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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
805 KIDDER BREESE SE -- WASHINGTON NAVY YARD
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Island Belle

 

(SwStr: t. 123; l. 100'; b. 20'4"; dph. 6'7"; a. 1 32-pdr., 1 12-pdr. rifle)

 

Island Belle was purchased at New York from Luther Adams 4 September 1861. She fitted out at Washington Navy Yard and sailed 17 September to join the Potomac Flotilla. She served in the Potomac as a tug and a dispatch boat occasionally exchanging fire with batteries and riflemen on the Virginia shore. She sailed to Hampton Roads, Va., 19 March 1862 escorting transports carrying troops to Fort Monroe in preparation for the Peninsular campaign against Richmond. She returned to Washington as soon as the soldiers were disembarked and again got underway for Hampton Roads escorting a second division of transports 23 March.

 

Island Belle devoted most of April and May to reconnaissance work, searching the Virginia rivers between Washington and Richmond for information valuable to either the Army or the Navy.

 

Island Belle was transferred to the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron 22 May. Two days later Flag Officer Goldborough assigned her to duty in the James River where the Navy was valiantly supporting the left flank of General McClellan's mighty force as it advanced up the peninsula toward Richmond. She steamed up the James 25 May, carefully observing the river banks to detect any signs of Confederate military activity. When she joined Commander William Smith, the senior Naval officer on the James, he used Island Belle in a wide variety of ways. He sent her on reconnaissance missions to learn about enemy defenses in the Chickahominy River and other tributaries of the James; he entrusted her with his messages to General McClellan and to the other ships of his command; he used her to carry coal to the hungry furnaces of his steamships; and he kept her on call to help refloat ships which often ran aground in the tricky and everchanging currents of the river.

 

On 26 June Island Belle steamed up the shallow Appomattox River in an attempt to destroy the railroad bridge at Petersburg. The next day she ran hard aground. After strenuous efforts failed to refloat her, Island Belle was burned 28 June 1862 to prevent her falling into Confederate hands.