USS Narcissus: The Role of the Tugboat in the American Civil War

Nicole Melissa Tumbleson Morris

          This historical and archaeological study of USS Narcissus assesses how political and economic pressures experienced by the United States Navy during the American Civil War directly affected the Union's naval strategy and thus the decision to purchase specific types of vessels for use in the blockade. The results of this analysis validate the theory that the functional design and economic value of the screw-propelled tugboat led to the purposeful purchase of these vessels to serve as shallow-water blockade vessels and support craft. The archaeological investigation allowed archaeologists to identify this tugboat as the USS Narcissus. Specific measurements of the engine and hull remains allowed researchers to conclude that this type of vessel had an economical propulsion system and shallow draft that would have been best suited for a blockade ship in shallow water. Finally, an analysis of the historical and archaeological evidence enabled the author to suggest possible explanations for the catastrophic explosion that led to the demise of USS Narcissus.