State Naval Ships in the Confederacy

Capt James L. D. Monroe USN (Ret)

This article is from the April - June 2011 issue of the Confederate Philatelist. Posted under a prior agreement with the then journal editors in effect since the early days of this website.

Tthe average Confederate philatelist is unaware that there were six Southern States which, at the very beginning of the Confederacy acquired a small number of commercial ships to convert as naval ships for defensive purposes. In my opinion, there are two reasons for this lack of awareness.

First, the story of the state naval ships is an unwritten chapter in Confederate history. No complete list of them has ever been compiled because they had such brief careers, and changed name and ownership so often that they are difficult to trace. Most of the ships were quite small; many were sailing vessels without steam power; all were poorly equipped for naval fighting. The majority of the ships were transferred to the CS Navy as it was able to man them.

The second reason for the lack of awareness is that state navy related covers are exceptionally rare and almost never seen by collectors. Consequently, Confederate philatelists are generally neither familiar with nor knowledgeable of this aspect of collecting.

The six Southern States that acquired their own naval ships for defensive purposes are: Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. The above cover is a Louisiana State Navy related usage. It is addressed to "Capt A. Grant, La Navy, Jackson, Miss" and has a 5 light milky blue Scott #4b stamp tied by a weak Jackson, Mississippi, black circular DROP 2 CENTS marking on an oversized, linen lined, money envelope. Because it is addressed to Jackson, it is an overpaid drop letter (correct rate was 2).

Captain Alexander Grant, Jr., an experienced riverboat master, commanded the Louisiana State Navy steamboat General Quitman. It had two 32 pound guns to fight with and cotton bales stacked for protection. The General Quitman was burned to prevent capture during the Naval Battle of New  Orleans in April 1862. The following year, on May 5, 1863, Alexander Grant, Jr., was commissioned a Lieutenant in the CS Navy. He was assigned to the CSS Missouri which later surrendered on June 3, 1865 at Shreveport, Louisiana. The CSS Missouri was the last Confederate ironclad to surrender in home waters. Lieutenant Grant died in 1902 at the age of seventy-seven.

Most of the Louisiana state naval ships were commanded by riverboat captains. It is interesting to note that in consonance with "state rights," Louisiana told their ship captains they could obey orders from the CS Navy to cooperate but were under no obligation to do so.

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