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Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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(SwStr: t. 517; 1. 179'; b. 29'; dph. 10'; s. 12 k.; a. 3 9", 1 100-pdr. Parrott r.)


A former name retained.

Hunchback, a wooden steam ferryboat, was built in 1852 at New York City and was purchased by the Navy 16 December 1861. She sailed to Hampton Roads soon afterward and commissioned there 3 January 1862, Acting Lt. Edmund R. Colhoun in command.

Assigned to the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, Hunchback steamed to Hatteras Inlet late in January to prepare for the coming amphibious operation to capture Roanoke Island. Departing 5 February, the strong force began its bombardment of Fort Barrow two days later, supported the capture of the forts by General Burnside's troops, and forced the Confederate squadron to withdraw up the Pasquotank. In this action Hunchback slugged it out with Fort Barrow at close range and suffered considerable damage, but contributed greatly to the victory which opened North Carolina to the Union and cut off Norfolk from its supply lines.

Hunchback, continuing to support Army operations in the area, landed troops up the Chowan River 18 February. She was under the command of Comdr. Rowan during the capture of New Bern, N.C., 14 March. Departing anchorage at Hatteras Inlet 12 March, the naval force sailed up the Neuse River to New Bern, engaged the batteries in heavy firing 14 March, and landed troops to capture the town and its immense depot of Confederate supplies.

Following these two important actions, Hunchback was assigned patrol duty in the sounds of North Carolina. She made an important series of reconnaissance expeditions up the Chowan River 12 to 22 May, destroying a battery and capturing four small ships. The ship then continued her patrol of the sounds. As Confederate forces gathered near Franklin, Va., on the Blackwater River, early in October, the Army commander sent an urgent request for Navy assistance. Lt. Comdr. Flusser sped to their support with Hunchback, Commodore Perry, and Whitehead 3 October, and, although the ships could not reach Franklin, they engaged Confederate troops for three hours below the town, and were forced to withdraw only as the Southerners began felling trees over the narrow river behind them.

Several expeditions and engagements occurred in Hunchback's next few months in the sounds. She took part in a reconnaissance expedition to Hamilton 2 to 6 November, and 14 March 1863 helped defend Fort Anderson from attack by Confederate troops. Later that month Confederate forces laid siege to the city of Washington, N.C., on the Pamlioo River. Confederate positions lined the river; but Union ships passed the batteries, brought supplies to the town, and succeeded in breaking up the attack by 16 April.

Hunchback returned to New Bern before the end of the siege, and remained there for some time afterward. She sailed 6 September 1863 for Hampton Roads, her usefulness much impaired by damage and wear on machinery. Early in 1864 she repaired at Baltimore, and returned to Hampton Roads in May. She towed monitor Saugus up the James River 5 May, staying to shell Confederate troop positions in the continuing stalemate there. It was subsequently decided to keep her in the James, and she was occupied during the next months convoying and occasionally shelling Confederate positions. Hunchback also carried dispatches during this period, and was based at Deep Bottom, on the James.

Just before the end of the war 17 March 1865, Hunchback returned to her old patrol station, the sounds of North Carolina. After another expedition up the Chowan River 1 April, she was sent north, and decommissioned at New York 12 June 1865. She was sold 12 July 1865 to the New York & Brooklyn Ferry Co., was renamed General Grant in 1866, and remained in service until 1880.

Published: Mon Jul 20 14:28:26 EDT 2015