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

 

I

 

(ScGbt.: t. 183; 1. 97'3"; b. 21'9"; dph. 9'6"; dr. 8'; cpl. 57; a. 2 24-pdrs., 1 20-pdr. P.r.)

 

Tulip—a wooden-hulled, steam lighthouse tender built at New York City in 1862 and 1863 as Chih Kiang by Jowett & Company for the Chinese Navy—was purchased by the Navy on 22 June 1863 at New York.

 

Renamed Tulip and refitted for service as a tug and gunboat, the screw steamer joined the Potomac River Flotilla in August 1863. That force patrolled the river protecting Union waterborne communications between the nation's capital and the port cities of the divided nation during the Civil War. She initially performed towing duties at the Washington Navy Yard, and then served with the flotilla in operations against Confederate forces in the Rappahannock. In the latter duties, the ship carried Federal troops and supported naval landing parties which from time to time went ashore for operations against Confederate traffic across the river.

 

As she continued this wartime riverine service into 1864, Tulip developed a defective starboard boiler. Comdr. Foxhall A. Parker, commanding the Potomac Flotilla, ordered the ship home to the Washington Navy Yard so that repairs could be made to correct her defective propulsion plant. Tulip got underway on 11 November with orders restricting her steaming on the port boiler only. Not long after departing from St. Inigoes Creek, St. Mary's County, Md., her engineers, against all orders, began supplying steam to the starboard boiler. When abreast Ragged Point, the boiler exploded and tore the fragile ship apart—killing 47 men instantly—of the 57-man complement. Of the 10 survivors, two died later as a result of the injuries received in the violent explosion which claimed the ship.