Fort Fisher

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

Friday, October 24, 2014

Mallory Defends Use of Tallahassee and Chickamauga As Commerce Raiders at Wilmington

In answer to the objections of Major General Whiting and Governor Vance of North Carolina in September 1864, Secretary Mallory wrote to President Davis defending the use of the CSS Tallahassee and Chickamauga as commerce raiders 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 connection 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 a fleet of fast steamers from the blockading force of Wilmington in pursuit of them, and this result alone would render such a cruise expedient."

--Old B-Runner

Another Union Recon Up the Roanoke River in N.C.

OCTOBER 22-24:  Acting Ensign Sommers of the USS Tacony, led a reconnaissance party up the Roanoke River, North Carolina.  While returning, the party was fired at by Confederates and forced to seek cover in a swamp.

After constructing make-shift rafts to support the wounded, Sommers succeeded 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.

Wonder What They Were Doing Up the River?  --Old B-R'er

150 Years Ago: Action on the James River and Capture of Blockade-Runners

OCTOBER 22ND, 1864:  Union shore batteries on the north bank of the James River at Signal Hill opened fire suddenly on the ships of the Confederate James River Squadron, anchored in the river at that point.  Wooden gunboat CSS Drewry sustained moderate damage, and after engaging the batteries for about an hour, the Southern vessels retired under the guns of Fort Darling on Chaffin's Bluff.

British blockade-runner steamer Flora, after being chased by the USS Wamsutta, Geranium and Mingoe off Charleston, S.C., was run aground and destroyed the next day by fire from the monitors and the batteries on Morris Island.

The USS Eolus capture Confederate blockade running steamer Hope near Wilmington with a cargo of machinery.

--Old B-Runner

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Rules of Engagement for CSS Albemarle-- Part 2: Not Much Confidence in in Cushing, Though

"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."

And, We All Know What Happened Five Days Later.  --Old B-R'er

Rules of Engagement for CSS Albemarle: Get In Close

OCTOBER 22ND, 1864:  Even though he was busy drawing up plans for his upcoming attack on Fort Fisher in the Wilmington Campaign in two short months, Rear Admiral David Porter still had to concern himself with a reappearance of the Confederate ram CSS Albemarle in the Roanoke River as that was part of his command.

In a confidential letter to Commander Macomb, commanding naval forces in the Albemarle Sound, Porter set down instructions for engaging the Albemarle should it attack again: "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 to fire into her ports, while the ram strikes her steering apparatus and disables her."

The CSS Albemarle Still a Problem.  --Old B-Runner

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

OCTOBER 19TH, 1864:  The USS Mobile captured the schooner Emily off San Luis Pass, texas, with a cargo of 150 bales of cotton.

OCTOBER 19-20TH, 1864:  Boat expedition from the USS Stars and Stripes, ascends 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.

OCTOBER 21ST, 1864:  The USS Fort Jackson, Captain Sands, captured blockade running British schooner Wando at sea east of Cape Romain, S.C., with cargo of cotton.

USS Sea Bird captured blockade running British schooner Lucy off Anclote Keys, Florida, with assorted cargo.

--Old B-R'er

Voting On Blockade Duty

OCTOBER 19TH, 1864:  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 the 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 to you, in order to enable the men to vote."

Lincoln or McClellan?  --Old B-Runner

Monday, October 20, 2014

CSS Shenandoah Ready to Raid

OCTOBER 19TH, 1864:  The 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.

The Sea King was sold to the Confederate States and renamed the CSS Shenandoah, after which guns, powder, supplies, and crew members from the Laurel were loaded.

Lt. James I. Waddell, CSN, who had sailed from England in the 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?"

The 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.

--Old B-Runner

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Union Gunboats Ordered to Watch for Hood's Crossing of the Tennessee River

OCTOBER 18TH, 1814:  Major General Thomas, commanding Union forces in Tennessee, wired Major General Sherman concerning his plans for opposing Confederate General Hood's thrust into his state:  "It have arranged with Lieutenat [Commander] Greet, commanding the 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 this climatic campaign between Thomas and Hood, the close cooperation and support of naval forces played a key role.

--Old B-Runner

Friday, October 17, 2014

Confederate Wilmington Defenses: Green's Millpond-- Part 2

The National Cemetery at 20th and Market streets was officially established in 1867, although U.S. military personnel were buried there shortly after Wilmington was captured in late February 1865.

A large Confederate encampment, called Camp Whiting, was located near Green's Millpond close to today's 18th and Market streets.  It was operational by November 1863 and named after Gen. W.H.C. Whiting, commander of the Department of the Cape Fear which included Wilmington.

Just prior to the Second Battle of Fort Fisher in January 1865, Confederate Robert F. Hoke's division from the Army of Northern Virginia was stationed there.

--Old B-R'er

Confederate Wilmington Defenses: Green's Millpond-- Part 1

From the March 1, 2010, Wilmington (N.C.) Star-News "My Reporter: What is the story behind a Confederate encampment by Burnt Mill Creek during the Civil War?"

Answer given by Wilmington during the Civil War expert, UNCW history professor Chris Fonvielle.

Today's Burnt Mill Creek was originally called Green's Millpond during the Civil War.  The real Burnt Mill Creek runs along the west and north borders of Oakdale Cemetery.

Confederate engineers built strong earthen defenses along the west bank of Green's Millpond to defend against a Union attack from the east by way of Market Street.

--Old B-Runner

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Two of the Union Fort Fisher Medals of Honor

From the Documents of the Assembly of the State of New York, Vol. 31.

DENNIS CONLON:  Seaman on the USS Agawam; one of the crew of the powder boat Louisiana which exploded December 23, 1864.  Volunteered for this duty.

WILLIAM C. CONNOR:  Boatswain's Mate on USS Howquah.  At the destruction of the blockade-runner Lynx, September 25, 1864 at night "performed his duty faithfully under the most trying circumstances, standing firmly at his post in the midst of a cross-fire from the Confederate shore batteries and our own vessels.

--Old B-Runner

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Woodman At It Again in North Carolina

OCTOBER 15TH, 1864:  Acting Master's Mate John Woodman completed his third daring and successful reconnaissance of the Confederate position at Plymouth, North Carolina, reporting that the CSS Albemarle moored at the wharf as before, and the apparent abandonment of efforts to raise the captured steamer USS Southfield.

This information enabled Lt. William Cushing to sink the Albemarle later in the month.

Another Brave Union Officer.  --Old B-R'er

Georgia Operation

OCTOBER 13-15TH, 1864:  A boat expedition from the USS Braziliera and USS Mary Sanford 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 Confederates..

This is the first time I remember seeing slaves being freed during a naval operation.

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Farragut Advises His Son

OCTOBER 13TH, 1864:  Rear Admiral Farragut, a leader with a 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."

Of interest, as great a naval hero as Farragut was, his son, Loyall (family name of Farragut's wife) was attending West Point at the time.

Like Father, Not Like Son.  --Old B-R'er