CSS McRae, New Orleans, 1860
Name: McRae
Owner: CSA
Operator: CSN
Christened: as Marqués de la Habana
Commissioned: March 1861
Fate: Scuttled and abandoned by crew at Algiers, Louisiana 28 April 1862
General characteristics
Displacement: Approx. 680 tons
Propulsion: Single screw, single expansion steam engine, three masted sail
Sail plan: Barque rigged sloop
Armament: One 9-inch Smoothbore, Six 32-pounder Smoothbore, One 6-pounder Rifle
Armor: None

CSS McRae was a Confederate gunboat that saw service during the American Civil War. Displacing around 680 tons, she was armed with one 9-inch smoothbore and six 32-pounder smoothbore cannon.[1]:230

Originally rebel Mexican-flagged (under the name of Marqués de la Havana), the wooden sloop was captured as a pirate ship by the United States Navy ship, USS Saratoga during the Battle of Anton Lizardo in 1860. A construction plan authorizing the building of ten fast gunboats was funded by the Confederate Legislature on March 15, 1861. Recognizing that no yard could turn out the vessels fast enough, Stephen R. Mallory, Secretary of the Navy, sent a commission to New Orleans to convert existing steamers to commerce raiders. The Mexican vessel was purchased by the Confederate States Navy at New Orleans on 17 March 1861, and duly fitted out as CSS McRae as part of this plan. Extensive engine repairs prevented McRae from going to sea before the arrival of the Union Fleet.[2]:26

Placed under the command of Lieutenant Thomas B. Huger, McRae served as part of Flag Officer G. N. Hollins' defense of the lower reaches of the Mississippi River, and provided cover for blockade-runners. This led to McRae seeing combat with the Union blockading fleet on 12 October 1861. McRae took part in the Battle of the Head of Passes as part of Hollin's mosquito fleet, driving the Union blockading forces from the Head of Passes in the Mississippi Delta.

McRae again saw action on 24 April 1862 as the Union fleet attempted to pass Fort Jackson and Fort Saint Philip and reach New Orleans. McRae suffered little damage in the beginning due to her resemblance to the Union Unadilla-class gunboats. The leading union ships passed by her without firing. USS Iroquois was an exception, and replied to McRae fire with an 11-inch shell that set fire to McRae's sail room and threatened her magazines.[3] The officers and crew fought hard in this latter engagement but suffered severe casualties (Huger being amongst those mortally wounded), and McRae herself was severely damaged. She was run against the shore to put out her fires, and remained there till dawn, after which she returned to the forts. Loaded with wounded from the forts McRae was allowed to return to New Orleans on 27 April under a flag of truce. After landing the wounded at the city, her crew scuttled and abandoned her at Algiers, after cutting all her steam pipes.[4]


  1. Silverstone, Paul H. (1989). Warships of the Civil War Navies. Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland. ISBN 0-87021-783-6.
  2. Hearn, Chester G. (1995). The Capture of New Orleans, 1862. Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge and London. ISBN 0-8071-1945-8.
  3. hearn, The Capture of New Orleans, 1862 pp. 232-3
  4. hearn, The Capture of New Orleans, 1862 p. 246

See also

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