USS Lackawanna

The USS Lackawanna was a screw sloop-of-war. She departed New York on January 20, 1863, to join the US Navy blockade of the southern coast. She reported to the West Gulf Blockading Squadron at Pensacola, Florida early in February and, for the remainder of the war, served along the gulf coast of the Confederacy, principally off Mobile Bay. USS Lackawanna took her first prize – Neptune – on 14 June after a long chase in which the 200 long tons (200 t) Glasgow ship had jettisoned her cargo trying to escape. The USS Lackawanna scored again the next day, capturing steamer Planter as the Mobile blockade runner attempted a dash to Havana, Cuba laden with cotton and resin.

Following duty along the Texas coast near Galveston in March–April 1864, the USS Lackawanna returned to the blockade of Mobile early in May to prevent the escape of Confederate ram Tennessee. During the summer she served in the blockade while preparing for Admiral David Farragut's conquest of Mobile Bay.

On 9 July, with Monongahela, Galena, and Sebago, she braved the guns of Fort Morgan to shell steamer Virgin, a large blockade runner aground at the entrance of Mobile Bay. The Union guns forced a southern river steamer to abandon efforts to assist Virgin, but the next day the Confederates refloated the blockade runner which reached safety in Mobile Bay. Closing this strategic southern port was an important part of the Union strategy to isolate and subdue the South.

At dawn on the morning of 5 August, Farragut's ships crossed the bar and entered the bay. A Confederate squadron, led by ironclad ram Tennessee and a field of deadly mines awaited to block their advance. Farragut's lead monitor Tecumseh struck a mine and went down in seconds. The Confederate flagship Tennessee vainly tried to ram Brooklyn and the action became general, raging for more than an hour. At one point in the struggle, Lackawanna rammed Tennessee at full speed, causing the Confederate ram to list, and later she collided with Hartford while attempting to ram Tennessee again, shortly before the ironclad struck. This daring operation closed the last major gulf port to the South.

Twelve of Lackawanna's sailors received the Medal of Honor for their actions during this battle. Following the Union victory in Mobile Bay, USS Lackawanna continued to operate in the gulf, enforcing the blockade until after the end of the Civil War. She departed Key West on June 24, 1865, reached New York on the 28th, and decommissioned at New York Navy Yard on July 20.

Only one Williamson County sailor is known to have served on the USS Lackawanna. Anderson Sharp was born in Franklin around 1831. The first local sailor to enlist, Sharp appears to have escaped from slavery to freedom in New York City before joining the US Navy. He enlisted on March 18, 1862, on the USS Wamsutta in New York City, New York. At the time of his enlistment, he was 31 years old and a blacksmith. On January 8, 1863, he transferred to the USS Lackawanna. On February 23, 1863, he was sick in Pensacola, Florida, and was transferred to a hospital ship. By April 1, 1863 he was back onboard the USS Lackawanna. Sharp's brick memorial paver has been sponsored by Jeffrey Davis.

Sketch of USS Lackawanna off Mobile, Alabama, 24 September 1863.

Sketch from the private papers of William M.C. Philbrick, Carpenter's Mate, USS Portsmouth.

US Naval History and Heritage Command photo # NH 51186.