By: Martin Donell Kohout

Type: General Entry

Published: July 1, 1995

The USS Sachem, a screw steamer built in New York City in 1844, was purchased by the United States Navy on September 20, 1861, and saw action along the Texas coast and in the battle of Galveston during the Civil War. The Sachem escorted the USS Monitor from New York to Hampton Roads, Virginia, and was present on March 9, 1862, during the Monitor's famous battle with the former USS Merrimac, rechristened CSS Virginia by the Confederates. The Sachem left Hampton Roads in late March to join flag officer David G. Farragut's forces in the Gulf of Mexico; it marked the channel and firing positions for Farragut's ships in their attack on New Orleans in April. After supporting Farragut at New Orleans, the Sachem arrived at Ship Island, Mississippi, on May 5 and reconnoitered Lake Pontchartrain and the Pearl River. On May 8 the Sachem braved Confederate fire to help refloat the steamer Clifton, which had run aground under Fort Morgan. On June 30 Farragut ordered the Sachem to blockade Aransas Pass in Texas. Commanded by acting lieutenant Amos Johnson, the Sachem served as tender to the bark Arthur in July. On August 16 the Sachem and the yacht Corypheus engaged in a battle with a Confederate battery, and on August 18 the Sachem, the Arthur, and the Reindeer supported a landing party from the sloop Belle Italia, which attacked a battery near Corpus Christi. On December 7 two boats from the Sachem forced the Confederate schooner Queen of the Bay ashore, but the Union sailors were forced to abandon their boats under fire from the Confederates and retreated thirty miles overland to rejoin the Sachem at Aransas Bay. The Sachem then steamed to Galveston on December 29 and was in Galveston harbor when the Confederate forces launched a surprise attack on the Union ships there on January 1, 1863. During the ensuing battle of Galveston the Harriet Lane surrendered, and the Sachem escaped to sea through heavy artillery fire. She reached New Orleans two days later with one propeller shot off. After two months of repairs the steamer was again ready for action and helped support Farragut's attack on Port Hudson on the Mississippi on March 14. In April she was ordered to Berwick Bay, Louisiana, to replace the captured Diana, but was forced to return to New Orleans after developing serious leaks en route. The Sachem later sailed up the Atchafalaya River to help Farragut seal off the mouth of the Red River and thereby blockade the southern forces at Vicksburg and Port Hudson. After those two Confederate strongholds fell in July, the Sachem returned to Berwick Bay and then in early September joined an expedition assembling in New Orleans to attack Sabine Pass, Texas. She arrived at Sabine Pass on September 7 and entered the harbor the next day with the Clifton, the Arizona, and the Granite City. The four Union gunboats attacked the Confederate batteries at Fort Griffin, but the Sachem was disabled by a shot through the boiler. Lieutenant Johnson ordered the thirty-pound Parrott gun spiked, the magazine flooded, the signal book destroyed, and the white flag hoisted. The Confederate steamer Uncle Ben towed the Sachem to Sabine City. On October 17 the Sachem sailed for Orange, Texas, where she served under the Texas Marine Department in support of the Confederate Army. In March 1864 the Sachem was again at Sabine Pass and in April was said to be under the command of John Davisson of Galveston, a blockade runner, but no further record of the ship has been found.

Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships (8 vols., Washington: U.S. Navy, 1959–81).
Time Periods:
  • Civil War

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Martin Donell Kohout, “Sachem,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 08, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 1, 1995

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