Return to DANFS IndexImage of an anchorReturn to Naval History and Heritage Command homepage
flag banner
Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships banner
WASHINGTON DC 20374-5060



(ScStr: t. 290 [400])


Greyhound was "a three-masted propeller", known also as "a fast sailer" and noticeable on account of the red streak along her light lead colored hull; she was built in Liverpool in 1863. Whether Henry Lafone, Confederate agent in Nassau, managed her for the Government or owned part or all of her has not been established, but she did carry Government cargo and is here assumed to have acted as a public vessel.


She left Liverpool for the Confederacy 5 January 1864 on her maiden voyage, and ran between there and the British islands nearby. Commanded by "Captain Henry", more accurately known as Lt. George Henry Bier, CSN, on 9 May 1864 she ran out of Wilmington, N.C., with 820 bales of cotton, 35 tons of tobacco and 25 casks of turpentine—presumably to pay for Confederate ships of her type being built in Britain. Captured next day by USS Connecticut, she became celebrated as the ship that carried a mysterious "Mrs. Lewis", soon recognized as "the famous rebel lady, Miss Belle Boyd, and her servant"; Belle was a Southern heroine and Government agent who had been captured by the Union before.


"Captain Henry," commanding Greyhound, was recognized also—as late Lieutenant, U.S. Navy. The prize master, Acting Ensign Samuel Harding, Jr., USN, who took Greyhound to Boston, was persuaded by his charming prisoner to let Captain Bier escape from Boston to Canada; for this Harding was dismissed from the Navy in disgrace but eventually married Belle Boyd in England.


Greyhound and cargo were assessed at $484,000 in prize money. Some sources indicate this was the Greyhound that became General Ben Butler's floating headquarters on the James in the late fall of 1864 and that on her Butler visited Admiral Porter at Dutch Gap. Greyhound being faster than Porter's Malvern at this period, Butler gave the admiral a ride to Fortress Monroe to confer with Asst. Secretary Gustavus V. Fox. Admiral Porter mentioned in his memoirs that Greyhound "deserved her name, for she was a long, lean-looking craft and the fastest steamer on the river." But not much longer; Porter relives her dramatic last trip: a few miles below Bermuda Hundred, Va., a "torpedo" blew out the engine room and set the ship afire, the admiral, general, their staffs and the crew barely escaping as Greyhound was "wrapped in flames from one end to another" in a final "grand spectacle." Some Southern saboteurs had planted one or more torpedos in the bunkers camouflaged as chunks of coal, which the stokers dutifully shoveled into the fires.