The Long Blue Line: Lighthouse Service during the Civil War

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U.S. Lighthouse Service tender Van Santvoort was transferred to the Union Navy in 1861 and served as the gunboat USS Coeur de Lion during the Civil War. U.S. Coast Guard Collection.

The Long Blue Line: Lighthouse Service during the Civil War
Posted by Diana Sherbs, Thursday, June 22, 2017

Like other government agencies, many southern lighthouse personnel transferred their allegiance from federal service to the Confederate States Lighthouse Bureau. This included numerous lightkeepers as well as one-time U.S. Navy officer Raphael Semmes, who had previously served as secretary of the U.S. Lighthouse Service.

Semmes received appointment as the first superintendent of the Confederate Lighthouse Bureau. As Union forces occupied large sections of the southern coastline, the Confederate government required fewer Lighthouse Service staff. Keepers and support staff lost their jobs while former naval officers, such as Semmes, went on to serve in the Confederate navy. Later in the war, Semmes would earn fame as captain of the Confederate cruisers CSS Sumter and CSS Alabama. Semmes’s successors heading the Confederate Lighthouse Bureau would do little more than manage unlit lighthouses and idle assets.

In the early stages of the conflict, only certain lighthouses in Virginia and those located in the Florida Keys and Dry Tortugas remained in Union hands. For strategic purposes, Union and Confederate forces struggled to control the rest of the 160 lighthouses and aids to navigation in southern territory. Union military forces needed lighthouses and aids to navigation to facilitate naval operations and delivery of troops and supplies to the front-line units near the coast. The Confederate government wished to hinder Union use of these aids to navigation to increase the danger of enemy naval operations and night-time navigation. Both sides used the lighthouse towers to observe movements of enemy naval and land forces.

Both sides of the conflict sought other U.S. Lighthouse Service assets and were highly sought after. The Confederacy removed valuable lamp oil supplies from southern light stations to support the war effort. Eleven lightships stationed in the south before the war were either sunk by the Confederates to block waterways or used for other maritime needs. In addition, many contemporary lighthouse tenders were relatively modern steamers and put to use for military purposes. In the north, eight lighthouse tenders were transferred to the Union navy; and, in the south, eight lighthouse tenders were commandeered by the Confederate government.

During the war, the U.S. Lighthouse Service assisted the Union war effort in many ways. These activities included re-lighting light stations extinguished by Confederate forces and positioning special buoys, lights, and lightships to aid Union military operations. In 1862, the Treasury Department sent Special Agent Maximilian Bonzano to New Orleans to restore re-captured lighthouses to operational status, starting with those located in Louisiana. In spite of hostilities that continued to threaten lights in Union-occupied territory, Bonzano made steady progress and expanded his efforts to include lighthouses located along the entire Gulf Coast.


Full post with pics can be found here - http://coastguard.dodlive.mil/2017/06/the-long-blue-line-lighthouse-service-during-the-civil-war/

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USS ALASKA

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The Long Blue Line: Lighthouse tender and warship with the heart of a lion
Posted by Diana Sherbs,
Thursday, August 30, 2018
Written by William H. Thiesen
Coast Guard Atlantic Area Historian

The term “tender” most often refers to a vessel servicing aids to navigation. In the old days, this meant supporting remotely located lighthouses with supplies and construction materials. As buoys and markers became an important form of navigational aid, the tenders were tasked with servicing them as well. However, in the early days of the U.S. Lighthouse Service, tenders were vessels equipped with lifting apparatus to deliver heavy cargo and construction materials to lighthouses.

Such was the case with Lighthouse Tender Van Santvoort, purchased from its original owner Alfred Van Santvoort in 1857. Built in New York in 1853, the ship was 100 feet long and powered by a coal-fired high-pressure steam engine with side paddle wheels. Made of wood, the Van Santvoort was designed to be a commercial steamer. Its shallow draft and steam power enabled it to navigate shallow and coastal waters independent of wind power making it ideal for lighthouse tender duties....

...The little steam tender with the heart of a lion had had a distinguished career. The tender supported the construction of the famous Minot’s Ledge Lighthouse. It also aided in the development of hot air balloon technology and served honorably in combat with the Union Navy’s Potomac Flotilla.

Full article with much info and pics can be found here - http://coastguard.dodlive.mil/2018/08/the-long-blue-line-lighthouse-tender-and-warship-with-the-heart-of-a-lion/

...and for extra cross-thread bonus points...

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The barge George Washington Parke Custis was towed, 10 November 1861 by USS Coeur de Lion from the Washington Navy Yard down the Potomac River to a place off Mattawomen Creek where the balloon ascended over the Potomac River, making a reconnaissance of the blockade near Budd's Ferry below Mount Vernon. Drawing in Lowe Collection at National Archives.
US Naval History and Heritage Command photo # NH 2079


http://www.navsource.org/archives/09/86/098607807.jpg
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