Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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Midnight I (Gunboat) 

1861-1865

The middle of the night, 12 o’clock, dividing one calendar day from the next; deep darkness or gloom.

I

(Gunboat: tonnage 387; length 126'0"; beam 27'10"; draft 11'0"; complement 70; armament 6 32‑pounders, 1 20‑pounder Parrott rifle)

Dawn was purchased by the Navy at New York, N.Y., on 31 July 1861 and, renamed Midnight, was commissioned at the New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn, N.Y., on 19 October 1861, Acting Volunteer Lt. James Trathen in command.

Assigned to the Gulf Blockading Squadron on 2 November 1861, Midnight operated primarily along the southwestern coast of Texas, from time to time engaging Confederate coastal batteries as she served the Union blockade. Her faithful performance of duty in an area remote and neglected by war correspondents, illustrates the hardships often suffered by U.S. sailors during the Civil War. In August 1862, Rear-Adm. David Glasgow Farragut reported sending Midnight home, commenting: “The Midnight has been most active on the west coast of Texas and has been now constantly on blockade nine months, during which time she has only had fresh provision 24 days…Forty cases of scurvy, and dysentery [make it] impossible for such a crew to recruit in this climate.”

Overhauled and her crew restored to health, Midnight reached Port Royal, S.C., on 16 October 1862 for service in the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron. For almost two years she continued this duty, a strong link in the chain which the Union Navy had forged and was drawing ever tighter around the Confederacy. On 3 February 1864, she captured the British schooner Defy off Doboy Light, Ga., sailing from Nassau to Beaufort, N.C. with a cargo of salt for the South. Midnight was ordered to Philadelphia 2 August for repairs.

Midnight’s last tour of duty took her to the East Gulf Blockading Squadron early in the fall of 1864. Besides serving in the blockade, she from time to time sent landing parties ashore in the vicinity of St. Andrews Bay, to gather information and to destroy Confederate resources. Salt works were her favorite targets. Vast quantities of salt were needed by the South to preserve meat, fish and other perishable foods; to cure bites; and to bolster the Southern munition industry. The Union Navy’s systematic attacks on salt works seriously impaired the Confederacy’s ability to remain at war. Midnight’s most successful expedition began on 1 February 1865 when she landed a raiding party at St. Andrews Bay. Three days later, her men returned to the ship after wreaking irreparable damage to several large salt plants and dumping tons of the precious chemical into the sea.

Midnight served at St. Andrews Bay through the end of the Civil War. She sailed north early in July 1865 and was sold at public auction in Boston to C. H. Miller on 1 November 1865.

Updated, Robert J. Cressman

8 August 2022

Published: Tue Aug 09 17:45:47 EDT 2022