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Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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(ScStr: t. 464; l. 163'; b. 24'4"; dr. 11'9"; cpl. 64; a. 4 32-pdrs., 1, 1 20-pdr. P.r., 4 32-pdrs.)

Sumpter or Sumter, ex-Atlanta, ex-Parker Vein, was built in 1853 by Hillman and Streaker, Philadelphia, Pa. The merchant steamer was chartered by the Navy on 13 September 1858 to take part in the expedition against Paraguay; purchased outright on 26 May 1859 and renamed Sumpter.

Under the command of Comdr. Daniel R. Ridgely, Sumpter and 18 other warships arrived at Asuncion, on 25 January 1859, to take action against that country for firing on Water Witch in 1855. However, the government of Paraguay offered an apology and paid an indemnity which settled the affair without resorting to violence.

When the squadron returned to the United States, Sumpter and four other screw steamers were assigned to cruise the coasts of Cuba and Africa to suppress the slave trade. Sumpter sailed from the west coast of Africa, on 10 August 1861, and returned to the United States on 15 September.

On 6 January 1862, Sumpter was ordered to report to Port Royal, S.C., and join the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron and on 2 February was reported to have joined the squadron, and the next day sailed to Charleston. On 18 March, she participated in the capture of the British blockade runner Emil St. Pierre off that port. The ship returned to Port Royal, on 23 April, for repairs and departed on the 29th to take station off Wassaw Inlet, Ga.

Sumpter rejoined the blockade off Charleston in early May and remained there until August. In mid-May, she sent a boat to Port Pulaski to gain information regarding Confederate gunboats; but the boat wandered into St. Augustine Creek, near Fort Jackson, and was captured. She was then ordered to Fernandina, Fla., to join the blockade there. The steamer sailed from there on 6 October en route to New York for repairs, via Port Royal. After her repairs were completed, Sumpter was assigned to the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron at Hampton Roads, Va. Her duty was to search for Confederate cruisers and blockade runners. She was stationed off Hampton Bar in May 1863 but, the following month, was sent to the Yorktown area to search for the Confederate privateer, Clarence. In the morning of 24 June, she collided with the Union transport, General Meigs, eight or nine miles from the Smith Island lighthouse and sank in seven fathoms of water. The officers and crew were rescued by Jamestown and taken to Newport News, Va.