THE NAVY IN THE CIVIL WAR
Published 1883, 1885
THE ATLANTIC COAST.
REAR-ADMIRAL, U.S. NAVY
reader who has examined the coast charts or maps of the United States is aware
that low, long, sandy islets fringe almost the entire coasts of what are known
as the Southern States. There are numerous inlets between these islets that have
a certain degree of permanency, but many of them close for a series of years,
and are found open again after some gale of unusual severity.
Cape Henry and Cape Hatteras are several of these ephemeral "inlets"
or channels, between the sea and inland waters. Thirteen miles south of Cape
Hatteras is Hatteras Inlet, and eighteen miles farther, Ocracoke, the bend of
that coast from the cape being west-southwest and, looking toward Cape Henry,
north by east.
Inlet has more depth over the bar, and its regimen is more permanent than any of
the other entrances into the sounds of North Carolina. It was the most
convenient entrance for the distribution of supplies to the Confederate army
in Virginia, and bordering the inland waters were produced in great abundance
what are known as "naval stores." These, and considerable cotton grown
in that region, gave ample cargoes for outward bound blockade-running vessels.
sooner was the Civil War fairly begun, and the Navy Yard at Norfolk in the
possession of the Confederates, than heavy guns were transported from that
point, and the inlets at Hatteras and Ocracoke fortified.
the Sounds of Albemarle and Pamlico through Hatteras and Ocracoke Inlets,
small vessels made raids to capture vessels under the National flag that might
be passing along the coast, and for a time these efforts were well rewarded.
shoal water extending far out gave these entrances a certain amount of immunity
to the raids of privateers and blockade-runners, and it was hoped would prevent
a successful attack on the batteries designed to protect these entrances.
Hatteras Inlet has on its bar, at ordinary high water, usually fourteen feet,
the depth varying one or two feet more or less from the effects of gales and
freshets on the inland waters. Within this outer bar, at a distance of nearly
one mile, is what is known as the "bulkhead, a bank of sand separating the
deeper waters of the sounds and those within the exterior bar. At ordinary high
tide there is a depth of seven feet; when heavy southeast winds bank up the
waters, as they do from time to time, nearly double this depth may be found
temporarily on the "bulkhead." Once within the outer bar, by means
of lighterage, easily effected in smooth water, vessels with cargoes can readily
lessen their draught so as to cross the bulkhead; with vessels having batteries
and fitted for war purposes, the difficulty of entering is much greater, and
where the required depth is eight or nine feet, considerable delay occurs in
awaiting the banking up of the waters.
Navy Department, appreciating the importance of Hatteras Inlet, the principal
one affording access to the magnificent sound with its wide ramifications,
directed in 1861 the preparation and concentration of such naval force as was
available, and invited an army co-operation for its capture.
military importance of holding Hatteras Inlet was at that time quite
unappreciated save by the Navy Department.
transport steamers were chartered by the navy and commanded by navy officers,
and the detachment of troops "was to return to Fort Monroe after the
expedition." "It was not intended that you (General Wood) should take
any further action in relation to the expedition than to provide such troops for
the same as on conference with Commodore Stringham should be found sufficient
for the purpose. The expedition originated in the Navy Department, and is under
Wool, at Fort Monroe, on the 25th of August, 1861, made a detail of 860 men
under General B. F. Butler, who was directed to report, as soon as his troops
were ready, to Flag-Officer Stringham. "As soon as the object of the expedition
is attained, the detachment will return to Fort Monroe."
following day, the transport steamer Adelaide, Commander Henry S. Stellwagen,
and the Peabody, Lieutenant R. R. Lowry, took on board 500 of the 20th Regiment
N. Y. Volunteers, Colonel Weber; 220 of the Ninth N. Y. Volunteers, Colonel
Hawkins; 100 of the Union Coast Guard, Captain Nixon, and 60 of the 2d U. S.
Artillery, Lieutenant Larned. With commendable alacrity they left the same day
(26th of August) with the flag-ship of Stringham, the steam frigate Minnesota,
Captain G. I. Van Brunt; steam frigate Wabash,
Captain Samuel Mercer; Monticello,
Commander John P. Gillis; Pawnee,
Commander S. C. Rowan, and Revenue Cutter Harriet
Lane, Captain John Faunce. The army tug Fanny,
under the command of Lieutenant Peirce Crosby, of the navy, also accompanied the
transports towed two schooners, having large, unwieldy iron surf-boats on
same afternoon this force rounded Cape Hatteras and anchored off shore near the
proposed point of debarkation, which was some three miles east of Hatteras
Inlet. Surfboats were hoisted out, and preparations made to facilitate
debarkation early in the morning. At daylight on that day Major-General Butler
left the flag-ship for the Harriet Lane
with the company of marines on that vessel, Captain Shuttleworth, which
augmented his command to 915 men.
was made from the flag-ship to disembark troops, and the Pawnee, Monticello, and Harriet
Lane to assist the work and cover the landing.
this was in process of execution, at 8.45 A.M., the Wabash took in tow the sailing frigate Cumberland that had joined the force after arrival off the bar, and
followed by the flag-ship Minnesota,
led in to attack the batteries known to have been placed for the defence of the
after, the steam frigate Susquehanna
appeared and signal was made her to engage the batteries. The first object of
attack was what was afterward known as Fort Clark, situated a half mile east
from the principal work at the immediate entrance to the inlet. The vessels
had opened fire beyond extreme range and the fort replied.
Minnesota passed inside and ahead and
with her consorts soon caused the battery of five guns, which was without a
bomb-proof, to be deserted, the men passing through or around the shallow
lagoon, to reach and take shelter in the principal work, which was also on the
eastern side of the inlet and known as Fort Hatteras. Shortly afternoon it was
observed that no flags were flying on either fort, and, as seen from the
flag-ship, the nearest work, Clark, was evidently abandoned.
the meantime the attempt to land had been only partially successful. As the
heavy iron surf-boats struck the beach they were thrown high upon it, there to
remain, and two flat-boats landing troops were stove. In this manner 315 troops,
including 50 United States Artillery, 55 marines, and 2 navy howitzers were
thrown on shore without provisions or supplies of any kind, and much of their
ammunition was wetted. The surf was heavy and increasing and further attempts
to land were discontinued. A movement by the troops was made along the beach
toward Fort Clark, and at 2 P.m. the Union flag was hoisted over it by them.
firing from the fleet had been suspended since 12.30, from the supposition of an
intended surrender, as the larger fort was not flying a flag, and was silent.
Monticello was directed at 4 P.m. to
effect an entrance to the inlet, and when well within the breakers Fort Hatteras
opened on her and received at once the fire from the Minnesota, Susquehanna,
and the Pawnee, which latter vessel
had joined in the attack, and soon after was followed by the Harriet
Lane with her battery of small rifled guns, effective at the long range then
necessary to reach the fort. The Wabash
at the time was employed in towing the sailing frigate Cumberland
into an offing, as it was supposed the fort had surrendered.
bombardment continued until sunset, for the most part ineffective, from too
great a distance, when the larger vessels hauled off for the night, and the Pawnee,
Monticello, and Harriet Lane
went up the coast toward the cape and anchored close to the beach for .the
purpose of protecting the troops, they having withdrawn from the immediate
vicinity of the forts.
the following day (28th) at 5.30 A.M. signal was made to prepare for action and
follow the motions of the flag-ship; the weather, which had been threatening,
had become pleasant and the sea less rough.
the heavier vessels led in to attack Fort Hatteras, the Monticello was directed to embark or provision the troops on shore,
at the option of General Butler.
landed troops had during the night thrown up a sand battery, placed their
howitzers in it, and had opened on the vessels in the sound in communication
with the fort, which seems to have materially disconcerted the enemy.
8 A.M. the Susquehanna, leading,
opened fire on the fort, the Wabash
following; the Minnesota then took
position between the two. The vessels anchored, and maintained their fire,
and were soon followed by the sailing frigate Cumberland,
which anchored also in excellent position and commenced firing with effect. It
was soon seen that the pivot guns did the principal part of the work, and this
fact became the more apparent as the flag-officer reported "the enemy
returned our fire throughout the engagement, but with no effect, their shot
falling short," from the fact, doubtless, of not being able to obtain sufficient
elevation. Half an hour before the end of the engagement the Harriet
Lane,, added the fire of her battery. The defenders, seeing that the fire
from their guns was wholly ineffective, and having suffered considerable loss
from the careful firing of the pivot guns in the fleet, hoisted a white flag at
11.10 A.M., when the firing ceased. The fire from the batteries on the ships'
broadside had been suspended soon after going into action, the fort being in
range only by giving great, if not extreme elevation to the guns. The plunging
effect of the shells from the heavy pivot guns' on the bomb-proof was very
great, threatening breaking through; one shell had found its way through a
ventilator, and the safety of the magazine was imperilled.
the appearance of the white flag the troops on the beach marched toward the
fort, the army transport and the tug Fanny,
with General Butler on board, passed the bar and anchored within the inlet, and
the Harriet Lane, in an attempt to do
so, grounded, and did not succeed in getting off for some days. Three steamers
and several schooners of the enemy that were within the sound watching events,
and prepared to throw in reinforcements, left when a shell was thrown at them
from the Fanny.
this engagement not a single casualty occurred to the National forces. In Fort
Clark two killed were found, and from Fort Hatteras several killed and a number
of wounded were known to have been taken previous to the surrender―13
wounded were among the prisoners.
guns of the attacking vessels numbered one hundred and fifty-eight; the pivot
guns, ten in number, were the most effective, to which may be added the five
small rifled guns of the Harriet Lane.
The character of the forts and the batteries captured will appear hereafter.
of capitulation were signed between Flag-Officer Stringham and General Butler on
the one part, and Samuel Barron, commanding naval force, Colonel Martin, commanding
land forces, and Major Andrews, commanding Fort Hatteras: "It is
stipulated and agreed by the contracting parties on the part of the United
States Government, that the officers and men shall receive the treatment due to
prisoners of war." Six hundred and fifteen prisoners were taken, among whom
were several who some months before had been officers in the National navy. It
is known that a certain number of the garrison escaped previous to the
capitulation, some of whom were wounded.
Barron, in his report to the Confederate Navy Department, states that he arrived
at Hatteras Inlet early on the 28th, in the steamer Winslow, accompanied by
Colonel Bradford, Chief of Ordnance of North Carolina, and Lieutenants
Murdaugh and Sharpe of the Confederate navy. He found Colonel Winslow, in
command of Fort Hatteras, very much exhausted from exposure and hard fighting
the previous day. He says: "The garrison had hoped for the arrival of a
regiment from Newbern the previous night, which would have been employed in an
attempted assault of Fort Clark, held by the Union troops, the appearance of bad
weather. having caused the protecting vessels to seek an offing. Early in the
morning the fleet again stood in, took positions and opened fire, and in
addition the Union troops had, during the night, erected a battery of rifled
field-guns near to Fort Clark, which also opened on us.
the first hour, the shells from the ships fell short, the fort only firing
occasionally to get range, to reserve the very limited supply of ammunition
until the vessels might find it necessary to come nearer in; but they, after
some practice, got the exact range of the IX-, X-, and XI-inch guns, and did not
find it necessary to alter their positions, while not a shot from our battery
reached them with the greatest elevation we could get. . . . Several hours had
thus passed, without the ability to damage our adversaries, and just at this
time, the magazine being reported to be on fire, a shell having fallen through
the ventilator of the bomb-proof into the room adjoining the principal magazine,
a white flag was ordered to be shown, when the firing ceased, and the surrender
very succinct report of General Gatlin, Commander-inChief in North Carolina,
will be found on p. 573, Vol. IV., of the "Rebellion Records,"
published by the Government. It concludes as follows: "I may be permitted
to conclude this rapid sketch by stating that we failed to make timely efforts
to maintain the ascendancy on Pamlico Sound, and thus admitted Burnside's fleet
without a contest; we failed to put a proper force on Roanoke Island, and thus
lost the key to our interior coast; and we failed to furnish General Branch with
a reasonable force, and thus lost the important town of Newbern."
consultation with Flag-Officer Stringham and Commander Stellwagen, General
Butler determined to leave the troops and hold the fort until he could get some
further instructions from the Government.
adds: "The importance of the point cannot be overrated. When the channel
is buoyed out any vessel may carry fifteen feet of water over it with ease. Once
inside, there is a safe harbor and anchorage in all weathers. From there the
whole coast of Virginia and North Carolina, from Norfolk to Cape Lookout, is
within our reach by lightdraught vessels, which cannot possibly live at sea
during the winter months. From it offensive operations may be made upon the
whole coast of North Carolina to Bogue Inlet, extending many miles inland to
Washington, Newborn, and Beaufort. In the language of the chief-engineer of the
rebels, Colonel Thompson, in an official report, 'it is the key of the
Albemarle.' In my judgment, it is a station second in importance only to
Fortress Monroe on this coast. As a depot for coaling and supplies for the
blockading squadron it is invaluable. As a harbor for our coasting trade, or
inlet from the winter storms or from pirates, it is of the first
importance." Future events fully confirmed the opinion of General Butler as
to the value of Hatteras Inlet in a military point of view, and no less in
respect to all of the advantages so clearly expressed.
pieces of artillery, one thousand stand of arms, a large quantity of ordnance
stores, provisions, three valuable prizes, two light-boats, and four stands of
colors were captured.
the 25th of June to the capture of Hatteras Inlet, on the 28th of August, one
bark, seven brigs, and eight schooners had been captured by
"privateers" or Confederate cruisers, and had been brought into the
flag-ship proceeded to New York on the 30th with the prisoners on board; the Pawnee
and Monticello remained at the inlet, the remainder of the vessels
proceeded to different points of blockade, the company of regulars returned to
Fortress Monroe, and the other troops remained as a garrison until further
orders. Hatteras Inlet became a depot of supplies for coal and the other wants
of vessels blockading, and in the coming months a centre of operations. As soon
as necessary surroundings were satisfactorily arranged, Commander Rowan,
of-the Pawnee, became active.
the 16th of September he sent Lieutenant Maxwell to the fort commanding
Ocracoke, Inlet, situated on Beacon Island, some twenty miles distant. He was in
command of the army tug Fanny, and
carried 61 men belonging to what was known, as the naval brigade, commanded by
launch of the Pawnee was in tow,
manned by 22 sailors and 6 marines, armed with a 12-pounder howitzer, commanded
by Lieutenant Eastman. The fort was situated on the sea face of Beacon Island,
and was found deserted. It was octagonal, having in the centre a bombproof one
hundred feet square, with the magazine within, and four large water-tanks
directly over it. Twenty platforms for guns were partially destroyed by fire;
the guncarriages had been burned, four VIII-inch navy shell-guns, and fourteen
heavy 32-pounders were found; two guns had been carried away the previous day.
The men were landed without delay, the trunnions of the guns broken off, and at
the same time the launch went to the town of Portsmouth near by, where three
VIII-inch navy guns were found lying on the beach and one mounted on its
carriage. The attempt to make a battery had been abandoned in consequence of the
taking of the forts at Hatteras Inlet. The town, which had some five hundred
inhabitants before the attack on the Hatteras Inlet forts, was nearly deserted;
those remaining said they were Union men, and expressed their gratification at
seeing their old flag again. "Lieutenant Eastman assured them that they
would not be molested by the Government, and that they might return to their
usual occupations." He then destroyed the guns and returned to the Fanny.
The combustible material had been placed within and around the bomb-proof of
Fort Ocracoke, which was supported by heavy pine timbers and logs. It was
destroyed by fire, after which the expedition returned to the Pawnee.
with or without competent authority, soon after the occupation of Hatteras
Inlet, the Twentieth Regiment of Indiana volunteers, Colonel Brown, was sent to
occupy Chicamicomico, near the northern end of Hatteras Island, some twenty-five
miles north of the lighthouse. Within this sandspit the water is quite shoal
for two miles or more, and this speedily led to the capture of the army tug Fanny,
and a considerable quantity of army stores.
proximity of Roanoke Island and the presence of a large number of Confederate
troops fortifying it, made the bait of a regiment too tempting to be resisted,
so on the 4th of October there appeared ten transports and seven steamers,
including the captured tug Fanny, a
cotton barge, and two flat-boats laden with troops. A part of this force was
landed north of the Indiana regiment, and the remainder was taken south to cut
off the retreat.
troops retreated in haste, and favored by the delay of the enemy in getting his
forces on shore from the shoal water extending so far out, all save twenty or
more stragglers had passed the point of debarkation when it had been effected.
The retreat was continued to Hatteras lighthouse, the Confederates pursuing to
within a short distance of it. Here the Union troops were reinforced by a
regiment from Hatteras Inlet, and here was also found the steam frigate Susquehanna as close to the shore, as moderately bold water would
allow. The retreat had been hasty and laborious, and the troops were greatly in
want of food and water; their necessities were soon relieved, and when the
morning dawned the Confederates took up their line of retreat to some point
where a comparatively near approach to the long sand-spit upon which they were
would enable them to re-embark. The Monticello,
commanded by Lieutenant D. L. Braine, arrived at the lighthouse on the sea
face, and was directed to pursue the enemy in retreat. At 1.30 P.M. of the 5th
she came up with a considerable force at Kinekeet, moving north with many
stragglers in the rear; two small Confederate steamers were in the inland
waters, following as near the island as the depth of the water would allow. A
heavy fire of shells from three guns on board of the Monticello was maintained with great effect, which caused the men to
scatter in haste to a clump of trees, beyond which, in the sound, were several
of their steamers, upon which the fugitives were taking refuge by means of
boats. The Monticello continued her
firing for two hours, when two men were discovered on the beach making signals;
a boat was sent near the beach, and one man belonging to the Twentieth Indiana
was rescued; the other was unfortunately drowned in the surf.
Monticello was in three fathoms, as
near the beach as the roughness of the water would permit, and guided by the
information obtained, resumed throwing shells, which was continued until near
sunset-nearly four hours-with little intermission.
O. S. Glisson, in the Mount Vernon,
sent two armed boats on the night of December 31, 1861, to destroy a lightship
formerly anchored on Frying Pan Shoal, and then secured under the guns of Fort
Caswell. No one was found on board of the vessel; she had been fitted for the
reception of eight guns, to aid, it was supposed, in harbor defence. The
combustible material found on board, saturated with the turpentine brought for
the purpose, soon made a blaze sufficient to attract the attention of the men
in the fort, whose cry of alarm was heard by the boats' crews. The fort opened
fire soon after in the supposed direction of retreat of the boats. The lightboat
was speedily burned.
reader is reminded of the magnitude of the struggle in progress and of its
geographical extent on land and sea. Considering the waters only, the Potomac
River and the water within the Capes of Virginia presented no inconsiderable
field of operations; then again, as soon after the capture of Hatteras Inlet
as a force could be got together, followed a much larger expedition for the
capture of Port Royal and further operations east of Cape Florida. The coasts
bordering on the Gulf of Mexico and upper waters of the Mississippi were no less
theatres of armed contention.
as was the possession of Hatteras Inlet, it need not be a subject of wonder that
nothing further grew out of it for the time. The Confederates set to work with
earnest-s ness with their limited means, after the capture of the inlet, to
fortify Roanoke Island, which was still a key to the greater part of the inland
waters, but even after a lapse of intervening months, when the preparations of
the co-operative Union forces had been completed and were within Hatteras Inlet,
they had not yet perfected their defences.
that coast of storms in winter, neither the “vessels of war," as they
were somewhat inaptly termed, if compared with vessels built for the purpose,
nor the transports for the troops, often unseaworthy, stood on the order of
their coming. Happily for them, Hampton Roads was only one hundred and fifty
miles distant, but on arriving off the inlet vessels that had been chartered not
to draw more than twelve feet were found of heavier draught, and some of them
hammered to pieces on the bar, and many of the naval vessels were of extreme
draught for crossing the bulkhead. They came as they could, crossed the bar into
the inlet as soon as possible, then awaited exceptional banking of the waters to
cross the "bulkhead."
L. M. Goldsborough, who was in command of the naval forces, and General A. E.
Burnside, who commanded the troops, arrived on January 13th. Owing, however,
to a lack of water for days before, few or none of the vessels had crossed the
bulkhead; on the 15th, however, the naval vessels, having least draught in
general, began crossing, and by the 23d all of them that had arrived up to that
time were over the bulkhead. The Whitehall,
in getting across the outer bar, or within the inlet from the sea, was so
injured that she had to be sent to Hampton Roads for repairs.
before the 22d of January had General Burnside made any considerable progress in
getting the army transports over the bulkhead, and from the facts above stated,
the last naval vessel was delayed until the 28th of January, and the last of the
army transports until February 5th. For the time being, the river steamer Philadelphia
was the flag-ship of Rear-Admiral Goldsborough; the naval vessels intended for
action were as follows: Stars and Stripes,
Lieutenant. Commanding Reed Werden, and flag-ship of Commander S. C. Rowan; Louisiana,
Lieutenant-Commanding A. Murray; Hetzel,
Lieutenant-Commanding H. K. Davenport; Underwriter,
Lieutenant-Commanding Wm. N. Jeffers; Delaware,
Lieutenant-Commanding S. P. Quackenbush; Commodore
Perry, Lieutenant-Commanding C. W. Flusser; Valley City, Lieutenant-Commanding J. C. Chaplin; Commodore
Barney, Acting-Lieutenant R. T. Renshaw; Hunchback,
Acting Volunteer Lieutenant-Commanding E. R. Colhoun; Southfield, Acting Volunteer Lieutenant-Commanding C. F. W. Behm; Morse,
Acting-Master Peter Hayes; Whitehead,
Acting-Master Chas. A. French; Lockwood, Acting-Master G. W. Graves; Brincker, Acting-Master, John E. Giddings; I. N. Seymour, Acting-Master F. S. Wells; Ceres, ActingMaster John McDiarmid; Putnam, Acting-Master W. J. Hotchkiss; Shawsheen, Acting-Master Thos. G. Woodward; and Granite,
Acting-Master's Mate E. Boomer.
army transports were forty-six in number, armed with forty-seven guns of small caliber,
and carried in round numbers 12,000 troops. They formed not an inconsiderable
part of the attacking force, and were under Commander Samuel F. Hazard, U.S.N.
Goldsborough reports, February 18th: “During our detention at the inlet we
resorted to every means in our power to get accurate information of the enemy's
position and preparations, and we obtained enough to enable us to arrange our
programme of attack, which, in substance, was as follows: The naval division was
to lead from the time of starting up to that of encountering the enemy.
on the morning of the 5th, the necessary general signals for a move were thrown
out from the Philadelphia, and as soon afterward as could be expected for so
large a number of vessels, all were under way, with the naval division as
prescribed, arranged in three columns, commanded respectively by
Lieutenants-Commanding Werden, Murray, and Davenport. Although the weather
favored us, our progress was unavoidably slow."
sundown the vessels arrived and anchored in line off Stumpy Point, within ten
miles of the marshes. "A certain individual" was sent for, who lived
near by, whose services were deemed important, and he was brought on board of
the flag-ship Philadelphia. The following morning, Flag-Officer Goldsborough,
with his staff, consisting of Commander Case, Captain's Clerk Fisher, as signal
officer, and Lieutenants T. R. Robeson and N. S. Barstow went on board of the Southfield,
which for the time became the flag-ship. The vessels were again under way with
two light-draught steamers, Ceres and Putnam,
a mile or so in advance. About 9 A.M. the weather, which had been thick,
partially cleared, and the vessels of the enemy were seen at anchor, apparently
close in with the shore, between Pork and Wier Points. At 10.30, when within a
couple of miles of the marshes, it became thick, rainy, and windy, and the
vessels again anchored in line. In the afternoon, one of the steamers of the
enemy approached the marshes for the purpose of reconnoitring, and was not
molested, as the flag-officer "was not unwilling that she should accomplish
day following, February 7th, gave evident signs of good weather. At nine,
general signal was made to get under way. The Underwriter
was also put in advance as a lookout, the Ceres
and Putnam to keep only one-fourth of
a mile in advance of the flag-ship. The channel through the marshes is so narrow
as not to admit of more than two vessels abreast, and that was the order of
steaming until the much wider waters of Croatan Sound were reached. The vessels
having IX-inch guns ware then « closed up around the flag-ship." At 10.30,
eight vessels of the enemy were seen drawn up behind an extensive obstruction
formed by a double row of piles and sunken vessels stretching well across the
sound and between the forts on Pork and Wier Points. One of them fired a heavy
gun, to announce, perhaps, the impending attack. In less than an hour, the Underwriter,
in advance, having shelled Sandy Point, made signal that it was not fortified.
This omission on the part of the enemy favored the landing of troops at Ashby's
Harbor, as arranged.
long after this announcement the naval division, commanded as above given,
accompanied as previously arranged by the army division, composed of the Picket,
Captain T. P. Ives; Huzzar, Captain F.
Crocker; Pioneer, Captain C. E. Baker;
Vidette, Captain I. L. Foster; Ranger,
Captain S. Emerson; Lancer, Captain M.
B. Morley, and Chasseur, Captain
John West, in close order, had approached sufficiently near the enemy to attack,
and to employ their heaviest fire against the battery on Pork Point, a battery
between Pork and Wier Points, and another on Redstone Point, all of which had
opened fire on the advancing vessels. At noon the action became general; at 1.30
the barracks behind Pork Point had been set on fire by shells and burned
furiously for an hour. At this time the vessels were hotly engaged.
3 P.M. the troops, embarked on board of lightdraught steamers and boats,
started to land at Ashby's Harbor. It was guarded by a large body of the
enemy's troops, with a field battery, but the Delaware,
with the division flag of Commander S. C. Rowan, having very judiciously taken
up a flanking position to the southward of Pork Point, opportunely turned her
guns on the enemy, enfilading Ashby's Harbor and scattered the troops with
4.30, Pork Point battery and the one next to the north. ward ceased firing for a
time, and five of the enemy's steamers, apparently injured, went behind Wier's
Point, and the troops landed. At 5 P.M., the batteries and the enemy's
again opened fire. In forty minutes these vessels were compelled to retire; one
of them in a disabled condition took refuge under Redstone battery. At six,
only Pork Point battery was active, and to avoid wasting shells, signal was made
to cease firing. In the course of the afternoon Midshipman B. J. Porter landed
with six navy howitzers, “to assist the army in commanding the main road and
its two forks during the night, and to assist in more active operations the
direction from which the rattle of musketry on the land proceeded gave assurance
that the Union troops were not in the line of fire, and the gunboats were again
moved up and engaged the forts. This continued until the firing of small arms
slackened, and then signal was made to cease filing, as it was supposed that the
Union troops were approaching the rear of the batteries. At that time,
however, the enemy were replying with only one gun.
1 P.M. the Underwriter, Valley City, Seymour, Lockwood,
Ceres, Shawsheen, Putnam,
Whitehead, and Brincker,
were ordered to clear away the double line of piling, which was effected soon
after 4 P.M. About the time our vessels had removed the obstructions, the
National flag had been hoisted by the Union troops, and a few minutes later the
enemy had set on fire the works at Redstone, and the steamer Curlew.
Both blew up in the early part of the evening, and Roanoke Island was then in
the undisputed possession of the National troops.
Point batteries, known to the Confederates as Fort Bartow, was found to be a
heptagon, mounting eight 32pounders and one 68-pounder rifled gun. In its rear
was a field battery of three guns, designed to protect it against the advance of
troops. The six howitzers from the fleet under Midshipman Porter rendered
essential service in the reduction of this work. A mile and a half north of
Fort Bartow was Fort Blanchard, mounting four 32-pounders, and one mile beyond
that Fort Huger, on Wier's Point, mounting two 68-pounder rifles and ten
32-pounders. Fort Ellis, on the eastern side of the island, was a four-gun
battery, intended to prevent the debarkation of troops. On the mainland,
nearly opposite Fort Bartow (Pork Point), was Fort Forrest. This was placed on
hulks sunk in the sand, and to enfilade vessels that might attempt to remove the
double row of piles beyond which the eight Confederate vessels were placed. It
was stated in a post return, made ten days previous to the attack, that the
defence for Roanoke Island was forty 32-pounders, seven rifled guns, and five
naval casualties, including the howitzer battery of six guns operating with the
army, were 6 killed, 17 wounded, and 2 missing.
Goldsborough speaks in terms of great commendation of all under his command,
and especially of officers commanding vessels. He adds, "It is really difficult
for me to state in adequate terms how largely I feel indebted to Commanders
Rowan and Case for their constant and signal services throughout, from the very
inception to the consummation of the achievement in view."
victory was most important; the proximate result left no ports or inlets
unoccupied by our forces along the entire North Carolina coast except
Wilmington. Including what was soon after achieved by Flag-Officer Dupont, on
the coast of Georgia and Florida, Charleston and Wilmington were the only
entrances unclosed from Cape Henry to Cape Florida.
untiring labor and zeal we find that at 3 P.M. of the day following the
surrender of the Confederate forts, Commander Rowan had taken on board all of
the ammunition obtainable, which was only twenty rounds per gun, and had entered
Albemarle Sound for the purpose of destroying -the seven Confederate war vessels
that had escaped after the fall of Roanoke Island. His pennant was on board the Delaware,
Commander Quackenbush, and was followed by the Louisiana,
Hetzel, Underwriter, Commodore Perry,
Valley City, Morse, Seymour, Whitehead,
Lockwood, Ceres, Shawsheen,
Brincker, and Putnam.
this force passed into the sound the smoke of the two Confederate steamers was
seen on the further shore, apparently heading for the Pasquotank River. Signal
was made to chase, and the course changed to cut them off if possible, but
without success. The flotilla steamed up the Pasquotank to within ten miles of
Fort Cobb, where it anchored at 8 P.M.
officers commanding vessels were assembled on board of the flag-ship and
informed by Commander Rowan that the vessels of the enemy would be found either
drawn up behind the Cobb Point battery, or they had escaped through the canal to
Norfolk. "Calling their attention to the fact that there were only twenty
rounds of ammunition per gun, the vessels would be organized for a
reconnoissance in force, to be converted into an attack if it was deemed
prudent. No firing would be admissible until the order was given, and in order
further to economize ammunition, each vessel as she approached the enemy should
run him down and engage hand-to-hand. With this understanding these noble
spirits returned to their respective ships to await the events of the
daylight of the 10th, the flotilla weighed anchor and formed in the order
prescribed, the Underwriter, Perry, Morse, and Delaware
in advance, with the Cores on theft right flank. The remainder of the force, led
in order by the Louisiana, and the Hetzel, Valley City, and Whitehead
being ordered, if the attack was made, to leave the line as soon as the battery
was passed, and attack it in reverse. The flotilla proceeded at moderate speed
up the river. . At 8.30 the enemy's steamers were seen drawn up, as anticipated,
behind the battery, which mounted four heavy 32-pounders, and was commanded by
Commodore Lynch in person, and supported by the schooner Black
Warrior, moored on the opposite shore, armed with two guns of the same
class. The vessels of the enemy were drawn up on a diagonal line, the right
resting on the Cobb Point battery. When within long range, battery and vessels
opened fire with 80-pounder rifle and other guns; when within threequarters of
a mile signal was made, "Dash at the enemy," and fire was opened by
the flotilla with telling effect. This quite demoralized the enemy; the Black
Warrior was set on fire and abandoned; the fort was abandoned when the head
of the column passed it, and the vessels designated dashed at the vessels of the
enemy. The Perry, under command of
Flusser, struck the flag-ship Sea Bird
and sunk her, and took the officers and crew prisoners; the Underwriter cut off the retreat of the Beaufort, and the Ceres
ran ahead and took possession of the Ellis,
whose crew deserted and endeavored to escape to the shore; the Delaware
boarded the Fanny, that had been set
on fire and deserted by the enemy. His defeat was sudden and overwhelming.
"Three or four of the flotilla proceeded at once to Elizabeth City and ran
alongside of the wharves. A battery of field artillery fled from the principal
street. An armed party from the flotilla came suddenly on a mounted officer of
the ‘Wise Legion,’ who, in obedience to orders from General Henningsen, was
compelling the defenseless people to set fire to the houses." Several were
set on fire before he was arrested and brought to Commander Rowan. A curious
incident, truly, in war, when the enemy becomes the protector against the
senseless injuries inflicted by pretended friends.
armed men were recalled to their respective vessels. No other houses were
destroyed besides those set on fire under the direction of Lieutenant Scroggs of
the Wise Legion."
Confederate steamer Forrest, which had
been disabled in the engagement at Roanoke Island on the 7th, a gunboat on the
stocks, and another vessel with lighter frame had been set on fire at the
shipyard by the enemy. Competent persons were sent on shore to destroy boilers
and machinery and ways; this done, the vessels withdrew to Cobb's Point. Unsuccessful
efforts had been made by other vessels of the flotilla to extinguish the fires
on board of the Fanny and the Black
Warrior. The latter vessel had on board a large amount of provisions and
stores for the Confederate vessels, all of which were burned. The machinery of
the Fanny and Sea
Bird was destroyed and the armament of those vessels was in part recovered.
The fort at Cobb's Point was destroyed, after removing powder, powder tanks,
and projectiles, and some of the vessels were then dispatched to further
thwart the designs of the enemy. Nothing more brilliant in naval
"dash" occurred during the entire civil war than appears in this
Murray, in the Louisiana, accompanied
by the Underwriter, the Perry,
and the Lockwood, went to Edenton on the 12th. After a reconnoissance of the
entrance, the smallest vessel in advance passed up to the town. A company of
mounted artillery precipitately fled and many of the inhabitants had left the
town. Eight cannon and one schooner were destroyed. The vessels were visited
by the town authorities and other persons "who professed sentiments of
loyalty to the Union."
Jeffers proceeded on the 13th, in the Lockwood,
accompanied by the Shawsheen and Whitehead,
with two schooners in tow, to the mouth of the Chesapeake and Albemarle Canal.
Two small steamers and three small schooners were about a mile and a quarter
distant, and the entrance was obstructed. A picket stationed near fired to give
the alarm, and a large body of men got under cover.
a point near the entrance to the canal, three shells were thrown by the vessels,
when the whole body of the enemy fled. A sunken schooner, supported by piles and
logs, was found fifty yards within the canal, which formed a complete barrier. A
body of fifteen armed men were thrown out, and at the distance of half a mile a
second row of piles was found obstructing the canal. A fine dredging-machine
that had been in use sunk at that moment. The enemy had destroyed the machinery
and set the upper works on fire. The two schooners in tow were then sunk in the
mouth of the canal, supplementing as it were the work already done by the enemy.
Rowan, in the Delaware, returned to
Elizabeth City at five p.m. of the 18th, and ordered the Louisiana, Perry, Morse,
Lockwood, and Whitehead to
follow. Going up Croatan Sound, he found the Barney at anchor as pre arranged; another vessel, the Hunchback,
with a battalion of the Ninth New York on board, had grounded; the remainder of
the regiment was on board of the Barney.
vessels anchored to await the arrival of the Hunchback.
On the morning of the 19th the gunboats moved to the head of the sound, and
Lieutenant-Commanding Murray was sent in the Lockwood to make a reconnoissance of Plymouth. In the meantime the Hunchback
with the remainder of the troops came up and anchored. Leaving the force off
the mouth of the Roanoke to await Murray's return in the Lockwood,
with the Delaware and Perry,
Rowan proceeded to Winton "for the purpose of communicating with the
Union men said to be in arms at that place."
the return of Murray the vessels awaiting him followed Rowan. Being desirous to
reach Winton at an early hour the Delaware
and Perry proceeded at full speed. At
4 P.m they came in sight of the wharf and houses at the landing; the town itself
was hidden by a high bluff covered with oak trees.
up past the wharf and bluff, where a Negro woman stood, apparently to assure us
that no danger need be apprehended, suddenly a small armed force and two batteries
of light artillery opened a heavy fire on the vessels." The artillery
overshot their mark; the Delaware was
too near to bring her battery to bear, and was obliged to steam ahead. She
turned with some difficulty in the narrow channel, and opened fire on the enemy;
the Perry from a position more favorable opened at once with shrapnel. The
vessels moved down the river some seven miles and anchored to await the arrival
of the expected reinforcement.
early daylight on the 20th the flotilla moved up to Winton, the leading vessels
throwing a few shrapnel on shore to cover the landing of the troops, which was
speedily effected. In a few minutes Colonel Hawkins's force, accompanied by
two navy howitzers, had possession of the bluff and passed over to the town
without opposition. A quantity of military stores, tents, arms and knapsacks,
and the quarters occupied by the troops of the enemy were destroyed. The troops
were re-embarked, and the force withdrew to the sound. The Perry
and Whitehead were dispatched to Elizabeth City.
sounds were patrolled by the flotilla until the army had made its preparations
and the vessels had received an abundant supply of ammunition, indispensable
stores for the work before them.
 Letter of Assistant Adjutant-General, Rebellion Records, Vol. IV., p. 580..
The army followed the scattered forces of the Confederates,, and on the
northern part of the island received the surrender of a considerable number,
making a total of 2,677, including the wounded. A considerable number had
effected their escape at Nag's Head. The army loss was 41 killed, and 181
wounded. The loss of the enemy was considerably less, as he was well
 Commander Rowan's Report.
|Return to the main USNLP page|
|Return to the "Our Navy" table of contents -or- to the next chapter|
|Return to the NMLHA web site|
|Return to "On Deck!" table of contents|