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CSS BEAUFORT (1861)

Built: Wilmington, Delaware

Commissioned: July 9th, 1861

Service: North Carolina, 1861-1862. James River Squadron, 1862-1865.

Home Port: New Bern, North Carolina; later, Richmond, Virginia.

Dimensions: 85' Length, 17'5" Beam, Draft Unknown

Armor: None

Armament: 1 gun of unknown size. Possibly a smoothebore, later to be replaced by a 6.4" Brooke Rifle.

Engines: Single Screw

Speed: Unknown

Crew: Unknown

Fate: Captured by US Navy April 15, 1865. Later reconfigured and used as a civilian barge.



Summary

Originally known as Caledonia, Beaufort was purchased in early 1861 by the North Carolina State Navy (prior to the formal secession of North Carolina) and reconfigured as a light warship. Her precise armament is unknown; in all likelyhood it was a single, bow mounted pivot gun, possibly a smoothebore or (later) a 6.4" Brooke Rifle.

She briefly engaged the US steamer Albatross before sailing to New Bern, North Carolina, and participated in several of the early battles in North Carolina. Eventually, she withdrew up the Dismal Swamp Canal to Virginia, and in March, was assigned to the James River Squadron as a tender to the recently completed ironclad CSS Virginia. She participated actively in the Battle of Hampton Roads, but was significantly damaged by Union shore battery fire toward the end of the first day. One of her final acts before retreating for repairs was a close range shot at the grounded frigate USS Minnesota, which apparently inflicted heavy damage. She spent the rest of the war actively supporting the James River Squadron.

In April, 1865, with the evacuation of Richmond, Beaufort seems to have escaped the general scuttle and destroy orders issued to the James River Squadron. Instead, she was briefly taken into USN service as USS Beaufort. In the late summer of 1865, she was decomissioned and sold as a civilian vessel. She ended her career reconfigured yet again, this time as a barge, in 1878.

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