CSS Appomattox

    Lt. Charles C. Simms, Commanding

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The CSS Appomattox, originally the Empire, was chartered in 1861 as part of the Virginia Navy. After Virginia joined the Confederacy, she was chartered during much of 1861 as an army transport. The navy turned down buying the Empire after inspecting her in the fall of 1861. Flag Officer Lynch mentioned in a 22 October 1861 letter the possibility of using the Empire’s engines in a new gunboat he had contracted with Gilbert Elliott, builder of the CSS Albemarle, to build in Elizabeth City. (This gunboat was burned in the stocks during the battle of Elizabeth City.) The Empire, renamed the CSS Appomattox, was pressed into service in response to Burnside’s Expedition arriving at Hatteras in January of 1862.


Early in the battle of Elizabeth City, the Appomattox’s forward gun was accidentally spiked when a primer wire broke off in the vent hole. Lt. Simms turned the ship around and fired with the stern 12-pounder as he circled around the sharp bend at Elizabeth City and escaped upriver. Her freedom was short-lived, however. When she reached the locks of the Dismal Swamp Canal in South Mills, she was too wide to fit through the locks.


Lt. Simms backed the Appomattox away from the locks and scuttled her. One report has him blowing her up. However, in the Official Records of the Navy, she is reported as having been dismantled. Supporting this is the possibility that Simms returned to South Mills the following week and salvaged the wreck. A note in the National Archives states that Simms returned to South Mills on 19 February 1862 with a lighter; while there, he rented a second lighter and a pair of oxen to pull it. Simms returned to Gosport with these two lighters of material from South Mills.





Original Name




120 82/95 tons



Tugboat; wood-hulled propeller steamer



86’ x 20 5/10’ x 7 6/10’


Built By

Fredrick A. Phillips



Philadelphia, PA; 1850 (enrollment #89)


Home Port

Baltimore (enrollment #116 – 10 July 1860)



1 mast, square stern






Cumberland Coal & Iron Co.






1 long 32 pdr.; 1 brass boat howitzer