USS Tecumseh (1863)
The first USS Tecumseh was an iron-hulled
Ironclad warship
An ironclad was a steam-propelled warship in the early part of the second half of the 19th century, protected by iron or steel armor plates. The ironclad was developed as a result of the vulnerability of wooden warships to explosive or incendiary shells. The first ironclad battleship, La Gloire,...

, single-turret
Gun turret
A gun turret is a weapon mount that protects the crew or mechanism of a projectile-firing weapon and at the same time lets the weapon be aimed and fired in many directions.The turret is also a rotating weapon platform...

Monitor (warship)
A monitor was a class of relatively small warship which was neither fast nor strongly armoured but carried disproportionately large guns. They were used by some navies from the 1860s until the end of World War II, and saw their final use by the United States Navy during the Vietnam War.The monitors...

 in the United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

 during the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...


Tecumseh was launched on 12 September 1863 at Jersey City, New Jersey
Jersey City, New Jersey
Jersey City is the seat of Hudson County, New Jersey, United States.Part of the New York metropolitan area, Jersey City lies between the Hudson River and Upper New York Bay across from Lower Manhattan and the Hackensack River and Newark Bay...

, by Secor and Company,of New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

; and was commissioned at the New York Navy Yard on 19 April 1864, Commander
Commander (United States)
In the United States, commander is a military rank that is also sometimes used as a military title, depending on the branch of service. It is also used as a rank or title in some organizations outside of the military, particularly in police and law enforcement.-Naval rank:In the United States...

 Tunis A. M. Craven in command.

Civil War

Although slated to strengthen Rear Admiral
Rear admiral (United States)
Rear admiral is a naval commissioned officer rank above that of a commodore and captain, and below that of a vice admiral. The uniformed services of the United States are unique in having two grades of rear admirals.- Rear admiral :...

 David Farragut
David Farragut
David Glasgow Farragut was a flag officer of the United States Navy during the American Civil War. He was the first rear admiral, vice admiral, and admiral in the United States Navy. He is remembered in popular culture for his order at the Battle of Mobile Bay, usually paraphrased: "Damn the...

's West Gulf Blockading Squadron for forthcoming operations against Confederate
Confederate States of America
The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...

 fortifications guarding Mobile Bay
Mobile Bay
Mobile Bay is an inlet of the Gulf of Mexico, lying within the state of Alabama in the United States. Its mouth is formed by the Fort Morgan Peninsula on the eastern side and Dauphin Island, a barrier island on the western side. The Mobile River and Tensaw River empty into the northern end of the...

, Tecumseh was ordered to serve temporarily with the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, then sorely taxed by General
General (United States)
In the United States Army, United States Air Force, and United States Marine Corps, general is a four-star general officer rank, with the pay grade of O-10. General ranks above lieutenant general and below General of the Army or General of the Air Force; the Marine Corps does not have an...

 Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant was the 18th President of the United States as well as military commander during the Civil War and post-war Reconstruction periods. Under Grant's command, the Union Army defeated the Confederate military and ended the Confederate States of America...

's operations against Richmond, Virginia
Richmond, Virginia
Richmond is the capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia, in the United States. It is an independent city and not part of any county. Richmond is the center of the Richmond Metropolitan Statistical Area and the Greater Richmond area...

 — particularly by Major General Benjamin F. Butler
Benjamin Franklin Butler (politician)
Benjamin Franklin Butler was an American lawyer and politician who represented Massachusetts in the United States House of Representatives and later served as the 33rd Governor of Massachusetts....

's planned landing to establish a bridgehead across the James at Bermuda Hundred. Early in May, she was assigned to the James River Flotilla; and she ascended the river to guard Union shipping from Confederate naval forces below Richmond.

In order to prevent Confederate warships from coming down from the upper navigable reaches of the James, the Army
Union Army
The Union Army was the land force that fought for the Union during the American Civil War. It was also known as the Federal Army, the U.S. Army, the Northern Army and the National Army...

 and Navy cooperated to block the channel. Tecumseh participated in this effort from 15-18 June by sinking four hulks; stretching a heavy boom across the channel supporting a chain cable; extending a heavy boom across the flats; and sinking a schooner
A schooner is a type of sailing vessel characterized by the use of fore-and-aft sails on two or more masts with the forward mast being no taller than the rear masts....

 along the right hand bank of the river from which a short boom was extended to the flats.

Three days after the obstructions were completed, Tecumsehs commanding officer, Cdr. Craven, noticed that the enemy was building a line of breastworks at Hewlett's Farm. Tecumsehs gunners manned their Dahlgren gun
Dahlgren gun
Dahlgren guns were muzzle loading naval artillery designed by Rear Admiral John A. Dahlgren USN, mostly used in the period of the American Civil War. Dahlgren's design philosophy evolved from an accidental explosion in 1849 of a 32-pounder being tested for accuracy, killing a gunner...

s, and Craven ordered "commence fire." Five heavy shells landed amidst the enemy encampment and work gang. Craven reported, "I threw into it [the Confederate construction gang's vicinity] five 15-inch shells, two of which exploded in the right place, destroying a platform, throwing the plank and timbers in every direction." The Union shells stirred up a veritable hornet's nest. At 11:30, the enemy unmasked a battery of four guns.

Tecumseh resumed fire, and Craven ordered and to engage as well. The enemy guns replied, and a half-hour later, Confederate ironclads near Dutch Gap commenced what Craven termed "a wild cross-fire." The enemy vessels, however, were concealed by a line of trees, and thus the Union guns could not reach them.

"Our fire was delivered slowly and with great precision," wrote Craven, "most of our shells exploding within the works of the enemy." Tecumseh ceased fire at 13:30, as Craven gave his crew a half-hour to rest and eat dinner before delivering a slow and devastating fire from 14:00 to 16:00. During the engagement, the monitor fired forty-six 15 in (381 mm) shells and was not struck by any return fire. She and her sister Union warships had turned back the Confederate threat to Grant's riverine supply line.

On 5 July, the monitor got underway in company with and and resumed her voyage southward. Proceeding "with all practicable dispatch," Tecumseh soon arrived in Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

 waters, en route to join Farragut's squadron in the Gulf of Mexico
Gulf of Mexico
The Gulf of Mexico is a partially landlocked ocean basin largely surrounded by the North American continent and the island of Cuba. It is bounded on the northeast, north and northwest by the Gulf Coast of the United States, on the southwest and south by Mexico, and on the southeast by Cuba. In...

. Tecumseh lay at anchor at Pensacola, Florida
Pensacola, Florida
Pensacola is the westernmost city in the Florida Panhandle and the county seat of Escambia County, Florida, United States of America. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 56,255 and as of 2009, the estimated population was 53,752...

 on 3 August as a flurry of messages arrived from the Gulf Squadron: one from the Fleet Captain and the other from Farragut himself. Both dispatches evinced the Admiral's impatience to attack Mobile Bay. "When you do not take fortune at her offer," Farragut wrote, "you must take her as you find her." That evening, Union sailors worked under the guns of Fort Morgan and deactivated and sank Confederate moored mines
Naval mine
A naval mine is a self-contained explosive device placed in water to destroy surface ships or submarines. Unlike depth charges, mines are deposited and left to wait until they are triggered by the approach of, or contact with, an enemy vessel...

 — "torpedoes" — in the main channel, preparatory to Farragut's forthcoming dash into the bay.

Tecumseh arrived off Mobile Bay on the evening of the 4th, thus enabling Farragut to move into the Battle of Mobile Bay
Battle of Mobile Bay
The Battle of Mobile Bay of August 5, 1864, was an engagement of the American Civil War in which a Federal fleet commanded by Rear Adm. David G. Farragut, assisted by a contingent of soldiers, attacked a smaller Confederate fleet led by Adm...

. Shortly after 06:00 on the 5th, the 18-ship Union squadron crossed the bar at the flood tide and moved into the bay with Tecumseh leading the van of monitors, , , and . The ironclads passed between the fortified headlands — to starboard of the lighter-armored wooden steam frigate
A frigate is any of several types of warship, the term having been used for ships of various sizes and roles over the last few centuries.In the 17th century, the term was used for any warship built for speed and maneuverability, the description often used being "frigate-built"...

s — in order to take the fire from the heavy guns at Fort Morgan.

Just after 07:00, Tecumseh opened fire on the Confederate batteries and joined action in earnest. Meanwhile, Rear Admiral Franklin Buchanan
Franklin Buchanan
Franklin Buchanan was an officer in the United States Navy who became an admiral in the Confederate Navy during the American Civil War, and commanded the ironclad CSS Virginia.-Early life:...

's Southern squadron — centered around the heavy ironclad ram — sortied to meet the attackers. Tecumseh made a hard port turn to engage the Confederate ram. Suddenly, at 07:40, a tremendous explosion shook Tecumseh to her keel as she made contact with a "torpedo".

She began to heel rapidly; and men scrambled to abandon ship. Comdr. Craven arrived at the foot of the ladder leading to the main deck simultaneously with the pilot, John Collins
John Collins
- Arts :*John Churton Collins , English literary critic*John Collins , bass guitarist for Powderfinger*John Collins , of The New Pornographers and The Smugglers...

. Craven stepped back, saying "After you, pilot," thus permitting Collins to escape. His gallantry cost Craven his life, for the ship sank in 25 seconds. The monitor carried him down with her as she capsized. As she rolled over and exposed her hull plates, two accurate shells from Fort Morgan added the coup de grâce to the doomed ship. Besides their captain, 92 other members of Tecumsehs crew perished in the sinking.


In 1873, Tecumseh was sold for salvage by the Department of the Treasury
United States Department of the Treasury
The Department of the Treasury is an executive department and the treasury of the United States federal government. It was established by an Act of Congress in 1789 to manage government revenue...

 to James E. Slaughter of Mobile
Mobile, Alabama
Mobile is the third most populous city in the Southern US state of Alabama and is the county seat of Mobile County. It is located on the Mobile River and the central Gulf Coast of the United States. The population within the city limits was 195,111 during the 2010 census. It is the largest...

 for $50. After the purchase, Slaughter let it be known that he intended to use explosives to blast the wreck into salvageable pieces to recover iron and possibly the ship's safe. In 1876, the relatives of the men lost on Tecumseh petitioned Congress to stop the salvage. Congress quickly passed Joint Resolution No. 23 on 15 August directing the Secretary of the Treasury to return the $50, with 6% interest to Slaughter. The Secretary of the Navy
United States Secretary of the Navy
The Secretary of the Navy of the United States of America is the head of the Department of the Navy, a component organization of the Department of Defense...

 was to assume control of the wreck and was empowered to protect Tecumseh. Congress stipulated that any salvage efforts must provide for the proper removal and burial of the vessel's dead crewmen.

In 1974, Jack Friend — a Mobile naval historian — was commissioned to examine the feasibility of raising Tecumseh and concluded that it would cost an estimated $10 million US. More modern estimates have determined a salvage cost of $80 million US. The Tecumseh sank into the soft mud of the bay and is 99% buried. Of the located Civil War era ironclads the Tecumseh is the best preserved and there are an estimated 50,000 artifacts in the wreck site including the two 15 in (381 mm) Dahlgren guns. Divers for the Smithsonian Institution
Smithsonian Institution
The Smithsonian Institution is an educational and research institute and associated museum complex, administered and funded by the government of the United States and by funds from its endowment, contributions, and profits from its retail operations, concessions, licensing activities, and magazines...

 removed an anchor and dishes from the ship's dining hall during a 1967 expedition. The wreck site is marked and under US Coast Guard
United States Coast Guard
The United States Coast Guard is a branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven U.S. uniformed services. The Coast Guard is a maritime, military, multi-mission service unique among the military branches for having a maritime law enforcement mission and a federal regulatory agency...

surveillance pending continued preservation efforts.

External links

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