A Brief History
On February 10, 1862, during the American Civil War, the Union fleet won the battle of Elizabeth City, North Carolina, by sinking the Confederate “Mosquito Fleet.” So, what is a “mosquito fleet?”
Generally speaking, a mosquito fleet is an unofficial nickname for a fleet of small warships or gunboats, in the case of the Confederate mosquito fleet mentioned here, 5 gunboats and a single schooner.
Other nations and navies have employed mosquito fleets, ranging from commandeered private yachts used for anti-submarine patrol during the World Wars to converted fishing or utility vessels pressed into military service. The boats making up these little fleets could be sail, steam, or gasoline powered. Mosquito fleets do not even have to be used by the military, but can be any fleet of small craft.
A notable mosquito fleet was the US Navy’s fleet of PT boats, fast and heavily armed small craft that could take on far larger vessels using their torpedoes. Future US President John F. Kennedy famously skippered one of these PT boats.
Question for students (and subscribers): What mosquito fleet do you find to be the most interesting or the “greatest?” Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Keating, Bern. The Mosquito Fleet: The History of the PT Boat in World War II. Burtyrki Books, 2020.
Laramie, Michael. Gunboats, Muskets, and Torpedoes: Coastal North Carolina, 1861–1865. Westholme Publishing, 2020.
The featured image in this article, a chart by Pkkphysicist of the Pasquotank River near Elizabeth City, NC, showing the Confederate defenses and the attacking Federal column of ships at the Battle of Elizabeth City, 10 February 1862, has been released into the public domain worldwide by the copyright holder of this work.
You can also watch video versions of this article on YouTube.