Posts Tagged ‘civil war transports’

Praises of Pittsburgh

Tuesday, January 24th, 2017

One can get a bit carried away singing the praises of Pittsburgh.  Or can one?

Several years ago, the question, “Where was the Civil War won? was posed on a history site.  The usual answers were submitted with much documentary support.  I thought about the question for a few days then settled on my answer – Pittsburgh, PA.  The administrator of the blog wrote that it was the “damnedest” thing he had ever read, but he would seriously think about it.

This is right and it is wrong.

Another wrong-footed praise of Pittsburgh follows.

History books inform us that the Civil War started in April 1861 in Charleston, SC with the bombardment of Ft Sumter in Charleston Bay.  This event provoked the war between the states, but the shots fired there were not the first.

Earlier in Dec 1860, SC was the first state to secede from the union.  Others followed.  Sec of War, John B Floyd, a southern sympathizer, sent an order to the Allegheny Arsenal in Pittsburgh to ship 124 canons to New Orleans.   The steamers Silver Wave and Marengo were contracted to transport the canons south.  When citizens of Pittsburgh learned of this action, they protested knowing that the guns would be used to fortify the south.  The commander of the arsenal, John Symington, attempted to obey the order from Washington.  On Christmas Eve, angry crowds halted the movement of the canons and their military escorts to the Monongahela wharf.  Thirty-eight guns were loaded on the Silver Wave before the crowds blocked the movement and the order was countermanded.  Pittsburgh citizens threatened to blow the Silver Wave out of the water if it attempted to go down the Ohio River with the thirty-eight guns.

Southern politicians were outraged that Pittsburgh citizens threatened to interfere with military orders for the distribution of federal artillery and munitions.

In 1862, the Silver Wave was one of six packets contracted to transport the first Pittsburgh enlisted troops to Louisville, Ky.   In 1863, the Silver Wave was the first noncombat steamer to successfully pass the Vicksburg batteries.  That was a very big deal.  An astounding resume for any steamboat captain.

The Silver Wave was a packet owned and operated by Capt John Smith McMillin.  Born in Georgetown, PA in 1817,  Capt John S McMillin moved to Grandview Ave on Mt Washington in Pittsburgh in 1853.  In my heart, Capt John Smith McMillin will always be a Georgetown man.

It can also be argued that the Pittsburgh citizens protest was the first act of war between the North and South.




Copyright © 2017 Francis W Nash
All Rights Reserved

No part of this website may be reproduced without permission in writing from the author.

Capstan Patent

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

Capt John Smith McMillin was born on 23 Jul 1817 in Georgetown, PA.  During the Civil War, he achieved considerable fame for fearlessly running the batteries at Vicksburg as the owner and master of the steamer Silver Wave.  He was also an inventor. In that role, he was awarded a US Patent for the invention of the steam-powered capstan.[1]  The capstan patent was a Letters Patent No 63,917, granted on 16 Apr 1867 to John S McMillin for “an improvement in applying steam-power to the capstans of steamboats and other craft”. [2]


The steam-powered capstan patent was contested in court in at least two cases.  One suit, McMillan[3] v Rees[4] (17 OG, 1222), was filed against John S McMillin to “restrain the infringement” of the patent.  The circuit court opinions issued in both cases were not in favor of Capt McMillin.   The capstan patent was declared void “for want of any patentable invention”.  The basic arrangement of “shafts and cog-wheels” of the capstan was unchanged.  In the case against McMillin, the argument was that the modification to steam power did not warrant the issue of a patent because there was no “ingenuity of merit”, only the “ordinary judgement and skill of a trained mechanic”.   Capstans and steam engines were old technology, well known elements used in many places including grist mills and steamboats.      


Capt McMillin appealed the decisions.  On 17 Nov 1884, the Supreme Court of the US decided:


Upon the ground stated, we think the letters patent upon which the suit is based are void.  The decree of the circuit court by which the patent was sustained must therefore be reversed and the cause remanded with direction to dismiss the bill, and it is so ordered.  [5]


The history of the patent process was long and curious.  The first application for the patent was filed by Capt McMillin on 23 Jul 1855.  This application was rejected.   On 7 Feb 1856, the application was amended.  This amended application was also rejected.  Eleven years later, the application awarded the patent included the drawings and specifications of the first application unchanged.  The steam-powered capstan had been in wide use for more than a decade without any new state of the art developments or improvements.   That was the defense relied on to defeat the patent in court.              


More research is required to determine whether John S McMillin was demanding royalties from other steamboat owners and lines. 






Notes and References.

[1]   A capstan was a spool device mounted on the steamboat deck used for winding up heavy rope.  With booms and block-and-tackle, a capstan was used to move heavy loads on and off the boat.  It was also used when “sparring” the boat over sandbars.   Before the steam-power improvement, the cylinder was turned by muscle power.    

[2]   Decisions of the Commissioner of Patents and of the US Courts in Patent Cases for the Year 1884, Washington Government Printing Office, 1884, p472.

[3]  McMillin was misspelled, or at least spelled differently.  In the two lower court challenges, the name is spelled with an “in” on one docket and “”an” on the other.  Adding to the confusion, the name McMillen is found on markers in Georgetown Cemetery.   Changing the spelling of a family name was not uncommon at that time in our history.  Such changes occurred between generations rather than within a family.  That makes this case unusual.  

[4]   Rees is a famous steamboat family from Pittsburgh.   Thomas M, James H, or William, or the Rees firm could have filed the complaint.

[5]   Decisions of the Commissioner of Patents and of the US Courts in Patent Cases for the Year 1884, Washington Government Printing Office, 1884, p475.







Copyright © 2017 Francis W Nash
All Rights Reserved

No part of this website may be reproduced without permission in writing from the author.







CivWar Pension Request

Monday, August 18th, 2014


Civil war Pension Request by Jacob Poe (Anna L and John F Nash Collection))

On 4 Apr 1881 Capt Jacob Poe penned a letter to Hon CC Townsend requesting that he be awarded a pension for his service during the Civil War.  In support of his request he has enclosed with his letter a newspaper clipping from a Pittsburgh paper indicating that two pilots, Sylvester and Harry Doss, received pensions.  Each Doss received a pension of $15 per month along with back pay of $7,500 (?).


The letter by Jacob Poe was written on the letterhead of his son’s livery service. 





Copyright © 2014 Francis W Nash
All Rights Reserved.

Civil War Exploits of Andrew Poe

Saturday, March 22nd, 2014

African American Civil War Monument (F Nash Collection 2015)

Andrew Poe, the son of Rev Adam Poe (co-founder of Ohio Wesleyan College), earned the rank of Captain in the Civil War.  Andrew first enlisted at age 35 as a private with Co A of the 63rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry on 25 Jan 1862.  He was commissioned Captain of Company C in the 106th Regiment, US Colored Infantry from 16 May 1864 till 14 Nov 1864.  Then he was transferred to Company C of the 40th Regiment, US Colored Infantry.  The 40th  and 106th Regiments were consolidated on 7 Nov 1864.  [1]  He was mustered out on 25 Apr 1865.[2]   The dates seem a bit off.  Some time at the African American Civil War Museum will untangle the dates.


Andrew Poe is listed on the memorial wall of the African American Civil War Memorial and Museum in Washington, DC.  Andrew’s name is engraved on Wall C plaque 55 and plaque 103.  The 40th US Colored Infantry troops are honored on plaque 55; the 106th on plaque 103.  The museum website link follows:


Andrew Poe, 106th Regiment USCT ( F Nash Collection 2015)

After the war in a letter to General Clinton B Fisk of the Freedmen’s Bureau, Andrew wrote about a battle where he fought with his men until only seven of them survived. The site of the battle has not yet been determined.


“I fought until only seven of my men stood living beside me.  The graves of my poor men and of our enemies are witnesses that I tried to do a soldiers duty.  Long as I could be with the men whom I had personally rescued from Slavery and whose perils and imprisonment I had shared, I preferred my Company . . .”


Andrew Poe 40th Regiment USCT (F Nash Collection 2015)

Rev Adam Poe’s brother, Daniel had a son named Andrew A Poe. (Daniel was a Methodist Episcopal missionary in Texas who died the same day as his wife in Matagorda, TX.  The cause of their deaths is not known.)  Andrew A enlisted with Company D, Ohio 1st LA Batty( Light Artillery Battery) on 15 Aug 1862.  He was promoted to full Corporal on 15 Jun 1864.  He was killed at Kennesaw Mountain and was buried at Marietta National Cemetery.


Rev Adam Poe’s brother Charles, not a minister, was the father of Gen Orlando Metcalf Poe.  Orlando served as a Colonel under Gen Sherman on the march to Savannah.  As Sherman’s chief engineer he orchestrated the burning of Atlanta, for which action he was honored by Sherman and hated by the entire confederacy.



Rev Adam Poe’s son and two nephews have quite a record.  They were Union men.  Their loyalties were deeply felt.  They were fearless soldiers much like their great grandfather Adam and his brother Andrew who were famed for their Revolutionary War service and their frontier battles with the Indians along the Ohio River in southern Beaver County, PA.  The Revolutionary War militiaman, Andrew, engaged the Wyandot Indian Chief Bigfoot in hand to hand combat in arguably the most famous bit of history of the Ohio frontier.


Rev Adam Poe’s son and two nephews were first cousins once removed from the steamboat captains of Georgetown, PA:  Andrew, Jacob, Adam W, Thomas W, and George W.   I often wonder whether paths crossed.  Could my Georgetown steamboat captains have transported their OH cousins to their Union duty stations in the western theater?  Think about that for a few moments.





63rd Regiment, Ohio Infantry


Organized at Marietta, Ohio, by consolidation of Battalions of the 22nd and 63rd Ohio Infantry January 25, 1862. Moved to Paducah, Ky., February 18-23, thence to Commerce, Mo. Attached to 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, Army of the Mississippi, to April, 1862, 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, Army of the Mississippi, to November, 1862. 1st Brigade, 8th Division, Left Wing 13th Army Corps (Old), Dept. of the Tennessee, to December, 1862. 1st Brigade, 8th Division, 16th Army of the Tennessee, to March, 1863. 4th Brigade, District of Corinth, Miss., 2nd Division, 16th Army Corps, to May, 1863. 3rd Brigade, District of Memphis, 5th Division, 16th Army Corps, to November, 1863. Fuller’s Brigade, 2nd Division, 16th Army Corps, to March, 1864. 2nd Brigade, 4th Division, 16th Army Corps, to September, 1864. 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, 17th Army Corps, to July, 1865.


Operations against New Madrid, Mo., March 3-14, 1862. Siege and capture of Island Number 10, Mississippi River, and pursuit to Tiptonville, March 15-April 8. Tiptonville April 8. Expedition to Fort Pillow, Tenn., April 13-17. Moved to Hamburg Landing, Tenn., April 18-23. Action at Monterey April 29. Advance on and siege of Corinth, Miss., April 29-May 30. Skirmish at Farmington May 1. Reconnoissance toward Corinth May 8. Occupation of Corinth May 30, and pursuit to Booneville May 30-June 12. Duty at Clear Creek till August 29. Battle of Iuka, Miss., September 19. Reconnoissance from Rienzi to Hatchie River September 30. Battle of Corinth October 3-4. Pursuit to Ripley October 6-12. Grant’s Central Mississippi Campaign, operations on the Mississippi Central Railroad November 2, 1862, to January 12, 1863. Expedition to Jackson after Forest December 18, 1862, to January 3, 1863. Action at Parker’s Cross Roads December 30, 1862. Red Mound, or Parker’s Cross Roads, December 31. Lexington, Tenn., January 3, 1863. Moved to Corinth, Miss., January 9, and duty there till April. Dodge’s Expedition into Northern Alabama April 15-May 8. Rock Cut, near Tuscumbia, April 22. Tuscumbia April 23. Town Creek April 28. Duty at Memphis, Tenn., till October 18. Movement to Prospect, Tenn., October 18 November 30, and duty there till January, 1864. Veterans absent on Furlough January 2 to February 28, 1864. Decatur, Ala., March 8. Duty at Decatur till May. Atlanta Campaign May 1-September 8. Demonstrations on Resaca May 8-13. Sugar Valley near Resaca May 9. Battle of Resaca May 14-15. Advance on Dallas May 18-25. Operations on line of Pumpkin Vine Creek and battles about Dallas, New Hope Church and Allatoona Hills May 25-June 5. Operations about Marietta and against Kenesaw Mountain June 10-July 2. Assault on Kenesaw June 27. Nickajack Creek July 2-5. Ruff’s Mills July 3-4. Chattahoochie River July 5-17. Decatur and Battle of Atlanta July 22. Siege of Atlanta July 22-August 25. Ezra Chapel July 28. Flank movement on Jonesboro August 25-30. Battle of Jonesboro August 31-September 1. Lovejoy Station September 2-6. At East Point till October 4. Pursuit of Hood into Alabama October 4-26. March to the sea November 15-December 10. Montieth Swamp December 9. Siege of Savannah December 10-21. Campaign of the Carolinas January to April, 1865. Reconnoissance to the Salkehatchie River, S. C., January 20. Salkehatchie Swamps February 2-5. Skirmishes at Rivers and Broxton Bridges February 2. Action at Rivers Bridge February 3. Binnaker’s Bridge, South Edisto River, February 9. Orangeburg February 12-13. Columbia February 16-17. Battle of Bentonville, N. C., March 20-21. Occupation of Goldsboro March 24. Advance on Raleigh April 10-14. Occupation of Raleigh April 14. Bennett’s House April 26. Surrender of Johnston and his army. March to Washington, D. C., via Richmond, Va., April 29-May 20. Grand Review May 24. Moved to Louisville, Ky., June 5, and duty there till July. Mustered out July 8, 1865.

Regiment lost during service 2 Officers and 91 Enlisted men killed and mortally wounded and 5 Officers and 259 Enlisted men by disease. Total 357. [3]


 40th United States Colored Infantry

The 40th United States Colored Infantry was organized at Nashville, Tennessee, in February

1864. The 40th USCI spent its entire service guarding railroad lines and depots in

Tennessee. Its primary responsibilities were guard duty along the Nashville and Louisville

Railroad, the Northwestern Railroad, and railroad depots in the District of East Tennessee.

The regiment fought a skirmish at South Tunnel, near Gallatin, on October 10, 1864. The

40th USCI mustered out of service on April 25, 1866.[4]



106th Regiment Infantry

Organized May 16, 1864, from 4th Alabama Colored Infantry. Attached to District of North Alabama, Dept. of the Cumberland, to February, 1865. Defenses of Nashville & Northwestern Railroad, Dept. of the Cumberland, to November, 1865.

SERVICE.–Garrison at Pulaski and railroad guard duty entire term. Forest’s attack on Athens, Ala., September 23-24, 1864. Consolidated with 40th United States Colored Troops November 7, 1865.[5]











Copyright © 2014 Francis W Nash
All Rights Reserved


New Bio of Thomas W Poe

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

The Capt Thomas Washington Poe biography was updated yet it still is incomplete.  Information from the Certificates of Enrollment for his later steamboats will not be added until I have made time to review the appropriate volumes at The National Archives. 


Copyright © 2014 Francis W Nash
All Rights Reserved

Steamboat Losses

Sunday, August 25th, 2013

Georgetown steamboat captains and owners littered the inland waterways with their steamboat wrecks.   The boats lost on various inland rivers when owned by a Georgetown captain follow:



      Georgetown (1855 snagged)
      Amelia Poe (1868 snagged)
      Ida Stockdale (1871 crushed by ice)
      Feerless (1882 sunk)


      Glaucus (1852 fire)
      Horizon (1862 CivWar collision)
      Nick Wall (1870 snagged)
      Glencoe (1877 snagged)



      Belmont (1859 fire)
      Mollie Ebert (1875 fire)



      Clara Poe (1865 CivWar arson)  



      John B Gordon (1851 snagged)


Other boats once owned and operated by Georgetown men were lost, snagged or burned after they had been sold have not been added to the list.



Copyright © 2013 Francis W Nash
All Rights Reserved

PowerShips Article

Saturday, August 3rd, 2013

The story of a Civil War transport, the str Clara Poe, was published in the Steamships Historical Society of America (SSHSA) magazine PowerShips Summer 2013 No 286.


The synopsis follows:


The history of the steamer Clara Poe has been essentially silent despite her lengthy Civil War service to the Union. Fran Nash’s account of the steamer is a bit of American history too important to be left untold.


Like my first article No Place for a Lady!: Journal of the Wife of a Steamboat Captain, this story was edited by Jim Pennypacker who is the editor of PowerShips.  He made me look professional.  If you can find the periodical, the story is a fun read. 



Copyright © 2013 Francis W Nash
All Rights Reserved


CivWar150 1 May 1863

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

One hundred fifty years ago today, the str Horizon collided with the streamer str Moderator.  Both boats were running after dark on a moonless night without lights, making evasive moves, and badly riddled by rebel cannons.  Never had steamboats faced a more firey ordeal.  The str Moderator had been damaged to the degree that it was unmanageable.  The Horizon was not in trouble until the collision with the Moderator.  Both vessels sunk.  The str Horizon sunk on Island No 10 near Grand Gulf, MS. 


Many soldiers,  including Swedish members of Stolbrand’s Battery, were lost when the str Horizon sank. [1]  In an eyewitness report one day later Gen Isaac H Elliot wrote, “I was down to the str Horizon and succeeded in getting out three gun carriages, but the stench arising from the 60 dead horses and men made my officers and men sick.” [2]


According to The Lytle-Holdcamper List ― Lives lost “Unknown”.[3]


According to the Gibsons, the US  government paid $18,500 for the loss of the packet.[4]    It is true that the owners applied for compensation, but two applications for indemnity were rejected by the US Army Quartermaster.  I have no knowledge of any compensation received.  At the time of the collision, the owners of the str Horizon were John N McCurdy, Thomas S Calhoon, Richard Calhoon, and William White (Jackman T Stockdale had sold his share in late 1862).[5]   





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

[2]  Gen Issac H Elliot,. Thirty-Third Regiment Illinois Veteran Volunteer Infantry In the Civil War.

[3]  William M Lytle and Forrest R Holdcamper, Merchant Steam Vessels of the United States 1790-1868, (The Steamship Historical Society of America, Inc, 1975), p272.

[4]  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 152.

[5]  John H Ewing, Biography of Thomas S Calhoon, Heinz History Center, The Ewing Papers Box 5, p 17.



Copyright © 2013 Francis W Nash
All Rights Reserved

CivWar150 Editorial

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

Reading historical accounts of events that took place 150 years ago provides enjoyment.  But not in a normal fun sense.  These sesquicentennial histories are serious because they observe a celebration that commemorates the most turbulent era in our nation’s history.  Somewhere in all this the contributions of steamboat men and their steamboats has been sadly overlooked. 


Copyright © 2013 Francis W Nash
All Rights Reserved

CivWar150: 22 Apr 1863

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

On this day 150 years ago, the str Horizon ran the Vicksburg and Grand Gulf batteries with supplies.  Her civilian crew, except for her pilots, was temporarily replaced by Army officers and soldiers.  Badly damaged by shell fire, she ran the gauntlet successfully. [1]  According to the regimental history of the 11th Illinois Infantry, Second Lieutenant James D. Vernay of Company B received the Medal of Honor.  He had been detached as a volunteer to the steamer Horizon during the Vicksburg campaign.  The medal was issued for “Served gallantly as a volunteer with the crew of the steamer Horizon that, under a heavy fire, passed the Confederate batteries.”. [2]


The str Horizon was one of six transport steamers repaired to run the Vicksburg batteries after the failures of the “bayou” expeditions.  On 22 Apr 1863, Capt GW Kennard 20th IL Regiment commanded the str Horizon.  His boat left Millikin’s Bend at 9:00 PM.  She steamed slowly to the bend then put on a “full head of steam”.  At the second battery two artillery shots crashed through the bulkhead.  At the next battery two shots hit the hurricane deck.  In total fifteen or sixteen shots hit their target.  All were forward and above the boiler room.


After passing the batteries, the str Horizon attempted to go to the assistance of the disabled str Moderator without success.  The str Horizon then went to the aid of the str Anglo-Saxon.   Later that day, the str Horizon was ordered to pass the Warrenton battery a second time and report at New Carthage.  The str Horizon ”steamed up and reported” at New Carthage.[3]

Think for a moment about the power of the Medal of Honor.  To single out for honor one person aboard one steamer would be a fascinating subject to explore.  


How different the Civil War would have been without the Ohio River effectively separating much of the nation, North and South!  And how different would have been the outcome without the steamboat , Union men, who knew the chutes, channels, and shoals of the Ohio and its tributaries.




[1] Charles Dana Gibson and E Kay Gibson, Dictionary of Transports and Combatant Vessels Steam and Sail Employed by the Union Army 1861 – 1868, (Ensign Press, Cambridge, MA 1995), p 152.

[2]  Regimental History of the 11th Illinois Infantry.

[3] JK Folmar I, California, PA 1849-1881: The History of a Boat Building Town, (Yohogania Press, California, PA 2009), p 58.


Copyright © 2013 Francis W Nash
All Rights Reserved