THE NAVY IN THE CIVIL WAR
Published 1883, 1885
THE ATLANTIC COAST.
REAR-ADMIRAL, U.S. NAVY
Navy Department, on June 26th, addressed a letter to Rear-Admiral Dupont, from
which the following is an extract:
your ceaseless vigilance and that of the officers under your command we were
indebted, some months since, for the destruction of the notorious steamer Nashville,
which the enemy had armed and fruitlessly endeavored to send out to destroy our
commerce; and now to your timely measures, and the, efficient means provided, do
we owe the capture of one of the most powerful ironclads afloat-a vessel
prepared after months of toil and great expenditure of money, and sent forth
with confidence to disperse our blockading fleet and overcome our monitors.
may well regard this, and we may with pleasure look upon it as a brilliant
termination of a command gallantly commenced and conducted for nearly two years
with industry, energy, and ability."
the 21st of April the Assistant Secretary of the Navy said to Admiral Dahlgren,
in the Navy Department, that it was his wish that he (Dahlgren) should relieve
Dupont. Dahlgren says in relation to this:
I am wanted there now, an order will soon take me there, as I ant an applicant
for sea service. Next day the President came into Fox's room while I was there,
and sat some time, talking generally of matters. He said nothing of the
Charleston business, in the way of opinion, but remarked that Dupont's last
letter showed over-readiness to think that his (the President's) letter censured
him. Abe was in good humor, and at leaving said, "Well, I will go home; I
had no business here; but as the lawyer said, I had none anywhere else."
28th Dupont is to be relieved, and three are spoken of in his place–Gregory,
Foote, and myself. There is evidently an idea of two commanders, one for the
fleet generally, and one for the attack, intended I think, to include Foote and
myself (Dahlgren's Memoirs, p. 390).
Foote was taken suddenly ill, and that gallant officer died in New York on the
26th of June. Admiral Dahlgren was ordered to relieve Admiral Dupont, and left
with the least possible delay; he arrived at Port Royal on the 4th of July. He
Gillmore wished to act, and had called for assistance. Dupont had no specific
instructions, but would assist. He preferred to await my arrival. A very loose
state of things; no shape or connection. After Rodgers got to the Wabash
a note was sent me from Dupont, saying he was “rejoiced” and would send
for me at 10. . . Dupont was very pleasant. The cabins full of officers.
the afternoon I went over to Hilton Head to see General Gillmore. He said that
his project must now be tried, or it would be too late in a few days. So I had
no alternative but to grant the aid asked (Dahlgren's Memoirs, p. 396).
the 5th Admiral Dahlgren met General Gillmore on board of the Wabash, and they “put the matter in a definite shape." The
admiral "would send in five ironclads to clear the ground on Morris Island,
and he would attempt an assault the night before. If it failed, then he would
open the batteries. The thing is rather complicated, and, to make it worse, I am
new to the squadron and the locality, and my staff likewise. . . . Besides,
three of the turrets are being altered, and this work has to be stopped for the
(Dahlgren's Memoirs, p. 397-8).
the 6th the command of the squadron was turned over to Rear-Admiral Dahlgren. On
the 7th he "received a note from General Gillmore, who asked to postpone
one day. Agreed on."
taking leave of Rear-Admiral Dupont, the writer is impelled to give a sketch
of him, perhaps such as is in the memory of every officer who was personally
acquainted with him or served near him. Professionally, he was thoroughly able;
he possessed undaunted courage, energy, and zeal; his education was of a high
order, and his character might well serve as a model in every respect. He had
the rare ability to make the best use of the personnel and the material under
his control, and to maintain over no less than forty harbors, inlets, and
channel-ways, as rigorous a blockade as it was in the power of man to accomplish
with the vessels which were at his disposal.
appearance he was distinguished, over six feet in height, admirably
proportioned, graceful and urbane, with an intelligent expression and action.
It will not be considered adulatory to those who knew him to say that no
officer in our navy within the past half century was gifted with a more
distinguished appearance or exalted character.
July 15th the Secretary of the Navy wrote to Rear-Admiral Dupont, after the
close of his official duties, as follows "Elsewhere, and in public official
communications, I have expressed my high appreciation of your services and of
the ability you have exhibited."
was further correspondence between the Navy Department and the admiral of an
acrimonious character, which neither the limits nor the objects of this volume
could take in. A careful consideration of what is herein presented, will show,
however, that certain charges of disobedience of orders were simply technical,
namely: the ironclads should have been within Charleston bar, as per order, when
they were undergoing repairs from injuries received, and were having
base-rings put around their turrets, and pilot-houses increased in thickness,
by order of the Department, which could not have been done off Charleston; also,
a failure to cooperate with General Gillmore as ordered, when Gillmore was not
ready to operate until some days after Dahlgren took command.
Dahlgren, when in an inferior grade, had with great difficulty introduced into
the naval service an improved armament of shell guns and boat howitzers, in
relation to which Rear-Admiral Dupont, immediately after the battle of Port
Royal, wrote him as follows:
besides this, I am impelled by a feeling of duty to address you. The large
ordnance of this squadron has sprung from your inventive genius, and thankful am
I, for one, for those long years of study, scientific research, and
deductions, which so materially aided in arming the American navy as I believe
no other navy is armed. . . . I only now wish you could have seen the practice
from this ship during the engagement, not alone for its precision and
destructive results, but for the rapidity with which such large guns could be
loaded with their heavy shell.
never get transports, as the French
term it, about such things, but I will repeat, to the day of my death, that the
second assault of this ship upon the forts, for rapidity, continuity, and
precision of fire, has never been surpassed in naval warfare.
Dahlgren, upon assuming command, had shown him by Dupont a letter from Gilimore,
to the effect that he was about operating on Morris Island; and asked naval cooperation.
This had been declined in order to enable his successor to make all preliminary
Gilimore had informed him [Dahlgren] that the enemy appeared to be aware of his
design, and was working on Morris Island with great activity to defeat it, and
would succeed unless speedy action was taken. There being no time to ascertain
the views of the Department it only remained for him to furnish the assistance
he proposed to do with the monitors, with what assistance from the wooden
vessels was found practicable. He regretted the probability that at the time
desired the Ironsides would not be
able to cross the bar. He says: ''Of course, the most that is expected from the
action of these vessels is to relieve the troops as much as possible, and is to
be considered of no other consequence."
the 10th of July General Gilimore opened his batteries, situated on the north
end of Folly Island, against those of the enemy occupying the southern
sand-hills of Morris Island.
4 A.M. the Catskill, Commander George
W. Rodgers, the Montauk, Commander D.
M. Fairfax, the Nahant, Commander
John Downes, and the Weehawken,
Commander E. R. Colhoun, passed the bar, the admiral's flag being on board of
the leading vessel. General Gillmore opened fire about this time, and as soon as
sufficiently near, the monitors opened fire with shell upon the enemy's
batteries, which were replying to those of General Gillmore. The fire of the
monitors dispersed the enemy wherever seen to assemble. About eight o'clock the
land batteries ceased firing and the troops in some force were seen making their
way along the beach on Morris Island.
monitors, with the advance of the troops, now moved parallel to the low, flat
ground that extends northward between the sand-hills and Fort Wagner, as near
to the island as the depth of water permitted, rolling shells over the surface
to clear away any bodies of troops that might be behind a continuous sand-ridge
near the beach.
or three buildings near Fort Wagner were set on fire by the enemy, for the
supposed purpose of unmasking the guns of the fort looking down the beach. The
monitors were now laid abreast of Fort Wagner, which is situated about 2¾ miles
from the southern end of Morris Island, and 1¾ mile north of the sand-hills
situated on that end. The number of guns in Wagner was supposed to be ten or
twelve. At 9:30 the monitors opened on the work. The admiral desired to get
within grape-shot range, but was not able to get closer than about 1,200 yards,
by reason of shoal water. The fire was promptly and vigorously returned till
noon, when the monitors dropped down to allow the men to have dinner, after
which they re-occupied their position and continued firing until 6 P.M. and then
withdrew, the men having been fourteen hours employed. The weather was
excessively hot. Five hundred and thirty-four shell and shrapnel were fired
during the day, and from the different points of view the practice appeared to
admiral was favorably impressed with the endurance of the monitors. The Catskill
was struck sixty times, a large percentage of the hits being very severe. The
pilothouse, turret, and side armor, were all more or less damaged. Some of
the shots were large; one found on deck after striking the turret proved to be a
X-inch; when these heavy shot struck, the concussion was very great. An officer
touching the turret at such a time was knocked down senseless and much
injured. The iron of the pilot-house was broken through entirely, and a nut from
one of the bolts driven against the lining, so as to break it through. The
deck-plates were also cut through in many places, so as to make the entrance of
water troublesome. The test was most severe, as all admitted who saw the vessel.
Yet after firing one hundred and twenty-eight rounds she came out of action in
good working order, as was proven by her going into action the next day.
enemy directed his fire almost exclusively against the Catskill. The Nahant was
hit six times, the Montauk twice, and
the Weehawken was untouched.
following morning the admiral received a note from General Gillmore stating that
at early daylight he had made an assault on Wagner and had been repulsed. He had
learned that the enemy expected reinforcements at 10 A.M., and asked for action
to prevent it. In accordance with the request, four monitors were again moved
near Wagner, and scoured the ground in that vicinity.
July 17th the admiral states that since his last report he had been occupied
with measures to continue the advance and have the Ironsides with five monitors inside the bar. An attack was made on
our forces in the Steno the previous day, which had been repulsed. The Pawnee
had been struck forty-two times.
July 19th he states that the previous day a combined attack had been made by the
troops under General Gillmore and the vessels under his command. At 11.30 A.M.
the admiral led on board of the Montauk,
Commander Fairfax, followed by the Ironsides,
Captain S. C. Rowan; the Catskill,
Commander G. W. Rodgers; the Nantucket,
Commander Beaumont; the Weehawken,
Commander Colhoun; and the Patapsco,
Lieutenant-Commander Badger. At 12.30 the Montauk
anchored abreast of Fort Wagner and fired the first gun, the other vessels
following. The tide ebbing, the pilot was averse to going nearer. The distance
to the fort was about twelve hundred yards. The gunboats Paul Jones, Commander A. C. Rhind; Ottawa, Lieutenant-Commander W. D. Whiting; Seneca, Lieutenant-Commander Wm. Gibson; Chippewa, Lieutenant-Commander T. C. Harris; and Wissahickon,
Lieutenant-Commander J. L. Davis, at the same time were using their pivot guns
against the fort at long range, and the batteries of General Gillmore, about one
thousand yards south, on Morris Island, were firing very deliberately and
4 P.M., with a flood-tide, weighed anchor and closed in to within about three
hundred yards of the fort, so that for the day not a shot was fired afterward at
the vessels, nor was a man to be seen about it. Near sunset a note was received
from General Gillmore stating that he had ordered an assault, and the battalions
could be seen advancing along the beach. "Before our troops had reached the
works it became too dark to discern them. To this moment an incessant and
accurate fire had been maintained by the vessels; but now it was impossible to
distinguish whether it took effect on friend or foe, and, of necessity, it was
suspended. Very soon afterward the rattle of musketry and the flashes of light
artillery announced that our men were mounting to the attack. This continued
without intermission until 9.30 P.M., then gradually decreased and died away
ill-tidings of a repulse were not long coming; the admiral was of opinion that
the number of troops was inadequate. The officers and men were zealous, and
labored hard; the general plans were well conceived; but there was a manifest
lack of force."
following morning the admiral sent a flag of truce on shore to offer to take
charge of our wounded. The offer was rejected, and the fact observed that dead
and wounded were lying about the ground. The enemy stated that the dead would be
buried and the wounded properly provided for. Owing to our wounded lying
exposed, it was not possible to do anything that day; the vessels were ordered
to withdraw in order that the men might get fresh air below. The admiral
expresses his satisfaction with those under his command; and says the vessels
were handled with great skill in the narrow channel.
July 21st he forwards copies of correspondence between General Gillmore and
himself, and states his belief that an additional land force is absolutely
required to advance operations. "Fort Wagner had been silenced and its
garrison driven to shelter, and that could be repeated; the rest could only be
accomplished by troops."
a part of the operations against Charleston, the command of General A. H.
Terry was sent up the Stono River to make a diversion. The Pawnee,
Commander G. B. Balch; the McDonough,
Lieutenant-Commanding Bacon; and the Marblehead,
Lieutenant-Commanding Scott, were in those waters to co-operate.
the afternoon of July 9th the Pawnee, Nantucket
(monitor), the McDonough, and the Williams proceeded up the Stono, anchored above Strom's Landing, and
opened fire on James Island. The troops followed in transports, landed, and sent
a force out on the island. On the 11th a Confederate battery opened fire on the
army transport Hunter, and at once received the fire of the McDonough
and the Williams. In the afternoon, at the request of General Terry, the Pawnee
anchored off Grimball's, near the locality where the Isaac
Smith had been captured, five months previously, and opened fire in the
direction of Secessionville, to assist our troops in making a forward movement,
and this was continued, and at ranges designated, until signal was made to
cease, when the troops advanced.
the morning of the 16th the enemy opened a heavy fire on the Pawnee and Marblehead,
choosing a time when the position of the vessels would not permit their
batteries to bear. The narrow channel, and the steering-wheel of the Pawnee
being disabled, made the attempt to drop down perilous, but the movement was
effected without grounding, and was most opportune. General Terry signalled that
the enemy was advancing in force, and requested the Pawnee
to open fire. This was effectively done, and an advance along a causeway was
checked. The attack on Terry's troops was very spirited, and, as learned through
prisoners taken, the design was to disable the vessels, and by means of a superior
force capture the troops.
the afternoon of that day General Terry stated that he had fulfilled his
instructions, and would embark during the night. As proposed, the troops left,
and the vessels of war dropped down to the inlet.
operations, from causes indicated above, were suspended on Morris Island until
the morning of August 17th, at which time General Gillmore opened fire on Fort
Sumter from all of his batteries. At the same time Admiral Dahlgren, with his
flag on board of the Weehawken,
followed by the Catskill, Nahant,
and Montauk, attacked Wagner, the New Ironsides taking position in face of the fort. From outside the bar
the Canandaigua, Mahaska, Cimarrone, Ottawa,
Wissahickon, Dai Ching,
and Lodona opened also with rifles and
the tide rose the monitors closed to within a distance of about four hundred and
fifty yards of Wagner, and the Ironsides
as near as her draught would permit. After a couple of hours the fort was
silenced, and the fire of the vessels was less frequent thereafter. During the
action Fort Moultrie made fair practice on the Ironsides.
batteries of General Gillmore were working effectively on the gorge of Sumter.
Later in the day the admiral shifted his flag to the Passaic, and, accompanied by the Patapsco, steamed to within two thousand yards of Sumter, and opened
fire on its southeast face with one rifled 150pounder on board of each of
these vessels. Sumter scarcely replied, Wagner was silent, and battery Gregg
alone, on Cummings Point, maintained a deliberate fire at the two monitors. The
vessels were withdrawn at noon, the batteries of General Gillmore continuing an
effective fire at Sumter. In the afternoon the Passaic and Patapsco again
attacked Wagner to prevent repairs. The fort opened briskly on them, but in a
short time remained silent.
this day's bombardment a heavy shot striking the top of the pilot-house of the Catskill,
of which vessel Commander George W. Rodgers was in temporary command, caused
the instant death of that gallant officer and of Paymaster Woodbury, who was
at his side. The fragments of iron also wounded Mr. Penton, the pilot, and
Master's Mate Wescott.
Rodgers was the chief-of-staff to the admiral, but on this occasion had been
permitted to take the Catskill into
action. The vessel withdrew temporarily, the bodies were transferred to a tug,
and the Catskill resumed her position
at 11 A.M. In relation to the death of his chief-ofstaff the admiral in his
official report says: "It is but natural that I should feel deeply the
loss thus sustained, for the close and confidential relation which the duties of
the fleetcaptain necessarily occasion, impressed me deeply with the loss of
Captain Rodgers. Brave, intelligent, and highly capable, devoted to his duty and
to the flag under which he passed his life, the country cannot afford to lose
such men.. Of a kind and generous nature, he was prompt to give relief when he
writer cannot refrain from adding that from the time of separation on leaving
the Naval School, he never met his classmate Rodgers without an increased
appreciation of his great professional aptitude. He possessed, in a marked degree,
all of the high qualities assigned him by the admiral. Eminently useful in all
the subordinate grades, had he lived, he would have become a distinguished
officer of the highest rank.
this day's bombardment, by land batteries and vessels, General Ripley, in
command of Confederate defences, reports, ''Sumter in ruins and all guns on
northwest face disabled, besides seven other guns."
the night of the 21st a steam torpedo boat" came out of Charleston, and
struck the Ironsides. A direct
collision was not effected and the electric current failed also. The boat,
however, effected her retreat under a heavy fire from the Ironsides
and other vessels.
the 23d of August, before daylight, five monitors were brought within about 800
yards of Sumter and opened fire. Considerable damage was done to the southeast
and northeast faces. The fort replied with only six shots, but Moultrie, with
its extended line of earthworks, opened fire with many large guns and struck the
monitors frequently with heavy shot. The Weehawken,
upon which the admiral was, received two blows on the pilot-house "more
forcible than any he had seen." Notwithstanding the difficulties of manoeuvring
during the night, and in a channel edged with shoals, only one monitor got
aground. At six it was blowing from the southeast and the vessels were
withdrawn. The Department was informed that the gorge of Sumter was completely
ruined by the severe fire of the batteries of General Gillmore, aided by four
rifled cannon of the navy in battery on shore under Commander F. A. Parker. The
intention was expressed of "passing Sumter into the harbor if the obstacles
are not of such a nature as to prevent it, as soon as the weather
the 25th of August an exchange of prisoners took place by agreement. It was
either happily arranged or fortuitous for the defenders of Fort Wagner. General
Ripley says "The enemy opened about daylight both from the fleet and land
batteries. Wagner was sorely pressed, and the flag of truce boat was literally a
godsend. The firing continued until 10 A.M., and for a portion of the time was
equal in intensity to the bombardment of the 18th. One of the more advanced
land batteries of Parrott guns did serious damage; the remaining X-inch
columbiad on the sea-face was dismounted, and the magazines so much exposed
that it became necessary to remove the ammunition. The commanding officer,
anticipating a renewal of the bombardment upon the completion of the exchange of
prisoners, requested that all necessary arrangements should be made for the
transfer of the troops from the island in case of necessity. Four hours were
consumed in effecting the delivery of 105 wounded prisoners and in receiving
39. The bombardment was not renewed, and the time thus allowed was improved to
the utmost in repairing the damage that had been done." The casualties in
the fort from the 20th to the 31st were 13 killed and 49 wounded.
admiral states that at his request, on the 21st of September, General Gillmore
had knocked down four or five pieces of ordnance that had been seen on the inner
fronts of Sumter. Soon after midnight on the 2d he led in the Weehawken
and anchored 600 yards from Sumter off the angle between the northeast and
southeast fronts. The fire was maintained by all of the monitors, and the Ironsides,
within good range, joined in the action. Moultrie opened a rapid and sustained
fire from its extended line, which told with effect, notwithstanding the
obscurity of the night, which interfered with accuracy of aim. The fire of the
monitors was in some degree directed at the floating obstructions that had been
reported from day to day. The vessels were engaged for five hours and fired 245
shots and received in all 71 hits. The Ironsides
fired 50 shots and received 7 hits.
round shot which struck the base of the Weehawken's
turret drove in a fragment of iron and broke the leg of FleetCaptain Badger.
"He had been with the admiral for eight years, and was one of the best
ordnance officers in the navy. The loss of his services was felt greatly."
enemy evacuated Morris Island on the night preceding the 7th of September. The
previous day a steady cannonade had been maintained against Wagner from the
land batteries and by the Ironsides,
and it was known to the enemy that an assault was intended soon, which in fact
was to have been carried out at 9 A.m. At this time General Gillmore's advanced
sap was within forty yards of the salient. The army occupied Wagner and Gregg on
the morning of the 7th.
August 17th, the time the land batteries opened on Fort Sumter from beyond
Wagner, having a mean range of four thousand five hundred yards, every day
brought ruin, until Sumter had not a single gun mounted. General Ripley's
report of August 21st says: “Enemy opened heavily from land batteries on
Morris Island on eastern face, of Sumter. Four hundred and sixty-five
projectiles struck outside, 259 inside, and 219 passed over. The eastern face
was heavily battered and 2 barbette guns dismounted." During the night
artillery implements, subsistence, and other stores and 9,700 pounds of powder
were removed. This removal of stores, etc., was continued steadily, as
opportunities favored. The next day all of the barbette guns were disabled
except one XIinch and one X-inch on eastern face. The arches of the northwest
face were demolished, of which five and the terreplein fell in. On the 23d the
ironclads came up and engaged Sumter at short distance. Twenty-nine projectiles
struck outside, 15 inside, and 17 missed. Considerable damage was done to the
parapet and wall. From the land batteries came 282 projectiles outside, 310
inside, and 141 missed. The X-inch gun en barbette was disabled, and three 42pounder
rifles in the northeast salient of second tier. The Confederates were engaged in
throwing the dismounted guns off the parapets and transporting them and
munitions as they best could. Although the bombardment was almost daily, it is
passed over here until the 30th. Four guns were then firing from the land
batteries, and disabled three X-inch Columbiads that had been repaired. Three of
the casemate arches on the northeast face were demolished, and two breaches made
in the scarp wall, exposing the sand with which, the arches were filled.
September 1st, all of the guns en barbette were disabled, and the entire terre-plein
of the northeast face, with the exception of two arches, fell in. September 2d,
“the Ironsides and monitors came up
and directed their fire principally against Sumter, apparently with the
intention of doing as much damage as possible. Nearly the whole of the eastern
scarp was demolished. The accumulated debris served to protect the walls."
Confederate reports show the steady destruction of Sumter and its armament,
with little loss of life, until the evacuation of Morris Island, when its
appearance from seaward was rather that of a steep, sandy island than of a fort.
September 5th, General Ripley wrote a confidential letter to the officer
commanding Fort Wagner, stating that it was "within the contingencies"
that those works would be evacuated. lie alluded to the fact that at different
times . they had been supplied with safety-fuse. " This would be examined
and kept in place, and magazines would be prepared for explosion before the
evacuation takes place, by causing safety-fuses, three in number, to be inserted
in a barrel of gunpowder in each magazine and carefully trained, so that the
explosion may not be premature." Elaborate instructions follow; but they
were carried out so indifferently as to be inoperative when the fort was
evacuated. The commanding officer of the fort reported on the 6th that
thirty-six hours' severe bombardment, confining the garrison to the bombproofs,
had so dispirited the garrison as to render it unsafe, in the opinion of its
officers, to repel an assault. The head of the enemy's sap was within forty
yards of the salient, and he was making rapid progress, unmolested by a single
gun, and with scarcely any annoyance from sharpshooters. In an effort the
previous night to repair damages a loss was sustained of from 60 to 80 men in
the working parties alone. Without having the ability to repair damages at
night, from the effects of the fire of the shore batteries and the fleet, the
work would be rendered untenable in two days."
garrison of Fort Wagner was successfully withdrawn without loss, except some 40
prisoners, and later, the failure to blow up the magazines was sharply commented
upon by General Beauregard. With so many men in the trenches, close to the work,
an explosion would have resulted in great loss of life.
day following the evacuation of Morris Island Admiral Dahlgren sent a demand for
the surrender of Fort Sumter, and was informed that "he could have Sumter
when he could take and hold it."
Weehawken was ordered on the night of
the 7th to pass into a narrow, shoal, and tortuous channel between Sumter and
Cummings Point, and in the attempt grounded and remained so for two tides. When
her condition became known, Moultrie and other batteries on Sullivan's Island
opened fire on her, as well as Fort Simkins on James Island. In returning the
fire the Weehawken caused an explosion
at Moultrie. One of her heavy shells struck and disabled an 8-inch columbiad,
and glancing, fired a service magazine, killing 16 and wounding 12 men. Whilst
aground she fired 36 shells at Moultrie and Bee and 46 at Sumter. She was struck
24 times, without material damage, and had 3 men wounded. The admiral, on board
the Ironsides, and followed by the
monitors, had moved up "to feel, and if possible, pass the obstructions.
north of Sumter." This force received a severe fire from the usual
batteries, which was returned until it was thought best to give entire attention
to the Weehawken. She was finally got
afloat. In this affair Captain Rowan, in the Ironsides,
did admirable service; one of the heaviest guns of the enemy was dismounted, and
his fire, if not controlled, was much weakened. When only thirty shells
remained, the anchor was weighed, firing kept up from all of the available guns,
and she left unmolested, "after one of the severest artillery duels ever
sustained by a ship " through a period of nearly three hours. Her armor was
battered, but stood the battering fairly, quite disproving Mr. Stimer's
assertion, previously noticed, of the superiority of five 1-inch plates over a
solid plate of 4J inches in thickness.
the night of September 8th an attempt to take Sumter by a boat expedition from
the squadron resulted disastrously, not in great loss of life, but in the
capture of a considerable, number of officers and sailors, as well as the loss
of several boats. The demand for the surrender of Sumter had informed the
enemy, and boats in tow of tugs from the vessels outside of the bar during the
whole of the afternoon left little doubt as to an intended attempt. He did not
fail, therefore, to put a considerable force into Sumter for the occasion.
T. H. Stevens was in command, and Lieutenant-Commander E. P. Williams,
Lieutenants Remey, Preston, Higginson, and Ensign Craven, commanded the five
divisions of boats. A detachment of marines, under Captain McCawley, formed also
a part of the force, numbering in all 400. A request for the loan of some army
boats brought the information that General Gillmore also intended making an
attack. It was about 10 p.m.. before the boats, in tow of a tug, reached the
vicinity of Sumter; "a sound of musketry, followed by shells from the
adjacent forts, announced the assault." Before the Admiral reached the
vicinity the conflict had ceased. Of the 400, 10 officers and 104 men were taken
prisoners, and 3 were reported killed.
Stevens reported that on his way up he had communicated with the monitors Lehigh
and Montauk and given orders to move up for his support. When within 800
yards of the fort, the boats cast off from the tug, and final instructions and
the watch-word were given. Lieutenant Higginson's division was directed to
move up to the northwest front for the purpose of making a diversion, and, the
other divisions were ordered to close up and wait to advance on the southeast
front. It was intended to wait until the full benefit of the diversion was
attained, "but mistaking his movement, doubtless, as intended for a
general one, and in that spirit of gallantry and emulation which characterizes
the service, many of the other boats dashed on. Finding it too late to restrain
them, the order was given to advance."
boats, on approaching the fort, were met with a fire of musketry, hand-grenades,
lighted shells, and grape and canister, and simultaneously, at a signal from the
fort, all of the enemy's batteries, with one of their gunboats and rams, opened
of the boats effected a landing, "but the evidences of preparation were so
apparent, and the impossibility of effecting a general landing or scaling the
walls so certain, that orders were given to withdraw." All who landed were
either killed or taken prisoners. They were, in fact, entirely helpless, and
when they agreed to surrender were taken around to another face, and helped to
get within the fort.
was a period of comparative quiet until the 5th of October, when a second
attempt was made to blow up the Ironsides
by a torpedo boat. At 9.15 P.M. a small object was seen by a sentinel and
hailed. No answer was received and the sentry fired; the ship almost immediately
thereafter received a very severe blow from an explosion which threw a column
of water upon the spar deck and into the engineroom. The object was afterward
known to be a torpedo boat, "shaped like a cigar, 50 feet long and 5 feet
in diameter, and so submerged that the only portion visible was the coaming of
her hatch, two feet above the water surface, and about 10 feet in length.”
boat was commanded by Lieutenant Glassell, formerly of the navy. He was taken
prisoner, and stated that the explosion threw a column of water which put out
the fires and left the boat without motive power.
marine guard and musketeers on. the spar-deck of the Ironsides saw a small object, at which a very severe fire was kept
up until it drifted out of sight, when two of the monitors passed near; then
it disappeared. Two boats were sent and made an unsuccessful search. The
prisoner stated that he, Engineer Toombs, and a pilot, were compelled to abandon
the vessel, and provided with life preservers, swam for their lives. Glassell
hailed a coal schooner as he was drifting past, and was taken on board.
Confederate reports say the boat and remainder of crew came back to Charleston.
naval operations before Charleston were now only of blockade, and although the
channel was certainly very limited the blockade-runners came and departed, but
"the Navy Department was not informed of the fact."
The monitors were being patched up where they had been battered, and were
beached at high water and the sides were scraped at low water, and when afloat
again, the flat floor was cleaned by divers. Their speed even then would not
exceed four knots with all the revolutions their enginery could make.
October 20th the army again opened on Sumter from the nearest attainable points
on Morris Island, and were aided by the cross-fire of 150-pounder rifles on
board of the Patapsco and Lehigh.
This seemed wholly a work of supererogation, as Sumter was in appearance and
in reality only a mass of ruins, without a gun mounted upon it.
December 6th the monitor Weehawken
sunk when made fast to one of the mooring buoys placed for those vessels
within the Charleston bar. The previous day Commander Colhoun had been
relieved by Commander Jesse Duncan, and a day or so before had taken on board as
many heavy shells as the vessel would hold. The capacity of the shell-room of a
monitor was found to be entirely insufficient for long continuous operations,
hence the fore body was also allotted for their stowage. The hold was little
deeper than sufficient to contain a XV-inch shell, below the “flying
deck," which means one made of movable sections. The shells were thus
conveniently stowed, and easily got up in action, and their weight not only made
the monitors lie deep in the water, but also reduced the difference of draught
between the bow and stern from a foot and a half to about six or eight inches,
and this resulted in a sluggish water flow to the powerful pumps, which, placed
aft, were ineffective, since the water could not reach them and hence could not
within Charleston bar, where the swell was often heavy, and usually sufficient
to wash over the deck, in order to make the monitors habitable, or existence in
them possible in hot weather, high coamings, or "hoppers" as they
were called, were fitted around the hatch-openings.
reader will remember that the "windlass-room" is a small apartment,
previously described, in the bow of the monitors into which the anchor-chain is
led through the hawse-hole-from the "anchor-well." The plate over the
latter forms a chamber, and serves as an air-cushion, in a measure preventing
the entrance of water through the hawse-hole by slopping. Heavy plaits of
strands of rope were made, known as gaskets, which were pliable, and in rough
weather, whether at sea or at anchor, were, or should have been, carefully
mauled in from the windlass-room, around the chain, to fill the entire
hawse-hole and thus prevent anything more than a seepage of water through it.
morning was clear and pleasant; the high coaming at the windlass-room hatch
served its purpose until the vessel had considerable water in her; only a
little spray flew over it from time to time.
noon, a strong ebb-tide kept the broadside of the vessel to the sea; the
hawse-pipe was not supplied with a "gasket," and a considerable amount
of water slopped in, there being nothing to exclude it. The sea became heavier,
the waves washing over the bow, and slopped over the hatchway in small,
quantities. To prevent water from getting into the cabin, the iron door
between it and the windlass-room was closed; the seas increased, and while
closing down the battle-plate of the hatch to the windlass-room, several seas
went over, almost filling the room. The "limbers" were cleared and the
executive officer had no fears that the water would not run aft and be pumped
out; a small gutter, six by eight inches in dimensions, permitted a flow with
whatever velocity the head would give it. The commanding officer had left the
vessel soon after nine o'clock, and was on board the flag-ship near by until
signal was made from the Weehawken
that she was sinking. At about 1 P.M. Ensign Chadwick, observing that the water
partially flooded the captain's cabin, called the assistance of Mr. Allen, the
chief engineer, and they put on and secured the cross-bars to the iron door
before mentioned. "The water gradually rose in the windlass-room, as
indicated by the leak about the door and in about thirty minutes it was on the
top of the door" (Reports of Stuyvesant and Chadwick).
court of inquiry found that the causes of the sinking of the Weehawken were: "The additional weight of ammunition that had
been lately put on board of her, leaving her trim so little by the stern as not
to afford sufficient inclination for water to get to the pumps freely.
neglect to close the hawse-hole, which permitted the rapid accumulation, at the
forward extremity of the vessel, of sufficient water to bring her nearly on an
large amount of water that was permitted to come into the vessel under the
turret, through the XI-inch port, and down the berth-deck hatch, which assisted
to tip the bows of the vessel.
amount of water which, owing to the immersion of the forward part of the vessel,
came in under the plank sheer.
absence of all effort to relieve the forward part of the vessel from its
depressed position by rolling shot aft, or moving any weight from the bow."
reader is doubtless satisfied that the sinking of the vessel was clearly
preventable up to within a few minutes of the occurrence. Had an apprehension of
danger existed at the time the cabin door was securely bolted, it should have
been thrown wide open instead; the hawse-hole should then have been filled in
around the chain with a gasket, and such weights taken aft as would have been
practicable, to increase the "trim by the stern " and the "water
flow " to the pumps as much as possible. The fore body of the vessel
gradually filled with water, which could not flow aft to the pumps, and it rose
to the berth-deck floor.
minutes before the vessel went down the signal was made "Assistance
required." At this moment no . assistance could be rendered, save to
rescue the crew from drowning. The vessel heeled over to the right, or, as
seamen would say, “to starboard;" the bow settled, the water within
rushed forward; for a minute, more or less, she lay on her side, gradually
settling, the water pouring in through the turret port, which was open, and
through the main hatch, over the "hopper; " a dense steam arose out of
the engineroom, the vessel assumed an upright position as she went down, and
the top of the smoke-stack alone remained visible when the keel rested on the
bottom. Four officers and twenty men were drowned, being below at the time, and
unable to reach the deck through the inrush of the water, or, if on deck, unable
to keep themselves afloat for the few minutes that intervened until boats were
at hand for their rescue.
the reader will have already observed, the Stono River was frequently a scene of
contention between batteries and gunboats; again on Christmas day, at 6 A.M., we
find an attack made on the Marblehead,
Lieutenant-Commanding Meade. The vessel was at anchor near Legareville, and the
batteries were on John's Island. The engagement lasted an hour and a half, with
the loss of three killed and four wounded; the hull of the vessel was struck
twenty times, and the rigging considerably damaged. Balch, in the Pawnee,
lying further down, got under way, and from an enfilading position aided the Marblehead, and the mortar-schooner Williams, ActingMaster
Freeman, having a fair wind, came up several miles and opened on the enemy, who
abandoned two disabled guns, a dying man, intrenching tools, etc. The carriages
were destroyed afterward, and two VIII-inch sea-coast howitzers were brought
off by Meade.
instructions from the Department on January 28th, the admiral summarized the
services of the ironclads under his command. He says: "The vessels thus
shared fully with the army in the operation that led to the abandonment of the
works on Morris Island, and besides what is already mentioned, prevented the
access of reinforcements, or their accumulation between Wagner and Gregg. A
detachment of seamen and marines, under Captain F. A. Parker, participated in
the practice of the batteries at Fort Sumter, by working four navy rifle cannon
landed for the purpose.
Ironsides is a fine powerful ship. Her
armor has stood heavy battering very well, and her broadside of seven XI-inch
guns and one VIII-inch rifle has always told with signal effect on the enemy.
the 19th of July, 1863, an English steamer attempted to pass into Charleston
harbor, having eluded the outside blockade. The Catskill, Captain G. W. Rodgers, well up toward Moultrie, ran her on
a shoal. Two or three other blockade-runners within the harbor afterward managed
to escape, and one or two may have gotten in, but that ended the business of
blockade-running at Charleston.
the morning of February 4, 1864, Bryson, in the monitor Lehigh, discovered a blockade-runner ashore on Sullivan's Island,
outside of Moultrie. He opened fire at a distance of twenty-five hundred yards
with an VIII-inch rifle and struck the vessel nine times in forty-two shots, and
the following day used also a 12-pounder rifled howitzer. The first day the
vessel was set on fire by the shells, but the flames apparently made little
progress; on the second day she was again set on fire, and destroyed."
in February General Gillmore announced to the admiral his readiness to operate
on the St. John's River, Florida, and desired a naval co-operation. This was
at once given, the Mahaska, Dai Ching
and Water Witch leaving forthwith. The
force off Charleston was left in command of Commodore Rowan, and the admiral
proceeded to Jacksonville. The National troops had landed at that point, and a
considerable force gone into the interior. The admiral returned to Charleston,
leaving the Mahaska, Ottawa, and Norwich
to second army operations.
Confederates, notwithstanding repeated failures in the use of torpedo-boats off
Charleston, had still sufficient encouragement to continue endeavors, which
resulted on the night of February 19th in the destruction of the Housatonic,
a fine vessel of war, lying outside the Charleston bar, some four miles from
9 P.M. an object was seen moving toward the ship, supposed one hundred yards
distant; it had the appearance of a plank on the water; in two minutes it had
reached the ship. Within this time the crew had been called to quarters, the
chain cable slipped, and engine backed.
The torpedoboat, for such she proved to be, struck the ship on the starboard
side, forward of the mizzen-mast, and the Housatonic
sunk almost immediately, the hammock nettings being just awash when the keel
rested on the bottom. The crew ascended the rigging and were soon taken off by
the boats from other vessels blockading. Ensign Hazeltine, and four of the crew
were missing; they had been either stunned by the explosion or drowned as the
vessel went down.
who commanded the Housatonic, was
severely bruised by the explosion. The torpedo-boat, which was designed to be
wholly submerged if required, went down with the four men in her. She had on
former occasions drowned her crews.
the destruction of this torpedo-boat and her entire crew, another one, at 1 A.M.
of March 6th, in North Edisto River, was discovered rapidly approaching the
blockading steamer Memphis. The chain was slipped and the men called to
quarters; the boat was then under the port quarter and no gun could be brought
to bear on her; a rapid fire of small arms was delivered into what looked like a
hatchway near her centre; she dropped a short distance astern, and came up again
immediately under the stern. The propeller then revolving is supposed to have
caught and broken the torpedo pole. The boat then appeared disabled and
drifted up the river. An armed boat was sent to capture her, but the search was
the night of April 18th, the Wabash,
lying off Charleston, was made the object of an unsuccessful attack. At 9.45
p.m. a boat was discovered on the starboard quarter, one hundred and fifty yards
distant, moving up rapidly against the tide until abeam; then she turned and
moved directly for the ship. The engines of the Wabash
were started ahead, the chain slipped and the starboard battery and small arms
opened fire upon the boat. Two round shot struck it, or near it when about forty
yards distant from the vessel, and the boat was seen no more. The vessel cruised
around the spot with men at the guns and marines ready with small arms, and
signal was made to the blockading vessels of proximity of danger, but the boat
was not seen by any of them.
enemy not only used torpedo-boats with some success, but in the adjacent
waters fixed torpedoes, which exploded on contact. By this means, in the St.
John's River, fifteen miles above Jacksonville, on the 1st of April, the army
transport Maple Leaf was sunk; and on the 10th of May, below the city, the transport
Weed, and a third one later on. The
navy steamer Harvest Moon, nearly one
year later, was sunk in the same manner below Georgetown, and the Patapsco
(monitor), particularly described hereafter, near Fort Sumter.
May 23d, in an endeavor to aid army operations at Volusia, on the St. John's
River, the tug Columbine, Ensign
Sanborn, having an army detachment of 25 men on board, was fired upon, disabled,
and run aground from the wheelropes having been cut by the shells, at Horse
Shoe Landing, on her return from Volusia. Master's mate John Davis, "while
nobly performing his duty," was killed; also 16 soldiers were killed or
missing, and 5 wounded. The remainder were taken prisoners, and the vessel set
on fire without removing the dead.
June 3, 1864, the Water Witch,
Commander Pendergrast, blockading in Ossabaw Sound, was boarded and captured,
only one man (a "contraband") escaping. Seven cotton barges, carrying
150 men, approached the vessel, the night being dark and squally; they were, in
fact, alongside almost as soon as discovered, and although boarding nettings
were up, the vessel soon became a prize. The Water
Witch lost 1 man killed, 13 wounded, and 2 missing. The Confederates lost
their leader, Lieutenant Pelot of their navy, 8 or 10 killed, and 15 or 20
the middle of June Admiral Dahlgren received information from the Navy
Department "that the enemy meditated a simultaneous movement on the
blockade, inside and out, in order to cover the exit of a large quantity of
led to some strategic movements on the part of the army along the Stono River,
aided by a naval force in those waters. These operations were concluded on the
9th of July, after which General Foster returned to Port Royal. General
Schimmelfennig, in command of the troops on James Island, in a letter to the
admiral says: “I take pleasure in informing you of the excellent practice by
your gunboats and monitors on Stono River yesterday. They drove the enemy out of
his rifle-pits, and prevented him from erecting an earthwork which he had
G. M. Colvocoresses commanded the sailing sloop-of-war Saratoga, lying in Doboy Sound, Ga., blockading. He had received a
copy of a newspaper published in Savannah, and observed that a county meeting
had been called in his vicinity for the purpose of organizing a coastguard.
he regarded himself and those under his command as interested parties, he
determined to attend, and for the purpose of holding a controlling majority,
took with him 8 officers and 107 sailors and marines, supplied with bullets in
lieu of ballots, leaving the vessel on the afternoon of the 2d of August. His
party reached the mainland at 9 P.M., and the boats with their crews were sent
back to the ship, to meet him the next day at the Ridge Landing, somewhat nearer
the ship. A skirmish line was thrown out, and the advance begun. At midnight a
house was reached, which was silently passed, and the main road toward Savannah
was taken. Arriving at a bridge, the expedition was halted; an officer with
seven men was detailed to guard it and to capture all persons coming from the
direction of the McIntosh County Court House. At 11 A.M. on the following day
the bridge was to be burned, which would prevent a possible attendance also of
some three hundred Confederate cavalry supposed to be encamped some miles
vicinity of the court house was reached, the party divided, Captain
Colvocoresses taking half the force and Ensign Rogers the remainder, the one
proceeding to the right, the other to the left. « When they arrived at the
building they took to the neighboring woods, and lay there concealed until the
proper time for making the attack. At 11 the signal was made, and the parties
charged at double-quick, and completely surrounded the meeting, only three
persons escaping." The officer left at the bridge burned it, and soon
after came up, with eleven prisoners and a number of horses and buggies.
captain then explained his designs to the persons who were found at the county
meeting, placed them between lines of sailors and took up a line of march for
the Ridge landing. As they proceeded, the party was augmented by three others,
who had been somewhat tardy in leaving home. Another bridge was passed over, and
set on fire. A large encampment near the road, which was to have been occupied
by a force under organization for coast defence, was also burned. The expedition
reached the point of embarkation at sunset, with twenty-six prisoners and
twenty-two horses. It was ascertained that several of the prisoners held
important county offices. It is not stated whether he took them . and the horses
on board, or paroled them. The attendance of Captain Colvocoresses was
certainly quite a surprise, and was doubtless regarded as an unwarranted
a subsequent occasion Colvocoresses made another descent in the same vicinity,
and captured a lieutenant and 28 cavalry, with their arms and equipments, and
burned their encampment. He also destroyed two large salt works, and a bridge on
the main road to Savannah.
to Charleston we find the monitor Patapsco
destroyed a sloop on shore near Moultrie, setting her on fire on the morning
of November 5th, by the use of 150-pounder shells.
the 10th the enemy, finding the Pontiac
within range, in an endeavor to pick up her anchor that she had previously
slipped, she received a rifle-shell which struck her bows, killing 5 and
wounding 7 men; it did serious damage also to the woodwork, and broke a bronze
casting connecting the stem to the keel. For the time the vessel was disabled.
in November, 1864, General Foster asked navy cooperation" in an attack to
assist the movement of General Sherman." For this purpose a force of 500
men was organized and placed under Commander George H. Preble. Four depleted companies of marines formed a part, and two
navy howitzers with their complement of men.
the evening of the 28th, this force at Port Royal was embarked on the Mingoe,
Pontiac, and Sonoma, but
the fog was too thick to permit a movement. At 4 A.M. it broke away partially,
-and the vessels got over the shoals into Broad River, the Pontiac ahead, with the only pilot on board, followed by eight
other navy vessels. At eight o'clock the admiral found himself at Boyd's
Landing, the point designated, twenty miles up the river, with the Pawnee,
Mingoe, Pontiac, Sonoma,
and Winona. The Wissahickon
had grounded below and did not get up. The army transports had not yet arrived,
but the transport with General Hatch came in sight very soon, followed by
others, and the troops began to debark, as also the naval force before named
organized for landing. General Foster arrived at 2 P.M., and army transports
continued to arrive with troops and field artillery throughout the day.
general and the admiral returned in the afternoon, the latter ordering back two
or three vessels not required. No advance was made toward the railroad at
Grahamsville until the 30th. The enemy had by this time collected in force.
General Hatch, who commanded, found "further progress barred by a work
which looked upon the road, and was covered on the flanks by heavy woods and
the 4th of December General Gillmore made a reconnoissance up the Whale Branch,
to Port Royal Ferry, and the admiral went into the Coosawhatchie River with the Pawnee
aid Sonoma, where the enemy had placed two guns to bar a passage. The
stream was too narrow and winding to get nearer than two thousand yards, and the
enemy, after firing a few shots retired to the woods. At the same time, General
Hatch pushed out a light column from his right, and the Pontiac
sent her boats up the creek from Boyd's Landing, the affair being made to assume
the appearance of a demonstration.
general and the admiral determined to move the force up to Tulifiny Creek with
the expressed intention of destroying the railroad above. On the 5th of December
(1864), the greater number of the troops and the naval force on shore were
embarked, leaving General Hatch with a sufficient force to maintain his
position, aided by the gunboat Pontiac.
At 8 A.M. of the 6th, the vessels had reached a landing on the right bank of the
Tulifiny, but low water prevented landing, except in boats, which was
accomplished with as much dispatch as possible, and the whole force moved up the
single road lying between the river Coosawhatchie and the Tulifiny. The line of
railroad, however, was not reached, and if anything was effected by the
movement, it was in diverting a force from opposing the march of General
Sherman to the sea.
the 11th the admiral left the Tulifiny, and the following day reported the
presence of General Sherman's troops near Savannah. His occupation of that city
on the 22d practically ended all naval operations that were not auxiliary to
the movements of the army, except that of blockade. Rainy weather held the Union
army fast until January 24th. General Sherman was then at Beaufort, S. C.,
with the right wing, which some time before had been sent in transports from
Savannah. As the rains had ceased, and the roads were passable, he left for
Pocotaligo, and the following day demonstrated on Salkahatchie. He requested
that the admiral would fire heavy guns high up on the Edisto River, to make
the enemy uneasy on that flank, and to develop whether they intended to hold
fast both to Charleston and to Columbia.
January there were constant night demonstrations of the monitors near the forts
at the entrance to Charleston harbor, which led the Confederates to believe that
it was intended to attempt an entrance. This caused the placing of sixteen
torpedoes just without the line of rope obstructions on the afternoon of the
15th of January, and the loss of the monitor Patapsco through exploding one of them a few hours thereafter. She
was on the advance picket line, attended by two tugs with several row-boats,
dragging for torpedoes. She had drifted up with a strong flood-tide near the
line of rope obstructions, and had already steamed out twice before, when in
repeating this she struck a torpedo which exploded on the port side, under the
fore-body of the vessel. The force was sufficiently great to raise the deck,
through which the smoke issued. In fifteen seconds the vessel sunk in five
fathoms of water, and very near the spot where she had been held on an
obstruction for some minutes on April 7, 1863. An officer and sailor on the
turret jumped at once to the falls of a boat, and barely succeeded in clearing
them before the vessel went down with 62 of the officers and men. This occurred
soon after 8 P.m. One man in the windlass-room, the engineer and firemen on
watch, and one man, who rushed from the berth-deck through the fire-room, were
the only persons who were below and escaped death. Five officers who were on
deck at the time, and 38 men escaped, among whom were the Commander,
Quackenbush, and Lieutenant William T. Sampson, the executive officer.
Dai Ching was directed to proceed up
the Combahee from St. Helena on January 26th, for the purpose of supporting an
army force if required. In the vicinity of Tar Bluff the river is small and
crooked, and when a battery opened on her the pilot left the wheel and she ran
aground before Chaplin, who commanded, was aware of the fact. The tug Clover,
which accompanied her, could not be brought up to get the vessel off, as her
captain would not understand or obey signals. The vessel was defended for seven
hours, when the carriage of the 100-pounder rifle was disabled by the fire of
the enemy. She was then set on fire, the crew landed, and, with the exception of
five, escaped to the tug, lying four miles below. Three of the officers and six
men were wounded, and sent down in a boat. The armament of the vessel was, one
100-pounder rifle and two small guns.
Pawnee, Sonoma, and tug Daffodil,
lying in the waters of the North Edisto, on the 9th of February engaged three
batteries of the enemy, respectively armed with six, four, and two guns. They
were situated on Togado Creek, in such manner as to support each other against
an attack from gunboats. In the evening the enemy ceased firing; the Pawnee
had been struck ten times without serious injury, and the other vessels had
received two hits each, without loss of life. Various other engagements
occurred about the same time, and until the evacuation of Charleston. Naval
forces made attacks of this kind for the purpose of keeping the troops of the
enemy from concentrating, and to perplex him as to what were the actual
movements of Sherman's army.
order to aid an army diversion on Bull's Bay, eighteen miles north of
Charleston, the admiral dispatched, on the evening of the 11th of February, the Shenandoah,
Juniata, Canandaigua, Georgia,
Pawnee, Sonoma, Ottawa,
Winona, Wando, and Iris
to that point. A large number of army transports had arrived also, with troops
under the command of General Potter. A preliminary to landing was to find a
favorable depth of water and hard ground. It was only on the evening of the 17th
that a satisfactory landing-place was found, and 750 men were disembarked under
cover of howitzers in launches; the remainder of the force landed the
following day, and took up its line of march for Charleston. As on the morning
of the 18th that city was found evacuated, it does not seem necessary to note
further than the return of the naval vessels and transports to Charleston.
Belknap, in the monitor Canonicus,
lying near Moultrie, reported heavy fires in Charleston and on James Island at 1
A.M. (18th), and heavy explosions were heard. At daylight haze and smoke shut
out the view. At 8 A.M. he threw two heavy shells into Moultrie, and received no
reply; the Confederate flag was, however, flying over it and Castle Pinckney,
and the city of Charleston also, but no movement was visible. At this time a
magazine blew up in Battery Bee.
forts had been evacuated the previous night, and an army boat from Morris Island
hoisted the flag over Moultrie. About 9 A.M. the Canonicus sent a boat and took possession of a small steamboat, a
blockade-runner, under English colors, that had been on shore for several days
near Fort Moultrie.
admiral reports that upon the evacuation of Charleston, he found the ram
Columbia, which had been ready for service on January 12th, and grounding coming
out of dock, had been seriously strained through lying on uneven bottom. Her
length was 209 feet; extreme beam, 49 feet, with a casemate 65 feet in length
pierced for 6 guns, pivoting as before described in the Atlanta, captured in Wassaw Sound in 1863. She had two high-pressure
engines, and was plated on the casemate with six inches of iron. A cigar-shaped
steamer 160 feet long, supposed to be of sufficient capacity to carry from two
hundred and fifty to three hundred bales of cotton, was also found.
torpedo boats fitted for service were found sunk in Cooper River. Two were
raised, and one of them put in working order. Their length was 64 feet, diameter
5j feet, and they had a speed of five knots. Six others were under repairs or
being completed, and two ready for service.
up in the Cooper River the rams Chicora,
Palmetto, and Charleston, had been destroyed and sunk on the evacuation of the
city. The fourth, Columbia, has already been described.
the fall of Charleston, under instructions from the Department, Admiral Dahlgren
proceeded to gain information as to the character of the obstructions and defenses
within Charleston Harbor.
was asserted by the Secretary of the Navy before the Joint Congressional
Committee on the Conduct of the War that the water defenses within Charleston
harbor had been materially strengthened after the monitor attack of April 7,
1863. This does not seem to be supported by the testimony in Dahlgren's report.
persons, whose duties had been to make and plant torpedoes and to make and put
down rope obstructions, were examined, and the following facts elicited
months before the spring of 1863 a boom torpedo was placed between battery Bee
and Sumter, but it was found to be impracticable, and a continuous rope netting
was then tried, which was also swept out of position by the strong tides. The
rope obstructions were then cut in lengths of one hundred feet and moored at one
end, and three rows of them were then placed so as to swing with the tide, the
intervals between them being about one hundred feet, and having about the same
distances between the lines. A rope having a diameter of nearly two inches was
secured to beer casks tarred, or to pine logs, to serve as floats at distances
apart of fifteen feet. Over this rope were secured bights of smaller rope, each
end being several fathoms in length. The movement of the water by a propeller,
it was supposed, would draw these rope-ends within its influence, and thus foul
row of piles was driven across the middle ground and into the channel, just
below Fort Johnson. This was intact in April, 1863, but by the autumn many of
the piles had washed out.
the Hog Island channel a heavy boom obstruction was maintained throughout the
war, and several sets of torpedoes on inclined planes beneath the water, the
frames resting on the bottom, having usually fifteen torpedoes on each frame.
of the inferior channels and Cooper River were protected in like manner by
torpedoes placed in sets on submarine inclined planes, upon which several of
the Confederate vessels had been blown up at various times.
main channel, leading up close under the guns of Fort Johnson, had three large
boiler torpedoes, stated to be in good condition, and having one thousand or
more pounds of powder within them. They were on range lines, and intended to
be exploded by electricity.
Fort Johnson and on the wharves of Charleston were a great many barrel torpedoes
fitted for placing in that channel-way and off Charleston with the least
possible delay. They were of the same construction as those which had sunk three
army transports in St. John's River, the monitor Patapsco
off the harbor on January 15th, and the flag-ship Harvest Moon below Georgetown after the fall of Charleston. These
barrel torpedoes were held by their moorings some eight feet below the ordinary
surface of the water, and were fitted so as to explode on contact.
the wharf at Charleston was found one of these inclined frames ready for use,
with thirty torpedoes fitted for it; they also were constructed to explode by
boiler torpedo, probably of English fabrication, was found on the wharf ready
for charging, together with a large quantity of insulated copper wire protected
by a hemp wrapping overlaid with wire.
torpedoes made for the ironclads, or rams, as they were called, and for the
torpedo-boats, were elongated copper cylinders ten inches in diameter, with
hemispherical ends, thirty-two inches long, each having several screw sockets
for eight fuses so as to present points of explosion widely separated. The
charge was one hundred and thirty-four pounds of powder.
was of copper, barrel-shaped, tapering to points on the ends; it had sockets for
seven fuses on the upper bilge, and contained one hundred and thirty-four pounds
the autumn of 1863 reconnoitering boats were sent almost nightly, when the
weather permitted, into the mouth of Charleston Harbor, and diverse reports were
brought to the admiral in respect to the character of the channel obstructions.
To settle this point as to the main ship channel, a commander on duty proposed
making an examination, which met the approval of the admiral. To facilitate this
examination General Terry placed a light on Cumming's Point, in order that a
fixed point might be known. At midnight Commander Ammen left the New
Ironsides in a six-oared boat, and
after reaching the vicinity of the obstructions a small grapnel with ten fathoms
of line was dragged within and around to the north of Sumter until the light on
Cumming's Point was opened well out to the westward of Sumter. The boat was
then directed outward further from the fort than when entering, and at the turn
of the tide the black buoys sustaining one section of the rope obstructions were
found in a cluster. This was partially cut away and taken out; the rope was
considerably rotted. The admiral was informed as above, and that no difficulty
whatever existed in clearing away these rope obstructions just previous to his
entering whenever he had a force which he deemed sufficient.
is well known that a month or so later the Navy Department hoped to send several
monitors to strengthen the force off Charleston. On p. 419 of "Memoir of
Admiral Dahlgren" is found the following
22d, 11 A.M.  I held a council of war in regard to entering the harbor of
Charleston when the seven monitors were ready, which would be the second week in
were eight captains of ironclads and two staff officers. The object was not to
have the advice for myself, but to comply with the request of the Secretary, who
asked for the opinion of these officers. We began at eleven and finished at
five. The four junior officers voted for an attack with seven ironclads. The six
seniors were averse. The intelligence was largely with the latter. One of the
juniors seemed hardly to know what he was about. So my views were sustained. The
majority were for waiting till the reinforcements arrived in December."
import of an ironclad or, more properly speaking, a monitor attack has not been
fully understood by many intelligent persons. Had the absolute destruction of
all the vessels entering been assured in the event of failure, and had there
remained a sufficient reserve force of any character off the harbor to assure
the maintenance of the blockade against the ironclads of the enemy within the
harbor, probably every captain at the “Council of War" would have been in
favor of entering, but with the chances of some of the vessels grounding, and
of others being sunk in shoal water by torpedoes, and afterward raised and
employed by the enemy, there was too much danger of losing control of the coast
to make it desirable to take the risk. These considerations would naturally be
controlling proportionately with the damage that might follow a lack of success
in an attack, and would be quite independent of the loss of vessels and of men
in making one with reasonable probability of success.
pages 553 to 593 of "Memoir of Admiral Dahlgren" will be found the
text of an official letter of the admiral to the Department, explanatory of the
ironclad question in relation to the taking of Charleston. It is dated October
16, 1865, and as we are informed on the preceding page by the editor: "We
hold the manuscript in our possession, thus endorsed by the admiral: 'Withdrawn
November 8, 1865, the Department objecting to the introduction of Dupont and the
opinions of officers, and to those parts where it is assumed, or seems to be so,
that the Department did not send vessels enough.-J. A. D.?
editor of the "Memoir," adds: " In other words, the Department
was too inimical and revengeful in feeling to Dupont to be just, or to be
willing to have him relieved in any measure through any act of theirs, of any
possible effect resulting from their continuous displeasure."
pages preceding the quotations were written before the perusal of the
"Memoir." If the reader of this volume labors under the idea that
either Admiral Dupont or Admiral Dahlgren should have gone to Charleston or
made the attempt, the pages of the "Memoir" may enlighten him.
in mind that the Department did not think it worth while to give publicity to a
letter which it evoked in May, 1863, signed by all of the commanders of
ironclads in those waters,
and that after the Civil War had ended, it had declined to receive an able and
perfectly proper letter concerning operations before Charleston during the
period of command of its writer, the Department seems to have wished to spare
the reading public the doubts and perplexities which the Dutch judge avoided by
not listening to the other side of a case. He had heard the one side and
declined hearing the other, as lie was then perfectly at rest in regard to the
merit of the question. If he heard the other side his mind would be filled with
perplexity and doubt. The Department had made its statement as to the
invulnerability and sufficiency of the monitors to take Charleston, and that was
all that the public should require or listen to, even after the war was over;
what the commanders of the ironclads wrote about them, and what Admiral Dahlgren
had to say about going to Charleston, if given to the public, would only cause
doubt and perplexity.
page 436 of the “Memoir" will be found the following from the diary of
Dahlgren: "January 12.-Mail came. . . . Among the letters was one from the
Secretary and one from Fox, both prodigiously flattering, and asking for a good
character to the monitors." Here is truly "food for
This change in the turret
fitments could only be effected by direct orders from
he Navy Department, and yet Admiral Dupont was held derelict in not
having the monitors within Charleston bar, and for failing to give
co-operation to General Gillmore, who writes on June 80th: 1. My
preparations are nearly completed, but I can do nothing until Admiral
Dupont's successor arrives and gets ready to work. The admiral has no
instructions, and does not feel at liberty to put his vessels into action on
the eve of relinquishing his command." General Gillmore, however, was
not ready to operate until July 10th, or four days after Dahlgren was in
Although irrelevant, the above is
introduced as information valuable in itself,
and pertinent to show personal relations and official appreciation.
 The above is a transcript from the official report of the Admiral. It seems entirely admissible, in view of the facts presented, to suppose that he was not very favorably impressed with the endurance of the monitors. Captain Rodgers reports "that the deck has been entirely broken through in four places, two of these sufficiently large to admit large quantities of water, requiring shot-plugs. . , . The hull was struck on the port quarter, completely shattering all the plates." Two engineers and several firemen were prostrated by the intense heat in the fire- and engine-room. The distance from the fort, it will be remembered, was given as 1,200 yards. Admiral Dahlgren's Memoirs, seen since writing the above, says, "her armor was very much hurt. The sides of the pilot-house bulged through, and I just escaped the end of a bolt that was dislodged."
 The Secretary of the Navy appeared before the "Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War" and assumed that because " the Department was not informed of the fact" no vessels ran the blockade; actually twenty-one vessels ran in after the ruin of Sumter until the evacuation of Charleston.
the -vessel gone ahead
of backing, when she slipped her cable, there is a reasonable probability that she would have escaped destruction.
 Admiral Dahlgren’s report.
Number 16, Professional Papers,
Corps U. S, Engineers, contain full descriptions of these harbor
 Captain John Rodgers and Commanders Daniel Ammen, George W. Rodgers, D. M. Fairfax, and John Downes, were the signers, and the letter afterward seen by Captain Drayton and Commander Worden was concurred in by them.
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