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Pliny William Wise was born on December 4, 1834 in East Greenwich, Rhode Island; but his age in the birth records of his children reflect he was born in 1847. Wise was an African American Civil War veteran who on August 27, 1862 enlisted in the U.S. Navy at New Bedford, Massachusetts for a period of one year; as an ordinary seaman and cook aboard the U.S.S. “Ohio”. The “Ohio” was a receiving ship in Boston that operated from 1850 until 1870 where new recruits were inducted into the Naval service before being assigned to other ships. After a period of time he transferred aboard the U.S.S. “Princeton”, the “Wissahickon”, the “Vixon”, the “North Carolina”, the “Daylight”, the “Morse”, the “Circassian” and finally the “Iroquois”; until August 27, 1863.

The “Ohio” was launched on May 30, 1820 and was used in the U.S. Navy during the Civil War as a receiving ship; because she drew too much water to be used in coastal operations. She continued in that duty throughout the war and into 1875.

The Wissahickon was a screw gunboat built in 1861, delivered to the Navy on November 12, 1861 and commissioned on November 25th. It was assigned, with Wise aboard, to the West Gulf Blockading Squadron and participated in her first combat action on April 24, 1862. She participated in the attack on Confederate works at Grand Gulf, Mississippi, dashed by Southern batteries at Vicksburg, Mississippi, participated in the blockade off the coast of Georgia, in the attack on Fort McAllister, she helped destroy the blockade runner “Rattlesnake” on February 23, 1863, captured the steamer “Georgiania on March 19th and the steamer “Havelock” on June 10, 1863, participated in the attack on Fort Wagner at Charleston, South Carolina from July 18th through September 8, 1863 and in the bombardment of Fort Sumter; later patrolling off Port Royal, South Carolina.

The “Vixen” spent most of her duty conducting survey work along the southern coast. She entered Port Royal Sound to place buoys in the channel prior to Samuel F. Du Pont's planned attack. It then conducted local surveys following the Union capture of the sound and reconnoitered St. Helena Sound, South Carolina.   In early December, a second survey was taken of St. Helena and the “Vixen” accompanied by the “Pawnee” and the “Seneca” took possession of North and South Edisto Rivers in South Carolina. After having repairs made at Port Royal, she received orders to report to the blockade at Ossabow Sound, Georgia and participated in the expedition against the Confederate works at Pocotaligo, South Carolina. She returned to the New York Navy Yard shortly after that and was decommissioned on November 8th.

The USS “Daylight”was a 682-ton screw steam gunboat built in 1859-60 for commercial use and chartered by the Navy and placed in commission in June 1861 as the USS “Daylight”. She operated along the coasts of Virginia and North Carolina, in blockading duties and helped capture four blockade runners in 1861 and five in 1862. She also participated in a bombardment of Fort Macon, North Carolina and was decommissioned in May 1865.

The Morse was a wooden side-wheel ferryboat built at New York in 1861, known as the “Marion”. She was purchased by the Navy and commissioned in November 1861. She was part of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron off Newport News and part of the Roanoke Island expedition and participated in the bombardment of Hampton Roads fortifications. She was decommissioned and went to the Washington Navy Yard in May 1865.

Pliny William wise was granted an honourable discharge from the U.S. Navy on August 27, 1863 at Baltimore, Maryland.

After the war Wise lived in New York, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and New Bedford, Connecticut before he relocated to New South Wales, Australia, where he worked as a cook and a general laborer. Wise married Sarah Elizabeth Francis at Sydney, New South Wales in 1874 after his arrival , but she died in September 1877 at Sydney. After her death Wise married again almost a year later, in August 1878, to Euphemia Abbot; also in Sydney. She was the widow of a crew member of the whaling ship “Eric” out of Dundee, Scotland, David Abbott, who had drowned in Baffin’s Bay, Greenland in 1876. Wise and Euphemia made their home at Balmain, Australia and raised five children; David Arkley born in 1879, Elizabeth Hardy born in 1881, Helen Stewart born in 1884, Pliny William born in 1887 and George born in 1889. In 1903 Wise applied for a military pension, but unfortunately died before he could take advantage of it. Pliny William Wise died on April 2, 1904 of “phthisis”, before receiving his first pension check. His wife however, received a widow’s pension until her death in February 1926. Pliny William Wise was buried in the Old Presbyterian Section, Field of Mars Cemetery in Ryde, New South Wales.


The Morse, a wooden sidewheel ferryboat built at New York in 1861and originally called the “Marion”. It was purchased by the Navy at New York on November 7 , 1861 and commissioned on November 9, 1861 with Acting Master Peter Hays in command.

The “Morse” arrived at Hampton Roads on November 20, 1861 to join the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron. She lay off Newport News until December 29th when she steamed across Hampton Roads to attempt to capture CSS “Sea Bird”, but the “Morse”'s shelling drove the steamer to the protection of three Confederate batteries at Sewell's Point.

Heated action began for the “Morse” in January 1862 when she joined the Roanoke Island expedition with 16 other shallow-draft gunboats. The expedition departed Hampton Roads on January 11th and began bombarding the fortifications on February 7th. The campaign resulted in the Union capture of the island on February 8th, threatening the Confederate communications and opening the rear defences to Norfolk, Virginia.

On February 9th the “Morse” and Commodore Perry steamed up Croatan Sound for Elizabeth City to destroy some Confederate gunboats and break upthe canal communications. Crossing Dismal Swamp Canal the gunboats spotted both Confederate ships and shore batteries. Firing from the ships drove the southerners from their guns and scattered the Confederate vessels. The Union squadron captured or destroyed Confederate ships “Sea Bird”, “Fanny”, “Ellis Forrest”, and “Black Warrior”, allowing the capture of the town on February 10th.

The “Morse” and five additional gunboats departed from Hatteras Inlet on February 23rd to reconnoiter Croatan Sound, when a strong Confederate forces at Wiliton opened heavy fire on the “Dela~earc”, the lead ship, with artillery and musketry. The ships returned the attack, firing on the battery and landing the 9th New York Zouaves; who entered Winton and destroyed military stores, tents, arms, and gear.

Morse departed Hatteras Inlet with 12 other ships 12 March for Brant Island, Neuse River to cover the dis. embarkation of troops in the New Berne campaign. The joint Army-Navy expedition captured the town 14 March and the last of the batteries the 16th.

Morse spent the remainder of the spring and summer scouting and patrolling the York River, protecting transports and aiding operations of the Army on Pamunkey River in June. Joining the James River Flotilla in July she captured supplies on Mattapony River the following May, scouting the river to Frazier's Ferry and silencing Confederate guns above West Point. Morse Joined seven others in capturing Fort Powhatan, James River 14 July 1863.

In November, Morse joined the expedition to Mathews County, a peninsula between MobJack Bay and Plankatank River and a base for Confederate raiders. Information from captured guerrillas on plans to capture a schooner and to destroy the lights on Chesapeake Bay sent Morse up Last River to throttle these efforts.

After searching out torpedoes on Purtan Bay in February 1864, the “Morse” joined General Wister's campaign on the Mattapony River, attacking the Ring and Queen Courthouse. One thousand infantry went ashore from the Union ships at Sheppard's Landing on March 13th and after a feigned attack on West Point in May, the “Morse” evacuated troops from that point. After performing scouting duty throughout the spring and summer, the “Morse” joined the Potomac Flotilla later in the winter.

The “Morse” relieved the “Deleware” on the Rappahannoek River in March 1865, helping the Army in its efforts to take Fort Lowry. She was then decommissioned and went to the Washington Navy Yard on May 21, 1865.

Birth, Marriage and Death Records, New South Wales

Field of Mars Cemetery Records

J. H. Blodgett, Letter, Jan. 21, 1865, 4 pages, describing the USS Morse and steamer USS Morse

Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion

U.S. Navy Department, Report of the Auditor, 1903

“Warships of the Union and Confederate Navies”, Paul H. Silverstone


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