Eli Williamson – Curlew pilot

Eli Williamson died in Washington, NC, in 1915 at the home of his daughter following an illness on only five days. He was ninty-one. Williamson, a colored pilot, was wounded aboard the CSS Curlew during the battle of Roanoke Island. He was a third generation freedman from Murfreesboro, NC, and had served as the Curlew’s pilot prior to the Civil War.

Williamson, born on 23 December 1824, lived with a family of Quakers in his youth. They taught him to read and write, tie fishing nets, and rig seines for large fisheries. He enlisted in the US Navy prior to the Civil War. When he left the Navy, he entered the merchant service and worked his way up to chief pilot for the steamer Curlew.

On the 20 November 1861 Curlew muster roll, Williamston was listed as a seaman, but at the time of his wounding he was acting in his pre-war position as pilot. Following the Curlew’s sinking, he accompanied the crew back to Gosport. He was among the Curlew crewmen reenlisted and placed on the receiving ship by Commander T.T. Hunter to serve as the crew on his new command: the Maury gunboat Old Dominion. The unfinished ship was destroyed when Gosport was abandoned in May of 1862.

Williamson had four daughters that grew into maturity: Curlew, Katherine, Seabird, and Emma, each one named for a ship he had served on prior to the war. (Thank you, Chris Olson, for that piece of information.) Eli Williamson’s story can be read in his obituary at: http://cdm15170.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p15170coll8/id/441/rec/2

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