John H. Collins - Mobile Bay Pilot

John H. Collins was a Mobile Bay pilot for the US Navy. An 1897 article in United Service magazine about RADM James Jouett indicates that Collins was actually the Metacomet's pilot, but was loaned to the Tecumseh for the Battle of Mobile Bay by Jouett. [1]

Collins was in the pilothouse with CDR Craven when the Tecumseh struck the fatal mine and started to founder. Per William Goodwin of the USS Bienville [2] and CSN Fleet-Surgeon D. B. Conrad of the Tennessee [3] who both spoke with Collins in Pensacola after the battle and COMO Foxhill Parker who interviewed people for his book on the battle [5], Craven and Collins both headed towards the scuttle to escape the rapidly flooding pilothouse. Craven realized that there was only time for one man to escape. With the three words of "after you, pilot" that would be venerated by the Navy for decades afterwards on par with Lawrence's "don't give up the ship" and Farragut's "damn the torpedoes", Craven stepped back, allowing Collins to leave first. Craven did not make it out of the pilothouse. As Collins stated afterwards, "there was nothing after me. When I reached the topmost round of the ladder, the vessel seemed to drop from under me."[4]

Acting Ensign Henry Clay Nields and his crew from the Metacomet rescued Collins from the water along with eleven other survivors of the Tecumseh. He was later taken to Pensacola and then put back into the fleet as a bay pilot.

Per an 1864 order from SECNAV, pilots (as long as they were white) were granted temporary commissions and Collins was made an Acting Master effective 16 December 1864 and his duty station "West Gulf Blockading Squadron, for special duty as pilot".

A report from Acting RADM Henry K. Thatcher to SECNAV Welles listing vessels in the West Gulf squadron shows that Collins was in command of the schooner U.S.S. Corypheus as of 1 MAY 1865.

The 1866 register of Naval officers lists Collins as having been honorably discharged from the service as of 19 September 1865.





Awards & Memorials


Alternate Spellings of Name


References and Sources

[1] "Rear-Admiral James Edward Jouett, United States Navy (Retired)" United Service: A Monthy Review of Military and Naval Affairs. January 1897.

[2] Deacon, Charles Ridgway. A Biographical album of prominent Pennsylvanians. (The American Biographical Publishing Company, Philadelphia 1890)

[3] Conrad, D. B. "What the Fleet-Surgeon Saw of the Fight in Mobile Bay, August 1864, Whilst on board the Confederate Ironclad "Tennessee"" United Service: A Monthy Review of Military and Naval Affairs. September 1892.

[4] Congressional Record - House of Representatives, "Mrs. Marie Louise Craven" February 20, 1885

[5] Parker, Foxhill A. The Battle of Mobile Bay, and the capture of forts Powell, Gaines and Morgan. (A. Williams and Company, Boston 1878)