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Photo # NH 63847:  Steamship General Grant.  Watercolor by Erik Heyl

Online Library of Selected Images:

Steamship General Grant (1863-1869).
Originally named Onward.
Served as USS Grand Gulf in 1863-1865

Onward, a 1200-ton (burden) wooden-hulled screw steamship, was built at New York City in 1863. The Navy purchased her from her builders, converted her to a gunboat and, in September 1863, placed her in commission as USS Grand Gulf. Assigned to the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, she operated off the Carolina coast from October 1863 until July 1864, capturing three blockade runners, among them the steamers Banshee (on 21 November 1863) and Young Republic (on 6 May 1864).

In August 1864 Grand Gulf participated in the search for the Confederate raider Tallahassee, during which she recovered one of that cruiser's victims, the disabled schooner Billow. Her next duty, performed in September, October and November 1864, was to convoy the merchant steamer Ocean Queen during round-trip voyages between New York and Panama.

After more than three months of repairs, Grand Gulf towed the ironclad torpedo vessel Casco to Hampton Roads, Virginia, in early March 1865, then continued on to the Gulf of Mexico, where she served off Galveston, Texas, until after the Civil War's end. From late June until mid-October, the steamer was stationed at New Orleans, Louisiana. USS Grand Gulf was decommissioned at New York in November and sold at the end of that month. Subsequently renamed General Grant, she operated commercially between New York and New Orleans until destroyed by fire at the latter port on 19 April 1869.

This page features our only view of the steamship General Grant, which served as USS Grand Gulf in 1863-1865.

If you want higher resolution reproductions than the digital images presented here, see: "How to Obtain Photographic Reproductions."

Click on the small photograph to prompt a larger view of the same image.

Photo #: NH 63847

General Grant
(Steamship, 1863-1869)

Watercolor by Erik Heyl, 1951, painted for use in his book "Early American Steamers", Volume I.
Built as the steamship Onward, this ship served as USS Grand Gulf in 1863-1865. She was renamed General Grant after her return to commercial service in 1865.

Courtesy of Erik Heyl.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Online Image: 70KB; 740 x 390 pixels


Another image of USS Grand Gulf:

During the Civil War the New York City firm of Endicott & Co. published a lithograph depicting a port broadside view of USS Grand Gulf. In about 2008 a colored version of this print was reportedly sold at auction on the Internet. A correspondent has sent us a view of this print. Since we have no usage rights to this image, we can not provide reproductions of it, and do not know where the original lithograph is located or where reproducible copies can be obtained. However, the following description of the ship, as shown in this picture, may be of value to the Online Library's patrons:
Grand Gulf is shown underway under steam and sail, with the U.S. Ensign flying at her stern, a commissioning pennant at her main peak and the U.S. Jack at her fore peak. Her general appearance is generally the same as seen in the Erik Heyl artwork presented above, except that only two yards are carried on the foremast. The ship's hull, boats and smokestack are black, while deck houses and lower masts appear to be white.
Sails shown on the foremast include one rectangular topsail on the upper foremast yard and a rectangular course furled on the lower yard. The foremast also supports two triangular sails on stays, one running from the foretop to the bow and the other from the topmast (just above the topsail yard) to the ship's short bowsprit, plus a fore-and-aft sail on the gaff. A second gaff sail is carried on the mainmast, with a nearly triangular topsail between the gaff and the top mast.
Four guns are shown in gun ports in Grand Gulf's port side hull (spaced unevenly, with two flanking the base of the foremast and two, closer together, immediately forward of the machinery area). Three more are mounted on the upper deck. Two of these are medium-size, one located forward of the foremast and the other at the stern. A larger gun is carried amidships, forward of the smokestack, stowed pointing aft. These eleven guns nicely match the battery reported for Grand Gulf on 5 October 1863: One 100-pdr. Parrott rifle (undoubtedly the midships upper deck gun), two 30-pdr Parrott rifles (probably the forward and aft upper deck guns) and eight VIII-inch smoothbores (the battery mounted within the hull, four guns on each side of the ship).


  • To the best of our knowledge, the pictures referenced here are all in the Public Domain, and can therefore be freely downloaded and used for any purpose.

  • Some images linked from this page bear obsolete credit lines citing the organization name: "Naval Historical Center". Effective 1 December 2008 the name should be cited as: "Naval History and Heritage Command".

    If you want higher resolution reproductions than the digital images presented here, see: "How to Obtain Photographic Reproductions."

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    Page made 10 November 2002
    New information added 3 January 2009