Sunday, November 29, 2020

Lincoln's 1864 Trip to City Point-- Part 8: Visiting the USS Onondaga and Within Range of a Rebel Battery

It is probable that there was a delay at this point while the Deep Bottom pontoon bridge was opened to permit river traffic.  

Once aboard the president's vessel, the USS Baltimore, Admiral Lee came on board and was greeted by Lincoln and Butler.  Then, the Baltimore, followed by the Agawam, steamed upriver toward Trent's Reach.  Fox noted that the men on ships they passed cheered the president.

Just before reaching the Malvern, the Baltimore drew up alongside one of the more technologically-advance monitors in the Union fleet, the double-turreted, iron-hulled USS Onondaga.

Lincoln made a brief visit to this ship (as he was always interested in anything dealing with new and improved technology).  The ship's deck officer recorded  that the president "visited" the vessel.

Then it was back to the Baltimore and on to the Malvern where they arrived about 10:30 am.  This put the Lincoln party well within range of a powerful Rebel battery not two miles distant.  Assistant Secretary of the Navy Fox wondered why "they did not open fire."

--Old B-Runner


Saturday, November 28, 2020

Lincoln's 1864 Trip to City Point-- Part 7: Travel Plans Abound

The President at lunch at City Point which was described as "plain and simple" but plentiful.  Young Tad Lincoln, who had accompanied his father, was resplendent in his custom military uniform and was the center of attention.  His father told stories much of the time and shook a lot of hands.

About 3 pm, the group departed from City Point with the president riding one of Grant's favorite horses named Cincinnatus, while Tad rode a black pony named Jeff Davis.  They rode about an hour to reach the VI Corps headquarters where most of the generals of the Army of the Potomac were gathered.

The president never asked and said he did not want to know Grant's plans.  Lincoln then visited an observation point where he could see the steeples of Petersburg in the distance.

Grant alerted Benjamin Butler that the president would visit on June 22 and that he would accompany him, but fighting at the front kept him from doing so.

On June 22, Butler and his staff rode their horses to the Point of Rocks where they took Butler's steamer, the Greyhound, to meet Lincoln.  Admiral Lee left his flagship, the Malvern, anchored near Trent's Reach on the James River and transferred to the smaller gunboat USS Agawam.  They steamed slowly to the president's vessel, the USS Baltimore.

--Old B-Runner


Friday, November 27, 2020

Lincoln's Trip to City Point, 1864-- Part 6: Meeting With Butler and Lee

At the time of Lincoln's visit to City Point, it was becoming apparent that the general's effort to take Petersburg quickly was going to end up as a siege and so the general was quite busy overseeing this so he couldn't devote full time to entertaining the President.  As such, his staff stepped in and plans were made for other visits with high ranking officers and the troops.

General Benjamin Butler, commander of the Army of the James,  and Acting Vice Admiral Samuel P. Lee, commander of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, were informed that Lincoln would be visiting them as well.

A picture of S.P. Lee accompanied the article and a quick glance of it made me think I was looking at Confederate General Robert E. Lee.  And, of course, there was the name.  Could Robert and Samuel be related?

Turns out, S.P. Lee was a third cousin to Robert E. Lee.

Another indicator of how divisive the war was.  here are cousins fighting on opposite sides.  And, S.P. Lee was born in Virginia, but chose to fight for the Union.

Small World.

--Old B-Runner


Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Lincoln's Trip to City Point to Visit Grant-- Part 6: Doffing Caps to the 'Boss Undertaker'

According to reporters, Lincoln "was greeted pleasantly by the Lieutenant General who shook hands with him, and the several gentlemen of the staff happening to be present, who merely, but decorously, saluted the President by raising their caps."

One of those staff present was Lt. Col. Horace Porter, who wrote his wife that Lincoln was "dressed all in black, and looking very much like like a boss undertaker."

He described part of the conversation between Grant and Lincoln thusly:  Lincoln:  "I just thought I would jump aboard a boat and come down to see you.  I don't expect I can do any good, and in fact I'm afraid I may do harm, but I'll put myself under your orders and if you find me doing anything wrong just send me away.

To which, Grant responded that "he would certainly do that."

--Old B-Runner



Monday, November 23, 2020

Lincoln's Trip to City Point-- Part 5: The Sentry

Reporters at the scene said that Abraham Lincoln had tried to reach Grant's headquarters "by scrambling through a hedgerow and coming in the back way alone."

There, he was confronted by "the sentinel stationed at the south gate of the enclosure [who] challenged the Chief Magistrate, ... disputing the President's further progress. 

"A captain upon [Grant's] staff passing, and recognized the stranger, set the matter right, and conducted the President to the Lieutenant General's tent."

I can hear it now, "Halt, who goes there?"  "Your President Abe."  But, you'd think that by this late date the sentry might have recognized the man.  Wonder if he leveled his rifle?

Just Doing His Job, That Sentry.  --Old B-Runner



Friday, November 20, 2020

Lincoln's Trip to City Point 1864-- Part 4: The Voyage and Arrival

Despite Gideon Welles' opposition, around 1 pm on June 20, 1864, the USS Baltimore steamed away from Washington, D.C. with President Lincoln aboard and it was a pleasurable cruise of about 20 hours to City Point.

There were no stops and it happened to fall on a full moon period, allowing the Baltimore to steam along the Chesapeake Bay coast after sunset and through the night.

City Point at the time of Lincoln's arrival was in the middle of a dramatic transformation.  Before the war, it had been Petersburg's main port to the world as deep draft ocean-going vessels could go that far.  However, once the Union Navy controlled Hampton Roads, City Point withered.

Union forces had taken it over in May when Butler launched his campaign.  But now, it was Grant's headquarters and te main supply depot for operations.  Supplies and ordnance flooded into City Point.  The James River was a huge mass of vessels.

The USS Baltimore, with no cargo to unload and its special passenger unannounced, probably halted off shore to allow the president to board a rowboat at about 9 am on June 21.  When he came ashore, there would be more chaos and activity as construction was everywhere.

The presidential party would probably have headed up the nearest road (modern Pecan Avenue) leading to Grant's headquarters on the bluff.

--Old B-Runner


Thursday, November 19, 2020

Lincoln's Trip to City Point-- Part 3: Not So Secret and Welles Not Happy

Lincoln's trip to visit Grant was to be as secretive as possible.  It was probably June 18 or 19 when Lincoln decided to go.  He called on his go-to man or nautical matters, Assistant Secretary of the Navy Gustavus V. Fox to make the arrangements.

Fox secured the USS Baltimore, a capture Confederate sidewheel steamer that had been pressed into Navy service for carrying everything from supplies to personnel.  Lincoln already was familiar with this ship, having been ferried to Hampton Roads in 1862, not long after the battle between the CSS Virginia and USS Monitor.

Lincoln asked Fox to accompany him and the President also brought along his son Tad.

Great pains were taken to keep this secret, but the editor of Washington, D.C.'s Daily National Republican found out about it, but kept quite  as per Lincoln's request.

When Fox's boss, Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, found out about it, h was not happy, believing Fox had "favored and encouraged the President in this step....  It has been my policy to discourage the President in these excursions."

--Old B-Runner


Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Lincoln's Trip to City Point, Va. in 1864-- Part 2

The ships involved with the trip were the USS Baltimore (which I hadn't written about before), the Greyhound (Butler's ship), USS Malvern (Admiral Lee's flagship), the USS Agawam and the monitor USS Onondaga (a double turreted ship).

President Lincoln traveled in great secrecy from Washington, D.C. om the USS Baltimore which was his headquarters during the trip.

I had never written anything about this ship before now.

As such, I'll see what I can find out about it.

--Old B-Runjner

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Lincoln's Trip to City Point-- Part 1

From the Summer Civil War Monitor "Mission to the James" by Noah Andre Trudeau.

Unlike most Union Army commanders before him, when U.S. Grant was stopped by Robert E. Lee, he would side step and continue fighting elsewhere, always drawing closer to his target, Richmond and continuing to wear down the Army of Northern Virginia.

But, it came at a huge cost at the battles of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor.  Now, Grant was going to capture Petersburg in the next step of his Overland Campaign.  It was at this time that President Abraham Lincoln chose to visit his commander at City Point, Virginia, but not to discuss strategy with him, but more to show Grant his continued support.

This was an interesting article, but I, of course, was mostly interested in the naval aspect of it.

There were ships that I've written about and one that I hadn't involved with this meeting as well as General Benjamin Butler and Admiral Samuel P. Lee.

--Old B-Runner


Saturday, November 14, 2020

Fort Fisher, Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson Among N.C. State Historic Sites Now Charging for Guided Tours

From the October 5, 2020, Wilmington (NC) Star-News by Hunter Ingram.

To get a guided tour of some of the state's most popular tourist attractions, guests will now have to shell out a few bucks.

Starting October 15, 2020, The N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources which oversees the state's Historic Sites, will charge a nominal fee for tours at 18 of its 27 sites across the state, including Fort Fisher and Brunswick/Fort Anderson sites near Wilmington.  The fees will be $2 for adults and $1 for seniors and children 5-12 and free for  children under five.

This only applies to guided tours.  Access to the site and visitor centers still remains free at the sites where they are currently free.

I've been on several Fort Fisher tours and they are well worth much more than $2.

And, of course, it all goes for a good cause.

A Good Deal.  --Old B-Runner


Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Veterans Day 2020: 101-Year-Old Navy Veteran Remembers Survival from USS Princeton

From the November 10, 2020, Coloradan '101-year-old Fort Collins veteran remembers  escape from ill-fated World War II aircraft carrier' by Kevin Dugan.

Al Oesterle left the U.S. Navy in 1965 after a long career.  He is extremely proud of his service, as is his family.  But they did not know about one particular harrowing experience Al had until 40 years after it happened.

It was during a 1984 reunion of crew members who served on the USS Princeton (CL-23), a light aircraft carrier that was lost during the Battle of Leyte Gulf that his wife learned that he may have been the last man to leave the ship before it went down.

Al Oesterle grew up in Joliet, Illinois, and joined the Navy in 1939 at age 20 and also  attended the University of Illinois Dental School.  He graduated in 1942 and joined the U.S. Navy Dental Corps.  After further training, he joined the crew of the USS Princeton.

The Princeton was sent to the Pacific Theater.  On October  24, 1944,  east of the island of Luzon, a lone Japanese kamikaze emerged from overcast skies and dropped a bomb on the Princeton that penetrated the flight deck and exploded in a  hanger bay where planes were being armed with bombs and refueled.

The Worst Time and Worst Place for an Aircraft Carrier to Get Hit.  --Old B-Runner



Tuesday, November 10, 2020

The Five Sorties of the CSS Virginia

From Civil War Talk "C.S.S. Virginia"

Of course, her two most famous sorties were against the Union fleet on March 8 and the next day, March 9, 1862, which resulted in the battle with the USS Monitor.

But, altogether, she made five sorties against the enemy:

MARCH 8, 1862

Maiden voyage.  Engagement with USS Cumberland and USS Congress.

MARCH 9, 1862

Engagement with USS Monitor in Hampton Roads.

APRIL 11, 1862

The Virginia enters Hampton Roads.  Federal transports flee the harbor to the protection of Fort Monroe.  The USS Monitor stays in the channel, but does not accept the Virginia's challenge.

MAY 8, 1862

The CSS Virginia steams down the Elizabeth River from Gosport Navy Yard to  contest the Union advance and stays out of Hampton Roads hoping to engage the USS Monitor.

MAY 11, 1862

Attempting to escape up the James River, after Gosport is captured by the Union Army,  the Virginia can't be made light enough to travel  as far as planned up the shallow part of the river.  Trapped with no escape, the ship is scuttled, and fired, causing a great explosion, destroying the ship.

So, From Maiden Voyage to Destruction, Her Career Was Just Over Two Months.  --Old B-Runner


Monday, November 9, 2020

The 'Frank' Question for the Day, 'Who Was Cmdr. Maxwell Woodhull, USN?'

Even though this was a naval question, I wrote about it in my Saw the Elephant: Civil War blog.

Out McHenry County Civil War Round Table discussion group is often regaled with the "Frank Questions" from member Frank Crawford.  These are Very Hard Questions indeed, usually regarded an individual that most have never heard of before.

See the question and answer in today's Saw the Elephant blog

Let's just say, the poor guy met with an untimely and unfortunate end.

You can also find out more about him by clicking on the Maxwell Woodhull label below.  I should have known who he was because I have written about him, but didn't.

What Goes First As You Age?  --Old B-Runner


Friday, November 6, 2020

Confederate Navy Officers: Joseph W. Alexander

Born in North Carolina, Appointed from North Carolina

Formerly lieutenant U.S. Navy.

First lieutenant , October 23, 1862, to rank from October 2, 1862.

First lieutenant Provisional Navy, June 2, 1864, to date from January 6, 1864.

*******************

SERVED ON:

CSS Virginia, 1861

Commanding CSS Raleigh in Battle of Hampton Roads, March 8-9, 1862.

CSS Atlanta, 1862.  Captured by the USS Weehawken, June 17, 1863.

CSS Virginia (No. 2); detached December 19.  Ordered to command CSS Beaufort.

--Old B-Runner


Thursday, November 5, 2020

Confederate Naval Officers: Joseph Fry

From the Naval War Records:  Confederate Naval Officers.

Born in Florida.  Appointed from Florida.

Resigned as lieutenant U.S. Navy, February 1, 1861.

First Lieutenant   March 26, 1861

First lieutenant October 23, 1862, to rank from October 2, 1862.

First lieutenant Provisional Navy, June 2, 1864 to rank from January 6, 1864

Served on CSS Ivy 1862, CSS Maurepas, Mississippi River, 1862.  Wounded

Special Service 1863-64

Surrendered May 4, 1865, Mobile, Alabama; paroled May 10, 1865.

Killed November 7, 1873, at Santiago, Cuba.

--Old B-Runner