USS Lehigh (1863)

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The USS Lehigh during the Spanish-American War
Career United States Navy Jack
Builder: Atlantic Iron Works
Launched: 17 January 1863
Commissioned: 15 April 1863
Decommissioned: 8 September 1898
Fate: sold, 14 April 1904
General characteristics
Displacement: 1,335  tons
Length: 200 ft (61 m) overall
60.96  m
Beam: 46 ft (14 m)
14.02  m
Draft: 11 ft 6 in (3.51 m)
3.50  m
Propulsion: 2 Martin boilers, 1-shaft Ericsson vibrating lever engine, 320  ihp (235  kW)
Speed: 7 knots
Complement: 88
Armament: 1 × 15  in (381  mm) smoothbore
1 × 8  in (203  mm) Parrott rifle
Armor: Iron
Side: 5 - 3  in (12.7 - 7.6  cm)
Turret: 11  in (27.9  cm)
Pilothouse: 8  in (20.3  cm)
Deck: 1  in (2.5  cm)

The first USS Lehigh was a Passaic-class monitor launched 17 January 1863 by Reaney, Son, & Archibold, Chester, Penn., under a subcontract from John Ericsson; and commissioned at Philadelphia Navy Yard 15 April 1863, Commander John Guest in command.

A week later, the new monitor joined the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron at Newport News, VA. She performed blockade duty in the Hampton Roads-Virginia Capes area, and on the night of 10 June joined a flotilla under Rear Admiral Samuel Phillips Lee in an expedition up the James River to assist Army troops. Returning to Newport News 2 days later, she resumed blockade duty until sent back up the James with seven other Union warships to threaten Richmond, Va., the Confederate capital. In the wake of the Battle of Gettysburg, the movement was designed to divert Confederate strength from General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia which had invaded the North and imperiled Washington. The expedition caused the South to evacuate Fort Powhatan, leaving no defenses on the James below Chaffin’s or Drewry’s Bluffs, some 8 miles from Richmond. The situation relaxed as the southern army retreated across the Potomac River, and the Union warships dropped down river to Hampton Roads. On the morning of 23 July, Lehigh, towed by Circassian, got underway north and arrived New York City 2 days later for repairs.

In August 1863, commanded by Commander Andrew Bryson, she headed south and joined the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron off Charleston, S.C.. The monitor took part in the attacks on Fort Sumter of 1 and 2 September, being struck several times; engaged Sullivan’s Island 7 September; Fort Moultrie 8 September, receiving 29 hits; covered a landing party attacking Fort Sumter 9 September; and from 27 October to 20 November engaged Fort Sumter almost daily, running aground 16 November off Sullivan’s Island under heavy enemy fire. For his actions in freeing the vessel Horatio Nelson Young was later awarded the Medal of Honor.

The USS Lehigh to the right of the USS Montauk in Philadelphia Navy Yard, circa 1902.

After repairs at Port Royal, S.C., Lehigh rejoined the fleet off Charleston 13 January 1864, was assigned to picket duty, and during the following year kept up an intermittent fire on various enemy fortifications in Charleston Harbor. In March 1865, Lehigh rejoined the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron and served in the James River through the end of the Civil War. She decommissioned at League Island Navy Yard on 9 June 1865.

Laid up and under repairs at League Island for a decade, Lehigh recommissioned 15 December 1875, Commander George A. Stevens in command, and served as practice and school ship at the U.S. Naval Academy. In April 1876, she was assigned to the North Atlantic Station, and operated in the vicinity of Port Royal.

From 1879 to 1895 Lehigh lay in the James River at City Point and off Richmond. In 1895, she was taken to League Island and repaired, and on 18 April 1898 was recommissioned under Lieutenant R. G. Peek for coastal defense and stationed off the New England coast for the duration of the Spanish-American War. She was decommissioned 8 September 1898, and remained at League Island until sold 14 April 1904.


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