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Santiago de Cuba

 

A seaport on the southern coast of Cuba in Oriente province.

 

(SwStr.: t. 1,567; l. 229'; b. 38'; dph. 27'; dr. 16'2" (max.); s. 14 k.; cpl. 114; a. 2 20-pdr. P.r., 8 32-pdrs.)

 

Santiago de Cuba, a wooden, brigantine-rigged, side wheel steamer built in 1861 at Brooklyn, N.Y., was purchased by the Navy on 6 September 1861 at New York City; and was commissioned at the New York Navy Yard on 5 November 1861, Comdr. Daniel B. Ridgely in command.

 

The new steamer was ordered to Havana, Cuba, “... to protect legitimate commerce and to suppress communications and traffic with or by the insurgents . . .” She reached Havana on 17 November. On 3 December, she captured British blockade runner schooner, Victoria, at sea some 90 miles west of Point Isabel, Tex., and sent the prize to Galveston. Four days later, she chased and overtook British schooner, Eugenia Smith, but released her for want of evidence justifying a seizure. Thus, she began a career which kept her at sea during much of the Civil War.

 

Santiago de Cuba scored next on 26 April 1862 when she took schooner, Mersey, of Charleston, S.C.; and she captured schooner, Maria, on the 30th off Port Royal. Schooner, Lucy C. Holmes, laden with cotton, fell into her clutches on 27 May, and the Union side wheeler seized blockade runners, Columbia on 3 August and Lavinia on the 27th—both off Abaco in the Bahamas.

 

In September, Santiago de Cuba was assigned to a newly organized "Flying Squadron," created to seek out and capture Confederate commerce raiders Alabama and Florida. The squadron caught several prizes but never found the elusive Southern warships.

 

On 21 June 1863, Santiago de Cuba overtook Victory off Palmetto Point, Eleuthera Island, ending a long chase after the British steamer had slipped through the blockade off Charleston with a cargo of cotton, tobacco, and turpentine. On the 25th, she took steamer, Britannia, in the same area. On 15 July, she boarded steamer, Lizzie, east of the Florida coast and sent the prize to Key West for trial.

 

Late in the year, Santiago de Cuba sailed north for repairs and decommissioned on 30 December 1864.

 

Overhaul completed, the side wheeler recommissioned on 6 June 1864 and resumed her chase. Some three months later, Santiago de Cuba took A. D. Vance at sea northeast of Wilmington, attempting to carry a cargo of cotton to Europe. On 2 November 1864, blockade runner steamer, Lucy, struck her colors in compliance with a demand from Santiago de Cuba.

 

Soon thereafter, the steamer began preparation for a new experience. She was assigned to the task force in which Rear Admiral David D. Porter attacked Fort Fisher on Christmas Eve, 1864. During the operation, she protected the landing troops as they went ashore, supported them during the fighting, and covered them as they reluctantly reembarked the next day, under orders of General B. F. Butler, the army commander.

 

Porter immediately began work organizing a new invasion force. The union warships and Army transports returned to the vicinity of Wilmington in mid-January 1865. After a bloody three-day fight, Fort Fisher fell on the 15th.

 

The next day, Santiago de Cuba embarked men wounded in the battle and sailed for Norfolk. After the war ended, Santiago de Cuba was decommissioned on 17 June 1865 at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. She was sold at public auction in Philadelphia, Pa., on 21 September 1865. She was redocumented on 16 November 1865. For more than two decades, she operated in merchantile service. On 7 December 1886, her engines were removed, and she was rigged as a schooner. Records of her subsequent career have disappeared.