William Edwin Evans (1835 - 1893)

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Death: Died
Managed by: Doug Robinson
Last Updated:

About William Edwin Evans

Profile photo: Midshipman William Edwin Evans is on the left; Midshipman Charles W. Read is on the right--both resigned from the US Navy and "went South" to fight for the Confederacy.

William Edwin Evans was born in Marion, South Carolina on December 17, 1835. William graduated high in his class at the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland. As a Midshipman in the Navy he visited Japan shortly after its Ports were opened to the world. He also visited many of the Ports and Capitals of Europe.

Following his graduation, he was commissioned as Master in the United States Navy, serving a short time prior to the outbreak of the Civil War. William did as most Southern men in the United States Army did, resigning his commission on February 2, 1861, following the secession of his native State of South Carolina. He was then commissioned in the Navy of the newly-formed Confederate States on March 26, 1861, as 1st Lieutenant and assigned to duty on board C. S. Cruiser Sumter.

The first Man-of-War to get to sea under the Confederate flag was the CSS Sumter. She was a steamer of 500 tons, and had formerly been the Spanish steamer Marquis de Habana. To get ready for the war, she was strengthened, a berth deck was put in, the spar deck cabins removed, and she was armed with an 8-inch shell gun, pivoted amidships, and four light 32-pounders on her broadside. On April 18, 1861, Commander Raphael Semmes was given command, with the following officers:

Lieutenants. John M. Kell, Robert T. Chapman, John M. Stribling, and William E. Evans; Paymaster Henry Myers; Surgeon. Francis L. Galt; Midshipmen William A. Hicks, Richard F. Armstrong, Albert G. Hudgins, John F. Holden, and Joseph D. Wilson; Lieutenant of Marines B. K. Howell; Engineers Miles J. Freeman, William P. Brooks, Matthew O'Brien, and Simeon W. Cummings; Boatswain Benjamin P. Mc-Caskey; Gunner J. O. Cuddy; Sailmaker W. P. Beaufort, Carpenter William Robinson, and Captain's Clerk W. Breedlove Smith.

  

On June 30, 1861, the Sumter sailed from the mouth of the Mississippi River, and was chased by the United States steamer Brooklyn before safely making it to sea. Captain Semmes cruised along the south side of the island of Cuba, taking eight prizes, before embarking to Cienfuegos. From there he cruised down the Spanish mainland, and on the 13th of November anchored at St. Pierre, Martinique. There he was blockaded by the United States ship Iroquois for nine days. On the night of November 23rd he swiftly made his escape and crossed the Atlantic to Cadiz, where he arrived on January 4, 1862, again taking several prizes on the way. Not being permitted to coal, he proceeded to Gibraltar, which port he reached on the 19th of January. Here he was blockaded by the United States vessels Tuscarora, Kearsarge and Chippewa, and it was decided to lay the ship up. In her brief career, the Sumter captured 7 vessels, of which 2 were ransomed, 7 were released in Cuban ports, 2 were recaptured, and 6 were burned.

William was then ordered to embark with Admiral Semmes on the C. S. Cruiser Alabama, but was detained in England by a severe illness until she had cleared port; subsequently he served as 1st Lieutenant on the C. S. Cruiser Georgia, and in 1864 was elevated to the rank of commander of that vessel.

The Georgia was bought at Dumbarton, Scotland, for the Confederate government. She was commissioned off Ushant in April, 1863, by Commodore William Maury, with the following list of Officers: Lieutenants. R. T. Chapman, Evans, Smith, and J. H. Ingraham; Passed Midshipman Walker; Midshipman Morgan; Paymaster Curtis, Surgeon Wheeden, and Chief Engineer Pearson. She cruised in the Atlantic, ran over to the coast of Brazil, and then to the Cape of Good Hope. On the 28th of October she anchored at Cherbourg, having taken 9 prizes. There Commodore Maury turned over the command to Lieutenant Evans.

Upon her sale by the Confederate Government, Captain Evans, was given one of the fleet little craft which did such valuable service as blockade runners of Southern ports and made many cruises, successfully eluding the watchful squadrons of the United States. His last voyage was through the blockade of Wilmington harbor, North Carolina, which port he succeeded in reaching during a heavy gale by running between the Federal cruisers lying almost abreast within the harbor, evading the consequences of his daring by the fact that in firing upon him, his enemies would have sunk their sister ships.

After the end of the war, Captain Evans went to Charleston, South Carolina and later to St. Louis, Missouri, where he was engaged in business, but suffering a severe injury, which caused concussion of the brain, he returned to South Carolina much impaired in health.

The following account, written by his distinguished friend and commander, giving some idea of Captain Evans' attractive personality, is taken from "Service Afloat," by Admiral Raphael Semmes, C. S. N., 125:

"Lieut. William E. Evans, the fourth and Junior Lieutenant of the ship (Sumter), is not more than twenty-four years of age, slim in person, of medium height, and rather delicate looking, though not from ill health. His complexion is dark, and he has black hair and eyes. He has a very agreeable, riante expression about his face, and is somewhat given to casuistry, being fond of an argument, when occasion presents itself. He is but recently out of the Naval Academy, at Annapolis, and like all new graduates, feels the freshness of academic honors. He is a native of South Carolina, and a brother of Gen. Evans, of that State, who so distinguished himself, afterwards, at the battle of Manassas, and on other bloody fields."

William Edwin Evans lived an additional 28 years following the end of the Civil War. He died in Marion, South Carolina in 1893 at the age of 58. He is buried in the Old Town Cemetery in Marion, South Carolina

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Lt. William E. Evans (CSN)'s Timeline

1835
1835
1893
1893
Age 58