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USS Britannia

Awards, Citations and Campaign Ribbons

Civil War Medal

Sidewheel Steamer:
  • Built in 1862 as the iron-hulled sidewheel steamer Britannia at Leith, Scotland by British speculators to run through the Union Navy's blockade of the Confederate coast during the American Civil War
  • After three successful voyages carrying munitions and supplies to the South, Britannia departed Charleston, S.C., 21 June 1863, and headed for Nassau, New Providence, with a cargo of cotton
  • About dawn on the 25th, USS Santiago de Cuba sighted the blockade runner some 90 miles east northeast of Eleuthera Island
  • Britannia attempted to escape; but, at the end of a day-long chase "against a strong wind and sea" Santiago de Cuba slowly gained on the fleeing ship
  • About 7:00 p.m. Santiago de Cuba finally was close enough to open fire. Her shells fell close around their target and quickly brought Britannia to
  • A prize crew under Acting Master Edgar C. Merriman sailed Britannia to Boston where she was condemned by the admiralty court there and sold to the US Navy, 29 September 1863
  • However, almost a fortnight before, the Navy, anticipating the completion of this transaction, had placed Britannia in commission on 16 September 1865 at the Boston Navy Yard, Acting Master Hugh H. Savage in command
  • Assigned to the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, she sailed soon thereafter for waters off Wilmington, N.C., but experienced disabling boiler trouble en route and was towed into Beaufort, N.C., 26 September for temporary repairs
  • Following permanent repairs at the Norfolk Navy Yard, she left Hampton Roads late in November taking station off New Inlet, N.C., in the blockade of Wilmington.
    Her first action came in the predawn darkness of 10 December when she fired upon an incoming blockade runner. Britannia's commanding officer was confident of having scored several hits, but the speedy steamer reached safety at Wilmington nonetheless
    On 24 March 1864 Britannia departed Beaufort to launch a closely coordinated Army-Navy expedition to to capture or to destroy two blockade running schooners reported to be lying to at Swansboro, N.C., and to capture the Confederate troops on the south end of Bogue Island Banks
    Bad weather prevented the landing on the 24th but a second attempt in the 25th was made and a party got through to Bear Creek and burned one of the schooners
    On the evening of 6 May 1864, Flag Officer William Francis Lynch, CSN, in the Southern ironclad steam sloop CSS Raleigh, led a small naval force out of the Cape Fear River and over the bar at New Inlet, forcing Britannia to run out to sea to escape the superior Southern force
    On 25 August 1864, Britannia encountered the Confederate cruiser CSS Tallahassee attempting to run the blockade into Wilmington, although Britannia engaged the cruiser she was unable to inflict serious damage to the blockade runner
    Britannia participated in the shelling of the steamer Ella in early December 1865 after she ran aground at Smith's Island
    Britannia participated in both of the joint Army-Navy task forces attempting to take Fort Fisher in December 1864 and January 1865
    On 31 January USS Britannia was reassigned to the East Gulf Blockading Squadron at Key West
    In February Britannia joined the unsuccessful joint Army-Navy force which attacked Fort St. Mark, FL. which the South was attempting to strengthen
    Britannia served in Florida waters through the Confederate collapse and sailed north in mid-June
  • Decommissioned at Philadelphia, 28 June 1865 and sold at auction there, 10 August 1865
  • Redocumented as SS Britannia, 8 September 1865, the steamer served under the American flag as a merchantman until sold abroad in 1886
  • Final Disposition, fate unknown
    Displacement 495 t.
    Length 189'
    Beam 26'
    Depth of Hold 11'
    Draft 8'
    Speed 12.5 kts
    Complement 75
    one 30-pdr Parrott rifle
    two 24-pdr howitzers
    twelve 12-pdr rifles
    Propulsion steam, two paddle wheels

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    12k Artist rendition of the British blockade runner Britannia entering the port of Wilmington, N.C., 15 January 1863.
    From Blockade-Runners of Bermuda
    Robert Hurst

    USS Britannia
    Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships (DANFS)
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    Last Updated 2 October 2020