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Powhatan

 

(ScTug)

 

"The large and comfortable tug Powhatan," as she is described by Brig. Gen. C. S. Wise, CSA, was acquired by the Confederate States Navy in January 1862, apparently from a proprietor of the Currituck Canal. She was propeller driven, we learn from Flag Officer W. F. Lynch, CSN, who intended to arm her as "an auxiliary means of defense" of Roanoke Island, N.C., against a fleet Gen. Ambrose Burnside, USA, was assembling. This plan is outlined in Lynch's report to Secretary of the Navy Mallory. Of seven such tugs we have only the names of Powhatan and Kakakee and those thanks entirely to a picturesque verbal skirmish between Commodore Lynch and General Wise. The brigadier charged, "It would have been well for the service to have employed his (Lynch's) boats as tugs for transports instead of vainly trying to turn tugs into gunboats to encounter a Burnside fleet of 60 vessels, any one large steamer of which could easily have taken his seven boats." Commodore Lynch bought Powhatan for $12,000 from a Mr. Parks who, according to General Wise, had just sold her to the Army Quartermaster for $10,000. The Army had taken possession of Powhatan but she was overtaken in Currituck Canal by Commodore Lynch and taken over. (CSS Ellis' log mentions Powhatan operationally—when she delivered cable for ballast on 10 January.) Outraged, General Wise protested at length to Major General Huger, his superior at Norfolk, and on up through Secretary of War to President Davis. Commodore Lynch, however, had written Secretary Mallory from CSS Sea Bird, 22 January, "The crisis will soon be over, and desirable as it is to keep the Powhatan until some of the new gunboats are ready, I have no wish to detain her unjustly." Whether he relinquished Powhatan can only be conjectured without further documentation.