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CSS Patrick Henry


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Career
Launched:1853
Commissioned:17 April 1861
Fate:burned 3 April 1865
General Characteristics
Displacement:1300 tons
Length:250 feet
Beam:34 feet
Draft:13 feet
Depth of Hold:17 feet
Complement:150 officers and men
Armament:one ten-inch smooth-bore, one 64-pounder, six eight-inch guns, two 32-pounder rifles
CSS Patrick Henry was built in New York City in 1853 by the renowned William H. Webb[?] for the Old Dominion Steam Ship Line[?] as the civilian steamer Yorktown, a brigantine-rigged side-wheel steamer. She carried passengers and freight between between Richmond, Virginia, and New York City. Yorktown had anchored in the James River when Virginia seceded from the Union on 17 April 1861 and was seized and turned over to the Confederate Navy[?]. Commander John Randolph Tucker[?], who commanded the newly organized James River Squadron, directed that Yorktown be converted into a gunboat and renamed Patrick Henry in honor of that revolutionary patriot.

Still commonly referred to as Yorktown, she was assigned to a position near Mulberry Island[?] in the James to protect the right flank of the Confederate Peninsula Army[?].

On 13 September 1861 and again on 2 December, Commander Tucker took Patrick Henry down the river to a point about a mile and a half above Newport News, Virginia, and opened fire on the Federal squadron at long range hoping to draw out some of the gunboats. The gambit was refused, but Tucker inflicted some minor damage.

During the Battle of Hampton Roads on 8 March 1862 in which Virginia destroyed the Federal warships Cumberland[?] and Congress[?], Patrick Henry attempted to take the latter's surrender but was fired upon by shore batteries, took a shell in her steam chest which killed four men. Towed out of action long enough to make repairs, she soon resumed her former position.

During the historic 9 March 1862 action between Virginia and USS Monitor Patrick Henry fired long range at Monitor. The Confederate Congress later accorded special thanks to all officers and men for their gallant conduct during the two-day battle.

Patrick Henry was also present during some of Virginias other actions and, in a daring night operation on 5 May 1862, helped remove Confederate property from the Norfolk Navy Yard before it was abandoned to the Federals.

After the surrender of Norfolk on 10 May 1862, the James River Squadron, including Patrick Henry, retired up the river to Drewry's Bluff[?] where pursuing Federal ships were repulsed on 15 May.

Patrick Henry was designated an academy ship in May 1862 and underwent appropriate alterations to this end. In October 1863 Patrick Henry housed the floating Confederate States Naval Academy[?] at Drewry's Bluff, where instruction for 52 midshipmen began under the superintendency of Lieutenant William H. Parker. Numbers later increased to sixty, with thirteen teachers in attendance. Sometimes she took part in action with the midshipmen on board.

When Richmond was evacuated on 3 April 1865, Patrick Henry was burned to prevent capture. Her cadets were charged with the delivery of a treasury of some CS$500,000 to the new government seat of Danville, Virginia. Each was rewarded with $40 in gold.

See also USS Patrick Henry.



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