Smith, George, US Navy from Seaman to Lieutenant

George  Smith, while born about 1837  in Massachusetts, is claimed by Newmarket, for when he was a child his widowed mother came here before 1850 and made Newmarket her home.  At the time of the Civil War, he enlisted in the navy and was appointed Acting Master’s Mate, 22 Oct 1861;  Acting Master  28 Apr 1862; and commissioned as Acting Volunteer Lieutenant on 27 Jun 1865.  He served upon the “U. S. S. Shepherd Knapp, Huntsville, and Dictator”  as well as the monitor ship “Monadnock”, and was discharged July 2, 1868 with a Captain’s rank.   The 1860 census lists him living in Newmarket, age 22,  with an occupation as “a mate of a vessel”;  in the 1870 census he is a carpenter living in Newmarket,  married to Mary (age 25) with a son True (age 3).  His sister Sarah E. Smith was also living in town.  He died in Nottingham 21 Oct 1905 at age 68.

USS Shepherd Knapp (1861)

Shepherd Knapp — a ship-rigged sailing vessel — a large (838-ton) ship purchased during the beginning of the War.  With her eight guns and a crew of 93, she was employed by the Union Navy as a heavy gunsgip outfitted to pursue major Confederate blockade runners, especially Confederate Captain Raphael Semmes. During the course of her fruitless searches for Semmes, she ran aground on a reef near  Haiti and was abandoned.   Since the logs of Shepherd Knapp are missing, many details of her career are unknown.  Her first order on 1 Nov 1861 was to cruise in the West  Indies seeking to capture or destroy any “vessels of the rebels”  she might encounter.  

(photo: Much Sought after Confederate Bloackade Runner, Capt. Raphael Semmes)

The special object of  this attention was the Confederate commerce raider, CSS Sumter, which had been preying on Union shipping since early summer. After a long cruise in which she never quite caught up with Capt. Semmes and his elusive steamer.  The USS  Shepherd Knapp returned to New York City on the afternoon of 17 April 1862.  The ship was laid up at the New York Navy Yard for the rest of the year.  On 20 Jan 1863, she was again ordered back to cruise seeking Confederate ships, this time Semmes was operating the CSS Alabama.  After cruising in the Caribbean for over three and one-half months, Shepherd Knapp struck a  coral reef off Cap-Haitien and was abandoned.

USS Monadnock

USS Monadnock was built at the Boston Navy Yard and commissioned in October 1864, she was sent to Norfolk, Virginia, to begin her Civil War service. In December 1864 and January
1865, she used her four fifteen-inch guns to support the two assaults that finally captured Fort Fisher, North Carolina, thus closing the port of Wilmington to blockade running. After Fort Fisher was taken, Monadnock went to Charleston, South Carolina, to take part in final operations against that city and its defenses. In April 1865, she served briefly on Virginia’s James River, then steamed south to Havana, Cuba, where she remained until June, covering the Confederate ironclad Stonewall.

[photos: 10 ” unexploded shell fired from the USS Monadnock (right)]

After special outfitting at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, in October 1865 Monadnock began a long voyage to California, the longest cruise that a monitor-type warship had yet undertaken. After calling at several South American ports and passing through the Strait of Magellan, she arrived at San Francisco in June 1866 and was soon thereafter decommissioned at the Mare Island Navy Yard. In 1874 her wooden hull was broken up as part of a program to “rebuild” Civil War era monitors into modern ones. In fact, she was replaced by a completely new ship, which was also named Monadnock

USS Huntsville

USS Huntsville,  a wooden screw steamer, was built in New York City as a passenger steamer between New York and Savannah, Georgia.  Launched on 10 Dec 1857, and was in operation on her intended route by January of the following year.  With the outbreak of the Civil War in April 1861, Hunstsville was purchased by the Navy 24 August 1861.

Huntsville sailed for Key West and joined the Gulf Blockading Squadron  Alabama to Texas.  In early August she steamed from the Florida coast westward and almost immediately captured two smal schooners off Mobile, Alabama.  She engaged Florida off Mobile Bay, and after an hour-long gun battle, she turned the blockade runner back into Mobile.  By the end of July 1862 she had taken three prizes, Confederate steamers Adela and Reliance and British schooner Agnes, carrying cargoes of  cotton, rosin and other commodities. Before the end of the year, she captured two additional schooners Courier and Ariel, trying to run into Mobile with cargoes of lead, tin, medicines, wines, and coffee.

As the relentless pressure of the blockade against the South continued, the third year of the war proved even more profitable for Huntsville. During 1863 she captured two Confederate ships, Minnie and A. J. Hodge; two British schooners, Surprise and Ascension; and Spanish steamer Union. In addition, she drove two others, Cuba and Eugenia, into the hands of other ships in the blockading fleet and was given partial credit in the capture of Last Trial.   Among the variety of cargo seized, Huntsville captured 523 bales of cotton, the most valuable commodity in the South; and she prevented a great quantity of supplies, mainly from Havana, Cuba, and Nassau, Bahamas from reaching  Southern ports.

Yellow fever outbreak

Late in May 1864 she sailed to Tampa Bay to support landing forces. An outbreak of yellow fever in near-epidemic proportions struck the Union ships. Huntsville was one of the hardest hit, and the disease felled more than half her crew. Departing Tampa 23 July, she coaled at Key West and reached New York 3 August. Following a period of quarantine, she decommissioned 19 August.

USS Dictator, 1863

USS Dictator was a single-turreted ironclad monitor originally planned to be  armed with two 20-inch (510 mm) caliber smoothbores. She was launched 26 December 1863 . Construction problems with her powerplant kept her initial service relatively brief and inactive.  Assigned to duty with the North Atlantic B lockading Squadron, she cruised along the Atlantic coastline  from 15 Dec 1864 until placed out of commission 5 Sep 1865. 

(sources: text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships)