Fort Fisher

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

Friday, July 3, 2015

Another Look at the January 1, 1865, NABS

Most of the ships were listed as 3rd and 4th class, mounting between one and ten guns.

I'll go through the list of 2nd and 1st Class Ships.  Name, class, guns, where stationed and commander:

Brooklyn, 2nd, 26 guns, off Beaufort, Captain James Alden
Colorado, 1st, 50 guns, off Beaufort, Commodore H.K. Thatcher
Dictator, 1st, 2 guns, Hampton Roads (ironclad), Commodore Jno. Rodgers

Fort Jackson, 2nd, 11 guns, Off Wilmington, Captain B.F. Sands
Juniata, 2nd, 14 guns, Off Beaufort, Captain W.R. Taylor
Minnesota, 1st, 46 guns, Beaufort, Commodore J. Lanman

New Ironsides, 1st, 20 guns, off Beaufort, Commodore W. Radford
Powhatan, 1st, 24 guns, off Beaufort, Commodore J.F. Schenck
Quaker City, 2nd, 7 guns, off Wilmington, Commander W.F. Spicer

Rhode Island, 2nd, 12 guns, Beaufort, Commander S.D. Trenchard
Shenandoah, 2nd, 6 guns, Beaufort, Captain D.B.Ridgely
Susquehanna, 1st, 18 guns, Beaufort, Commodore S.W. Godon

Santiago de Cuba, 2nd, 11 guns, Beaufort, Captain O.S. Glisson
St. Lawrence, 1st, 13 guns, Naval magazine Norfolk, Commander D. Lynch
Ticonderoga, 2nd, 14 guns, Beaufort, Captain C. Steedman

Vanderbilt, 2nd, 16 guns, Beaufort, Captain C.W. Pickering
Wabash, 1st, 44 guns, Beaufort, Captain M. Smith

I Wonder What Happened to the Monitors Involved With theAttack on Fort Fisher.

List of Vessels Attached to the North Atlantic Squadron, January 1, 1865

This was the Navy department's attempt at keeping up with their huge fleet of ships.  Each squadron ghad to comple one of these several times a year.

The report for this day listed 156 ships of all classes.  Of course, this squadron had been beefed up for the impending renewal of its attack on Fort Fisher guarding Wilmington.  The first attack on Christmas Day had ended in failure and many of the ships had returned to Beaufort, N.C. to prepare for the next attack, but there were still a lot of ships on station off Wilmington.

I went through the list of ships on present duty or station to come up with these places.

Norfolk Va. Repairing--  3
Off Beaufort, N.C.--  11
James River, Va.--  29

Hampton Roads, Va.-- 5
Off Wilmington N.C.--  24
Not Reported--  6

Beaufort NC--  34
Sounds NC--  13
Norfolk, Va.--  11

Craney Island, Va.--
New York Navy Yard--  1
Norfolk Navy Yard, Va.-- 3

Naval Station Norfolk, Va.--1
York River, Va.--  33
Hatteras Inlet, NC-- 1

New Bern, NC--  1

Repairing at Baltimore--  1
Baltimore, Md.- 1
Repairing at Boston--  1

Supply Steamer--  1
Naval Magazine Norfolk, Va.--  1
Boston, Mass.--  1
Savannah, Ga.--  1

Kind of An Interesting Breakdown.  --Old B-Runner

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Reduction of the North Atlantic Squadron, Jan. 1, 1865 to July 1, 1865

The Civil War Naval Chronology gave the official reports of this squadron six months apart in 1865, Jan. 1st and July 1st.  There had been a remarkable loss of ships between the two lists.

On January 1, 1865, the squadron had 156 ships.  By July 1st, that number was down to just 23.

--Old B-R'er

The Shenandoah Heads South-- Part 2

"When the Shenandoah reached the Island of St. Lawrence there was a fine northwest wind.  Sail was made, and the propeller triced up..  While to the westward of that island, the ship making six knots per hour, a dense fog came on...."

Trying to beat out the ice the ship ran into a large ice floe and damaged her rudder when, with sails aback to avoid sudden collision with thick ice, "she gathered sternboard."  The crew set heavy rope mats around the prow.  "Steam was gently applied and with a large block of ice resting against her cutwater she pushed it along to open a passage, and in this way we worked the Shenandoah for hours until she gained open water."

To avoid being trapped by Federal cruisers, if not the ice, Waddell decided to run for "more open seas."  On 3 July "a black fog closed upon us and shut out from our view the heavens and all things terrestrial."  It clung about them thick and ominous for the next two days as the raider steamed southward depending on dead reckoning.

More Ice and Fog.  --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Shenandoah Heads South, Avoiding the Icebergs, Etc.-- Part 1: Perpetual Sunlight

JULY1-3RD, 1965:  After destroying all those American whalers on 26 and 28 June, Waddell stood south "amid snow and icebergs" looking for more victims.  There he wrote, in the immensity of the ice and floes", threatened with "danger of being shut up in the Arctic Ocean for several months, I was obliged to turn her prow southward and reached East Cape just in time to slip by the Diomedes when a vast field of floe ice was closing the strait....

"The sun was in his highest northern declination, and it was perpetual daylight, when he sank below the northern horizon, a golden fringe marked his course until his pale and cheerless face came again, frosted from icebergs and floes."

--Ol;d Sunny-Runner

Waddell Describes Whalers-- Part 3: "The Odor From a Whaling Ship Is Horribly Offensive"

"The arrangements for boiling the blubber are found on deck between the fore and mainmast, built of masonry and barred against accident in heavy weather.  In the center of the masonry are one or more large cauldrons into which the blubber is placed, and after the oil is extracted, the refuse is used for making fire and produces an intense heat.

"The whalers carry hogs and this refuse is used for fattening them and they eat ravenously.  The hogsheads used for receiving the oil vary in size from two to three hundred gallons.  The greater part of these are shaken up when delivered to the vessels in port and put together upon the ship wanted, consequently their stowage is closer.

""Those hogsheads which have contained flour in bags, hams, cordage, clothing, shipbiscuits, when emptied are filled with oil.  The odor from a whaling ship is horribly offensive, but it is not worse than that of the green hide vessels from South American which can be smelt fifty miles in a favorable wind.

"The bones of the whale are taken on board and placed in the bone room; from these the offensive exhalation is too horrible to relate."

--Old W-R'er

Waddell Describes Whalers-- Part 2: Instant Death

"The projectile used is an elongated explosive shell of 12 inches in length.  The blunderbuss is handled by a powerful and expert whalesman and discharged into te animal when near enough.  The fuse is short, burns quickly, and explodes the shell causing instant death.

"The whale floats to the surface of the water when the men attach a line to the head by sharp hooks, and tow the fish alongside the vessel when they proceed to cut it up.

"As part of the midship section is converted into a blubber room and into which the fish, after being cut up, is thrown.  The boiling process for oil is proceeded with as quickly as possible."

And, They haven't begun Boiling Yet.  --Old Whale-Runner

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Flag of the CSS LeCompt

JUNE 29TH, 1865:  Rear Admiral Thatcher sent the Navy department the Confederate flag flown from the CSS LeCompt captured by the USS Cornubia off Galveston, Texas, on 24 May.

Thatcher wrote: "It is believed to be the last rebel flag on the coast afloat captured from the rebels during the war."

--Old B-R'er

Waddell Describes the Whalers-- Part 1: In and Out Among the Ice Floes

Waddell described the usual whaler of that period:  "The whaling vessels vary from 90 to 100 feet in length with great beam, consequently they can be turned around more easily than vessels of greater length; powerful in construction dull sailers, and sheathed for forty feet from the stern, which is generally shod with iron, they are calculated to resist contact with ice that floats in detached floes or pilot ice some sixteen feet in thickness and in abundance in the Bering Sea and northwards.

"They are equipped with boats much elevated at either end and strongly built.  On the sternpost are fitted collars for lines to pass over when attached to a whale.  These lines are made of white hemp from 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches in circumference, varying from 100 to 250 fathoms (600 to 1,500 feet) in length and coiled in large tubs, (made to fit the boats expressly for this purpose) a precautionary measure to secure their easy flight and keep them from being entangles, which might cause the boat to capsize, so rapidly does the whale move when struck by a harpoon, the lance, and a two inch muszzle blunderbus, of short barrel, constructed of iron, and weighing about 40 pounds."

A Whaling We Go.   --Old B-Runner


Monday, June 29, 2015

The Shenandoah's Single Most Successful Day-- Part 2: 38 Ships

Waddell then bonded the ship James Murray and the bark Nile then placed his 336 prisoners on board for passage to San Francisco.  The latter whaler was selected for this mission because her master had died, leaving a widow and two small children on board; "the poor widow had the remains of her husband in board preserved in whiskey".

Waddell stripped the vessels of supplies and recruited nine men.  He noted that their enlistment was "evidence that if they had heard any report of the military failure of the South, they had considered it unreliable".

Waddell put the torch to the ships Hillman, Nassau, Brunswick, Isaac Howland and barks Waverly, Martha, Favorite, Covington and Congress and recorded in his memoirs that "the horizon was illuminated with a fiery glare presenting a picture of indescribably grandeur, while the water was covered with black smoke mingled with flakes of fire."

This field day against American commerce climaxes a very successful cruise in which the Shenandoah captured a total of 38 American vessels valued at $1,361,983.

Lighting the Skies.  --Old B-Runner

Maury Still Working On New Country to Live

JUNE 28TH, 1865:  Matthew F. Maury dined with the Emperor and Empress Charlotte at the Chapultepec Palace in Mexico City.  The Emperor extended the unusual courtesy to Maury of requesting that from then on, unlike others, he "remain seated when the Emperor was in the room".  Empress Charlotte, the daughter of Leopold I of Belgium and first cousin to Queen Victoria, asked for his photograph for her album.

Looking for a New Country.  --Old B-R'er

The Shenandoah's Most Successful Single Day-- Part 1: Eleven Whalers

JUNE 28TH, 1865:  This date marked the most successful single day the CSS Shenandoah enjoyed as a commerce raider during her long cruise that spanned 13 months and 58,000 miles, and during which Waddell often successfully followed his conviction that "nothing is to be gained if risk is not taken."  Near the narrows of the Bering Strait, Lt. Waddell fell in with a rendezvous of eleven American whalers.

The ship Brunswick of New Bedford had been stove in by an ice floe and the others had gathered either to render assistance or to bid on supplies and oil in the event the master decided to abandon ship and offer bargains.  To insure that none escaped, Waddell entered the bay under the American flag and while five boats were quickly being armed and manned, he maneuvered his ship to a position in which the raider's guns commanded the whalers.

A soon as the armed boats were away, he lowered the American flag and ran up the Stars and Bars.  Ten of the whalers immediately surrendered. The single exception was the Favorite of New Haven whose flag remained on the gaff defended by her drunken master flourishing a harpoon gun.

The resistance was short lived as the whaler was boarded without bloodshed.

A Good Day in the Biz.  --Old B-Runner

Saturday, June 27, 2015

All Confederate Vessels On the Roanoke River In N.C. Now Captured

JUNE 27TH, 1865:  Commander Macomb, commanding the Union naval forces in the Albemarle Sound, reported to the commander of the Atlantic Squadron that he had captured all the Confederate naval vessels in the Roanoke River.

He took possession of the sternwheel steamer Cotton Plant, the screw steamer Egypt Mills, the unfinished gunboat Halifax, and one lighter.  he also seized 99 bales of cotton.  The two steamers had been privately owned at one time but had been taken over by the Confederate Navy in the latter stages of the. war.

--Old B-R'er

Maury Meets Maximilian in Mexico City

JUNE 27TH, 1865:  Emperor Maximilian was absent from mexico City when Matthew F. Maury arrived early in the month.  In the last week he arrived and promptly gave him an audience.  After other meetings, he granted Maury a long audience to present his emigration plan in full.  He then had Maury leave a written draft for study.

Hiding Out.  --Old B-Runner

Friday, June 26, 2015

Another Successful Day for the CSS Shenandoah: 6 Whalers in One Day

JUNE 26TH, 1865:  Shortly after midnight the CSS Shenandoah commenced a highly successful day of operations.  At 1"30 a.m. she sailed alongside three becalmed whalers.  In short order Waddell put Nimrod, William C. Nye and Catherine to the torch, ordered their crews into small boats to be towed astern of the Shenandoah and set out in pursuit of three other sails spotted to the northward.

Next, the barks General Pike, Isabella and Gipsey were captured before noon, and, after making a cartel ship out of the General Pike and bonding her, the other two whalers were burned.  "Within forty-eight hours," Waddell wrote, "the Shenandoah had destroyed and ransomed property to the value of $253,000."

--Old B-Runner