Today in History:

Santiago de Cuba (1861-1865)

Santiago de Cuba, a 1567-ton (burden) wooden side-wheel steamship, was built in 1856 at New York City for commercial use. She was purchased by the U.S. Navy in September 1861, converted to a cruiser and commissioned as USS Santiago de Cuba in November 1861. Sent to the Gulf of Mexico area to enforce the blockade of the Confederate States and protect American shipping, she proved to be a very successful blockader. The first of her many captures was the schooner Victoria, taken in early December. During 1862 and 1863, Santiago de Cuba mainly operated in the western Atlantic, capturing several blockade runners, among them the steamships Columbia (on 3 August 1862), Victory (21 June 1863), Britannia (25 June 1863) and Lizzie (15 July 1863). For several months in 1862, she also served with a special squadron organized to search for the Confederate cruisers Alabama and Florida.

Following an overhaul between December 1863 and June 1864, Santiago de Cuba rejoined the blockade. She captured the steamer Advance on 10 September 1864 and the steamer Lucy in early November. During December 1864 and January 1865 she participated in the two attacks that ultimately captured Fort Fisher, North Carolina, thus bringing to an end most Atlantic Coast blockade running. USS Santiago de Cuba was decommissioned in June 1865 and sold at auction in September. She soon reentered commercial employment and operated as a steamship for the next two decades. She was converted to a barge in 1886 and renamed Marion. The old ship finally passed out of service in about 1899.

This page features all the images we have related to USS Santiago de Cuba (1861-1865), including views of her as a civilian ship.

For a report on Santiago de Cuba's capture of the blockade runner Columbia, and a detail view of one of the guns found on that ship, see:

  • Report ... concerning the capture of the Confederate blockade runner Columbia...; and
  • Austrian 6-pounder Howitzer captured on board the blockade runner Columbia.

    Photo #: NH 63852

    Steamship Santiago de Cuba

    Watercolor by Erik Heyl, 1947, painted for use in his book "Early American Steamers", Volume I.
    Built at New York City in 1861, this steamer was commercially employed as SS Santiago de Cuba in 1861 and in 1865-1886. Between 1861 and 1865, she served as USS Santiago de Cuba. She was converted to a barge in 1886 and renamed Marion.

    Courtesy of Erik Heyl.

    Photo #: NH 61919

    USS Santiago de Cuba

    Photographed in harbor, during the Civil War.

    Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

    Photo #: NH 59366

    "Merchant Steamers Converted into Gun-boats."

    Engraving published in "Harper's Weekly", July-December 1861 volume.
    It depicts thirteen merchant steamships acquired by the U.S. Navy between April and August 1861 and subsequently converted into warships, plus the steamer Nashville (far left), which became a Confederate cruiser.
    U.S. Navy ships, as identified below the image bottom, are (from left to right: Alabama, Quaker City, Santiago de Cuba (listed as "St. Jago de Cuba", Mount Vernon, Massachusetts, South Carolina, Florida, De Soto, Augusta, James Adger, Monticello, Bienville and R.R. Cuyler.

    Online Image: 182KB; 1200 x 470 pixels

    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