Today in History:

Rhode Island (1861-1865)

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USS Rhode Island, a 1517-ton side-wheel steamer, was the civilian steamship Eagle when she was acquired by the Navy in June 1861. Commissioned in late July of that year, Rhode Island was initially employed as a supply ship, carrying men and cargo from Northern bases to the units operating along the Confederate coastline. After service in the Gulf of Mexico, she was assigned to tow the ironclad USS Monitor from Hampton Roads, Virginia, south to join the Naval forces in South Carolina waters. On 30-31 December 1862, after encountering a severe storm off Cape Hatteras, Monitor was overcome by the weather and sank. Under very difficult conditions, boats from Rhode Island rescued most of the lost ship's officers and men.

In early 1863, Rhode Island was sent to the West Indies to look for Confederate cruisers thought to be operating in the area. During the rest of that year and into 1864, she operated along the Atlantic coast. Placed out of commission for repairs in April 1864, Rhode Island returned to active service in early September with a greatly increased gun battery, better suiting her for a cruising role. In addition to serving in that mission, she also towed several monitors to and from the combat zone and participated in the assaults on Fort Fisher, North Carolina, in December 1864 and January 1865. Throughout her Civil War service, Rhode Island took part in the capture or destruction of seven blockade runners.

Several months after the end of the conflict, Rhode Island helped bring the former Confederate ironclad Stonewall from Cuba to the U.S. She remained in service through 1866 and beyond, cruising in the western Atlantic and West Indies areas. USS Rhode Island was decommissioned in 1867 and sold in October of that year. She subsequently had a lengthy civilian career under the name Charleston.

This page features all our views related to USS Rhode Island (1861-1865) and provides links to pictures of her as a civilian ship.

For pictures of Rhode Island as a civilian ship, see:

  • Eagle (Steamship, 1861).

    For coverage on a USS Rhode Island Sailor who was awarded the medal of honor for his conduct during the rescue of USS Monitor's crew, see:

  • Ordinary Seaman John Jones, USN.

    Photo #: NH 42205

    USS Rhode Island (1861-1867)


    Anchored off Newport, Rhode Island, August 1866.



    Photo #: NH 58758

    "The Wreck of the Iron-clad 'Monitor.'"


    Line engraving published in "Harper's Weekly", 1863, depicting USS Monitor sinking in a storm off Cape Hatteras on the night of 30-31 December 1862. A boat is taking off crewmen, and USS Rhode Island is in the background.



    Photo #: NH 51957

    "Loss of the 'Monitor' in a Storm off Cape Hatteras, December 30th, 1862. -- Gallant efforts to rescue the Crew by the 'Rhode Island'."


    Line engraving published in "The Soldier in Our Civil War", Volume I, page 248. It shows USS Monitor sinking at left, with a boat picking up crewmen, as USS Rhode Island stands by in the right background, firing rockets.



    Photo #: NH 79913

    "The Monitor's Tragic End"


    Artwork published in "Deeds of Valor", Volume II, page 39, by the Perrien-Keydel Company, Detroit, 1907.
    It depicts USS Monitor sinking off Cape Hatteras during the night of 30-31 December 1862, as a boat approaches to rescue some of her crewmen. USS Rhode Island is in the left distance, firing a rocket.



    Photo #: NH 1279

    Loss of USS Monitor, 30-31 December 1862


    Halftone reproduction of a Civil War era print, copied from the "U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings", December 1926.
    USS Rhode Island is standing by in the background, as a boat removes crewmen from the sinking Monitor.



    Photo #: NH 59170

    "Second Attack upon Fort Fisher, showing the positions of the vessels, and the lines of fire", 13-15 January 1865


    Chart by Walter A. Lane, published in "The Soldier in our Civil War", Volume II.
    The positions of 58 ships are represented on the chart.



    Online Image: 216KB; 825 x 1225 pixels

    For pictures of Rhode Island as a civilian ship, see:

  • Eagle (Steamship, 1861).

    For coverage on a USS Rhode Island Sailor who was awarded the medal of honor for his conduct during the rescue of USS Monitor's crew, see:

  • Ordinary Seaman John Jones, USN.

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