Today in History:

Harriet Lane (1861-1863)

USS Harriet Lane, a 750-ton side-wheel gunboat, was built at New York City in 1857 as the U.S. Revenue Cutter Harriet Lane. In addition to carrying out her Revenue Service duties, she served with the Navy during the Paraguay expedition of 1858-59. Returning to Navy control in late March 1861, as the secession crisis deepened, Harriet Lane took part in the attempt to relieve Fort Sumter when that vital position in Charleston harbor, South Carolina, was beseiged by Confederate forces. While so engaged, on 12 April 1861, she fired the first U.S. Navy shot of the Civil War.

In early June 1861, Harriet Lane exchanged fire with an enemy battery near Newport News, Virginia, and in late August participated in the Navy's initial major combat operation, the capture of Forts Hatteras and Clark at Hatteras Inlet, North Carolina. She was formally transferred from the Revenue Cutter Service to the Navy in September. Also during 1861, Harriet Lane captured four prizes while enforcing the blockade and, in December, fired on Confederate positions at Freestone Point, Virginia.

Harriet Lane was sent to the Gulf of Mexico in February 1862 to serve as flagship of Commander David Dixon Porter's fleet of mortar schooners. While en route, she engaged Confederate artillery at Shipping Point, Virginia, and captured a sailing vessel off the Florida coast. During March and April, Porter's mortar flotilla played an important part in the operations that led to the capture of New Orleans. Harriet Lane accompanied this force at that time, and during some of its subsequent activities on the Mississippi River below Vicksburg. In May 1862, she also assisted in the occupation of fortifications at Pensacola, Florida.

After serving on the blockade off Mobile, Alabama, Harriet Lane participated in the early October 1862 capture of Galveston, Texas. She remained in the Galveston area and, on 1 January 1863, while inside Galveston Bay, she was boarded and captured by Confederate troops operating from the steamers Bayou City and Neptune. Following this bold action, which resulted in the recovery of Galveston by Southern forces, Harriet Lane was employed by the Confederate Army in Texas waters. In about early 1864, she was sold and converted to a blockade runner. Renamed Lavina, she left Galveston in late April and went to Havana, Cuba. Interned there through the end of the Civil War, she subsequently became the sailing merchant vessel Elliot Richie and remained in commercial service until May 1884, when she was lost off Pernambuco, Brazil.

This page features, or provides links to, all the views we have related to USS Harriet Lane (1861-1863).

For addtional pictures related to USS Harriet Lane, see:

  • USS Harriet Lane -- Capture of Ship, 1 January 1863.

    Photo #: NH 57514

    USS Harriet Lane

    Halftone reproduction of a wash drawing by Clary Ray, circa 1898.

    Photo #: NH 53632

    USS Harriet Lane

    Print copied from a 19th Century publication.

    Photo #: NH 73753

    USS Harriet Lane

    Engraving, published in "Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper", 1861, depicting Harriet Lane engaging a Confederate battery at Pig's Point, on the Nansemond River opposite Newport News, Virginia, 5 June 1861.

    Photo #: NH 59130

    "Departure of the Great Southern Expedition, under General Butler, from Fortress Monroe."

    Line engraving published in "Harper's Weekly", 1861, depicting the departure of the fleet on 26 August 1861, en route to attack Hatteras Inlet, North Carolina.
    Ships identified in the title line are (left to right): USS Harriet Lane; USS Wabash; USS Minnesota; USS Monticello and USS Pawnee.

    Photo #: NH 66576-KN (Color)

    "Bombardment of Forts Hatteras & Clark, by the U.S. Fleet"
    "Under the command of Flag Officer Silas H. Stringham, on the 28th and 29th of August 1861"

    Colored lithograph by J.P. Newell after a drawing by Francis Garland, Seaman on USS Cumberland, published by J.H. Buford, Boston, Massachusetts, 1862.
    Features identified below the image are (from left to right): USS Susquehanna; transport Fanny; Fort Hatteras; USS Harriet Lane; Fort Clark; USS Cumberland; steamer Adelaide; USS Minnesota; steamer George Peabody; USS Wabash; USS Pawnee; and USS Monticello.
    Courtesy of the U.S. Navy Art Collection, Washington, D.C.

    Photo #: NH 59059

    "Commodore Farragut's Squadron and Captain Porter's Mortar Fleet entering the Mississippi River"

    Line engraving based on a sketch by an officer of USS Mississippi, published in "Harper's Weekly", 1862, depicting the scene at the Southwest Pass of the Mississippi, circa 7 April 1862.
    Features identified in the engraving's title lines include (from left to right): Light-house on Southwest Pass; USS Colorado (in left foreground); USS Pensacola on the bar; USS Westfield (seen nearly stern-on); Porter's mortar fleet, heading up the river; USS Mississippi on the bar; USS Harriet Lane (side-wheel steamer at the rear of the mortar fleet); USS Connecticut (in right foreground); USS Clifton; town of Banona.

    Photo #: NH 59064

    "The Third Day's Bombardment of Forts Jackson and St. Philip"

    Line engraving published in "Harper's Weekly", 1862, depicting U.S. Navy mortar schooners shelling the Confederate forts defending the lower Mississippi River, 20 April 1862. Ships in the foreground are USS Harriet Lane (left) and USS Oneida (right).

    Photo #: NH 46620

    CSS Manassas (1861-1862)

    Artwork entitled "The Ram as she appeared in passing the 'Harriet Lane' after the 'Mississippi' had got through with her". It depicts the Manassas during the action off Forts Jackson and St. Philip, on the Mississippi River, 24 April 1862.

    Courtesy of Mrs. A. Hopkins, Washington, D.C.

    For addtional pictures related to USS Harriet Lane, see:

  • USS Harriet Lane -- Capture of Ship, 1 January 1863.