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Orizaba

 

(SwStr: t. 595)

 

The Confederate Government Steamer Orizaba, formerly belonging to the Texas line of Charles Morgan's Southern Steamship Co., seems to have been the low-pressure, seagoing packet built in Brooklyn, N. Y., in 1858. Some writers have tried to identify her with the big, 1,200-passenger, predecessor Morgan liner Orizaba delivered in New York in 1854 to Morgan & Harris, sent to California two years later and scrapped there in 1887, never having returned to the Atlantic; her only war service having been short, transporting Union troops to the Isthmus of Panama.

 

Orizaba was seized by the Confederacy at Galveston prior to mid-September 1861, according to Confederate Army records. Released under gentleman's agreement with her owner to sail Galveston-New Orleans coastwise, her captain—once underway—made known Morgan's sub rosa countermand and tried to head for New York, but his Mate and passengers kept the pact for him by putting in to New Orleans anyway.

 

Whether Orizaba continued to ply to Galveston the next three months or was interned in the Mississippi is not authenticated by available documents. On 15 January 1862, she was commandeered a second time, appearing on the list of 14 ships Secretary of War Benjamin ordered Maj. Gen. Mansfield Lovell to "impress for public service" at New Orleans. Her status confused even her contemporaries for, the end of May 1862, when her owners pressed Richmond for the last payment on Orizaba and erstwhile running mate Mexico, Secretary of War G. W. Randolph had to ask General Lovell, "Are they a part of the River Defense Fleet?" Judging by official Navy records' silence about Orizaba thereafter, the answer must have been negative. Earlier in May, a Union spy had reported her in Texas; that is all.

 

Although clearly Government-owned the rest of her career, she apparently was never armed as a gunboat. As a blockade-runner, Orizaba is believed to have carried at least 16 essential Confederate cargoes out of Havana into the Gulf and to have been lost in 1865.