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NavSource Online: "Old Navy" Ship Photo Archive

USS Rhode Island (I)

Awards, Citations and Campaign Ribbons

Civil War Medal
Personnel Awards

Medal of Honor
Ordinary Seaman Luke Griswold, USN and Ordinary Seaman John Jones, USN
Side-wheel Steam:
  • Built in 1860 as the wooden side-wheel steamer SS John P. King by Lupton & McDermut, at New York City
  • Burned and rebuilt 1861 as SS Eagle
  • Purchased by the Navy, 27 June 1861, from Spofford, Tileston & Co., at New York
  • Commissioned USS Rhode Island, 29 July 1861, at New York Navy Yard, CDR. Stephen Decatur Trenchard in command
  • During the Civil War, Rhode Island was employed as a supply ship, visiting various ports and ships with mail, paymasters officers stores, medicine, and other supplies
    During her first cruise, 31 July to 2 September 1861, Rhode Island captured schooner Venus off Galveston, TX
    From 5 February to 18 March 1862, Rhode Island supplied 98 vessels with various stores
    From 5 April to 20 May 1862, Rhode Island supplied 118 vessels
    Assigned to support the Gulf Blockading Squadron from 17 April 1862
    Chased and forced ashore the British schooner Richard O'Bryan near San Luis Pass, 4 July 1862
    Towed USS Monitor, USS Passaic, USS Montauk, and USS Weehawken south from Hampton Roads to Beaufort, N.C., or Port Royal, S.C.
    Towed USS Monitor from Hampton Roads, 29 December 1862 with USS Passiac in company
    As the ships rounded Cape Hatteras on the evening of 30 December, they encountered a heavy storm. Monitor's
    pumps were unable to control flooding caused by underwater leaks so that the order to abandon ship had to be
    given. Before Monitor's crew could be completely transferred to Rhode Island, she sank, taking four
    officers and 12 enlisted men with her. Rhode Island endeavored to remain as near as possible to the position
    in which Monitor sank so as to fix the location, some 20 miles south, southwest of Cape Hatteras and to await
    daylight to search for a missing small boat.
    Reassigned to the West Indies to search for Confederate ships, 29 January 1863
    Drove blockade runner Margaret and Jessie ashore at Stirrup Cap, 30 May 1863
    Captured British blockade runner Cronstadt near Man of War Bay, Abaco, Bahamas, 16 August 1863
    Decommissioned at Boston Navy Yard, 28 March 1864 for repairs
    Transformed into an Auxiliary Cruiser, mounting one 11" gun, eight 8" guns, one 30-pdr Parrott rifle and one 12-pdr rifle
    Towed monitor USS Monadnock from Boston to New York, 26 September 1864
    Recommissioned, 3 October 1864, to join the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron
    Captured British blockade runner Vixen, 1 December 1864
    Towed monitor USS Canonicus from Hampton Roads to join the attacks on Fort Fisher in December 1864 and January 1865
    Tow monitor USS Saugus from Federal Point, N.C, to Norfolk, VA., 16 January 1865
    Subsequently cruised in company with the seagoing monitor USS Dictator in March
  • Following the Civil War USS Rhode Island was assigned to the Confederate armored ram CSS Stonewall to the United States from Havana, 2 October to 23 November 1865
  • Assigned to cruise the Atlantic and West Indies until decommissioned
  • Sold to G. W. Quintard, 1 October 1867, redocumented SS Charleston, 9 November 1867
  • Final Dispostion, abandoned in 1885
    Displacement 1,517 t.
    Length 236' 9"
    Beam 36' 8"
    Depth 18' 5"
    Draft 15'
    Speed 16 kts
    Complement 257
    Original Armament
    four 32-pdrs
    1864 Armament
    one 11" gun
    eight 8" guns
    one 30-pdr Parrott rifle
    one 12-pdr rifle
    Propulsion steam
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    Size Image Description Source
    Merchant Service
    Rhode Island 72k Lithograph published circa 1861 of SS Eagle was taken over by the US Navy in June of that year and became USS Rhode Island.
    US Naval History and Heritage Command photo # NH 54332.
    Bill Gonyo
    Rhode Island 69k Watercolor by Erik Heyl, 1947, of SS Eagle, painted for use in his book "Early American Steamers", Volume I.Originally built as the steamship SS John P. King, she was badly damaged by fire in December 1860, after trials. Rebuilt and renamed SS Eagle, she was taken over by the US Navy in June 1861 and served as USS Rhode Island until sold in October 1867. She was subsequently the civilian steamer SS Charleston.
    US Naval History and Heritage Command photo # NH 63856.
    Bill Gonyo
    USS Rhode Island (I)
    MONITOR 163k Loss of the Monitor, in a Storm off Cape Hatteras, 30 December 1862. Gallant efforts to rescue the Crew by the Rhode Island"
    Line engraving published in "The Soldier in Our Civil War", Volume I, page 248. It shows USS Monitor sinking at left, with a boat picking up crewmen, as USS Rhode Island stands by in the right background, firing rockets.
    US Naval History and Heritage Command photo USNHC # 51957.
    MONITOR 163k "The Monitor's Tragic End".
    Artwork published in "Deeds of Valor", Volume II, page 39, by the Perrien-Keydel Company, Detroit, 1907. It depicts USS Monitor sinking off Cape Hatteras during the night of 30-31 December 1862, as a boat approaches to rescue some of her crewmen. USS Rhode Island is in the left distance, firing a rocket.
    US Naval History and Heritage Command photo USNHC # 79913.
    MONITOR 118k Loss of the Monitor, 30-31 December 1862.
    Halftone reproduction of a Civil War era print, copied from the "U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings", December 1926. USS Rhode Island is standing by in the background, as a boat removes crewmen from the sinking USS Monitor.
    US Naval History and Heritage Command photo USNHC # 1279.
    MONITOR 219k Loss of the Monitor
    Depicting USS Monitor sinking in a storm off Cape Hatteras on the night of 30-31 December 1862. A boat is taking off crewmen, and USS Rhode Island is in the background.
    Photo and partial text courtesy of "Harper's Pictorial History of the Civil War " pg 258. Published by Fairfax Press and written by Henry M. Alden & Alfred H. Guernsey. Other text from USNHC NH 58758.
    Rhode Island 101k USS Rhode Island anchored off Newport, Rhode Island, August 1866.
    US Naval History and Heritage Command photo # NH 42205.
    Bill Gonyo
    Rhode Island 128k USS Rhode Island officers gather for a group photo on deck. During the entire war Rhode Island was commanded by CDR. (later RADM) Stephen Decatur Trenchard. At the time this photo was taken at Cape Haytien, her officers were; LT. Pennell, LT. Farquhar, and Masters Mate Ridney Brown. Staff officers where Chief=Engineer McCutcheon, Captain's Clerk F. C. T. Beck, Paymaster R. Hall Douglas, and Paymaster's Clerk, Langdon Rodgers
    US Navy Photo © 1911, Reviews of Reviews Co. from "The Photographic History of the Civil War Volume 3 The Navies", The Blue & Gray Press, Secaucus, N.J.
    Rhode Island 166k On 3 September 1861, Charles Henry Smith enlisted at the Brooklyn Rendezvous for three years as an Ordinary Seaman. Initially assigned to the Receiving Ship (RS) North Carolina, he served two months on the newly commissioned USS Rhode Island, probably for training, then sailed on USS Supply, 27 December. He would have been on Supply when she captured the Confederate schooner Stephen Hart, in late January 1862, carrying arms and ammunition south of Sarasota, Florida. Returning to New York in mid-February 1862, he returned to North Carolina for six weeks. Smith was again assigned to Rhode Island, and served on her until April 1864, when he was discharged to accept a commission as Acting Master's Mate. The wooden side-wheel steamer was employed as a supply ship early in the war, and in the spring of 1862, was attached to the Gulf Blockading Squadron for several months. Returning north, Rhode Island's next task was towing the ironclad USS Monitor from Hampton Roads to Port Royal, SC, for repairs. Encountering a heavy gale on the evening of 30 December off Cape Hatteras, Monitor was unable to control flooding and sank, taking with her 16 men. Rhode Island launched several cutters and managed to rescue the remaining crew members, but in the process one of her cutters went missing with eight sailors, including Coxswain Charles Smith. After 18 hours in the open boat "scantily clothed in the cold winter weather, no food or water, wet to the skin," according to Seaman Lewis Horton, another member of the cutter crew, they were rescued by the schooner Ann Colby. Colby struck a reef attempting to enter Hatteras Inlet, and had to be towed into Beaufort, NC, where the rescued cutter crew spent a week assisting in repairs to the schooner, returning to Rhode Island on 9 January 1863. For their heroic efforts in the rescue operation, the seven enlisted men in the cutter were awarded the Medal of Honor, and Smith was promoted to Acting Master's Mate. A version of the citation, published in 1887, reads: "These men were of the crew of the first cutter of the U. S. Steamer 'Rhode Island' on the night of December 30, 1862, which was engaged in saving the lives of the officers and crew of the 'Monitor.' They had saved a number, and it was owing to their gallantry and zeal and desire to save others that they became separated from the 'Rhode Island' and were adrift for some hours." Text courtesy of Vermont in the Civil War. Photograph courtesy of the Concord Historical Society Bill Gonyo

    USS Rhode Island (I)
    Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships (DANFS)
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    Last Updated 12 July 2013