USS Harvest Moon

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The USS Harvest Moon, a 193 ft. side-wheel steamer, was built in 1863 at Portland, Maine, and was purchased by Commodore Montgomery from Charles Spear at Boston, Mass., 16 November 1863. She was fitted out for blockade duty at Boston Navy Yard and commissioned 12 February 1864, Acting Lieutenant J. D. Warren in command.

Assigned to the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, the Harvest Moon departed Boston 18 February and arrived off Charleston 25 February 1864. Next day Rear Admiral Dahlgren made the steamer his flagship. After putting into Washington Navy Yard for repairs. The Harvest Moon began her regular blockading duties 7 June 1864 off Charleston. For the next 9 months the steamer served off Tybee Island, the North Edisto River, the Charleston harbor and the Winyah Bay. During this period she also acted as a picket and dispatch vessel as well as Admiral Dahlgren's flagship.

USS Harvest Moon, the smoke stack can be seen at low tide

USS Harvest Moon, the smoke stack can be seen at low tide

Prior to her departure from Georgetown, S.C. a torpedo was assembled by Confederate Captain Thomas Daggett and placed in the channel. Proceeding in company with the tug the USS Clover to inspect Battery White, recently abandoned by the Rebels, shortly after 0800 on 29 February 1865 the USS Harvest Moon struck the Confederate torpedo in Winyah Bay. Admiral Dahlgren, awaiting breakfast in his cabin, saw the bulkhead shatter and explode toward him. The explosion blew a large hole in the ship's hull aft and she sank in 2½ fathoms of water, 5 miles SSE of the city of Georgetown. One man was killed. The Admiral, and the crew, were taken on board the USS Nipsic.  The Harvest Moon was stripped of her valuable machinery and abandoned 21 April 1865.

The sinking of the USS Harvest Moon was one of the closing acts of the coastal operations in South Carolina. Although Federals had occupied Georgetown and surrounding batteries in late February 1865, the retreating Confederates left behind mines in the channels of Winyah Bay. A converted side-wheel steamer, the loss of a lightly armed ship like the Harvest Moon normally would be a small matter. But Admiral John Dahlgren was on-board at the time. Thus the Harvest Moon has the distinction being the only US Navy flagship sunk in the war.

In 1963, nearly 100 years later, a project was initiated to raise Harvest Moon from the mud at the bottom of Winyah Bay and to restore the ship, but has made little headway.