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Antelope I (Stern Wheel Steamer)


(Stern wheel steamer: displacement 145; armament 2 30-pounder, 4 24-pounder smoothbore)


Large, fast, ruminant mammals which generally resemble deer except for their two single-prong horns.


Page 36 of Volume I, Series II, of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion states that, in 1861, the Navy purchased at New York a sidewheel steamer named Antelope. However, no such ship was entered on the "List of Vessels of the U. S. Navy" in the Navy Register for 1862 or on that in the 1863 edition. Moreover, there is no other reference to this ship in the Navy's Official Records series. In view of these facts, this entry in the series' compilation, "Statistical Data of Ships," seems to be spurious.


During the first years of the Civil War, the Federal War Department used Lavinia Logan, a chartered stern-wheel steamer built in 1861 at Parkersburg, Virginia (now West Virginia), to support operations of the Union Army along the streams of the Mississippi drainage system, especially Major General Grant's efforts to capture Vicksburg.

Following the fall of that Confederate river fortress in the summer of 1863, Lavinia Logan seems to have returned to private hands for a time. In any case, the Union Navy acquired the vessel at Louisville, Ky., in the spring of 1864; and, on 26 May of that year, Rear Admiral David D. Porter wrote to Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles reporting the purchase and recommending that her name be changed to Antelope. Apparently, he had acquired the ship to meet Rear Admiral Farragut's need for light-draft gunboats and had her hull covered with iron plates by naval shipfitters at Mound City, III.

Antelope first appears on the list of vessels composing the West Gulf Blockading Squadron on 15 August 1864 with the notation that she was then at New Orleans. On 31 August 1864, the paperwork on her purchase was finally completed. By 4 September, the tinclad, commanded by Acting Master John Ross, was at Pass a I'Outre where she had relieved the sidewheeler Meteor. While she was there, she began taking on considerable water; and her leaks steadily increased. An inspection of the inside of her hull revealed that ". . . the leak was not confined to any one place, but extended to all parts of the bottom sides." After she had been on station for a full week, Ross reported ". . . the condition of the vessel and that I was obliged to keep up 60 pounds of steam to work the steam pumps, as we could not keep her free by the hand pumps."

The ship was relieved as soon as possible and ordered back to New Orleans for repairs. On the evening of 22 September, during her trip upriver, Antelope came upon Suffolk, abandoned and in a sinking condition, and towed that Army transport to shoal water where she would be safe on the flats. Antelope then resumed her ascent of the river.

About 4:30 a.m., upon learning that his ship was sinking, Ross ". . . ordered the helm hard aport, to beach her . . . ."While filling rapidly, Antelope grounded enabling her crew to save her ordnance and equipment. No record of efforts to salvage the ship has been found.


Maria, a 173-ton stern-wheel steamer built in 1863 at Cincinnati, Ohio, was bought by the Navy on 10 February 1864 at Cincinnati for service in the Mississippi Squadron. After learning of this purchase, Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles wrote to Rear Admiral David D. Porter on 9 April 1864 informing him that "the Navy Department [had changed the name of the Maria . . . to the Antelope, as it had a vessel of . . . [the former] name in the course of construction."

However, Porter had meanwhile renamed Maria, Fairy and, in acknowledging message of 9 April, requested the Department to retain the name Fairy (q.v.) since the ship had ". . . been known by that name for so long a time . ..." On 1 June, Welles agreed to this request.

Published: Tue Mar 14 12:47:45 EDT 2023