Archive for the ‘Civil War Steamers’ Category

CivWar150 – 12 Jan 1863

Saturday, January 12th, 2013

On Jan 12, 1863, the str Kenton was moored near the mouth on the White River according to a personal letter by Lt Cushman K Davis of the 28th Wisconsin Regiment.  Lt Davis was the aide-de-camp to Gen Willis Arnold Gorman.  Approximately 18,000 troops had been transported to the White River from Helena or Napoleon, AR by a fleet of 30 steamers.  The str Kenton steamed five difficult miles up the swollen White River on Jan 13.  According to Lt Davis, the old General spent most of his time in swearing at the pilot who may have been Capt George W Ebert. [1]


Imagine the sight.  Amid the noises of the night, thirty packets steaming down the Mississppi.  The average packet was 185 ft x 33 feet not including its wheel.  Its stacks were 50-75 feet high.  With the usual 100 yards between boats that would calculate to nearly four miles of steamboats, bow to wheel, belching black smoke and raining sparks from their stacks.


[1]  Lt Cushman K Davis Ltr, The Waukeska Freeman Newspaper, Feb 3, 1863.



Copyright © 2013 Francis W Nash
All Rights Reserved


National Archives Trip 5

Sunday, September 16th, 2012

Last Thursday (6 Sep 2012), I spent another afternoon and early evening at the National Archives in DC.  I reviewed the Certificates of Enrollment records (Record Group 41) from 3 Jan 1859 through 23 Dec 1862 (Volumes 6641-6644).  Sadly, volumes 6643 and 6644 were water damaged.  Their condition was disastrous.  For many entries the ink was completely washed out and incomprehensible.  I know not whether a conservator could recover the data.  In addition to the ruined volumes, there was no volume for the year 1862.  This catastrophe is a dreadful loss because the time frame extends through the period of the Civil War when approximately fifty percent of the civilian steamboats impressed or chartered for service on the western rivers by the US Army Quartermaster were built in the Pittsburgh region. 


Enrollment Record in Volume 6643 (F Nash 6 Sep 2012)

Enrollment Record in Volume 6643 (F Nash 6 Sep 2012)


Enrollment Record from Volume 6644 (Fnash 6 Sep 2012)

Enrollment Record from Volume 6644 (Fnash 6 Sep 2012)

On a more positive note, I found two (2) new keel boats built by  Georgetown rivermen.  The last of these unexpected discoveries was built by HW Laughlin in Industry, PA and registered on 1 May 1861.  This discovery should dispel some illusions that keel boats were quickly displaced by the technological superior steamboats.  Low water was the spur of necessity that favored the keel boat to this late date.


Only twenty-eight volumes of the Certificates of Enrollment for Pittsburgh to review before my National Archives research will be complete.  That said, since I last viewed the Vessel File (Record Group 92), I have discovered that I have doubled the number of steamboats from Georgetown.  In addition to the Vessel File, I was pointed to the Index of Claims for the Army Quartermaster.  There was an index entry for Thomas S Calhoon (str Horizon), but none for Thomas Poe or Jacob Poe (str Clara Poe).   If time permits, I will also review the Preliminary Inventory of the Textual Records of the office of the Quartermaster general – Part 1 Vessel records. 

The National Archives is a fascinating place to explore rare and monumental artifacts.




Copyright © 2012 Francis W Nash
All Rights Reserved

Capt Jacob Poe Update

Saturday, September 8th, 2012

The biography of Capt Jacob Poe has been updated.  Data acquired from the Certificates of Enrollment for the port of Pittsburgh at the National Archives has been included for some of the early Poe family steamboats.  By “early” I mean before 1848 when Capt Way’s Packet Directory starts its history of steamboats. 


Capt Jacob Poe was also in command of several keel boats.  I intend to add data on these Georgetown keel boats in the near future.




Copyright © 2012 Francis W Nash
All Rights Reserved

CivWar150 – 24 Apr 1862

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012
Str Kenton Receipt during Civil War (Ohio State University)

Str Kenton Receipt during Civil War (Ohio State University)

The str Kenton and its crew were chartered for service by the Quartermaster from 27 Dec 1861 to 5 Jan 1862 and from 6 Jan for an unknown duration of time[1].  The str

Kenton receipts for three round trips between Pittsburgh and Louisville and Pittsburgh and Cincinnati were in the papers of Capt William B Anderson (civilian riverboat captain and pilot) in the Ohio State University Rare Books Collection.  Trip number 13 was dated 24 Apr 1862; trip number 10 was undated but signed by Standish Peppard (owner and first clerk of the str Kenton), and the third receipt was neither dated nor signed.  Capt Anderson was quite probably one of the pilots of the str Kenton on these trips.  In letters to his wife dated after 24 Apr 1862 Capt Anderson wrote of the str Kenton in the past tense which suggests he had moved to another packet.  In the letters, he also expressed his concern about being drafted while between government contracts and paying a $1,000 fine about avoiding the draft.  He also wrote about two captains, Capt Adams and the captain of the Florence Miller, arrested for cowardice by General Wright.  The Florence Miller was a tinclad packet.  The conflict between military and commercial control of the vessels was real.




[1]  Charles Dana Gibson and E Kay Gibson, Dictionary of Transports and Combatant Vessels Steam and Sail Employed by the Uniion Army 1861 – 1868, (Ensign Press, Cambridge, MA 1995), p 189.



Copyright © 2012 Francis W Nash
All Rights Reserved

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