From: Dictionary of American Fighting Ships

Grand Gulf

A Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi below Vicksburg, Va.

(ScStr: t. 1,200; l. 210'4"; b. 34'6"; dph. 20'6"; s. 11.5 k.; a. 1 100-pdr., 2 30-pdrs., 3 8")

Grand Gulf was purchased in New York as Onward 14 September 1863 from her builders, Cornelius and Richard Poillon; and commissioned 28 September 1863, Comdr. George Ransom in command.

Grand Gulf stood to sea from New York on 11 October and 9 days later joined the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron off Wilmington, N.C. Her two exits to the sea at Beaufort and the Cape Fear River made Wilmington one of the most important and most difficult to blockade of all Confederate ports. She remained on blockade duty there, with intervals for repair at the New York and Norfolk Navy Yards, until 4 October 1864.

On 21 November 1863, assisted by Army Transport Fulton, Grand Gulf took blockade runner Banshee with a general cargo of contraband from Nassau. Off the Carolina coast, Grand Gulf, 6 March 1864, captured the British steamer Mary Ann trying to run the blockade with a cargo of cotton and tobacco; seizing the cargo and 82 passengers and crew members, Grand Gulf put a prize crew on the steamer and sent her to Boston. A second British ship, Young Republic, fell captive to Grand Gulf after a wild chase 6 May 1864, with both ships steaming at full speed and the blockade runner throwing overboard bale after bale of precious cotton and even the anchor chain in a futile attempt to lighten ship. Grand Gulf garnered some 253 bales of cotton as well as 54 prisoners from this prize. Two weeks later, Rear Admiral S. P. Lee wrote Ransom congratulating him on taking the prize; "Every capture made by blockaders deprives the enemy of so much of the 'sinews of war,' and is equal to the taking of two supply trains from the rebel Army."

Returning to New York 4 August 1864, she was ordered out in search of the Confederate raider Tallahassee, reported in Long Island Sound. However, 17 August she gave over the search to tow into port demasted brig Billow, and claim her as a prize. Billow had been captured by Tallahassee; scuttled but did not sink. Grand Gulf left New York 23 September to convoy California steamer Ocean Queen to Aspinwall (now Colon), Panama, arriving there 3 October and returning to New York 16 October. From 24 October to 16 November she and Ocean Queen repeated the voyage. One day from New York on the outward passage, Grand Gulf, herself leaking badly, took into tow sinking British bark Linden. She then put into New York Navy Yard for extensive repairs.

With the ironclad Casco in tow, Grand Gulf put to sea 8 March 1865; arriving at Hampton Roads 12 March, she left Casco there and 17 March sailed to join the West Gulf Blockading Fleet off Galveston. She reached Galveston 4 April and remained on blockade duty until 25 June, when she steamed up the Mississippi to New Orleans. There she served as a prison ship and site for courts martial until 18 October, when she cleared New Orleans for New York.

Arriving in New York 2 November, Grand Gulf decommissioned 10 November and was sold 30 November to C. Comstock & Co. She was later resold to William F. Feld & Co. of Boston; renamed General Grant; and put in service in their Merchants of Boston SS. Co. operating between Boston and New Orleans. She burned and sank at a wharf in New Orleans 19 April 1869.

Transcribed by Yves HUBERT (