Tuesday, August 20, 2013

U.S.S. Peterhoff

For the past couple of days, I've been reading Stanley South's autobiography, An Archaeological Evolution. Dr. South played a role in the early days of the Brunswick Town/Ft. Anderson and Ft. Fisher State Historic Sites. While I found much of interest, what really struck me was the story of the U.S.S.  Peterhoff.

   It appears that the Peterhoff was "a 416-ton iron-hulled yacht originally built for the Tsar of Russia" by a company in London. It had 140 hp steam engines and was launched in 1850. At some point, the ship transferred to Britain and was used as a cargo ship.

   On January 27, 1863, the Peterhoff set sail from Cornwall, and on February 20, she was boarded and searched by the crew of the USS Alabama. Papers from John Slidell in England to the Confederate Secretary of State were tossed overboard. Since there were no official means to hold the vessel, it was released. The Peterhoff reached St. Thomas, and then on February 25, set sail again. She was again boarded, and the captain claimed that he was bound for Matamoros in Mexico. But a crewman let slip that the vessel was actually bound for Brownville, Texas. The Peterhoff was seized, sold in a prize court, and after additional legal battles, in 1864, became a part of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron. She left Hampton Roads, Virginia, on February 28, 1864, to help with the blockade of Wilmington, North Carolina. Just a few days later, on March 6, 1864, the U.S.S. Peterhoff was rammed by the gunboat U.S.S. Monticello, and the Peterhoff  was sunk. When low tide came on March 7, Federal sailors boarded the Peterhoff and destroyed what they could.  After the war ended, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of the owners of the Peterhoff, and the government was forced to compensate her owners.

The wreck lies off Kure Beech. Several cannon have been brought up over the years, including this one at Fort Fisher, and the wreck site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.

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