Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Daring capture of the SS Nicholas on the Potomac

R. Thomas Zarvona
  • Tonight, a group of undercover Confederate sympathizers led by former US Navy officers Richard Thomas Zarvona and George N. Hollins along with an undercover crew, makes a bold move based on intelligence to seize a private Maryland vessel. A native of Maryland, Hollins is a veteran of the War of 1812, having joined the US Navy at age 15. He was commanding a US warship in the Mediterranean when the war came, and being ordered back to New York, he resigned his commission and joined the Confederate navy as a captain. Zarvona, also a Marylander, is a former West Pointer and adventurer who had fought with pirates in China and Garibaldi revolutionaries in Italy. The group boards in two groups the side-wheel steamship St. Nicholas in Chesapeake Bay. Using the name Madame La Force, Zarvona disguises himself as a flirtatious French woman. Hollins then boards the St. Nicholas at its first stop disguised as an old man on a cane. The conspirators later retreat to the French woman's cabin, where they armed themselves from the heavy trunks “she” had had the St. Nicholas’ crew load for “her,” and then burst out to capture the surprised crew which surrendered easily. Hollins takes control of the vessel and stops on the Virginia bank of the Chesapeake to pick up a crew of Confederate soldiers. They go in search of the USS Pawnee which has been patrolling the Potomac River from Washington downstream, but to Zarvona’s great frustration it has returned to Washington Navy Yard to attend to the funeral of its commander, Lieutenant Ward, who was killed by a Confederate sharpshooter yesterday./1861

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