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Family History, Pollard's & Pangburn's Of Allegheny Co. PA 

Chapter 1 & Chapter 2 

Daniel The War Years

Chapter 3

 Home Sweet Home

Family Oral History : Preface

A simple incomplete statement told to us by our Father that had little meaning to us until we began to search for our roots . To the best of my recollection it went like this .

He came from England as a young boy . Sent by his father , to stay with relatives . This I was told was done for his own good , he being a bit spirited or somewhat of a black sheep and prone to getting into trouble . I was also told that there may have been a young lady involved , but no one was sure . there may have been just the slightest bit of embellishment where this was concerned , hopeless romanticism is a condition that has made more than one appearance in our family. It was told he went first to Kentucky , or somewhere else in the south . My father was not sure of this either , and later he moved to the Pittsburgh PA. area , where he ran a steamship line on the Ohio and Allegheny Rivers .The Steamboat Dan Pollard however did list it's first home port as Wheeling West Virginia , but other records have him as being from Ohio, so it seems we are still not sure . He was also said to be quite wealthy , what ever that is !

Well that's  not a lot of information to build a family Genealogy around . We thought at first that this story was about our Great Grandfather , Norval Pollard . Though it wasn't long before my sister found Norval's birth place and date . These facts proved he was not the first in our family to come to America , and provided us with his fathers name ,so the search went . Each new discovery leading to many new questions , and answering them all is just not a possibility .

   So with my sisters discovery however came another the name of Norval's Father , Daniel Pollard . So with that little bit of information we began our search for Daniel's parents and in that process , though he is long ago dead , the discovery of Daniel's life .

  Daniel Was born in 1819 , just where , we are not quite sure of , according to the oral history , somewhere in England . According to information found at the McKeesport Heritage Center in Allegheny Co. PA. he was a native of Ohio . As we checked the ships passengers lists however we come across a listing for Daniel Pollard , age 14 , country of origin , England , Ship Cambria . Her port of arrival NY. , and date of arrival June 20 , 1831 . That does seem to fit , all but the age . If the year of birth on his head stone is correct this would make him 12 not 14 , but then again what child has never lied about their age in the hopes of being taken more seriously by the adults around him . Or perhaps the reason was as simple as, that being the age at which a young man was allowed to travel alone.

However a closer examination of the census records for the year 1850 finds this Daniel Pollard still in New York , while our Daniel is listed with children in McKeesport PA. This was not even close to begining the only dead ends we were to encounter.

Looking back now after nearly a decade has past, my best guess would something like this. The information we were able to uncover was as follows.

1. Daniel's death certificate states he was born in Pennsylvania.

2. His second wifes family genealogy states he was born in            Wasington Co. PA.

3. The place of Daniel's original burial was the 9th St. Cemetery McKeesport. This cemetery & all it's residents were moved to the McKeesport Versailles Cemetery. The records of this move states that his family was in Ohio.

4.The 1860 Census finds Daniel in New Orleans staying at a hotel, occupation stated as Coal Merchant, from Nebraska. Since age & occupation match & Nebraska was prominent in the new of the day , being opposed to being admitted to the union of states as a slave state. I am guessing he was just trying to say he was tired of answering questions, but at the same time wanted to let this southerner know how he felt about the the slavery question that was indeed the topic of the day , as the storm clouds that brought the upcoming war began to gather.

5. The facts we were able to uncover though not nessisarily conect to are.

a)There was  a family of Pollard's in Washington Co. Pa. that indeed by 1820 had moved on to Ohio. This area of western PA. was at that time still considered part of Virginia, as was all of West Virginia. Jonathan Pollard was the head of this Family. He had a son , Jonathan (John ) Pollard who served with the Pittsburgh Blues and Married one Mary Ann Smallman. This Jonathan is listed  first in Washington Co. then Allegheny Co. Though he did not move , the county boarders did.

b) As the boarders did move it is actually accurate to say , they started out as  Virginian's but ended up as residents of Pennsylvania. Their trek to Ohio could have well been started out as a trek to the Kentucky bonus lands given to veterans of the Revolution only to end up securing land in the northern sector of these survayed tracks that were accualy on the northern side of the Ohio River, in Ohio. (Kentucky being on the south side of the river.)

So my present "best guess" is as follows. Daniel was born in Washington Co. Some how connected to this family of Jonathan Pollard. He traveled back to the Pittsburgh area after the death of John Pollard to help Mary Ann Pollard(Smallan) who at this time had two young children, with the daily chores of her modest farm on the west side of the Monongahela river. His friendship with   William Dunshee, found the two boys in partnership when William's father gained access to the mining rights of a tract of land near present day Mifflin Co., that already had a coal mine on it that had previously been mined by the Father of William E. Harrison. Daniel first took this coal south in barges, then walked back on the Natchez Trace. Later they were able to aford  a steam boat. ...... 


  A fact we do know is that Daniel Married first one Nancy Pangburn . A reasonable guess for the year of that union would be 1843 - 1844 as their first child was born in 1845, however while it is a certainty that they married no record of this union has ever been found . Nancy's family had been on this continent for several generations by this time and much is known of them , So lets start this story there .

Nancy's grand mother , Hannah Fitz Randolph ,was the daughter of Nathaniel Fitz Randolph and Rebecca Mershone of Princeton New Jersey . Nathaniel's family was one of royal decent and proud of the fact that they could trace their lineage back to Hugh Capet , King of France who died in 996 a connection to  William the Conqueror has also been claimed , but Hugh Capet is the only connection to him I have personally traced . Though this Norman lineage had long since been mingled with many other English lines .

Nathaniel was a man of distinction and well though of by his piers. He had prospered since setting out as a young man and had accumulated some small wealth . He is credited with donating the first land for the site of Princeton University and obtaining the first $500.00 in subscriptions for the same  . All together he is said to have donated 10 acres of land and it is there that his earthly remains are interred .  The following quote from the Randolph - Pangburn book 1620---1909 , summarizes what we know of him well . 

 " Of the later years of the life of Nathaniel Fitz Randolph we have but little information . He has had no biographer and in fact was forgotten for almost a century by his native town . His own records , and contemporary notices of him , seem to have been preserved more by accident than design , and only in recent years have been brought to light .

       That he should be an ardent champion for the cause of liberty in the war of independence , would only be living up to family traditions; but we could hardly expect one who had reached his three score and ten years( 70 years ) to take an active part in the conflict . However , after the army had withdrawn to other points , the county then left without protection , was overrun and plundered by bands of Tory refugees . Their outrages would have put to shame the painted savage of the day , then , forgetting his years , he joined his distressed people in the protection of their property and their homes . For some account of the services of Capt. Fitz Randolph and his little band of volunteers the reader is referred to the Archives of New Jersey , 2nd series - 1906 "

Nancy's Grandfather , William Pangburn was the second of three children born to Stephen Pangburn and his wife Anna Montgomerie. They were Lines , the eldest , William , and Rebecca . Stephen was a land and Sawmill owner in old Dover Township , New Jersey . William also served in the revolutionary war and  one account has him dead at the same time as his brother Lines , this was not so . Whether he served with Nathaniel or under the same Command as Lines is not known at this point . William's brother Lines Pangburn is known to have served under a Reuben F. Randolph , Captain , Fifth Company , Monmouth Militia . Lines was shot dead while standing guard for a party of refugees on the thirty first day of December , 1780 . William Pangburn and Hannah Fitz Randolph where married December 30, 1770 and according to the Randolph - Pangburn book published in 1909 , removed to western Pennsylvania in the year of 1778 , a questionable statement . However if this is correct it asks the question , did William , like many other solders of that war leave his family to return to fight in the Revolution for at least a time , and was this move an attempt to flee this war for the protection of his family .

William was believed to have been a Millwright , their marriage was fruitful and before his passing Hannah had bore him 11 children including one set of twins . These where Nathaniel and Stephen the twins , John , William , Elizabeth , Abigail , Anna , James , Samuel , Randolph and Lines , named for William's brother who had been killed in the Revolutionary war wile guarding a group of refugees .

At some point   Hannah and her children moved once again . this time to the state of Ohio . I do not not known for cretin that William accompanied them but it is thought likely . Some accounts have William serving in both the Revolutionary army and then in the war of 1812 . There is a William Pangburn buried at , Snows Corner, Roland Twp. seven miles north of  Ionia Michigan. His grave is marked "William Pangburn : Died March 10, 1852 age 110 years, 3 months. He fought under Washington through the Revolution ,again through the war of 1812 , to obtain independence and preserve it he devoted his best years. A grateful Country guards his mortal remains . " Hannah died at the home of her son Samuel in Brown Co. Ohio on June 11, 1835 and is buried at Red Oak Cemetery . It is known that not all her children moved to Ohio, as not to far from the Forward township home of William and Hannah their son John Pangburn met and Married a lady by the name of Jane Young . She was a native of Elizabeth township , Allegheny Co. PA. . Little more is known of her except that she bore John 8 children . They where Abigail , Mary , Elizabeth , Alexander , Rachel , Sarah , William and Nancy , my G. G. grandmother . Also it is known that Jane died rather young and that her husband remarried one Margaret McCormick ,another girl from Elizabeth PA. , and shortly moved to Brown Co. Ohio as well . Just before this move , one last child was born to John Pangburn . Hannah Jane Pangburn , Born November 06, 1834 .

Nancy Pangburn was born in Lincoln township in the year 1822 ,one of 8 siblings . Lincoln is part of Elizabeth today and very close to McKeesport PA. , . Another of those questions I am likely to never know is how the two met , possibly they were introduced by a mutual friend at some community function or perhaps she moved with her father and step mother to Brown County Ohio and it was there, in Brown Co. or on the river close by ,where Daniel spent most of his life . I can only imagine how it might have been . That they did however is fact, and by 1847 Nancy had born Daniel both a daughter and a son . Misfortune however , was not far behind and before the close of the year 1849 , Nancy died of unknown causes . The pain and suffering brought on by this loss for both Daniel and his young children must have been great . Daniel's life on the River and long periods away from home , made it necessary for a series of nannies to be hired . This having been done , there was little the two children lacked , except the company of their father . Daniel and the children lacked the love and nurturing of a mother and Wife for many years after the loss of Nancy . Martha the oldest , Perhaps took on some of these duties in an attempt to fill this void . Leading her off to an early marriage by today's standards , but Norval the youngest was still likely able to bond , with his new step mother when she finally did come along some ten years later . It is known that they had a relationship of sorts for many years after his fathers passing .



Chapter 1

Daniel's Steamboat

the War Years

 Fort Sumter was attacked on April 12 1861 , this is the event most historians accept as the first act of hostilities of what was to become an epic struggle . In Fact however , the first shots fired may have been in January 1861 , when the Steamboat A. O. Taylor was stopped by the firing of a six pounder across her deck. The events leading up to this incident where both complex and political in nature . The South , knowing that the Mississippi Valley commerce was vital to their economy , declared that peaceful navigation would be available to all citizens of any of the states which bordered these water ways or for those bordering on any of it's navigable tributaries . The opening of hostilities had little effect on this policy . This was reaffirmed by one of the first acts of the Confederate Congress , in May of 1861 when a bill to that effect was passed containing only one exception to this otherwise Free Trade . It was contained in this bill a tariff to be placed on the manufactures of New England , should their goods enter the seceding states via the inland water ways . Enforcing this tariff was an entirely different matter , and did much to impede , at least the feeling of free trade . Boats where boarded and searched in the New Orleans and Memphis areas . Rivermen from up-country where detained and asked to prove their loyalty to southern institutions , and some where forced to leave southern waters .

Politics and minor interruptions aside , traffic moved in a more or less normal fashion along the nations , River highways . It was indeed in the best interest of all to allow this steady stream of commerce to flow uninterrupted , at least until alternatives could be found , and control of these water ways could be asserted . Kentucky had declared it self neutral , though southern attempts to raise troops there went unchallenged . The Governor of Illinois , quickly sent all the guns & troops he could muster to Cairo . Much to his credit even before the Generals had identified the location as critical . At the speed of the day the players in the battle for the control of the western waters made their way to the stage .


   Mean while it was now up to the field Generals to carry out the "Anaconda Plan " . Devised by General Winfield Scott , this plan called for the naval blockade of all southern seaports to prevent the importation of war supplies from Europe . Followed by an invasion of the Mississippi Valley to cut the Confederacy in half . Sounds simple doesn't it !

 Daniel's wife's ( 2nd Wife Kate Cox ) obituary stated that Daniel would make trips as far south as New Orleans and that it was on one of his trips south that Daniel and his boat the V. F. Wilson where detained and pressed into the service of the United States Quartermasters Department . The First mention I can find Of The Wilson in The Official Record of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion Series 1 , is dated January 24 , 1862 , so perhaps he was able to elude the grip of War for at least a short time . Or perhaps this is just because before this the commandeered steamers where under the command of the army .

The rest as they say is history , and that is the story I will attempt to unravel in this work .

The V. F. Wilson was built in the year 1860 at McKeesport Pennsylvania . She was one of two boats built exactly alike in every way with the purpose of towing a very large tow together . This , however did not prove to be very practical , or in plane language it did not work , so she and her sister boat the Ike Hammitt towed separately .

The boats were built for what seemed to be a partnership of several likely interested gentlemen . These where Messieurs . Daniel Pollard , William Dunshee , Isaac Hammitt and I assume , Victor F. Wilson of Vicksburg Mississippi . The Boats Where built by a ship yard owned by Isaac Hammitt located between Elizabeth & McKeesport PA. Ike as we believe he was called was Daniel's brother in law .

Daniel as the master of a nearly new, if not state of the art Steamboat must have been very pleased and looking forward to a turn for the better in his life . As his beloved Wife Nancy Pangburn had died just a few short years before this , leaving him with two small children , Martha , Called Matilda and Norval the youngest , a son to carry on in his path . But now in the later part of 1860 a new love , his 2nd Wife Kate Cox , and in 1861 a new Daughter Ella Moraldie Pollard.Things looked bright indeed . His business endeavors were doing well , beyond his dreams . Coal was in demand all over the nation and his chosen home McKeesport , Pennsylvania , sat literally on top of millions of tons of it , he had also just barely passed his forty first birthday .

As Daniel made his way along the Tennessee River to a landing near Aurora , on a cold day in January 1862 , This good fortune must have , seemed a world away . He was now in the service of the U.S. Quartermaster . Home was just where he wished he was , and seeing his Wife and children again , was an uncertainty . What was certain , was the cold , the river and the ongoing hostilities . The Hostilities where by no means the exclusive domain of the Rebels . Daniel was after all a civilian in the service of the Armed forces and every one with a button on his uniform seemed to out rank him . But back to the job at hand , the delivery of Commissary stores to the landing at Aurora and then on to Crown Point With the Gunboat Lexington giving escort . Just after reaching Crown Point the first excitement of the trip was encountered.

The Lexington was requested to head down river for the propose of ascertaining if there was any truth to the report that Fort Henry had been abandoned . Well less than three miles down , she ran across the Rebel Gunboat the Dunbar the Lexington began to make chase firing her six inch gun as she went . The excitement in camp raised by her canon fire was not entirely relieved until on the return of the Lexington it was learned the Dunbar had run away as fast as she could . Having the Enemy run from you at your first encounter is somewhat reassuring and did much to calm the troops encamped there , though no one was likely to admit it . But at this point it must be remembered that the southern states had ruled the day at almost every encounter . When word came back that the fort had not been abandoned , it barely served to dampen the destine for the enemy that had run from them just at the sight of a Union boat . In truth the Lexington out classed and out gunned the hastily converted *Dunbar , though the Dunbar was faster , retreat was a most prudent action . The Next day General Smith ordered the Lexington to convey him close enough to Fort Henry to assess the situation for himself .

*Note : The Dunbar was built in 1859 at Pittsburgh for the Monongahela River trade By Mr. John S. Pringle . She was found to be a little large for the Locks in this slack water system and was sold To be used on the rivers below . Shortly after the opening of hostilities she was captured by the confederate states and hastily converted to use as a gunboat . She ended her days in a creek bed that she had gone up to escape the perusing union gunboats . She was dismantled there and her machinery used to build another steamer by her captors . Last in command of her was A Captain Fowler .

Due in part to General Grants failure to get his troop transports there at the appointed time , Fort Henry was , in a timely fashion , abandoned . The approximately 3000 Confederate troops stationed there , in light of the rapidly growing numbers of union troops being staged for the assault , withdrew under the cover of darkness , to Fort Donelson some 12 miles distant on the Cumberland River . Leaving a small detachment of artillery there to disguise their withdraw. These Rebels successfully engaged the union gunboats for a time before being forced to surrender . Fort Henry Surrendered on Friday , Feb. 6 , 1862 and within a few days General Grant was laying Siege to Fort Donelson but not before the Union gunboats had been given a bloody nose by the river batteries there .

The 90 minute duel between shore batteries and gunboats left the Union gunboats with little choice but retreat . By Feb. 16 Grant's encirclement however was complete , so facing the prospects of starvation the commander of Fort Donelson asked for terms of surrender .

General Grant's Reply is said to have been " Immediate and unconditional surrender are the only terms I will consider" , So given the situation Major Buckner , Commanding Ft. Donelson , surrendered the fort . The Union , from that day forth had a Hero in " Unconditional Surrender Grant " as the papers of the day where fond of calling him . General Grant and Colonel Buckner had been friends before the war . General grant even went as far as to request a loan from Buckner which he was granted . Colonel Buckner may have felt this was harsh treatment , coming from an old friend , and some would agree . This was however the nature of this war , one of division , and it had managed to divide much more that just a few old friends .

Aboard the Wilson the mood was one of relief to be heading up River for another load of provisions. Several few days had passed unloading the provisions and readying barges for the return trip but finally well on our way.  As we rounded a bend in the river we could hear in the distance gun fire and a steamboat's whistle franticly sounding. It was the ram, Dick Fulton under attack by guerillas. By the time we reached her, the attack was over though we made as much noise in approaching her as we could in the hopes the Rebels would think we were getting ready to join the fight. Just the same we where quite relived to see the U.S.S. Rattler headed toward us as we secured the barges and the Dick Fulton to the bank. The Rattler gave chase to the guerrillas, but being mounted they simply headed inland. The result was one killed, one wounded, and the Fulton disabled. {Head of Choctaw island [ island # 78 ] Feb. 10 , 1862 }.  As a result of this action we were turned from our destination, for the purpose of towing the Dick Fulton and her coal barges back down river to Greenville. This was not going well; home was in the other direction. But that fellow had more than one button on his uniform so we did what we where told. Besides to do anything less would have been downright un-neighborly. After that, things sort of settled into a not all together uncomfortable routine. A few days later we were headed up river again. This time we made it all the way to Cairo Illinois.



Cairo sits at the junction of the Mississippi and the Ohio rivers, Fort Defiance at the point of the peninsula was designed more to offer housing for the military  than resistance to the enemy. Due to its low-lying position, it is a very vulnerable though necessary position. As a remedy to this, opposite, Fort Defiance on the Mississippi River side was Bird's Point, with artillery batteries set to command the river. On the Ohio River side of the town is Ohio St. where the Quartermasters office is, along with a few work barges and what passes for a naval base. Captain A.M. Pennock tries hard to manage the chaos here but there are just too many things beyond his or any ones control.   A levy surrounds the town; some say it is for holding the mud in not the rivers out. West of Ohio St. is Halliday St. with Dance halls, Saloons, and some other unsavory establishments, mostly shut down now, or off limits to military personal. This improved situation was courtesy of General John A. McLernand who shut the worst of them down in 1861. West of Halliday St. is Commercial Ave. with the usual assortment of shopkeepers and a theater. However, the crowning glory was back on Ohio St. the St Charles Hotel a five storied building, not the best anywhere but the best that Cairo has to offer. The climate here is humid and the soil rich, allowing the surrounding farms to grow a wide verity of fruits, and vegetables. So at least we eat well here, but then so do the disease carrying mosquitoes and rats.

The Generals seemed to think this place is special , but the solders all say, they had plenty of mud where they came from , and that we should just give it to the Reb's and let them Wallow in it . However, it was home, at least for the next few days. Cairo was a strategic point in the river, and the staging area for the entire western waters. Besides, we could always stay on board the Wilson. With Her boilers fired, she was warm and dry if not altogether clean.

When the rivers begin to rise as they have this spring, March 1862, for the most part life onboard is cleaner than the mud streets of Cairo and banks of the rivers.

*March 25 now and we are assisting the army in loading of 8 inch gun and 13 inch mortar shells for the mortar barges down river .

*March 26 Cairo almost completely flooded , if the Rebels hit them now they couldn't even keep their powder dry . The River is no picnic at high water either , harder to read and lots of floating obstacles.

April 10 1862

The River having subsided some, we departed Cairo and headed for Columbus KY., with mortar boats in tow, we are in the company of an entire Flotilla, what a sight. If we could just put half this much effort into resolving this dispute, not one more man would have to die. We were accompanied by the Ike Hammitt today, our sister boat, and some boys from back home. Had time to visit and talk of home after dark, while we were still readying the tows, it was good to see familiar faces.

 We heard a few stories about the horrific battle at Shilo just above Pittsburg Landing , and came across some of the wounded survivors . Hard to say what was true as the only ones talking about it were nearly as far away from the actually battle as we were . The wounded survivors , just sort of stared off in the distance or looked right through you , and you couldent get two words out of them even if you tried .

                           Sketch of Columbus KY

  As the mundane routine of logistics settled in, one bend of the rivers began to look like another. It was at times like this when boredom had thoroughly set in, my gaze wondering from the water briefly, that the beauty surrounding us dramatically impressed me. We kept a keen eye out for danger, guerrillas or just a new snag on the water that could tear the hull open in an instant. Still this was a very beautiful country; thick layers of underbrush would give way to a thin ribbon of trees and beyond it open farmland. A little, further down stream, in the distance another thicket of trees with smoke rising above them. Was it just a settlers cabin nestled amongst them or Rebels and the aftermath of yet another skirmish. Alternatively, in the early morning when a fog had settled on the river and even from the pilothouse you could barely see fifty yards. So even when all seemed peaceful and we were bored half out of or wits, there was still that underlying tension ready to boil to the surface at the slightest provocation, it was in this manner  that the months rolled on, boredom and fear...

We made several trips between Cairo and Columbus Kentucky moving men and artillery for the propose of placing batteries of artillery there , that could over see the river should the 13 gunboats now reported at New Orleans try to make it up river . Another trip on the 10th of June to retrieve the General Bragg witch had broken down 6 mile below Cairo. Accompanied by the Sallie Wood, the General Bragg was a boat recently captured from the Confederate Navy, with a little repair and refitting she would be a capable vessel put to good use, or that was the hope.

June 29,1862

Bound for Vicksburg with mortar boats in tow . The Flagship Benton and gunboats Louisville and Carondelet , ordnance boat Judge Torrence six mortar boats and assisting in the tow an old friend our sister boat the Ike Hammitt . Arrived at Vicksburg July 1 , after running the gauntlet of artillery batteries deployed above that city , and began to deploy mortar boats as ordered . Shortly after the shelling of the fortifications and city began . The next day we where ordered to move the mortars closer to the city and more shelling ensued . Our Captain , Daniel remained solemnly quite and very much to himself during these and the following few days . Daniel's thoughts where no doubt of his dear friend and name sake of this boat Victor Wilson , who had at last report resided with his Wife and 4 children in this City of Vicksburg . These activities in the area around Vicksburg continued for several months , only to end in the defeat of the Union forces at Cichasaw Bluff . General Grant had attempted a bold plan , but the confederates where not as agreeable or caught unprepared as they where at New Orleans . From here attention must be paid to securing the upper reaches of the river before he dared attempt to take Vicksburg again .

Click on Image below & see what this home looks like today

Victor Wilson's Home

( American Memory Collection )

Anchuca Mansion & Inn

The historic Wilson home has been converted to an Inn

The Wilson home had ben turned into a makeshift hospital during the siege of Vicksburg ( Research is on going )

Aug 5/ 1862

Dispatched to Cairo from Helena Arkansas for ice and vegetables , scurvy has set in on the crews of the fleet . Imperative we make all speed in our return , as only a few days ration of vegetables remain here which are necessary to stave off scurvy .

    A speedy trip indeed by the 20th of Aug. we were returning from another supply trip and at the time about 22 miles below Memphis , when we came across a grim reminder of what could befall us if we were not vigilant . Or if even a mechanical brake down should catch us in the current . The Steamer Swallow , burned to a crisp , all hands captured or killed by guerrillas . Save one poor soul that had swam for his life . We plucked him off the bank , feed him and listened intently as he informed us of the events that had led to this misfortune . Seems the Swallow was taking on water and was in bad need of re-caulking . The situation became so bad that the Captain had put her on shore to keep her from sinking and to affect the badly needed repairs . She had been stuck there for 10 or 12 days and was in the process of trying to get her off when a band of guerrillas swooped in on them catching them by surprise , burning the Swallow and capturing the crew . An uneasy silence swept over the crew of the Wilson as we paused to contemplate the consequences of such a fate . The thought of spending the rest of the war in a prison camp , or worse . I had heard stories , though I never believed it was as bad as all that , until I heard more from survivors long after the war . Tales of Disease , Starvation , living conditions of unbelievable depravation . It was the lucky that died fast , the not so lucky lingered for months .

Dec. 2/ 1862

We where ordered to accompany the U.S.S. Tyler to Hickman Kentucky . Seems some one had fired on one of our boats with muskets from that place the previous day . Admiral Porter meant to deal swiftly and harshly with the perpetrators of this action . The orders where to ascertain if the locals where responsible and if so to shell them out . For good measure he also Dispatched the Steam Ram Lancaster . However Upon our arrival at Hickman , we learned the following particulars . The Captain in command of the post at Hickman , on the night of December 1st wished to send dispatches to Cairo , and signaled for a transport witch was passing up , to land . But as this boat passed on without stopping , he ordered his men to fire upon her with muskets . Thinking them to be the enemy . The Captain of the transport thinking that Hickman had been taken by the enemy proceeded to Columbus where he reported that to General Thomas A. Davies that Hickman had fallen , and he had been fired upon by the enemy there . After we all had a good laugh and the commander of Hickman had a good reaming out by Lieutenant J. M. Prichett and Lieutenant Bartlett , We were on our way back to Cairo , Much Relived that we where not required to be any party to the shelling of innocent civilians .


Rumors fed our already active minds with more apprehension and confusion than was necessary . We all tried hard to ignore the rumors , but I would be lying if I said I was unaffected by them . So it was at about this time and wile making some routine deliveries of stores that we caught the latest gossip [ rumor ] . Seems the U. S. S. Cairo had been lost . The loss of a steamer was always big news , but the loss of a gunboat . This news could only be taken with disbelief . The Cairo had upwards to 15 guns of various caliber's on her decks , and a small detachment of marines . What rebel gunboat could match her fire power . Or worse yet , the thought that if this could happen to the Cairo what chance did the Wilson have if caught by a Rebel gunboat ? No this could not be true , There were always rumors spread by rebel sympathizers , stories of how the next rebel offensive would remove all union minded solders and civilians from the lower rivers forever . At least for a wile we where able to leave that rumor right where we wanted it . But as they say all good things must end and so the rumors of the demise of the Cairo ended , with the confirmation that she was indeed struck by a torpedo , some 18 miles up the Yazoo River not far from a place known as Haynes Bluff . The story went that she had sunk within five minutes of being struck , this December 12, 1862 .

A Torpedo ? well if that don beat all , another bad rumor come to life seems they were pipes filed with explosives that could be set adrift in the waters current with the hopes of striking an unlucky steamer headed that way . They must pack one mess of explosives to put a boat down that fast , and an iron clad like the Cairo too. Well back to work , I dont need anything else to worry about , got plenty of that , Worries that is , already .

Finally Dec. 23 1862 on our way to St. Louis to tow down provisions and ice , will get a few days rest and a small taste of civilization . As Christmas approaches our thoughts are of our families far to the east . Perhaps soon a leave can be arranged . Though the boat must stay on  station , Mr. Dunshee has been contacted to make arrangements for a relief crew so the now weary crew of the Wilson may take a short leave and attend to needs , domestic in nature .

 (The following are just a few of the actual dispatches that this story is constructed from .)

January 2, 10 o'clock p.m.

The Wilson has just arrived from St. Louis with Beef, and will proceed down river with the Glide and other boats . The Master of the Wilson reports that he passed the Lafayette at anchor last night about 40 miles below St. Louis

I have the honor to be , very respectfully , your obedient servant ,

A.M. Pennock

Fleet Captain and Commandant of Station

Off Memphis Tenn. Jan. 6, 1863 ------------- U.S.S. General Bragg

Sir: In acquiescence with your order received per U.S.S. Rattler , I sent down to the fleet in tow of the Stephen Bayard four Mortar boats , leaving six at this point , two of which only are in condition to send . The Wilson , having five barges in tow , is unable to take them , and there being no towboat here , I regret being unable to send them .

Very respectfully , your obedient servant

Joshua Bishop

Lieutenant , Commanding

U.S.S. Carondelet

Helena , Ark. , Jan. 8, 1863

Sir: I arrived at this place last night , having been overtaken by the Mormora Between here and White River and the Juliet a few miles below here , both of which gave me tow.

I found the Steamers New Era , Glide , V. F. Wilson and Stephen Bayard , with a tow of four coal barges ,four mortar boats , and a ice barge , with provisions , etc.

As I am quite sure you do not wish to have the mortar boats just now , I have ordered them to be moored here in charge of Mr. Wheelock , the officer having charge of those at this place , until future orders from you . As I can not coal at Memphis , I shall be obliged to take the Wilson to tow me to No. 10 to get there within a reasonable time .

General Gorman requested me to have some ammunition sent down to General Sherman , and I have ordered it on board the steamer Stephen Bayard , in charge of an army officer .

I am ,Sir, very respectfully , your obedient servant ,

H. Walke

Captain , U.S. Navy


U.S.S. Conestoga

off White River , Feb. 1, 1863

Sir: I regret to report the death by typhus fever of two of the Conestoga's crew, Felix Donis and J. D. Callahan , Firemen . The disease is prevailing .

The Bragg has not yet made her appearance , I shall keep the signal on picket duty at the cut-off for the present .

I send down by the Wilson the mortar boat that was anchored at the foot of island No. 68 . There are two vacancies for ensigns on board and I cheerfully recommend Master's mate Divine for promotion .

There is an extra engineer aboard , Second Assistant Michael Norton , ordered to report to me from Cairo .

The steamer Evansville arrived yesterday from Helena for the propose of trade and to purchase cotton . I have ordered her back to Helena . I believe it is not your wish that trade should at present be permitted .

All quite in this vicinity .

Very Respectfully , your obedient servant ,

Thos. O. Selfridge



 As the months wore on , and the tedium of trip after hurried trip took its toll , our thoughts were of the dispatch sent to Mr. Dunshee at McKeesport Penn. for a relief crew , but back to the task at hand . Admiral Porter and General Grant seemed to be intent on clearing any opposition in the vicinity of the White and Arkansas Rivers . The Confederate Army , however had contrary intentions . Memphis was our next stop , Stores they called the cargo but when you are scared to light a smoke or a lantern , well I'll just say, I never seen no store back home that sold so many things that could kill a fellow in all my life . On the bright side they gave us an escort all the way to Helena , in the form of the U.S.S. Prairie Bird a light draft gunboat . She was not the most feared boat on the river but enough to make the guerrillas think twice about taking pot shots at us .  Just haveing her near did some to calm the fears of most on board , even if we where more likely to be spotted by the Reb's with two columns of thick black smoke instead of one .

No one could ever say these navy fellows didn't have a sense of humor . The steamer Hercules beached herself yesterday [ Feb 17,1863] due to the heavy fog . She was set on by the rebels and burned to the waters edge , one hand killed and the rest taken prisoner , now of coarse that was not funny and the fear of every steamer on the rivers . It seems though that she had seven barges of coal in tow . Six where saved , one sunk . It belonged to the Army or so said G. B. Simonds , commandant of the navy yard at Memphis , Tenn. Good thing the army didn't loose any more , because the Navy steamers sure did need that coal .


The loss of the Hercules was indeed not funny she was built in the same yard as the Wilson in 1854 at McKeesport PA. , She was owned in part by Captain William Dunshee as was the Wilson , though there where several other owners . Her crews where all local boys from back home some of which were known to the crew of the Wilson . This dammed war was just hitting way to close to home . We didn't have long to think about such things with the work of loading and off loading , Something to be said for keeping busy , it keeps your mind off the more unpleasant thoughts .

So again we unload and make fast our tow of empty barges, off to Cairo to start all over again . I remember , before the war when it only took six or seven days from St. Louis to New Orleans , a lot fewer interruptions in those days . On with our work the sooner we get it done the sooner things will return too normal on the rivers .

You just wouldn't believe some of the going's on in the past little wile Seems Mr. U. S. Grant thought he would just dig himself a new river that would take him around and past that thorn in his side , Vicksburg . Like he's the almighty himself , Just make a new river Well I never heard of such nonsense . But those boys with the army engineers dug and dynamited till they where all stuck in a swamp . You sure got to hand it to that General Grant he is one determined man. So he can't bypass it , he can't take it by direct assault , what's next .

March 30th now one last trip down with mail and replacements , pick up empty barges then off to Pittsburgh to bring down more coal . At last the trip we have long anticipated , and in light of our long service a well deserved rest at home . A relief crew has been arranged for and we will get near , a months leave . I can taste the home cooking already . not to mention having something better to look at then this scurvy looking crew . "They better not be fooling with us ", we've all had just about as much military bungling and incompetence as we can stand . It's just to frustrating to even try to explain , so I will just say if you have ever been in the military you almost have a clue what we have had to endure from those greenhorns they place in command of the quartermasters stores depots . So catch you next trip ! .


Chapter 2

  As the Wilson was passed back to us from the relief crew , we were told , with some air of excitement how they had carried General Grant Himself , and been shot at by rebels on shore and so on . Well With as smug a look as I could muster I replied with , of coarse Grant would ask for the Wilson as she could be counted amongst the fastest boats on the river and Grant being no fool , knew the advantage of timely arrival . Even if she was manned by a bunch of greenhorns at the time . The later statement produced a few grumbles , but rather than reply we just smiled at them and cast off , with a " See Yea next trip " They sounded just like we must have after our first actions on the river. The Wilson's relief crew were actually no strangers to the river life . Captain William Dunshee and a crew of local Pittsburgh boys who were all too familiar with life aboard a steamer , though not quite under these circumstances .

As it turned out the Wilson being in the upper rivers at the time was a blessing . The Tigress another of grants dispatch boats had a rather bad time of it, while passing Vicksburg . But I'll just let the Navy tell it in there own words .

Report Of Adjutant-General Thomas , U. S. Army , Regarding the Loss of U. S. Army steamer Tigress and other casualties to the transports while passing the Vicksburg batteries .

Young's Point , LA. , April 23 , 1863

SIR: Last night 6 steamers and 12 barges attempted to run the batteries at Vicksburg , about 11 p.m. , when the moon went down . The first two steamers came within range when heavy firing commenced . The Tigress received 15 shots , one in the stern , carrying off two planks . She grounded to at Johnson's Plantation , 3&1/2 miles below Vicksburg , grounded , and sank , braking amidships . She is a total loss . Crew all safe . Colonel Lagow , on this steamer and in charge of all the boats and the pilot then went on the Cheeseman . The Anglo-Saxon passed comparatively safe . The Moderator was badly cut up and had several wounded . She drifted by

Warrenton batteries about 3 a.m. . The Horizon passed Warrenton at daylight . The Empire City was totally disabled at Vicksburg , and was lashed at Johnson's plantation to the Cheeseman , both of which were seen to pass Warrenton , where the fire was heavy , shortly after daylight . The barges designed to carry troops are supposed to have all passed. One pilot was mortally wounded in the abdomen and another person in the thigh , both of whom must have died shortly after.

General Sherman took a position at Johnson's plantation . Some five hundred shots were fired , and discharge of musketry was kept up along the bank of the river to pick off the men , especially the pilots , some of whom , to avoid being injured by splinters , had their pilot houses taken down and stood exposed . The entire crews were taken from the troops, of whom 500 volunteered , when the crews of the boats objected .

Large fires were made in Vicksburg and on the point opposite to light up the river .

Respectfully L. Thomas


Hon. E.M. Stanton,

Secretary of War

   As time rolls by on the river we begin to gain a clear picture of the present and coming events , despite our short absents . It has become clear to us now that a new and more brutal attempt to take Vicksburg was now underway . Actions near the Big Black River and movements on the Yazoo river meant that this new attack on Vicksburg was meant to seal off the City from supply or reinforcement . General Grant had Deployed his army to the south and east of the City . Now the citizens of Vicksburg where really in for it , and the soldiers encamped there made ready for what they thought was the inevitable assaults . On the hillsides the citizens dug caves in an attempt to shelter themselves from the bombardments that ensued . The navy moved down mortar boats in an attempt to silence the shore batteries above Vicksburg . So while not altogether successful ,passing Vicksburg was never again quite so deadly , or fatal as it had been for the Tigress .

   It is also likely that these batteries where to some degree repositioned to face a possible assault from Grants positions , down river to the south and south east of Vicksburg . Grant had positioned his troops to seal off the city and lay siege, a tactic as old as warfare itself . Still the result was a thinning of the batteries positioned on the high bluffs over looking  the river just before Vicksburg . Food became more and more scarce and disease a prevalent condition within the city . The hardship that was about to unfold on citizen and solider alike can only be described as brutal . As to the question that festered in the minds of all involved " Was this really Necessary" , only god & General Grant seem to know the answer to that question , but I sure felt sorry for the  occupants of Vicksburg .

 Yazoo River May 3, 1863

Sir: I have detained the Wilson for a day or two to tow mortars , etc. to Paw Paw Island , where we are to hold out the Ordnance , etc. in future .

No news from the admiral. The Polar Star will get off in a day or two . Our Ordnance and Sovereign are full now ; cant hold much more , but if I can get off the things to the admiral it will relieve them much .

Yours , truly

K. R. Breese


That next trip was never long in coming , and its back to the grind with little time to adjust and no ceremony Just a heave too , and a make ready to get under way . A few day's latter found us transporting an Ensign William Wardrop to Cairo with dispatches of apparently some importance . Sounds like things are heating up in this region of the River , hurried preparations by the Army , probing attacks by the Rebels . Something was definitely up but being kept real hush , not even a rumor that was worth spit or came close to giving us a clue to what was about to happen . Just the same heading up River to Cairo was good news and hauling Dispatches even better . We now moved on the River at near top speed and in the center of the wide and high spring stream , keeping us a safe distance from the banks . A tougher target for the Reb's and the Jayhawkers I figured , suited me just fine .

The Tow boat "Lily " was sunk about this time , not in the coarse of action but as a completely inept blunder by an inexperienced , acting Master , a R. H. Timmonds . Seems Mr. Timmonds rammed an anchored gunboat . Rather than accept the blame Mr. Timmonds claimed a line had flowed his steering lines , though no witness to this event could substantiate his claim . His superiors after a short investigation recommended he be relived of duty , having witnessed the sinking of the Lily for them self's , this did indeed seem a prudent measure . But no not the U.S. Navy instead in a few months time he was given command of the U.S.S. Queen City , Amazing , lets just hope he manages to keep this one afloat . Ah ! The Navy , ain't it splendid to be back in their service .

 But the worst that I could imagine had come true , we had to run past Vicksburg now to deliver supplies and dispatches to Grant , and with that came going under almost five miles of sparsely placed artillery batteries . If I ever get through this I'm going to find a new , safer job .

Oh who am I kidding . Once the River gets to you , your no good for anything else , always got to wander . Missing home becomes a big part of how good home is, No ! us river folk are just no good for anything else . So for now May 4/ 1863 we are headed to Memphis carrying wounded and some ensign Wardrop who is a dispatch carrier , another spit and polish navy man . From there it's Back to Cairo . As we ascend the river we pass and are passed by many other boats . Engaging in the same trade , some hulling Coal , some munitions , and still others not in the employ of the navy , going about a leisurely trade in passengers and freight in much the same fashion the Wilson did before this dammed war. This contrast is sometimes unsettling in so much as it contributes to our momentarily forgetting the war entirely , only to be jolted back to reality, by the bark of some rude and loud navy officer, telling us to tie off here . Make ready your gang planks and boom to receive freight . Cairo Illinois , What a lovely town , and I mean that with all the sarcasm I can muster . Back to Work .

May 16, 1863, Now we are off for another uneventful trip , I hope , with Coal and munitions accompanied by the U.S.S. Signal giving escort and three troop transports . Water is fairly high so should be fine if we stick to the channel , and all did go well for us . But those fellows in the Signal had a bit of a scrape near the foot of islands 101 and 102 they struck a snag . Oh not just any old snag , not one that laid at the waters level impossible to see at the late hour at which they struck { 11:45 at night} . No this snag must have stood between six to eight feet out of the water and twice as fat as a mans leg . Surely we have all witnessed pure and absolute stupidity, at least once in our life time . Even from the wheel house of the Wilson we could hear the faint shout of the officer on deck as he bellowed ," Snag off our starboard bow ", and again as the warning was repeated by another member of her crew . But still the Pilot stayed his course . The impact came with a loud snap as she struck amidships and carried away part of her bulkheads and part of her cabin . With all the warning she was given we could do nothing but laugh and see if she was in need of assistance . I'll just bet that Pilot was going to catch it good for that stunt . Pilots , well they are not all created equal , and the navy being only willing to pay the pre war rate of $250.00 in stead of the current rate of between three and fore hundred , well they just could not get the good ones . And the ones they had where giving notice , as they received offers that paid them better . These were civilians after all and while who won mattered to most , keeping up with the increase in prices since the onset of the war , and caring for their families was dammed important as well . The navy was just beginning to learn that training new ones was going to be very hard on navy equipment . But in the time I have spent observing them , well lets just say I am confident I will not be contradicted were I to say, the hard lesions are the only ones they can learn .

The Navy reported the incident as follows ;

U.S.S. Signal

Mississippi River , May 18, 1863

Sir: In obedience to your order from Acting Rear Admiral D. D. Porter to me , bearing date of the 16th instant , I proceeded up the Mississippi River as convoy to the V. F. Wilson and three Transports . On the night of the 16th , at 11:45 o'clock , this vessel was run on a snag at the foot of island 101 and 102 , striking us on the starboard side ,about amidships , carrying away part of our bulkheads and part of the cabin , also injuring Mr. Browne , my executive officer , and throwing several men from there hammocks .

The officer of the deck and quartermaster reported a snag off our starboard bow , and the pilot , Mr. Parker , replied he saw it , and still he allowed the vessel to come in contact with the snag , damaging the vessel seriously.

The river was wide at this point and the snag stood from 6 to 8 feet above the water . I think it my duty to make this report and hope the matter may be investigated .

C. Dominy

Acting Volunteer Lieutenant

Commanding U.S.S. Signal

So with that episode behind us another trip up the river with dispatches and down again with coal , June 12 finds us now headed to Helena , nothing eventful to report back and forth between Cairo and Vicksburg where we will now be heading with food and Ammunition . Expect to return with sick and wounded . The later was never a problem as the army always sends a field medic to care for them . But the sick , and there are lots of them , sometimes turn out to be carrying contagious diseases , and that scares the willies out of me . So we arrived at General Grants headquarters below Vicksburg about 5:30 on the morning of July 4th 1863 , it being preferable to run under the guns at night despite the danger of running aground . Upon our reporting to the quartermaster there we were told to await orders . So We just sat . We could hear musketry and assumed a battle was brewing . But a passing officer says probably just some rather relived solder's celebrating , celebrating what we asked ? , why haven't you heard , Vicksburg has surrendered ! . No we hadn't heard , but boy was I relived that I didn't have to pass under those guns again while those boys were still mad at us .

Shortly after noon a Maj. William M. Dunn came abroad the Wilson with orders to make all speed to Cairo with Dispatches , seems we were the ones chosen to send word north that Vicksburg had fallen , and boy did we ever . We hollered it to every passing boat and any one on shore that came within ear shot . Cairo was the closest town with a telegraph from which word could be sent to Washington . The Dispatch we found out later red as follows .

" The enemy surrendered this morning . The only terms allowed is their parole as prisoners of war . This I regard as a great advantage to us at this moment . It saves , probably ,several days in the capture , and leaves troops and transports ready for immediately service . Sherman , with a large force , moves immediately on Johnston , to drive him from state . I will send troops to the relief of Banks , and return the 9th army corps to Burnside . " As it turns out the Battle of Gettysburg was declared a Union victory the very same day . But in all consideration of its coast this would indeed be a forth of July the nation would be long in remembering . The word was slow in spreading in those days but still by July 7, 1863 most in the cities had heard of the battles that took place that day. The news had the effect of changing the moral in the north for the better and no doubt the reverse was true in the south . Some southern news papers went so far as to deny that Vicksburg had fallen , I suppose in the absents of government confirmation they felt it best for the moral of their readers .

The war went on for the Wilson and Daniel Pollard until this final order was received . The following order was dispatched April 9 , 1865 , but could have easily been up to a week in receiving it .

Mound City , April 9, 1865

Sir: Turn over without delay to the naval station at Mound City all government property now on board the V. F. Wilson , , taking duplicate receipted invoices therefor . One of which you will forward to me and the other to the commandant of the station . Report to me as soon as this transfer of public property is made .

Respectfully , yours ,

S. P. Lee

Acting Rear-Admiral , Commanding Mississippi Squadron

Commanding Officer of U.S.S. New National ,

Mound City .


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added May 2/04