Looking for firsthand accounts of life aboard seagoing paddle-steamers

SeaTurtle

Private
Joined
Jun 14, 2021
They certainly weren't the most practical design for seagoing traffic, but for some reason blue-water paddle-steamers have always held a special place in my heart. Given that they were in their heyday around the Civil War period, I wondered if folks here could recommend any firsthand accounts/memoirs of what it was like to serve aboard seagoing paddle-steamers, whether naval or civilian?
 

Mark F. Jenkins

Colonel
Member of the Year
Joined
Mar 31, 2012
Location
Central Ohio
I can think of a number of them, like the collection of letters of William F. Keeler aboard the USS Florida, or John Wilkinson's book about running the blockade. Are looking for insight into a particular area?
 

SeaTurtle

Private
Joined
Jun 14, 2021
I can think of a number of them, like the collection of letters of William F. Keeler aboard the USS Florida, or John Wilkinson's book about running the blockade. Are looking for insight into a particular area?

My preference would be the Pacific region or the Gulf of Mexico/Caribbean. But I'm open to other parts of the world. Doesn't have to be specifically related to the Civil War either; there was plenty of other interesting stuff involving paddle steamers around this era (like Commodore Perry's "Black Ship" expedition to Japan, or the trans-Atlantic paddlewheel ocean liners). The main thing I'm looking for is a firsthand view of what service was like aboard these sorts of vessels.
 

Lampasas Bill

Sergeant
Joined
Sep 24, 2018
One of the finest naval reminiscences I've read is Lamson of the Gettysburg: The Civil War Letters of Lieutenant Roswell H. Lamson, U.S. Navy by James M. and Patricia R. McPherson. Lamson served on a number of ships in the North Blockading Squadron and ended up as captain of the side-wheeler Gettysburg, a former blockade runner and fastest ship in the squadron.
 

rebelatsea

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 30, 2013
Location
Kent ,England.
A book I'm re reading at present: "The Ocean Railway" by Stephen Fox, published by Harper Collins 2003, ISBN 0-00-653216-0.
It's a history of the 19th Century Trans-Atlantic Steamships & Companies. Chapter 9, Life on a Steamer, gives both passenger and crew viewpoints. The whole book is much to be recommended.
 

SeaTurtle

Private
Joined
Jun 14, 2021
An interesting book I came across (and ordered) is The First Atlantic Liners: Seamanship in the Age of Paddle Wheel, Sail, and Screw by Basil Greenhill and Peter Allington. It isn't a firsthand memoir itself, but it uses contemporary sources (such as ships logs) to investigate the technicalities of running an oceangoing paddle-steamer back when they were used on trans-Atlantic shipping lines in the mid-19th century.
 
Top