Star of the West

By: Jack D. L. Holmes

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: February 20, 2018

The Star of the West was a two-deck, side-wheel, schooner-rigged merchant ship fired upon by Confederate batteries as she attempted to relieve Fort Sumter on January 9, 1861. Hired out of New York as a troop transport for $1,000 a day, under its master, Elisha Howes, the Star sailed for Texas to pick up seven companies of United States troops assembled at Indianola.On April 18, while anchored off Pass Caballo bar leading into Matagorda Bay, the ship was captured by Col. Earl Van Dorn and members of two Galveston militia units, the Wigfall Guards and the Island City Rifles. Two days later the ship was taken to New Orleans, where Louisiana's Governor Moore changed its name to the C.S.S. St. Philip. The old name persisted, however, and the Star served as a naval station and hospital ship until Adm. David G. Farragut captured New Orleans. Then the Star carried millions in gold, silver, and paper currency to Vicksburg and continued to Yazoo City. When federal Lieutenant Commander Watson Smith tried to lead two ironclads and five smaller vessels through Yazoo Pass into the Tallahatchie River to attack Vicksburg from the rear, Confederate defenders hurriedly constructed Fort Pemberton, and Major Gen. William W. Loring had the Star sunk athwart the Tallahatchie to block the passage of the Union flotilla. In a skirmish on April 12, 1863, the Union forces suffered heavy casualties and were forced to withdraw. The owners of the Star collected $175,000 in damages from the United States government for their loss.

Charles B. Boynton, The History of the Navy during the Rebellion (2 vols., New York: Appleton, 1867–68). Jack D. L. Holmes, "The End of the `Star of the West'," Civil War Times, October 1961. New Orleans Daily Picayune, April 23, 1861. The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.

Time Periods:
  • Civil War

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

Jack D. L. Holmes, “Star of the West,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 05, 2022,

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February 20, 2018

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