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Blue Light

A pyrotechnic signal used by the Navy in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Since such devices were controlled and employed by the ship’s gunner, the term was selected as an appropriate name for a vessel designed to handle ordnance.

(ScTug: t. 103; a. 1 gun)

Blue Light--a screw tug laid down in 1863 by the Portsmouth (N.H.) Navy Yard--was launched on 27 February 1864 and fitted out to carry ammunition from magazines ashore to warships anchored far out in harbors where they would not endanger people and property on the waterfront. The little steamer was assigned to the Boston Navy Yard and operated at that base through the end of the Civil War, supplying ammunition to Union warships preparing for operations along the Confederate coast or on the South's inland waters. Following the collapse of the Confederacy, Blue Light continued to perform duty as an ordnance tug at Boston until 1870. From 1871 to June 1873, she served as a yard tug at the Washington Navy Yard.

Since no logs recording the vessel's operations before this time apparently up to this point are extant, Blue Light served the Navy in a non-commissioned status. The tug was placed in commission at Washington on 27 June 1873 and, the following day, sailed for the coast of Maine to perform special service under the United States Commissioner on Fish and Fisheries. At the end of this assignment, she arrived at Portsmouth, N.H., on 6 September 1873, and she was decommissioned there on the 13th.

Recommissioned on 12 June 1874, the ship proceeded to New London, Conn., for a tour of duty as a yard tug which lasted until Blue Light was decommissioned again on 30 September 1875 and laid up into 1879. No records of her status for the following four years seem to have survived, but we do know that the tug was sold at Great Neck, N.Y., on 27 September 1883.

James L. Mooney

27 January 2006