Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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(SwStr: t. 843; s. 12 k.)

Magnolia was a seagoing, wooden sidewheeler with typical walking-beam engine, built at Greenpoint, N.Y., in 1857. One of 14 ships belonging to Charles Morgan's Southern S. S. Co., she was impressed as a public vessel at New Orleans, 15 January 1862, by Maj. Gen. Mansfield Lovell, CSA, acting for Secretary of War Benjamin. The original intention was to arm them all as cottonclad rams to defend the Delta, but further consideration argued in favor of smaller, low-pressure steam towboats, with lower fuel consumption and easier to shield for battle, and few of the high-pressure seagoing steamers were used for this essentially inappropriate role.

Rejected as a ram but probably still Government-owned, Magnolia made at least two successful runs to nearby British islands in 1861 with extremely large cargoes. Escaping through Pas a- l'Outre, she was overhauled, 19 February 1862, by USS Brooklyn and South Carolina as a rich prize carrying 1,210 bales of cotton. USS Magnolia entered the U.S. Navy 22 July 1862 at New York, following Key West prize court proceedings in April. After expensive repairs, she was a valuable gunboat carrying 2 to 5 guns the rest of the war. Sold at auction 12 July 1865, she was enrolled for commercial transportation 23 August, going out of service in 1866.


(SwStr: t. 824)

New Orleans sidewheeler Magnolia, built at New Albany, Ind., in 1859, was "one of the finest steamboats in the West" and served the Confederacy well as a river transport until destroyed in the Yazoo City area to escape Porter's flotilla, the spring of 1863. Admiral Porter wrote that the chief gain from his Yazoo Pass expedition was its "harm to the enemy" in causing them "to sink the Star of the West, Magnolia, and Natchez, three of their best vessels."