Fort Fisher

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

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Capture of Confederate Ports Aiding the Union Navy

MARCH 1ST, 1865:  The capture of ports on the Confederate coast injured the South and aided the North in many ways throughout the war.  One was the availability of the Union Navy of nearby "advance bases" for operations and repairs.

On this date, Commander William H. Macomb, writing Rear Admiral Porter from the North Carolina Sounds, reported the arrival of the USS Shokokon at Plymouth:  "She arrived yesterday and I sent her to New Berne to have her decks shored up and breeching bolts fitted for her IX-inch guns."

--Old B-Runner

Changes in Confederate Naval Policy

MARCH 1ST, 1865:  Because of the loss of Charleston and Wilmington, secretary Mallory directed Commander Bulloch, the regular agent of the Confederate Navy in England, to dispose of the deep draft steamers Enterprise and Adventure and to substitute for them two light draft vessels for use in the small inlets along the east coast of Florida.

He wrote: "We can not ship cotton at present, but with lightdraft vessels we could at once place cotton abroad.  Moreover, we need them to get in our supplies now at the islands, and the want of which is seriously felt."

Mallory added: We are upon the eve of events fraught with the fate of the Confederacy, and without power to foresee the result....The coming campaign will be in active operation within fifty days and we can not close our eyes to the dangers which threaten us from which only our united and willing hearts and arms and providence of God can shield us.  We look for no aid from any other source."

--Old B-Runner

USS Harvest Moon Strikes a Torpedo and Sinks in South Carolina

MARCH 1ST, 1865:  Rear Admiral Dahlgren, upon receiving the report that his naval forces had occupied Georgetown, South Carolina, decided to proceed there and have a personal "look at things."  He inspected the formidable, but evacuated Fort White and his four companies of Marines holding the city.

This date, Dahlgren's flagship Harvest Moon was steaming down Georgetown Bay enroute to Charleston; the admiral was awaiting his breakfast in his cabin.  "Suddenly, without warning," he later wrote in his diary, "came a crashing sound, a heavy shock, the partition between the cabin and wardroom was shattered and driven toward me, while all loose articles in the cabin flew in different directions....

"A torpedo had been struck by the poor Harvest Moon, and she was sinking."

The flagship sank in in five minutes, but fortunately, only one man was lost.  The Admiral missed his breakfast, but got oof with only the uniform he was wearing.

Watch Out for Those Dadburn Torpedoes.  --Old B-R'er

Thanking Mr. Lancaster For the Rescue of Semmes from the Alabama Sinking

MARCH 1ST, 1865:  President Jefferson Davis sent a Resolution adopted by the Confederate Congress to Mr. John Lancaster of England, thanking him for his gallant and humane conduct in the rescue of Captain Rafael Semmes and 41 of his officers and men after the sinking of the CSS Alabama by the USS Kearsarge on 19 June 1864.

It was particularly gratifying to the Confederacy that Lancaster's yacht Deerhound had then sailed for England with the rescued Confederates rather than turning them over to the Kearsarge as would be customary under international law.

The incident became even more galling for the Union Navy after Semmes and his officers were socially lionized during their stay in England.

Semmes Gets Away.  --Old B-R'er

Nearing the End of the Confederacy-- Part 2: Richmond Papers Paint a Good Picture of Victory

MARCH 1ST, 1865:  The Southern spirit, on the other hand, remained unshaken by what was regarded in the North as portents of defeat.  Well, at least the Richmond newspapers.

The Richmond Daily Examiner editorialized on March 1: "We cannot help thinking that 'our friends, the enemy,' are a little premature in assuming the South to be at their feet.  Their are Southern armies of magnitude in the field, and Richmond, the capitol, is more impregnable at this hour than it has been at any period of the war."

A week later, the Richmond Daily Dispatch expressed its confidence in the Confederate cause by comparing the South's position in the spring of 1865 with that of American patriots in 1781.  "In the American Revolution," wrote the editor, "three-fourths of the battles were gained by the British [and they] held all of the major seaports and cities.

"They marched through South Carolina, precisely as Sherman is doing now....  They had the most powerful empire in the world at their back; had the aid of armed tories in every county; they excited blacks to insurrection; a let loose the scalping knife of the Indian....

"What is there in our condition as gloomy, as terrible, as protracted, as the long and dreary wilderness through which they marched to freedom and independence."

But, Still.  --Old B-R'er

Nearing the End of the Confederacy-- Part 1

MARCH 1ST, 1865:  As the month of March opened, General Grant was preparing for a massive spring attack against General Lee's defending lines near Richmond.  Throughout the North, optimism ran high and the feeling prevailed that the offensive would be the final thrust and that Grant would take Richmond.

It was widely believed that the Confederacy was on the threshold of defeat.

Since the beginning of the new year, Charleston and Wilmington had fallen, sealing off the South from the sustaining flow of supplies from Europe.  Moreover, General Sherman's army had devastated the heart of the Confederacy with his march through Georgia and South Carolina; by the end of February Sherman was preparing to enter North Carolina.

The Union confidence was further fed by the widespread knowledge that General Lee and Confederate officials were openly grappling with the problems of desertions.  During the winter these had become considerable as men became concerned about their families in Union occupied areas..

Finally, Lee further revealed his hard pressed position by appealing to the civilian population to search their houses for any spare guns, cutlasses, equestrian gear and tools.

Things Looking Mighty Bad for the South As the War Neared Its End.  --Old B-Runner

Lt. Gift Reflects on Fate of the South

FEBRUARY 28TH, 1865:  Lt. George W. Gift, CSN, on sick leave at his wife's home in Georgia, reflected on the fate of the South:  "It is all too disheartening!  The press brings accounts of new defeat for us.  The Water Witch has been captured and destroyed.  Mobile has fallen, so that all the ports in the Confederacy are lost!  That goes for the Navy...."

ALSO ON FEBRUARY 28TH, 1865:  Armed boats from the USS Honeysuckle forced the blockade running British schooner Sort aground on a reef near the mouth of Crystal River, Florida, where she was abandoned.  The Sort had previously been captured in December 1864 by the USS O.H. Lee.

--Old B-R'er

Loss of the USS Arizona: Brown Loses Another Ship

FEBRUARY 28TH, 1865:  The USS Arizona, Lt. Cmdr. George Brown, was destroyed by fire in the Mississippi River below New Orleans.  In his report, the unlucky Brown, who had also lost the USS Indianola on 24 February 1863, noted:  "Not a soul attempted to leave the vessel until I gave the order for them to do so, and the marines were of much service in preventing the boats from being overloaded."

Looks Like Brown Is Trying to Break Thomas O. Selfridge's Record.--Old B-Runner

Monday, March 2, 2015

Occupying Georgetown, South Carolina

FEBRUARY 28TH, 1965:  Rear Admiral Dahlgren issued instructions to Captain Stellwagen, USS Pawnee, on operations in vicinity of Georgetown, S.C., coordinated with General Sherman's march north:  "I leave here for Charleston, and you remain the senior officer.  The only object in occupying the place, as I do, is to facilitate communication with General Sherman, if he desires it here, or by the Santee.

"When the Chenango and Sonomo arrive, station one in each river by the town to assist the force ashore; one vessel should be near the fort and one at the light-house to look for communication with me.

"Keep up information from the Santee by courier over the Santee road or by water.  I leave you three tugs, the Sweet Brier, Catalpa and Clover with a dispatch boat.  Let parties be pushed out by land and water, to feel the rebel positions, and drive back his scouts and pickets."

--Old B-Runner

Friday, February 27, 2015

Steamer Ruby Seized

FEBRUARY 27TH, 1865:  The USS Proteus seized the steamer Ruby--purportedly en route from Havana to Belize, Honduras, but according to some of the officers and passengers, actually bound for St. Marks, Florida.  It appeared that part of her cargo had been thrown overboard during the chase; the remainder consisted of lead and sundries.

--Old B-R'er

Commodore Tucker Arrives at Fayetteville, ordered to Richmond

FEBRUARY 27TH, 1865:  Commodore Tucker and his 350 sailors from Charleston arrive safely in Fayetteville, North Carolina, where he received orders to have Lt. James H. Rochelle's naval detachment join his and proceed to Richmond with the entire Naval Brigade.

From Richmond, the brigade was sent on to Drewry's Bluff on the James River to garrison the formidable Confederate batteries stationed there.  Tucker commanded the the naval forces ashore while Rear Admiral Semmes commanded the James River Squadron.

These two commands, through the course of the long war, had successfully protected Richmond from attack via the James River.  General Lee desperately needed staunch fighters more than ever before.  With his supply line from Europe cut, hunger, privation, sickness, and desertion steadily shrank his army.

Meanwhile, General Grant's army steadily increased as ships poured in supplies at his City Point base in preparation for the final spring offensive.

--Old B-Runner


Final Sesquicentennial Conference-- Part 3

About some of the speakers:

WILLIAM C. DAVIS: Professor of History at Virginia Tech and Director of Programming for the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies.  Author of over 50 books.  I have a lot of his Civil War books.  Always a good read.

ANDREW DUPPSTADT:  Curator of Education for the North Carolina Division of State Historic Sites.  Teaches at Carolina Coastal Community College.  He used to have a very good blog, but doesn't post anymore.

JESSICA BANDELL:  Research historian with North Carolina Office of Archives and History.  Co-author of forthcoming book "North Carolina Civil War Atlas: The Old North State at War."  Not familiar with her, but I look forward to her book.

CRAIG SYMONDS:  Retired professor USNA.  Biographer of Joseph E. Johnston.  Wrote books "Lincoln and His Admirals" (2008) and "The Civil War at Sea" (2010).  This man knows a whole lot about the war at sea.

--Old B-R'er

Final North Carolina Sesquicentennial Conference Begins Today-- Part 2

Today is the opening of the conference at Fort Anderson and Southport.

Tomorrow is the meeting day at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington.

After an opening presentation by Craig Symonds on the Union blockade, concurrent sessions will be held.


Concurrent Sessions:  (*) the one I would pick.

9:45-11:00:

For His Country and Race: Death and North Carolina's Black Union Regiments--  Jessica A. Bandell.

*The Days of Chickamauga Renewed: Defeat, organizational Culture and the Battle of Bentonville.

Remembering Sacrifice, Claiming Citizenship: A New Heaven and a New Earth,  Legacy of Anti-Confederate Sentiment in North Carolina.

11:15-12:30

*Between War and Peace: Making Meaning and Memories of the Civil War's Close.

Unadulterated Lincolnism: The Confederate Military's Imprisonment of R.J. Graves for Alleged Treason.

12-1:30  Box Lunches.

1:30-2:45

Surviving Confederate Widowhood in the Post-Civil War South

North Carolina Civil War Refugee Crisis.

*Sacrifice of the Confederate Navy: The North Carolina-Built Ironclads--  Andrew Duppstadt.

I Know Where I'd Like to Be.  --Old B-Runner


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Final Conference on North Carolina in the Civil War to Be Held-- Part 1

From the Friends of Fort Fisher.

The third and last Civil War Sesquicentennial conference on North Carolina's role in the Civil War will be held Friday, Feb. 27th and Saturday, Feb. 28th in the Wilmington area.  This year's conference is "What a Cruel Thing Is War: Sacrifice and Legacies of the Civil War."

It kicks off Friday with an afternoon tour of Fort Anderson followed by a presentation by William C. "Jack" Davis and a reception at the North Carolina Maritime Museum at Southport (at Old Ft. Johnston).

Conference sessions will be Saturday at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, highlighted by a talk by naval historian Dr. Craig Symonds.

It is co-hosted by the North Carolina Department of Cultural resources and the University of North Carolina-Wilmington.  Cost is $26.99 for both days or $10.68 for just Friday.

Fridays presentation speaker will be introduced by Chris E. Fonvielle (quite a writer himself, especially on Wilmington during the war).  William C. Davis will talk about "Confederates and Their Cult of Sacrifice."

Chris Fonvielle will also introduce Craig Symonds of the U.S. Naval Academy on Saturday, whose subject will be "They Also Sacrificed: The Tedium and Impact of the Union Naval Blockade."

Sure Wish I Could Be There.  --Old B-Runner


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The End of the CSS Chickamauga

FEBRUARY 25TH, 1865:  The CSS Chickamauga was burned and sunk by her own crew in the Cape Fear River just below Indian Wells, North Carolina.  The position selected by Confederates was above Wilmington on the Northwest Fork of the river leading to Fayetteville.

The scuttling was intended to obstruct  the river and prevent Union forces from establishing water communications between troops occupying Wilmington and General Sherman's army operating in the interior of the state.

The effort proved abortive as the current swept the hulk around parallel to the bank and by 12 March the water link between Wilmington and Fayetteville had been opened.

Every river which would float a ship was an artery of strength from the sea for Sherman in his rapid march north.

Can't Even Sink a Boat Right.  --Old B-Runner