USS Hatteras (1861) was a heavy 1,126-ton steamer purchased by the Union Navy at the beginning of the American Civil War. She was outfitted as a gunboat and assigned to the Union blockade of the ports and waterways of the Confederate States of America. During an engagement with a disguised blockade runner, she was taken by surprise and was sunk.
Hatteras, formerly St. Mary, was purchased by the Navy from Harland and Hollingsworth of Wilmington, Delaware, on 25 September 1861. She was fitted out at the Philadelphia Navy Yard and commissioned in October 1861, Comdr. George F. Emmons in command.
To cap this day's work, Hatteras also captured 14 of the 22-man garrison stationed there, and their commanding officer. Such unceasing attack from the sea on any point of her long coastline and inland waterways cost the South sorely in losses, economic disruption, and dispersion of strength of defense.
Nevertheless the Gulf of Mexico proved to he a profitable hunting ground for Hatteras, as, in less than a year, she captured seven blockade runners with assorted cargoes of cotton, sugar, and other goods the South was desperately striving to export. These captures netted Hatteras, among other things, some 534 bales of valuable cotton. Commander Emmons stationed four of his own men on board one prize, 20-ton sloop Poody, and, rechristening her Hatteras Jr., turned the erstwhile blockade runner into a unit of the Gulf Blockading Squadron.
Other Confederate ships taken as prizes by Hatteras included: steamer Indian No. 2, schooner Magnolia, steamer Governor A. Mouton, schooner Sarah, sloop Elizabeth, and brig Josephine. The majority of these ships were captured off Vermilion Bay, Louisiana, as they ran toward either Havana, Cuba, or the Sabine River area of Texas. However, Hatteras illustrious blockading career was cut short in early 1863 not long after she was ordered to joint the squadron under Real Admiral David Farragut, who was attempting to retake the key Texas port of Galveston. Under a new skipper, Comdr. Henry T. Blake, who had relieved Captain Emmons in November 1862, Hatteras joined Farragut's squadron off Galveston on 6 January 1863.
Scarcely had the boat pulled away from Hatteras than a new reply to Blake's question rang through the night. "We're the CSS Alabama." With this, the famed Confederate raider commanded by Raphael Semmes broke the Stars and Bars and began raking Hatteras with her guns. Through the gloom, for about 20 minutes, the two ships exchanged heavy fire at distances ranging from 25 to 200 yards. The flashes of the guns and their rumbling were heard in the Union squadron some 16 miles away, and the cruiser Brooklyn was dispatched to investigate and render aid if necessary.
Of Hatteras' crew of 126, two had been killed and five wounded; six had escaped back to the squadron in the boat originally sent out to board and investigate "HBMS Spitfire;" and the remainder, including Captain Blake, were taken to Port Royal, Jamaica, and from there paroled back to the United States. Alabama suffered 2 wounded.
The hull of Hatteras rests in approximately 60 ft (20 m) of water 20 miles (40 km) off of Galveston, Texas and buried under about three feet (1 m) of sand. Her steam engine and two iron paddle wheels remain on the ocean bottom. The wreck is monitored to ensure that it is not damaged by oil and gas development in the area.