USS General Putnam, a 149 ton tug, was built in 1857 at Brooklyn, New York, as the civilian tug William G. Putnam. She was purchased by the Navy in July 1861 and placed in commission in mid-September under the name General Putnam. Assigned to what soon became the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, she mainly served in North Carolina waters for the next year. During this time the tug helped in sinking blockships to restrict Confederate blockading efforts, took part in the February 1862 capture of Roanoke Island, and assisted in expanding Federal control of the North Carolina Sounds.
In November 1862 General Putnam was transferred to the
Hampton Roads area and the rivers tributary to Chesapeake Bay.
For the rest of 1862 and much of 1863 she was primarily stationed
on the York River and in 1864 moved to the James. Her duties included
protecting Yorktown and other Union-held positions, clearing mines,
enforcing the blockade, covering landings of Federal troops and
engaging enemy forces ashore. In May 1865, after fighting had
ended in Virginia, General Putnam went to Washington, D.C.,
where she was decommissioned early in June. Turned over to the
Treasury Department, she was renamed Putnam and employed
on lighthouse service until scrapped in 1885.
This page features the only view we have concerning USS General Putnam, which was originally named William G. Putnam.
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Photo #: NH 59379
USS William G. Putnam (1861-1865) and
USS Satellite (1861-1863)
Line engraving published in "Harper's Weekly", July-December 1861, depicting these former civilian tugs being prepared for Naval service at New York City, circa July-September 1861.
U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.
Online Image: 139KB; 740 x 530 pixels
Page made 30 September 2004