Naval History and Heritage Command

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Magnolia I (SwStr)

(SwStr: t. 843; dr. 8'; s. 12 k.; cpl. 95; a. 1 20‑pdr. P.r., 4 24‑pdrs.)

A tree with large fragrant flowers of white, pink, or purple.


Magnolia, a wooden, seagoing, sidewheel steamer built at Greenpoint, N.Y., in 1857 by Charles Morgan's Southern SS Co., was impressed as a public vessel in New Orleans, 15 January 1862, by Maj. Gen. Mansfield Lovell, CSA, acting for the Confederacy's Secretary of War Benjamin. The South's original plan to arm her as a ram was dropped in favor of turning her into a blockade runner.

Magnolia made at least two successful runs to nearby British islands in 1861 carrying large cargoes. On 19 February 1862, while trying to escape from Pass a L'Outre in the Gulf of Mexico with a large cargo of cotton and rosin, in a very dense fog, she was captured by Union ships Brooklyn and South Carolina.


After her capture, Magnolia was sent to Key West, Fla., where she was evaluated and condemned. She was purchased 9 April 1862 at New York, N.Y., by the Navy Department from the Key West Prize Court. After repairs, she commissioned at New York 22 July 1862, Lt. William Budd in command. The sidewheel steamer departed New York 26 July 1862 to take station near Key West as part of the Union blockade. En route on the 31st, she captured British steamer Memphis near Cape Romain, S.C., bound ostensibly from Nassau to Liverpool. Search produced papers revealing that she had actually departed Charleston, S.C., the previous night with a cargo of cotton and rosin. Aided by South Carolina, Magnolia convoyed her prize to New York, arriving 3 August. After repairs, she sailed again for Key West.

Operating off the coast of Florida with the Eastern Gulf Blockading Squadron, Magnolia took British schooner Carmita 27 December, and 2 days later seized a second blockade runner, British sloop Flying Fish, off Tortugas. By mid‑January 1863, repeated boiler problems slowed down Magnolia-s activities on blockade, and 15 July she sailed for New York for extensive repairs.

Magnolia sailed to rejoin the Eastern Gulf Blockading Squadron 25 April 1864, and patrolled off the Bahama Banks. On 10 September, she captured steamer Matagorda with a load of cotton, carrying no papers and flying no colors. She remained on blockade in these waters until February 1865, when she shifted to Apalachee Bay to blockade St. Marks, Fla. Magnolia put into Key West 15 March, and spent her last war days ferrying supplies to the ships maintaining the blockade.

Magnolia decommissioned at New York 10 June 1865 and was sold at public auction to N. L. & G. Griswold 12 July 1865. Redocumented 23 August 1865, Magnolia served briefly as a merchantman and was abandoned in 1866.

Published: Wed Aug 05 09:58:56 EDT 2015