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USS Hatteras

Posted to Maritime Musings (by on February 5, 2013

The only Union warship sunk by the CSS Alabama

 The gunboat USS Hatteras started its brief career as the SS St. Mary.  It was purchased by the Union Navy shortly after the outbreak of the Civil War.  The Navy was in need of steam-powered ships to participate in the Anaconda Plan, devised by US General-in-Chief Winfield Scott to blockade the coast of the rebellious states.  The side-wheeler met those requirements, particularly after it was fitted with four 32-pound guns.  The USS Hatteras joined the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron at Key West on 5 November and was assigned to interdict Confederate shipping off the west coast of Florida.  On 17 January 1862, it raided Cedar Key, Florida, sinking seven small blockade runners, destroying the western terminus of the Florida Railroad, and burning cotton and other goods.  The Hatteras was then transferred to the Gulf Blockading Squadron.  Over the next year, it continued to sink blockade runners and destroy cargoes, primarily off the coast of Louisiana.  In January 1863, a new commanding officer was assigned and the Hatteras was assigned with supporting a raid on Confederate forces in Galveston, Texas.  Tasked with chasing down an unidentified vessel, it soon was locked in mortal combat with the notorious Confederate commerce raider CSS Alabama.  After 45 minutes, the USS Hatteras was badly holed, sinking, and in danger of its magazines exploding.  Surrendering, the crew transferred to the Alabama moments before the Hatteras settled to the bottom.  The wreck of the Hatteras was discovered in 1972, in approximately 60 feet of water about 20 miles outside of Galveston harbor.  A recent detailed survey of the wreck has been performed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

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