William Bugg – African American Confederate States Naval Officer

In 1898, the Naval Records and Library of the US Navy Department issued the publication Register of Officers of the Confederate States Navy, 1861-1865, compiled from US and CS navy registers, reports of officers, records of the office of the Secretary of the Navy, and other miscellaneous papers. This publication includes Pilots who served with the Confederate States Navy and were considered as being Warrant Officers.

Amongst the Pilots listed in the register is one William (Billy) Bugg, appointed in the Confederate States Navy from the state of Georgia. He is shown as having served aboard the CSS Isondiga and the CSS Sampson, as well as the Savannah station, between 1863 and 1865. Because of the sparse nature of Confederate records, his pre-war and post war life is unknown.

Series 2, Volume 1 of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, includes the names of many Naval officers and enlisted men who served in the Confederate States Navy during the war. On page 289 of this particular volume is included extracts of the muster rolls of the CSS Isondiga for the period January – March, and July – December, 1863, as well as January – September, 1864. William Bugg is shown as one of three Pilots aboard the vessel during that period.

From page 498, Volume 16 of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion is extracted the following, additional details about Pilot William Bugg in a despatch dated Augusta, Georgia, January 9, 1865, and sent to Captain S.S. Lee, C.S. Navy by Flag Officer William W. Hunter:

I have to report the desertion of G.J. Clark, pilot for the waters adjacent to Savannah, and his son, Charles Clark, first-class boy, and also River Pilot Billy Bugg, negro, all of the CSS Sampson. I have reason to believe that these have deserted to the enemy and are finding their way to Savannah for that purpose, their families being there. This desertion leaves the Sampson without a river pilot, and will give the enemy the benefit of Billy Bugg’s services, who is one of the best pilots on the Savannah River.

Unfortunately, there is no further mention of Billy Bugg in the Official Records of the Navies, and until further details come to hand, this is the extent of the information on this interesting person. Dave Sullivan, USMC historian, has also advised that there was at least one other Pilot, Moses Dallas, who had the distinction of being perhaps the only African American to give his life for the Confederacy in a naval action. He was killed during the capture of the USS Water Witch on June 2, 1864, near Ossabaw Sound, Georgia. Commander W.A. Webb, in a report dated May 31, 1863 to Secretary Mallory, mentions Dallas as being the “best inland pilot on the coast,” and suggests an increase in his [Dallas’] pay from $80 to $100 per month. [See ORN Volume 14, pages 704 and 708; and Volume 15, pages 494-502.]

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