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Nereus

 

In Greek mythology, a god of the sea represented as a kind and wise old man who was the eldest son of Pontus and Gaea and the father of fifty mermaids, the nereids.

 

I

 

(ScStr: t. 1,244; b. 34’6”; dr. 13’9”; dph. 20’8”; s. 11 k.; cpl. 164; a. l 100–pdr. P.r., 2 30–pdr. P.r., 6 32–pdrs., 2 12–pdr. r.)

 

The first Nereus, a screw steamer built at New York in 1863, was purchased by the Navy from William P. Williams 5 October 1863; and commissioned at New York Navy Yard 19 April 1864, Comdr. J. C. Howell in command.

 

The schooner-rigged steamer joined the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron upon arriving Hampton Roads 28 April. She was assigned to the critical New Inlet station in the blockade of Wilmington, N. C. She continued helping to seal off this important Confederate port until getting underway for the North 17 August.

 

Nereus arrived New York two days later for repairs. At this time Confederate cruiser Tallahassee was alarming the North by the startling success of her operations against Union merchant shipping. Nereus departed New York 3 September escorting steamer S. S. North Star to Aspinwall with cargo to be carried overland across the Isthmus of Panama en route to California. She returned to New York on the 26th, for overdue repairs.

 

Back in top trim, Nereus departed New York escorting Dictator to Hampton Roads. From Norfolk she towed monitor Saugus to Wilmington for the attack on Fort Fisher. Arriving Christmas morning, Nereus joined in the bombardment of the Confederate works and supported the abortive amphibious attack until the last Union troops had reembarked.

 

Nereus remained in North Carolina waters until Rear Admiral Porter launched his successful attack against Fort Fisher 13 January. In the three day struggle, a classic example of Army-Navy coordination, Union soldiers, sailors, and marines, supported by the deadly effective fire from Porter’s warships, overran Wilmington’s defenses, closing the vital Confederate seaport.

 

On 17 January, Nereus got underway towing monitor Mahopac to Charleston for final operations against the staunchly defended seaport which had witnessed the opening of hostilities almost four years before. Nereus then steamed to Beaufort for stores and coal before heading for the Bahamas to cruise near Mayaguana Passage seeking to capture Confederate cruiser Shenandoah which was still preying on Northern merchantmen. She remained in the Caribbean until sailing north 11 April, via Key West. She arrived New York 7 May, decommissioned there on the 15th, and was sold at public auction to James Hooper. Redocumented as Somerset 28 September 1865, the steamer remained in merchant service until 1881.