An Ottawa Indian chief, Pontiac headed a general Indian uprising in 1763 known as Pontiac’s War, remembered for the attack on the British at Detroit. He made peace in 1766 and remained friendly to the colonists until his death in 1769.
(SwGbt: t. 974; l. 205’; b. 35’; dph. 11’6” ; dr. 6’6” ; s. 11 k.; Cpl. 172; a. 2 100-pdr.P.r.; 4 9” D.sb, 4 24-pdr. how., 2 heavy 12-pdr., 2 12-pdr. r.)
The first Pontiac, a wooden, double-ended, side-wheel gunboat begun for the Navy in 1862 by Hillman & Streaker and Neafie, Levy & Co., was delivered to the Navy at Philadelphia Navy Yard 7 July 1864, and commissioned the same day, Lt. Comdr. John H. Russell in command.
The new gunboat joined the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron at Port Royal, S.C., 12 August, and proceeded to blockade station off Charleston. On 1 September, Lt. Comdr. Stephen B. Luce relieved Russell in command. Pontiac engaged Southern guns at Battery Marshall, Sullivan’s Island 7 November. One shell exploded in the steamer’s forecastle hitting six men and wounding six others.
On 13 January 1865, she steamed to Savannah thence some 40 miles up the Savannah River to protect General Sherman’s left wing as his troops crossed the river at Sister’s Ferry, Ga., beginning their march north which soon caused Charleston to fall. Luce later credited his meeting with General Sherman as the beginning of his thinking which eventually resulted in the founding of the Naval War College. He said: “After hearing General Sherman’s clear exposition of the military situation, the scales seemed to fall from my eyes....It dawned on me that there were certain fundamental principles underlying military operations,...principles of general application whether the operations were on land or at sea.”
On 1 March, Pontiac captured steamer Amazon, a former Confederate ironclad laden with cotton.
After the war, Pontiac decommissioned at New York Navy Yard 21 June 1865 and she was sold 15 October 1867 to John Roach.
After acquisition by the Navy 6 October 1863, Pontiac was renamed Larkspur (q.v.).