USS Nightingale (1851)

USS "Nightingale" (1851) was originally the captured clipper ship "Nightingale", which operated as a slave trader. It was captured in Africa by USS "Saratoga", taken as a prize, and was later purchased by the U.S. Navy in 1861.

During the American Civil War, because of her large size, she was assigned as a supply ship and collier to support the fleet of Union Navy ships on the blockade of the ports and waterways of the Confederate States of America.

Rescuing Africans intended for the slave trade

About midnight 20–21 April 1861, two boats from sloop of war "Saratoga" pulled silently toward a darkened ship anchored near the mouth of the Congo River at Cabinda, Angola. After clambering on board "Nightingale", a suspected slaver from Boston, Massachusetts, the American sailors and marines found 961 negros -- men, women, and children -- chained between decks. The prize, a clipper ship designed and built at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in 1851 by Samuel Hanscomb, Jr., was preparing to load more slaves before getting under way for America.

"Saratoga" installs a prize crew

"Saratoga’s" skipper, Comdr. Alfred Taylor, placed a prize crew on "Nightingale", commanded by the leader of the boarding party, Lt. James J. Guthrie. The captured clipper got under way on the 23d for Liberia, a nation founded in 1822 by the American Colonization Society as a refuge for freed slaves.

Fever strikes the crew en route to Monrovia

En route, a fever raged through the ship killing 160 negroes and one member of the crew. After arriving Monrovia 7 May, "Nightingale" landed her passengers, fumigated living quarters, and sailed for home on the 13th. During the first part of the passage, fever seriously weakened the crew, at one point leaving only 7 of her 34 man crew fit for duty. Two more sailors died before the scourge began to subside, enabling the ship to reach New York 15 June.

Purchased by the U.S. Navy at the prize court

"Nightingale" was condemned by the New York prize court; purchased by the Navy which was then expanding to blockade the Confederate coast, and commissioned 18 August 1861, Acting Master David B. Horne in command.

Converted to a store ship during the American Civil War

Fitted out as a coal and store ship, "Nightingale", laden with coal, got underway south the same day, stopped at Hampton Roads on the 21st, and pushed on toward Key West, Florida, the following morning. But for occasional voyages north for coal and supplies, she served on the U.S. Gulf Coast through the first years of the American Civil War.

She was with Union ships "Preble", "Richmond", "Vincennes", and "Water Witch" in the Mississippi River near Head of Passes when Confederate ironclad ram "Manassas", accompanied by steamers "Ivy" and "James L. Day", attacked 12 October.

Running aground during battle action

During the action she ran aground, but the Southern ships did not press their advantage. The ship was refloated a few days later and she sailed to New York with prisoners of war, and booty. "Nightingale" returned to the Gulf late in the year with a cargo of coal and supplies for the Union Blockaders. During most of 1862, she served the East Gulf Blockading Squadron operating out of Key West. Early in 1863, she became ordnance ship at Pensacola, Florida, and continued this duty until returning to Boston, Massachusetts, 9 June 1864.

Final decommissioning and foundering

Decommissioned at the Boston Navy Yard 20 June, she was sold at public auction there 11 February 1865 to D. E. Mayo and remained in merchant service until she foundered in the North Atlantic Ocean 17 April 1893.


See also

* USS Saratoga (1842)
* American Civil War
* Slavery

External links

* [ Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships]
* [ Nightingale]

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