Archive for the ‘Civil War Steamers’ Category

Census Data Analysis

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

Sometime ago, I reviewed the Georgetown census data for 1860 and 1870 to determine whether the steamboat men of Georgetown prospered from their Civil War contracts.  According to the census data, the steamboat captains had accumulated the greatest wealth of any residents of Georgetown.  Comparing the value of real and personal property of the 1860 and 1870 data, showed that the relative position of the captains changed little.  Thomas Poe amassed more wealth than his older brothers, Jacob and Adam.  Their brother-in-law, George W Ebert, was in last place in the 1860 census.  However, only  George W Ebert’s wealth increased between 1860 and 1870.  The wealth of the Poe brothers, Thomas, Jacob, and Adam, decreased by 30-45%. 

The census analysis is available on the page Census Data Analysis.




Copyright © 2012 Francis W Nash
All Rights Reserved

CivWar150 6 Apr 1862

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

Still owned by Capt Jackman T Stockdale, the str Horizon was pressed into Civil War duty serving at the Battle of Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee River on Apr 6-7, 1862. Also in 1862 with a number of other Pittsburgh based boats, the Horizon was called to the Cumberland River to relieve sick and wounded soldiers. [1]



[1] Frederick Way, Jr.,Way’s Packet Directory, 1848-1994, (Ohio University Press, Athens 1994), p. 217.

Copyright © 2012 Francis W Nash
All Rights Reserved



Civil War Transports

Sunday, March 11th, 2012

A page, Civil War Transports, has been added to tell the story of the civilian steamboat men from Georgetown who served their country during the Civil War. None achieved much renown during their lifetimes.




Copyright © 2012 Francis W Nash
All Rights Reserved

CivWar150 19 Feb 1862

Saturday, February 18th, 2012


                                       Pittsburgh, PA,

                                     Feb 19th, 1862


                         I desire that the captains of the following
                         steamers be placed on record for the patriotic
                         and liberal (volunteering) of their services and
                         boats, without renumeration, to proceed
                         immediately to the Cumberland River to
                         relieve the sick and wounded soldiers:
                         Rocket, Capt Wolf; Clara Poe, Capt Poe,
                         Horizon, Capt Stockdale; Emma, Capt
                         Maratta; Westmorland, Capt Evans;
                         Sir William Wallace, Capt Hugh

                            B. C. Sawyer, Jr., Mayor 


One hundred-fifty years ago, the mayor of Pittsburgh acknowledged the patriotic service of six steamboat captains.  These captains with their boats, without pay, steamed to Tennessee to transport wounded and sick soldiers to Louisville and St Louis.  Captains Thomas W Poe and Jackman T Stockdale were Georgetown steamboat men.   Three of these six boats including the two from Georgetown were destroyed during the war: str Clara Poe, str Horizon, and str Emma.



Copyright © 2012 Francis W Nash
All Rights Reserved

Capt Adam Poe’s Book

Sunday, January 15th, 2012

I have scanned the book written by Capt Adam W Poe. The book, “A True History of the Three Brave Indian Spies, John Cherry, Andrew and Adam Poe“, includes a partial genealogy of the Poe family in America and a version of the famous frontier Indian battle between the Poe brothers, Andrew and Adam (the author’s grandfather), and the Wyandot Indian war party led by Big Foot son of Half King.  The final segment is a memoir written in 1887 that includes stories of Capt Adam Poe’s river experiences.  There is a kind of mythology that stories like this tend to drift toward.  A wonderful read.


The book was made available by the University of Pittsburgh Libraries.  I printed their eBook and scanned and loaded the pages.



Copyright © 2012 Francis W Nash
All Rights Reserved

Georgetown Cemetery Video

Friday, December 16th, 2011

I happened upon a Ghost Box video on YouTube entitled A Midnight Visit to the Georgetown Cemetery.  The video was uploaded on uploaded on 30 May 2010.  The link follows:





The narrator of the video told a story about a witch that I had never heard.  She also filmed Capt Thomas Poe’s marker.  Whether filming that stone was planned or accidental or guided by forces outside the usual, it added the salt and pepper required to balance the fantasy and history of the hallowed place.   


Capt Thomas Washington Poe was arguably the most ill-fated steamboat captain from Georgetown.  If there is a “night shade” hovering over any stone, it would be the spirit of Capt Thomas Poe.  Owned by Thomas W Poe and other partners from Georgetown, PA ,the str Georgetown was snagged on the Missouri on 12 Oct 1853, raised, and returned to service.  On 11 May 1855 the str Georgetown was fatally snagged at Bellefontaine Bluffs on the Missouri in route to a military post.  He was the principal owner of the str Clara Poe which was burned during the Civil War by rebel forces on 17 Apr 1865 at Eddyville on the Cumberland River; he also owned the str Amelia Poe which was a complete loss when snagged on the upper Missouri river on 24 May 1868 and salvaged by 1,500 riotous Indians; and he was the owner of the str  Nick Wall which met a tragic end on the Mississippi River near Napoleon, AK on 18 Dec 1870.  Here a grisly incident occurred that Mark Twain retold in “Life on the Mississippi”.  Though injured himself by the falling roof, Capt Thomas W Poe attemped to save his wife trapped in a stateroom.  He chopped a hole in the roof with an ax striking the unfortunate Martha Jane Poe in the head.  Martha Jane Poe, fatally wounded, was returned to Georgetown for burial. 


What could make a better Ghost Box story?



Copyright © 2011 Francis W Nash
All Rights Reserved

CW150 str Kenton

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

On this day 150 years ago (23 Oct 1861) Capt GeorgeW Ebert and Standish Peppard, his brother-in-law and business partner, purchased an interest in the str Kenton.  A short time after the purchase, the Kenton was called to service by the US Army Quartermaster.

Str Kenton Bill of Sale dated 23 Oct 1861 (From the Collection of the UW La Crosse Murphy Libraray Special Collections)

Str Kenton Bill of Sale dated 23 Oct 1861 (From the Collection of the UW La Crosse Murphy Libraray Special Collections)


The receipt from the Collection of the UW La Crosse Murphy Library Special Collections was signed by GW Ebert and witnessed by S Peppard.  These men and their boat had some great experiences during the war.



Copyright © 2011 Francis W Nash
All Rights Reserved

Civil War 150 Site

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

Yesterday, I was introduced to a website documenting the 79th PA Vol Inf.  The website is based on letters written by soldiers in the regiment.


Monongahela Wharf Postcard 1908 (FNash Collection)

Monongahela Wharf Postcard 1908 (FNash Collection)

Coincidentally, this part of Negley’s brigade left Pittsburgh on one of the six steamboats destined for Louisville.  The  steamboat, the str Clara Poe, commanded by Capt Thomas W Poe from Georgetown, PA, was one of those transports.  

A fun site.  Make the time to have a look.

Civil War 150

Monday, October 17th, 2011

The 150th anniversary of the Civil War is upon us.  In the Civil War 150 programs I have viewed, there are, not surprisingly, few references to steamboats or the men who owned and operated them.  So today I want to take a moment to pay tribute to the men of Georgetown, PA  specifically and all of the men who commanded and operated those transports 150 years ago.

“Thousands of men, women and children lined the river bank to give the men a sendoff…The 78th PA Infantry was boarded on Captain Thomas Poe’s steamboat Clara Poe and the Moderator while the remainder of the men. horses and canon boarded on the four other steam boats.”  ”At 6:00 PM ropes were released, whistles sounded, anchors weighed, and the Clara Poe… sailed quickly from the Monongahela River into the Ohio River enroute to their jump-off point of Louisville, Kentucky, some three days away.  Some of the soldiers standing at the ship’s railing, watching the city quickly disappearing into the darkening sky, would never live to see Pittsburgh again” [1]


This sendoff was vividly recorded on Oct 18, 1861 – 150 years ago tomorrow.  The Clara Poe was one of six steamboats chartered by Commodore WJ Kountz, who had charge of the transportation by river of troops and Government supplies. [2]  The other five steamers at the Monongahela Wharf that Oct day were the Moderator, Sir William Wallace, JW Hallman, Argonaut, and the Silver Wave

On Apr 17, 1865, the str Clara Poe was burned by the Confederates at Eddyville on the Cumberland River while transporting supplies and barges of hay to Nashville.  [3] The Moderator on 1 May 1863 collided at night with the str Horizon a vessel owned at that time by Capt Thomas S Calhoon of Georgetown, PA.  The collision, a Civil War tragedy where many soldier lives were lost, occurred near Vicksburg. [4] 

The shining example of these steamboat men is a gift to those with a sense of history.  




[1] Arthur B Fox, Pittsburgh during the Civil War, 1860-1865, p. 31-32.
[2] Arthur B Fox, Pittsburgh during the Civil War, 1860-1865, p. 31-32.
[3] Frederick Way, Jr.,Way’s Packet Directory, 1848-1994, (Ohio University Press, Athens 1994), p. 99.
[4] Frederick Way, Jr.,Way’s Packet Directory, 1848-1994, (Ohio University Press, Athens 1994), p. 217.

A Tapestry of River History

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

Reading the Sep 2011 volume of the S&D Reflector made me think about the wide-ranging relationships of the early steamboat men.  The names of the steamboat men and their vessels are interwoven on the tapestry of river history.  In the Sep 2011 article “Str. PENNSYLVANIA at Wheeling”, John Panhorst , Jr. described the role his second great grandfather, Capt John Simpson Klinefelter, played in the Wheeling Bridge Case.  The str Pennsylvania which Capt John Simpson Klinefelter commanded was built in Shousetown, PA in 1854. 


Capt JS Klinefelter was also the master of the str Hibernia No 2.  It too was built in Shousetown in 1847.   After Capt JS Klineflelter’s brother, Jesse, died of cholera in 1849, Capt CW Batchelor acquired an interest in the str Hibernia No 2 and remained its master till 1852.  It was during the command of Capt CW Batchelor that the str Hibernia No 2 was damaged while steaming under the Wheeling bridge.  


According to  the son-in-law of Capt Thomas S Calhoon (Dr John Ewing), Capt George Washington Ebert had an interest, either ownership in or command of the str Hibernia* (his notation for str Hibernia No 2).  Capt George Washington Ebert was my second great grandfather.  I can not confirm his interest with a citation from Capt Way; nor do I know the years of his interest.  What I can show, in a circular way, are the relationships of some of these captains and pilots from Beaver County, PA area which in turn suggest the Ebert interest in the str Hibernia No 2 was true.   


According to Capt Way, Capt Jacob Jay Vandergrift’s first river job was cabin boy aboard the str Bridgewater when it was commanded by  Capt George Washington Ebert. [1]  The str Bridgewater was built in 1842/43.  Later, Capt JJ Vandergrift was the master of the str John B Gordon No 2 with Capt Benjamin Mackall Laughlin serving as his clerk.  Capt Jacob Poe was the principle owner of both the str John B Gordon and str John B Gordon No 2.   Capt George Washington Ebert was married to Capt Jacob Poe’s sister with whom he shared ownership in many Poe family boats.  Capt Benjamin Mackall Laughlin also hailed from Georgetown, PA.  That evidence establishes the business relationship between Vandergrift and the Georgetown men: Ebert, Laughlin, and Poe. 


Between 1845-1848, Capt JJ Vandergrift was the first mate on the str Prairie Bird owned by his uncle Capt John Vandergrift.  CW Batchelor and William J Kountz of Civil War fame, were pilots on the str Prairie Bird.  CW Batchelor married the daughter of John Vandergrift.  That seals the family relationship of Vandergrift and Batchelor. 


In 1859 Capt JJ Vandergrift built the str Conestoga which served in the Civil War until it was damaged in a collision with the str Gen Price on 8 Mar 1864 near Grand Gulf, MS.  All of these men served during the Civil War in the western theater – another link in the chain connecting their names.  Like Capt Thomas S Calhoon, Thomas W Poe, and Jacob Poe, JJ Vandergrift lost a vessel, the str Red Fox, while towing coal barges to Island No 10.  Like the other owners, he also received no indemnity from thet US government before 1895. [2]  


In 1874, Capt Frank Y Batchelor, the brother of Capt CW Batchelor, acquired the str Mollie Ebert from Capt George Washington Ebert. The str CW Batchelor named to honor Capt CW Batchelor, was the Saturday boat in the Pittsburgh and Cincinnati Packet Line in 1892 -93.  The Pittsburgh and Cincinnati Packet Line was organized by Georgetown men: Capt Thomas S Calhoon and Capt Jackman Taylor Stockdale.  Theodore C Poe, son of Capt Jacob Poe, was the clerk of the str CW Batchelor.   That bonds the business relationships  between Batchelor and the Georgetown men: of Ebert, Calhoon, and Stockdale. 


I recognize this analysis is a classic example of loopy logic.  But is also illustrates the rich and long-standing relationships of these steamboat men who competed for river business and yet worked together often on nothing more than a shake of hands. 


As a key to this example, I intentionally focused on JJ Vandergrift  because other than Henry M Shreve, Jacob Jay Vandergrift is the only steamboat cabin boy, mate, pilot, or captain to be recognized on a PA Historical Marker.  Even with his long career as a steamboat man, the marker only commemorates his work as a pioneer in the transportation of petroleum and natural gas from the PA oil country in the 1870′s.  At that time it was reported that Jacob Jay Vandergrift was one of the wealthiest men in the world.





[1]  Contemporary American Biography  Biographical Sketches of Representative Men of the Day, (Atlantic Publishing and Engraving Co, New York, 1895), p 46.

[2]   Contemporary American Biography  Biographical Sketches of Representative Men of the Day, (Atlantic Publishing and Engraving Co, New York, 1895),p 48.