Tulip, 1869

Sept. 11, 2020

Tulip, 1869

ex-Issac N. Seymour

Any of several bulbous plants of the genus Tulipa, native chiefly to Asia and widely cultivated for their showy, variously colored flowers.

Builder: B. C. Terry, Keyport, New Jersey

Length: 120' 3"

Beam: 20' 6"

Draft: 6' 6"

Displacement: 169 tons

Cost: $6,000 (purchase price)

Commissioned: 1860 (private); 26 October 1861 (USN); 20 June 1865 (USLHS)

Decommissioned: 1 October 1881

Disposition: Sold

Machinery: Single beam steam engine; single boiler; side paddle wheels

Deck Gear: 

Performance & Endurance:

        Max: 11.0 knots

Complement: 30

Armament: 1 x 30-pounder; 1 x 20-pounder (USN)

Tender History:

Tulip was originally built as the private steamer Isaac N. Seymour (also called Seymour, I. N. Seymour, and J. N. Seymour).  She was built at Keyport, New Jersey, in 1860 and was purchased by the Navy at New York from Mr. Schultz 26 October 1861.  She was assigned to the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron 20 November and three days later was stationed in Hampton Roads. While there she joined three other ships in engaging Confederate steamer Patrick Henry and drove her back up stream.

A month later Flag Officer Goldsborough ordered Isaac N. Seymour to Hatteras Inlet for impending operations in the sounds of North Carolina.  She participated in the combined operations which took Roanoke Island 8 February, and at the end of the action she was commended for being "conspicuously in the foreground throughout the bombardment."  One of her powder-men was killed and her chief engineer was seriously wounded in the fight.  The next day Isaac N. Seymour steamed up Piankatank River to Elizabeth City, North Carolina, with CDR Rowan's expedition to destroy enemy gunboats and to break up communications between Albemarle Sound and Norfolk, Va. She continued mop-up operations in the sounds until she struck an abandoned anchor in Hatteras Inlet 20 February and sank before she could be run aground.

She was raised, repaired, and returned to service in May.  She resumed her former duty and continued to give a good account of herself in the sounds until 24 August when she struck a bank and sank in the Neuse River some 3 miles above New Bern while steaming upstream to cover a landing of troops.  A month later she was reported raised and on the ways being readied for service.   Back in fighting trim 23 October, she was ordered to tow schooner Minnehaha to Plymouth, North Carolina, to deliver provisions. Five days later she made the return passage towing damaged steamer Whitehead to New Bern for repairs. Similar duty maintaining communications and lines of supply between Navy units in the sounds continued until 12 December when Isaac N. Seymour ascended the Neuse River with four other ships to support an Army expedition to destroy railroad bridges and track near Goldsboro, North Carolina, but the mission was aborted by low water which prevented their advancing more than 15 miles beyond New Bern.

Confederate troops attacked the Union garrison at Washington, North Carolina, on 31 March 1863 establishing a siege which threatened to starve the Northern troops into surrender.  Isaac N. Seymour departed Plymouth 2 April to play an active role in the naval operations which, despite well-served batteries ashore, brought the beleaguered soldiers food and ammunition.  The Southern troops were finally forced to lift the blockade 16 April.  Once again the daring and versatility of the Navy had been decisive in holding a hard-pressed position for the North.

 Isaac N. Seymour was a part of the task force which started up the James River 11 July to demonstrate against Richmond.  The high point of the expedition came 14 July when Rear Admiral S. P. Lee, flying his flag in Isaac N. Seymour, occupied Fort Powhatan, the last Confederate defense on the river below Chaffin's and Drewry's Bluff.   Isaac N. Seymour continued to serve in the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron—maintaining Union control of North Carolina's inland waters and supporting Army operations from the James and York Rivers as General Grant supplied and supported by water, relentlessly pressed toward Richmond and victory.

Isaac N. Seymour was detached in March 1865 and decommissioned at Washington 16 May. 

She was then transferred to the Light House Board 20 June 1865.

After conversion she was commissioned in 1867 as the tender J. N. Seymour, the misspelling probably due to a typographical error.  Her name was changed to Tulip in 1869.  She was originally assigned to the 5th Lighthouse District.  She was repaired in 1871 and continued to serve until declared unfit in 1879. 

She was decommissioned in 1881 and was sold.


Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.  Washington, DC: USGPO.

Douglas Peterson.  United States Lighthouse Service Tenders, 1840-1939. Annapolis: Eastwind Publishing, 2000.