USS Bibb (1853)

United States
Name: USS Bibb
Namesake: George M. Bibb
Owner: U.S. Coast Survey
Operator: Union Navy
Builder: private contractor
Laid down: February 24, 1853
Launched: May 12, 1853
Maiden voyage: 1853
In service: 1864
Out of service: 1864
Refit: 1864
Struck: 1864 (est.)
Homeport: Washington Navy Yard
Fate: returned to Coast Survey
Status: retired and decommissioned 1879
General characteristics
Type: revenue cutter
Displacement: 409 long tons (416 t)
Length: Unknown
Beam: Unknown
Draught: Unknown
Propulsion: Steam engine
Speed: Unknown
Complement: 35
Armament: Unknown

USS Bibb (1853) was a Coast Survey vessel that performed survey work during the American Civil War. In 1864, when Washington, D.C. appeared under threat after Lt Gen. Jubal Early’s Confederate army crossed the Potomac River, Bibb was commandeered and armed by the Union Navy.


Bibb was laid down for the Coast Survey at the Charlestown Navy Yard on February 24, 1853, by a private contractor;[1] launched on May 12, 1853; and got underway on August 11 for her first cruise.

The engines for this vessel came from the USRC Bibb (1843), built for the Revenue Cutter Service at Pittsburgh in 1845, and transferred to the Coast Survey in 1847, following blockade duty during the war with Mexico.[1] (Many sources, including the Coast Guard Historian's office, consider these the same vessel.)[2][3]

Bibb spent her career before the Southern rebellion in the Atlantic, on apparently unremarkable duty.

Civil War Service

First assignment to the South Atlantic Blockade

At the outbreak of the Civil War in April 1861, Bibb was transferred to the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service, but returned to the Coast Survey in November.

Assigned to the Coast Survey contingent attached to the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, Bibb steamed to Port Royal, South Carolina, and reported to the head of the former organization, Assistant Charles O. Boutelle, USCS, in January 1862, relieving Vixen and freeing that vessel to proceed north for repairs.

Bibb served the Union cause in many ways: surveying and buoying harbors and channels along the Atlantic coast of the Confederacy between South Carolina and Florida; escorting transports; towing and piloting gunboats; carrying dispatches; and performing any other duties that were of assistance to the Union Army and Navy. Her labors won her the most generous praise of the leaders of both services.

Repairs and emergency duty

Bibb spent the first half of 1864 in the Washington Navy Yard undergoing repairs. As this work was being completed, Confederate Lieutenant General Jubal A. Early crossed the Potomac River on a raid with a sizable force that endangered Washington, D.C. Seeking to help parry this threat to the Union capital, Commander Foxhall A. Parker took command of Bibb from the Coast Survey, armed her and ordered her to the Gunpowder River, where Southern troops had been seen.

Commanded by Acting Ensign George E. McConnell, Bibb then ascended the Gunpowder but could not move closer than a point some five miles below Gunpowder Bridge; Bibb never exchanged fire with Confederate troops. After the crisis had passed, Parker returned Bibb to the Coast Survey, and she operated out of the Washington Navy Yard through the end of 1864.

Second assignment to the South Atlantic Blockade

Early in 1865, Bibb rejoined the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, and worked along the Southern coast through the end of the war.

A copy of a post-civil war Charleston Harbor chart (NOAA Archives) notes that on 16 March 1865, the Bibb struck a mine off of Fort Moultrie (Charleston), SC, which caused minor damage.[3]

Post-war service

Following the collapse of the Confederacy, Bibb resumed peacetime service with the Coast Survey and was retired and decommissioned in 1879.[2][3]

See also


  1. 1 2 Carlson, Stephen P. "Ships Built By The Charlestown Navy Yard" (PDF). (U.S.) National Park Service, Division of Cultural Resources, Boston National Historical Park. Retrieved June 5, 2013.
  2. 1 2 "George M. Bibb, 1845". Cutter History. U.S. Coast Guard, Historian's Office. Retrieved June 5, 2013.
  3. 1 2 3 "BIBB, USRC; 1845; Revenue Cutter". Great Lakes Maritime Database. University of Michigan Library. Retrieved June 5, 2013.

This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.

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