USS Valley City (1859)

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Career (US) Union Navy Jack 100x35px
Laid down: 1859
Launched: 1859
at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Acquired: 26 July 1861
Commissioned: 13 September 1861
at New York City
Decommissioned: 1865 at New York City
Struck: 1865
Fate: sold, 15 August 1865
General characteristics
Displacement: 190 tons
Length: 127 ft 6 in (38.86 m)
Beam: 21 ft 10 in (6.65 m)
Draught: depth of hold 7'6"
draft 8'4"
Propulsion: steam engine
Speed: 10 knots
Complement: not known
Armament: four 32-pounder guns, 42 Cwt.
Armour: wood

USS Valley City (1859) was a 190-ton steamer acquired by the Union Navy for service in the American Civil War.

Valley City was outfitted as a gunship and served blockade duty as well as performing surveillance duty.

Constructed at Philadelphia in 1859

Valley City -- a wooden-hulled screw-steamer built at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1859 -- was purchased by the Union Navy at New York City on 26 July 1861; and commissioned at the New York Navy Yard on 13 September 1861, Lt. James C. Chaplin in command.

Civil War operations

Assigned to the Potomac Flotilla

The next day, Valley City left New York to join the Potomac Flotilla commanded by Capt. Thomas T. Craven. She arrived in the Potomac River off Occoquan Creek, Virginia, on the 17th and began patrol and reconnaissance duties. She exchanged gunfire with a Confederate battery at Freestone Point, Virginia, on 25 September.

Reassigned to the North Atlantic Blockade

Valley City was reassigned to the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron under Flag Officer Louis M. Goldsborough in October but first put into the Baltimore Navy Yard, Maryland, for emergency repairs to her funnel. After a brief stop in Hampton Roads late in December, the repaired steamer was deployed with the blockade off Hatteras Inlet, North Carolina, on 4 January 1862.

Valley City remained off Hatteras Inlet for one month and then participated in the successful amphibious assault upon Roanoke Island, North Carolina, on 7 and 8 February. The victory closed supply lines to the Confederate-held Norfolk Navy Yard and was largely responsible for the evacuation of that vital naval facility three months later. Following the capture of Roanoke Island, Valley City assisted in the capture of Elizabeth City, North Carolina, on the 10th.

Gunner wins Medal of Honor for sitting on an open barrel of gunpowder during a fire

During the attack, a shot passed through the steamer's magazine and exploded in a locker containing fireworks. When Lt. Chaplin and others went below to extinguish the fire, they found Quarter Gunner John Davis seated calmly above an open barrel of powder to keep the fire out, while passing powder to the upper deck. For his incredible valor on this occasion, Davis received the Medal of Honor.[1]

Valley City remained in the North Carolina sounds and participated in the capture of New Berne on 13 and 14 March and the subsequent clearing of the Neuse River. She returned to Baltimore, Maryland, for repairs on 2 June.

Patrol and reconnaissance duties

In September, Valley City was assigned patrol and reconnaissance duty in Virginia's York River. She was reassigned to Plymouth, North Carolina, on 25 October to protect Union troops stationed there. On the evening of 2 November, she led a reconnaissance expedition up the Roanoke River to Hamilton which she left a week later and returned to New Berne.

In January 1863, the vessel returned to the Norfolk Navy Yard for a new propeller and underwent further repairs and alterations at Baltimore, Maryland, before deploying off Washington, D.C., in April. Valley City fired upon Confederate positions near Blounts Creek, North Carolina, on 15 April, then left to join Lt. Charles W. Flusser's command at Plymouth on 19 April.

Valley City performed routine patrol and reconnaissance duties off Plymouth through July. On the 26th, the steamer helped to protect Union forces ashore during a joint expedition up the Chowan River, North Carolina.

Later, while serving as a mail steamer, the vessel collided with the U.S. transport Vidette on 21 September and suffered one fatality. Valley City sailed for Hampton Roads on 27 November and proceeded on to Baltimore for repairs and did not return to New Berne until 19 February 1864, when she resumed her now familiar patrol and reconnaissance activities.

Evacuation of Washington, D.C.

Valley City was present at the evacuation of Washington, D.C., in May and captured the schooner M. O'Neill there on 5 May. During the summer months of May through September 1864, the steamer played an important role in support of Union forces ashore and afloat in scattered operations in the Roanoke, Chowan, Pamlico, Pungo, and Scuppernong rivers of North Carolina.

On 28 October, Valley City plucked Lt. William Barker Gushing from the Roanoke River after his daring, successful torpedo attack upon the Confederate ram CSS Albemarle at Plymouth and, from 29 October to 1 November, assisted in the recapture of Plymouth itself. While on an expedition up the Roanoke River on 20 December, the vessel suffered two casualties in a surprise attack by hidden Confederate shore batteries at Poplar Point, North Carolina.

End-of-war activity

Valley City remained active during the last few months of the war, rendering assistance to a Union Army expedition to Colerain, North Carolina, in January 1865, and participating in a reconnaissance patrol up the Chowan River to Winton, North Carolina, in early April.

In May, USS Iosco (1864), Valley City, and a picket boat captured a motley collection of small Confederate watercraft during a sweep of the Roanoke River and also dragged the bottom for sunken guns and unexploded torpedoes (mines).


Early in the summer, the steamer returned north and was sold at public auction at New York City on 15 August 1865. She was redocumented for merchant service on 28 December and was lost at sea off Cape San Blas, Florida, on 30 January 1882.


The shipwreck was identified in September of 2009 by Michael C. Barnette and divers from the Association of Underwater Explorers.[2]


This article includes text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.

  1. "Quarter Gunner John Davis, USN". Naval Historical Center. Retrieved 2009-09-10. 
  2. "AUE identifies the VALLEY CITY (Formerly the USS VALLEY CITY)". Association of Underwater Explorers. 2009-09-09. Retrieved 2009-09-10. 

See also

External links