Skip to main content
Related Content
Document Type
  • Ship History
Wars & Conflicts
File Formats
Location of Archival Materials

Onward I (Slipper Ship)


(Ship: t. 874; l. 159'; b. 34'8"; dph. 20'6"; s. 11 k.; cpl. 103; a. 8 32-pdrs.)

Forward; toward a point lying ahead.


The first Onward, a clipper ship, was launched 3 July 1852 by J. O Curtis at Medford, Mass. for Reed, Wade, and Co., Boston, Mass. and operated in merchant service between New York, Boston and San Francisco. Purchased by the Navy at New York from John Ogden 9 September 1861, for service in the Civil War, Onward commissioned at New York Navy Yard 11 January 1862, Acting Vol. Lt. J. Frederick Nickels in command.

Assigned to the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, Onward arrived at Port Royal, S. C. 28 January, and operated along the coasts of Georgia and Florida before taking station off Charleston. On 12 March, with four other Union ships, she captured blockade running ship Emily St. Pierre of Charleston attempting to slip into Charleston Harbor laden with gunny cloth from Calcutta needed for baling Southern cotton. On 26 April, she forced schooner Chase aground on Raccoon Key near Cape Romain, S. C., and destroyed her. She drove schooner Sarah aground at Bull's Bay, S. C., where she was destroyed by her own crew to prevent capture 1 May. Twelve days later off Charleston, she accepted Planter from Robert Smalls, an escaped slave, who had slipped out of Charleston Harbor with the Confederate steamer while her officers were ashore.

In September, Onward sailed north for repairs and, when back in fighting trim, she sailed 30 March 1863 for the South Atlantic and was used for the rest of the war as a cruiser on the high seas hunting Confederate commerce raiders. In May Onward and Mohican cornered Confederate tenders Agrippina and Castor which supplied coal, gunpowder, and provisions for Southern raiders Alabama and Georgia, in Bahia, Brazil and hemmed them in port until they were forced to sell their fuel and munitions to obtain clearance from port. This delay prevented the tenders from fulfilling their mission.

After the war ended, Onward decommissioned at New York 20 June 1865. She recommissioned 5 September 1865 and was used as a storeship at Callao, Peru until decommissioned 13 November 1884, and was sold there.

Published: Mon Aug 17 13:16:20 EDT 2015