 4 x “guns” (January 1 & 15 and February 1 & 15, 1865)43,44,45,46
  • Note: On January 1 & 15 and February 1 & 15, 1865, this ship is noted as a “Class 4” vessel.47,48,49,50
  • Note: Wilderness remained in the vicinity of the mouth of the Cape Fear River into February 1865 and then returned to her former operating area, the James River.51

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

James River, Va. | Atlantic Blockading Squadron | Union Navy (March 18, 1865)52

Moved to New Berne, NC, away from the Siege of Petersburg (late March to April 2, 1865)53

  • Captain: Acting Master H. Arey (March 18, 1865)54
  • Crew Strength:
  • Armament: 4 x “guns” (March 18, 1865)55
  • Note: On March 18, 1865, this ship is noted as a “Paddle Class” vessel.56

 

Siege of Petersburg Battles:

 

Siege of Petersburg Involvement:59

B. N. Creary, sometimes spelled B. N. Crary, was a wooden-hulled, side-wheel steamer built in 1864 at Brooklyn, N.Y. Acquired by the Union Navy at New York City on 30 May 1864 and simultaneously renamed Wilderness, she fitted out at the New York Navy Yard and was commissioned on 20 July 1864.

After arriving at Hampton Roads shortly thereafter, Wilderness was assigned immediately to the 2d Division of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron. She operated between Hampton Roads and various points along the James River through the end of August. While she performed a variety of duties during that time, she operated primarily as a supply ship. She also served as a transport and dispatch vessel when the occasion demanded. On the average, she apparently made two trips upriver from Hampton Roads per week, delivering fresh vegetables and provisions to the crews of naval vessels operating up the James River and to the crews of the lighthouses situated along that waterway.

Occasionally, however, nearby action enlivened her predominately pedestrian duties. On 15 July 1864, when Confederate guns located near Malvern Hill fired on Union shipsWilderness made a night run down the James with casualties embarked, bound for the hospital at Norfolk. On the 27th of that month, Wilderness was compelled by the heavy movement of Union troops across two pontoon bridges spanning the James to remain between them. While thus immobile, the side-wheeler observed the gunboats Agawam and Mendota shelling Confederate positions across nearby Four Mile Creek [on July 28, 1864].60

On 25 August [1864], Acting Rear Admiral S. P. Lee, commanding the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, reported to Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles that “to promote the efficiency of the blockade of the bars” (off the North Carolina coast) he had directed Capt. Melancton Smith, the commander of naval forces on the James, “to have the Wilderness prepared at once for service on the blockade of Wilmington.” By 1 September, when Admiral Lee reported the composition of his squadron, he listed Wilderness as a “supply steam; ordered to fit out as gunboat and join (the) blockade.”

By late October, Wilderness had been armed with a battery of four 24-pounders, enabling her to be classed as a gunboat. On 28 October [1864], Rear Admiral David D. Porter, the new commanding officer of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, issued orders to Acting Master Henry Arey, commanding the newly converted sidewheeler, to “proceed and report to the senior officer off Eastern Bar (Cape Fear River) for duty on the blockade as a chaser.”…

[SOPO Editor’s Note: The ship’s operations in North Carolina are omitted here.]

Subsequently, Wilderness took part in the occupation of former Confederate works at Smithville, N.C., on 19 January [1865], Acting Master Arey and a boat crew from the ship participating directly in the operation. Wilderness remained in the vicinity of the mouth of the Cape Fear River into February and then returned to her former operating area, the James River.

Admiral Porter ordered Wilderness up the Chickahominy River to try to communicate with General Philip Sheridan. Collaterally, the ship was to gain all the information she could learn about the river itself and Southern forces in the area before returning to Aiken’s Landing with any dispatches which needed to be delivered. Subsequently, the side-wheeler received orders to proceed without delay to New Berne, N.C., to cooperate with Army forces of General Sherman in the movement up the Chowan River toward Winton, N.C. Arriving on 2 April [1865] with dispatches from Admiral Porter, Wilderness resumed her operations in the sounds of North Carolina, performing general utility duties for the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron through the end of the Civil War.

Decommissioned on 10 June 1865, Wilderness was acquired by the Treasury Department at the Boston Navy Yard on 6 September 1865 and sailed for Baltimore, Md., on the 17th. There, the side-wheeler was fitted put for her new duties as a revenue cutter and, following repairs and alterations, was ordered to Florida waters on 28 November,

Reaching Key West on 8 December [1865], Wilderness operated out of that port for a year, before she shifted up the east coast to Charleston, S.C., on 14 December 1866 for repairs. Wilderness subsequently operated in the Gulf of Mexico, ranging from New Orleans to Veracruz, Mexico. She apparently operated out of New Orleans, in the gulf, through the summer of 1872.

Ordered to New York for repairs on 2 September 1872, Wilderness reached New York City on the 19th. Records indicate that the ship was to be dismantled. The orders, dated 3 January 1873, are recorded as “carried into effect, January 11.” Now, whether or not this means that the name was retained and an entirely new ship was built is not entirely clear. In any event, she is listed as being ordered to New Orleans for duty on 3 July. Sailing on the 7th, she arrived at her new duty station on the 19th.

During the ship’s period in a “limbo” of sorts, she was renamed John A. Dix on 11 June 1873. She apparently then operated in the Gulf of Mexico, out of New Orleans, through the autumn of 1879, when she was temporarily stationed at Mobile, Ala.

The cutter operated in the Florida Keys in the spring of 1880 and into the early 1880’s. Ordered to New York City for replacement of her boilers in the autumn of 1883, she arrived there on 30 October. Ordered back to Florida waters upon completion of those repairs on 1 February 1884, she departed New York City on 13 March and arrived at Key West nine days later. Resuming operations in the Florida Keys, John A. Dix cruised the Gulf of Mexico between Florida and Texas, from the Mississippi to the Rio Grande, through the end of the 1880’s. Ordered to New Orleans, La., on 28 March 1891, John A. Dix arrived there on 7 April. Placed out of commission soon thereafter, the erstwhile side-wheel gunboat was sold on 18 May 1891 at Algiers, La.

 

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. 239
    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. “Wilderness.” Naval History and Heritage Command, https://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/w/wilderness.html.
    6. “Wilderness.” Naval History and Heritage Command, https://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/w/wilderness.html.
    7. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume X, pp. 324325
    8. “Wilderness.” Naval History and Heritage Command, https://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/w/wilderness.html.
    9. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume X, pp. 324325
    10. “Wilderness.” Naval History and Heritage Command, https://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/w/wilderness.html.
    11. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume X, pp. 370371
    12. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume X, pp. 370371
    13. “Wilderness.” Naval History and Heritage Command, https://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/w/wilderness.html.
    14. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume X, pp. 410412
    15. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume X, pp. 462463
    16. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume X, pp. 514515
    17. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume X, pp. 410412
    18. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume X, pp. 462463
    19. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume X, pp. 514515
    20. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Series 2, Volume 1, p. 239
    21. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 3940
    22. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, p. 61
    23. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 140142
    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. 3940
    26. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 140142
    27. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 192194
    28. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 192194
    29. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 3940
    30. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 140142
    31. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 192194
    32. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 192194
    33. “Wilderness.” Naval History and Heritage Command, https://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/w/wilderness.html.
    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 XII, pp. 5455
    39. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 398400
    40. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 597599
    41. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 722724
    42. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 2021
    43. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 398400
    44. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 597599
    45. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 722724
    46. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 2021
    47. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 398400
    48. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 597599
    49. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XI, pp. 722724
    50. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 2021
    51. “Wilderness.” Naval History and Heritage Command, https://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/w/wilderness.html.
    52. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 7173
    53. “Wilderness.” Naval History and Heritage Command, https://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/w/wilderness.html.
    54. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 7173
    55. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 7173
    56. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Volume XII, pp. 7173
    57. “Wilderness.” Naval History and Heritage Command, https://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/w/wilderness.html.
    58. “Wilderness.” Naval History and Heritage Command, https://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/w/wilderness.html.
    59. “Wilderness.” Naval History and Heritage Command, https://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/w/wilderness.html.
    60. SOPO Editor’s Note: The shelling described matches the description of the Action at Four-Mile Creek, which occurred on July 28, 1864.

    ***



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