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William G. Hewes

 

(SwStr: t. 767[747, 795, 905]; l. 258'; b. 34')

 

William G. Hewes, W. G. Hewes or Hewes bore with her original name being misspelled William G. Heness, William G. Hawes, William Heines and was once even referred to in official records as Jewess—due, no doubt, to some local quirk of speech that elongated Hewes to two syllables. Despite any inducements to schizophrenia, Harlan & Hollingsworth's stout iron Hull No. 70 became a very distinct entity, leading a well integrated, even a charmed life lasting 35 years, the most harrowing and notable of which were her four serving the Confederacy. Known under many names and guises, she was built at Wilmington, Del., in 1860 for the Texas Line of Charles Morgan's Southern S. S. Co. in time to be interned at New Orleans upon Louisiana's secession. Governor Moore seized her 28 April 1861.

 

"William Heines" was one of the noted 14 Morgan ships and tugs "impressed for public service" by Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin's order to Maj. Gen. Mansfield Lovell, CSA, 15 January 1862, with a view toward turning her into a cottonclad gunboat. Her economical, low-pressure steam plant with less exposed machinery was better adapted to such conversion than most of the seagoing steamers then in the area. Rejected as a gunboat prospect, with her speed and light draft coupled to large capacity, Hewes became much more valuable to the Confederacy as a successful blockade-runner to Havana and Nassau. She was presumably still Government-operated as a public vessel. A Captain Smith was commanding her in 1862. Few ships carrying cotton could match the 1,441-bale payload she transported to Havana in April 1862—probably a typical cargo.

 

Sometime in 1863, apparently, Hewes was renamed Ella & Annie and operated by W. C. Bee and C. T. Mitchell out of Charleston—perhaps partly owned by them, but still carrying Government cargo.

 

Lt. Frank N. Bonneau, CSN, of Charleston, commanded Ella & Annie to Caribbean ports, reporting to Major N. S. Walker, CSA, for fiscal purposes. On 9 November 1863 Ella & Annie was cornered by USS Niphon, tried to ram the blockader and did succeed in slicing off her bowsprit and most of her stem along with a kedge anchor and other incidentals, but in so doing exposed herself to a boarding party which foiled Bonneau's attempt to blow up his ship—which he had been adjured to do at any cost to prevent capture. Thus Ella & Annie was taken with a valuable cargo of Austrian rifles, salt, beef, paper and saltpeter plus dispatches invaluable to the Federal blockaders.

 

It is largely due to the Cornubia (q.v.) and Ella & Annie papers that any clear picture is available today of the operation of the Confederate Army transport service. Crew members taken in the prize were put in irons on board USS Niphon and Captain Bonneau locked up in Shenandoah. A Boston prize court later was to convict him of "piracy"—perhaps the only time the extreme penalty was actually imposed—but the presiding judge, a retired flag officer, suspended sentence on the ground that he himself would have done the same under similar circumstances; fear of reprisal against high ranking Union officers held prisoner in the South would have prevented the execution in any case.

 

Ella & Annie was provisionally commissioned USS Malvern on 10 December 1863 at Boston Navy Yard and sent forth hastily to catch the Chesapeake (q.v.) After formal prize court proceedings and payment of $139,000 in claims, Malvern was commissioned with proper ceremony 9 February 1864 and became widely known as the flagship of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron; she was also Admiral D. D. Porter's flagship at the capture of Fort Fisher, 15 January 1865, the death knell of the blockade runner. Malvern was placed out of commission 24 October 1865 and sold at public auction the 25th.