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USS Midnight (1861) was a steamer purchased by the Union Navy during the American Civil War. She was planned by the Union Navy for use as a gunboat stationed off Confederate waterways to prevent their trading with foreign countries.

Midnight was purchased as Dawn by the Navy at New York Citymarker 31 July 1861 and commissioned at New York Navy Yardmarker 19 October 1861, Acting Volunteer Lt. James Trathen in command.

Assigned to the Gulf Blockade

Assigned to the Gulf Blockading Squadron 2 November 1861, Midnight operated primarily along the southwestern coast of Texasmarker, from time to time engaging Confederate coastal batteries as she served the Union blockade.

Faithful service deserves faithful comments by Farragut

Her faithful performance of duty in an area remote and neglected by war correspondents, illustrates the hardship often suffered by American sailors during the Civil War, in August 1862, as he reported sending Midnight home, Admiral Farragut commented:

“The Midnight has been most active on the west coast of Texas and has been now constantly on blockade 9 months, during which time she has only had fresh provision 24 days....Forty cases of scurvy, and dysentery [make it] impossible for such a crew to recruit in this climate.”

Overhauled, Midnight is assigned to the South Atlantic Blockade

Overhauled and her crew restored to health, Midnight arrived Port Royal, South Carolinamarker, 16 October for service in the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron. For almost 2 years she continued this duty, a strong link in the chain which the Union Navy had forged and was drawing ever tighter around the Confederacy. On 3 February 1864 she captured British schooner Defy off Doboy Light, Georgia, sailing from Nassaumarker to Beaufort, North Carolinamarker with a cargo of salt for the South. Midnight was ordered to Philadelphia, Pennsylvaniamarker, 2 August for repairs.

Reassigned to the East Gulf Blockade

Midnight’s last tour of duty took her to the East Gulf Blockading Squadron early in the fall. Besides serving in the blockade, she from time to time sent landing parties ashore in the vicinity of St. Andrews Bay, to gather information and to destroy Confederate resources.

The value and necessity of salt

Salt works were Midnight’s favorite targets. Vast quantities of salt were needed by the South to preserve meat, fish and other perishable foods; to cure hides; and to bolster the Southern munitions industry. The Union Navy’s systematic attacks on salt works seriously impaired the Confederacy’s ability to remain at war. Midnight’s most successful expedition began 1 February when a party landed at St. Andrews Bay. Three days later they returned to the ship, after destroying beyond repair several large salt plants and dumping tons of the precious chemical into the sea.

Midnight served at St. Andrews Bay through the end of the war. She sailed north early in July and was sold at public auction in Boston, Massachusettsmarker, to C. H. Miller 1 November 1865.


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