CSS Forrest

Career (CSA)
Name: CSS Forrest
Builder: Morgan L. Taylor, New York
Launched: 1855
Acquired: 1861
Homeport: Norfolk, Virginia
Fate: Burned on February 10, 1862
General characteristics
Type: Steam tug
Tonnage: 109 tons
Length: 93 ft (28 m)
Beam: 17 ft (5.2 m)
Depth: 7 ft (2.1 m)
Propulsion: Steam engine, 1 propeller
Armament: 2 guns:
1 × 32-pounder gun (bow)
1 × howitzer (stern)
Notes: 1 deck, no mast, round stern, no figurehead (Enrollment no.8: February 29, 1856)

CSS Forrest was a wooden-hulled Confederate gunboat that saw action in the North Carolina sounds in 1861 to 1862. Despite being considered "worn out", she saw continuous service until destroyed after the battle of Elizabeth City in February 1862.

Ship History

The Forrest was originally named the J. A. Smith when launched in 1855. Designed as a canal boat, she was converted to steam in 1856. The Smith was bought at Norfolk in 1861 and renamed Weldon N. Edwards in honor of the President of the North Carolina Secession Convention. She was ordered to Hatteras Inlet by Flag Officer Samuel Barron on July 27, 1861:

"from which place you will make every exertion to defend the coasts of that State and harass and annoy the commerce of the enemy. Should you make prizes you will send them either to Norfolk, Va., or some port in North Carolina, as your judgment may determine to be most proper, proceeding in accordance with the law of the Confederate States on the subject of prizes. You will ship any seamen that may offer."[1]

The Edwards patrolled Hatteras Inlet in North Carolina under the command of Lt. J. Cooke. In August 1861 Cooke would report to Flag Officer Barron that his ship was "entirely worthless, the boilers worn out and the timbers of his vessel rotten."[2]

By early October the tug was back in Norfolk, where on the 3rd she received orders from Flag Officer French Forrest to return quickly to Roanoke Island and place the gunboat at the service of local CSN commander William Lynch.[3]

At some point in late 1861 the Edwards name was changed to Forrest. She was part of a five gunboat fleet that attempted to provoke the Union forces at anchor at Hatteras Inlet on November 3, 1861. The Union gunboats did not reply to the Confederate challenge, so the Confederate gunboats retreated with the Curlew towing the Forrest back home.[4]

On December 30, 1861 the Forrest had to be towed by the Curlew to Edenton for repairs. By January 3, 1862 she was back with the rest of the Mosquito Fleet at Roanoke Island. For the rest of the month the Forrest was involved in towing schooners and performing patrolling duties.[5]

The Forrest participated in the battle of Roanoke Island on February 7, 1862 during which her commanding officer, Lt. J. L. Hoole, CSN, was seriously wounded. Furthermore, Forrest was disabled late in the action "by the displacement of her propeller" and towed to Elizabeth City, N.C., for repairs.[6] There, three days later, while out of water on the marine railway, she was burned to prevent capture by Union forces.


  • US Navy Department, Official records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion. Series I: Volume 6. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1894-1922.
  • William Lytle & Forrest Holdcamper, Merchant Steam Vessels of the United States, 1790-1868, Steamship Historical Society, New York, 1975.
  • This article incorporates text from the here.

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