Published 1883, 1885




Reduction of Newbern ― The Albemarle

Rowan left Hatteras Inlet with the flotilla under his com­mand, at 7.30 A.M. of the 12th of March, 1862, accompanied by the army transports carrying twelve thousand troops in­tended to be employed against the works of the enemy. At sunset of the same day the flotilla anchored off Slocum's Neck, fifteen miles distant and within sight of the city of Newbern.

The following vessels composed the attacking force; Delaware, Lieutenant-Commanding L. P. Quackenbush, and flag-ship of Commander S. C. Rowan; Stars and Stripes, Lieutenant-Commanding Reed Werden; Louisiana, Lieu­tenant-Commanding Alexander Murray; Hetzel, Lieuten­ant-Commanding H. K. Davenport; Commodore Perry, Lieutenant-Commanding C. W. Flusser; Valley City, Lieu­tenant-Commanding J. C. Chaplin; Underwriter, Lieutenant-­Commanding A. Hopkins; Commodore Barney, Lieutenant-­Commanding R. T. Renshaw; Hunchback, Lieutenant-Commanding E. R. Colhoun; Southfield, Lieutenant-Commanding C. F. Behm; Morse, Acting-Master Peter Hayes; Brincker, Acting-Master J. E. Giddings; and Lockwood, Acting­-Master G. W. Graves.[1]

At 8.30 A.M. on the 13th the vessels shelled the woods near the proposed place of landing, under cover of which part of the troops were disembarked and moved up the beach at 11.30 A.M., and in the meantime the remainder were landed as rapidly as possible. Six navy howitzers with crews, under command of Lieutenant R. S. McCook, were also landed. As the troops marched the gunboats moved parallel, throw­ing shells into the woods in advance of them. No Confed­erate force opposed the troops during the day. At 4.15 p.m. the first of the enemy's batteries opened fire at long range on the leading vessels of the flotilla, which was returned. At sundown the firing was discontinued and the vessels an­chored in position to protect the flanks of the land force.

At daylight of the 14th the report of a field piece was heard. The fog was too dense to make signal; the Delaware, Hunchback, and Lockwood were got under way, the latter ordered to follow the land down and order up the ves­sels that had been stationed along the shore. The Delaware, Hunchback, and Southfield moved up to open fire on Fort Dixie. They were soon joined by the heavier vessels from below. Receiving no response from the fort, a boat was .sent on shore and the American flag hoisted over it. The force then passed up and opened on Fort Ellis, which was -returned until the magazine was blown up. At this time -the troops were pressing on the rear entrenchments of Fort Thompson. Signal was made to the vessels to advance in line abreast; the force closed up to the barriers, and opened fire on that work. General Burnside informed Commander Rowan that his shells were falling to the left and near our own troops.

Fort Thompson having ceased to return the fire, signal was made to follow the motions of the flag-ship, and that vessel passed through the obstructions, followed by the others in "line ahead." As the vessels were passing through, the co-operating troops appeared on the ramparts of Fort Thompson, waving the Union flag. Shells were then thrown into Fort Lane, next above, without response. The Valley City was directed to hoist the flag over the remaining forts and the flotilla passed rapidly up the river. On opening the Trent River two deserted batteries, mount­ing two guns each, were seen on the wharves in front of the city.

The vessels passed up the Neuse River, the Delaware opening fire on steamboats that were attempting to escape up the river, one of them having a schooner in tow. One of the steamers was run on shore and burned, and two others were captured, together with a schooner laden with commis­sary stores.

At noon the Delaware went alongside the wharf and the inhabitants were informed that it was not intended to injure the town. At this time fires broke out in several parts of the city, probably caused by a similar action to that of Lieu­tenant Scroggs of the "Wise Legion" at Elizabeth City. A floating raft in the Trent River that had been prepared to send down on the fleet was also set on fire, and drifting against the railroad bridge, destroyed it.

The Louisiana and the Barney were sent to the Trent side of the town to secure such public property as might be found there. Several hundred stand of arms, other muni­tions of war, a large amount of naval stores, and a three-masted schooner fell into their hands. At 2 P.m., our vic­torious troops appearing on the opposite side of the Trent, the work of transportation commenced, and at sundown the army was in full occupancy of the city.[2]

Commander Rowan describes the obstructions passed through as "formidable, and had evidently been prepared with great care." The lower barrier was composed of a se­ries of piling driven securely into the bottom and cut off below the water; added to this was another row of pointed and iron-capped piles, inclined to an angle of about forty­-five degrees down stream. Near these was a row of thirty torpedoes, containing about two hundred pounds of powder each, and fitted with metal fuses connected with spring per­cussion locks, with trigger-lines attached to the pointed piles. The second barrier was quite as formidable, about one mile above the first, and abreast of Fort Thompson. It consisted of a line of sunken vessels closely massed and of chevaux de frise, leaving a very narrow passage close to the battery. The Perry in passing through carried away a head of iron on the piling; the Barney had a hole cut in her, and the Stars and Stripes was also injured; but fortunately the torpedoes failed to serve the enemy's purpose.[3]

'The forts, six in number, exclusive of those on Trent River, were well constructed earthworks, varying in distance apart from half a mile to a mile and a half, and mounting in all! thirty-two guns, ranging from 32-pounders to 80-pounders, rifled, all en barbette, with the exception of one casemated fort, mounting two guns.

It may well excite surprise that not a single casualty oc­curred on board of the flotilla. Of the navy force on shore with six howitzers, under Lieutenant McCook, 2 men were killed, 11 wounded, and one howitzer disabled.

The force of the enemy 'was about equal in number to the Union troops. Only 200 were captured, but a very large amount of army equipage and supplies were found at New­bern. Our casualties were 88 killed and 352 wounded. Those of the Confederates are not known.

On the 25th of April the Union troops then in Beaufort, N. C., with breaching batteries, which they had established, opened fire on Fort Macon; before sunset the fort surrendered. Lockwood in command of the Daylight, Armstrong in the Georgia, Bryson in the Chippewa, and Cavendy in the Gemsbok, took part in the bombardment for several hours, when the sea grew too rough to manage their guns.

In order to secure the forces on the sounds from an attack from Norfolk, Flusser was directed to block additionally the Chesapeake and Albemarle Canal. For this purpose he left Elizabeth City, on the 23d of April, with the Whitehead, Lockwood, and Putnam, and at the mouth of the river met the Shawsheen with a schooner in tow filled with sand. The vessel was sunk near the entrance of the canal, and some fifty yards in length was filled in with trunks of trees, stumps, and brushwood. On his return he assisted Colonel Hawkins in destroying Confederate commissary stores on the Chowan, which was effected on the 7th of May.

Lieutenant William B. Cushing had been given command of the steamer Ellis and was employed in blockading New River Inlet, which he entered on the 23d of November, 1862, with the object of going to Jacksonville, destroying any salt works found, and capturing such vessels as he might find. Five miles up he sighted a vessel with a cargo of cotton and turpentine, which was on fire and abandoned by the enemy. At 1 P.M. he reached the town, thirty-five miles from the mouth of the river, where twenty-five stand of arms, a large mail, and two schooners were captured. At 2.30 P.M. the Ellis started down the river; at five an encampment was seen near the banks and thoroughly shelled. At the point where the vessel was burned as he ascended the enemy opened fire with rifles, but was soon silenced. The two pilots on board agreed that high water and daylight were essential to take the Ellis out of the inlet. She was anchored, the prizes brought alongside, and preparation made to repel attack. At daylight the Ellis was got under way, and at the worst part of the channel was opened upon by two field pieces. In an hour the enemy was driven from his guns and from the bluff, and the vessel passed within one hundred yards of it without molestation. Five hundred yards farther down the pilots mistook the channel and the Ellis got hard and fast aground; it was found, moreover, that she was in a pocket with shoaler water all around.

A party was sent on shore to carry off the abandoned artil­lery, but in the meantime the enemy had removed it. At dark one of the prize schooners was taken alongside and everything taken out of the Ellis except the pivot gun, some ammunition, two tons of coal, and a few small arms. But steam and anchor planted to haul her off were ineffective. It was quite certain that the Confederates would come in overwhelming numbers and capture the vessel; therefore Cushing called all hands to muster, and told the crew that they could go aboard the schooner. Six volunteers were asked to remain on board and fight the remaining gun.

The officer in charge of the schooner was directed to drop down the channel out of range from the bluffs and await results. At daylight the enemy opened on the Ellis from four points with rifled guns. It was a destructive cross-fire; the engine was soon disabled and the vessel much cut up; in the meantime the pivot gun was used with as much effect as pos­sible. The contest was hopeless; the Ellis was set on fire in five places, and Cushing and his six comrades took to their small boat and pulled for the schooner, at anchor a mile and a half below. On reaching the schooner sail was made and the vessel forced over the bar, although she struck sev­eral times. The magazine of the Ellis blew up soon after the schooner had crossed the bar.

At daylight on February 23d, at the western entrance to Cape Fear River, a blockade-runner was seen from the Dacotah, one of the blockading vessels. It was supposed that the blockader was aground, but when the Monticello and Dacotah went in and opened on her she moved up the river. The vessels were opened on from Fort Caswell, mor­tally wounding Master's Mate Henry Baker on board of the Monticello.

At daylight on the morning of March 14th a large Confed­erate force attacked Fort Anderson (opposite Newbern, N. C.), on the river Neuse. It was an unfinished work, garri­soned by 300 men. Its defence was aided by the gunboats Hetzel and Hunchback, and some guns on a schooner. The enemy evidently was informed as to the contents of a tele­gram, and counted upon a literal compliance with the re­quest of General Foster, made four days previously, "to send all the light gunboats to aid the expedition to Hyde County." The enemy supposed all had gone and made his first attack here.[4] He opened on the fort from a two-gun battery on the south bank, and on the Hunchback and the schooner. Those vessels commanded the point and its approach, and the Hetzel enfiladed from below. The lat­ter vessel, as well as the Shawsheen, were undergoing re­pairs and had to be towed into position.

At six o'clock the firing ceased, "when signals from the fort said that the enemy gave them thirty minutes in which to surrender." This demand was made, it was supposed, to get fourteen pieces of artillery into position. At 6.30 this battery, within two hundred and fifty yards of the fort, opened upon it again, and the two-gun battery on the oppo­site shore fired on the Hunchback and the schooner. The action was very fierce for thirty minutes, when the Hetzel in tow of a tug got into position "and threw IX-inch shells among the enemy, causing him to withdraw immediately, leaving one disabled 30-pounder Parrott gun on the field."

At 10.08 the Hunchback, which had previously grounded, was again afloat. An hour later, the revenue cutter Agassiz, the Shawsheen towed by a tug, and the Ceres were in posi­tion, but the enemy had withdrawn beyond the reach of the guns. Two light-draught gunboats followed the enemy ten miles up the river, pinking up stragglers who wished to de­sert.

Colonel Belknap, Eighty-fifth New York, wrote to the senior naval officer present as follows: "When, on the 14th of March, General Pettigrew, with eighteen pieces of artil­lery and more than 3, 000 men, made his furious assault -upon Fort Anderson, an unfinished earthwork, garrisoned by 300 men of my command, the capture or destruction of the brave little band seemed inevitable. But the gunboats under your command-the pride of loyal men and the terror of traitors -came promptly to the rescue. Your well-directed fire drove the enemy from the field, covered the landing of the Eighty-fifth New York, sent to the relief of the garrison, and the repulse of the rebel army was complete."

The Confederate forces invested Washington, N. C., on the 30th of March, and maintained the siege eighteen days, re­occupying their old works seven miles below. On March 31st they opened fire from Rodman's Point, a mile and three-quarters below, on the Commodore Hull, which had been stationed there to prevent the occupation of the point. After a spirited action of an hour and a half, the vessel grounded in an endeavor to change position, and remained so until 8 P.M., exposed to a continuous and accurate fire, cutting up but not vitally injuring her.

On the morning of the 15th Major-General Foster passed Hill's Point battery in the Escort, returning from Washington.

The next night the enemy withdrew. Few casualties re­sulted from this lengthy siege.

Lieutenant-Commanding Cushing, who lost the steamer Ellis in November, was soon after assigned to the command of the steamer Shokokon, and, ever active, made a reconnoissance of New Topsail Inlet in a boat on the 12th of August, but was driven out by four pieces of artillery. He had seen within the inlet a schooner which he determined to destroy. With this view, on the evening of the 22d, the Shokokon was anchored close to the beach, five miles south of the inlet, and two boats were sent on shore. The men shouldered the dingy (smallest boat carried by a vessel of war) and carried it through the thickets across the neck of land, half a mile .in width, which divides the sea from the sound.

The boat being launched in the inland waters, Ensign Cony “started with orders to capture or destroy anything that might be of use to the enemy."

A Confederate 12-pound howitzer was stationed near that locality, and Captain Adams, in charge, had come down to the schooner with it, having seen the smoke-stack of the Shokokon over the thicket. A lookout at the masthead of the schooner was peering toward the sea entrance, while the Shokokon's boat came in the opposite direction. The men landed within fifty yards of the vessel without being discov­ered; one of the dinghy’s crew crawled into the camp, counted the men, and returning, made his report. "A charge was ordered and our seven men bore down on the enemy with a shout." Ten prisoners were secured, among whom were Captains Adams and Latham, one 12-pounder army howitzer, eighteen horses, one schooner, and the salt works. Two men were thrown out as pickets, two detailed to guard the prison­ers, and with the aid of the other two men Ensign Cony burned the vessel and salt works.

The object of the expedition accomplished, the ensign was unable to distinguish the officers from the privates, and as his boat would only carry three additional persons, he took those who seemed most intelligent and good-look­ing, who turned out to be privates. Cushing reports, "The manner in which my orders were carried out is highly creditable to Mr. Cony, who is, I beg leave to state, a good officer, seaman, artillerist, and navigator." The schooner destroyed had cleared from New York for Port Royal, and was once towed outside the line of blockade by a gunboat.

Owing to extraordinary army operations on or near James River, and a co-operation where practicable of naval forces which were withdrawn from North Carolina, an unwonted quiet prevailed for months within the sounds and on the coasts of that State, broken only by very frequent captures of blockade-runners.

An account of a "Confederate victory" was published in the newspapers, the report of Colonel Griffin, commanding. It was as follows: "January 30, 1864, engaged the enemy with a force of 200 men and a mounted rifle piece. After a fight of two hours, in which we engaged 1,200 of the enemy and three pieces of artillery, the Yankees were driven from Windsor, N. C., to their boats. We lost six men; the loss of the enemy is not known."

In relation to this, Flusser says: "The report is false from beginning to conclusion. I planned the affair, and we would have captured the entire party had we been ten minutes earlier.

"I had 40 sailors and one 12-pounder howitzer, and there were about 350 infantry. We marched about sixteen miles. There was no fight and nothing worth reporting; the rebels ran. I fired three or four times at them at long range. We held the town of Windsor several hours, and marched back eight miles to our boats without a single shot from the enemy."

This will remind the older reader of the very many "vic­tories " of like import that came daily, and. filled the columns of the Newspapers, taxing credulity to the utmost. It is only fair to say that the Narrators were quite as frequently of the National as of the Confederate forces.

Cushing, commanding the Monticello, blockading the west­ern entrance to Cape Fear River, on the Night of the 29th of February visited Smithville with two boats manned by twenty men. His object was to capture the commanding officer, and to carry out any vessel that might be at anchor Near by. He landed directly in front of the hotel, captured some Negroes to gain information, after which, accompanied by Ensign Jones, Mate Howarth, and one seaman, proceeded to General Herbert's headquarters, across the street from the barracks, supposed to contain a thousand men. Cushing says: "The party captured the chief-engineer of these defenses, but found the general had gone to Wilmington the same day. The adjutant-general escaped from the door after severely wounding his hand; but thinking that a mutiny was in progress, took to the woods with a great scarcity of cloth­ing and Neglected to turnout the garrison." The boats were within fifty yards of the fort, and within the same distance of a sentinel. Cushing brought off his prisoner and was abreast of Fort Caswell before signal was made that boats were in the harbor.

On April 18, 1864, in command of the Miami, at Ply­mouth, N. C., Flusser reported as follows: "We have been fighting here all day. About sunset the enemy made a gen­eral advance along our whole line. They have been repulsed. . . . The ram [Albemarle] will be down to-night or to­morrow. I fear for the protection of the town.. I shall have to abandon my plan of fighting the ram, lashed to the Southfield. The army ought to be reinforced at once. I think I have force enough to whip the ram, but not suffi­cient to assist in holding the town as I should like. . . . If we whip the ram the [Confederate] land force may retire."

Flusser died bravely in action, fighting his formidable an­tagonist, at 4 A.M. the day following.

On the morning of the 18th, between three and five, the enemy tried to carry Fort Gary by storm, but were re­pulsed. In the afternoon heavy artillery opened fire upon the town and breastworks. Then the fight became general. Up to this time the gunboats Southfield and Miami were chained together in preparation to encounter the ram. They were then separated. The Southfield, moving up the river, opened fire over the town. The Miami, moving down the river, opened a cross-fire upon the enemy, who were charging upon Fort Williams. The firing being very exact caused the enemy to fall back. After three attempts to storm the fort, at nine o'clock the firing ceased from the enemy, they having withdrawn from range.[5]

General Wessels, who commanded the troops, said of this naval co-operation: "The fire from the naval vessels was very satisfactory and effective-so much so that the advancing columns of the enemy broke and retreated." He desired that the Miami might be kept below the town to prevent a flank movement by the enemy. At 10.30 P.M. the Southfield came down and anchored near. At 12.20 A.M. April 19th the Southfield came alongside to rechain the two steamers, as speedily as possible, the ram having been seen by Cap­tain Barrett, of the Whitehead, and reported by him as coming down the river. At 3.45 the gunboat Ceres came down, passing near, stating that the ram was close upon her.

Commander Flusser was informed of this fact, immediately came on deck, and ordered both vessels (which were lashed together) to steam as fast as possible to run the ram down. The order was instantly obeyed; the chain was slipped, and "bells rung to go ahead fast." The vessels were moving up the river to meet the ram, and it was making for the vessels.

Within two minutes the ram struck the Miami on the port. bow without serious injury. At the same time the Southfield was pierced nearly to her boilers and sank rapidly. As soon as the batteries of the two vessels could be brought to bear on the ram, they opened on her with 100-pounder rifles and IX-inch guns. The guns had been loaded with shells. "Flusser fired the first shots personally from the Miami, the third being a 10-second Dahlgren shell. It was directly after that fire that he was killed by pieces of shell." 1

Several of the guns' crews were wounded at the same time; the bow-hawser had parted, and the Miami swung around to starboard. The after-hawser was then either cut or parted, and the Southfield sank directly, while the engines of the Miami had to be reversed to keep her off the bank. The ram again made for the Miami, and the officer then in command, says in his report: "From the fatal effects of her prow upon the Southfield, and of our sustaining injury, I deemed it useless to sacrifice the Miami in the same way." Certainly he was not wrong in keeping out of the way of the ram, at least until he determined how to attack her effect­ively. When running into the two vessels the ram had made use of small arms, but not her heavy guns. It was only after the Miami moved off that two shells were fired at her.

The writer is at a loss to understand the rationale of lash­ing two vessels together, and then running bows on to a vessel of such construction as the Albemarle, by which name she will be called hereafter. Had Flusser reserved his at­tack until daylight the result might have been different.

In reporting the death of Commander Flusser, Admiral Lee says: "This brave officer was a native of Maryland and a citizen of Kentucky. His patriotic and distinguished ser­vices had won for him the respect and esteem of the navy and the country. He was generous, good, and gallant, and his untimely death is a real and great loss to the public ser­vice." In appearance, so fine a specimen of physical, intelli­gent manhood is rarely seen; he had too all the requisite qualities to have made him distinguished as an officer.

'The Ceres, on picket duty above the town, on the 17th had been fired on by the field batteries of the enemy, by which 2 men were killed and 4 officers wounded.

The army force under General Wessels had no longer the support of the vessels, and overwhelmed by numbers surren­dered on the 20th, the Albemarle thereafter occupying the river until her destruction the October following.

On the 21st of April, Rear-Admiral Lee sent instructions to Commander Davenport as to a plan of attack on the ram. He expresses the opinion that the Albemarle must be weak, and quite slow. "The great point is to get and hold position on each side of the ram. Have stout lines with small heav­ing lines thereto, to throw across the ends of the ram, and so secure her between two of our vessels. Her plating will loosen and bolts fly like canister, and the concussion will knock down and demoralize her crew if they keep their ports down, as in the late attack."

After the Albemarle had come down an inquiry was made as to why she had not been destroyed when under construc­tion at Edwards Ferry, forty miles above Rainbow Bluffs on the Roanoke River.

On the 8th of the preceding June Lieutenant-Commander Flusser had sent a sketch of her cross-section. He stated further that "she was built on the plan of the Merrimac." On the 8th of the following August Admiral Lee reported to the Department that the ironclad building at Edwards Ferry was considered by Flusser "as a formidable affair, though of light draught." The information elicited was to the effect that the depth of water would not permit the gun­boats to ascend to Edwards Ferry in shoal and narrow chan­nels, in the face of several formidable batteries, and the army did not attach enough importance to her construction to send a sufficient force to destroy her.

The Navy Department ordered Captain Melancton Smith, an officer of ability and experience, to the sounds of North Carolina to destroy the "ram" at all hazards, if possible.

Admiral Lee, in an official letter to Captain Smith, alludes to his former instructions and adds: "Entrusted by the De­partment with the performance of this signal service, I leave (with the expression of my views) to you the manner of executing it" (the destruction of the ram).

Some of the vessels assigned were still without the sounds, but the full moon gave promise of high tides, and we soon find them ready for operating.

Captain Melancton Smith hoisted his' flag on board of the “double-ender" Mattabesett, Commander Febiger, and on the 2d of May had arranged his order of battle: "The steamers will advance in the third order of steaming, the Miami leading the second line of steamers. The Mattabesett, Sassacus, Wyalusing, and Whitehead formed the right column, and the Miami, Ceres, Commodore Hull, and Seymour the left.

“The proposed plan of attack will be for the large vessels to pass as close as possible to the ram, without endangering their wheels, delivering their fire and rounding to immedi­ately for a second discharge.

"The steamer Miami will attack the ram and endeavor to explode her torpedo at any moment she may have the ad­vantage, or a favorable opportunity. Ramming may be re­sorted to, but the peculiar construction of the sterns of the double-enders will render this a matter of serious considera­tion with their commanders, who may be at liberty to use their judgment as to the propriety of this course when a chance shall present itself."

On May 5th at 1 P.M. the Miami, Commodore Hull, Ceres, and army transport Trumpeter left their picket station off Edenton Bay for the mouth of Roanoke River to lay several torpedoes within it.

When near the buoy at the mouth of the river, the Albe­marle was seen coming out with the Cotton Plant, having troops on board, and towing a number of launches or scows, and the Bombshell, as afterward known, laden with provis­ions and coal, and having on board thirty-three persons in­cluding the crew; the Bombshell had received injuries from shells above Plymouth on the 18th, and reaching that place had sunk. After the enemy took the town on the 20th she was raised and put into service by the Confederates.

The report of the senior officer on picket duty, who commanded the Miami, states that he dispatched the Trumpeter in haste to inform the squadron of the approach of the Albemarle. No mention is made of that vessel by Captain Smith, or in the several reports of the different com­manding officers. The Miami, Hull, and Ceres followed the Trumpeter and kept out of the range of the guns of the Albemarle.

It appears that as soon as the commanding officer of the Al­bemarle became aware of the force with which he had to con­tend, he dispatched the Cotton Plant to a place of refuge, with her scows in tow, and made a face of advance for a time with the Bombshell. At 3.10 the squadron was fairly under way, and in position in two columns, line ahead, or the column of small vessels was soon after completed, as the squadron advanced to meet the Albemarle. At 4.20 the Miami, then heading the line of the port (left) col­umn, advancing, made signal "Enemy is retreating." No other report mentions the fact that the Albemarle was in retreat when the vessels were advancing to make the attack.

The attacking vessels by their superior speed were coming up with the Albemarle. At 4.40 that vessel opened fire on the Mattabesett, leading the right column. The shell wounded several of a gun's crew and destroyed the launch. This was soon followed by another, doing less damage. The Albemarle had the general construction described in the ram Atlanta, and was armed with two 100-pounder rifles, one a Brooke, the other a Whitworth. These guns could pivot on either side, or ahead and astern.

The Mattabesett and vessels in line continued their ad­vance; the Albemarle then put her helm aport, "with an evi­dent intention to ram the Mattabesett;” that vessel put her helm astarboard to avoid being run into, and that threw the antagonists farther apart than intended by the last named. At 4.45, when a little abaft the port beam of the Albemarle, the Mattabesett delivered her broadside of two rifled guns and four IX-inch guns at a distance of one hundred and fifty yards from the Albemarle. At about the same time the Sassacus had sheered to starboard, and when nearly abeam delivered her port broadside into the Albemarle, and keep­ing her helm hard aport to avoid being rammed, described a circle, and passing the stern of the Albemarle, was again in line following the Mattabesett. That vessel passing ahead, had fired her forward rifle and howitzers into the Bomb­shell, when she surrendered, and was ordered to follow in the wake; the Sassacus coming up, fired a broadside into the Bombshell also, in the belief that she had not surren­dered, and when informed of the fact, directed her to pass astern and anchor; the Wyalusing then coming up, was on the point of running her down, not knowing that she had surrendered (as was afterward seen), and backed barely in time to prevent injury. The Mattabesett, followed by the Sassacus and the Wyalusing, passed ahead of the Albemarle, delivering their fire as they could, and found themselves in the line of fire of the left column and of the Whitehead; that vessel, owing to inferior speed, had reached the Al­bemarle when the Bombshell had fallen back to anchor as ordered.

Here the three forward vessels of the right line reversed their engines to keep out of the fire of the other vessels, and as the Albemarle drew ahead the Mattabesett was on her starboard quarter, the Sassacus on her beam, and the Wyalusing on her bow. The Sassacus pointed fair, and at a dis­tance of from two to three hundred yards, with open throttles, thirty pounds steam pressure, and making twenty-­two revolutions when striking, ran head on to the Albemarle, striking her nearly at right angles, just abaft the casemate on the starboard side, at a speed estimated by her commanding officer of ten knots, and by Captain Smith on board of the Mattabesett at half that velocity. On being struck, the Al­bemarle heeled considerably, the water washing over the deck on the starboard side abaft the casemate. The Sassacus steamed heavily, in the hope of forcing the vessel under. As the Sassacus came in contact, the Albemarle fired a rifle shell, which passed through both sides near the bow of the Sassacus. While in that position three solid shot from a 100-pounder rifle were fired into the Albemarle and were shattered, coming back in fragments on the deck of the Sassacus. At the moment of the third discharge the vessel had swung so as to permit the after gun of the Albe­marle to bear from a broadside port, and a shell was sent into the Sassacus which passed longitudinally through her starboard boiler. The vessel was then filled with steam and dropped astern. The report of her commanding officer says: "In the meantime the engine was going, as no one could do anything below; some sixteen men being scalded. I then put the helm hard aport, headed up the sound, and around to the land, in order to clear the field for the other boats." After the explosion of the boiler the signal-books were thrown overboard, but no reason is given therefore. While dropping out of action the guns continued to play on the Albemarle.

The flag of the Albemarle was shot away about the time the Sassacus was disabled, and it was not hoisted again dur­ing the action. As her firing was interrupted from some cause it was thought she had surrendered, and until she re­sumed the use of her guns she was spared the fire from her adversaries.

The attacking force at that time (5.15 P.m.) was in great confusion; the vessels so surrounded the Albemarle as in a great degree to prevent any effective fire against her. "Our attention was turned to getting them [the vessels] into line. At 5.20 signal was made to the Miami to pass within hail, and when she did so she was ordered to "go ahead and try her torpedo."[6] At 5.30 signal was made to "keep in line," and fifteen minutes later it was repeated. At 5.55 signal was made to the Wyalusing to "cease firing," that vessel being still on the starboard bow of the Albemarle. At that time " the remainder of the vessels (with the exception of the Sassacus) were taking position on the port quarter of the enemy." At 6.05 signal for "close order" was made, and again at 6.45 "signal to the Wyalusing to cease firing, she at the time coming round to take position. Soon after, hailing her with an order to go ahead of the line and pass close to the Albemarle, in reply she reported herself sinking, and at 6.55 made signal ‘sinking,' but still going ahead, finally took position."[7]

Finding that the line was gradually edging off, the Mattabesett steamed ahead inside, delivering her fire as rapidly as possible when on the quarter and abeam of the enemy, and after passing ahead attempted to lay a seine in the course of the Albemarle for the purpose of fouling her propeller, but it was torn and lost before getting into the desired position. The Mattabesett was then rounded to port, and the port battery used; when nearly abeam of the Albemarle a VI-inch rifle-shot from that vessel fatally wounded two men and did considerable damage to the vessel. At 7.30, growing quite dark, signal was made to cease firing, and to anchor, with the exception of the Commodore Hull and the Ceres, those vessels being directed to follow and watch the movements of the enemy.

The commanding officer of the Whitehead states: "The rebel steamer Cotton Plant, with a number of launches in tow, having succeeded in making her escape, my attention was directed to the ram, upon which I opened fire with the 100-pounder rifle, using solid shot, first at a distance of one thousand, but soon lessened it to four hundred yards." No other mention is made of the Cotton Plant having launches in tow, or of that vessel, except by the Miami, when on picket duty, that the Cotton Plant came out.

Josselyn, commanding the Hull, reported his part in the engagement, and states that the Hull crossed the bows of the Albemarle and "paid out a large seine for the purpose of fouling her propeller, but though encompassing the ram, it did not have the desired effect."

The batteries, expenditures of ammunition, and casualties of the different vessels engaged will be found in the Ap­pendix.

No accounts whatever are found among the Confederate archives in Washington of this engagement, of injuries sus­tained, or of the purposes for which the Albemarle and her two consorts went out. Captain Smith reports the appear­ance of the vessel again on the 24th of May, near the mouth of the Roanoke River, with a row-boat dragging for torpe­does. The Whitehead fired a shell which fell near, and the Albemarle steamed up the river. Refugees and others from Plymouth stated that the plating of the Albemarle had been much injured, four of the shot had penetrated the armor, and during the engagement the concussion was so great as to put out lights burning in the casemate. One of the two guns with which the vessel was armed was rendered useless by the muzzle being broken off.

On the night of May 7, 1864, an armor-plated vessel, known as the ram North Carolina, came out of New Inlet at the mouth of Wilmington River, and exchanged shots with the steamers Mount Vernon, Kansas, Howqua, Nansemond, and Britannia. She did no serious damage to any of the vessels, but put a rifled shell of large size through the smokestack of the Howqua at an estimated distance of a mile and a half. She never made her appearance again; her consort, the Raleigh, was found, later on, "wrecked " below Wil­mington, from what cause is unknown.

In June Lieutenant William B. Cushing had received per­mission to attempt the destruction of the Raleigh in Wil­mington River. He was then in command of the Monticello, aiding in the blockade. He thought it prudent to make a thorough reconnoissance to determine the position of the Raleigh.

On the night of the 23d he left his command in a ship's boat, taking with him Ensign Jones, Master's Mate Howarth, and 15 men, crossed the west bar, passed the forts, then the town and batteries of Smithville, and pulled swiftly up the river undiscovered. He was within the river some two days, visited the wreck of the Raleigh, and coming out effected his escape with his usual gallantry and cleverness.

As auxiliary again to proposed army operations, Com­mander Macomb, on July 28th, accompanied the army trans­ports Collyer and Massasoit up the Chowan. The objects of the expedition were attained, and at Gatesville the Confed­erate steamer Arrow was captured.

On October 30th, Lieutenant Cushing wrote as follows "I have the honor to report that the rebel ironclad Albe­marle is at the bottom of Roanoke River." The means by which this was accomplished were a steam launch and a tor­pedo on the end of a pole, fastened to the bow. On the night of the 27th, he proceeded up the Roanoke River toward Plymouth, where the ram was made fast to a wharf, and for her protection against torpedoes " booms" were secured twenty or thirty feet from her broadside. The news­papers had gratuitously furnished the enemy with informa­tion for weeks before of the daily progress of Cushing with his launch, from New York to the sounds, as well as the avowed object of destroying the Albemarle. The reader may well imagine the increased difficulty of effecting the object.

The party consisted of 15 officers and men in the launch, and 2 officers and 11 men in the cutter which was in tow. The distance from the mouth of the river to the object of attack was eight miles, the average width of river two hundred yards, and shores picketed. In case of being hailed in pass­ing the Southfield, a mile below the Albemarle, on which a gun was supposed to be mounted, to command the bend, the cutter was to cast off and attack the men on the sunken steamer.

The launch and cutter passed along within twenty yards of the Southfield without discovery, indeed, until hailed by the lookouts on the ram. "The cutter was then cast off and ordered below, while the launch made for the enemy under a full head of steam. The enemy sprung rattles, rang the bell, and commenced firing, and at the same time repeating their hail; the light of a fire ashore showed me the ironclad, made fast to the wharf, with a pen of logs around her about thirty feet from her side." Passing close to the Albemarle in order to ensure coming squarely on the logs to press them in, the launch performed nearly a circle, running at first directly from her intended prey. " By this time the enemy's fire was very severe, but a dose of canister, at short range, served to moderate their zeal and disturb their aim." At this time coming head on to the Albemarle, Paymaster Swan, by Cushing's side, was wounded, "but," he says, "how many more I know not. Three bullets struck my clothing, and the air seemed full of them. In a moment we had struck the logs just abreast of the quarter port, breasting them in some feet, and our bows resting on them. The torpedo boom was then lowered, and by a vigorous pull I succeeded in driving the torpedo under the overhang, and exploded it at the same time that the Albemarle's gun was fired. A shot seemed to go crashing through my boat, and a dense mass of water rushed in from the torpedo, filling the launch and completely disabling her."

The enemy within a few yards continued their fire at the men and demanded their surrender. Cushing ordered them to "save themselves," divested himself of shoes and coat and swam with others into the middle of the stream. "Mas­ter's Mate Woodman I met in the water half a mile below the town, and assisted him as best I could, but failed to get him ashore."[8]

Cushing reached the shore " completely exhausted, too weak to crawl out of the water until just at daylight," when he went into the swamp near the fort for the night and a part of the following day. Exhausted as he was, he walked miles through swamps, and at length found a boat in which, by eleven o'clock the next night, he found his way to the Valley City. He says: "Master's Mate Howarth showed as usual conspicuous gallantry," and he expresses the hope that Howarth and Engineer Stolesbury will be promoted when exchanged.

A more heroic picture can hardly be conceived than Cushing, standing in the bows of his launch, running head on to the Albemarle, the glare of the fire on shore throwing its lights and shadows on the doomed ram, and illuminating the man, who pushed on, placed the torpedo by his own hand where he desired, exploded it, and received at the same time, at the cannon's mouth, the blast of a 100-pounder rifle. He was at that time twenty-one years of age.

The reader may be interested in the personal appearance of Cushing. He was perhaps six feet in height, and slender, resembling greatly an engraving of the poet Schiller when he was young. The attentive reader will not fail to see in his dispatches a poetic vein, at times of great humor. He will see, too, that within his sphere of action he was a man of consummate plan and courage.

The cutter that was in tow and cast off when the launch was hailed, proceeded to the wreck of the Southfield and secured four prisoners. No gun was mounted as supposed.

On the 8th of December, 1864, the army asked a co-opera­tive movement on the part of the navy for the purpose of reducing Confederate batteries at Rainbow Bluffs, on the Roanoke River, some sixty miles above Plymouth. As agreed upon, Commander Macomb left Plymouth in the Wyalusing, followed by the Otsego, Valley City, tugs Belle and Bazley, and picket boat No. 5. At 10 P.M. the force had arrived at a sharp bend just below Jameston, at which point they were to meet an army force. The vessels were about anchoring when the Otsego exploded a submerged torpedo under her port side forward, and almost immediately another under the forward pivot gun, which was thrown over. The vessel settled on the bottom at once, making a depth of three feet of water over the spar-deck. In a torpedo net which the vessel carried as a protection were found two others. The following morning the tug Bazley, in making preliminary preparations to execute orders, was also blown up in the same manner, and sank at once, two men having been killed by the, explosion.

The 10th and 11th were spent in dragging for torpedoes, and six were found. No army force appeared. Commander Macomb asked instructions of the admiral as to further ac­tion, and as then the preparations for an attack on Fort Fisher was the engrossing object, nothing further is to be found in the published official papers of this “co-operative movement."

For a long period the only ports or inlets that remained to the Confederates admitting a vessel 'of twelve feet draught were Charleston and Wilmington; the latter, however, had two entrances far apart, which made practically a double blockading force necessary. It was of the greatest import­ance to prevent the arrival of supplies, and however many blockade-runners were destroyed, it was not to be denied that many vessels a rived at and departed from those ports, and would continue to do so until the National forces act­ually held the entrances.

The usual blockade force off Charleston numbered twenty vessels. Preceding the bombardments of Fort Fisher, thirty to forty vessels blockaded the two entrances to Wilmington, yet, with the utmost vigilance on their part, a great number of vessels got in and out. Hence the great anxiety of the Navy Department to gain possession of the entrances to those harbors. An official letter to Rear-Admiral Farragut, dated September 5, 1864, appointing him to the command of a naval force designed to attack the defenses of Cape Fear River, states that since the winter of 1862 the Navy Depart­ment had endeavored " to get the consent of the War De­partment to a joint attack upon the defenses of Cape Fear River, but they had decided that no troops could be spared for the operation. Lieutenant-General Grant had, however, recently given the subject his attention, and thought an army force would be ready to co-operate on the 1st of October."

For strategic purposes the force was to assemble at Port Royal, and in addition to the force to assemble through the direct order of the Department, the admiral was authorized to bring with him all such vessels and officers as could be spared from the West Gulf Squadron without impairing its necessary efficiency.

The condition of the health of Admiral Farragut did not permit his acceptance of the command, and on the 22d of the same month Rear-Admiral D. D. Porter was detached from the command of the Mississippi Squadron, and directed to proceed to Beaufort, N. C., and relieve Acting Rear-Admi­ral S. P. Lee in command of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron.

On the 28th of October the Secretary of the Navy sent to President Lincoln a memorandum of the following import The President was aware that because of the shoal water at the mouth of Cape Fear River, a purely naval attack could not be made against Wilmington. Two months prior, an attack had been arranged to be made on October 1st, post­poned to the 15th; the naval force was ready, and at the time of writing, "one hundred and fifty vessels of war now form the North Atlantic Squadron. . . . The detention of so many vessels from blockade and cruising duty is a most serious injury to the public service; and if the expedi­tion cannot go forward for want of troops, I desire to be notified, so that the ships may be relieved and dispersed for other service."

The tone of the above indicates potential influences, either to further delay the expedition or cause its abandonment. The vessels, for the most part of the largest size and heavi­est batteries, were yet north of Cape Hatteras; those that could enter Beaufort Harbor were there, and the smaller ones actually in face of the entrances, blockading. They all, however, found their way to the outer anchorage off Beaufort, and there remained awaiting a detachment of troops to co-operate in the taking of Fort Fisher.

In composition the force was as extraordinary as was ever assembled. The Ironsides, a fair specimen of an early iron­clad ship, a double-turreted monitor, and three monitors of single turrets, old steam frigates, "double-enders," merchant­ships converted into vessels of war, and vessels of war proper, but the force was not embarrassed by a sailing vessel.

On the 10th of December Rear-Admiral Porter issued a General Order "with chart plan of the proposed attack on the batteries at New Inlet." He says: "It is first proposed to endeavor to paralyze the garrison by an explosion, all the vessels remaining twelve miles out from the bar, and the troops in transports twelve miles down the coast, ready to steam up and be prepared to take the works by assault in case the latter are disabled. At a given signal all the bar vessels will run off shore twelve miles, when the vessel with powder will go in under the forts. When the. explosion takes place all the vessels will stand in shore in the order marked on the plan."

The New Ironsides was to bring the flag-staff on Fort Fisher southwest by west half west, and anchor in three and a half fathoms of water, and open fire without delay; the monitors to anchor astern one length apart, directly in line along the shore.

"The large ships to anchor in five fathoms of water, in line of battle to the eastward of the ironclads, and heading parallel with the land (south half west). The Minnesota, leading this line, on signal to take position will go ahead slowly and anchor about one mile from Fort Fisher, open­ing fire when she passes the Ironsides, and anchoring when her after guns firing on Fisher will clear the range of the Ironsides; the Mohican, next in line, will then anchor ahead of the Minnesota, Colorado next ahead of her, and all of the line thus when anchored in reverse of order of sailing."

"The Seneca, Shenandoah, and six other vessels will take their positions between and outside the different vessels as marked on the plan.

“After the vessels above designated have got into posi­tion, the Nyack, Unadilla, Huron, and Pequot will take up position outside and between the monitors, keeping up a rapid fire when the monitors are loading.

“The following vessels will then take their positions as marked on the plan: Fort Jackson, Santiago de Cuba, Tacony, Osceola, Chippewa, Sassacus, Maratanza, Rhode Island, Monticello, Mount Vernon, Montgomery, Cuyler, Quaker City, and Tosco, anchoring in reverse as before.

"It is not desirable that the vessels should be seen by the enemy prior to the time of attack. A rendezvous, twenty-­five miles east of New Inlet, is given. Commanders of di­visions will get their divisions in line and keep them so. When signal is made to form line of battle, every vessel will take her position, the first division forming first.

“As low steam will suffice in going into action, those ves­sels that can move and work handily with half-boiler power will do so, having full boilers without steam next the enemy. Slow deliberate firing will be made."

In accordance with this programme, the Louisiana, an old vessel designed for “a torpedo on a large scale," was towed from Norfolk by the Sassacus to a remote part of Beaufort Harbor, there anchored and filled with powder, with care­fully studied arrangements for firing many centers at the same moment. The vessel was disguised as a blockade-run­ner, and her preparation for service was assigned to Commander Rhind, aided by Lieutenant Preston, Second Assistant-Engineer Mullan, and Master's Mate Boyden, with seven men.

[1] The reader will find the armaments of these vessels in the Appendix, and has doubtless already perceived that they are generally the same vessels that five weeks earlier had acted so effectively in the capture of Roanoke Island.

[2] Rowan’s Report.

[3] Rowans Report.

[4] Murray's Report.

[5] Report of Wells, commanding the Miami.

[6] Febiger’s report.

[7] Report of commander of the Mattabesett.

[8] The quotation marks are in Cushing’s words.

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