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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
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Kingfisher

 

One of Europe's most beautiful birds (Alcedo Ispida) conspicuous for its blue-green back and rich chestnut breast.

 

I

 

(Bark: t. 451; l. 121 '4"; b. 28'8" ; dph. 14'4" ; cpl. 97; a. 4 8" D.sb.)

 

The first Kingfisher was purchased by the Navy at Boston 2 August 1861; and commissioned at Boston Navy Yard 3 October, Acting Lt. Joseph P. Couthouy in command.

 

That day she was ordered to Key West, Fla., for duty in the Gulf Blockading Squadron. On 21 January she joined Ethan Allen in capturing Olive Branch bound from Ceder Keys to Nassau with a cargo of turpentine. She again cooperated with Ethan Allen 26 January in manning and equipping a boat expedition to the mouth of the Manatee River which captured sloop Mary Nevis and burned Confederate calvary barracks. Three days later she took Spanish brig Terisita of Havana bound for Mata-moras with a contraband cargo. On 25 February Kingfisher overtook blockade runner Lion in the Gulf of Mexico after a 3-day chase.

 

The great risks involved in blockade duty during the Civil War have not been generally recognized. The need for water, food, or timber often forced parties from the Union ships to venture ashore in hostile territory. On 2 June two boats from Kingfisher rowed up Aucilla River, Fla., to obtain fresh water. A Southern raiding party surprised the expedition killing two men and capturing the remaining nine.

 

Other landing parties from the bark fared better. An expedition destroyed salt works at St. Joseph's Bay, Fla., which had produced some 200 bushels a day.

 

But the hardships of blockade duty in the Gulf were unabated. Early scurvy became a serious problem for the crew prompting Rear Admiral Lardner to order Kingfisher to Boston. When the ship had been repaired and her crew reinvigorated, Kingfisher was assigned to the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron and ordered to Port Royal, S.C., where she arrived 21 December.

 

The bark was stationed in St. Helena Sound, S.C., where she distinguished herself for efficiency in reconnaissance work and operations against small parties of Confederates ashore. On 9 April 1863 a party from Kingfisher landed at Middleton's estate, Edisto Island, S.C., and captured a group of Southern cavalrymen stationed there to observe and report activity of Union ships in the area. From time to time during the ensuing year, she shelled Confederate troops ashore and sent small landing parties inland to gather information and capture food for her crew and for refugees who had flocked to her for protection.

 

Kingfisher grounded on Combahee Bank in St. Helena Sound 28 March 1864 and filled with water. After efforts to save the stranded ship proved fruitless she was abandoned 5 April.