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(SwStr: t. 213)

Benefit--a sidewheel steamer built at Metropolis, Ill., in 1863 was temporarily acquired by the Navy sometime either late in that year or early in 1864 from Mr. Edward Buse for use of the Mississippi Squadron as a tug and general transport. Manned by a civilian crew and commanded by an officer appointed by her owner, under the direction of Acting Master John D. Harty, the steamer began serving the Navy early in February 1864 if not before then. Her first documented mission began at noon on 2 February of that year when she departed Cairo, Ill., and descended the Mississippi with important dispatches for Rear Admiral David D. Porter.

The tug’s most notable service occurred during the joint Army Navy expedition up the Red River in the spring of 1864. While engaged in this operation, she braved the fire of a four gun battery some 50 miles above Grand Ecore, to carry information to the admiral. The civilian master of the tug was killed in the action, and Lt. Silas W. Terry took charge of the vessel so that she might complete her mission.

After Porter's Flotilla succeeded in withdrawing from the Red River, Benefit continued to serve on the Mississippi and its tributaries supporting the Mississippi Squadron until after the Confederacy collapsed in April 1965. On 9 April 1865, the day of General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House, her commanding officer was ordered to turn all public property on board Benefit over to the naval station at Monnek City, Ill.; and, soon thereafter, she was returned to her owner. The tug resumed merchant service and continued to operate on the Mississippi River system until she was destroyed by fire on 6 April 1867 at Starks Landing, Ala.

James L. Mooney

7 February 2006