G.A.R. Post: John Buford Post #89 Everett, WA
U.S.S. GREAT WESTERN
Built: 1857 Cincinnati, OH
Sold: 11/29/65 Mound City, IL
Commissioned: Early 1865 Mound City, IL
Decommissioned: 3/5/66 Mound City, IL
U.S.S. GREAT WESTERN
This wood construction side wheel steamer was purchased by the War Department 2/10/62 and, apparently, lightly armored as a “tin clad.” She was immediately put to work with the Western Flotilla supplying ships with ammunition and ordinance at various points on the Mississippi and its tributaries.
Occasionally these duties involved firing upon Confederate shore batteries and, on one occasion, (7/30/62) driving off cavalry attacking Union shipping near the mouth of the Arkansas River. In this vein the Great Western was armed with one 12 lb. Cannon, one 32 lb. Cannon, and one 6 lb. Cannon.
On 9/30/62 she was transferred to the U.S. Navy. During 1862 and the first half of ’63 the overriding concern of Union forces in the west was the capture of Vicksburg, MS. During this period the Great Western spent much of her time above the city near the mouth of the Yazoo River in support of combined operations and joint attacks that eventually lead to Vicksburg’s fall in July, 1863.
After the capture of Vicksburg the Great Western continued duties as a supply ship along the Mississippi. In July, 1864 she was sent to Cairo, IL (the great Union naval base in the west) to act as a “receiving ship.” In March, 1865 The Great Western was sent under that status to Mound City, IL and, with the war’s end, sold at auction.
Built in 1864 as the Kate B. Porter by J.B. Porter & Son, Belle Vernon, PA, this 242 ton wooden steamer was purchased by the U.S. Navy at Cincinnati, OH and converted into a “tin clad” (lightly armored) gunboat. Armament consisted of two 20 lb. Parrot rifles, six 24 lb. Howitzers, and two 12 lb. Howitzers.
Renamed U.S.S. Kate, the 5’6” draft steamship’s first duty was patrolling the Mississippi River from Mound City, IL to Memphis, TN during the waning days of the Civil War. On 4/28/65 she was ordered downstream to help intercept fleeing Confederate President Jefferson Davis. After Davis’ capture the Kate steamed back upriver to assist in the demobilization of the Navy’s Mississippi squadron. She was then sent to the Tennessee River to clear sunken gunboat hulks and barges.
In August she was ordered Jefferson Barracks Reserve to discharge her ordinance and assist in disarming other vessels. One of the last vessels on the Mississippi to remain on active naval duty, the Kate was decommissioned and sold at public auction four days later. Re-titled the James H. Trover (4/12/66) her fate was (6/21/67) to become stranded 300 miles below Fort Bent, Montana.
Residence: Mackinac, MI Age: 32.4 yrs.
Enlisted/Enrolled (shipped): 2/7/64 Chicago, IL Rank: Ordinary Seaman
Discharged: 9/15/65 Cairo, IL
Highest Rank: Ordinary Seaman
*Note: Cemetery headstone reads Wackter. Pension records reflect both Wackter and Wachter while muster Rolls of the U.S.S. Kate show Wactor.
Henry Wachter was born 9/30/32 in Sault Ste. Marie, MI. No details are available on his birth family, formative or teenage years. On 2/7/53 Henry married Mary Louise Macia. The union would produce five children: Annie (8/30/54), Henry M. Jr. (This would indicate Henry Sr.’s middle initial was also M) (10/2/56), Ellen F. (10/14/58), Edmond L. (2/25/66), and Noel J. (12/25/68). All were born in Mackinac Co., MI.
During America’s War of the Rebellion the 5’2” dark complexioned cooper/fisherman enlisted in the U.S. Navy for a period of two years. His military tenure would prove to be without incident, although in later years he would be granted a government disability pension based on his U.S. Navy experience. The stipend would amount to $20 per month at his death.
Returning Mackinac, Michigan, Henry apparently continued sailing as he plied the waters of Lake Michigan until 1874. He then moved to Wisconsin reportedly serving as a ship’s captain on Lake Superior for another ten years. It appears Henry then headed west to Washington. Why the move was made is not documented. However, it was likely to be near families of adult children also in the area.
What is known is that his wife, Mary, remained behind. In 1904 Henry would note that although never divorced, his wife was living in a Traverse City, MI insane asylum. In Washington Territory/State the former Union sailor would list residences as Seattle, San Juan, LaConner and, finally, Everett.
Henry Wachter, Sr. died 5/20/12 at the home of his son, Henry M., Jr. Senior was aged 79.7 years of age. Mary died in Thompson, MI 11/15/26 and was buried in the Thompson cemetery. A guardian then petitioned the U.S. Government of reimbursement of $140 paid out for her medical and burial expenses. It is not know if the petition was granted.
Buried at Snohomish G.A.R.
Robert R. Ferrell
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