Acton Memorial Library
Niphon, a wooden and iron screw steamer launched at Boston in February 1863, was delivered to the Navy at Boston 22 April 1863; commissioned at Boston Navy Yard 24 April 1863, Acting Ens. Joseph B. Breck in command; and was formally purchased 9 May 1863.
Assigned to the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, Niphon was first stationed off Fort Fisher, N.C. which protected Wilmington from attack by sea. She captured blockade runner Banshee at New Inlet, N.C., 29 July 1863. On 18 August she chased steamer Hebe, carrying drugs, clothing, coffee, and provisions for the Confederacy, and forced the blockade runner aground north of Fort Fisher where she was abandoned. The boats from Niphon were sent to destroy Hebe but were swamped in heavy seas and their crews captured. Then Shokokon opened fire on Hebe and she was burned to the waterline.
With James Adger, Niphon captured steamer Cornubia north of New Inlet 8 November. Cornubia’s papers exposed the whole scheme by which the Confederacy had clandestinely obtained ships in England. The next day Niphon captured blockade runner Ella and Annie off Masonboro Inlet, N.C., attempting to slip in with a cargo of arms and provisions. Trying to escape, the runner rammed Niphon but surrendered to Federal bluejackets who boarded her when the ships had swung broadside.
After capturing Ella and Annie, Niphon returned to Boston for repairs, but was back off New Inlet 6 February 1864. On 21 April, Niphon, Howquah, and Fort Jackson destroyed salt works at Masonboro Sound, N.C. On 27 August, Niphon and Monticello ventured up Masonboro Inlet to silence a Confederate battery. Landing parties from the ships captured arms, ammunition, and food stuffs. A boat expedition from Niphon landed at Masonboro Inlet, N.C. 19 September to gain intelligence on the defenses of Wilmington. They learned that raider C.S.S. Tallahassee and several blockade runners were at Wilmington. That day Acting Master Edmund Kemble relieved Breck in command.
On the 25th, Niphon, Howquah, and Governor Buckingham, in an engagement with blockade runner Lynx and Confederate shore batteries, chased the blazing steamer ashore where she burned until consumed.
Late on the night of 29 September, Niphon fired upon Night Hawk as she attempted to run into New Inlet, and observed her go aground. A boat crew led by Acting Ensign Semon boarded the steamer and, under fire from Fort Fisher, set her ablaze and brought off the crew as prisoners.
Niphon ran British blockade runner Condor aground off New Inlet, 1 October, but was prevented from destroying the steamer by intense fire from Fort Fisher. Among the passengers on board Condor was one of the most famous Confederate agents of the war, Mrs. Rose O’Neal Greenhow who, fearful of being captured with her important dispatches, set out in a boat for shore. Her craft overturned in the heavy surf. The crew managed to get ashore; but the lady weighted down by $2,000 in Confederate gold in a pouch around her neck, drowned.
On the 7th, Union blockader Aster chased blockade runner Annie ashore at New Inlet, under the guns of Fort Fisher, but the 285-ton Federal wooden steamer ran aground herself and was destroyed to prevent capture. Niphon rescued Aster’s crew under a hail of fire from Confederate batteries and towed out Berberry, after the Northern steamer had become disabled trying to pull Aster off the shoal.
On the last day of October, Wilderness and Niphon seized another blockade runner named Annie off New Inlet, N.C., a British steamer with cargo of tobacco, cotton, and turpentine.
Late in November Niphon, in need of extensive repairs, steamed to Boston where she decommissioned 1 December. She was sold at public auction there 17 April 1865, and was documented as Tejuca 23 October 1865 and was sold abroad in 1867.
From: Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Washington: Navy Dept., Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Naval History Division, 1959-1981, vol. 5, p. 95. Online at: http://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs.html