Today in History:

Patrick Henry

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CSS Patrick Henry, a 1300-ton side-wheel gunboat, was built in New York City in 1853 as the civilian steamer Yorktown. In mid-April 1861, she was seized by the State of Virginia and was later turned over to the Confederate Government. Renamed Patrick Henry (though still commonly referred to as Yorktown), she was converted to a warship and attached to the James River Squadron under Commander John Randolph Tucker. In September and December 1861, she took part in skirmishes with U.S. Navy ships off Newport News.

During the battle of 8 March 1862, in which CSS Virginia destroyed the Federal warships Cumberland and Congress, Patrick Henry attempted to take the latter's surrender but was fired upon by shore batteries, suffered four crewmen killed and had to be towed out of action. She was quickly repaired and participated in a minor way in the historic 9 March 1862 action between Virginia and USS Monitor. Patrick Henry was also present during some of Virginia's other actions and, in a daring night operation on 5 May 1862, helped remove Confederate property from the Norfolk Navy Yard before it was abandoned to the Federals.

Following the fall of Norfolk, Patrick Henry remained in the James River. She was modified for use as a school ship, and from October 1863 housed the Confederate States' Naval Academy, under the command of First Lieutenant William H. Parker. When Richmond was evacuated on 3 April 1865, Patrick Henry was burned to prevent capture.

This page features, or provides links to, all our views of CSS Patrick Henry.

For a view of this ship as a civilian steamer prior to the Civil War, see:

  • Yorktown (Steamship, 1853-1865).

    For views of CSS Patrick Henry in action during March-April 1862, see::

  • CSS Virginia destroys USS Cumberland and USS Congress, 8 March 1862;
  • Action between CSS Virginia and USS Monitor, 9 March 1862; and
  • CSS Virginia -- Miscellaneous Actions.
    Note: Patrick Henry is not specifically identified in most of the views of these actions, but is one of the two large Confederate side-wheel steamers present in some images. In those cases where she is identified, it is often by her pre-war name Yorktown.

    Photo #: NH 57517

    CSS Patrick Henry (1861-1865)


    Wash drawing by Clary Ray, circa 1898.



    Photo #: NH 42807

    CSS Patrick Henry (1861-1865)


    Photographically reproduced sketch of the ship as the Confederate States Navy's school ship, with the James River Squadron, 1863-65.
    The original is inscribed with the name of Midshipman John Thomas Scharf, CSN, who served in Patrick Henry in 1863 and again in 1864-65.



    Photo #: NH 42234

    "Steamer Yorktown as she appeared in the Skirmish off Newport News, September 13, 1861."


    Engraving published in "Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper", 1861.
    Taken over by the Confederacy earlier in the year, Yorktown had been renamed Patrick Henry by September 1861. This depiction is rather inaccurate.



    Photo #: NH 59210

    "Naval Skirmish between the Rebel Iron-plated War Steamer Yorktown, and a portion of the Federal Fleet anchored in James River, Va., off Newport News."


    Line engraving published in "Frank Leslie's Illustrated", 1861. It probably depicts the action of 13 September 1861.
    Ships shown are (from left to right): USS Louisiana, CSS Patrick Henry (ex-Yorktown), USS Savannah and USS Cumberland.



    For a view of this ship as a civilian steamer prior to the Civil War, see:

  • Yorktown (Steamship, 1853-1865).

    For views of CSS Patrick Henry in action during March-April 1862, see::

  • CSS Virginia destroys USS Cumberland and USS Congress, 8 March 1862;
  • Action between CSS Virginia and USS Monitor, 9 March 1862; and
  • CSS Virginia -- Miscellaneous Actions.
    Note: CSSPatrick Henry is not specifically identified in most of the views of these actions, but is one of the two large Confederate side-wheel steamers present in some images. In those cases where she is identified, it is often by her pre-war name Yorktown.

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