Skip to main content
Related Content
Document Type
  • Ship History
Wars & Conflicts
  • Civil War 1861-1865
File Formats
  • Image (gif, jpg, tiff)
Location of Archival Materials

Uncas I (Gunboat)


Image related to Uncas I
Caption: The steamer Uncas, with steam sloop Tuscarora and gunboat Winona, escort Army transports on their way to capture Roanoke Island and cut Albemarle Sound off from the sea early in 1862. (NR&L(O) 20062)

The Navy retained the name carried by this vessel at the time of her acquisition.


(Gunboat: tonnage 192; length 118'6"; beam 23'4"; depth of hold 7'6"; speed 11.5 knots; armament 1 20-pounder Parrott rifle, 2 32-pounders)

Uncas, a screw steamer built at New York City in 1843, was purchased by the Navy there on 20 September 1861 from Dudley Buck for use with the Coast Survey. Refitted at the New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn, N.Y. from September 1861 to February 1862, she was placed in service early in March 1862, Acting Master Lemuel G. Crane commanding.

However, before Uncas could begin her duties for the Coast Survey, the Confederate ironclad ram Virginia attacked the Union warships blockading Hampton Roads, sinking frigates Cumberland and Congress and endangering their consorts. As a result of the havoc created by the resurrected Merrimack, Uncas was sent to Hampton Roads to strengthen the Union naval forces still afloat there. She arrived in that strategic roadstead by 14 March 1862 and, three days later, was officially transferred to the Navy and assigned to the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron.

Unfortunately, by that time, Uncas brief service had revealed serious deficiencies in the ship, and she was ordered to Baltimore, Md., for repairs. While she was being readied for action, the Navy again changed its plans for the vessel and sent her to the western part of the Gulf of Mexico where Flag Officer David G. Farragut was preparing for his attack on New Orleans. On 10 April 1862, the steamer entered the Mississippi where she was needed to help locate positions for Cmdr. David Dixon Porter's mortar boats during his impending bombardment of Forts St. Philip and Jackson. Farragut planned to use her as a gunboat in the Mississippi Sound. However, her machinery broke down again almost immediately, and the ship returned north for further repairs before beginning either task.

The deficiencies were quickly corrected; and, on the 26th, the ship was steaming to Port Royal, S.C., to join Flag Officer Samuel F. Du Pont’s South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, when she captured the schooner Belle 30 miles northwest of Charleston, S.C. Belle was operating out of Nassau, New Providence, and purportedly bound for Philadelphia with a cargo of salt, pepper, and soap. Uncas remained only briefly at Port Royal, being assigned on 29 April 1862 to the blockade of St. Simon’s Sound, Ga., and all inland waters extending from St. Catherine's to St. Andrew's Sounds.

Uncas next received orders to Florida, arriving in the St. John's River on 11 June 1862. Uncas first saw action on 1 September 1862 when she and Patroon engaged a company of Confederates at St. John's and Yellow Bluffs. Scattered incidents following this initial clash led to a major encounter with Southern batteries at St. John’s Bluff on 11 September 1862. The engagement lasted four hours and 20 minutes. During the action, Uncas fired 143 shells and 13 solid shot while Patroon expended 60 shells. Uncas suffered considerable damage to her upperworks but weathered the fire and forced the defending Confederates to abandon, temporarily, the fort. The ship and officers drew praise from Flag Officer Du Pont for their conduct. Uncas and Patroon fought a second, minor battle at the bluffs on 2 October 1862. Uncas continued patrol and reconnaissance work on the river through the winter and into the spring of 1863. On 10 March 1863, in company with Norwich, Uncas escorted Army transports up the St. John’s River with troops who landed and occupied Jacksonville, Fla.

On 10 June 1863, Flag Officer Du Pont ordered Uncas to Port Royal for repairs. The vessel’s deteriorated condition upon arrival prompted further orders on 4 July 1863 directing Uncas to proceed to the New York Navy Yard. Uncas was stricken and sold at public auction at the New York Navy Yard on 21 August 1863.

Re-documented as Claymont on 20 November 1863, the ship remained in merchant service until abandoned in 1886.

James L. Mooney

Updated, Robert J. Cressman

18 July 2022

Published: Tue Jul 19 13:25:50 EDT 2022