Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

“Capture of the U.S. Steamer Harriet Lane”

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on January 5, 2015



This month’s “Treasure of the Month” at Rosenberg Library in Galveston really is a treasure — it’s an eyewitness sketch from January 1863, showing the aftermath of the Battle of Galveston and the capture of the Federal gunboat Harriet Lane. This is a familiar image to those who’ve studied the battle, but the drawing underwent extensive conservation on 2013 to correct the staining (or “foxing”) that had occurred and that obscured some details of the image. Click through to read more about this image, and (at the bottom of the page) view its original condition, before conservation.




7 Responses

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  1. Bob Nelson said, on January 5, 2015 at 3:48 pm

    Quite a restoration job. Unfortunately, the fight for Galveston on January 1, 1863 hardly rates a footnote in most CW books. Also the fact that Magruder, who was criticized for his action or lack thereof during the Seven Days, did a good job in Galveston. A number of sources say that he was sent West as a punishment of sorts but his transfer was already in the works prior to the Seven Days. The “Harriet Lane” was recaptured in March while running cotton to Cuba, was declared unfit for service and was sold. Renamed the “Elliot Ritchie,” she sailed out of Philadelphia as a merchantman until 1881 when a fire broke out in one of her holds and she was abandoned at sea. Thanks for sharing.

    • Andy Hall said, on January 5, 2015 at 3:56 pm

      A couple of small revisions — Harriet Lane, renamed Lavinia, ran out of Galveston on April 30, 1864 and successfully made it to Havana. She was seized there at the end of the war by U.S. officials.

      • Bob Nelson said, on January 6, 2015 at 12:00 pm

        A good reason (again) to double check Internet sources. LOL According to the Navy O.R., she was converted into a blockade runner and was in Havana when the war ended. The O.R. has her being sold to Elliot Ritchie after the war and sailing under a British flag. It also has her foundering in the Caribbean in 1884 not 1881.

        • Andy Hall said, on January 6, 2015 at 12:05 pm

          Yep. She made at least three visits to Galveston in her new guise after the war. On the first occasion, the newspaper wrote that:

          Mankind instinctively look with interest at the locality of great events, be it a battlefield, where every elevation tells the story of carnage and sacrifice; or the deck of a ship, where every nut and nail holds fast a reminiscence. The Harriet Lane will always be an object of interest to our people, discharging at Kuhn’s Wharf the products of peaceful industry, instead of broadsides of shot and shell.

          • Konrad Mann said, on May 14, 2016 at 10:10 pm

            Mr. Hall, when the Harriet Lane began service as Lavinia, was she still have her boiler, smokestacks, and paddle wheel? Read a story that the boiler and smoke stacks were removed by the confederates and later taken to a mill operation (saw mill) in Montgomery Co. near Plantersville or Magnolia by a cavalry Captain Frank Dupree with X.B. DeBray’s Regiment, the 26th Texas Cavalry. Any truth to this story?

            • Andy Hall said, on May 14, 2016 at 10:30 pm

              Thanks for your query.

              I don’t believe that is the case, because it was always intended that HARRIET LANE would become operational as a steamship again — initially, it was planned, as a C.S. Navy commerce raider, and after the Confederate government decided they didn’t want her, as a blockade runner out of Galveston. And she did eventually run out of Galveston at the end of April 1864, under steam. I discuss these events in some detail in Chapter 4 of my blockade running book.

              They spent more than a year (January 1863 – April 1864) refitting the ship and futzing around with her, so it’s entirely possible that something ended up in Montgomery County, but I don’t think it was any critical component of her propulsion system. They need to keep that intact and operational.

  2. Neil Hamilton said, on January 7, 2015 at 12:54 am


    Very much enjoyed the link and the background information on this historical incident.

    Thanks for providing it.

    Neil Hamilton

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