“She will sustain the reputation of Baltimore-built vessels”

SchoonerAfter the blockade off Galveston was established by the arrival of U.S.S. South Carolina on July 2, 1861, one of Captain James Alden, Jr.’s first captures, on July 6, was the local pilot boat Sam Houston. The little schooner was condemned as a prize and taken into the U.S. Navy. She was armed with a single, 12-pounder smooth-bore gun, and spent most of the rest of the war running dispatches, chasing down blockade runners, and serving as a guard boat at various places around the Gulf of Mexico. After the war Sam Houston was decommissioned and sold at auction to one J. B. Walton on April 25, 1866 for $1,998.70, at New Orleans. She was sold again the following month and re-enrolled at Galveston; her last enrollment document recorded was at Galveston in the spring of 1870.

Most sources, including the ORN, do not provide many details about this little boat, but this evening I came across this description of the schooner in the Galveston Civilian and Gazette Weekly, February 7, 1860:


A Handsome Vessel. — Mr. Rutter, from his ship-yard, Canton [Maryland], expects to launch to-morrow at non, a beautiful pilot boat, built for Mssrs. Davidson, J. E. Davidson, T. Chubb, T. H. Chubb, and Z. Sabel, of Galveston, Texas, and especiall[y] designed as an opposition boat for the Galveston bar. She is seventy tons burden; 65 feet in length; 18 feet beam; and hold 6 1/2 feet. She will draw five feet forward and 8 feet aft. Her mainmast is 56 feet in length, foremast 63 feet, and bowsprit 14 1/2 feet outboard; the main boom is 35 1/2 feet in length, all showing that she will spread a large amount of canvas. She is of the most approved model, built of the best materials, and extra fastened and bolted throughout, rendering her very substantial. She has been named Sam Houston in honor of the distinguished governor of Texas. She has been coppered on the stocks, and will be ready for sailing in a few days after launching. Her appearance indicates that she will sustain the reputation of Baltimore-built vessels, by her sailing qualities. — Baltimore Sun, 18th Jan.


Her postwar registration documents give her a length between perpendiculars of 59 feet 4 inches, with a square stern and an eagle carved into her stem. Must have been a beautiful little vessel, and well-built, to still be serviceable after almost five years ‘ hard naval service. I’d say she lived up to expectation.


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