Civil War Veterans Buried In Washington State - John Nibbe

John H Nibbe

Representing: Union

Navy Ship

  • USS Louisville
  • USS Marmora
  • USS North Carolina
  • USS Petrel

Unit History

  • United States Navy

See full unit history

John  Nibbe
Full Unit History

Keel Laid: September, 1861
Commissioned: 1/16/62
Decommissioned: 7/21/65 


Keel Laid: 1862 Monongahela, PA

Commissioned: 10/21/62 Carondelet, MO
Decommissioned: 7/7/65

Keel Laid: Inf. Not Avail.
Commissioned: Inf. Not Avail.
Captured/Burned: 4/24/64 


Keel Laid: 1818 Philadelphia, PA
Commissioned: 6/24/24
Decommissioned: 1866


Regimental History

VESSEL HISTORY: (Louisville)                                                                                                         


USS Louisville was a City-class ironclad gunboat constructed at St. Louis, MO with US Army funds. Originally assigned to the army, she was later transferred to the navy. Upon completion of construction and commissioning in January, 1862 she joined the army's Mississippi River Squadron.


As one of her first assignments Louisville assisted the US Army in the capture of Ft. Donelson (2/14-16/62) on the Cumberland River.  Shortly thereafter she aided in the occupation of Columbus, KY. Departing Cairo, IL in mid-March she aided in the capture of Island No. 10 in the Mississippi River and New Madrid, MO.


In the spring of 1862 Louisville participated in the Battle of Memphis, TN during which her squadron captured and/or sank the Confederate Mississippi Flotilla. She then attacked the upper batteries at Vicksburg, MS before shifting focus to the White River in Arkansas.


After escorting vessels disembarking troops at Bledsoe's and Hamblen's landings in October, Louisville returned to Helena to join the gunboat fleet, Mississippi Squadron. With other vessels, she joined an expedition up the White River in support of Union Gen. Wm. T. Sherman's troops. In November Louisville captured the steamer Evensville near Island No. 36.


January, 1863. Louisville aided in the capture of Ft. Hindman, AR and formed part of the expedition through Steele's Bayou. In March she was again ordered to the Yazoo River. She then assisted in silencing Rebel guns of the fort on Grand Gulf then helped establish the siege of Vicksburg, MS which resulted in the surrender of that place on 7/4/63.


During March and April of 1864 Louisville joined in the Federal expedition up the Red River. In June she engaged and silenced Rebel batteries below Columbia, AR. During this operation she helped break up a Confederate attack near Gaine's Landing.


Louisville continued to service on the Mississippi River until decommissioned on 7/25/65. After that she was sold at public auction on 11/25 in Mound City, MO. Beyond this her fate is not known.


As with many Mississippi theatre ironclads, Louisville's armament changed a number of times. For example, in February, 1862 she carried 3 x 8-inch smooth bores, 4 x 24 pounder rifles, 6 x 32 pounder rifles and 1 x 12 pounder rifle.  In September, 1862 she sported 3 x 9-?inch smoothbores, 1 x 8-inch smoothbores, 2 x 42-pounder rifles, 6 x 32 pounder rifles, 2 x 30-pounder rifles and 1 x 12-pounder rifle. Finally, in early 1864 she was armed with 4 x 9-inch smoothbores; 1 x 100-pound rifle, 6 x 32-pounder rifles 2 x 30 pounder rifles and 1 x 12-pounder rifle.


Numbers on crew size and casualties from combat, disease, accidents, etc. not available.




USS Marmora was a stern wheel paddle steamer in the US Navy. After her commissioning in September, 1862 she moved down the Mississippi River to join the Mississippi Squadron then active in operations against Vicksburg, MS. Her first action occurred when she attacked and destroyed several barges, captured two skiffs and demolished a flatboat.


On 11/29 Marmora discovered heavy enemy fortifications 20 miles from the mouth of the Yazoo River. Joined by other members of the fleet, Marmora later moved up the Yazoo where they encountered enemy torpedoes (mines), one of which sank the gunboat USS Cairo. Engaging Confederate batteries at Drumgould's Bluff ended the year.


 In January, 1863 Marmora participated in the attack and capture.  Ft. Hindman, AR. In February she was joined by four other vessels in preparing for the Yazoo River expedition. Departing Helena, AR on 3/27, the joint army/navy exercise captured the CSS Fairplay and destroyed the earlier discovered Confederate batteries located 20 miles up-river.


During the next several months Marmora concentrated on patrol and supply runs. From 6/13 - 15 guerilla activities caused her to stop at Gaine's Landing to burn houses. In August she steamed up the White and Little Red rivers in an attempt to learn the location of Confed. Gen. Sterling Price's army. She then engaged enemy forces at Devall's Bluff on the Mississippi. In November she worked at the mouth of the Yazoo to prevent Rebel forces from blockading the river.


1864. Although Union forces captured Yazoo City their position was not secure. Rebel forces attacked the city in masse on 3/8 causing Marmora and other vessels to steam to the rescue. She then remained in this region for several months as Union troops mounted the Red River Campaign.


Marmora was next returned to Mound City and was placed in reserve while still in commission. After fighting stopped in 1865 she was decommissioned. She was sold to a private party at Mound City, IL on 8/17. Her fate beyond that date is not known.


General Characteristics: Displacement = 207 long tons; Length = 155 ft.; Beam = 33' 5"; Draft = 4' 6"; Speed = 6.9 knots; Crew = Inf. Not Avail.


Armament: 8 x 24 pounder guns; 2 x 12 pounder guns; 6 x 14 pounder guns.





The U.S.S. Petrel which served in the U.S. Navy's inland waterway fleet during the American Civil War was the second vessel to carry the Petrel name. This Petrel was a tinclad (iron sheathing over wood, heavy wood over wood, etc.) steamer.


Assigned to the Mississippi Squadron, she participated in the Yazoo River expedition against Haynes Bluff, Iowa in late April and early May, 1863. She then focused her attention on Confederate shipping on the Yazoo and Sunflower rivers. In July she cruised the Red, Black, Tensas and Ouachita rivers capturing four Rebel vessels and military supplies.


On 2/3/64 Petrel helped silence Confederate batteries at Liverpool, MS on the Yazoo, to initiate naval operations to prevent Southern harassment of Union Gen. William T. Sherman's expedition to Meridian, MS. For the next two weeks Petrel and other ships pushed up the Yazoo engaging Confederate troops as far up river as Greenwood. A month and one half later Petrel commenced attacks on Yazoo City.


On 4/22/64 Petrel was disabled and captured by Rebel forces. After the removal of her guns and most valuable stores, she was burned.



VESSEL HISTORY: (North Carolina)


USS North Carolina was a 74-gun ship of the line in the United States Navy. Her construction was authorized in April, 1816 her keel laid down two years later at the Philadelphia, PA Navy Yard. She was launched 9/7/20 and fitted out in the Norfolk, VA Navy Yard.


Considered by many the most powerful naval vessel then afloat, North Carolina served in the Mediterranean as flagship for Commodore John Rodgers from April 1825 to May, 1827. Then followed a period in ordinary (mothballs) at Norfolk and decommissioning so she could be fitted out for the Pacific Squadron, an area where ships of her vast size could be employed because of their great draft.


Again, the flagship of her station, flying the pennant of Commodore Henry E. Ballard, North Carolina protected the important American commerce of the eastern Pacific until March, 1839. Then, because her great size made her less flexible than smaller ships, she was returned to the New York Navy Yard in June and served as a receiving ship (induction center) until placed back in ordinary in 1866. She was sold at New York on 10/1/67. Her fate following the sale is not known. 

Soldier History


Residence: Inf. Not Avail.   Age: 19.4 yrs.
Enlisted/Enrolled: 3/27/62 New York, NY
Rank: Ordinary Seaman
Mustered In: Inf. Not Avail.
Mustered Out: 1/12/65 Brooklyn Navy Yard, Brooklyn, NY
Discharged: 1/12/65 Brooklyn Navy Yard, Brooklyn, NY
Highest Rank: Ordinary Seaman


Family History



History documentally tells us that John H. Nibbe was born in Hamburg, Germany. His date of birth was November 25, 1842.


Little is known about John's birth family.  No names are available for his mother and father. The same is true for siblings. Documents do mention one sister, but no name is given.


No information is available pertaining to John's childhood and formative years. All that is known about his early teens is that he and - at least some of his birth family- came to America from Hamburg circa 1856/'57. He was around fourteen years of age. The Nibbes likely entered the U.S. at New York, New York and settled somewhere in or around that huge metropolis.


In 1862, with his adopted country groaning within the grip of a bloody civil war, John chose to enlist in the U.S. military.  His place of enlistment was New York, NY giving one the impression he likely resided in that locale. His service arm of choice was the U.S. Navy. Although family lore holds that he first served in the U.S. Army, no documentation has been found to support this contention.


John's enlistment period was for three years and his entrance rank was that of able bodied seaman. The entrance rank in itself tells us he had some sea going or water borne experience either in Germany, the U.S., or both. While in the Navy his first name would appear as John and as James. His surname would appear not only as Nibbe, but also as Nibble, Niblod and Nibbo.


At his time of enlistment we gain information about John H. Nibbe the physical man. Although military records indicate he was twenty years of age, in actuality his was only 19 (plus) years old. He was five foot, seven inches in height (average for a civil war combatant), had blue eyes, brown hair and was fair of complexion. He reported having no occupation.


Seaman Nibbe's first vessel of assignment was the USS Louisville. He was assigned to that ship from 10/1/62 until 1/29/64.  The following day, 1/30/64, he was reassigned to the U.S.S. Marmosa upon which he remained a crewman until 3/2/64. On 3/3/64 he was again reassigned, this time to the USS Petrel. It was while serving on Petrel that his life journey would take an interesting turn.


On 4/22/64 Petrel and a second gunboat, Prairie Bird, were in the Yazoo River above Yazoo City, Mississippi. There, during a skirmish with Rebels on shore Petrel was damaged to a degree where the acting master, Thomas McElroy, decided to move to the opposite bank of the river and make repairs. During the afternoon of the 22nd the Petrel was attacked by a Confederate land force of cavalry supported by two artillery pieces. During the fray Petrel ran aground on a sandbar. While trying to escape two Rebel shells punctured her stern, one severing a steam pipe, the other cutting through the gun deck exploding the boilers and slamming into the ship's powder magazine. This mortally wounded the gunner's mate. With Petrel now helpless most of the crew and others aboard jumped into the river and swam to safety. Commander McElroy then ordered the remaining members of the crew, pilot Kimble Ware and quartermaster John H. Nibbe - who had been aiding wounded still aboard the doomed vessel - to prepare to burn her in order to prevent capture. That process, however, was interrupted by Confederate soldiers who put out the fires and captured Petrel and her three remaining crewmen. After stripping Petrel of any stores of value including her eight 24-pounder guns (quite a prize) the Rebels burned her to the water line.


As for the three captured Petrel crewmen, all were sent to different prisons and never saw one another again. In Seaman Nibbe's case, he later testified that he was held in several locations including Cahaba, AL, Macon, GA, Charleston, SC, perhaps in Manton, MS as well as Libby Prison in Richmond, VA. While imprisoned he contracted a severe cold which painfully settled into his lungs as pleurisy. More on this, later.


On 10/16/64 Seaman Nibbe was paroled and exchanged. On 10/20 he reported to Camp Parole, MD and, on the same date, was sent to the navy yard in Washington, DC where he was placed under a doctor's care for three weeks. While there, Nibbe would later say that he found that government records reported him as having been killed and his “account” with the Government closed. That error having been rectified our seaman was then sent to the receiving ship USS North Carolina moored at the Brooklyn, NY Naval Yard. It was there, out of harm's way, that he spent his final days in the U.S. Navy.


After leaving the military it appears former Seaman Nibbe settled in Virginia. Exactly where is not known. Also not known is what, if any, occupation he pursued at the time. He would remain in Virginia until 8/12/65 He "then followed the sea...... up until 9/27/67."


While in Virginia former Seaman Nibbe was nominated for the country's highest military award, The Medal Of Honor, for remaining at his Petrel shipboard post while under enemy fire and until being completely surrounded by enemy forces, was forced to surrender. That distinction was granted to him on 6/22/65 and accredited to the State of New York. No details are available pertaining to the selection process, awarding ceremony, etc.


Where seaman Nibbe "landed" in September, 1867 is not documented. There are hints, however, that it was timber country where he began working "in the woods."


John H. Nibbe's next documental sighting being in Santa Clara County, CA.  There, on 9/28/68 the German from Hamburg was granted United States citizenship.


According to John, after receiving his citizenship he remained in California for two years working on a farm. The U.S. Census for 1870 placed him - still saying by occupation he was a sailor - in Trinidad, Klamath County, California. He apparently remained there until sometime in 1871 when he moved up the Pacific coast to Washington Territory where he earned a living working in "the woods and boating." What had prompted the northward move is not known.


On 6/8/72 the Congress of the U.S. passed a homestead act which granted property rights to honorably discharged soldiers, marines and sailors, their widows and orphaned children. During the fall months of 1874 Seaman Nibbe took advantage of this act and applied for a 165.5 acre land tract located along the water near the community of Port Orchard in the Port Blakely postal area of Kitsap County, Washington Territory. He built a house on the claimed and lived there off and on until 11/1/78 when he began a continuous living arrangement on the property which he reportedly shared with his mother, sister and a niece. During this period, depending on weather conditions, John would be absent approximately two or three days per week earning money as a sloop boatman. During these absences his relatives remained on property.


In late 1879 John began the paperwork process to make the homesteaded claim legally his. Thus, on 12/2/79 he travelled to the Olympia, Washington Terr.  land office where he paid $3 filing fee on soldiers homestead. Next, on 5/22/80 he again visited Olympia to pay $16 toward the 165.5 acres of land which he would be purchasing at $1.25 acre. On the same date also made paid $6.87 as 1/2 payment in full for 5 acres and fifty 100ths of lots. From here it would be a matter of remaining on the property for the required period of years - in this case within seven - to claim it as his own.


The U.S. census for 1880 took note of John Nibbe - described as a German-born logger - residing on land located in Port Orchard, Kitsap Co., Washington Terr. What is interesting about this census is that listed as living with him were a 26 year old woman identified as Jenny (b. 1849 WT) and, apparently, her three year old son, Jefferson (b. 1877 WT). A February, 1883 local census for Port Blakely, Kitsap County, Washington Territory noted John - now a boatman - as well as the same Jenny and Jefferson in his home. By this date, however, they had been joined by Archie aged two (b. 1881 WT). These people are obviously not John's mother, sister and niece, but who they are and how they fit into John's life is not known. Further, this "shadow family" is never again mentioned in available documentation.............


Also happening 1883 was John's acquiring affidavits from neighbors regarding his improvements to and residence upon his homestead claim. From those affidavits we learn that the house he built was a 16'-18' x 20' rustic foot log structure with a kitchen. As for out buildings there was a 24' x 40'barn, a boathouse and an out house.


In terms of the land itself, he had slashed and cultivated three acres, likely for growing vegetables. There was also an orchard containing about 230 fruit trees. Further, between six and fifteen acres of the site were fenced.


Again, John might be away from the property for two or three days a week - depending on weather condition - piloting a sloop for business purposes. Once more, however, it was emphasized that during these absences his relatives were living there continuously.


1885. A pivotal year for John H. Nibbe. Firstly, although available documents are somewhat confusing on the matter, it appears that on 2/25/85 before ownership on his first homestead was finalized John made what was called a pre-emptive filing on a second tract of homestead land. This may have been land that someone else had claimed, but had not developed so, seeing an opportunity to increase his holdings, John jumped on the property, constructed a 3/4 mile road and built a 16' x 20' log house featuring one door, one window, a fir floor and a fireplace.


 Secondly, on 6/30 in Seattle King County, WA John [Interestingly, one document indicates in 1885 he was a resident of Seattle. How that fits into the grand scheme of John's life is not known, but during this period he married for the first time. His bride was Georgianna "Annie" (nee Gray b. 7/29/64 Scotland) Porter. At nineteen years of age Georgianna was not only a widow, but the mother of three children, a boy: Charles Lawrence (b. 4/30/80), and two girls: Ida May (b. 8/25/82) and Elizabeth (b. 4/28/84). All of the children were by the late Mr. Charles Porter. Where and when Mr. Nibbe and the widow Porter had met is not known.


Thirdly, on 10/30/85 John made final proof on his original homestead tract. In early December he then paid the remaining $500 owing on the acreage.  After this he was patented (deeded) on the property.


As earlier noted, near the beginning of 1885 John had placed claim on a second homestead. It appears he filed application on this second land track on 3/9 and made immediate plans for he and his new family to settle on the site. Here it should be noted that if, in fact, this was a second homestead - which it certainly appears to be - what became of the first one is not known. Perhaps the sites were adjacent to one another......


As best as can be determined, the second Nibbe tract - to which John received patent on 7/18/89 - was named Nibbeville or Nibbesville. Indications are that on the site John opened a merchandise store which catered to the local populous. At some later time, perhaps after the Nibbes had removed from the property the locale was renamed Crystal Springs.


On 6/12/86 John and Georgianna's first child, a son, was born. They christened him Robert Gray Nibbe. 


About the time of the birth of son, Robert or maybe a little later, in the spring of 1887, John began the paperwork process to try and garner a U.S. Government disability pension based on ailments which he traced back to his time serving in the U.S. Navy. In John's case the primary ailment was pleurisy in his lungs and resulting back pain as well as pain in his left shoulder and breast. All of this, he claimed, he contracted while in Rebel prison camps. As was the usual case, the application process dragged on for years while the applicant gathered affidavits from former comrades, relatives and neighbors declaring that he had been a healthy man when he entered the service, but was not so healthy when he returned home and now could perform only 1/3 the manual labor of a healthy individual of his age. Finally, on 8/2/92, a stipend of $12 per month – retro-active to 8/30/90 was awarded. The award, however, was not based on the pleurisy but varicose veins of the legs and a cataract in the right eye. Although he made later attempts to increase the stipend based on the pleurisy, the pension, in fact, was reduced to $8 per month as of 3/4/95. The $8 payment stood for the remainder of John's life.


On 1/5/95, just prior to his pension stipend reduction a second son, Henry Jacob, was born to John and Georgianna.  The following year, daughter Hellen/Ellen (b. 6/27/96 Port Orchard, WA) joined the family. She would be John and Georgianna's final child.


Dropping back a bit, as of 6/14/93 the Nibbes were no longer residing in Nibbeville/Nibbesville. Their new address was in the community of Sidney which is also located in Kitsap County, WA. What had prompted the move is not documented, but John was apparently still employed as a merchant. During this period, while attempting to increase his pension John sent the U.S. Pension bureau his Medal of Honor papers. Of import to him, he finally had to request that the originals or replacements be returned to his possession. The outcome of the matter is not documentally covered.


As the 1890s drew towards a close the Nibbes showed registered addresses in Bremerton (1/26/98) and Charleston, both located in Kitsap County. It was at the latter location the census of 1900 found he, his wife and three children. John's occupation at the time was, again, listed as merchant. 


John H. Nibbe died at his home in Bremerton, WA, on June 15, 1902.  His death came suddenly and caught friends - and undoubtedly family - by surprise. No death certificate is available pertaining to the cause of his passing. At death he was aged 54 years, 8 months and 21 days.  Burial was in Bremerton's Ivy Green Cemetery.


           Well - Known Pioneer Dies


          The many friends of Capt. John H. Nibbe were surprised on Sunday Morning to learn of his death at his

         home in Bremerton.

          Capt. Nibbe was an old pioneer of Kitsap County, at one time being located at Nibbeville, now Crystal

         Springs, again at Sidney and later at Bremerton, being engaged in the merchandise business at all three


           Mr. Nibbe had a wide circle of friends in this county by whom he was highly esteemed. He was a Woodman

        and belonged to the G.A.R., having served his country during the Civil War, and was awarded a number of

        Medals of Honor for gallant and meritorious conduct in the service

          The funeral was conducted by the G.A.R. Post of Bremerton, assisted by the local Woodmen lodges, and was

        very largely attended. Rev. Geo. Arney preached the funeral sermon.






A widow once again with three children under the age of sixteen to care for, Georgiana almost immediately began applying to the Federal Pension Bureau for whatever accrued pension her late husband might have coming. Additionally she applied for a widow's pension for herself.  As with John's seeking a pension, this necessitated her gathering affidavits from those who had known her both prior to and after her marriage to John. She was subsequently granted a widow pension of an undetermined monthly dollar amount. 


On December 24, 1903 in Bremerton, WA Georgianna married for a third time. Her husband was one John Rolstad. The marriage did not work out. On 8/10/04 the couple separated. On 11/3 of the same year a divorce was granted on the grounds of incompatibility and Georgianna's surname reverted to Nibbe.


1907. On February 1st of that year Georgianna began living with a Mr. Frank Smith. The couple lived in Bremerton until 1/2/15 when they moved across Puget Sound to Seattle. While the two did marry, available records are not clear as to the date.  They remained together until Mr. Smith's death on December 23, 1927.


After the death of Frank Smith Georgianna remained in Seattle until 6/1/30. While there the census of '30 found the four times married, three times widowed matriarch of six residing as a lodger in the home of a Mr. Axel J. Swengard and his wife Ada.


On June 2, 1930 Georgianna Smith moved westward back across Puget Sound to Bremerton. She resided in the home of her eldest son Charles L. Porter (1118 Hewitt Ave.) until her death on October 31, 1932.Charles notified the U.S. Pension Bureau of her passing.  She is buried in Ivy Green cemetery beside John.


Buried at Ivy Green Cemetery

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