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NavSource Online: "Old Navy" Ship Photo Archive

USS Thomas Freeborn


Awards, Citations and Campaign Ribbons

Civil War Medal

Sidewheel Gunboat:
  • The sidewheel steamer SS Thomas Freeborn was built in 1861 at Brooklyn, N.Y.
  • Chartered by the Navy in April 1861 for use in the unsuccessful Fort Sumter relief expedition
  • Purchased by the Union Navy, 7 May 1861,
  • Commissioned, USS Thomas Freeborn, 7 May 1861, CDR. James H. Ward, USN, in command
  • During the Civil War USS Thomas Freeborn was assigned to:
  • Hampton Roads and the Chesapeake Bay
  • Engaged Confederate batteries at Sewell's Point, VA., May 1861
  • Potomac Squadron
    Union occupation of Alexandria, Va., on the 24 May 1861, blockade and patrol duty in the Potomac River on 27 May 1861
    Assisted in silencing Confederate batteries at Aquia Creek, VA., 31 May 1861
    Engaged Confederate installations at Mathias Point, Va., 24 June 1861, CDR. Ward KIA, 27 June 1861
    Captured sloop A. B. Leon off White House Point, VA., 26 July 1861
    Captured schooner Pocahantas and sloop Mary Grey in Pohick Creek, VA., 4 August 1861
    Captured schooner Mail and her cargo of salt in Coan River, VA., 1 August 1862
    Seized and burned schooner Arctic in Maryland's Great Wicomico River, 15 September 1862
    Captured sloop Thomas Reilly, 1 October 1862, at the mouth of Quantico Creek, VA.
    Ship's landing party cut telegraph lines from Occoquan and Fredericksburg, VA., to Richmond, VA., 4 October 1862
    Engaged Confederate batteries, 21 February 1863
    Patrolled the Potomac for the remained of 1863 and all of 1864
    Captured blockade runner William Smith, 3 March 1865 in the Piankatank River, VA.
  • Reassigned to patrol the Chesapeake Bay, 17 April 1865, in the search for the assassins of President Lincoln
  • Decommissioned, 17 June 1865, at Washington Navy Yard
  • Sold at public auction, 20 July 1865, to Anthony Raybold
  • Redocumented as SS Philip, 14 September 1865
  • Final Disposition, disposed of in 1887
    Specifications:
    Displacement 269 t.
    Length 143' 4"
    Beam 25' 6"
    Depth unknown
    Draft unknown
    Speed unknown
    Complement unknown
    Armament two 32-pdrs
    Propulsion steam

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    Anacostia 203k The attack upon the batteries at the entrance of Aquia Creek, Potomac River, by the United States vessels USS Pawnee, USS Yankee, USS Thomas Freeborn, USS Anacostia, and USS Resolute, June 1st, 1861. On May 31st Captain Ward, in command on board of the Thomas Freeborn, and assisted by two more of his gunboats, the Resolute and the Anacostia, began the attack on the Confederate batteries, and after a two hours' fight, succeeded in silencing the batteries at the landing; but, for want of long-range ammunition, could not effectually respond to the heavy fire from the heights, and so had to withdraw. The following day, however, with additional aid from the Pawnee and Yankee, the attack was resumed, and the batteries were at last silenced and the Confederates compelled to retreat." Frank Leslie, 1896.
    US Navy photo # NH 73736 of an engraving from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, 1861.
    Tommy Trampp
    Thomas Freeborn 90k "Action at Aquia Creek between United States Vessels and Rebel Batteries." An engraving, after a sketch by LT. Cash, published in "Harper's Weekly", 1861. It depicts USS Pawnee (at right), what appears to be USS Thomas Freeborn (left center), and another warship engaging the Confederate batteries at Aquia Creek, on the Potomac River, probably on 31 May - 1 June 1861.
    US Naval History and Heritage Command photo #: NH 59234
    Tommy Trampp
    Thomas Freeborn 126k Some of USS Thomas Freeborn's officers and men demonstrate how her late Commanding Officer, CDR. James H. Ward, was sighting her bow gun when he was mortally wounded, 27 June 1861, during an action with Confederate forces at Mathias Point, VA. The gun is a 32 pounder smoothbore, of 60 hundredweight, on a "Novelty Carriage". This mounting was developed by Commander Ward before the Civil War. Location appears to be the Washington Navy Yard, D.C.
    US Naval History and Heritage Command photo #: NH 60990
    Tommy Trampp
    Reliance 197k "Engagement between the Gunboat Flotilla, Freeborn and Reliance, under the Command of Captain James H. Ward, and a Secession Force at Mathias Point, Va., on the Potomac River -- Death of Captain Ward." 27 June 1861.
    A line engraving, based on a sketch by an Officer of the Expedition, published in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, 1861, depicting USS Thomas Freeborn, Ward's flagship, in the left foreground with USS Reliance to her right.
    US Navy History and Heritage Command photo # NH 59242
    US Navy History and Heritage Command
    Thomas Freeborn 132k Sketch by A. Waud from a photograph by James F. Gibson, 1861, of "Infernal machines discovered in the Potomac near Aquia Creek by the flotilla for whose destruction they were intended' It depicts a boat approaching a cask-type floating mine, with USS Thomas Freeborn nearby. A detailed view of the mine is in the foreground and USS Pawnee is in the center distance.
    Library of Congress Photo #: LC-USZ62-15652
    Robert Hurst

    USS Thomas Freeborn
    Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships (DANFS)
    Commanding Officers
    01CDR. Ward, James Harmon, USN7 May 1861 - 27 June 1861 (KIA)
    02LCDR. Lowry, Reigart Bolivar28 June 1861 - 3 August 1861
    03LT. Eastman, Thomas Henderson4 August 1861 - September 1861
    04LT. Harrell, Abram DavisSeptember 1861 - 14 October 1861
    05LCDR. Magaw, Samuel15 October 1861 - 25 September 1864
    06Act. Master Arthur, William A.25 September 1864 - 17 June 1865
    Courtesy Bill Gonyo

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    Last Updated 7 January 2017