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.
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
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