1. Welcome to the CivilWarTalk, a forum for questions and discussions about the American Civil War! Become a member today for full access to all of our resources, it's fast, simple, and absolutely free!
Dismiss Notice
Join and Become a Patron at CivilWarTalk!
Support this site with a monthly or yearly subscription! Active Patrons get to browse the site Ad free!
START BY JOINING NOW!

What was A Canal Boat From Schuylkill Haven, PA, Doing With McClellan In Virginia, Please?-

Discussion in 'Civil War History - The Naval War' started by JPK Huson 1863, Jan 20, 2018.

  1. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Colonel Forum Host

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2012
    Messages:
    16,281
    Location:
    Central Pennsylvania
    canal boats pamunkey.JPG
    Another hand's down favorite photograph. White House Landing, Pamunkey, 1862- McClellan's Army in possession of a nearly sleepy scene. Camp on banks ( hospital there somewhere ), steamers, one of the ( twin? ) masted war ships ( Unadilla? ) - and canal boats bearing home town names from 100's of miles north.

    OK, give up- been trying to find this answer for years. You'd think it would be possible given how many resources are out there- best resource available would be experts here.

    Check census records through Schuylkill County and ' Boatman ' proliferates, pre and some, postwar. Men who worked the canal boats of the Schuylkill Canal, part of our short lived, legendary network. Cool stuff. Anthracite country here, hysterically, not a coal miner in over 300 years of gene pool. Boatmen showed up heavily, Swiss cabinet makers turning tools to building canal boats, instead. So we ' know ' them, and canals. Somehow missing this part.


    Grgrgrandfather and brothers in the war, all these boatmen, from the yard- navy? Of course not. Cavalry, grgrgrandfather, 3 brothers, infantry. Mustered out in 1865, from cavalry, enlisted to be with brothers for a few months, to finish out on foot. No boats!

    canal knarr boat schuylkill barge.jpg
    " Missouri " out of Schuylkill Haven tied up with other boats from PA and I think New York, and ( next photo ) ?

    This photo from the Pamunkey's short lived ( and disasterous, if you were a Revolutionary War relic ), frenetic activity on the part of McClellan's army at White House Landing, 1862, defeats me. War ships- we famously see old Argo, steamers, transports and more of the fleet, an encampment on the bank, ( we know the Sanitary commission was there and 3 boats from another angle, including their creek-penetrating, saver of stranded wounded, tug " Elizabeth ", is further proof ), soldiers and civilians, black men and white in various leisure poses indicate an unalarmed army.

    canal schuylkill barge unionville.jpg
    Unionville- was part of the Framingham system, Conn., Mass., New England! Further north!

    It's this group in the foreground which has baffled me for years. These canal boats seem to be from states so many miles away you're a little staggered by their presence in Virginia? Unsure- some seem to have New York, Dutch ( genuine Dutch, not PA Deutch )names. One, the Missouri, hales from Schuylkill Haven, PA. Once again, the logistics in this war seem staggering. Heck, have no clue but could have come from the same boat yard left by the brothers when they trooped off to war. ( records are really hard to find ).

    canal richmond canal basin.jpg
    Richmond's era canal basin, and a far different boat, but we tend to forget how comprehensive these systems were.

    Question is, what on earth is a canal boat from here- Schuylkill County, PA, doing at White House Landing, Virginia, much less perhaps one from New York? HOW, and what would they have carried, the anthracite this area mined? Pulled on river banks, in the same way they were on canals, by mules or draft horses? Were they sheer supply? Photo from elsewhere in Virginia, an entire pontoon bridge was composed of canal boats but seems a huge waste.

    Canal boats were not naval. They did float. This is a question anyway; if there's a better forum, please would someone move the thread?
     
    ErnieMac, WJC, alan polk and 13 others like this.

  2. (Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)
  3. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Colonel Forum Host

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2012
    Messages:
    16,281
    Location:
    Central Pennsylvania
    ' Tagging ' this copiously, only because it increases chances someone will bump into it who knows. Dad was a member of the PA Canal Association and didn't have a definite answer, either.
     
  4. Gladys Hodge Sherrer

    Gladys Hodge Sherrer Sergeant Major

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2017
    Messages:
    1,859
    Very interesting mystery... cannot wait for someone on this forum to solve this one.
     
  5. Carronade

    Carronade 1st Lieutenant

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2011
    Messages:
    4,013
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Canals did have access to rivers at some points; for example a lock - still existing, though non-functional - connecting the Schuylkill river canal to the river in the Manayunk neighborhood of Philadelphia. A canal was only needed for portions of a river which were not themselves navigable. So it was feasible to get canal boats away from "home", even towing them along the coast if weather permitted.

    The Chesapeake and Delaware Canal would allow boats from Philadelphia and upriver to get to tidewater Virginia without going out into the ocean.

    Still an impressive effort to collect all these boats!

    The two-masted ship in the right of the first photo is a paddle wheeler, so she would not be Unadilla, the first of the 90-day screw gunboats.
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2018
    AnnaLee, Story, Tut11 and 8 others like this.
  6. Saphroneth

    Saphroneth 2nd Lieutenant

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2017
    Messages:
    3,415
    I'll admit I'm a bit of an interested layman, but I'm fairly sure the answer is "the need for shallow water transport was so great that everything in sight got hoovered up". White House Landing is a fair way upriver and was the depot for the AotP, so possibly the canal boats are being used as lighters for ships full of goods which couldn't make it in that close - if you need lots of shallow, possibly self propelled lighters, canal boats are one place to get them in a hurry.
     
  7. 67th Tigers

    67th Tigers 2nd Lieutenant

    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2006
    Messages:
    3,052
    A couple of hundred canal barges were used as transports for McClellan's army. The list is in the Asst Secy's report.
     
    AnnaLee, Story, Tut11 and 4 others like this.
  8. AndyHall

    AndyHall Colonel Forum Host

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2011
    Messages:
    13,398
    What @Carronade said. I have seen several images of canal boats in the Virginia campaigns that trace back to Philadelphia and New York.
     
    alan polk, AnnaLee, Tut11 and 4 others like this.
  9. yaz101

    yaz101 Private

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2018
    Messages:
    46
     
    mofederal likes this.
  10. yaz101

    yaz101 Private

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2018
    Messages:
    46
    Being from Schuylkill Haven, I would love to find out more about this too.
     
  11. mofederal

    mofederal Captain

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2017
    Messages:
    6,104
    Location:
    Southeast Missouri
    Getting the boats down there must have been quite a task. I know they would have been towed, but still it couldn't have been easy as they were built for canals use, but like everything else they were repurposed, I wonder if they were towed back up or left down there.
     
    AnnaLee and JPK Huson 1863 like this.
  12. USS ALASKA

    USS ALASKA 2nd Lieutenant

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2016
    Messages:
    2,656
    Having spent some formative years growing up in Pottsville...

    Looking at the first pic, I thought there were snow covered mountains in the background and could not figure out where in VA that could have been...that canal boats could have gotten to... :smile:

    Cheers,
    USS ALASKA
     
    AnnaLee and JPK Huson 1863 like this.
  13. Drew

    Drew Captain

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2012
    Messages:
    7,318
    Excellent catch. There are no mountain peaks like that, snow covered or otherwise, in the vicinity of White House landing at Pamunkey River in Virginia.

    It looks more like the Susquehanna than the tidal Potomac River.

    (Edit: OK, kick me with a horse. This is not the Potomac and I don't have first hand knowledge of the topography. What appears to be snow-capped mountain ridges are still suspect however.)
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2018
    AnnaLee and JPK Huson 1863 like this.
  14. USS ALASKA

    USS ALASKA 2nd Lieutenant

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2016
    Messages:
    2,656
    I believe the 'snow covered mountains' are artifacts of photo cropping...

    Cheers,
    USS ALASKA
     
    JPK Huson 1863 likes this.
  15. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Colonel Forum Host

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2012
    Messages:
    16,281
    Location:
    Central Pennsylvania

    Thank you!! Late back- generally run out of forum time before being able to give this kind of thread the right attention. It's been bugging me for years. Also been trying to ham fistedly identify ships in the photo with abysmal results. Just personal curiosity, worst, single Naval buff ever born ( which is why no one sees me browsing those threads, no need to advertise blond hair ).

    And gosh. Kind of thing to marvel at. You know. Boatmen traversing first canals then riverbanks, allllll the way from Schuylkill Haven, PA to White House Landing? Here's the other thing. They couldn't follow the army or put out into the river, avoiding the enemy? Unless they abandoned the mules and poled/somehow paddled out? Seems a hazardous order, meeting McClellan's army right there.
     
  16. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Colonel Forum Host

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2012
    Messages:
    16,281
    Location:
    Central Pennsylvania

    Ha! No way! Little different from 1863 but have to say its deep history is still around if you know what you're seeing. Plus, Pottsville and those little Schuylkill communities are composed of the single most delightful result of varied genetic makeup anywhere. Wish someone would make a study- they think they're German and nope. Slovak, Irish, Swiss,Welsh, English- nicest folks anywhere. Sorry- you lived there so know who they are. Mines and RR's went out, canals vanished so down at the heels but still- cool place.

    So funny, an Appalachian with a peak, snow covered or otherwise in PA or Virginia!
     
    USS ALASKA likes this.
  17. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Colonel Forum Host

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2012
    Messages:
    16,281
    Location:
    Central Pennsylvania

    Yes, it took me eight tries to spell ' Pamunkey ' ! Spell check hates it so you know its off someone's beaten path. I see an awful lot of photos give up, calling it " James ".
     
    Drew likes this.
  18. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Colonel Forum Host

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2012
    Messages:
    16,281
    Location:
    Central Pennsylvania

    Thank you very much! Logistics flatten me- this would be one more. It's just such an absurd concept, beginning to end, using them, getting them there and, as @mofederal said, back to Schuylkill Haven and further north, it makes your head spin. Transports!! Now that is even more fascinating. Would give around a gzillion bucks, to read a soldier's diary of his travels on a canal boat during the war. You just know there is one somewhere.


    Love to hear more from your digging- have a generous amount of gene pool buried in Union Cemetery- my 6th US Cav grgrgrandfather included and assorted uncles from the 50th PA and a few others. @reading48 and his wife have been kind enough to fill me in on the history I've missed- keep meaning to get on Ancestry because anyone whose DNA has been knocking around there for a couple hundred years is related!
     
    reading48 likes this.
  19. megacookie

    megacookie Cadet

    Joined:
    May 20, 2018
    Messages:
    1
    Here's a thought. Yuengling Brewery in Pottsville, Pa. which is 4 miles up the road from Schuylkill Haven either had a sattelite brewery or someone from the family had The James River Steam Brewery in Richmond back in the day. I'm not sure the years of operation but maybe there's a link between the 2 breweries and the Haven canal boat being in Richmond. Maybe they used it to transport items, ingredients etc. between companies.
     
  20. USS ALASKA

    USS ALASKA 2nd Lieutenant

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2016
    Messages:
    2,656
  21. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Colonel Forum Host

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2012
    Messages:
    16,281
    Location:
    Central Pennsylvania

    No way! That would be fascinating, and possible. Pottsville, for as unassuming as it is in 2018 was an industrial baron's paradise, and prosperous hub- Schuylkill Haven a smaller hub, with gosh, ' boatman ' an occupation in page after page on the census. Were there 2 or 3 canal boat yards? There's this ' thing ', where these very cool old towns are referred to as ' coal towns ', which just doesn't do them justice. Coal, sure, but with the canals, railroads, industries like Yuengling exploded.

    Huh. It's theories like this, investigated, which sometimes pay off. Sounds far fetched at first sight, if the canals and their importance at the time are not considered. THEN someone with sharp eyes spots the name ' Yuengling ' attached to a brewery in Richmond...... this is terrific stuff!
     
    Story likes this.

(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)

Share This Page


(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)