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This Month in Naval History
Stepping Stones SwGbt

Stepping Stones

(SwGbt.: t. 226; 1. 110'0; b. 24'0; dph. 8'0; dr.
4'6"; s. 14 k.; cpl. 21; a. 1 12-pdr. how.)

Stepping Stones—a wooden ferryboat built at New York City in 1861—was purchased by the Navy at New York on 30 September 1861, and was commissioned on or before 21 October 1861.

The ferryboat departed New York on 21 October, served briefly at Hampton Roads, reached the Washington Navy Yard on 5 November, and was promptly placed in service as a dispatch boat in the Potomac Flotilla. These first few weeks of her service typified her fortunes throughout the Civil War. Her services were wanted both in the Potomac Flotilla and in the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron for service along the west coast of the Chesapeake Bay and on the rivers—roughly parallel to the Potomac—which drain Tidewater Virginia. As a result, the ferry was shuttled between the two commands as ground operations ebbed and flowed over the Virginia farmlands which separated Washington and Virginia. When assigned to the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, the ship was moved from the James, to the York, or to the Rappahannock as demanded by the military situation ashore.

Highlights of Stepping Stones service were the operations on the James in July 1862 to help protect General McClellan's beleaguered army at Harrison's Landing; her rescuing, under heavy fire, Mount Washington when that ship had been grounded and disabled near Suffolk, Va.; and her participation in a mid-April 1864 Army-Navy expedition up the Nansemond River. In May 1864, she became part of a torpedo sweeping and patrol force on the James.

On 9 November, she captured two blockade-running sloops, Reliance and Little Elmer, in Mobjack Bay. In March 1865, less than a month before Lee surrendered, Stepping Stones was in a naval expedition up the Rappahannock River and its tributary, Mattox Creek, to Montrose, Va., where the Union ships destroyed a supply base for Confederate guerrillas operating on the peninsula between that river and the Potomac.

After the war ended, Stepping Stones was decommissioned at the Washington Navy Yard on 23 June 1865 and was sold on 12 July 1865 to W. D. Wallach. Redocumented as Cambridge on 27 July 1865, the steamer was reduced to a barge on 2 August 1871 and soon disappeared from maritime records.


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