(Str: t. 409; cpl. 35)
George Mortimer Bibb, born on 30 October 1776 in Prince Edward County, Va., graduated from both Hampden-Sidney and Willian and Mary Colleges and then, after studying law in the office of Richard Venable, was admitted to the Virginia Bar. He moved to Lexington, Ky., in 1798 and soon achieved a position of distinction and leadership there, in politics and in his profession. Appointed to the Kentucky Court of Appeals in 1808, he became its chief justice in the following year but resigned in 1810 and was sent to the United States Senate in 1811. Although a leader of the successful "War Hawk" faction in Congress, Bibb resigned from the Senate in 1814, before the end of the War of 1812, and returned to Kentucky. Residing at Frankfort, he turned his attention back to law and state politics.
After more than a decade of comparative retirement from the national scene, Bibb returned to the United States Senate in 1828 as a strong supporter of Andrew Jackson. However, since this six year stint in Congress left him disenchanted with "Old Hickory's" leadership, he did not stand for reelection, but returned to Kentucky at the end of his term to become Chancellor of the Louisville Court of Chancery.
In 1844, Bibb became Secretary of the Treasury under President John Tyler. He left office on 4 March 1845 when President James K. Polk was inaugurated, but stayed in the national capital practicing law until he died there on 14 April 1859.
The second Bibb was laid down for the Coast Survey by the Boston Navy Yard on 24 February 1853; launched on 12 May 1853; and got underway on 11 August for her first cruise. At the outbreak of the Civil War in April 1861, she was transferred to the Revenue Cutter Service, but returned to the Coast Survey in November. Assigned to the contingent of that organization attached to the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, she steamed to Port Royal, S.C., and reported to the head of the former organization, Assistant Charles O. Boutelle, USCS, in January 1862 and relieved Vixen, freeing that vessel to proceed north for repairs. She served the Union cause in a variety of ways: surveying and buoying harbors and channels along the Atlantic coast of the Confederacy between South Carolina and Florida; escorting transports; towing and piloting gunboats; carrying dispatches; and performing any other duties that were of assistance to the Army and Navy. Her labors won her the most generous praise of the leaders of both services.
The ship spent the first half of 1864 in the Washington Navy Yard undergoing repairs. As this work was being completed, Confederate Lieutenant General Jubal A. Early crossed the Potomac on a raid that endangered Washington, D.C. In an effort to help parry this threat to the Union capital, Comdr. Foxhall A. Parker took over Bibb from the Coast Survey, armed her, and ordered her to the Gunpowder River where Southern troops had been seen. Commanded by Acting Ensign George E. McConnell, the steamer then ascended that stream but could not move closer than a point some five miles below Gunpowder Bridge and hence never got into contact with the Confederate troops. After the crisis had passed, Parker returned Bibb to the Coast Survey for which she operated out of the Washington Navy Yard through the end of 1864.
Early in 1865, the steamer rejoined the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron; and she worked along the Southern coast through the end of the war. Following the collapse of the Confederacy, she resumed peacetime service with the Coast Survey.
James L. Mooney
3 February 2006