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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORY AND HERITAGE COMMAND
805 KIDDER BREESE SE -- WASHINGTON NAVY YARD
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Condor

 

(SwStr: t. 300; l. 270'; b. 24'; dr. 7'; cpl. 50; cl. Condor)

 

Condor was the ill-fated precursor of a class of fast iron ships, the largest design of seven contracted out by the Confederate Navy Department to British shipbuilders. From Scotland she sailed on her maiden voyage—from the port of Greenock, which has led to the belief that she may also have been built there.

 

She was long and low, with three raking stacks fore and aft, turtleback forward, 'midship house, poop deck, one mast, straight stem and painted elusive white—all in all presenting a striking appearance. Chased on her maiden voyage by blockaders, she arrived safely 1 October 1864 under the guns of Fort Fisher, on Swash Channel Bar at the entrance to Wilmington, N.C., only to run aground—it has been said to avoid the wreck of blockade-runner Night Hawk, which all accounts agree was stranded nearby. Lookouts appear to have been stationed on board Condor at low tide as late as December, but by this time any hope of getting her off must have been abandoned, for Colonel Lamb noted in his diary for 3 December that his battery had practiced with 150-pounder Armstrong rifles, their first shot hitting her forward stack, the second her after stack.

 

More famous than the ship herself was one of her passengers, the patriot and courier Rose Greenhow, who died in the surf—weighed down, tradition maintains, with vital dispatches for President Davis and $2,000 in gold received as royalties from her best-selling book on Confederate womanhood. The ship is forever linked also to the colorful personality of her captain, August Charles Hobart-Hampden, RN, VC, alias "Captain Roberts" or "Samuel S. Ridge", a younger son of the Duke of Buckingham and a favorite of Queen Victoria. He apparently cleared Condor under the alias of "Captain Hewitt"; ever a chameleon, another trip he answered to "Gulick." Captain Hobart-Hampden survived until 1886, when he was buried in Scutari as "Hobart Pasha", retired Admiral-in-Chief or Marshal of the Ottoman Empire's Navy and Vice-Admiral, RN (Ret.)