U.S. Transport Steamer "Osceola" Encounters a Gale off Georgetown (Naval Event - non-combat)

County: 
Georgetown County, S.C.
Conflict: 
American Civil War
Date: 
1 November 1861 - 2 November 1861
Forces Engaged: 
- U.S. transport Osceola under Captain Morrill
Forces Engaged: 
- Confederate troops under Captain Godbold
Campaign: 
South Atlantic Blockading Squadron
Result: 
The crew of the Osceola was captured and taken prisoners

There is some confusion surrounding the vessels lost during the gale in November of 1861. The Union fleet was on descent from Hampton Roads to Hilton Head when the storm hit the fleet on the South Carolina Coast. The reports discussing the Osceola confirm that the steamer sank off Georgetown coast. The reports do mention the loss of other vessels, but do not provide the specific locations. 

Captain R. Saxton reported from Hilton Head on November 9th 1861, “the arrival at this place of all the vessels which I chartered in New York, having on board General Sherman’s entire command, with the greater part of the supplies.”1 Saxton also reported that the “fleet left Hampton Roads on 29th of October” and “rode out one of the severest gales which have occurred on this coast for a long time.”1 It was on November 1st that they “encountered a heavy gale, which scattered it in every direction.”1 The lost vessels included the “quartermaster’s steamer (Winfield Scott, Captain Seldy) lost all her cargo, and was so much injured that she can never leave this port” as well as the “quartermaster’s steamer (Union) with stores, it is reported went ashore on the South Carolina coast, and was lost; her crew taken prisoners.”1 Also, “the steamers Peerless and Osceola, sent by Colonel Tompkins from New York, with cattle, were lost,” but the crew of the Peerless was saved,” while that of the Osceola was taken prisoner.1

Brigadier-General Thomas W. Sherman reported “that the force under my command embarked at Annapolis, Md., on the 21st October [1861], and arrived at Hampton Roads, Va., on the 22d.2 Sherman then reported that the fleet was calculated “to reach Port Royal in five days at most, but in consequence of adverse winds and a perilous storm on the day and night of the 1st November the fleet arrived at Port Royal bar not till the 4th, and then but in part, for it had been almost entirely dispersed by the gale, and the vessels have been straggling in up to this date” the 8th of November 1861.2 Also reported was that “the transport steamers Union, Belvidere, Osceola, and Peerless have not arrived” and “two of them are known to be lost, and it is probable that all are.”2

On May 16th 1862 Samuel C. Fessenden, U. S. House of Representatives, reported that on “November 2, [the] steamship Osceola, a [U. S.] Government transport with Du Pont’s fleet, shipwrecked at Georgetown, S. C.; crew prisoners in Richmond until last Sunday, and are now here in Washington and want passes home.”3

J. T. Morrill, late Master of the Osceola, reported that he “left New York on the 24th of October in command of the steamer Osceola, a transport belonging to the Sherman expedition.”4 Morrill stated that the “steamer foundered [sank] in the gale of November 2” 1861, which caused him to land with the crew “in two boats at Georgetown, S.C.” where they were “taken prisoners on landing by Captain Godbold, of the South Carolina Troops.”4 They remained “two days on North Island” and then Captain Morrill was “transferred to Charleston” and the crew to the “Marion Court House jail.”4

Assistant Secretary F. W. Seward reported on the “exchange of Captain Morrill, who commanded the steamer Osceola which was attacked on the Carolina coast in the gale of October [November] last resulting in the capture by the insurgents of Captain Morrill, his officers and crew, and would recommend that an exchange be made if possible.”5

 

Footnotes and Additional Information: 

1. The war of the rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies. ; Series 1 - Volume 6, 186-187. http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/m/moawar/index.html, accessed, 20 January 2012. Captain Saxton provided a detailed report on the Union Fleet's expedition to Hilton Head, including information of the vessels lost.

2. The war of the rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies. ; Series 1 - Volume 6, 3-4. http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/m/moawar/index.html, accessed, 20 January 2012. General Thomas W. Sherman provided a detailed report on the Union Fleets arrival at Hilton Head, including the vessels and cargo lost during the storm.

3. Official records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion; Series I - Volume 1: The Operation of the Cruisers (January 19, 1861 - January 4, 1863), 389. http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/m/moawar/index.html, accessed, 20 January 2012. Samuel Fessenden provided a short but detailed report on the lose of the Osceola.

4. The war of the rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies. ; Series 2 – Volume 3, 323-325. http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/m/moawar/index.html, accessed, 20 January 2012. Captain Morrill provided an account of the loss of the Osceola and the capture of the crew and himself and stated the name of the Confederate Capitan who captured him. His report goes on to give the details of his imprisonment.

5. The war of the rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies. ; Series 2 – Volume 3, 241. http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/m/moawar/index.html, accessed, 20 January 2012. Assistant Secretary Seward writes on behalf of the exchange of Captain Morrill, but reported that the storm happened in October, not November.