Fort Fisher

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

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Action On James River

SEPTEMBER 29- OCTOBER 1:  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 Confederates were unable to retake Fort Harrison, with the aid of heavy fire from Mitchell's ships, they did prevent Union soldiers from capturing Chaffin's Bluff.

--Old B-R'er

Blockade-Runner Night Hawk Destroyed Off Fort Fisher

DECEMBER 29-30, 1864:  The USS Niphon forced blockade-running British steamer 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 fire from Fort Fisher, set her ablaze and brought off her crew as prisoners.  Ensign Semon's conduct on the occasion became the subject of a diplomatic note from the British Ambassador, the latter charging cruel treatment of the officers of the Night Hawk and a premature burning of the ship.


Semon was subsequently cleared of all implications of misconduct by a court of inquiry.

--Old B-Runner

Monday, September 29, 2014

Steamer Roanoke Seized by Confederates

SEPTEMBER 29, 1864:  The 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 the expedition was organized and carried out from the neutral port of Havana. (This was the second Union ship seized by Braine in like manner.)

The resourceful and audacious Braine had outlined his plan to Secretary 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 in Havana.  With a small group of Confederates, he was able to overcome the ship's officers and take over the ship, steering her for Bermuda.

After attempting to smuggle supplies and coal from  Bermuda, unsuccessfully, he determined that the fine steamer could not be taken through the blockade to the Confederacy and the Roanoke was burned off Bermuda.

Braine was held by the British but subsequently released, and was to be heard from again.

Wait and See.  --Old B-Runner

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Porter's Parting Words to the Mississippi Squadron

SEPTEMBER 28, 1864:  Rear Admiral Porter, on his detachment from command of the Mississippi Squadron, wrote a farewell 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 where he assumed command of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, and turned his attentions to the capture of Wilmington.

--Old B-Runner

CSS Florida, Again

SEPTEMBER 26TH, 1864:  The CSS Florida, Lt. Morris, captured the bark Mondamin off the northeastern coast of South America.

SEPTEMBER 27TH, 1864:  The USS Arkansas captured the schooner Watchful in the Gulf of Mexico south of Barataria Bay, Louisiana.  The Watchful carried a cargo of lumber and arms.

--Old B-R'er

Another Recon of Masonboro Inlet, NC

Acting Ensign Elamson Semon made his second reconnaissance expedition to Masonboro Inlet and Wilmington, North Carolina, gathering more important information concerning blockade-runners, the defensive dispositions of forces in the area, and made arrangements to procure pilots for the upcoming operation against Wilmington.

He learned for the first time that the CSS North Carolina, one of the ironclads built for the defense of Wilmington, had sunk at her pier at Smithville (Southport today).  her bottom was eaten out by worms.  The North Carolina drew too much water to pass over the bars at the mouth of the Cape Fear River, and had spent most all of her short career at Smithville.

I am wondering about how Semon would obtain pilots if they were Southerners?

Getting Ready for the Attack.  --Old B-Runner

Friday, September 26, 2014

Whiting Wants Tallahassee and Chickamauga Retained at Wilmington

SEPTEMBER 26TH, 1864:  Major General Whiting, CSA, Confederate commander at Wilmington, wrote North Carolina Governor Vance that the CSS Tallahassee and Chickamauga be retained at 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 will incite 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, this one and the one two days earlier from Lee, the raiders went out to sea.

Trying to Get All the Support They Can.  --Old B-Runner

The Union Canal on the James River

SEPTEMBER 26TH, 1864:  As Union forces continued to work on their canal at Dutch Gap in the James River to bypass obstructions at Trent's Reach, senior Confederate officers were becoming increasingly concerned.

Major General George 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."

Robert E. Lee, concurred, adding: "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 of whom the generals were speaking, commented 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 service can be useful."

Obviously, the Confederate generals do not think the Navy is doing its job.

--Old B-Runner

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Destruction of Blockade-Runner Lynx Off Wilmington 150 Years Ago Today

SEPTEMBER 25TH, 1864:  The USS Howquah, Niphon and Governor Buckingham chased ashore and destroyed the steamer Lynx off Wilmington with cargo of cotton  The three Union steamers were fired upon by the Lynx and Confederate shore batteries.  (I didn't know blockade-runners had cannons.)

Acting Lt. John W. Balch reported: "...one 30-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."

The Lynx sustained several close-range broadsides and was run ashore in flames, where she continued to burn throughout the night until consumed.

--Old B-Runner

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Tallahassee Cruise Made Wilmington More of a Target

SEPTEMBER 24TH, 1864:  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."

Lee Is Worrying About Wilmington.  --Old B-R'er

Operation in Virginia

SEPTEMBER 24, 1864:  The wooden steamer USS Fuchsia and sidewheelers Thomas Freeborn and Mercury proceeded to Milford Haven, Virginia, near where Confederates were believed to be preparing a number of boats to attack the blockading force at the mouth of the Piankatank River.

Reaching Stutt's Creek they went 3 miles upstream and landed a force of 40 sailors who destroyed four Confederate boats, captured five and demolished a fishery.

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Care for Wounded Confederates on Wilmington & Weldon Railroad-- Part 2

"We are informed that the connection at Weldon (where the soldiers are transferred from the Virginia railroad) is so close, that little opportunity is given for bestowing upon the soldiers the attention they so much need.  We think, however, from what we have heard, that something in the arrangements might be considerably improved with a slight expenditure of additional attention.

"We know the people along the line--at least we think we do, and we believe they are as much devoted to the cause, and as willing to do all that can be done for the suffering soldiers as any people in the Confederacy.  If there be  any want unsupplied, any omission made, it is only necessary that it should be pointed out to them."

These soldiers would be among the many casualties from U.S. Grant's Overland Campaign in Virginia.

--Old B-Runner

Care for Wounded Confederates on Wilmington & Weldon Railroad-- Part 1

From the UNC Library Civil War Day By Day blog.  From an editorial in the Wilmington (N.C.) Daily Journal, June 11, 1864.

The Wilmington & Weldon railroad, besides being a major conduit of supplies from Wilmington (run through the blockade) and the state to Virginia, was also used for movement of troops and casualties.  This was about the care the wounded coming from Virginia might receive.

"The time at which a train from Weldon (by the Virginia border) to Wilmington passes the most important points on the Railroad, renders it almost impossible for the wounded soldiers to receive the attention which would not other wise be withheld from them.

"As, for instance, we understand that a train which reaches Wilmington at 9 or 9 1/2 a.m., passes Goldsboro about 2 a.m., Warsaw and Magnolia about 4 1/2 or 5 a.m., hours at which ladies could hardly venture out."

What to Do.  --Old B-R'er

USS Violet

Some more info on the ship sunk by the Cape Fear River in Wilmington, N.C..  From Civil War Shipwrecks.

The wreckage of the tug USS Violet was probably removed to 22-feet below mean sea level by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1893 as a navigation hazard.

Information on the sinking of it in ORN Vol. 10, pages 343-344, Series 2 1:233.

--Old B-Runner

Monday, September 22, 2014

Welles Orders Porter to North Atlantic Blockading Squadron for the Wilmington Expedition

On the same day Welles lauded Farragut, he wrote Rear Admiral Porter: "Rear Admiral Farragut was assigned to command 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 Farragut's poor health, Porter was given the opportunity to prepare and lead the massive assault against the South's most important remaining seaport.

--Old B-R'er