CSS Appomattox

Featured Character – 1861-1862

"The Virginia War Steamer Empire (Appomattox) under a Flag of Truce," Frank Leslie's IIIustrated Newspaper, July 20, 1861

Courtesy of Philip and Jason Madre

Originally called the Empire, the CSS Appomattox was a small propeller-driven steamer commissioned in May of 1861 by the Virginia Navy. It served as an army transport during most of 1861, but was made a service gunboat in January of 1862 in response to the arrival of Union General Ambrose Burnside’s Expedition at Hatteras, North Carolina. It patrolled the Pamlico Sound and was sent to Edenton on the eve of the Battle of Roanoke Island on February 6, 1862. Having missed the battle, it retreated to Elizabeth City with the surviving gunboats where, on February 10, the Confederate gunboats were attacked on the Pasquotank River. Mid-battle, the bow gun of the Appomattox was spiked, so the ship retreated to the Dismal Swamp Canal in South Mills, firing at pursuers along the way. However, when it reached the first lock, the crew discovered that its beam would not permit it to fit into the canal. Lieutenant Simms of the Appomattox was forced to set it on fire. The wreck of the CSS Appomattox was found on November 10, 2009.