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USS HARTFORD

One of the three most celebrated ships of the U.S. Navy.
The vessel that secured that the South could not win the war.

USS Hartford was launched in November of 1858 by the Boston Navy Yard.  Soon, USS Hartford became flagship in Asian water.  She embarked the American Minister John Elliott Ward to China in Hong Kong and then carried him to Canton, Manila, Swatow, Shanghai, and other Far Eastern ports to settle American claims and to arrange foreign affairs for the United States.

With the outbreak of the American Civil War, USS Hartford was ordered home where she acted as flagship of Flag Officer David G. Farragut, the commander of the West Gulf Blockading Squadron.  Farragut's mission was to capture New Orleans, the South's richest and most populous city, to begin a drive of sea-based power up the Mississippi River to meet the Union Army which was to drive down the Mississippi valley. "Other operations," Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles warned Farragut, "must not be allowed to interfere with the great object in view—the certain capture of the city of New Orleans."

On February 20th, 1861, USS Hartford arrived at Ship Island, midway between Mobile Bay and the mouths of the Mississippi. In the following weeks a mighty fleet was assembled.  Commander David Porter's flotilla of mortar schooners also arrived.

Managed to cross into the Mississippi, Farragut's ships faced Forts St. Philip and Jackson.  Stood between Farragut and the great Southern metropolis was a line of hulks connected by barrier chains: six ships of the Confederate Navy—including ironclad Manassas and deadly ironclad Louisiana, two ships of the Louisiana Navy, a group of converted river steamers called the Confederate River Defense Fleet, and a number of fire rafts

On April 16th, the Union ships moved up the river to a position below the forts, and David Porter's gunboats first exchanged fire with the Southern guns. Two days later his mortar schooners opened a heavy barrage which continued for 6 days. On the 21st, the squadron's Fleet Captain, Henry H. Bell, led a daring expedition up river and, despite a tremendous fire on him, cut the chain across the river. In the wee hours of April 24th, a red lantern on USS Hartford's mizzen peak signaled the fleet to get underway and steam through the breach in the obstructions. As the ships closed the forts their broadsides answered a fire from the Confederate guns. Porter's mortar schooners and gunboats remained at their stations below the southern fortifications covering the movement with rapid fire.

USS Hartford dodged a run by ironclad ram Manassas; then, while attempting to avoid a fireraft, grounded in the swift current near Fort St. Philip. When the burning barge was shoved alongside the flagship, only Farragut's leadership and the training of the crew saved Hartford from being destroyed by flames which at one point engulfed a large portion of the ship. Meanwhile the sloop's gunners never slackened the pace at which they poured broadsides into the forts.

When Farragut's ships passed out of range of the fort's guns, the Confederate River Defense Fleet attempted to stop their progress. In the ensuing melee, they managed to sink converted merchantman Varwut, the only Union ship lost during the historic night.

With the Mississippi River now opened, Farragut turned his attention to Mobile, a Confederate industrial center still building ships and turning out war supplies. The Battle of Mobile Bay took place on August 5th, 1864. Farragut, with Hartford as his flagship, led a fleet consisting of 4 ironclad monitors and 14 wooden vessels. The Confederate naval force, backed by the powerful guns of Forts Morgan and Gaines in the Bay, was composed of newly built ram Tennessee which was Admiral Franklin Buchanan's flagship, and steamers Selma, Morgan, and Gaines. From the firing of the first gun by Fort Morgan to the raising of the white flag of surrender by Tennessee little more than 3 hours elapsed—but 3 hours of terrific fighting on both sides.  A handful of ships and men had won a great decisive victory that secured the South could not win the war.  The Confederates had only 32 casualties, while the Union forces suffered 335 casualties.

Early in May, Farragut ordered several of his ships up stream to clear the river and followed himself in Hartford on the 7th to join in the conquest of the valley. The Union ships received no significant opposition until May 18th when the Confederate commandant at Vicksburg replied to Union's demand for surrender: ". . . Mississippians don't know and refuse to learn, how to surrender to an enemy. If Commodore Farragut or Brigadier General Butler can teach them, let them come and try."

When Farragut arrived on the scene a few days later, he learned that heavy Southern guns mounted on the bluff at Vicksburg some 200 feet above the river could shell his ships while his own guns could not be elevated enough to hit them back. Since sufficient troops were not available to take the fortress by storm, the Flag Officer headed downstream on May 27th leaving gunboats to blockade it from below.

Orders awaited Farragut at New Orleans, where he arrived on the 30th. The Flag Officer recalled Porter's mortar schooners from Mobile, Alabama and dutifully got underway up the Mississippi in Hartford on June 8th.

The Union Squadron was assembled just below Vicksburg by the 26th. Two days later the Union ships suffered little damage while running past the batteries. However, naval efforts to take Vicksburg were frustrated by a lack of troops. "Ships," Porter commented, ". . . cannot crawl up hills 300 feet high, and it is that part of Vicksburg which must be taken by the Army."

On July 27th, Farragut sailed USS Hartford down the river at his discretion to Pensacola, Florida, for repairs.

The flagship returned to New Orleans on November 9th. The Union Army, supported by the Mississippi Squadron, was pressing on Vicksburg from above.  Farragut blockaded the mouth of the Red River from which supplies were pouring eastward to the Confederate Army. Meanwhile, the South had been fortifying its defenses along the river and had erected powerful batteries at Port Hudson, Louisiana.

On the night of March 14th, Hartford, accompanied by six other ships, attempted to run by these batteries. However, they encountered such heavy and accurate fire that only Hartford and Albatross succeeded in running the gauntlet. Thereafter, Hartford and her consort patrolled between Port Hudson and Vicksburg denying the Confederacy desperately needed supplies from the West.

Porter's Mississippi Squadron, cloaked by night, dashed downstream past the Vicksburg batteries on April 16th. On land, General Grant marched his troops to a new base also below the Southern stronghold. April closed with the Navy ferrying Grant's troops across the river to Bruinsburg when they encircled Vicksburg. The fortress surrendered on the Fourth of July.

From July 1865 to August 1868, USS Hartford served as flagship of a newly-organized Asiatic Squadron. In October 1872, she resumed Asiatic Station patrol until returning home in October 1875.

On October 19, 1945, USS Hartford was towed to the Norfolk Navy Yard and classified as a relic. Hartford sank at her berth 20 November 1956. Major relics from her are at the National Navy Memorial Museum, Washington Navy Yard.

 

 


 

This USS Hartford civil war ship features:

  • Scratch-built

  • Plank-on-frame construction (very important).

  • All parts are wooden or metal

  • Full number of boats 

  • Beautiful and accurate rigging

  • Wooden base

40" long x 24" tall x  9" wide     $2,300   S & H is $150  SOLD OUT  This model ship is one of few models that will be built again once we complete all custom made models. 
 

"I received them yesterday [4/8/2014] and they were magnificent.  Thank you.  I lookforward to the next two ships [Kearsarge and Monitor]. Regards, Hans."
 

"You guys sure do beautiful work!
My fleet is up to 3 of your ships, Glatton, Hartford and PT 109, and I think they are all great.  The new Hartford is outstanding... Please keep me in the loop for any deals you have going from time to time.  Thanks for sharing. Mike"


"
I thought I would let you know how much I am enjoying looking at the Hartford, and how proud I am to have a small input in the new build and wondered if you have had any interest show in your new web page.  I am sure the Hartford was an incentive to shake of the hospital " blues " and it has already given me great pleasure and it will become a family heirloom for the family in years to come! it is a great piece of the model shipwright art! she is absolutely beautiful ! I have enjoyed our exchange of e-mails through the build, and feel you are now a friend ! I wish you all the best for the future , good luck and again many thanks, Kindest Regards Frank"
 

Our USS Hartford model is displayed permanently at the Civil War Museum of Texas. 

"The Hartford arrived yesterday: FANTASTIC piece of art!!! I really liked the way it was crated – amazing. I took the crate apart screw by screw, and the only mishap I had was that I busted the life boat hanger on one side when I pulled the blue tape off, but I think I will be able to repair. Looks great on the mantel. I will be in the market for another one of your ships very soon. Thanks for the excellent work! Mike R."