Each year is divided into two halves (January through June and July through December)
|1861 January - June||1861 July - December|
|1862 January - June||1862 July - December|
|1863 January - June||1863 July - December|
|1864 January - June||1864 July - December|
|1865 January - April|
(718kb Zipped Word document)
War Naval Chronology 1861-1865
Published 1966 by Naval History Division
in blue are information concerning submarine warfare derived from Mark Ragan's
July - August - September - October - November - December
1 Secretary Mallory wrote President Davis that due to a shortage of mechanics the ordnance works at Selma, Alabama, could not "make more than one gun in a week, whereas with a proper number of mechanics it could manufacture with carriages and equipments complete, three in a week, and in a few months one every day Shortage of skilled craftsmen was a handicap the South could never overcome. The manpower and material shortages at
CSS Florida, Lieutenant Morris, captured and burned bark Harriet Stevens at sea southwest of Bermuda with cargo of lumber, cement, and gum opium; Morris sent the opium in a blockade runner for hospital use.
USS Merrimac, Acting Lieutenant W. Budd, captured blockade running sloop Henrietta at sea west of Tampa, Florida, with cargo of cotton.
2 USS Keystone State, Commander Crosby, captured blockade running British steamer Rouen at sea off Wilmington . The steamer had thrown her cargo of cotton overboard during the four hour chase, and was not brought to until Keystone had fired 22 shots at her, "all of them falling quite near and some directly over her."
2–9 Single-turreted monitors USS Lehigh, Lieutenant Commander A.A. Semmes, USS Montauk, Lieutenant Commander A. W. Johnson, and other ships of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron supported Army troops in a demonstration up the Stono River, South Carolina. Hearing that Confederate forces were about to move against the blockaders off Charleston , Rear Admiral Dahlgren and Major General Foster planned a diversionary expedition up the Stono River, in-tending to cut the important Charleston-Savannah railroad. Union monitors and gunboats shelled Confederate works on both sides of the river with telling effect in support of movements ashore. Brigadier General Schimmelfennig, troop commander, reported to Dahlgren on 6 July: "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 commenced. As I shall probably have to occupy that line again before long, this fire of your monitors will undoubtedly save many lives on our side, for which I desire to express to them my thanks." Dahlgren's vessels later effectively covered the Army withdrawal from Stono River.
4 USS Hastings, Acting Lieutenant J. S. Watson, engaged Confederate sharpshooters on the White River above St. Charles, Arkansas. Lieutenant Commander Phelps, embarked in the 300-ton, 8-gun Hastings, commented in his report to Rear Admiral Porter: "I had been at a loss to know how we should celebrate the Fourth, being underway and having so much of a convoy in charge, but this attack occurring about noon furnished the opportunity of at once punishing the enemy and celebrating the day by firing cannon. "It had been a year before, on 4 July 1863, that Union forces had commemorated Independence Day with decisive victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, the latter pivoting on the Union Navy. With control of the Western waters assured, the North was certain of victory."
USS Magnolia, Acting Lieutenant William S. Cheesman, captured three boats at sea several hundred miles east of Florida with small cargo of cotton and turpentine. The intrepid Southern boatsmen had been at sea for some 40 days attempting to reach Nassau. The attempt to run the blockade in small boats, powered by sail and oars, was an extreme measure even for the South's struggling economy.
6 Illustrating the great paucity of Confederate naval power and the strategic importance of CSS Albemarle to the defense of North Carolina, Brigadier General Lawrence S. Baker, CSA, wrote to Commander Maffltt, captain of the ironclad, cautioning him against risking his vessel: "I beg leave to remind you of the importance to the Confederacy of the country opened to us by the taking of Plymouth, to suggest that its recapture now engages the serious attention of the U.S. Government, and that the loss of the gunboat which you command would be irreparable and productive of ruin to the interests of the government, particularly in this State and district, and indeed would be a heavy blow to the whole country. . . . I have no doubt that in event of an attack by you the most desperate efforts will be made to destroy your boat, and thus open the approach to Plymouth and Washington [North Carolina]." While criticism was leveled at the Confederate Navy Department for not bringing Albemarle into action, her presence at Plymouth constituted a powerful threat to Union control of the North Carolina sounds, demanded a vigilant patrol by many Northern ships, and prevented recapture of the area by Union troops. Few ships better illustrate the important relationship between a nation's land and sea-based power.
Captain Cicero Price, USS Jamestown, wrote Secretary Welles from Yokohama, Japan, regarding the celebration of Independence Day in that far-off port: "The Fourth was very handsomely celebrated here, all the foreign ships of war participating by dressing their ships, as well as salut-ing. It was very marked on the part of the British." With the tide of war ashore as well as afloat having swung irrevocably in favor of the Union, British intervention on behalf of the South could no longer be considered a possibility.
7-12 Small schooners USS Ariel, Acting Master Russell, Sea Bird, Acting Ensign Ezra L. Robbins, and Stonewall, Acting Master Henry B. Carter, and 29-ton sloop Rosalie, Acting Master Coffin, transported Union troops on a raid on Brookville, Florida. After disembarking the soldiers, Ariel and Sea Bird proceeded to Bayport, Florida; where a landing party captured a quantity of cotton and burned the customs house. The Union troops joined the two schooners at Bayport on 11 July, and the force returned to Anclote Keys the next day.
8 USS Fort Jackson, Captain Sands, captured blockade running British steamer Boston at sea off the South Carolina coast with cargo of copperas, salt, and soap.
USS Kanawha , Lieutenant Commander Bushrod B. Taylor, forced blockade running steamer Matagorda aground near Galveston. Kanawha, joined by USS Penguin and Aroostook, opened fire and destroyed the steamer, which carried cargo including cotton.
CSS Florida, Lieutenant Morris, captured whaling bark Golconda at sea southwest of Bermuda with 1,800 barrels of whale oil. "After taking what supplies of oil we required," Morris reported, "I burned her."
USS Sonoma, Lieutenant Commander Edmund O. Matthews, captured steamer Ida off the Stono River, South Carolina, with cargo of cotton.
USS Azalea, Acting Master Frederick W. Strong, and USS Sweet Brier, Acting Ensign J. D. Dexter, captured blockade running schooner Pocahontas off Charleston with cargo of cotton. Weak at sea, the South could not protect by convoy the daring merchantmen that sought to run the blockade.
9 In a confidential letter to Secretary Welles, Rear Admiral Lee disclosed the plans then being considered for an expedition to destroy the Confederate ram, CSS Albemarle.' ''I concur in Captain Smith's opinion that it would be inexpedient to fight the ram with our long double-enders in that narrow river [the Roanoke]. I proposed to Lieutenant Cushing a torpedo attack, either by means of the India rubber boat heretofore applied for, which could be transported across the swamp opposite Plymouth, or a light-draft, rifle-proof, swift steam barge, fitted with a torpedo." Cushing, who had already proved his audacity and ability on earlier expeditions into the Cape Fear River (see 29 February and 23-24 June 1864) immediately began plans for the new adventure, destined to be one of the most dramatic and dangerous of the war. He wrote Lee: "Deeming the capture or destruction of the rebel ram Albemarle feasible, I beg leave to state that I am acquainted with the waters held by her, and am willing to undertake the task." The Admiral saw In Cushing an officer with the spirit and skill to accomplish this difficult mission, and noted in closing his letter to Welles: "He is entirely willing to make an attempt to destroy the ram, and I have great confidence in his gallantry."
Major John Tyler, CSA, Assistant Adjutant General, wrote Major General Sterling price regarding a proposed attack on Point Lookout, Maryland, to release Confederate prisoners: "The plan is that he [Lieutenant General Jubal Early] shall seize Baltimore and hold it with his infantry while his cavalry proceeds to Point Lookout to liberate our prisoners there concentrated to the extent of nearly 30,000. in the meantime Captain [John Taylor] Wood, of the Navy, proceeds from Wilmington with five gunboats and 20,000 stand of arms for the same point by water. If successful in thus liberating and arming our imprisoned soldiers, Washington will be assaulted and no doubt carried. This I regard as decidedly the most brilliant idea of the war.'' Rumors of this daring plan reached Lieutenant Stuyvesant, USS Minnesota, on 18 July and he warned the Navy Department and Rear Admiral Lee that Wood was reported to have left Richmond with 800 volunteers on the 7th and 8th. While the projected expedition caused considerable excitement among the Union authorities, President Davis had already, on 10 July, advised against the attempt. Wood reported that he was ready to run the blockade out of Wilmington on 9 July, but the Confederate President replied: "The object and destination of the expedition have somehow become so generally known that I fear your operations will meet unexpected obstacles." The idea was abandoned, but illustrated the bold and daring measures considered by the South during the last year of the war.
CSS Florida, Lieutenant Morris, captured and burned bark Greenland, with cargo of coal, and schooner Margaret Y. Davis, in ballast, at sea off Cape Henry, Virginia.
USS Gettysburg, Acting Master William M. Gloin, captured blockade running steamer Little Ada at sea off Cape Romain with cargo of pig lead and potash after a lengthy chase.
10 CSS Florida, Lieutenant Morris, captured and burned bark General Berry with cargo of hay and straw. The action took place only 35 miles from Maryland's eastern shore as Morris continued his dashing raid on Union coastal shipping. Shortly thereafter, Morris gave chase to bark Zelinda, which he captured in ballast. He reported: "Put an officer and prize crew on board of her, with orders to follow us, went in chase of a schooner to the eastward. Found her to be the Howard, with a cargo of fruit belonging to English merchants. Bonded the schooner for $6,000, and put all of the prisoners (sixty-two in all) on board. . . . Morris then removed Zelinda's provisions and burned her. Florida made yet another capture that day, the mail steamer Electric Spark, her passengers were transferred to a passing British ship, Lane. Seeking to create the impression that he had made a tender of Electric Spark, Morris scuttled her during the night rather than putting her to the torch. This prize had yielded a quantity of cash in addition to other important articles, including mail. Morris, recognizing that Union ships would by this time be in hot pursuit of him, turned Florida on an easterly course into the broad Atlantic, whose vastness provided refuge for commerce raiders.
Reflecting the widespread concern caused by the recent captures made by CSS Florida, Lieutenant Morris, off the coast of Virginia and Maryland, Rear Admiral Lee dispatched screw steamers USS Mount Vernon , Lieutenant Commander Henry A. Adams, Jr., and USS Monticello, Lieutenant Cushing, to "cruise together, and on finding the Florida will make a joint attack on her and capture her.'' The career of Florida, one of the most successful raiders, was nearing an end, but the honor of capturing her was to go neither to Adams nor Cushing. Many ships went out after her, but few got even a glimpse of the wily cruiser. This date Lee also ordered out USS Ino, Acting Lieutenant French, with another approach in mind: "Disguise the Ino, her battery, officers, and crew, and play the merchantman in appearance so as to entice her [CSS Florida ] alongside, when you, being prepared, will open upon her suddenly and effectually."
USS Monongahela, Commander Strong, USS Lackawanna, Captain Marchand, USS Galena, Lieutenant Commander Clark H. Wells, USS Sebago, Lieutenant Commander William E. Fitzhugh, opened fire on steamer Virgin, described as "a very large" blockade runner, aground near Fort Morgan, at Mobile Bay, Alabama. Under cover of Fort Morgan's cannon, a river steamer attempted to tow Virgin off, but was forced to withdraw by the accurate shelling from the blockaders. The next day, however, the Confederates towed Virgin into Mobile Bay.
USS Roebuck, Acting Master William L. Martine, captured blockade running British schooner Terrapin, at Jupiter Inlet, Florida, with cargo of cotton and turpentine.
11 Landing party from USS James L. Davis, Acting Master Griswold, destroyed Confederate salt works near Tampa, Florida. The works were capable of producing some 150 bushels of salt per day. On 16 July a similar raid near Tampa was carried out in which a salt work consisting of four boilers was destroyed.
12 USS Whitehead, Acting Ensign George W. Barrett, and USS Ceres, Acting Master Foster, in company with transport steamer Ella May, conducted a joint expedition up the Scuppernong River to Columbia, North Carolina. Whitehead, a small tinclad, and Ceres, a 140-ton paddle- wheeler, landed troops near Columbia, and the soldiers succeeded in destroying a bridge and a quantity of grain.
USS Penobscot, Lieutenant Commander Benham, captured blockade running schooner James Williams off Galveston with cargo including medicines, coffee, and liquor.
13 Colonel Albert J. Myer, USA, forwarded intelligence regarding the naval defenses of Mobile Bay to Rear Admiral Farragut. Myer reported: "A line of piles driven under water extends from the shoal water near Fort Gaines, across Pelican Pass Channel, and to the edge of the main ship channel. One informant describes this obstruction as five rows of piles driven closely together. The other informant does not know how many are the piles or how closely driven.
From the western edge of the main ship channel, where the fixed obstructions terminate, a torpedo line extends eastward across that channel to a point differently estimated as at 400 yards and as at nearly one-half mile from Fort Morgan." A "torpedo party" of seven men was reported to be in charge of the underwater weapons. These torpedoes almost turned back the Admiral's assault on Mobile Bay less than a month later.
Flag Officer Barton wrote Secretary Mallory from Paris: "In the course of this week . . . I hope to have the pleasure of reporting the Rappahannock at sea . . . She is strictly watched by Federal cruisers in the channel: Kearsarge at Dover, Niagara at or off Cherbourg, and Sacramento off Ushant. This disposition of the enemy's ships increases the risks and affords decided chances of capture; but if we be permitted to leave port with the number of officers and men on board I shall assuredly encounter all the chances and risks, knowing your anxiety and the great impor-tance of keeping a sufficient number of vessels afloat to keep up the rates of maritime insurance in the United States, and a wholesome dread of our active and enterprising little Navy amongst their commercial marine." Despite Barron's strong efforts, however, Rappahannock remained in port until the war ended.
13-14 In order to protect the rear of Union Army emplacements around Annapolis, Maryland, against Confederate raiders Lieutenant Commander Braine, USS Vicksburg, detailed a boat expedition under the command of Acting Ensign Francis G. Osborn to destroy all means of crossing South River.
14 Acting Master George R. Durand, USS Paul Jones, was captured while making an attempt in Ossabaw Sound, Georgia, to destroy CSS Water Witch,' a former Union ship which had been taken in June, 1864. Durand concealing himself and his men by day and moving by night, made his way toward the prize steamer only to be discovered and captured by a Confederate patrol.
Screw steamer USS Pequot, Lieutenant Commander Quackenbush, and converted ferryboat USS Commodore Morris, Acting Master Robert G. Lee, engaged Confederate batteries in the vicinity of Malvern Hill, James River, Virginia, for four hours, sustaining no serious damage. Two days later the batteries opened on USS Mendota, Commander Nichols, Pequot, and Commodore Morris. Mendota, a double-ender, sustained minor damage and several casualties. Presence of the battery below Four Mile Creek temporarily closed the navigation of the James River.
18 Rear Admiral Farragut wrote of his plans for the attack on Mobile Bay: "I propose to go in according to programme– fourteen vessels, two and two, as at Port Hudson; low steam; flood tide in the morning with a light southwest wind; ironclads on the eastern side, to attack the Tennessee, and gunboats to attack rebel gunboats as soon as past the forts." It was characteristic of the Admiral's farsighted attention to detail to have battle plans drawn up and his fleet ready for action when the most favorable moment to move forward arrived.
Governor Samuel Corry of Maine wrote Secretary Welles regarding the exploits of CSS Florida. Gravely concerned by the captures the cruiser had made recently, he asked that one or two gun-boats constantly patrol the coast, and stated: "We are at war with a brave, energetic adversary, fruitful in resources, ready to strike at any exposed point, and which, with one or two piratical cruisers, besides destroying a great amount of tonnage, has driven a large share of our commerce under the protection of the flags of other nations."
Secretary Mallory wrote Commander Bulloch in Liverpool, England; that ". . . we can operate effectually against the enemy's blockading fleets with torpedo boats . . . As these boats select their own time for operating and may thus secure a smooth sea, and as they must operate at night, and avoid being seen, it is important that they should be as low in the water as may be consistent with their safety. They are expected to carry from five to seven men, coal for twenty-four hours, and four torpedoes with their shifting poles, and to go at least 10 miles an hour with all on board . . . The torpedo is usually made of copper or iron boiler plate, contains from 40 to 100 pounds of powder and is prepared with three sensitive tubes which explode on impact . . . The torpedo boats are miniature swift steamers, and they must be strongly built and as light as may be consistent with strength . . . I suppose these boats might be built and sent to us without interference by the authorities; but if not they might be built in sections and thus sent over. We are so destitute of mechanics, however, that they should be sent us complete as possible
21 USS Prairie Bird, Acting Master Thomas Burns, seized steamer Union on the Mississippi River for violation of revenue laws and giving "aid and comfort to the enemy".
22 Lieutenant Charles S. Cotton and Acting Ensign John L. Hall led a landing party from USS Oneida on a daring expedition that resulted in the capture of a Confederate cavalry patrol near Fort Morgan, Mobile Bay. The sailors rowed in from Oneida under cover of' darkness, and lay in wait for a nightly Southern patrol which had been under observation for some time. Surprise was complete, and Hall Marched a detachment four miles further inland to destroy the patrol's camp site. Lieutenant Cotton reported: "The results of the expedition were captured, 1 lieutenant and 4 privates of the Seventh Alabama Cavalry, arms and ammunition; 5 horses, with their equipments complete, and all the camp equipage and stores.
23 Army transport B.M. Runyan, with some 500 military and civilian passengers on board, sank in the Mississippi River near Skipwith's Landing, Mississippi, after hitting a snag. USS Prairie Bird, Acting Master Thomas Burns, rescued 350 survivors and salvaged part of the cargo. Rescue and humanitarian operations have been a continuing naval mission throughout our history.
24 Confederate guerrillas captured and burned steamer Kingston, which had run aground the preceding day between Smith's Point and Windmill Point on the Virginia shore of Chesapeake Bay.
25 As Union naval forces in Albemarle Sound kept a close watch on the powerful ram CSS Albemarle, Acting Master's Mate John Woodman with three companions made the first of his three daring reconnaissance expeditions up the Roanoke River to Plymouth, North Carolina. Reported Woodman: "The town appeared very quiet; very few persons were moving about; I could hear the blacksmiths and carpenters at work in the town near the river." The ram, he added, was "lying at the wharf near the steam sawmill." The danger posed by the Confederate ship was to be a prime object of Northern concern for several more months, and prevented the Union forces from aggressive operations in the Plymouth area.
Boats from USS Hartford, Monongahela, and Sebago, commanded by Rear Admiral Farragut's flag lieutenant, J. C. Watson, reconnoitered the Mobile Bay area in an attempt to discover the type and number of water mines laid by Confederates off Fort Morgan. Watson and his men located and cut loose many of the torpedoes; they were aided by the fact that a number were inoperative. This hazardous work was indispensable to the success of the Navy's coming operations against Mobile. Several similar night operations were conducted.
USS Undine, Acting Master John L. Bryant, struck a snag and sank in the Tennessee River near Clifton, Tennessee. Bryant immediately set to work raising his small gunboat, while at the same time placing her guns ashore to help defend the city, which was threatened by Confederate troops. On 31 July, after the arrival of pump steamer Little Champion, and under constant danger of attack, Bryant succeeded in raising Undine and returning her to action.
20–27 Pickets from USS Shokokon, Acting Master Sheldon, were attacked ashore by Confederate sharpshooters at Turkey Bend, in the James River. Shokokon, a 710–ton double-ender mounting 5 guns, supported the embattled landing party with gunfire, and succeeded in preventing its capture. Next day, Shokokon engaged a Confederate battery at the same point on the River.
27 Rear Admiral Lee sent tugs Belle, Martin, and Hoyt, fitted as torpedo boats, to Commander Macomb, commanding Union naval forces off New Bern, North Carolina. The tugs, which were to be used against reported Confederate ironclads in that vicinity, carried spar torpedoes, described by Lee as follows: "This form of torpedo is intended to explode on impact, and to he placed on a pole or rod projecting not less than 15 feet, and if possible 20 feet, beyond the vessel using it. It contains 150 pounds of powder.'' Initially the Union violently rejected torpedo warfare introduced by the South, but as the war progressed the North also utilized it to advantage.
Colonel Lewis B. Parsons, USA, Assistant Quartermaster and Chief of Western River Transporta-tion, wrote to Lieutenant Commander Phelps, Navy commander on the White River, about the unavailability of sufficient gunboats to convoy the vital supply ships on the river: "I am now in receipt of letters from three different officers, urgently enquiring if something can be done to prevent the detention of boats for convoys, in consequence of which, it is extremely difficult to send stores and supplies from Helena, Memphis, and other points. . . . I have no doubt everything is being done in your power and consistent with your means, but considering the importance of the subject and the expenditure, is it not advisable to increase the means, so that convoys, if necessary, may be sent as boats arrive? If this can not be done, would it not do if two or three gunboats be stationed at different and dangerous points and boats be permitted to proceed without convoys?" The Navy's efforts to keep open the essential river supply routes in the West were beset with many problems, including a scarcity of ships for convoy against constant harassment by Confederate guerrillas.
Rear Admiral Bailey wrote Secretary Welles from Key West describing the severe epidemic of yellow fever among the officers and men of his squadron: "My worst fears have been more than realized, and for more than two months the disease has held its course without abatement and is now as virulent as at any time. . . . The mortality on the island I am told has reached as high as 12 to 15 in a day. . . . The squadron is much crippled.
27-30 Boat crew commanded by Lieutenant J.C. Watson made daylight reconnaissances of the Mobile Bay channel. Watson and his men, towed into the bay by the small tug Cowslip, sounded the outer channel and marked the outside limits of the Confederate torpedo fields with buoys for the coming attack on the defenses of the bay.
28 Large side-wheel double-enders USS Mendota, Commander Nichols, and USS Agawam, temporarily commanded by Lieutenant George Dewey, shelled Confederate positions across Four Mile Creek, on the James River, in support of Union moves to clear the area and restore full Northern use of the river at that Point.
28-29 Tinclad USS Whitehead, Acting Ensign Barrett, joined with Army steamers Thomas Colyer and Massasoit in an expedition up the Chowan River, North Carolina, to confiscate contraband. Steamer Arrow was captured at Gatesville with cargo of cotton and tobacco.
30 Landing party from USS Potomska, Acting Lieutenant Robert P. Swann, destroyed two large Confederate salt works near the Back River, Georgia. Returning to Potomska, Swann and his men were taken under fire by Confederates and a sharp battle ensued. 'Our arms," Swann reported, "the Spencer rifles, saved us all from destruction, as the rapidity with which we fired caused the enemy to lie low, and their firing was after the first volley very wild. . . . We fought them three-quarters of an hour, some of the time up to our knees in mud, trying to land and cap-ture them, and some of the time in the water with the boats for a breastwork." Finally able to regain the Potomska, Swann's party received a commendation from Rear Admiral Dahlgren for the bravery and skill they had demonstrated on the expedition.
In strongly refuting a recommendation that ram CSS Albemarle be kept as a threat in being at Plymouth and not venture out to offer battle, Secretary Mallory wrote: . . . she was not designed as a floating battery merely, and while her loss must not be lightly hazarded, the question of when to attack the enemy must be left to the judgment of the naval officer in command, deciding in view of the relation she bears to the defenses of North Carolina."
1-4 Landing party under Commander George M. Colvocoresses, composed of 115 officers and men, raided a meeting of civilians forming a coastal guard at McIntosh Court House, Georgia. Colvocoresses Marched his men overland after coming ashore during the night of 2 August, destroyed a bridge to prevent being cut off by Confederate cavalry, and captured some 26 prisoners and 22 horses before making his way safely back to USS Saratoga. Rear Admiral Dahlgren , amused at the circumstances of the expedition and pleased with its results, reported to the men of his squadron: "Captain Colvocoresses having been favored with a sight of the notice in a Savannah paper, and feeling considerable interest in the object of the meeting, concluded that he would attend it also, which he did, with a number of United States citizens serving at the time on board the USS Saratoga as officers, seamen, and marines. . . . When the appointed time arrived, Mr. Miller [Boatswain Philip J. Miller] set fire to the bridge [outside the town] and at the signal the main body rushed out and joined the meeting. . . . Captain Colvocoresses then read to the meeting from the newspaper the order of Colonel Gaulden [CSA] for their assembling, and, regretting that the Colonel had failed to attend, he invited the meeting to accompany him, which they did, and arrived safely on board the Saratoga, where they meet daily under the United States flag." The Admiral later reported to Secretary Welles of the prisoners: ". . . . it is hoped that under the old flag the deliberations may be of a more beneficial tendency, as the parties are now relieved of their proposed responsibility as a coast guard."
Colonel Gaulden, not to be outdone, published an explanatory letter in the Savannah Re-publican adding a challenge to the observant naval Captain: "As the Captain seems to be a reader of your paper, I take this opportunity to make my compliments to him and to say that when he calls to see me again I shall be at home, and will try and give him a more respectful reception."
2 After months of attempting to ready CSS Rappahannock and negotiating her clearance from French authorities in Calais, Flag Officer Barron reluctantly concluded that she could not be taken to sea under the Confederate flag. This date, he received a letter from Lieutenant Charles M. Fauntleroy, commanding Rappahannock, informing him that while the French would now permit her put to sea, her crew could not exceed 35 men. Barron at once replied: "I agree with you in the "absolute impossibility of navigating the ship" with so small a complement as thirty-five, including yourself and officers. You will therefore proceed to pay off and discharge your officers and crew, keeping sufficient officers and men to look after the public property, and lay up the ship until we determine upon what course we shall pursue in regard to her." Private agents acting for the Confederacy had purchased Rappahannock from the British in November, 1863, at Sheerness, where she was refitting. Concerned that the British, suspecting that she was to be used as a cruiser, would detain her, the Confederates ran Rappahannock out of port on 24 November. Her officers joined in the channel, and intended to rendezvous with CSS Georgia off the French coast, where she would take on armament. However, in passing out of the Thames estuary her bearings burned out and she 'was taken across the channel to Calais for repairs. Though the South had entertained high hopes for her as a commerce raider, she was destined never to put to sea under the Stars and Bars". Fauntleroy, disillusioned with the command which cost the South so much in time and effort, termed her "The Confederate White Elephant."
3 Rear Admiral Farragut's Fleet Captain, Percival Drayton, wrote the senior officer at Pensacola, Captain Thornton A. Jenkins, urging that the monitor Tecumseh be hurried to Mobile for Farragut's attack. ''If you can get the Tecumseh out tomorrow, do so; otherwise I am pretty certain that the admiral won't wait for her. Indeed, I think a very little persuasion would have taken him in today, and less tomorrow. The army are to land at once, and the admiral does not want to be thought remiss." Farragut himself wrote Jenkins, adding in a tone indicative of his indomitable spirit: "I can lose no more days. I must go in day after tomorrow morning at daylight or a little after. It is a bad time, but when you do not take fortune at her offer you must take her as you can find her."
Lieutenant J. C. Watson and his boat crew made a final night expedition into the waters of Mobile Bay under the guns of Fort Morgan. Although they were constantly in danger of being discovered by the lights of the Fort, the bold sailors worked all night to deactivate and sink Confederate torpedoes in the channel preparatory to Farragut's dash into Mobile Bay.
USS Miami, Acting Lieutenant George W. Graves, engaged Confederate batteries at Wilcox's Landing, Virginia. Proceeding toward heavy firing, Graves had discovered batteries at Wilcox's Landing firing on Union transports. He immediately opened a brisk cannonade, and after an hour the Confederates withdrew. Next day, Miami, accompanied by USS Osceola, Commander Clitz, drove off batteries which were firing on another group of transports near Harrison's Landing, on the James River. Throughout the embattled South, Union gunboats kept communications and supply lines open despite the dogged determination of the Confederates to sever them.
5 Rear Admiral Farragut took his squadron of 18 ships, including four monitors, against the heavy Confederate defenses of Mobile Bay. Soon after 6 a.m., the Union ships crossed the bar and moved into the bay. The monitors Tecumseh, Manhattan, Winebago, and Chickasaw formed a column to starboard of the wooden ships in order to take most of the fire from Fort Morgan, which they had to pass at close range. The seven smaller wooden ships were lashed to tile port side of the larger wooden screw steamers, as in the passage of Port Hudson, Mississippi River.
Shortly before 7 o'clock, Tecumseh, Commander T.A.M. Craven , opened fire on Fort Morgan. The action quickly became general. The Confederate squadron under Admiral Buchanan , including the heavy ram Tennessee (6 guns) and the smaller ships Gaines (6 guns), Selma (4 guns), and Morgan (6 guns), moved out to engage the attackers. Craven headed Tecumseh straight at Tennessee, bent on engaging her at once. Suddenly, a terrific explosion rocked the Union monitor. She careened violently and went down in seconds, the victim of one of the much-feared torpedoes laid by the Confederates for harbor defense. Amidst the confusion below decks as men struggled to escape the sinking ship, Craven and the pilot, John Collins, arrived at the foot of the ladder leading to the main deck. The captain stepped back. "After you, pilot," he said. Collins was saved, but there was no afterwards for the heroic Craven. He and some 90 officers and men of Tecumseh's crew of 114 went down with the ship. Captain Alden called them "intrepid pioneers of that death-strewed path."
Alden, in Brooklyn , was to Tecumseh's port when the disaster occurred; the heavy steamer stopped and began backing to clear "a row of suspicious-looking buoys" directly under Brooklyn's bow. The entire line of wooden vessels was drifting into confusion immediately under the guns of Fort Morgan. Farragut, lashed in the rigging to observe the action over the smoke billowing from the guns, acted promptly and resolutely, characteristic of a great leader who in war must constantly meet emergencies fraught with danger. The only course was the boldest through the torpedo field. "Damn the torpedoes," he ordered; "full speed ahead " (Flag Lieutenant John C. Watson later recalled that Farragut's exact words were: "Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead, Drayton! Hard astarboard; ring four bells! Eight bells! Sixteen bells!") His flagship Hartford swept past Brooklyn into the rows of torpedoes; the fleet followed. The torpedoes were heard bumping against the hulls but none exploded. The Union force steamed into the bay.
Hardly past one hazard, Farragut was immediately faced with another: Buchanan attempted to ram Hartford with Tennessee. The Union ship slipped by her slower, clumsier antagonist, returning her fire but also being raked by the fire of gunboat CSS Selma, Lieutenant Peter U. Murphey. Wooden double-ender USS Metacomet, Lieutenant Commander Jouett, engaged Selma and, though sustaining considerable damage, compelled her to strike her colors shortly after 9 a.m. Meanwhile, Tennessee also attempted in vain to ram Brooklyn. CSS Gaines, Lieutenant John W. Bennett, advanced to engage the Union ships as they entered the bay, but she suffered a steering casualty early in the action. ". . . subjected to a very heavy concentrated fire from the Hartford, Richmond, and others at short range . . . , Bennett soon found his command in a sinking condition. He ran her aground near Fort Morgan and salvaged most of the ammunition and small arms before she settled in two fathoms. CSS Morgan, Commander George W. Harrison, briefly engaged Metacomet to assist Selma prior to her surrender, but as the action took place at high speed, Morgan could not maintain her position and faced the possibility of being cut off and captured by two Union ships. Harrison determined to take her under Fort Morgan's guns and later he saved her by boldly running the gauntlet of Federal ships to Mobile.
Meanwhile, 300-ton side-wheeler USS Philippi, Acting Master James T. Seaver, "wishing to be of assistance to the fleet in case any vessels were disabled," grounded near Fort Morgan attempting to get into the bay. The fort's heavy guns quickly found the range and riddled Philippi with shot and shell, forcing Seaver and his crew to abandon ship. A boat crew from CSS Morgan completed her destruction by setting her afire. The Union fleet, having steamed up into the bay, anchored briefly. Buchanan heroically carried the fight to his powerful opponents alone. Farragut reported: "I was not long in comprehending his intention to be the destruction of the flagship. The monitors and such of the wooden vessels as I thought best adapted for the purpose were immediately ordered to attack the ram, not only with their guns, but bows on at full speed, and then began one of the fiercest naval combats on record."
For more than an hour the titanic battle raged. Steam sloop of war Monongahela struck Tennessee a heavy blow but succeeded only in damaging herself. Lackawanna rammed into the Confederate ship at full speed but, said Farragut, "the only perceptible effect on the ram was to give her a heavy list." A shot from Manhattan's 15-inch gun, however, made a greater impression on those on board Tennessee. Lieutenant Wharton, CSN, reported: "The Monongahela was hardly
clear of us when a hideous-looking monster came creeping up on our Port side, whose slowly revolving turret revealed the cavernous depths of a mammoth gun. 'Stand clear of the Port side!' I shouted. A moment after a thundrous report shook us all, while a blast of dense, sulpherous smoke covered our port-holes, and 440 pounds of iron, impelled by sixty pounds of powder, admitted daylight through our side, where, before it struck us, there had been over two feet of solid wood, covered with five inches of solid iron. This was the only 15-inch shot that hit us fair. It did not come through; the inside netting caught the splinters, and there were no casualties from it. I was glad to find myself alive after that shot."
Hartford struck a glancing blow and poured a broadside into Tennessee from a distance of ten feet Chickasaw pounded the ram with heavy shot; steam sloops Lackawanna and Hartford had collided, but had regained position and, with Ossipee and Monongahela, were preparing to run down Buchanan's ship. The intrepid Confederate Admiral had been seriously wounded and relinquished command to Commander James D. Johnston. The rain of shells knocked out the ironclad's steering. Unable to maneuver and taking on water, Tennessee struggled on against her overwhelmingly superior foes despite the terrible cannonade that pounded her mercilessly. Ultimately, Buchannan and Johnston concurred that Tennessee must surrender to prevent loss of life to no fruitful end. At 10 o'clock a white flag was hoisted. Farragut acknowledged the tenacity and ability with which the Confederate seamen had fought: "During this contest with the rebel gunboats and Tennessee . . . we lost many more men than from the fire of the batteries of Fort Morgan."
Secretary Welles warmly congratulated the Admiral on his stunning triumph: "In the success which has attended your operations you have illustrated the efficiency and irresistible power of a naval force led by a bold and vigorous mind, and insufficiency of any batteries to prevent the passage of a fleet thus led and commanded. You have, first on the Mississippi and recently in the bay of Mobile, demonstrated what had been previously doubted, the ability of naval vessels, properly manned and commanded, to set at defiance the best constructed and most heavily armed fortifications. In these successive victories you have encountered great risks, but the results have vindicated the wisdom of your policy and the daring valor of our officers and seamen."
Costly as the victory was to the Union and stubbornly as Mobile Bay was defended by the Confederates, the result of the struggle was the closing of the last major Gulf port to the South. With the bay itself controlled by Farragut's fleet, it was inevitable that the land fortifications which had been bypassed would be compelled to surrender. That afternoon, Chickasaw, Lieutenant Commander George H. Perkins, stood down and engaged Fort Powell at a distance of less than 400 yards. The Confederate work could not meet such an assault from its rear, and during the night it was evacuated and blown up. Forts Gaines and Morgan would fall soon as well, and henceforth Northern naval efforts could be concentrated in the East, though vigilance and "mop-ping up" operations would continue elsewhere until war's end. Of the stunning victory at Mobile, the distinguished naval historian Commodore Dudley W. Knox wrote: "Success there had been mainly due to the genius of Farragut, who had shown all the attributes of a great leader. He had been skillful and thorough in planning, cautious in awaiting adequate military and naval reinforcements, bold in attack, quick in perceptions and decisions during the greatest emergencies of battle, superbly courageous in setting an example, ever ready to take personal risks, as well as to assume those demanded by his heavy responsibility, and resolute beyond measure until the victory was won.
U.S. Navy makes final decision
to reject Hortsford’s Soligo; no
reason given. On this same date, Admiral Farragut fights the Battle of Mobile
Bay. Seeing U.S.S. Tecumseh sunk in
seconds (supposedly by a torpedo), Farragut admonishes his men to “Damn the
—full speed ahead!” But, as no other mine in the
harbor worked on that day, the possibility exits that Tecumseh was sunk by the Confederate submarine C.S.S. Captain
Pierce, which was active in the harbor that day and lost when its
boiler exploded—very near the Tecumseh.
The lone surviving Confederate sailor claimed the crew had targeted a different
ship; if so, the Tecumseh was simply
incredibly unlucky to find the single mine that was not waterlogged.
6 Powerful CSS Albemarle, Captain J. W. Cooke, steamed from Plymouth, NC., to the mouth of the Roanoke River, causing great concern among the Union blockading ships before returning to Plymouth. Commander Harrell, USS Chicopee, reported: ". . . the ram made its appearance this morning at a few minutes before 4 a.m. It advanced as far as the mouth of the river and halted. . . . From the number of people in sight on the beach, no doubt it was expected that an engagement would ensue. . . . The ram is now lying in the river blowing off steam. I do not think, however that she will advance. Should she do so, however, I will endeavor to draw her down toward the fleet I shall now pay my respects to those gentlemen on the beach in the shape of a few shells."
CSS Tallahassee, Commander Wood, ran out of Wilmington harbor, and after eluding several blockaders off the bar, embarked on one of the most destructive commerce raiding cruises of the war. This extemporaneous man-of-war," Jefferson Davis later wrote, ". . . soon lit up the New England coast with her captures. . . . " In the next two weeks Wood, whom Davis called an officer of extraordinary ability and enterprise," took or destroyed more than 30 ships.
7 Colonel Charles D. Anderson, CSA, commanding Fort Gaines at Mobile Bay, proposed the sur-render of his command to Rear Admiral Farragut. USS Chickasaw, Lieutenant Commander Perkins, had bombarded the fort the day before, and Anderson wrote: "Feeling my inability to maintain my present position longer than you may see fit to open upon me with your fleet, and feeling also the uselessness of entailing upon ourselves further destruction of life, I have the honor to propose the surrender of Fort Gaines, its garrison, stores, etc." Before 10 a.m., 8 August, the Stars and Stripes were flying over the works.
8 Sailors in the Civil War were often called upon to perform duties far removed from ordinary ship-board routine. This date, Rear Admiral Dahlgren wrote to the commanders of ships in the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron on the subject of naval infantry: "It has frequently happened that the peculiar nature of the duties in this command has required the service of bodies of men to be landed from vessels to act for a short time as infantry, assisted by light fieldpieces. In order to meet similar exigencies commanders of vessels will take pains to select from their crews such men as may seem to have a turn for this kind of duty and have them drilled with small arms until they have attained the necessary proficiency. . . . The light-infantry drill will be best adapted to this service, and to the habits of the seamen.
USS Violet, Acting Ensign Thomas Stothard, ran aground off the western bar at Cape Fear River, North Carolina, and was destroyed. Stothard and his men labored to keep Violet afloat for five hours, but seeing that the water was gaining, fired her magazine and abandoned the small wooden steamer.
Though the Union fleet under Rear Admiral Farragut controlled Mobile Bay and Forts Powell and Gaines were in Northern hands, Brigadier General Richard L. Page, formerly a U.S. naval officer and until recently a Commander in the Confederate Navy, gallantly refused to surrender Fort Morgan to the overwhelming forces opposing him. Federal naval forces took station in the Bay while troops began the land investment of Fort Morgan. After a brief bombardment, Farragut and Union Army commander Major General Gordon Granger advised page: "To prevent the unnecessary sacrifice of human life which must follow the opening of our batteries, we demand the unconditional surrender of Fort Morgan and its dependencies." Undaunted, the Confederate officer replied: "I am prepared to sacrifice life, and will only surrender when I have no means of defense." He was fighting his fort as he would have his ship.
Ram Tennessee, whose big guns had so valiantly sought to defend Confederate possession of Mobile Bay on 5 August, now in Union hands, bombarded Fort Morgan. Her log recorded: "At 10 a.m. having no steam up on this vessel, the U.S. gunboat Port Royal took us in tow down towards the Fort Morgan. Anchored between the Middle Ground and the fort and opened our battery upon the fort." At 10 p.m. Winnebago towed Tennessee back up to her anchorage.
Reflecting Union concern regarding the great strength of CSS Albemarle, Rear Admiral Lee wrote to Commander Macomb, commanding off Albemarle Sound, of the measures to employ in the event of another engagement with her: "The Department is of the opinion that too light charges of powder were used in the engagement of May 5 with the Albemarle, and that the IX-inch with 13 pounds and the 100-pounder rifle with 10 pounds of powder can effect nothing, and that even using XI-inch guns the vessels should touch the ram while engaging her and the XI-inch guns be fired with 30 pounds of powder and solid shot."
Two resourceful members of the Confederate Torpedo Corps, John Maxwell and R. K. Dillard, planted a clockwork torpedo containing twelve pounds of powder on a Union transport at City Point, Virginia, causing a huge explosion which rocked the entire area. Maxwell and Dillard succeeded in getting through Union lines to the wharf area, where Maxwell convinced the trusting wharf sentry that he had been ordered by the captain of the ammunition barge to deliver a box on board. The box was accepted and the two Confederates hastily started back for Richmond. When the torpedo exploded an hour later, it set in motion a devastating chain reaction which spread the holocaust from the barges to storage buildings on shore and even to General Grant's headquarters. Grant hurried off a message to General Halleck in Washington: "Five minutes ago an ordnance boat exploded, carrying lumber, grape, canister, and all kinds of shot over this point. Every part of the yard used as my headquarters is filled with splinters and fragments of shell."
Lieutenant General Grant wrote to Rear Admiral Lee, in response to a question as to the useful-ness of the Union ironclads on the James River: . . . I think it would be imprudent to withdraw them. At least two such vessels, in my judgment, should be kept in the upper James. They stand a constant threat to the enemy and prevent him taking the offensive." From experience Grant well understood the vital part sea power played in the struggle between North and South, whether on the ocean, the Western rivers, or the restricted waters of the James. The General was a master at employing the unique advantages of strength based afloat in combined operations to overwhelm opposition.
Blockade running steamer Prince Albert went aground off Fort Moultrie at Charleston and was destroyed by USS Catskill, Commander Napoleon B. Harrison, and the Morris Island batteries.
one of the inventors of the Hunley,
writes to Jefferson Davis
makes the case for buying a $5000 “electro-magnetic engine” in New York
Washington City. Watson maintains that this is the best way to power a
submarine. Watson had worked on scratch-building such a motor for Pioneer II.
10 Rear Admiral Farragut continued steady day and night bombardment, battering down the walls of Fort Morgan resolutely defended by his former shipmate, General Page.
Writing from Paris, Flag Officer Barron, reported to Secretary Mallory that all Confederate midshipmen except the Alabama's had been examined for promotion. Though its ships were few in numbers, the Confederacy continued an active and systematic training program for young naval officers. In his annual report to President Davis, Secretary Mallory stressed the value of training to the naval service: "Naval education and training lie at the foundation of naval success; and the power that neglects this essential element of strength will, when the battle is fought, find that its ships, however formidable, are but built for a more thoroughly trained and educated enemy. . . . While a liberal education at the ordinary institutions of learning prepares men for useful service not only in the Army, but in most branches of public affairs, special education and training, and such as these institutions cannot afford, are essential to form a naval officer." The Confederate Naval Academy, on board CSS Patrick Henry in the James River, translated this active interest in proper naval training into concrete instruction, and provided trained officers to the Southern cause until her loss when Richmond fell in 1865.
Secretary Mallory wrote Commander Bulloch in Liverpool of the continuing importance of commerce raiding to the Confederacy; "It seems certain that we can not obtain such ships as we specially want; but we must not therefore desist in our attempts and must do the best we can under the circumstances which surround us. The enemy's distant whaling grounds have not been visited by us. His commerce constitutes one of his reliable sources of national wealth no less than one of his best schools for seamen, and we must strike it, if possible" The Secretary's desires were to be carried out with even greater success than he had anticipated by CSS Shenandoah .
One of the additional difficulties of naval operations in the lowlands surrounding the James River, Virginia, was the high incidence of sickness. This date, Flag Officer Mitchell, com-manding the Confederate James River Squadron, wired Major General George E. Pickett: "Our crews are so much reduced in number from sickness that we shall have to discontinue our picket guard at Osborne's on James River to enable us to man our batteries, in order that we may act against the enemy. About one-third of the men are sick." Later in the month, a board of sur-geons inspected the ships of the squadron with a view toward reducing the prevalence of malaria and other disabling diseases. The conclusions reached in the subsequent report illustrated the hazard of duty on board river gunboats: "We consider the causes of the great amount of sickness on board said vessels to be, first, and chiefly, that exposure to malaria, the necessary consequence of a residence upon the waters of James River; as secondary causes to this, but in our opinion highly conducive to the hurtful influence, we would enumerate the heated atmosphere of the ironclads, especially when at quarters for and during action, the want of proper exercise on shore, and of a deficient supply of vegetables and fruits for the ships' companies. Difficult living condi-tions and sickness were common, especially in the summer, for both navies in the James River as well as elsewhere throughout the tidewaters of the South.
10-11 Small steamers USS Romeo, Acting Master Thomas Baldwin, and USS Prairie Bird, Acting Master Thomas Burns, and transport steamer Empress engaged battery at Gaines Landing, Arkansas, on the Mississippi River which the Confederates had secretly wheeled into place. On 10 August, Empress had been attacked by the batteries, enduring a withering fire which disabled her and killed Captain John Molloy. Romeo closed, fired upon the Confederate guns, and towed Empress to safety. Next day, however, the Southerner's artillery again opened heavily on Prairie Bird which was passing the same point near Gaines Landing. Hearing the firing from upstream, Romeo came down and joined in the brisk engagement; the Confederates ultimately broke off the action and withdrew. All three ships were severely damaged in the two-day exchange, Empress alone taking some sixty-three hit.
Cruising within 80 miles of Sandy Hook, New Jersey, CSS Tallahassee, Commander Wood, took seven prizes, including schooners Sarah A. Boyce and Carrol, brigs Richards and Carrie Estelle, cargo of logs, pilot boats James Funk (No. 22) and William Bell (No. 24), and bark Bay State, cargo of wood. All were scuttled or burned except Carrol, which was bonded for $10,000 and sent to New York with the passengers and crews of the other ships. Rear Admiral Hiram Paulding, Commandant of the New York Navy Yard, immediately wired Secretary Welles: "Pirate off Sandy Hook, capturing and burning." By evening, Paulding had three ships in pursuit of Tallahassee. Welles, hoping to head off the Southern raider and prevent another cruise similar to the June 1863 raid of Lieutenant Charles Read in CSS Tacony, telegraphed naval commanders at Hampton Roads, Philadelphia, and Boston, ordering a large-scale search for Wood.
12 CSS Tallahassee, Commander Wood, seized six more prizes while continuing her devastating cruise off the New York coast. Wood burned ships Atlantic, Adriatic, and Spokane, cargo of lumber; attempted to scuttle brig Billow, cargo of lumber, and released bark Suliote and schooner Robert E. Packer, cargo of lumber, on bond. Billow did not sink and was retaken by USS Grand Gulf, Commander Ransom, two days later.
Ram Tennessee got up steam for the first time since her capture by Rear Admiral Farragut on 5 August. She had been fitted with a new stack on the 11th and this date tried it out by steaming around the bay. On the 13th Tennessee steamed down and opened on Fort Morgan.
13 Reports of CSS Tallahassee's destructive success created much alarm in northern seaports. This date, John D. Jones, president of the Board of Underwriters, wired Secretary Welles from New York: "Confederate steamer Tallahassee is reported cruising within 60 miles of this port. She has already captured six vessels. Will you please have the necessary measures taken, if not already done, to secure her capture?" Half an hour after receipt of this message, Welles replied: "Three vessels left New York Navy Yard yesterday afternoon; more leave to-day. Vessels left Hampton Roads last night; more leave today. Several vessels leave Boston today and tomorrow. Every vessel available has been ordered to search for pirate." In addition this date, Captain C. K. Stribling, Commandant of the Philadelphia Navy Yard, dispatched three ships "in pursuit of the pirate." However, Tallahassee, Commander Wood, continued her "depredations", burning schooner Lammot Du Pont, cargo of coal, and bark Glenavon.
USS Agawam, Commander Rhind, engaged three different Confederate batteries near Four Mile Creek on the James River. The 975-ton double-ender was fired upon early in the afternoon, countered immediately and maintained a heavy fire for over four hours when, "finding our am-munition running short, having expended 228 charges, we weighed anchor and dropped down." Next day Agawam again engaged the batteries, in support of Union troops advancing along the river.
Ships of the Confederate James River Squadron, including CSS Virginia II, Fredericksburg, Commander Rootes, CSS Hampton, Lieutenant John W. Murdaugh, CSS Nansemond, Lieutenant Charles W. Hays, CSS Drewry, Lieutenant William W. Hall, shelled Union Army positions near Dutch Gap, Virginia. At the request of the Confederate Army, Flag Officer Mitchell kept up the fire, intended to support Confederate troop movements in the area, for over 12 hours. The Union entrenchments, however, were largely beyond the range of his guns and hidden by hills. Union gunboats took position below the James River barricade; but their guns could not reach the ships of Mitchell's squadron. The Confederate fire was, however, returned briskly by Union shore emplacements. Mitchell ordered his ships to return to their anchorages at nightfall.
14 As all-out Union efforts to capture CSS Tallahassee, Commander Wood, increased, the cruiser seized and scuttled ship James Littlefield with cargo of coal. Rear Admiral Paulding noted in New York: "Our vessels must fall in with her. They strip everybody of everything valuable."
15 Rumors concerning C.S.S Albemarle continued to reach Union naval forces in Albemarle Sound. Colonel David W. Wardrop, Union Army commander in the area, wrote to Commander Macomb: "I have received information from parties heretofore reliable that the enemy have been fitting up some of their boats with torpedoes, and are intending to attack the fleet in conjunction with the ram on Tuesday next. It is also confidently reported that a second ram will be done in a fortnight. They are very busy up the Roanoke River, but it is very difficult to learn what is being done. . . ."
Rear Admiral Farragut's fleet sustained its pounding of Fort Morgan with shot from its heavy guns. Typical of the action that took place in Mobile Bay from the time the ships dominated its waters on 5 August until General Page, the determined defender of Fort Morgan, finally capitulated was a log entry of USS Manhattan, Commander Nicholson: "At 7 [p.m.] opened fire on Fort Morgan. At 8 Fort Morgan opened fire on this ship and fired two shot. From 8 to mid-night: Continuing to fire on Fort Morgan; Morgan fired one shot at this ship. At 10:20 ceased firing having fired 7 XV-inch shell. Fort fired on our encampment on shore from 9 till end of watch."
CSS Tallahassee, Commander Wood, captured and scuttled schooners Mary A. Howes, Howard, Floral Wreath, Restless, Etta Caroline, and bonded schooner Sarah B. Harris off New England.
USS Niagara, Commodore Thomas T. Craven, captured steamer Georgia off the coast of Portugal. Georgia was formerly CSS Georgia, which had been sold to British merchants in June of 1864. American Ambassador to England Charles Francis Adams recommended that she be taken when she put to sea under private ownership because of her previously belligerent status. Georgia was later condemned by a prize court in Boston.
16 Ships of the James River Division, North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, transported and sup-ported Union troops in an advance from Dutch Gap, Virginia. Captain M. Smith described the supporting deployment: "The Mount Washington was detained to transport the troops from Dutch Gap to Aiken's [Landing], and to lie off that point and use her 32 pounder, holding herself ready to reembark troops if necessary. Just above her the Delaware, a little farther above the Mackinaw, and at the bend of Dutch Gap the Canonicus were stationed to cover the advance by shelling the enemy's line, the Canonicus also devoting attention to Signal Hill Battery." Through-out the long months of virtually stalemated operations in the James River area, naval forces operated intimately with the Army, facilitating the small advances that were made and checking reverses with the big guns that could swiftly be brought to bear on points of decision near the river.
CSS Tallahassee, Commander Wood, captured and burned off New England bark P. C. Alexander, and schooners Leopard, Pearl, Sarah Louise, and Magnolia.
Boat expedition by Commander Colvocoresses, USS Saratoga, consisting of men from that ship and T. A. Ward, Acting Master Babcock, captured some 100 prisoners and a quantity of arms on a daring raid into Mcintosh County, Georgia. Commander Colvocoresses also destroyed a salt works and a strategic bridge across the South Newport River on the main road to Savannah.
17 General Robert E. Lee, attempting to consolidate his position on the James River below Rich-mond, turned to the ships of Flag Officer Mitchell's squadron for gunfire support. The enemy is on Signal Hill, fortifying," he telegraphed. "Please try and drive him off. Our picket line is reestablished with the exception of Signal Hill." Ironclads CSS Virginia II, Lieutenant Johnston, and CSS Richmond, Lieutenant J. S. Maury, promptly steamed to a position above Signal Hill where they took the Union position under fire. Shortly thereafter scouts reported that Union forces had fallen back and that Lee's troops now commanded the hill.
Running short of coal, Commander Wood headed CSS Tallahassee for Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he hoped to refuel in order to continue his devastating attack on Federal commerce. En-route, Tallahassee destroyed schooners North America and Josiah Achom and released brig Neva on bond.
18 Attesting to the effectiveness of the patrol maintained on the Mississippi River by Union gun boats, Lieutenant General Richard Taylor, CSA, wrote General E. Kirby Smith, CSA, regarding the impossibility of crossing the river with large bodies of troops: "I have dispatched the War Department to the effect that I consider the crossing of any considerable body of troops impos-sible. Accurate observations have been made of the enemy's gunboats between Red River and Vicksburg, and from the strictness of the guard maintained no success can be anticipated." The original Northern strategy of splitting the Confederacy along the Mississippi River under the efforts of Rodgers, Foote, Farragut, and Porter continued in widening influence to war's end.
CSS Tallahassee, Commander Wood, put into Halifax to replenish coal supply. U.S. Consul Mortimer M. Jackson wired Secretary Welles: "Tallahassee has just come into port. Will pro-test against her being coaled here." Welles, in turn, at once wired USS Pontoosuc, Lieutenant Commander George A. Stevens, which had put into Eastport, Maine, the preceding day, to steam to the Nova Scotia capital "without delay". Consul Jackson protested the sale of coal for the cruiser to Lieutenant Governor Richard G. MacDonnell, but was informed: ". . . his excellency does not consider it his duty to detain the Tallahassee, or any man-of-war of a belligerent state, on the chance of evidence being hereafter found of her having violated international law, and in the absence of proof to that effect he can not withhold from her commander the privilege of obtaining as much coal as may be necessary to carry him to a port of the Confederate States. MacDonnell, however, also asked Admiral Sir James Hope to advise him as to the amount of coal that would be required for Tallahassee to steam from Halifax to Wilmington. Next day, the Lieutenant Governor advised Wood, who had put into port with 40 tons of coal, that he could depart Halifax with no more than 100 tons of coal on board. However, the Confederate cruiser, which put to sea on the night of the 19th, sailed with somewhat more than that quantity. As Wood later reported: "I am under many obligations to our agent, Mr. Wier, for transacting our business, and through his management about 120 tons of coal were put aboard, instead of half this quantity."
20 USS Pontoosuc, Lieutenant Commander Stevens, entered Halifax. Stevens learned that Tallahassee had sailed late the night before and that he had failed to intercept her by only seven hours. Pontoosuc departed immediately in pursuit. Based on information reported by Consul Jackson, Stevens steamed north into the Gulf of St Lawrence, while Wood, feeling that he did not have sufficient fuel to actively pursue his raids, had set a course for Wilmington. This date, Talla-hassee captured brig Roan and burned her. She was the last prize taken on this brief but most effective cruise.
22-24 Boat expedition from USS Potomska, Acting Lieutenant Swann, captured prisoners and some small arms and destroyed over 2,000 barrels of rosin and turpentine on the Satilla and White Rivers, Georgia. Wherever water reached, Confederate supplies were fair game for alert Union sailors.
23 Having doggedly withstood naval bombardment for more than two weeks, and invested by Union soldiers ashore, Brigadier General Page surrendered Fort Morgan, the last Confederate bastion at Mobile Bay. "My guns and powder had all been destroyed, my means of defense gone, the citadel, nearly the entire quartermaster stores, and a portion of the commissariat burned by the enemy's shells," he reported. "It was evident the fort could hold out but a few hours longer under a renewed bombardment. The only question was: Hold it for this time, gain the eclat, and sustain the loss of life from the falling of the walls, or save life and capitulate?"
Acting Master's Mate Woodman made his second dangerous reconnaissance up the Roanoke River, North Carolina, to gather intelligence on CSS Albemarle and the defenses of Plymouth. Woodman reported: "At 10 a.m. I arrived on the Roanoke River, opposite Plymouth. The ram Albemarle was lying alongside of the wharf at Plymouth, protected with timbers, extending completely around her . . . ." Woodman, who would make yet another reconnaissance mission, gained much vital information upon which Lieutenant Cushing planned the expedition which ended Albemarle's career.
23-25 Boat expedition under Commander Colvocoresses, USS Saratoga, composed of men from Saratoga, USS T.A. Ward, Acting Master Babcock, and USS Braziliera, Acting Master Gillespie, engaged Confederate pickets along Turtle River, Georgia. The expedition aimed at the capture of an encampment at Bethel, Georgia, but the Confederates there were alerted by the firing downstream and escaped. On 15 September the daring and resourceful Colvocoresses was commended by Secretary Welles for his three successful forays into Southern territory.
24 USS Keystone State, Commander Crosby, and USS Gettysburg, Lieutenant R. H. Lamson, captured blockade running steamer Lilian, off Wilmington with cargo of cotton. Both Union ships fired on Lilian; when she finally hove to she was in a sinking condition. Crosby managed to repair the damage and sent her to Beaufort. She was subsequently purchased by the Navy and assigned to the squadron under the same name.
USS Narcissus, Acting Ensign William G. Jones, captured schooner Oregon in Biloxi Bay, Mis-sissippi Sound.
25 CSS Tallahassee, Commander Wood, successfully ran the blockade into Wilmington, after being chased and fired at by several blockading vessels. Rear Admiral Lee issued orders urging "utmost vigilance" to prevent her re-entry onto the high seas. In his cruise, cut short by lack of coal, Wood took some 31 prizes, all but eight of which were destroyed.
Stirred by the heavy toll of Union shipping taken by CSS Tallahassee, the Navy Department redoubled efforts to track down remaining raiders. Secretary Welles dispatched warships in search of Tallahassee and instructed: "Telegraph your arrival at each port you may enter to the Navy Department, but your departure therefrom need not be delayed in waiting for an answer, unless you consider an answer necessary. . . . Report the length of time under sail, under steam, and under both sail and steam, respectively; also all vessels spoken or boarded, and other incidents of interest or importance during the cruise.''
27 In failing health and with the assault on the city of Mobile delayed indefinitely awaiting adequate troops, Rear Admiral Farragut wrote Secretary Welles requesting to be relieved of his duties: "It is evident that the army has no men to spare for this place beyond those sufficient to keep up an alarm, and thereby make a diversion in favor of General Sherman. . . . Now, I dislike to make of show of attack unless I can do something more than make a menace, but so long as I am able I am willing to do the bidding of the Department to the best of my abilities. I fear, however, my health is giving way. I have now been down in this Gulf and the Caribbean Sea nearly five years out of six, with the exception of the short time at home last fall, and the last six months have been a severe drag on me, and I want rest, if it is to he had." Two months later the great leader set course to the North for a well earned leave.
USS Niphon, Acting Lieutenant Joseph B. Breck, and USS Monticello, Acting Master Henry A. Phelon, conducted an expedition up Masonboro Inlet, North Carolina, to silence a Confederate battery which was reported to have been erected in the vicinity. The two screw steamers shelled the shoreline and a number of buildings at Masonboro; landing parties went ashore and captured a quantity of rifles, ammunition, foodstuffs.
29 While removing Confederate obstructions from the channel leading into Mobile Bay, five sailors were killed and nine others injured when a torpedo exploded. Farragut regretted the unfortunate loss, but resolutely pressed on with the work: ''As it is absolutely necessary to free the channel of these torpedoes, I shall continue to remove them, but as every precaution will be used, I do not apprehend any further accident." Like the loss of Tecumseh, this event demonstrated that although some torpedoes had been made inactive by long immersion, many were very much alive when Farragut made the instant decision, "Damn the torpedoes .
30 Small stern-wheeler USS Fawn, Acting Master Grace, convoyed Union infantry and artillery embarked in transport Kate Hart, on an expedition up the White River from Devall's Bluff, Ar-kansas. The troops were to join with General West's cavalry, then searching for General Shelby's force of Confederate raiders. Fawn and the transport returned to Devall's Bluff on 2 September, and commenced a second foray with larger forces embarked in transports Nevada, Commercial, and Celeste that afternoon. Next day, above Peach Orchard Bluffs, Confederate batteries opened on the convoy, but were dislodged from their riverbank position by Fawn's gunfire. Unable to proceed water-borne because of the low level of the river, scouts and cavalry were sent ahead to communicate with General West, and returned, escorted by Fawn, to Devall's Bluff on 6 September. Shelby's forces continued to elude the Union troops and harass shipping on the White River.
31 Blockade running British steamer Mary Bowers ran aground between Rattlesnake Shoals and Long Island, South Carolina, and was a total loss. She was bound for Charleston where, it was reported, she was to load a cargo of cotton for Halifax.
2 Small, 8-gun paddle-wheeler USS Naiad, Acting Master Keene, engaged Confederate battery near Rowe's Landing, Louisiana, and, after a brisk exchange, silenced it.
3 President Lincoln ordered a 100-gun salute at the Washington Navy Yard at noon on Monday, the 5th of September, and upon receipt of the order, at each arsenal and navy yard in the United States ''for the recent brilliant achievements of the fleet and land forces of the United States in the harbor of Mobile and in the reduction of Fort Powell, Fort Gaines, and Fort Morgan. .
The President also proclaimed that on the following Sunday thanksgiving should be given for Rear Admiral Farragut's victory at Mobile and for the capture of Atlanta by General Sherman. These events, said Lincoln, "call for devout acknowledgment to the Supreme Being in whose hands are the destinies of nations."
5 Unaware as yet of Rear Admiral Farragut's letter of the week before (see 27 August) regarding his failing health, Secretary Welles wrote the Admiral asking him to take command of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron and prepare to attack Wilmington , the last major port open to the Confederates. Welles regarded its capture as "more important, practically, than the capture of Richmond." It was natural that, not knowing of Farragut's personal wishes, he should turn to his most successful and indomitable officer for the accomplishment of this last vital task. "You are selected," wrote Welles, "to command the naval force, and you will endeavor to be at Port Royal by the latter part of September, where further orders will await you." It was not until
mid-month that the Secretary received Farragut's letter of 27 August. On 22 September the hero of Mobile Bay wrote Welles upon receipt of his instructions to proceed to Port Royal and reiterated his request to go North on leave. Welles, meanwhile, had taken steps to select a new squadron commander in lieu of Farragut, and the same day, 22 September, he wrote Rear Admiral Porter: "Rear Admiral D. G. Farragut was assigned to the command of the North Atlantic Squadron on the 5th instant, but the necessity of rest on the part of that distinguished officer renders it necessary that he should come immediately North. You will, therefore, on receipt of this order consider yourself detached from the command of the Mississippi Squadron . . . and relieve Acting Rear Admiral Lee in command of the North Atlantic blockading Squadron." Thus, because of Admiral Farragut's poor health, Porter was given the opportunity to prepare and lead the massive assault against the South's most important remaining seaport.
USS Keystone State, Commander Crosby, and USS Quaker City, Lieutenant Silas Casey, captured blockade running British steamer Elsie off Wilmington with cargo of cotton. Elsie had been chased the previous night upon standing out of Wilmington, but the blockading vessels had lost her in the darkness. This date, however, Keystone State sighted her, and with Quaker City opened fire. Elsie almost escaped, but a shell exploding in her forward hold forced her to heave to.
6 USS Proteus, Commander Shufeldt, captured blockade running British schooner Ann Louisa in the Gulf of Mexico.
8 USS Tritonia, Rodolph, Stockdale, and an Army transport commenced a two-day expedition under Acting Lieutenant George Wiggin to destroy large salt works at Salt House Point near Mobile Bay. Only Rodolph and Stockdale crossed the bar and entered Bon Secours River. Arriving at the Point at mid-morning, Wiggin sent two boat crews ashore and demolition of the salt works began immediately. So extensive were the works that destruction was not completed until late afternoon the next day. Wiggin reported: "I found some of the works well built and very strong, particularly one known as the Memphis Works, said to have cost $60,000. . . . Another work, which was very strong and well built, said to have cost $50,000." Rear Admiral Farragut, who had ordered the attack, observed: "There were 55 furnaces, in which were manufactured nearly 2,000 bushels of salt per day, and their destruction must necessarily inconvenience the rebels."
9 Acting under orders from Rear Admiral Farragut, 500-ton screw steamer USS Kanawha , Lieutenant Commander Taylor, reinstituted the blockade of Brownsville, Texas. The blockade had been lifted in mid-February by Presidential proclamation (see 18 February 1864), but on 15 August Secretary of State Seward had informed Secretary Welles that it should be re-enforced once more because of the withdrawal of Union troops stationed in the area. Three days later, Welles directed Farragut to resume the blockade "as early as practicable". On 3 September the Admiral reported to Welles that, ''I am now increasing the blockading force off the coast of Texas, the recent operations here now enabling me to spare vessels for that purpose. ' Farragut relayed the Department's message to his senior subordinate on the Texas coast, Commander Melancthon B. Woolsey, who on 8 September replied: "The Kanawha sailed hence last night with orders to blockade the Brazos Santiago (one of the points of approach to Brownsville). She also bore orders to the Aroostook to blockade the Rio Grande . . . the blockade of those places will be resumed from to-morrow morning (9th)." At this point in the war Union strength at sea was such that specific ports like Brownsville could be reclosed as necessary, while at the same time the iron ring of the entire coastal blockade tightened.
As the conflict drew into its final stage, Southern authorities turned increasingly to blockade runners manned and financed by the Navy. These allowed the Confederacy to employ some of its excellent officers at sea and insured that entire cargoes brought in would be of direct benefit to the government. This date, Commander Maffitt, one of the Confederacy's most successful and experienced captains, was detached from command of CSS Albemarle and ordered to Wilmington to command the new blockade runner Owl.
10 An expedition from USS Wyalusing, Lieutenant Commander Earl English, landed at Elizabeth City on the Pasquotank River, North Carolina, and seized several of the leading citizens for inter-rogation regarding the burning of mail steamer Fawn on the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal the night before. The naval landing party encountered little resistance at Elizabeth City, and succeeded in capturing 29 prisoners. English learned that the Fawn expedition had been led by members of CSS Albemarle's crew.
USS Santiago de Cuba, Captain Glisson, captured blockade running steamer A. D. Vance at sea northeast of Wilmington with cargo of cotton.
USS Magnolia, Acting Lieutenant Cheesman, seized steamer Matagorda at sea off Cape San Antonio, Cuba, with cargo of cotton.
11 Acting Lieutenant Wiggin led an expedition up Fish River at Mobile Bay to seize an engine used by Confederates in a sawmill and to assist Union soldiers in obtaining lumber. Tinclad USS Rodolph, Acting Lieutenant George D. Upham, and wooden side-wheeler USS Stockdale, Acting Master Spiro V. Bennis, with Wiggin embarked, convoyed Army transport Planter to Smith's mill, where they took the engine, 60,000 feet of lumber, and some livestock. Loading the lumber on board a barge in tow of Planter took almost until nightfall, and in the dusk of the return down-stream, Confederate riflemen took the ships under fire and felled trees ahead of them. The gun-boats returned the fire rapidly and Rodolph broke through the obstructions, enabling the remaining ships to pass downriver.
USS Augusta Dinsmore, Acting Lieutenant Miner B. Crowell, captured schooner John off Velasco, Texas, with cargo of cotton.
13 Rear Admiral Farragut's sailors continued to clear the main ship channel at Mobile Bay of torpedoes such as the one that bad sunk USS Tecumseh on 5 August. He reported to Secretary Welles that 22 torpedoes had been raised. He added: " This part of the channel is now believed to be clear, for, though beyond doubt many more were originally anchored here, report says they have sunk over one hundred to the bottom." Despite the Admiral's efforts, Union ships would be destroyed in the vicinity of Mobile Bay by torpedoes in the months to come.
15 Though the Union forces dominated Mobile Bay, the South still possessed a number of ships at Mobile itself. Farragut informed Welles that CSS Nashville, an ironclad which, he said, had been waiting for her plating for at least 12 months, was now ready for service. Farragut de-scribed her as mounting ''six of their heaviest rifles and has heavier backing and greater speed than the Tennessee." Referring to the battle of Mobile Bay the month before, the Admiral added: "If she had gotten out fully equipped, the rebels would have made a stronger fight on the 5th day of August The Mobile defenses also counted on the casemated ironclads Tuscaloosa and Huntsville, "covered with 4 inches of iron, but, I understand, very unmanageable", and three gunboats. "I have them guarded," Farragut wrote, "by the two ironclads, the Winnebago and Chickasaw, and four of our gunboats."
16 Commander Bulloch wrote Secretary Mallory from Liverpool: "The loss of the Alabama occurred just at a time when the financial condition of the Navy Department began to improve and . . . I took immediate steps to look up a successor. I have now the satisfaction to inform you of the purchase of a fine composite ship, built for the Bombay trade, and just returned from her first voyage. She is 1,160 tons builder's measurement, classed A-1 . . . frames, beams, etc., of iron, but planked from keel to gunwhale with East Indian teak. . . . My broker has had her carefully examined by one of Lloyd's inspectors, who pronounced her a capital ship in every respect. . . . The log of the ship shows her to be a fast sailor under canvas, for with screw up she has made 330 miles in 24 hours by observation." Bulloch was describing the steamer Sea King, a ship which would shortly become renowned as the raider CSS Shenandoah . He also informed Mallory that contracts had been let for the torpedo boats which the Secretary had ordered two months before (see 18 July).
Boat expedition from USS Arid, Acting Master Russell, captured over 4,000 pounds of cotton in the vicinity of Tampa Bay, Florida.
19 Confederates under Acting Master John Yates Beau captured and burned steamers Philo Parsons and Island Queen on Lake Erie. Captain Charles H. Cole, CSA, a Confederate secret agent in the Lake Erie region, conceived the plan and received the assistance of Jacob Thompson, Southern agent in Canada, and the daring Beall. The plan was for Cole to aid in the capture of iron side-wheeler USS Michigan, which was then guarding the Confederate prisoners at Johnson's Island, near Sandusky, Ohio, by befriending her officers and attempting to bribe them. Beall was to approach with a captured steamer from the mouth of Sandusky Bay and board Michigan, after which the prisoners would be released and the whole force would embark on a guerrilla expedition along the lake. Beall and his 19 men came on board Philo Parsons as passengers but soon seized the steamer and took her to Middle Bass Island, on the way from Detroit to Sandusky. While there, Beall was approached by an unsuspecting steamer, Island Queen, which he quickly captured and burned. He then landed the passengers and cargoes of the two ships and proceeded with his improvised man-of-war to Sandusky. Meanwhile, Commander J. C. Carter of Michigan had discovered Cole's duplicity and had him arrested, along with his assistant in the plot. As Beall and his men approached Sandusky, the prearranged signals were not made. Confronted with uncertain circumstances and overwhelming odds, Beall and his men reluctantly but wisely abandoned their part in the plan and took Philo Parsons to Sandwich, Canada, where she was stripped and burned. The Confederates then dispersed.
Secretary Mallory, in a telegram to Commander Maffitt, gave his orders regarding the new Con-federate-owned blockade runners: "It is of the first importance that our steamers should not fall into the enemy's hands. Apart from the specific loss sustained by the country in the capture of blockade runners, these vessels, lightly armed, now constitute the fleetest and most efficient part of his blockading force off Wilmington. . . . As commanding officer of the Owl you will please devise and adopt thorough and efficient means for saving all hands and destroying the vessel and cargo whenever these measures may become necessary to prevent capture."
A boat expedition commanded by Acting Ensign Semon in USS Niphon, landed at Masonboro Inlet, North Carolina, to gain intelligence on the defenses of Wilmington and the strength of its garrison. In planning for the forthcoming assault on the defenses of Wilmington, Semon also learned that raider CSS Tallahassee was at Wilmington, along with several blockade runners.
22 Upon learning that Farragut's health prevented him from accepting command of the forthcoming operations against Wilmington, Secretary Welles paid eloquent tribute to the Admiral and his accomplishments: "In accordance with the view of the Department and the universal wish of the country, the orders of the 5th instant [see 5 September 1864] were given to you; but a life so precious must not be thrown away by failing to heed the monitions which the greatest powers of physical endurance receive as a warning to rest. The country will again call upon you, perhaps, to put the finishing blow to the rebellion." The distinguished Admiral's service in the Civil War was over, but not before he had achieved a permanent place among the great naval heroes of all time. From New Orleans to Port Hudson to Mobile Bay, David Glasgow Farragut, first Admiral in the U.S. Navy, had shown the leadership, courage, intelligence, and devotion to duty which have ever since been shining examples for all who are privileged to serve the Nation at sea.
23 Small side-wheeler USS Antelope, Acting Master John Ross, struck a snag and sank in the Mississippi River below New Orleans.
24 Under command of Acting Master William T. Street, wooden steamer USS Fuchsia, and side-wheelers Thomas Freeborn and Mercury proceeded to Milford Haven, Virginia, near which Con-federates were believed to be preparing a number of boats to attack the blockading force at the mouth of the Piankatank River. Leaving Fuchsia and Thomas Freeborn at Milford Haven, Street took armed boats in tow of Mercury and proceeded up Stutt's Creek. Some three miles upstream a force of 40 sailors was landed, under Acting Master William A. Arthur and Acting Ensign Philip Sheridan. Four Confederate boats were destroyed, five were captured, and a fishery demolished. Though the Rappahannock River area was dominated by the Northern forces, Union ships had to be continually on the alert to prevent audacious Southern raids.
General Robert E. Lee wrote Secretary of War Seddon of another dilEmma posed by the South's weakness at sea: "Since the fitting out of the privateer Tallahassee and her cruise from the port of Wilmington, the enemy's fleet of blockaders off that coast has been very much increased, and the dangers of running the blockade rendered much greater. The question arises whether it is of more importance to us to obtain supplies through that port or to prey upon the enemy's commerce by privateers sent from thence. . . . It might be well therefore, if practicable, to divert
the enemy's attention from Wilmington Harbor and keep it open as long as possible as a port of entry. While it is open the energies . . . should be exerted . . . to get in two or three years' -supplies so as to remove all apprehension on this score."
25 USS Howquah, Acting Lieutenant John W. Balch, USS Niphon, Acting Master Edmund Kemble, and USS Governor Buckingham, Acting Lieutenant John MacDiarmid, chased ashore and destroyed blockade running steamer Lynx off Wilmington with cargo of cotton. The three Union screw steamers were fired upon by Lynx and by shore batteries; Balch reported: ". . . one 3 pounder percussion shell struck the main rail on the starboard bow, cutting it through, also striking the forward end of the 30-pounder pivot carriage, cutting the breech in two and disabling the carriage, glancing over, striking the main rail on the port side, and falling on the deck (I have the shot now on board). Fortunately this shell did not explode." Lynx sustained several close-range broadsides and was run ashore in flames, where she continued to burn throughout the night until consumed.
26 Major General Whiting, C.S.A., Army commander in Wilmington, wrote to Governor Vance of North Carolina requesting that CSS Tallahassee and Chickamauga be retained in Wilmington for the defense of that port: "The Confederate steamers Tallahassee and Chickamauga are now nearly ready for sea, and will leave this port for the purpose of operating against the enemy's commerce. should they leave on this service the few vessels they might destroy would be of little advantage to our cause, while it would excite the enemy to increase the number of the blockading squadron to such an extent as to render it almost impossible for vessels running the blockade to escape them." Notwithstanding these objections and those of General Lee two days before, the raiders were sent to sea.
As Union forces on the James River pressed their attempt to bypass the obstructions at Trent's Reach by digging a canal at Dutch Gap, senior Confederate Army officers became increasingly con-cerned as to their ability to hold the defensive position before Richmond. Major General George E. Pickett wrote from Chesterfield: ''If they wish to complete the canal, they will be compelled to occupy this bank of the river; any attempt to do this ought to be prevented by the gunboats." General Robert E. Lee, ever aware of the meaning of seapower, concurred and added: "The navy can readily prevent the enemy from crossing the river at the point indicated by General Pickett, if an understanding be come to by which they shall move promptly to the spot upon being notified of the existence of danger." Flag Officer Mitchell, commander of the Confederate James River Squadron, reported four days later: "I have offered repeatedly to the commanding generals on both sides of the James River to cooperate with them, and shall always be happy to answer any call for this purpose, and feel thankful for any information which will enable the squadron to move promptly when its services can be useful."
CSS Florida, Lieutenant Morris, captured bark Mondamin off the northeastern coast of South America.
27 Acting Ensign Semon made his second reconnaissance expedition to Masonboro Inlet and Wil-mington. Semon again gained important information concerning Confederate blockade runners, the defensive dispositions of forces in the area, and made arrangements to procure pilots for the operation against Wilmington. He learned for the first time that CSS North Carolina, one of the ironclads built for the defense of Wilmington, had sunk at her pier at Smithville, her bottom eaten out by worms. North Carolina drew too much water to pass over the bars at the mouth of the Cape Fear River, and had spent virtually her entire career at Smithville. Concerned about the state of Wilmington's defenses, Major General Whiting wrote Secretary Mallory on 6 October: "It is men and guns that are wanted as well as the ships, not only to man the naval batteries now being substituted for the North Carolina and the Raleigh [beached on 7 May 1864], which were to defend the inner bars, but to guard or picket the entrance and river, a duty devolving upon the Navy, and for which there are neither forts nor vessels here." An additional ironclad was laid down but was never finished because of lack of armor.
USS Arkansas, Acting Lieutenant David Cate, captured schooner Watchful in the Gulf of Mexico south of Barataria Bay, Louisiana. Watchful carried a cargo of lumber and arms.
28 Rear Admiral Porter, on his detachment from command of the Mississippi Squadron, wrote a fare-well to his officers and men, in which he reflected on the far-reaching accomplishments of naval power on the western waters: "When I first assumed command of this squadron the Mississippi was in possession of the rebels from Memphis to New Orleans, a distance of 800 miles, and over 1,000 miles of tributaries were closed against us, embracing a territory larger than some of the kingdoms of Europe. Our commerce is now successfully, if not quietly, transported on the broad Mississippi from one end to the other, and the same may almost be said with regard to its tributaries." Porter, who was to be relieved by Rear Admiral S. P. Lee, soon proceeded to Hampton Roads, assumed command of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, and turned his attention to the reduction of Wilmington.
29 Steamer Roanoke, bound for New York from Havana, was captured by Confederates under Acting Master John C. Braine, CSN, just off the Cuban coast. Braine's actions caused the Richmond government concern and embarrassment, since his expedition was organized and carried out from the neutral port of Havana. The resourceful and audacious Braine had outlined his idea to Secre-tary Mallory earlier in the year, and the Secretary had given his approval, with the stipulation that neutral rights were to be strictly observed. With that understanding, Braine was commissioned a temporary Acting Master. Instead of boarding the vessel as a passenger in New York, however, he chose to capture her on the Havana end of the voyage. With a small group of Con-federates, he was able to overwhelm the ship's officers and take over the ship, steering her for Bermuda. After attempting to smuggle supplies and coal from that island, unsuccessfully, he determined that the fine steamer could not be brought through the blockade to the Confederacy and she was burned off Bermuda. Braine was held by the British but subsequently released, and was to be heard from again.
29-30 USS Niphon, Acting Master Kemble, forced blockade running British steamer Night Hawk aground off Fort Fisher and burned her. Late on 29 September, Niphon fired upon Night Hawk as she attempted to run into New Inlet, and observed her go aground. A boat crew led by Acting Ensign Semon boarded the steamer, and under the fire of Fort Fisher set her ablaze and brought off the crew as prisoners. Ensign Semon's conduct on this occasion became the subject of a diplomatic note from the British Ambassador, the latter alleging cruel treatment of the officers of Night Hawk and a premature burning of the ship. Semon was subsequently cleared of all implications of misconduct by a court of inquiry.
29-1 October Ships of the Confederate James River Squadron, Flag Officer Mitchell, supported Southern troops in attacks against Fort Harrison, Chaffin's Farm, James River, Virginia. Though the Confederates failed to retake Fort Harrison, with the aid of heavy fire from Mitchell's ships, they prevented Union soldiers from capturing Chaffin's Bluff.
1 USS Niphon, Acting Master Kemble, ran British blockade runner Condor aground off New Inlet, North Carolina. Niphon was prevented from destroying the steamer by intense fire from Fort Fisher. Among the passengers on board Condor was one of the most famous Confederate agents of the war, Mrs. Rose O'Neal Greenhow. Mrs. Greenhow, fearful of being captured on the grounded runner with her important dispatches, set out in a boat for shore, but the craft over-turned in the heavy surf. The crew managed to get ashore, but the woman, weighted down by $2,000 in British gold in a pouch around her neck, drowned.
Major General John G. Walker, CSA, reported to the Confederate States War Department that 10 sailors and marines under Captain W. F. Brown, CSMC, and Lieutenant Marcus J. Beebee, CSN, had disguised themselves as passengers on board steamer Ike Davis and had captured her off Brazos, Texas. After overpowering the crew and imprisoning them below, the Confederates took Ike Davis into Matagorda Bay, Texas.
3 Captain Semmes, commander of the famous raider CSS Alabama, embarked from England in steamer Tasmanian for Havana, from where he hoped to return to the Confederacy and report to President Davis for further assignment. The gallant Captain later recalled: "I considered my career upon the high seas closed by the loss of my ship, and had so informed Commodore Barton, who was our Chief of Bureau in Paris." While his most celebrated deeds were behind him, Semmes was to play an able part in the final naval efforts of the Confederacy.
4 CSS Florida, Lieutenant Morris, arrived in Bahia, Brazil, for provisions and coal. Within three days Florida's brilliant career as commerce raider would be closed.
Confederates destroyed the lighthouse at the entrance from Albemarle to Croatan Sound, North Carolina. Commander William H. Macomb, USS Shamrock, reported: "It was blown up and afterwards set on fire so as to make the destruction complete.''
5 USS Mobile , Acting Lieutenant Pierre Giraud, seized blockade running British schooner Annie Virdon south of Velasco, Texas, with cargo of cotton.
5-6 Boat expedition commanded by Acting Ensign Henry Eason, USS Restless, destroyed large salt works on St. Andrew's Bay, Florida, along with 150 buildings used to house the compound and its employees. Salt works, providing as they did both a foodstuff and an invaluable preservative, were a constant target for fast-hitting Union boat expeditions aimed at drying up the source of intended supplies for Southern armies.
6 Acting Master Charles W. Lee, USS Wamsutta, reported that blockade running steamer Constance had run aground and sunk near Long lsland in Charleston harbor while trying to enter the port. Lee wrote: ". . . as she is completely submerged in about 3 fathoms water I could ascertain nothing about her except that she is a Clyde-built vessel, of the class of the Mary Bowers, and was evidently bound in."
7 USS Wachusett, Commander Napoleon Collins, captured CSS Florida, Lieutenant Morris, in Bahia harbor, Brazil, and towed her out to sea. Collins, who had been scouring the sea lanes for the Confederate raider for many months, saw her enter Bahia on 4 October and anchored close by the next morning. Collins offered to meet Morris outside the harbor in a ship duel, but the Confederate captain wisely declined. The Brazilian authorities, recognizing the explosiveness of the situation, exacted promises from both Lieutenant Morris and the U.S. Consul, Thomas Wilson that no attacks would be made in Brazilian waters. Collins was not to allow elusive Florida to escape, however, and plans were laid to attack her shortly after midnight on the 7th. At 3 a.m. he slipped his cable, steamed past the Brazilian gunboat anchored between his ship and Florida, and rammed the famous raider on her starboard quarter. After a brief exchange of cannon fire, Lieutenant Porter, commanding Florida in Morris's absence, surrendered the ship. By this time the harbor was alive, and as Wachusett towed her long-sought prize to sea, the coastal fort opened fire on her.
Collins' actions, though cheered in the North where Florida was a household name because of her continued "depredations", were in violation of international law, and prompt disavowal of them was made by Secretary of State Seward. Florida was taken to Hampton Roads, arriving there on 12 November. She was ordered returned to the Brazilian Government, but before she could be made ready for sea she mysteriously sank. Commander Collins was court-martialed and ordered to be dismissed from the naval service. At the trial, the dauntless captain admitted his actions had violated international law, offering in his defense only the following statement: "I respectfully request that it may be entered on the records of the court as my defense that the capture of the Florida was for the public good."
Secretary Welles concurred, especially in view of the vast damage done by CSS Florida to Union commerce, and, restored Collins to his command. The furor over the capture, however, did not die down. At length, to further satisfy Brazil, a 21-gun salute as an "amende honorable" was fired by USS Nipsic in Bahia harbor, 23 July 1866.
USS Aster, Acting Master Samuel Hall, chased blockade runner Annie ashore at New Inlet, North Carolina, under the guns of Fort Fisher, but the 285-ton wooden steamer ran aground herself and was destroyed to prevent capture. USS Niphon, Acting Master Kemble, rescued Hall and his men and, under a hail of fire from Confederate batteries, towed out USS Berberry, which had become disabled trying to pull Aster off the shoal.
8 Steamer Sea King sailed from London under merchant captain G. H. Corbett to rendezvous with S.S. Laurel at Madeira. Sea King carried a number of Confederate officers including Lieutenant William C. Whittle; Laurel put to sea later the same day carrying Lieutenant James I. Waddell, who, when the rendezvous was effected, would take command of Sea King and commission her as CSS Shenandoah . Laurel also carried the armaments and supplies that would sustain Shenandoah on her long voyage as a Confederate raider. Commander Bulloch later reported Shenandoah's ''safe departure" and "that the entire expedition is far away at sea, beyond the reach of interference of any United States authority in Europe. . . ."
Steam Picket Boat No. 2, Acting Ensign Andrew Stockholm, was captured by Confederate troops in Wicomico Bay, Virginia. The boat was one of two purchased by Lieutenant Cushing in New York for the expedition against CSS Albemarle, and was en route in company with Picket Boat No. 1 to Fortress Monroe. Mechanical troubles forced No. 2 ashore for repairs, and while these were in progress, No. I continuing ahead, Stockholm and his men were attacked by a body of guerrillas. He reported: "I immediately returned their fire, and fought them until I had ex-pended my last cartridge; previous to which I had slipped my cable, and in trying to get out of the enemy's reach, grounded on a sand bar." Stockholm succeeded in burning the boat and destroying his supplies before he and his men were captured. Lieutenant Cushing was highly indignant at what he considered the unnecessary loss of one of his boats, and later wrote of it: "This was a great misfortune and I have never understood how so stupid a thing could have happened. I forget the name of the volunteer ensign to whose care it was intrusted, but am pleased to know that he was taken prisoner. I trust that his bed was not of down or his food that of princes while in rebel hands."
Flag Officer Mitchell wrote Secretary Mallory regarding the enlistment of Union deserters for duty with the James River Squadron: "I beg that no more deserters from the enemy be sent to the squadron in future, for they are apt not only to desert themselves, but induce others to do so who might otherwise continue loyal. The fidelity of no man can be relied upon who has ever proved a traitor to any flag he has engaged to serve under. They form a dangerous element on board a ship." The difficulty of procuring qualified and competent officers and men to man the ships of the James River Squadron was to continue to the end of the war.
9 A Confederate battery near Freeman's wharf, Mobile Bay, opened fire on side-wheeler USS Sebago, Lieutenant Commander Fitzhugh, which was guarding the approaches to Mobile. "There was no evidence of earthworks when these guns were fired," Fitzhugh reported; "they were so masked as to make them difficult to be seen." Sebago returned the Confederate fire for an hour, sustaining five casualties.
10 USS Key West, Acting Lieutenant King, USS Undine, Acting MAster Bryant, in company with transports City of Pekin, Kenton, and Aurora, were surprised by Confederate shore batteries off Eastport, Mississippi, on the Tennessee River, and after a severe engagement, were forced to retire downriver. The combined operation to take Eastport was designed to secure the river at that point against the crossing of General Forrest's cavalry and provide an outpost against the threatened advance of Confederate General Hood from the East. Departing Clifton, Tennessee, on 9 October with the gunboats in the van, the force steamed up the river and cautiously approached Eastport. Finding no evidence of the Southerners, the Federal troops began to land. Suddenly, masked batteries on both sides of the river opened a severe crossfire, immediately disabling transports Aurora and Kenton and causing widespread confusion among the troops. Key West and Undine, both steamers of about 200 tons, engaged the batteries hotly. Seeing the two disabled transports drifting downstream out of control, Lieutenant King ordered Undine to follow them, while he stayed at Eastport to cover City of Pekin as troops re-embarked and to escort her downstream in retreat.
USS Montgomery, Lieutenant Faucon, captured blockade running British steamer Bat near Wilmington with cargo of coal and machinery.
12 Rear Admiral David Dixon Porter assumed command of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, relieving Acting Rear Admiral Lee. In one of his early general orders, Porter said: ''It will be almost useless to enjoin on all officers the importance of their being vigilant at all times. We have an active enemy to deal with, and every officer and man must be on the alert . . . . Porter's efforts would soon turn to the most effective means of enforcing the blockade– the capture of Wilmington, the main port of entry.
Rear Admiral Cornelius K. Stribling relieved Captain Greene as commander of the East Gulf Blockading Squadron. Captain Greene had assumed temporary command upon the departure of Rear Admiral Bailey in August 1864.
USS Chocura, Lieutenant Commander Richard W. Meade, Jr., captured blockade running British schooner Louisa off Aransas Pass, Texas, with cargo including iron and tools.
13 Rear Admiral Farragut, a leader with keen understanding of men as well as great skill and courage, wrote to his son, Loyall, from Mobile Bay regarding the young man's studies: . . . remember also that one of the requisite studies for an officer is man. Where your analytical geometry will serve you once, a knowledge of men will serve you daily. As a commander, to get the right men in the right place is one of the questions of success or defeat."
13-15 Boat expedition from USS Braziliera, Acting MAster Gillespie, and USS Mary Sanford, Acting MAster Zaccheus Kempton, freed a number of slaves from a plantation on White Oak Creek, Georgia, and engaged a company of Confederate cavalry at Yellow Bluff. The Union gunboats succeeded in driving off the Southerners.
15 Acting Master's Mate Woodman completed his third daring and successful reconnaissance of the Confederate position at Plymouth, North Carolina, reporting CSS Albemarle moored to the wharf as before, and the apparent abandonment of efforts to raise the captured steamer Southfield.
Halligan’s submarine, St. Patrick, is ready for sea trials. A description of the boat closely matches a submarine designed by Lodner Phillips before the war.
18 Major General Thomas, commanding Union forces in Tennessee, wired Major General Sherman concerning his plans for opposing General Hood's thrust into Tennessee: I have arranged with Lieutenant [Commander] Greer, commanding gunboat fleet on lower Tennessee, to patrol the river as far up as Eastport [Mississippi]. Lieutenant Glassford, commanding between Bridgeport and Decatur [Alabama] patrols that portion on the river daily, and cooperates with me very cordially." As Hood approached Tuscumbia and his rendezvous with General Forrest's cavalry, Union commanders became increasingly concerned with measures to keep the Confederates from crossing the Tennessee River in Alabama, and relied heavily on the gunboats of the Mississippi Squadron for this duty as well as for intelligence. During the climactic campaign between the forces of Thomas and those of Hood, the close cooperation and support of naval forces played a key role.
19 Sea King, the sleek, fast ship Commander Bulloch had obtained for the Confederate cause in England, rendezvoused with tender Laurel north of the island of Las Desertas in the Madeiras. Sea King was sold to the Confederate States and renamed CSS Shenandoah, after which guns, powder, supplies, and crewmembers from Laurel were loaded. Lieutenant Waddell, who had sailed from England in Laurel, assumed command of the cruiser and remarked: "Each of us asked himself instinctively, what great adventures shall we meet in her? What will be her ultimate fate?'' Shenandoah, one of Bulloch's greatest successes, was destined to become one of the most effective commerce raiders of the war and the last warship to sail under the Confederate flag.
USS Mobile, Acting Lieutenant Giraud, captured schooner Emily off San Luis Pass, Texas, with cargo of 150 bales of cotton.
Even in the midst of blockade duty afloat, Union sailors were able to vote in the presidential election. Rear Admiral Dahlgren ordered Acting MAster John K. Crosby, USS Harvest Moon to "proceed with the USS Harvest Moon under your command to Savannah River, Wassaw, Ossabaw, Sapelo, and Doboy [Sounds], and communicate with the vessels there, in order to collect the 'sailors' votes already distributed for that purpose. A number of ballots will be given you, in order to enable the men to vote.
19-20 Boat expedition under Acting MAster George E. Hill, USS Stars and Stripes, ascended the Ocklockonee River in Western Florida and destroyed an extensive Confederate fishery on Marsh's Island, capturing a detachment of soldiers assigned to guard the works. In small and large operations, assault from the sea destroyed the South's resources.
21 USS Fort Jackson, Captain Sands, captured steamer Wando at sea east of Cape Romain, South Carolina, with cargo of cotton.
USS Sea Bird, Ensign E. L. Robbins, captured blockade running British schooner Lucy off Anclote Keys, Florida, with assorted cargo.
22 Rear Admiral Porter, in a confidential letter to Commander Macomb, commanding naval forces in Albemarle sound, set down instructions for engaging CSS Albemarle, should the ram again come out to challenge Union control of the Sounds: "There is but one chance for wooden vessels in attacking an ironclad. You will, in case she comes out, make a dash at her with every vessel you have, and 'lay her on board', using canister to fire into her ports, while the ram strikes her steering apparatus and disables her. You will see that every vessel is provided with proper grapnels, to hold on by while going alongside, and a boarding party will be appointed to lash the vessels together. Even if half your vessels are sunk you must pursue this course. Porter added: "I have directed Lieutenant Cushing to go down in a steam launch, and if possible destroy this ram with torpedoes. I have no great confidence in his success, but you will afford him all the assistance in your power, and keep boats ready to pick him up in case of failure."
In answer to the objections of Major General Whiting and Governor Vance of North Carolina (see September 1864), Secretary Mallory wrote to President Davis defending the use of CSS Tallahassee and Chickamauga as commerce cruisers rather than holding them for the defense of Wilmington: "Though the Tallahassee captured thirty-one vessels her service is not limited to the value of these ships and cargoes and the number of prisoners; but it must be estimated in connec-tion with other results the consequent insecurity of the United States coastwise commerce, the detention and delay of vessels in port, and the augmentation of the rates of marine insurance, by which millions were added to the expenses of commerce and navigation, the compulsory withdrawal of a portion of the blockading force from Wilmington in pursuit of her. A cruise by the Chickamauga and Tallahassee against northern coasts and commerce would at once withdraw ii fleet of fast steamers from the blockading force off Wilmington in pursuit of them, and this result alone would render such a cruise expedient."
Union shore batteries on the north bank of the James River at Signal Hill opened fire suddenly on Ships of the Confederate Squadron, anchored in the river at that point. Wooden gunboat CSS Drewry, Lieutenant Wall, sustained moderate damage, and after engaging the batteries for about one hour, the Southern vessels retired under the protection of the guns of Fort Darling, on Chaffin's Bluff.
British blockade running steamer Flora, after being chased by USS Wamsutta, Geranium, and Mingoe off Charleston, was run ashore and destroyed next day by fire from monitors and the batter-ies on Morris Island.
USS Eolus, Acting MAster William O. Lundt, captured Confederate blockade running steamer Hope near Wilmington with cargo of machinery.
22-24 Acting Ensign Sommers, USS Tacony, led a reconnaissance party up the Roanoke River, North Carolina. While returning, the party was fired on by Confederates and forced to seek cover in a swamp. After constructing a make-shift raft to support his wounded, Sommers suc-ceeded in reaching the mouth of the river, where he was picked up by Union forces. Four other members of his party, missing in the swamp for four days, were rescued by Union scouts on 29 October.
23 Blockade runner Flamingo, aground off Sullivan's Island, South Carolina, was destroyed by shell fire from Forts Strong and Putnam, Battery Chatfield, and ships of Rear Admiral Dahlgren's South Atlantic Blockading Squadron.
24 In light of the increased difficulty of manning his ships and mounting danger from Union torpedoes in the James River, Flag Officer Mitchell considered withdrawal of his squadron upriver closer to Richmond. In response to the Flag Officer's request for his views on the subject, General Robert E. Lee wrote: "If the enemy succeeds in throwing a force to the south bank [of the James River] in rear of General Pickett's lines, it will necessitate not only the withdrawal of General P. 's forces, but also the abandonment of Petersburg and its railroad connections, throwing the whole army back to the defenses of Richmond. . . . I fully appreciate the importance of preserving our fleet, and deprecate any unnecessary exposure of it. But you will perceive the magnitude of the service which it is thought you can render, and determine whether it is sufficient to justify the risk. . . . As I said before, I can forsee no state of circumstances in which the fleet can render more important aid in the defense of Richmond at present than by guarding the river below Chaffin's Bluff."
USS Nita, Acting Lieutenant Robert B. Smith, captured schooner Unknown off Clearwater Harbor, Florida, after her crew had escaped.
USS Rosalie, Acting Ensign Henry W. Wells, captured an unidentified blockade running sloop off Little Marco, Florida, with cargo of salt and shoes.
25 Expedition from USS Don, Commander F. A. Parker, landed at Fleet's Point, in the Great Wicomico River, Virginia, and burned houses, barns, and outbuildings formerly used as shelter by the home guards of Northumberland County while firing on vessels of the Potomac Flotilla. Four boats were also burned and five others captured.
Rear Admiral George F. Pearson assumed command of the Pacific Squadron relieving Rear Admiral C.H. Bell.
26 USS Adolph Hugel, Acting Master Sylvanus Nickerson, captured schooner Coquette with cargo including tobacco and wheat at Wade's Bay on the Eastern shore of the Potomac River. Two days later sloop James Landry was also seized by Nickerson for violation of the blockade regulations. Nickerson took sloop Zion as a prize on 2 November, as the Potomac Flotilla alertly continued its ceaseless efforts to stifle even the smallest trickle of goods flowing from Southern sympathizers in Union dominated areas to the beleaguered Confederate forces in Virginia.
27 Boat expedition commanded by Lieutenant William Barker Cushing destroyed CSS Albemarle at Plymouth, on the Roanoke River, North Carolina. Cushing reported to Rear Admiral Porter on 30 October: "I have the honor to report that the rebel ironclad Albemarle is at the bottom of the Roanoke River." In July the redoubtable Cushing, only 21 years old, bad been sent to Washington by Rear Admiral Lee to discuss with the Navy Department his plans for sinking the Confederate ram. He proposed at that time two plans, one involving a boarding party to travel overland and attack with India rubber boats, and the other calling for two steam launches to approach the ram's moorings on the river. Both plans envisaged the capture of the ram, since Cushing wanted to destroy her only if it became necessary. Secretary Welles assented to the plan, and gave the daring Lieutenant permission to proceed to New York to procure the necessary boats.
Cushing finally decided upon two thirty-foot steam picket launches, each fitted with a fourteen-foot spar and a torpedo, and mounting a twelve-pounder howitzer in the bow. Moving south by the inland water route, one of the picket boats was lost to the Confederates (see 8 October 1864), but the other arrived in the sounds of North Carolina on 24 October. As Cushing later reported: "Here I, for the first time, disclosed to my officers and men our object and told them that they were at liberty to go or not as they pleased. These, seven in number, all volunteered."
The imaginative attack seemed at first doomed to failure. Cushing departed the night of 26 October, but grounded at the mouth of Roanoke River, and spent most of the hours of darkness freeing his small craft. The attempt was postponed until 27 October.
That night was dark and foul. Cushing was accompanied by fourteen men, an additional seven having been recruited from the blockading squadron. Among them were his old companion, Acting Master's Mate William L. Howorth, and that veteran of Roanoke reconnaissance patrols, Acting Master's Mate John Woodman. Towed behind the torpedo boat was a cutter from USS Shamrock whose duty, as Cushing described it,". . . was to dash aboard the Southfield at the first hail and prevent any rocket from being ignited." Southfield had been captured by Con-federates in an earlier action with Albemarle (see 19 April 1864) and was sunk in the Roanoke a mile below the ironclad's berth. With the steam engine's throb muffled by a heavy tarpaulin, the expedition moved out to cover the eight miles between Albemarle Sound and Plymouth, keeping close to the bank and anticipating discovery at any moment. Cushing's renowned good fortune held, however, and he succeeded in passing within twenty feet of Southfield without being challenged. The lieutenant still hoped to board Albemarle and ''take her alive'', but as he steamed up to the ram, an alert picket saw the dim form of the boat and challenged. Cushing instantly changed his plan: ". . . just as I was sheering in close to the wharf a hail came sharp and quick from the ironclad, in an instant repeated. I at once directed the cutter to cast off and go down to capture the guard left in our rear [on board Southfield], and ordering all steam, went at the dark mountain of iron in front of us. A heavy fire at once opened upon us, not only from the ship, but from the men stationed on the shore, but this did not disable us and we neared them rapidly." A large fire now blazed up on shore, and Cushing discovered a large boom of protective logs sur-rounding the Confederate ship. Amid the mounting fire, he coolly turned the boat around in order to run at the obstructions at full speed. "As I turned the whole back of my coat was torn out by buck shot and the sole of my shoe was carried away. The fire was very severe. In the lull of the firing the Captain hailed us, again demanding what boat it was. All my men gave comical answer and mine was a dose of canister which I sent amongst them from the howitzer, buzzing and singing against the iron ribs and into the mass of men standing fire-lit upon the shore." According to the recollections of Acting Ensign Thomas Gay, later captured, Cushing shouted: "Leave the ram, or I'll blow you to pieces!" No response was heard, and Cushing ran through the hail of fire at full speed, his boat lurching over the log barrier. "The torpedo boom was lowered and by a vigorous pull I succeeded in diving the torpedo under the overhang and exploding it at the same time that the Albemarle's gun was fired. A shot seemed to go chasing through my boat, and a dense mass of water rushed in from the torpedo, filling the launch and completely disabling her."
Albemarle, a gaping hole in her port quarter, began to sink rapidly. Lieutenant Warley, commanding Albemarle reported: ''The water gained on us so fast that all exertions were fruitless, and the vessel went down in a few moments, merely leaving her shield and smokestack out." Cushing found his own boat sinking but, refusing to surrender in the midst of the enemy, ordered his men to save themselves and started to swim for shore. Although he had exploded the torpedo virtually staring down the muzzle of Albemarle's gun, he was miraculously unharmed. Making for shore, he tried to save the gallant John Woodman, who was unable to swim any longer, but Wood man sank. Cushing finally pulled himself half onto the bank and lay exhausted until morning. Finding himself near a Confederate picket station, he managed to seize a skiff and rowed the eight miles downstream to Albemarle Sound. There he was picked op by USS Valley City .
When news of the dashing young lieutenant's feat reached the squadron, rockets were set off, and all hands called to "cheer ship". Elated, Porter said that Lieutenant Cushing had "displayed a heroic enterprise seldom equaled and never excelled. . . . He has shown an absolute disregard of death or danger, and will no doubt be suitably rewarded by the Government, which reward he well deserves." The Admiral's enthusiasm was well founded, for the destruction of Albemarle paved the way for the capture of Plymouth and firm control of the entire Roanoke River area. It also released ships that had been guarding against the ram for other blockade duties.
Congress commended Cushing for his bravery and enterprise, and promoted him to Lieutenant Commander. Edward J. Houghton, the only other man to escape death or capture, was awarded the medal of honor.
28 USS General Thomas, Acting MAster Gilbert Morton, engaged Confederate batteries near Decatur, Alabama, on the Tennessee River. Paddle-wheeler General Thomas sustained damage but passed the batteries, rounded to and, with Army gunboat Stone River, poured such a withering crossfire into the emplacements that the Southerners abandoned them. Brigadier General Robert Granger, commanding Union troops in the area, described the action: "It was impossible for men to withstand this attack. They deserted their guns, a portion of them retreating to their main line, while many of them rushed down the bank and sought the protection of the trees at the waters edge. The guns of the boats, double-shotted with canister, were turned upon them at a distance of scarcely 300 yards, and poured in a terrible fire." As the Confederates under General Hood neared the Tennessee River in their campaign to divert Sherman by invading Tennessee, patrolling Union gunboats, invaluable not only in guarding against river crossings, but also in collecting vital information about troop movements, were attacked by mobile field batteries with increasing frequency and intensity.
Captain Pennock, temporarily in command of the Mississippi Squadron, issued an order stressing: 'The enemy must not be allowed to cross the [Mississippi] river. Officers in command will develop their utmost vigilance and activity, and take every precaution to prevent such a movement. Vessels must be kept in motion night and day." The inability of major Confederate forces to cross the Mississippi from the West in the face of patrolling Union gunboats illustrated the vast importance of Union naval control of the river, and was a major factor in the developing Tennessee campaign.
CSS Chickamauga, Lieutenant, John Wilkinson, sortied from Wilmington harbor, eluded the blockading vessels off the bar, and put to sea as a commerce raider.
USS Calypso, Acting Master Stuart, and USS Eolus, Acting Master Lundt, captured blockade running British steamer Lady Sterling at sea off Wilmington with cargo of cotton and tobacco.
29 CSS Olustee, formerly CSS Tallahassee, Lieutenant William H. Ward, eluded the blockaders off Wilmington. Ward returned to Wilmington on 7 November after a brief but successful cruise, having destroyed bark Empress Theresa, schooners A. J. Bird, F. F. Lewis, and Vapor, ship Arcole, and brig T. D. Wagner during the first three days of November.
29-1 November Capitalizing on Lieutenant Cushing's success in destroying CSS Albemarle, Commander Macomb moved upon Plymouth, North Carolina, capturing the town and its defenses after a heated engagement. Immediately after Cushing's return, on 29 October, Macomb steamed up the Roanoke with six ships. USS Valley City, Acting Master John A. J. Brooks, proceeded via Middle River and entered the Roanoke above Plymouth to cut off the garrison's escape by water. Macomb's gunboats engaged the lower batteries protecting the to-n, but, seeing that two schooners had been sunk abreast the wreck of USS Southfield, obstructing the river, withdrew to Albemarle Sound. On the 30th, Macomb took his fleet through the Middle River to attack the city and its defenses from above, spending the entire day in navigating the treacherous channels and shelling the Confederate works at long range. On 31 October, Macomb formed his line of battle, with converted ferryboat USS Commodore Hull, Acting Master Francis Josselyn, in the van, followed by side-wheel double-enders USS Tacony, Lieutenant Commander Truxtun, USS Shamrock, Commander Macomb, USS Otsego, Lieutenant Commander Henry N. T. Arnold, and USS Wyalusing, Lieutenant Commander English. Tinclad USS Whitehead, Acting Master Barrett, was lashed to the port side of Tacony, with tugs Bazely and Belle lashed to Shamrock and Otsego. The fleet steamed boldly up and engaged the Plymouth batteries and rifle pits at close range. A violent battle ensued in which Commodore Hull sustained heavy damage. The Union cannonade detonated a large magazine ashore with a tremendous explosion shortly thereafter. The Southerners began to evacuate their fortifications Macomb reported: ''I then made signal to cease firing, and then to land and take possession of the batteries, which was done without resistance." A landing party from USS Wyalusing entered Fort Williams, captured prisoners and raised the Stars and Stripes again over Plymouth.
At Plymouth Macomb captured 37 prisoners, 22 cannon, a large quantity of stores, 200 stand of arms, and the sunken but still important CSS Albemarle. For his dashing and timely action, Macomb was praised by Secretary Welles and advanced ten numbers in grade by Congress. President Lincoln enthusiastically recommended the advancement, speaking of Commander Macomb's "distinguished conduct in the capture of the town of Plymouth, North Carolina. . . ." The Union again held this strategic town and thus commanded the Roanoke River, Albemarle Sound, and threatened the interior of North Carolina from the sea.
30 CSS Shenandoah, Lieutenant Waddell, captured and scuttled bark Alina due south of the Azores and due west of Dakar. Alina, a new bark on her maiden voyage, was Shenandoah's first prize. She carried a cargo of railroad iron. Waddell wrote: ''It was fortunate my first capture could be scuttled, for the steamer's position was good and a bonfire would have given alarm to all Yankees within 30 miles, and then, too, a cruiser might have been in the neighborhood, which would have [been] attracted by the red glare of the sky and interfered with our fun . . . we were forced to destroy our prizes because we were not allowed to take them into a neutral port [for] adjudication."
Confederate batteries on the Tennessee River near Johnsonville, Tennessee, fired on and captured USS Undine, Acting MAster Bryant, and transports Venus and Cheeseman, after a sharp engagement. Undine had convoyed transport Anna to a point below Sandy Island, and was returning upstream when the sound of artillery was heard further down the Tennessee. Bryant came about to investigate, and near Paris Landing was attacked by a battery of several guns and volleys of musketry. While Undine was fiercely engaging the Confederates, transport Venus steamed down the river, and notwithstanding Bryant's warning passed by the batteries and joined him in the engagement. About twenty minutes later, another transport, Cheeseman, also came down river, and was immediately disabled and captured. Undine continued to fire on the batteries for nearly three hours, when her ammunition was nearly exhausted and her engine disabled. Unable to resist further, Bryant hauled down his flag but, when this was not observed by the Confederates and firing continued, he unsuccessfully attempted to destroy his vessel. Undine was taken intact, as well as the two transports, which could be put to good service in ferrying troops across the Tennessee River. The attacking Southern troops, operating in territory long under Union control, were part of General Nathan B. Forrest's cavalry, who were attempting to cross the Tennessee River and join forces with General Hood for the large-scale Confederate assault on Tennessee. By this drive into Tennessee, Hood and Forrest hoped to sever General Sherman's supply lines, forcing him to abandon the March across Georgia.
31 CSS Chickamauga, Lieutenant Wilkinson, captured and burned off the northeast coast of the United States the ship Emma L. Hall, with cargo of sugar and molasses, and ship Shooting Star, with cargo of coal. Wilkinson transferred the passengers of Shooting Star to a passing vessel, Albion Lincoln, which headed directly for New York to spread the alarm. Wilkinson later wrote of the transfer of prisoners: "In truth, I was relieved from an awkward dilemma by the opportune capture of the Albion Lincoln for there was absolutely no place for a female aboard the Chickamauga. I do not doubt, however, that the redoubtable Mrs. Drinkwater [wife of Shooting Star's Master] would have accommodated herself to the circumstances by turning me out of my own cabin. Heavens! what a tongue she wielded! The young officers of the Chickamauga relieved each other in boat duty to and fro and she routed every one of them ignominiously."
USS Katahdin, Lieutenant Commander John Irwin, captured British blockade runner Albert Edward off Galveston with cargo of cotton.
USS Wilderness, Acting Master Henry Arey, and USS Niphon, Acting Master Kemble, seized blockade running British steamer Annie off New Inlet, North Carolina, with cargo of tobacco, cotton, and turpentine. Concerned by reports that the two Captains had failed to signal other patrolling ships in the vicinity during the chase of Annie in order to obtain a larger share of the prize money, Rear Admiral Porter wrote: This war is not being conducted for the benefit of officers or to enrich them by the capture of prizes, and every commander is deficient in the high moral character which has always been inherent in the Navy who for a moment consults his private interests in preference to the public good, hesitates to destroy what is the property of the enemy, or attempts to benefit himself at the expense of others . . . Honor and glory should be the watchword of the Navy, and not profit."
1 CSS Chickamauga, Lieutenant Wilkinson, captured and scuttled off the northeast coast of the United States schooners Goodspeed in ballast and Otter Rock with cargo of potatoes.
Dr. W. A. W. Spotswood, Surgeon in Charge, Office of Medicine and Surgery, C.S.N., reported the effect of the continuing blockade: ''It affords me much satisfaction to report that, by the operations of the purveyor's department, an ample supply of medicines, instruments, and every-thing to meet the wants of the sick has been furnished up to the present time, but owing to the strict blockade of the seacoast and harbors of the Confederacy, rendering it impossible to procure medical supplies from abroad, I feel that there will necessarily be much difficulty in procuring many valuable articles soon required for the use for the sick. Every effort has been made to pro-cure a large supply, but in vain, and it is to be regretted that the supply of cotton placed in the hands of the Navy agent at the port of Wilmington can not be sent to Bermuda to purchase more or to pay for the medicines that have been received."
Rear Admiral Lee assumed command of the Mississippi Squadron at Mound City, Illinois.
2 Paddle-wheelers USS Key West, Acting Lieutenant King, and USS Tawah, Acting Lieutenant Jason Goudy, patrolling the Tennessee River, encountered Undine and Venus, which the Confederates had captured three days earlier. After a heated running engagement, Venus was retaken, but Undine, though badly damaged, escaped. Carrying Southern troops, Undine outran her pursuers and gained the protection of Confederate batteries at Reynoldsburg Island, near Johnsonville, Tennessee. King wired his district commander, Lieutenant Commander Shirk, "Weather so misty and dark, did not follow her."
CSS Chickamauga, Lieutenant Wilkinson, captured bark Speedwell off the New Jersey coast and bonded her for $18,000.
USS Santiago de Cuba, Captain Glisson, captured blockade running steamer Lucy at sea east of Charleston with cargo of cotton and tobacco.
4 Paddle-wheelers USS Key West, Acting Lieutenant King, USS Tawah, Acting Lieutenant Goudy, and small steamer USS Elfin, Acting MAster Augustus F. Thompson, were destroyed after an engagement with Confederate batteries off Johnsonville, Tennessee, along with several transport steamers and a large quantity of supplies. Acting Lieutenant King, in command of the naval group, was patrolling the river and protecting the Union depot and headquarters at Johnsonville as the forces of Confederate General Forrest suddenly struck the city. On 3 November, King discovered a strong Confederate field battery emplaced to command a narrow channel in the Tennessee River between Reynoldsburg Island and the west bank two miles below Johnsonville. Confederate gunboat Undine, lately captured from the Union (see 30 October), twice attempted on the 3rd to lure King and his gunboats downriver in range of the batteries without success. On the morning of 4 November, Undine again came upriver from the Confederate batteries, and this time King took his three ships down to engage her. At about the same time, Lieutenant Commander Fitch, commanding USS Moose and five other small steamers, Brilliant, Victory, Curlew, Fairy, and Paw Paw, approached the downstream side of Reynoldsburg Island, to support King. The Confederates burned Undine and opened on the Union gunboats with shore fire. Because of the narrowness of the channel and the commanding position occupied by the batteries Fitch could not bring his ships closer to Johnsonville to aid Key West, Tawah, and Elfin, which had retired to a position off the town to protect the transports and supplies. The Confederates then moved their main batteries along the river to positions opposite Johnsonville, leaving sufficient guns to block Fitch's passage, and commenced a fierce bombardment of the gunboats, trans-ports, and wharf area. After fighting for nearly an hour against great odds, King at last ordered his three riddled gunboats fired. Army Assistant QuartermAster Henry Howland, a witness to the action from ashore, described it: ". . . for nearly thirty minutes the cannonading was the most terrific I have ever witnessed. The gunboats fought magnificently and continued firing for more than twenty minutes after they were all disabled, when Lieutenant Commander King was compelled to order them abandoned and burned." King and most of his men escaped to the waterfront, which by this time was itself a roaring inferno as Union officers put the torch to supplies on the wharves to prevent them from falling into Southern hands. The gunboats and transports were lost, but General Forrest was prevented from capturing them intact, and was thus unable to cross the river in force and capture Johnsonville. Instead, the Confederate commander, anxious to press his advantage, moved his batteries downstream to cut off Fitch and the gun-boats below Reynoldsburg Island. Fitch, nevertheless, succeeded in withdrawing his forces safely. Later reflecting on the action at Johnsonville, he commented: "The Key West, Tawah, and Elfin fought desperately and were handled in magnificent style, but it is impossible for boats of this class, with their batteries, to contend successfully against heavy-rifled field batteries in a narrow river full of bars and shoals, no matter with what skill and desperation they may be fought." By this time it was clear that the Confederates were moving in force, and that Forrest was threatening to close the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers completely. Decisive events both on the rivers and the hills of Tennessee were imminent.
5 In General Order No. 34 to the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, Rear Admiral Porter wrote: "The gallant exploits of Lieutenant Cushing previous to this affair will form a bright page in the history of the war, but they have all been eclipsed by the destruction of the Albemarle. The spirit evinced by this officer is what I wish to see pervading this squadron. . . . Opportunity will be offered to all those who have the energy and skill to undertake like enterprises."
Secretary Mallory reported to President Davis on the continuing contribution of the Confederate Naval Academy which was training young midshipmen not only in the classroom but under fire: "In my last report I brought to your notice that the steamship Patrick Henry had been organized as a school and practice ship for the education of midshipmen in the several essential branches of their profession. The system of instruction conforms, as nearly as practicable, to that of the most approved naval schools, and this institution will serve as a nucleus for an establishment which the necessities of a naval service and the interests of the country will at an early day render necessary. Under the efficient command of Lieutenant Commander Parker, aided by zealous and competent officers, the beneficial results of the school are already visible in the progress, tone, and bearing of our midshipmen. Though but from 14 to 18 years of age, they eagerly seek every opportunity presented for engaging in hazardous enterprises, and those who are sent upon them uniformly exhibit good discipline, conduct, and courage. Classroom ordnance theory was often interrupted by the very real ordnance "drills" of helping to man ship and shore batteries to repel Union attack.
W. G. Fargo, Mayor of Buffalo, New York, telegraphed Secretary Welles that ship Georgian had been purchased in Toronto by a Southern sympathizer, Dr. James Bates: "My information is that she will be armed on the Canada shore for the purpose of encountering the USS Michigan and for piratical and predatory purposes on the Lakes. . . .Though Commander Carter, USS Michigan, discounted the rumors, Georgian continued to arouse grave concern in the Great Lakes area. To be commanded by Master John Y. Beall, CSN, she was in fact to be part of a new plot on the part of Confederate agent Jacob Thompson to capture USS Michigan and attack the cities on Lake Erie, but the suspicions of Union authorities and the strict surveillance under which the ship was placed by Union agents prevented the plot from being carried out. Welles ordered Carter to seize Georgian if she ventured into American waters, but she was searched twice by local American and Canadian authorities without any hint of her true character being detected. Nevertheless, Union intelligence and close surveillance prevented this Confederate scheme from bearing fruit, and Georgian was laid up at Collingwood, on the Canadian side, eventually to be sold again to private parties.
Monitor USS Patapsco, Lieutenant Commander John Madigan, bombarded and set afire an un-identified sloop aground off Fort Moultrie, Charleston. Madigan noted: "She seems to have had a cargo of cotton and turpentine." Rear Admiral Dahlgren wrote: ". . . the work was so well done that the conflagration made a considerable appearance at night."
CSS Shenandoah , Lieutenant Waddell, captured and burned schooner Charter Oak at sea off the Cape Verde Islands, after removing her passengers and a quantity of fruit, vegetables, and other provisions. Waddell remained near the burning prize to make sure she was consumed, and then, suspecting that Union cruisers might be attracted by the blaze, stood southward.
USS Fort Morgan, Lieutenant William B. Eaton, captured blockade runner John A. Hard off the Texas coast (27o N, 96o W) with cargo including coffee, rice, oil, dry goods and medicines.
6 USS Fort Morgan, Lieutenant Eaton, captured blockade running schooner Lone off Brazos Pass, Texas, with cargo including iron and bagging.
Boats from USS Adela, Acting Lieutenant Louis N. Stodder, captured schooner Badger attempt-ing to run the blockade out of St. George's Sound, Florida, with cargo of cotton.
7 Upon learning that Confederate officers were quartered in a house on the Arkansas side of the Mississippi River near Island 68, Acting Lieutenant Frederic S. Hill led an expedition from USS Tyler to capture them. However, they had departed. The mother of one of them boldly showed Hill her permit to transport cotton up the Mississippi and a request, officially endorsed by Major General Cadwallader C. Washburn, USA; for gunboat protection. Hill reluctantly complied with the request, remarking to Rear Admiral Lee: ". . . in the face of all these documents, as I was upon the spot and a steamer then at hand ready to take the cotton, I considered it proper to give her the required protection, although with a very bad grace. Permit me, admiral, respectfully to call your attention to the anomaly of using every exertion to capture rebel officers at 2 a.m., whose cotton I am called upon to protect in its shipment to a market at 10 a.m. of the same day, thus affording them the means of supplying themselves with every comfort money can procure ere they return to their brother rebels in arms with Hood."
8 Rear Admiral Farragut, writing Secretary Welles, expressed his deeply held conviction that effective seapower was not dependent so much on a particular kind of ship or a specific gun but rather on the officers and men who manned them: . . . I think the world is sadly mistaken when it supposes that battles are won by this or that kind of gun or vessel. In my humble opinion the Kearsarge would have captured or sunk the Alabama as often as they might have met under the same organization and officers. The best gun and the best vessel should certainly be chosen, but the victory three times out of four depends upon those who fight them. I do not believe that the result would have been different if the Kearsarge had had nothing but a battery of 8-inch guns and 100-pound chase rifle. What signifies the size and caliber of the gun if you do not hit your adversary?"
Acting Master Francis Josselyn, USS Commodore Hull, landed with a party of sailors at Edenton, North Carolina, under orders from Commander Macomb to break up a court session being held there. Josselyn described the unique expedition: "I landed with a detachment of men this afternoon at Edenton and adjourned sine die a county court which was in session in the court house at that place under so-called Confederate authority. This court, the first that has been held at Edenton since the breaking out of the war, the authorities had the impertinence to hold under my very guns.
CSS Shenandoah, Lieutenant Waddell, captured and burned bark D. Godfrey southwest of the Cape Verde Islands with cargo of beef and pork.
9 USS Stepping Stones, Acting Lieutenant Daniel A. Campbell, captured blockade running sloops Reliance and Little Elmer in Mobjack Bay, Virginia.
10 Rear Admiral Dahlgren wrote to Secretary Welles regarding plans for another joint attack on Charleston. Dahlgren well understood the great advantage in mobility and supply enjoyed by the Union through its strong control of the sea: "Part of the troops could be landed at Bull's Bay, whence there is a good road for some 15 miles; part would enter the inlet seaward of Sullivan's Island, seize Long Island, and with the aid of the Navy, land in the rear of Sullivan's Island, join the force coming from Bull's Bay, and occupy Mount Pleasant. . . . This operation would require 30,000 to 50,000 good men, because it is reasonable to admit that the present small force of the rebels would receive large additions. Still, we have the unquestioned advantage of being able to bring here additional forces more promptly in the present position of the main armies. Hood must pass around Sherman in order to give any aid, and General Grant equally obstructs the road from Richmond."
CSS Shenandoah, Lieutenant Waddell, captured and scuttled brig Susan at sea southwest of the Cape Verde Islands with cargo of coal. Waddell recalled later; "She leaked badly and was the dullest sailor I had ever seen; really she moved so slowly that barnacles grew to her bottom, and it was simply impossible for her crew to pump her out as fast as the water made."
11 Commander Henry K. Davenport, USS Lancaster, captured Confederates on board steamer Salvador, bound from Panama to California, after having been informed that they intended to seize the ship at sea and convert her into a raider. Salvador's captain had warned naval authorities at Panama Bay that the attempt was to be made, and Davenport and his men arranged to search the baggage of the passengers after the vessel passed the territorial limits of Panama. The search revealed guns and ammunition, along with a commission from Secretary Mallory for the capture; the Confederates were promptly taken into custody. This daring party, led by Acting Master Thomas E. Hogg, CSN, was one of many attempting to seize Union steamers and convert them into commerce raiders, especially with a view toward capturing the gold shipments from California. Union warships usually convoyed the California ships to prevent their capture.
USS Wachusett, Commander Collins, arrived at Hampton Roads with the captured commerce raider CSS Florida.
12 A boat expedition from USS Hendrick Hudson, Acting Lieutenant Charles H. Rockwell, and USS Nita, Acting Lieutenant Robert B. Smith, attempted to destroy Confederate salt works on a reconnaissance near Tampa Bay, Florida, but the sailors were driven back to their boats by Southern cavalry.
CSS Shenandoah, Lieutenant Waddell, seized and bonded clipper ship Kate Prince and brig Adelaide in mid-Atlantic near the equator.
13 CSS Shenandoah, Lieutenant Waddell, captured and burned schooner Lizzie M. Stacey in mid-Atlantic near the equator with cargo of pinesalt and iron. Lizzie's mate, an unabashed Irish-man, told Waddell: ". . . my hearty, if we'd had ten guns aboard her, you wouldn't have got us without a bit of a shindy, or if the breeze had been a bit stiffer, we'd given her the square sail, and all hell wouldn't have caught her.'' Two of the schooner's seamen joined Shenandoah's crew voluntarily and another was impressed. She was the last prize the raider would take for some three weeks.
14-15 Acting MAster Lothrop Wight and Acting Ensign Frederick W. Mintzer reconnoitered Con-federate naval dispositions above Dutch Gap on the James River, Virginia. Work was going ahead rapidly on the Dutch Gap Canal, which would allow Union gunboats to bypass the obstructions at Trent's Reach, and the work of Wight and Minter provided valuable information regarding the positions of Confederate ships and troops.
15 Governor William A. Buckingham of Connecticut wrote Secretary Welles of the ''defenseless condition of Stonington." The citizens of the city, he reported, "feel that the Tallahassee having been near them, that or some other vessel may make them a piratical visit at any hour, and urge that an ironclad be stationed in their harbor not only for their protection, but for the protection of other towns on the sound and of the sound steamers." The Governor's letter typified the grave concern caused by the infrequent but devastating Confederate raids near Northern seaports.
17 Side-wheelers USS Otsego, Lieutenant Commander Arnold, and USS Ceres, Acting MAster Foster, ascended the Roanoke River to Jamesville, North Carolina, on a reconnaissance. The smaller Ceres continued upriver to Williamston. Although Confederates had been reported in the area, no batteries or troops were encountered.
19 CSS Chickamauga, Lieutenant Wilkinson, ran the blockade into Wilmington under cover of heavy fog. He has miscalculated his position the day before and successfully run through the blockade to Masonboro Inlet instead of New Inlet. Wilkinson dropped down the coast and early in the morning of the 19th anchored under the guns of Fort Fisher to await high tide when Chick-amauga could cross the bar and stand up Cape Fear River to Wilmington. As the fog lifted, blockaders USS Kansas, Wilderness, Cherokee, and Clematis opened on what they at first took to be a grounded blockade runner. Chickamauga broke the Confederate flag and returned the fire, joined by the heavy guns of Fort Fisher. Fog and the range of the Fort's guns thwarted efforts to destroy the cruiser; by mid-morning Chickamauga was safely in the river and nearing Wilmington.
20 Edward La Croix of Selma, Alabama, writing Secretary Welles from Detroit, reported that a torpedo boat had been constructed at Selma for use against the Union forces in Mobile Bay. He described her: "Length, about 30 feet; has water-tight compartments; can be sunk or raised as desired; is propelled by a very small engine, and will just stow in 5 men. It has some arrange-ment of machinery that times the explosions of torpedoes, to enable the operators to retire to a safe distance. The boat proves to be a good sailer on the river and has gone to Mobile to make last preparations for trying its efficacy on the Federal vessels.'' La Croix was referring to the submersible torpedo boat Saint Patrick built by John P. Halligan who was also her first commander, Saint Patrick, was a source of concern to Federal naval officers in the vicinity of Mobile and early in the following year, under command of a Confederate naval officer, she did attempt to destroy a blockader.
Rear Admiral Porter directed Commander Macomb to send USS Louisiana to Beaufort, North Carolina. Louisiana was to become the powder ship with which Porter and General Butler hoped to level Fort Fisher and obviate the necessity of a direct attack. Early in December she was taken to Hampton Roads, where she was partially stripped and loaded with explosives.
21 Boats from USS Avenger, Acting Lieutenant Charles A. Wright, captured a large quantity of supplies on the Mississippi River near Bruinsburg, Mississippi, after a brief engagement. Union gunboats maintained a vigilant patrol to prevent Confederate supplies from crossing the Mississippi River for the armies in Alabama and Tennessee.
USS Iosco, Commander John Guest, captured blockage running schooner Sybil with cargo of cotton, at sea off the North Carolina coast.
23 Constantly alert to the need to strengthen his squadron for the difficult work of convoying and patrolling on the Western Rivers, Rear Admiral Lee this date detached Lieutenant Commander Greer, Acting Naval Constructor Charles F. Kendall, Acting Fleet Engineer Samuel Bickerstaff, and PaymAster Calvin C. Jackson to proceed on a confidential mission to Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and to other places if necessary, for the purpose of purchasing ten sound, strong, and swift light-draft steamers, to be converted into gunboats." Ten were subsequently bought, converted, and added to the Mississippi Squadron in early 1865.
24 Lieutenant James McC. Baker's preparations for the capture of Fort Pickens at Pensacola were terminated by Secretary Mallory: "Major-General Maury having withdrawn his men from the enterprise to the command of which you were assigned, its prosecution became impracticable." It was a bitter blow to the daring young Confederate naval officer who had first undertaken the scheme in April and had fought persuasively for months to bring it off. By mid-August, still unable to obtain authorization from the local command to proceed with the plan, the bold lieutenant wrote Mallory outlining his scheme to seize Fort Pickens: "Not dreaming that we have any designs upon it, and deluding themselves with the idea that its isolated position renders it safe from attack, they have become exceedingly careless, having only two sentinels on duty. . . ." Baker proposed to take a landing force of sailors and soldiers in small boats and, ". . . pulling down the eastern shore of the bay into Bon Secours, and, hauling the boats across a narrow strip of land into Little Lagoon, I would enter the Gulf at a point 20 miles east of Fort Morgan and be within seven hours' pull of Fort Pickens, with nothing to interrupt our progress." A month later, after having conferred with President Davis and General Braxton Bragg, Mallory ordered Baker to proceed with the mission. On 25 October Baker departed Mobile with a number of sailors on steamer Dick Keys and rendezvoused with 100 soldiers from General Dabney Maury's command that night at Blakely, Alabama. As the daring group was preparing to get underway, Maury ordered a temporary delay because of information received which reported that Union forces had landed at the Pensacola Navy Yard near Fort Pickens. By the 30th this intelligence was demonstrated to be inaccurate, but Maury still was reluctant to go ahead with the operation. Concerned that the Northerners now had knowledge of the planned attempt, he suggested that the soldiers return to their companies to give the appearance of having had the expedition called off. At a future date they could be ordered back to Blakely suddenly, as Baker reported, "when the expedition might proceed, he thought, with more secrecy and certainty of success." This date, 24 November, Mallory reluctantly advised the intrepid Baker: "I regret that circumstances beyond the control of the Department or yourself should have thus terminated an enterprise which seemed to promise good results."
USS Chocura, Lieutenant Commander Meade, sighted schooner Louisa and chased her ashore on the bar off San Bernard River, Texas. A heavy gale totally destroyed the schooner before she could be boarded.
27 An explosion and fire destroyed General Butler's headquarters steamer Greyhound, on the James River, Virginia, and narrowly missed killing Butler, Major General Schenck, and Rear Admiral Porter, on board for a conference on the forthcoming Fort Fisher expedition. Because of the nature of the explosion, it is likely that one of the deadly Confederate coal torpedoes had been planted in Greyhound's boiler. "The furnace door blew open," recalled Butler, "and scattered coals throughout the room." The so-called "coal torpedo" was a finely turned piece of cast iron containing ten pounds of powder and made to resemble closely a lump of coal, and was capable of being used with devastating effect. As Admiral Porter later described the incident: ''We had left Bermuda Hundred five or six miles behind us when suddenly an explosion forward startled us, and in a moment large volumes of smoke poured out of the engine-room." The Admiral went on to marvel at the ingenuity which nearly cost him his life: ''In devices for blowing up vessels the Confederates were far ahead of us, putting Yankee ingenuity to shame." This device was suspected of being the cause of several unexplained explosions during the war.
Blockade running British steamer Beatrice was captured by picket boats under Acting MAster Gifford of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, off Charleston. The prize crew accidentally grounded Beatrice near Morris Island and she was soon a total wreck 1n reporting the capture to Secretary Welles, Rear Admiral Dahlgren noted the fact that the blockade runner was captured by small boats and not by seagoing vessels, adding: "The duty is severe beyond what is imagined. In the launches the men may be said to live in the boats, and all of them are, in these long nights, exposed to every hardship of sea, wind, and weather; in the stormiest nights they are cruising around close in to the rebel batteries." The Federal Navy spared no efforts to tighten the block-ade now that final victory was coming in sight.
Ram USS Vindicator, Acting Lieutenant Gorringe, and small stern-wheeler USS Prairie Bird, Acting MAster Burns, transported and covered a successful Union cavalry attack on Confederate communications in western Mississippi. Thirty miles of track and the important railroad bridge over the Big Black River, east of Vicksburg, were destroyed. Major General Dana praised the part of the gunboats in the expedition: ''The assistance of the vessels of the Sixth Division Mississippi Squadron rendered the expedition a complete success.
USS Princess Royal, Commander Woolsey, seized blockade running British schooner Flash in the Gulf of Mexico off Brazos Santiago with cargo of cotton. Later in the day, Princess Royal also captured blockade running schooner Neptune. Woolsey reported: "The vessel was empty, having just lost a cargo of salt, said salt having, according to the master's statement, 'dissolved in her hold.'
USS Metacomet, Lieutenant Commander Jouett, captured blockade running steamer Susanna in the Gulf of Mexico off Campeche Banks. Half her cargo of cotton was thrown overboard in the chase. Rear Admiral Farragut had regarded Susanna as "their fastest steamer."
29 Double-turret monitor USS Onondaga, Commander William A Parker, and single-turret monitor USS Mahopac, Lieutenant Commander Edward E. Potter, engaged Howlett's Battery, on the James River, Virginia, for three hours. This was part of the continuing action below Richmond.
As Major Francis W. Smith, CSA, remarked, "I think the monitors (although they retired under our fire below Dutch Gap) will probably return. . . ."
A ship's boat under the command of Acting Ensign A. Rich from USS Elk, Acting Lieutenant Nicholas Kirby, captured an unidentified small craft with cargo of whiskey and opium near Mandeville, Louisiana.
30 Naval Brigade composed of 350 sailors and 150 Marines from ships of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron and commanded by Commander George H. Preble joined in an Army action at Honey Hill, near Grahamville, South Carolina. In order to aid General Sherman in his March toward Savannah, Major General Foster had proposed to Rear Admiral Dahlgren a campaign up the Broad River to cut the Charleston-Savannah Railway and establish contact with Sherman. Preble organized an artillery and two naval infantry battalions to operate with the Army, and they were landed at Boyd's Landing on Broad River on 29 November. Sailors and Marines played a vital role in the ensuing battle of Honey Hill on 30 November, after which they entrenched on the Grahamville Road. General Foster then decided with Dahlgren, who accompanied his Brigade as far as Boyd's Landing, that the main thrust should come up the Tulifinny River toward Pocotaligo.
Boat expedition under the command of Acting MAster Charles H. Cadieu, USS Midnight, landed at St. Andrew's Bay, Florida, destroyed a salt work and took prisoners.
USS Itasca, Lieutenant Commander George Brown, seized blockade running British schooner Carrie Mair off Pass Cavallo, Texas.
30–4 December Acting on intelligence that Union prisoners were attempting to reach the blockading vessels after having escaped from a prisoner train en route to Savannah, Acting Master Isaac Pennell, with 5 boats and nearly 100 men from USS Ethan Allen and Dai Ching, scoured the South Altamaha River, South Carolina, without finding any of the reported escapees. After encounter-ing and engaging a considerable Confederate force, Pennell was compelled to withdraw to the ships.
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