USS Cricket (1863-1865, “Tinclad” # 6), The Mariners’ Museum and Park, #MS0091-02.-01-0096
Upon first glance, this vessel appears to be just another steamboat. The word tinclad piqued my interest. Naturally, I am familiar with ironclads from our exhibition Ironclad Revolution and the conservation of USS Monitor’s turret in our Batten Conservation Complex. But tinclad vessels? Sounds a bit wimpy to me. It turns out that Cricket has a great history, albeit not significant, in the American Civil War.
What is a Tinclad?
Riverboats were utilized during the Civil War primarily as transports or patrol vessels. According to Tim Palucka, they were armored with “thin sheets of iron, called ‘tin’ to distinguish them from the bulky iron armors of the ‘ironclads’.” The thin sheets were thought to protect against small arms fire without weighing down the vessel. Another feature of these boats was their shallow draft, allowing them further access in smaller or shallower waters.
Details on USS Cricket
Built in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1860 as a stern-wheel freight hauler, it was named Cricket #2. The US Navy purchased the ship in November 1862 and it was renamed Cricket.
Wrong place / Wrong time
Cricket is best remembered for an engagement on the Red River in Louisiana during the spring of 1864. “Serving as Admiral Porter’s flagship, the ‘Cricket’ — while tied up to a small wharf — was rushed by a thousand Rebel infantrymen,” during which most of its crew cast off. “Later in the same day, she was riddled by the fire of 18 Rebel cannons hidden in the tall grass along the riverbank. In the space of five minutes, the little ship was struck 38 times…” [Chuck Veit, The Story of the USS Cricket]
In the end, with the help of “contraband slaves that the ship was transporting to the Union lines,” Admiral Porter was able to quickly get the ship’s engines going and escaped enemy fire. [Chuck Veit]
Cricket did survive the war, but by 1867, railroads had replaced the kind of freight transport it was designed for.
The Fabulous Fotos series focuses on the odd, the curious and/or the purely lovely photographs to be found in The Mariners’ Museum and Park Photograph Collection.
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Tim Palucka. Accessed January 21, 2022, https://www.cambridge.org/core/services/aop-cambridge-core/content/view/0729A690949612EBEAC4014EE5E0763D/S0883769416003171a.pdf/div-class-title-timberclads-tinclads-and-cottonclads-in-the-us-civil-war-div.pdf
Chuck Veit. Accessed January 21, 2022, http://www.navyandmarine.org/ondeck/1862usscricket.htm