Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Blown to Atoms

U.S.S. Tulip- Though this photo is most likely of the Tulip's sister ship the Fuchia as no know photos of the Tulip exist.
November 11, 1864- the U.S.S. Tulip, a Union gun boat, is making it's way up the Potomac headed to the Anacostia Naval Base for much needed repairs to its starboard boiler.  The Tulip and its sister ship the Fuchsia were built in 1862 in New York and were originally intended for use by the Chinese military as light tenders. Originally called the Chi Khang, in 1863 the ship was purchased, given a lower profile, christened the USS Tulip and assigned to the Potomac Flotilla Base.

The Tulip was not initially intended to serve in saltwater and the crew had to constantly clean off salt deposits and scaling from its boilers.  Despite the cleaning efforts, the boiler was damaged.  The order was given to Captain Smith not to fire up the damaged starboard boiler.  Unfortunately, Capt. Smith was too concerned about the Confederate snipers and canons on the shores of the Potomac and he disobeyed orders and fired up the ailing boiler.  When it blew, the Captain, the pilot (and my great-great-great grandfather) James Jackson, the Master's Mate and the Quartermaster were located on the bridge directly above the boiler when it exploded.  It was said that they were "blown to atoms".  All that was left of the Captain was his hat.  The explosion killed 49 men and was heard miles away.  Eight bodies were recovered and buried along the shore of St Inigoes Creek. 
Artist's rendition of the explosion. Part of the memorial.
It's along this creek next to the historic Cross Manor (also home to Ted Koppel) that the Monument to the tragedy and the dead sits.  It's the smallest National Park and the smallest National Cemetery.


  1. LOVE historical stuff like this ... thank you for the research/post ... There's a series of books by Nevada Barr whose heroine Anna Pigeon is a Park Ranger and all the crimes she solved happen in National Parks .. I wonder if Barr will set one in Cross Manor? Books are good, you'd like them.

  2. Wow, I had no idea about the smallest national park! I'm very sorry for your Gx3 Grandfather and all those killed, though.