Fort Fisher

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

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Back Then: The Impending Attack on Fort Fisher-- Part 2: Battling the Sand

The fort's garrison's "biggest complaint seemed to be the ubiquitous beach sand that filled every nook and cranny."

Fonvielle wrote: "Ironically, the substance of which the fort was constructed-- sand--  also caused the troops serious discomfort.  Above all else, sand was a soldier's constant companion and his main source of discontentment at Fort Fisher.

"Sand was everywhere--  as far as your eye could see-- and the granules had a nasty way of getting into everything a soldier owned: his uniform, brogans, blanket, rifle musket and food.  There was no refuge from it. and it gave no mercy."

--Old B-R'er

Back Then: The Impending Attack on Fort Fisher-- Part 1

From the December 5, 2014, Wilmington (NC) Star-News "Back Then" by Scott Nunn.

Tjhis article was based on Chris Fonvielle's book "The Wilmington Campaign: Last Rays of Departing Hope."  Scott Nunn doubts that anyone knows more about Wilmington and Fort fisher than this man.  I agree.  Fonvielle is the author of at least five books on this subject.

People had to wonder why Fort Fisher, the Cape Fear River and Wilmington had stayed under Confederate control for so long, even as its importance grew substantially throughout the war.  The North did nothing, nor, for that matter did the South do much to protect.  general lee repeatedly turned down requests from Wilmington's commander, Major General W.H.C. Whiting for reinforcements.  Confederate authorities believed Whiting was exaggerating the need.

The fort was commanded by Col. William Lamb.  The garrison passed its time keeping Fort Fisher in good shape, placing cannons, drilling and making it larger and more defensible.

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Dangerous Reconnaissance Off New Inlet, N.C.

DECEMBER 16-17TH, 1864:  Acting master Charles  A Petit, USS Monticello, performed a dangerous reconnaissance off New Inlet, N.C. removing several Confederate torpedoes and their firing apparatus near the base of Fort Caswell.

Petit's expedition was part of the Union's extensive preparations for the bombardment and assault on Fort Fisher and the defenses of Wilmington, planned for late December.

Note: New Inlet is by Fort Fisher and Old Inlet is by Fort Caswell.  The USS Monticello was William Cushing's ship.

--Old B-Runner

Action in Virginia and North Carolina

DECEMBER 15TH, 1864:  An expedition including the USS Cour De Lion and USS Mercury seized and burned more than 30 large boats which the Confederates had been massing on the Coan River, Virginia, and drove off defending soldiers in a brief engagement.

DECEMBER 16TH, 1864:The USS Mount Vernon and USS New Bern captured and burned the schooner G.O. Bigelow in ballast at Bear Island, N.C..

--Old B-R'er

Naval Action at Battle of Nashville-- Part 2

"I therefore maneuvered around above them till the afternoon, when our cavalry had reached the desired position in the rear; the Neosho and Carondolet then moved down again and the rebels, finding the position they were in, had tried to remove the guns, but were too late; our cavalry closed in and took them with but little resistance."

The Union gunboats then engaged other batteries down the river, in some cases silencing them with gunfire and others absorbing the attention of the Confederate gunners while Union cavalry encircled them.

By the afternoon of 15 December, Hood's batteries on the Cumberland River had been captured and his left flank, further inland, was in full retreat.

In reply to President Lincoln's congratulations on the big victory, Thomas remarked: "I must not forget to report the operations of Brigadier-General Johnson in successfully driving the enemy, with cooperation of the gunboats under Lieutenant Commander Fitch, from the established batteries on the Cumberland River below the City of Nashville...."

An Oft-Overlooked Aspect of the Battle.  --Old B-Runner

Naval Action at Battle of Nashville-- Part 1

DECEMBER 15-16, 1864:  As Major general George Thomas opened his offensive in the Battle of Nashville, gunboats of the Mississippi Squadron, commanded by Lt.Cmdr. Fitch, operated closely with the Union Army by engaging batteries on the Cumberland River and helping secure a resounding victory for Thomas.

On the night of Dec. 14th, Fitch, together with the seven gunboats of his command, had moved down toward the main Confederate battery guarding the river and Major General Forrest's far left.

Fitch described the joint effort: "Acting Volunteer Lieutenant Howard then returned to where I was, just above their works, and reported but four guns in position.  These I could have easily silenced and driven off, but our army had not yet sufficiently advanced to insure their capture."

--Old B-R'er

Confederate Forts in Savannah's Outer Defenses Captured

DECEMBER 14-21ST, 1864:  Union gunboats supporting general Sherman's advance aided in the capture of Forts Beaulieu and Rosedew in Ossabow Sound, Georgia, the outer defenses of Savannah.  Wooden steamer USS Winona, USS Sonoma and mortar gunboats shelled the forts until they were abandoned 21 December.

The Winona's log entry for that date: "At 10:05 saw the American Ensign flying on Fort Beaulieu.  Ships ; captain left in gig and proceeded up to the fort."

--Old B-Runner

Monday, December 15, 2014

Lincoln Lauds William B. Cushing

DECEMBER 15TH, 1864:  President Lincoln wrote in a message to Congress: "I most cordially recommend that Lieutenant William B. Cushing, U.S. Navy, receive a vote of thanks from Congress for his important, gallant, and perilous achievement in destroying the rebel ironclad steamer Albemarle on the night of the 27th October, 1864, at Plymouth, N.C.

"The destruction of so formidable a vessel, which had resisted the continued attacks of a number of our vessels on former occasions, is an important event touching our future naval and military operations, and would reflect honor on any officer, and redounds to the credit  of this young officer and the few brave comrades who assisted in this successful and daring undertaking."

Now, if the President had at the same time recommended a Medal of Honor for Lt. Cushing, it would not be necessary to have to work for his receiving one now. especially in light of one of the men with him receiving one.

Give Cushing a Medal of Honor.  --Old B-R'er

Don't Give Up the Ships (In Savannah)

DECEMBER 14TH, 1864:  Foreseeing the fall of Savannah, Secretary Mallory wrote wrote Flag Officer Hunter, commanding the naval squadron at that city:  "Should the enemy get ahold of Savannah, and you can do no further service there, you are expected to dispose of your squadron to the greatest injury to him and the greatest benefit to our country.

"If necessary to leave Savannah, your vessels, except the Georgia, may fight their way to Charleston.  Under  circumstances should they be destroyed until every proper effort to save them shall have been exhausted."

Three days later, Captain S. S. Lee, CSN, addressed a similar letter to Hinter: "Under any circumstances, it is better for the vessels, the Navy, for our cause and country, that these vessels should fall in the conflict of battle, taking all the risks of defeat and triumph, than that they should be tamely surrendered to the enemy or destroyed by their own officers."

Like I Said, Don't Give Up the Ships.  --Old B-Runner


Huge Union Fleet Departs Hampton Roads for Fort Fisher Attack

DECEMBER 13TH, 1864:a  The Union fleet massed for the bombardment of Fort Fisher departed Hampton Roads for Wilmington.  Wooden double-ender USS Sassacus was assigned to tow the powder ship Louisiana to Beaufort, N.C. where she was to take on more powder.

Army transports carrying the invasion force commanded by Major General Butler left Hampton Roads at approximately the same time as the supporting naval group.

--Old B-R'er

Raphael Semmes Back in the Confederacy-- Part 2

DECEMBER 13, 1864:  Semmes described the night crossing of the Mississippi River in a crowded skiff:  "Our boat was scarcely able to float the numbers that were packed into her.... As we shot within the shadows of the opposite bank, our conductor, before landing, gave a shrill whistle to ascertain whether all was right.

"the proper response came directly, from those who were to meet us, and in a moment more, we leaped on shore  among friends."

Federal forces on the river had been alerted in an effort to capture the elusive Captain Semmes of the CSS Alabama, but he succeeded in getting home, and later to Richmond, to receive the thanks of the Confederacy and promotion to the rank of Rear Admiral.

--Old B-Runner

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Raphael Semmes Back in the Confederacy-- Part 1: Lots of Blockaders

DECEMBER 13TH, 1864:  Returning to the Confederacy from London, Captain Semmes had landed the month before in Bagdad, Mexico, near Matamoras.  This date, en route to his home in Mobile for a brief respite before making his way to Richmond, Semmes crossed the Mississippi River with his son, Major O.J. Semmes.

He later wrote: "We reached the bank of the Mississippi just before dark.  There were two of the enemy's gunboats anchored in the river, at a distance of about three miles apart...the enemy had converted every sort of water craft, into a ship of war, and now had them in such number, that he was enabled to police the river in its entire length, without the necessity of his boats being out of sight of of each other's smoke...."

--Old B-R'er

Farragut Arrives in New York to Great Fanfare

DECEMBER 13TH, 1864:  Rear Admiral Farragut arrived in New York on board his battle-scarred flagship, USS Hartford.

A New York newspaper hailed his return in verse:

To Farragut all glory!
The Sea-King's worthy peer,
Columbia's greatest seaman, Without reproach or fear.

--Old B-Runner

Friday, December 12, 2014

Sherman Arrives Near Savannah

DECEMBER 12TH, 1964:  Rear Admiral Dahlgren wrote to President Lincoln, reporting news of the greatest importance to the Union:  "I have the great satisfaction of conveying to you information of the arrival of General Sherman's near Savannah, with his army in fine spirits....  This memorable event must be attended by still more memorable consequences, and I congratulate you most heartily on its occurrence."

The value of seaborne supply to Sherman was inestimable.  His army switched from rail logistics in Chattanooga to sea logistics on the Atlantic.

Getting In On the Glory.  --Old Secesh

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Fort Fisher Re-enactment Last Weekend

From the December 1, 2014, Wilmington (NC) Star-News "Fort Fisher showcases Civil War artillery."

The sights and sounds of Civil War artillery was highlighted from 10-4 this past Saturday, December 6th at the Fort Fisher State Historic Site in the "WE Kept Our Courage Up: Artillery of Fort Fisher."

This was a precursor of the huge re-enactment to take place at the fort in January to mark the 150th anniversary of the fort's fall.  There were re-enactment camps showing the lives of soldiers, sailors and Marines from both sides and it is free and open to the public.

Fort Fisher's 32-pounder seacoast rifled and banded cannon at Sheppard's Battery will be fired at 10, noon, 2 and 4.  Costumed interpreters will explain the drill and equipment of the cannon before each firing.

Fort Fisher is located near the southern terminus of US-421, south of Kure Beach, North Carolina.

It is too bad I live so far away as I sure would have liked to have been there.

Oh Well.  Perhaps I Will be Able to Make the 150th Anniversary of It.  --Old B-R'er