Thursday, July 10, 2014

Seavers in the News - James T. Seaver, Master of a Civil War Vessel - Post 1

While searching for interesting tidbits in databases about Seaver persons, I ran across an article concerning James T. Seaver, Acting Master of the U.S. Steamer Philippi in the Civil War.

Here are screen shots of two pages from Mocavo of the loss of the U.S. Steamer Philippi in Mobile Bay in 1864:

There are two reports - the first is the letter to the Secretary of War by Rear Admiral D.G. Farragut, which is transcribed as:

Flag-Ship Hartford, Mobile Bay, Aug. 8, 1S64.

Sir : I regret to inform the Department, that after I had passed the forts some time, I saw a steamer on lire inside the bay. I soon perceived that it was the Philippi, and I could not imagine how she came to be set on fire.

I have since received the report of her commanding officer, Acting Master J. T. Seaver, which is herewith inclosed :

The facts appear to be, that Acting Master Seaver, on the evening before the action, asked Fleet-Captain Drayton if he should not follow the squadron into the bay. Captain Drayton told him that that would be a folly, and ordered him to go and deliver the ammunition he had brought from
Pensacola, on board the Tennessee, and then report to Lieutenant Commander Grafton, senior
officer for duty outside. Instead of doing this, he followed the fleet in, and was struck with a shot from the Fort, when he put his helm a-port and ran her on the bank. After having had two men killed and two wounded, he deserted the vessel, leaving his signal-book (boat code,) on the quarter-deck, where it was found by the enemy, who subsequently boarded the vessel. 

The rebels set the vessel on fire, and we have thus lost one of the most efficient vessels in the  squadron for all kinds of express duty, and we are sadly in want of just such vessels. 

Very respectfully, } your obedient servant,
D. G. Farragut,
Rear-Admiral Commanding W. G. B. Squadron.

Hon. Gideon Welles,
Secretary of the Navy, Washington.

I will post the report of Acting Master James T. Seaver on Friday.  

The source citation for this book found on is:

Frank Moore, editor, The Rebellion Record: A Diary of American Greats, with Documents, Narratives Illustrative Incidents, Poetry, Etc. (New York: D. Van Nostrand, Publisher, 1865), Volume 8, pages 143-144; digital images, Mocavo ( : accessed 10 July 2014); Report on sinking of U.S. Steamer Philippi, James T. Seaver Acting Master, 1864.

I thought that this book that I found was fascinating.  This volume includes a set of reports from Admiral Farragut to the Secretary of the Navy concerning the Attack on the Defences of Mobile Bay during the Civil War.  The Philippi incident is only one of many reports.

After finding the book on Mocavo, I did a Google search and found the same report in several other resources, including the Congressional Serial Set and several other government publications, and the incident is described in several books.  I didn't find a picture of the Philippi online.  There is some information about the Philippi at

This is fascinating military and family history for an impartial observer, like myself.  For a family member, this information might be very disheartening and embarrassing.

Naturally, I got to wondering "Who is James T. Seaver?  Who were his parents, where was he born, did he have a family, what happened to him?"  I will follow this rabbit trail in the next week or two.

The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c), Randall J. Seaver

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