Title: Cane, Walking, Star of the West
Accession #: NHHC 1955-1-F
Medium: Wood, Metal
Location: Headquarters Artifact Collection, Naval History and Heritage Command
One walking cane made from wood recovered from the wreck of the American steamship Star of the West. Solid wood straight cane, thick at the handle with a gradual taper to bottom. Cane has a steel collar along the bottom near where the cap would go. The cane is engraved "Black locust. Taken from Wreck of Steamer Star of the West. Tallahatchee River Miss. /By U.S. Snagboat John R. Meigs PR Starr Master Dec 1889/Presented to Loyall Farragut by Captain JH Willard Corps of Engineers US Army".
The Star of the West was a civilian ship chartered by the US War Department in January 1861. Soon after South Carolina seceded from the Union, Star of the West was ordered to resupply the Union garrison at Fort Sumter located in Charleston Harbor. The ship was fired upon by the Morris Island battery which was manned by cadets from The Citadel. The ship was struck three times but suffered no major damage. Nevertheless, the captain decided to withdraw and abandon the mission.
Following this action, she was ordered to Texas to act as a troop transport. In April 1861, she was captured by Confederates. She was taken to New Orleans and renamed CSS St. Philip. She barely escaped recapture in 1862 when Admiral Farragut Captured the city of New Orleans. Operating on the Tallahatchie River near Vicksburg in April 1863, she was sunk by Confederate forces to create a blockade to protect Vicksburg from Union naval reinforcements.
After the war, the US Army Corps of Engineers supplied snagboats to remove obstructions from shallow rivers and waterways. The snagboat John R. Meigs, under the command of Master Phineas R. Starr, was responsible for clearing the wreck of the Star of the West. The cane, fashioned from wood recovered from the wreck, was presented by Captain JH Willard of the US Army Corps of Engineers to Loyall Farragut, son of the famed Union Admiral, David Farragut.
In commemoration of the accuracy and marksmanship of their cadets during the attack on the ship in January 1861, The Citadel awards the Star of the West medal annually to the “Best Drilled Cadet.” The competition began in 1886 and the medal first awarded in 1893.