Fort Fisher

Fort Fisher
Fort Fisher, NE Bastion. Frank Vizetelly (National Geographic)

Saturday, May 30, 2015

No More East Gulf Blockading Squadron or South Atlantic Blockading Squadrons: Reduction in Ships As Well

MAY 31ST, 1865:  Assistant Secretary Fox ordered a reduction in the East Gulf Blockading Squadron to ten steamers and four tug boats.  The same order redesignated the squadron's name to East Gulf Squadron.

The South Atlantic Blockading Squadron was reduced to 15 steamers and 6 tug boats and redesignated the South Atlantic Squadron.

The West Gulf squadron was reduced to 15 steamers, one monitor, one river ironclad and 6 tugs.

After All, No More Blockading to Be Dome or Confederate Ships to Worry About (Well, Other Than the CSS Shenandoah).  --Old B-Runner

Friday, May 29, 2015

Confederate Cruisers Destroyed U.S. Merchant Marine

MAY 29TH, 1865:  Charles Francis Adams, American Minister to Great Britain, claimed that the cruiser policy England had encouraged during the war had destroyed the United States' thriving merchant marine.

In a letter to the British Foreign Minister, Adams held English policy directly responsible for the 110,000 tons of American shipping burned or sunk then went on to broaden the indictment by adding that "the action of these British built, manned and armed vessels has had the indirect effect of driving from the sea a large portion of the commercial marine of the United States."

Although the American flag disappeared from the sea the merchant ships that had flown it (other than the ones destroyed) did not. More than 800,000 tons of American owned shipping was either transferred to foreign registry or sold to foreign shipowners in order to gain shelter of a neutral flag.

Prior to the Civil War, the United States had become the world's leading maritime carrier by both tonnage of bottoms and value of cargo.  The Civil War cost the nation this number one position.

For Britain, this was a win-win situation.  After all, they supported the Confederacy for the most part.  Then to sweep the U.S. flag from the seas, that was just gravy.  And, then who would become the #1 merchant fleet?

Sounds Like An idea.  --Old B-Runner

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Twice Unlucky Master Captured By CSS Shenandoah

MAY 27TH, 1865:  The CSS Shenandoah captured whaling bark Abigail near Shantarski Island in the northern reaches of the Sea of Okhotsk.

The Abigail's master, Ebenezer Nye, had been captured earlier in the war by the CSS Alabama.  One of his mates turned to him and said:  "You are more fortunate in picking up Confederate cruisers than whales.  I will never again go with you for id there is a cruiser out, you will find her."

The following day, after taking on a stove from the Abigail to warm Waddell's cabin, a large quantity of liquor on board the ship to warm the men, and winter clothing essential to continued operations in northern waters, the whaler was burned.

Wassell then proceeded southward along the Siberian coast and Sakhalin.

Not Again!!  Poor Old Nye.  --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Surrender of the CSS Spray

MAY 27TH, 1865:  Rear Admiral Stribling, commanding the East Gulf Squadron, reported to Secretary Welles the surrender of the CSS Spray.  The Confederate gunboat had been stationed in the St. Marks River guarding the water approaches to Tallahassee, Florida.

The Spray's commander, Lt. Henry H. Lewis surrendered the vessel upon learning that Confederate troops at Tallahassee had surrendered.

--Old B-Runner

Delivery of Confederate Torpedoes to USNA

MAY 27TH, 1865:  The USS Pontiac, Lt.Cmdr. Luce, delivered several relics of Confederate warfare to the United States Naval Academy.  These were sent from Charleston by Rear Admiral Dahlgren and included a torpedo boat similar to the one "that exploded a torpedo under the Ironsides on the night of October 10, 1863, and afterwards menaced our vessels constantly."

He also sent two torpedoes similar to those which had sunk the USS Patapsco and Harvest Moon.  he credited Confederate torpedo warfare as "most troublesome" to Union naval forces.  Secretary Welles reported that "torpedoes have been more destructive of our naval vessels than all other means combined."

Those Mean Old Torps.  --Old B-R'er

The CSS Stonewall Not So Powerful As Thought

MAY 27TH, 1865:  Reporting to secretary Welles that he had visited the CSS Stonewall in Havana, Rear Admiral Stribling wrote:  "I .... do not consider her so formidable a vessel as had been represented.  In a seaway she would be powerless, and unless her speed was greater than that of her opponent her ram could do no harm."

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Surrender of Sabine Pass, Texas and Arrival of Ram Columbia

MAY 25TH, 1865:  Rear Admiral Thatcher reported that this date the defensive works at Sabine Pass, Texas, were evacuated and that the United Sates flag was hoisted at Forts Manahasset and Griffin.  The flags were raised by men from the USS Owasco.

MAY 25TH, 1865:  The USS Vanderbilt arrived at Hampton Roads with the captured Confederate ram Columbia in tow.  She was one of the largest ironclads built by the Confederacy but had never seen service as she grounded when be outfitted at Charleston on 12 January.

The Columbia was captured when Charleston capitulated and was subsequently salvaged February 17-18.

--Old B-Runner

Matthew Maury Goes to Mexico-- Part 2

He wrote:  "In peace as in war I follow the fortunes of my native old state [Virginia].  I read in public prints that she has practically confessed defeat and laid down her arms.  In that act mine were grounded also.  I am here without a command, officially alone, and am bound on matters of private concern abroad.

"Nevertheless, and as I consider further resistance worse than useless, I deem it proper formally so to confess, and to pledge you in the words of honor that, should I find myself before the final inauguration of peace within the jurisdiction of the United States, to consider myself a prisoner of war, bound by the terms and conditions which have been or may be granted to general Lee and his officers.

"Be pleased to send your answer through my son [Colonel R.L. Maury], a prisoner of war on parole in Richmond.  In the meantime, and until I hear to the contrary, I shall act as though my surrender had been formally accepted on the above named terms and conditions."

Covering His Bases.  --Old B-R'er

Matthew Maury Goes to Mexico-- Part 1

MAY 25TH, 1865:  Because of his activities as a Confederate agent abroad and his torpedo activities, that many then considered dastardly, Commander Matthew F. Maury decided that he probably would not be granted amnesty.  Before the war, when he headed the Naval Observatory and was world famous for his pathfinding in oceanography, he had corresponded with many leaders from Europe, including Heads of State.

One of these was Maximilian of Austria.  While in England, he had renewed his correspondence and had dabbled in political intrigue with Emperor Napoleon and Maximilian before the latter proceeded in 1864 on his ill-fated venture as Emperor of Mexico.

Once his ship, the Atrato arrived in Havana, he continued on to Mexico on May 24th.   On this date he drafted a note to the United States Consul at Vera Cruz, Mexico,, enclosing a letter addressed "To the officer in command of the U.S. Naval forces in the Gulf of Mexico".

The Letter Next.  --Old B-Runner

Monday, May 25, 2015

Ordnance Explosion in Mobile

MAY 25TH, 1865:  An ordnance explosion and the resulting fire caused extensive damage in Mobile.  The explosion originated in Marshall's warehouse, which contained surrendered Confederate ammunition.  Rear Admiral Thatcher noted that although the explosion occurred three quarters of a mile from his flagship, fragments of shell fell on it.

Commander Edward Simpson was immediately dispatched with a number of sailors to render all possible aid.  He reported: "I visited the scene of the fire, and with a large force of sailors was enabled to do some service, the presence of the sailors in the neighborhood of the exploding shells tended much to restore a partial feeling of confidence to the firemen and others."

He called particular attention to the bravery of Quartermaster John Cooper who "at the risk of being blown to pieces by exploding shells" entered the fire and carried and carried a wounded man to safety on his back.  For this heroic deed, Cooper was awarded the Medal of Honor for a second time -- his first award was for courageous devotion to duty on board the USS Brooklyn at Mobile Bay in 1864.

The tug USS Cowslip towed three vessels to safety.

--Old B-Runner

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Farragut's Denbigh Finally Destroyed-- Part 2

William Watson, a Confederate blockade runner who shipped on the Rob Roy and other elusive runners, later wrote of the Denbigh:  "I may safely say that one of the most successful, and certainly one of the most profitable, steamers that sailed out of Havana to the Confederate States was a somewhat old, and by no means a fast, steamer, named the Denbigh.

"This vessel ran for a considerable time between Havana and Mobile, but when the latter port was captured by the Federals, she ran to Galveston, to and from which port she made such regular trips that she was called the packet.   She was small in size, and not high above water, and painted in such a way as not to be readily seen at a distance.

"She was light on coal, made but little smoke, and depended more upon strategy than speed. She carried large cargoes of cotton, and it was generally allowed that the little Denbigh was a more profitable boat than any of the larger and swifter crafts."

Nevertheless, in the end she met the same fate as hundreds of her sister runners.

In Short, the Perfect Blockade-Runner.  just Ask David G..  --  Old B-R'er

Farragut's Old Nemesis, the Blockade-Runner Denbigh Is Finally Destroyed-- Oart 1

MAY 24TH, 1865:  The blockade-runner Denbigh, once described by Admiral farragut as "too quick for us", was found aground at daylight at Bird Key Spit, near Galveston.  She had attempted to run into the Texas port once again under cover of darkness.

She was destroyed during the day by gunfire from the USS Cornubia and Princess Royal, and later boarding parties from the USS Kennebec and Seminole set her aflame.

Prior to the capture of Mobile Bay, the Denbigh had plagued Farragut by running regularly from Mobile to Havana. He narrowly missed capturing it on 7 June 1864, and Farragut expressed his feelings in a letter to Rear Admiral Theodorus Bailey:  "We nearly had the Denbigh; she has not  moved from the fort [Morgan] yet, so she must have been hit by some of the shots fired at her, but he is a bold rascal, and well he may be, for if I get him he will see the rest of his days of the war in the Tortugas,"  The Tortugas was a prison.

What a Spoilsport.  --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

In Search of This "Local Character"-- Part 5: Found Huck-A-Poos!!

As we were leaving Tybee Island, we kept our eyes open for Huck-A-Poos.  Huck-A-Poos is where John Potter used to hang out for many years.  This is the guy who created the CSS Georgia photograph hoax and a man described as a local character.

After all, there is only one place to go into or off Tybee Island, and that is US-80.  We have to pass the place at some point.  You'd think so, anyway.

Traffic was light at first, but then started getting heavier as we got close to the end of the island.  We were going slow enough that Liz was able to see a small Huck-A-Poos sign among some trees.  Well, we've come this far so might as well check it out.  I turned around and we drove into a grove of trees with several small business and then saw Huck-A-Poos.

It took awhile, but we found a parking space and walked in.  They have an outside eating area under huge tarps and we could tell right away, we had found a dive bar.  Once inside the small bar, the walls were extremely cluttered, a good sign that you are in a dive bar.  And everything was jumbled together.  No planning here, just put it up as you get it.  No planning ahead.

Found John's Hangout.  --Old B-Runner

Capture and Destruction of CSS Le Compt

MAY 24TH, 1865:  The USS Cornubia captured and destroyed the CSS Le Compt off Galveston.  The Confederate schooner which had been used as a port guard ship, was abandoned by her crew as the Cornubia approached her.

The Le Compt drifted ashore, bilged, and he next day was reported "a total wreck."

--Old B-R'er

Blockade Runner Attempts Savannah?

MAY 23RD, 1865:  The USS Azalea seized the British brig Sarah M. Newhall attempting to put into Savannah with a cargo of West Indies produce.  She had cleared from Inagua, Bahamas, ostensibly for New York.

This didn't make sense as Savannah had essentially been closed to blockade running since the fall of Fort Pulaski in 1862.  Perhaps the captain of the Newhall thought there would no longer be Unions ships here.

Who Knows?  --Old B-Runner