United States Coast Guard - 200th Anniversary
The steam cutter Miami was one of the first propeller-driven ships purchased by the Revenue Cutter Service (forerunner of the modern day Coast Guard). Built in 1853 on the river Clyde in Scotland, it made several transatlantic voyages as a commercial vessel before being purchased in 1862 by the U.S. government. Miami was a small swift cutter with fine accommodations. It was built of expensive English oak, elm, mahogany and teak. The vessel was used by Abraham Lincoln and might be called the first Presidential yacht.
During the spring of 1862, General George McClellan and his federal army landed on the peninsula between the York and James rivers in an attempt to capture Richmond with one quick stroke. The campaign developed too slowly for President Lincoln. On May 9, Lincoln, Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase, General John Wool and his staff, began looking for a place to land troops to attack Norfolk. On May 10, a site was located at Ocean View. It had a smooth sandy beach with water deep enough for ships to approach close to the shore, and a good road into Norfolk.
Preparations for a landing were made immediately. That night 6,000 troops and 100 horses were loaded on board army transports. Early on the morning of the 11th the flotilla steamed to Ocean View. Colonel Thomas J. Cram, who directed the landing, placed the infantry ashore first. They were carried to the beach by boats from the transports and by Miami. Ships were in short supply; whatever could be found was used -- Long Island Sound passenger ferries, steam tugs, and barges were all employed in the landing. Some of the ships boats carried small howitzers to protect the troops in case the enemy appeared. During the operation Miami remained ready to provide gunfire support for the Union troops ashore.
The landing was without incident; smooth water and no enemy allowed the Union forces to quickly form on shore. After disembarkmg, however, the regiments became separated and the force lost all cohesiveness. After meeting light resistance, the troops arrived at the outskirts of Norfolk at 4:40 p.m., where the mayor and city council members surrendered the city.
The capture of Norfolk changed the complexion of the war in the Eastern Theater. The Confederate retreat cost the rebels the ironclad Virginia. They had to blow up the ship because it drew too much water to be taken with them up the James River. The destruction of the ironclad ended the stalemate that had endured for three months since the Monitor and Virginia had fought their historic battle. Virginia's destruction ended a threat to McClellan~s operations on the peninsula and removed the threat of an attack on shipping in Hampton Roads. It allowed McClellan the use of the James River without interference, which later saved the Peninsula Campaign from turning into a disaster.
As one of the five armed services of the United States, the Coast Guard has served the country in every major conflict since the Civil War and is constantly preparing for the mission of national defense.
Artist: Charles Mazoujian