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Canonicus (1864-1908)

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USS Canonicus, name ship of a class of nine 2100-ton monitors, was built at Boston, Massachusetts. Commissioned in April 1864, she served in the James River area of Virginia from May 1864 until late in the year, taking part in engagements with Confederate batteries on 21 June, 16 August and 5-6 December. On 24-25 December 1864, Canonicus helped bombard Fort Fisher, on the North Carolina coast, in an abortive attempt to capture that vital enemy strongpoint. Returning to the scene in mid-January, she was part of a large fleet that relentlessly shelled the fort, preparing the way for a successful ground assault that took the position. This operation closed the port of Wilmington to further blockade running and markedly hastened the collapse of the Confederacy.

For the rest of the Civil War, Canonicus was mainly stationed off Charleston, South Carolina, though toward the end of the conflict she made a voyage to Havana, Cuba, in search of the Confederate ironclad Stonewall. The monitor was decommissioned in late June 1865. While in reserve, she was renamed Scylla for less than two months in June-August 1869 before regaining her original name. Canonicus returned to commissioned status for Atlantic coast and Gulf of Mexico cruises from 1872 until 1877, when she was laid up for the last time. Though she saw no further active service, the old ironclad was towed to Hampton Roads, Virginia, in mid-1907 for exhibit during the Jamestown Exposition. The last survivor of the Navy's once-large fleet of Civil War monitors, she was sold for scrapping the next year.

This page features all the views we have related to USS Canonicus.

For coverage on a USS Canonicus crew member who was awarded the Medal of Honor for heroic conduct during the January 1865 bombardment of Fort Fisher, see:

  • Quartermaster Daniel Dickinson Stevens, USN.

    Photo #: NH 55200

    USS Canonicus
    (1864-1908)

    With a schooner alongside, probably in the James River area, Virginia, in 1864-65.



    Photo #: NH 55199

    USS Canonicus
    (1864-1908)

    With awinings rigged and a schooner alongside, probably in the James River area, Virginia, in 1864-65.
    The tug USS Zeta (1864-65) is in the foreground.



    Photo #: NH 55202

    USS Canonicus
    (1864-1908)

    In Hampton Roads, Virginia, circa 12 June 1907.



    Photo #: NH 78678

    USS Canonicus
    (1864-1908)

    In Hampton Roads, Virginia, 12 June 1907.
    Note the three-masted schooner at right, with two U.S. Navy armored cruisers beyond her.



    Photo #: NH 78679

    USS Canonicus
    (1864-1908)

    In Hampton Roads, Virginia, 12 June 1907.
    Note the three-masted schooner at right, with two U.S. Navy armored cruisers beyond her, and the Navy collier in the left center distance.



    The following depictions of USS Canonicus show her distantly or partially, as an element in a view that is mainly of another subject:

    Photo #: 111-B-80

    Federal ironclads in Trent's Reach, James River, Virginia


    Photographed circa early 1865.
    Nearest ship is USS Saugus, with a mine sweeping "torpedo rake" attached to her bow. Next monitor astern is probably USS Sangamon. Visible just to the right of her is either USS Mahopac or USS Canonicus. Last two ships are USS Atlanta and USS Onondaga.
    Photographed by the Matthew Brady organization.
    Note the log boom across the river in the foreground and the signal tower atop the hill in the right distance.

    Photograph from the Collections of the U.S. National Archives.

    Photo #: NH 42241

    Fort Fisher operation, December 1864 -- January 1865


    Lithograph by Endicott & Company, New York, circa 1865, entitled "Monitor Iron-Clads and the New Ironsides, Forming part of the Fleet of Rear Admiral D.D. Porter, U.S.N. riding out a Gale of Wind, at Anchor off Fort Fisher, Coast of North Carolina, December 21, 1864." The print is dedicated by the publisher to Assistant Secretary of the Navy Gustavus V. Fox.
    Monitors in the foreground and middle distance are (from left to right) Monadnock (twin-turret), Canonicus, Mahopac and Saugus. Ships in the distance (from left to left-center) are: Brooklyn, New Ironsides, Juniata, Tacony and Malvern.

    Collection of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, April 1936.



    Photo #: LC-USZ62-144

    "Bombardment of Fort Fisher"

    "Jan. 15th 1865"

    Lithograph after a drawing by T.F. Laycock, published by Endicott & Co., New York, 1865, depicting the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron bombarding Fort Fisher, North Carolina, in preparation for its capture. The print is dedicated to Commodore S.W. Godon, USN.
    Ships present, as named on the original print, are identified in Photo Number LC-USZ62-144 (Complete Caption).

    Collections of the Library of Congress.

    Photo #: NH 42240

    Fort Fisher operation, December 1864 -- January 1865


    19th-Century painting, by an unidentified artist, depicting U.S. Navy ironclads bombarding Fort Fisher during one of the two assaults that ended in its capture. Twin-turret monitor in the center foreground is Monadnock. Large broadside ironclad beyond is New Ironsides. The three single-turret monitors are Canonicus, Mahopac and Saugus.

    Presented by Albert Rosenthal, January 1935.



    Photo #: NH 79935

    "For the Third Time the Flag was Replaced"


    Artwork by Bacon, published in "Deeds of Valor", Volume II, page 79, by the Perrien-Keydel Company, Detroit, Michigan, 1907.
    It depicts Quartermaster Daniel Dickinson Stevens replacing the National Colors on board USS Canonicus, while under heavy enemy fire during the bombardment of Fort Fisher, North Carolina, in January 1865. He received the Medal of Honor for his heroism on this occasion.



    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 coverage on a USS Canonicus crew member who was awarded the Medal of Honor for heroic conduct during the January 1865 bombardment of Fort Fisher, see:

  • Quartermaster Daniel Dickinson Stevens, USN.

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