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(Above) USS Hunchback (1862–1865). Ship’s officers and crew on deck in the James River, Virginia, 1864–1865. Naval Historical Foundation. (Below) Beaufort , South Carolina. Group of African Americans on J. J. Smith’s plantation. Library of Congress. (Above) Arrival of an African American family in the lines. Library of Congress. (Below) James River, Virginia. Officers of the USS Monitor grouped by the turret . Library of Congress. James River, Virginia. Officers and men of the gunboat Commodore Perry. Library of Congress. Aiken’s Landing, Virginia (vicinity). Group of African Americans at Aiken’s farm. Library of Congress. Robert Smalls, pilot of the Planter. Naval Historical Foundation. (Above) City Point, Virginia. View of the waterfront with federal supply boats. Library of Congress. (Below) City Point, Virginia. African Americans unloading vessels at the landing. Library of Congress. James River, Virginia. U.S. gunboat Massasoit. Library of Congress. (Above) Bermuda Hundred, Virginia. African American teamsters near the signal tower. Library of Congress. (Below) Alexandria, Virginia. The steam frigate Pensacola. Library of Congress. Hampton Roads, Virginia. Rear Admiral David D. Porter and staff aboard his flagship, the USS Malvern. Library of Congress. USS Miami (1862–1865). Members of the ship’s crew on the forecastle circa 1864–1865. Naval Historical Foundation. USSLehigh(1863–1865).Crewmembersandafewofficersposeonthemonitor’s deck in the James River, Virginia, 1864–1865. Naval Historical Foundation. Group of contrabands at Foller’s House, Cumberland Landing, Virginia, May 7, 1862. Library of Congress. James River, Virginia. The monitor USS Onondaga with soldiers in a rowboat in the foreground. Library of Congress. James River, Virginia. View of completed Dutch Gap Canal. Library of Congress. USS Monitor. Crew members cooking on deck in the James River, Virginia, July 9, 1862. Naval Historical Foundation. USS Miami (1862–1865). Black crew members sewing and relaxing on the forecastle , starboard side, circa 1864–1865. Naval Historical Foundation. Contraband Pilots 185 known on the China Station in 1858, as “an able, brave, and devoted officer from the State of Maryland.” Ironically, although considered a “guerilla chief of desperate character,” Huston’s life was spared, Du Pont wrote, “by the sudden interposition of his wife.”31 Despite the risk to men stationed in exposed pilothouses, the Union Navy continued to seek the services of loyal, conscientious pilots, and men with piloting skills continued to volunteer. Having a skilled, sober pilot remained of paramount importance to the war effort, for the penalties for employing careless or incompetent pilots included collisions and groundings of vessels on bars or sandbanks, which could make them vulnerable to enemy gunfire and even capture. A pilot’s mishandling of a vessel might be attributed to a lack of skill or knowledge of the river or, on some occasions, to liquor. When the monitor Nahant entered Stono Inlet, surgeon Samuel G. Webber wrote to his wife, Nannie, “Our pilot had been on a coal schooner and came back decidedly worse for liquor. We had not gone more than a few ship’s lengths when we struck fast in the sand.” According to Webber, “The pilot was sent below & we waited til the tide rose when we started again. This time the Capt. directed her & in fifteen minutes we were aground again.” When the tide rose and lifted the ship off the sand again, the Nahant’s commanding officer, Captain William K. Mayo, again took charge and “directed us by the lead & we went two or three miles, more or less, without trouble.”32 In a few cases, cowardly behavior by pilots, including African Americans , actually put Union vessels in jeopardy. One of the most notable examples involved the loss of the 520-ton, light-draft screw gunboat USS Dai Ching. In January 1865 Rear Admiral John A. Dahlgren’s vessels had begun pushing up the Savannah and Combahee rivers in support of Sherman’s army, brown-water operations that took them directly into harm’s way. The navy sent the Dai Ching to the Combahee “to annoy the rebels as much as possible, to land and drive in their pickets.” According to Lieutenant Commander James C. Chaplin, the Dai Ching went to St. Helena, secured a black pilot named Stephen Small from the USS Stettin , and proceeded up the Combahee River. The ship anchored at 5 p.m., Chaplin wrote, “because the pilot was afraid to go up after dark.” The next morning a boat manned by white men came alongside and reported a schooner, the Coquette, loaded with seventy-four bales of cotton lying some two miles below the...


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