Santa Cruz County History - People

Old Soldiers: Santa Cruz County Civil War Veterans
by Robert L. Nelson


Dictionary of U.S. Navy Fighting Ships

Headstone of Clifford Williams
Clifford Williams
Evergreen Cemetery


(SwGbt.: t. 1,030, l. 255'0"; b 25'0" dph. 12'0"; dr. 9'00"; s 15k.; cpl. 159; a. 2 100-pdr. P.r., 4'9". sb 2 24-pdr. how., 2 20-pdr. D.r.)

The first Suwanee -- a double-ended, iron-hulled, side-wheel gunboat built at Chester, Pa. -- was launched on 13 March 1864, and was commissioned on 23 January 1865, Comdr. Paul Shirley in command.

Ordered to the Pacific, the new double-ender departed Philadelphia at dawn on 17 February 1865 and proceeded via New York down the Atlantic coast of the Americas looking for Confederate commerce raiders, especially for CSS Shenandoah, which had been plaguing Northern shipping. She then steamed up the Pacific coast and arrived at Acapulco, Mexico where she joined the Pacific Squadron on 30 July. The side-wheeler was promptly ordered to sea in quest of Shenandoah.

After the Southern cruiser surrendered at Liverpool England, late in the year, Suwanee cruised along the Pacific coast from Mexico to Canada. On 9 July 1868, she was wrecked in Shadwell Passage, Queen Charlotte Sound, British Columbia.

Official Navy Records for the War of the Rebellion

The U.S.S. Suwanee, an ironclad paddle wheeled steam ship, was commissioned at Philadelphia Navy Yard. It had 12 guns including a 112 pounder, and two howitzers. It carried a crew of 177 officers and men and a compliment of marines.

In December 1864 it was ordered to the Pacific Ocean via Cape Horn with stops at Bahia Brazil and other ports to be resupplied with coal. Its mission was to join other vessels in search for the Confederate commerce raider Shenandoah. The Shenandoah had sunk a number of American whaling ships on the West Coast and the navy hoped to capture or sink it. The Suwanee arrived at San Francisco and departed for Puget Sound in April 1865. It continued searching in Pacific waters throughout a significant portion of 1865.

The Illustrated History of the Civil War, Henry Steele Commager

The Shenandoah

The saga of Confederate commerce raiders ended with the Shenandoah, which specialized in attacking whaling fleets in the Pacific and Arctic oceans. This ship did over $1 million worth of damage to Federal commerce. On June 8, 1865, it captured eight vessels in the Bering Strait. Not until the autumn did Captain James I. Waddell learn of the Confederacy's end. He then sailed to Liverpool where, on November 6, 1865 he furled the last Confederate flag. This act rang down the curtain on the Confederate navy. Its history was a fatal combination of shortsightedness, short supply unpreparedness, and misfortune. (p. 260)

Santa Cruz Sentinel (August 4, 1866)

Death on Board

Clifford Williams, a coal-passer of the man of war Suwanee, died on board Monday, July 30, 1866. He was buried on Tuesday in the Santa Cruz cemetery by the officers and men of the steamer, with appropriate honors, the impressive and beautiful burial service of the Episcopal Church being performed by Rev. Mr. Loop, of Calvary Church. It was most commendable on the part of the commander of the Suwanee, to put in here and give the poor fellow a Christian burial in a Christian cemetery, and goes to prove that there are some ship captains who are not lost to all feelings of humanity. The procession presented a very fine appearance as they passed through the town, upon their melancholy errand. First, the Rev Mr. Loop, in a carriage, following him came twelve marines, in full uniform with arms reversed, keeping step to the slow and mournful music which the band discoursed; next the hearse, in which lay the body of the dead sailor, his coffin wrapped in the Stars and Stripes, and followed by about one hundred seamen, dressed in the dark blue uniform of our navy, while a carriage containing the commander and his officers brought up the rear. The cemetery reached, the service was read, the marines fired a volley over their departed comrade, and the funeral cortege slowly returned to the vessel. Deceased was 25 years of age. We understand that the sailors of the Suwanee raised the sum of $250 amongst themselves, which they deposited with a gentleman here, to be used in putting an appropriate monument over the grave.

Pajaro Times (August 6, 1866)

In Our Port

The U.S. war steamer Suwanee, Captain Paul Shirley, arrived in Monterey July 27th from Valparaiso, with dates of 31st of May. Monday last she arrived in Santa Cruz. Tuesday the corpse of Clifford Williams, who had been one of the crew, was brought ashore and buried in Evergreen Cemetery. The funeral was headed by the Rev. Mr. Loop, then followed a detachment of Marines, drummer and fifer playing the dead march, hearse and pall bearers, forty of the crew, and then the officers on duty in an open carriage. At the grave a volley was fired over the remains of the deceased by the Marines, and the Episcopal service was read by the clergyman. In the afternoon the vessel was prepared for the reception of visitors, a general invitation having been extended. A great many availed themselves of this opportunity, and were made welcome by the polite officers. At 2 o'clock P.M., Governor Low went on board and a salute of fifteen guns were fired in honor of the distinguished visitor.

Santa Cruz Sentinel (November 12, 1972)

Santa Cruzans of the Civil War

In an effort to update the concrete monolith on Front Street and Pacific Avenue especially for the traditional November 11 Armistice Day, Tom McHugh, long time resident of San Lorenzo Valley, has compiled the following information on local war dead during the Civil War.

Santa Cruz counted 23 men who died in action during the War Between the States. These men were among three outfits in the field and four home guard units which were activated during the conflict.

Clifford Williams - He was a seaman aboard the “Sewannee.” which visited Santa Cruz in 1866. He came from a Santa Cruz family. He had been stricken with brain fever (meningitis) in Peru, and the captain brought him to Santa Cruz to his relatives, where he died.

Editor's Note: The author of this article was obviously not aware of the details of Clifford Williams death before arrival as indicated above.

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