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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORY AND HERITAGE COMMAND
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Ceres

 

In Greek mythology, the goddess of grain and harvests.

 

(SwStr: t. 150; l. 108'4"; b. 22'4"; d. 6'3"; s. 9 k.; cpl. 45; a. 1 30-pdr. r., 1 32-pdr. sb.)

 

Ceres, an armed side-wheel merchant steamer, was built at Keyport, N.J., 1856; purchased 11 September 1861; fitted out at the Washington Navy Yard; and commissioned during September, Acting Master J. L. Elliott in command.

 

Originally assigned to the Potomac Flotilla, Ceres was ordered on 18 September 1861 to report to the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, and for the remainder of the war, aside from repair periods at Baltimore, operated in the rivers and sounds of Virginia and North Carolina. Here she maintained the close watch for southern merchantmen through which the blockading forces provided so important a part of the Navy's contribution in the Civil War. She was successful in capturing four blockade runners during her service, as well as aiding in the seizure of others.

 

Another crucial assignment carried out by Ceres' squadron was support for Army forces holding or attempting to take coastal positions, as well as providing boats and cover for amphibious operations, raids, and reconnaissance. She took part in the capture of Roanoke Island on 7 and 8 February 1862, during which she was hit while firing on Confederate shore positions. When nearby Confederate naval ships retired up Albemarle Sound as Roanoke fell, Ceres joined in following them, and next took part in the naval engagement off Elizabeth City. During this action, in which one of her men was wounded, she captured CSS Ellis.

 

Continuing her operations in North Carolinian waters, Ceres took the steamer Wilson on 9 July 1862 while covering the landing of an Army raiding party near Hamilton. Through most of 1863, she protected the forces holding such posts as Fort Anderson at New Bern, and the positions near Washington, N.C., coming under fire from Confederate batteries on several occasions. In the lengthy series of attacks around Plymouth, N.C., Ceres lost two men killed and six wounded when she was taken under heavy fire from Fort Grey, upriver from Plymouth, on 17 April 1864. Two days later, it was Ceres who gave warning of the approach of the formidable Confederate ram Albemarle, and took part in the first engagement with the ram which followed. On 5 May, her group again was engaged with Albemarle and two other steamers.

 

Following the dramatic sinking of the ram by Lieutenant W. B. Gushing, and later salvage, Ceres towed Albemarle north to Norfolk at the close of the war. After a final patrol period off North Carolina, Ceres was decommisisoned at New York 14 July 1865, and sold 25 October 1865.