Guide to the Log of the U.S.S. Courier, 1863-1864
A collection in the
Special Collections & Archives Department,
United States Naval Academy
589 McNair Road
Annapolis, MD 21402-5029
Prepared by: Jennifer A. Bryan
Special Collections & Archives Department
United States Naval Academy
The U.S.S. Courier was a storeship, commissioned on September 17, 1861. In 1863, the vessel was under the command of Acting Master Samuel C. Gray of Massachusetts. In May, Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles ordered her to deliver stores to New Orleans. On her return voyage she was to stop at Port Royal, South Carolina and replace the U.S.S. Supply, the storeship for the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron.
On June 14, 1864, Courier ran aground on Abaco Island in the Bahamas. Acting Master Gray reported the wreck to Welles in a letter dated June 15. Gray stated that "the only way I have to account for this unfortunate occurrence is that the reckoning of the ship must have been very much out or that we experienced a very strong westerly current."
Scope and Content Note
The Log of the U.S.S. Courier spans the dates October 6, 1863 to June 24, 1864. The volume consists of printed pages on which the nautical information is recorded. Glued to the front pastedown is a printed sheet entitled, "Directions for Keeping the Log." At the upper left corner of the pastedown is a yellow bindery ticket for the U.S. Government bindery.
At the commencement of the log, Courier was at the Brooklyn Navy Yard taking on stores, including ordnance. The October 8 entry states, "At 7 Contrabands came on board to work at ballast." "Contraband" was the term used for slaves who had escaped behind Union lines.
Courier left New York at the end of October and arrived at New Orleans on November 14. The vessel was back in New York in mid-December. The ship went to sea again on February 8, 1864 and anchored off the Pensacola Navy Yard on February 26. After discharging on March 11 stores including "104 Boxes Pres[erve]d Meat, 117 Bbls [barrels] Bread, 82 Bbls Pork, 61 Bbls Pickles," Courier headed for the Charlestown Navy Yard, losing the thermometer overboard on March 23. At the Charlestown Navy Yard in April, Courier was overhauled and readied for sea once again. The vessel left Boston harbor on May 27.
On June 14, 1864, at approximately 4 a.m., the storeship struck on Lynyard Cay, Great Abaco Island, Bahamas and began listing to starborad. Acting Master Gray ordered stores and water taken on shore and the crew to save as much Government property as possible. At 7:30 a.m., the magazine and shell room were flooded and 12 feet of water was in the hold. All hands were employed in getting provisions on deck. The sails were sent on shore for tents. At 10:30, Gray made an agreement with several wrecking vessels to take everything from the ship that could be saved and to transport it to Nassau "(they refusing to take it to a port in the United States) for a compensation of fifty per centum on the receipts after the same was sold at Auction."
On June 16, the crew brought the ship's guns ashore. That afternoon, the foremast went over the side. Gray sent Acting Ensign A.P. Sampson to Nassau on June 17 with a letter for the American consul. Several crew members deserted before Sampson returned on June 22. The schooner in which he returned was chartered to take officers and crew to Port Royal, South Carolina. Some provisions and the Courier's guns, two 24-pd howitzers and one 12-pd howitzer, were placed on the schooner. The log's last entry is for June 24, with the officers and crew on their way to New York.
Glued to the rear pastedown of the logbook are two documents, one a contract with the captains and agents of the wrecking vessels, dated June 14, 1864, and the other a list of stores saved. Both documents are signed by Edwin B. Pratt, Acting Ensign.