Fort Fisher

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

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Where Confederate Ironclads Cruised: Savannah River

Sitting here typing away in the middle of a storm at the Holiday Inn Express in downtown Savannah overlooking the Savannah River.

Just thinking that a little over 150 years ago, ships and ironclads of the Savannah River Squadron would have been in the river.

Actually, three ironclads were built here during the war.

CSS Atlanta, a 204-foot ironclad built from the hull of the blockade-runner Fingal.  This ship was captured by Union monitors and became the USS Atlanta.

CSS Georgia, 1862, the "Ladies' Gunboat," built by contribitions of the women of Savannah.  This ship was underpowered and turned into a floating battery anchored by Fort Jackson.  It was destroyed to prevent capture when Sherman captured Savannah.  It is currently being raised for the widening and deepening of the river channel.

CSS Savannah, 1862.  Destroyed to prevent Shereman from capturing it.

--Old B-Runner

Friday, April 24, 2015

An Augusta Naval Connection

We're in Augusta, Georgia, right now after staying up way too late last night at the local Hooters watching the Bulls win and Blackhawks loss.  I hate 8:30 p.m., 9:30 here, starts to Hawks games.  Way too late.  At least this wasn't a triple overtime game like Tuesday night/Wednesday morning.

I may have to stop calling the Bulls' Rose as Wilted Rose, as use his real name if he keeps playing like he has.

Any way, Augusta (even after the Master's last week, has a bit of a naval tradition.  I read  this morning that it was established along the Savannah River where navigation ends,  There is also a canal in the town and during the Civil War, a large powder works.

After the fall of Savannah, several Confederate gunboats came upriver to escape Sherman, and the Confederate treasury and archives came here before rendezvousing with Davis at Abbeville, S.C...  These were escorted by midshipmen of the CSNA and Charlotte (N.C.)  Navy Yard workers.

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Reduction of Potomac Flotilla and Army-Navy Cooperation

MAY 3RD, 1865:  Secretary Welles ordered the reduction of the Potomac Flotilla to half its strength; however, execution of this order would not begin until the whereabouts and disposal of the CSS Stonewall was known.

ALSO ON MAY 3RD:  As Commodore J.S. Palmer was detached from the West Gulf Blockading Squadron, major General Canby wrote him:  "The relations that have existed between the two services for the past year have been of the most intimate and cordial character and have resulted in successes of which the friends of both the Army and the Navy have reason to be proud."

--Old B-Runner

Monday, April 20, 2015

Mallory Resigns As Secretary of the Confederate Navy

MAY 2-3RD, 1865:  Secretary Mallory penned a brief letter of resignation while at Abbeville and handed it to the President on the 3rd at Washington, Georgia, where Mallory took leave of his chief.

"The misfortunes of our country have deprived me of the honor and opportunity longer to serve her, and the hour has approached when I can no longer be be useful to you personally.  Cheerfully would I follow you and share whatever fate may befall you, could I hope thereby in any degree to contribute to your safety or happiness.

"The dependent condition of a helpless family prevents my departure from the country, and under these circumstances it is proper that I should request you to accept my resignation as Secretary of the Navy."

Davis accepted the resignation with deep regret, and added:  "For the zeal, ability and integrity with which you have so long and so constantly labored, permit one who had the best opportunity to judge, to offer testimonial and in the name of our country and its sacred cause to return thanks."

Mallory then set out to LaGrange, Georgia, to join his family and "to await the action of the [United States] government.

--The CSN Loses Its Leader.  --Old B-runner

President Davis Leaves Abbeville-- Part 2

President Davis, still in Abbeville, on May 2nd, officially acknowledged the the dissolution of the Confederate government.   He then proceeded to Washington, Georgia,  where he replaced the cavalry train  with a ten man mounted escort.  However, instead of immediately setting out for the trans-Mississippi West, the President detoured and overtook his wife fleeing toward the Florida coast.

He traveled with his family until the 10th in an effort to see them safely through the threatening pursuit.  He was captured by a unit of Michigan cavalry while encamped near Irwinville, Georgia, on the eve of his intended departure for the west.

The End.  --Old B-Runner

President Davis Arrives At Abbeville, South Carolina--Part 1

MAY 2ND, 1865:  President Davis, accompanied by most of his cabinet and other ranking officials of the Confederacy, entered Abbeville, South Carolina, escorted by the remnants of four brigades of cavalry commanded by Brigadier General Basil Duke.

The President's cavalry train was met there by Lt. W.H. Parker, commanding the 150 man naval escort which had safely transported and guarded the Confederate archives and treasury during the thirty day journey from Richmond.  Parker transferred his cargo to Acting Secretary of the Treasury John Reagan and was instructed by him to deliver it to General Duke.

Upon completing the transfer, Parker disbanded his command; but with a lingering optimism for the Confederacy's future, he ordered each Midshipman:  "You are hereby detached from the naval school, and leave is granted you to visit your home.  You will report by letter to the Hon. Secretary of the Navy as soon as practicable."

Later in the day. Parker conferred with the President and advised him that his chances for escape would greatly be enhanced if he would abandon his large cavalry escort and leave "now with a few followers and cross the Mississippi, as you express a desire to do eventually, and there again raise the standard."

What's Left of the Confederate Government On the Run.  --Old B-R'er

Confederate Plans to Mine Galveston Harbor

MAY 2ND, 1865:  Commander Matthew F. Maury sailed from England carrying $40,000 worth of electric torpedo equipment which he was confident could be used to keep Galveston Harbor open for the Confederacy.  he had developed what today is known as a controlled mine system during the two and a half years he served in Europe with Commander Bulloch.

It was a harbor defense system consisting of a planted mine field with each mine in a charted position and capable of being separately detonated by closing an electrical  circuit from ashore when the target ship is within a mine's lethal range.

Maury, a pioneer in mine warfare as well as oceanography, had devised the system working in close conjunction with British naval engineers.  he prophetically appraised the  system as being "as effective for defense as ironclads and rifled guns are for the attack....I feel justified in the opinion that hereafter in all plans for coast, harbor, and river defense...the electrical torpedo is to play an important part."

Upon arriving at Havana, Maury learned of the collapse of the Confederacy and he stored the equipment in the city.

--Those Torps Again.  --Old B-Runner

Great Weather Turns Bad for CSS Shenandoah-- Part 2: The Big Blow

"After the vessel had reached the parallel of 43 degrees north the weather became cold and foggy and the winds were variable and unsteady, and that ever reliable friend of the sailor, the barometer, indicated atmospheric changes.

"The ship was prepared for the change of weather which was rapidly approaching.  Soon the ocean was boiling with agitation, and if the barometer had been silent, I would have called it only a furious tide but a dark, then a black cloud, was hurrying toward us from the N.E. and so close did it rest upon the surface of the water that it seemed determined to overwhelm the ship, and there came in it so terrible and violent of a wind that the Shenandoah was thrown upon her side...."

"Squall after squall struck her, flash after flash surrounded her, and the thunder rolled in her wake.  It was a typhoon.  The ocean was as white as the snow and foamed with rage.  A new close-reefed topsail was blown to shreds, and the voice of man was inaudible amid this awful convolution of nature."

Into Every man's Life, Storms Must Come.  --Old B-R'er

Great Weather Turns Bad for CSS Shenandoah-- Part 1: A Pleasant Cruise, Then...

MAY 1-15TH, 1865:  During this period, the CSS Shenandoah "made nothings" towards the Bering Sea whaling ground through pleasant seas that would soon change in the high latitudes.  After departing Lea harbor, Ponape, in the Caroline Islands on 13 April, the lone raider had experienced fine cruising--except for lack of prizes.

Waddell wrote: "Never in our various experience of sea life had any of us seen such or more charming weather than we now enjoyed.  The sun shone with a peculiar brilliancy and the moon shed that clear, soft light which is found in this locality, in which the heavens seem so distant and darkly blue, while the vast expanse of ocean was like a great reflecting mirror.

"The track for vessels bound from San Francisco and many of the ports on the west coast of America to Hong Kong lies between the parallels in north latitude of 17 degrees and 20 degrees  here the winds are better than are found in a more northerly route, while the track to San Francisco and other ports along the west coast of America lies between the parallels of 35 degrees and 45 degrees, because here west winds prevail..."

Real Pleasant Sailing.  --Old B-Runner

Lincoln Assassination Suspects Transferred to Arsenal Penetentiary

APRIL 30TH, 1865:  The eight suspects in the Lincoln assassination plot who had been imprisoned on the U.S. monitors Saugus and Montauk were transferred to the Arsenal Penitentiary, located on the compound of what is today Fort McNair.  This was also the site of their trial by a military tribunal which returned its guilty verdict on June 30th.

Three of the eight, along with Mary Surratt, were hanged in the prison yard of the penitentiary on 7 July--  Lewis Paine who made the unsuccessful assassination attempt on Secretary of State Seward; George A. Atzerodt who had been designated by Booth to murder Vice President Johnson; and David E. Herold who had accompanied Booth in his escape from the city.

Michael O'Laughlin and Samuel B. Arnold, boyhood friends of Booth and conspirators in the actor's earlier plans to assassinate top officials, were sentenced to life in prison.  Another accomplice, Edward Spangler, stagehand at Ford's Theatre, was sentenced to six years in prison.  The remaining two of the eight who had been incarcerated on the monitors-- Ernest Hartman Richter, a cousin of Atzerodt, and Joao Celestino, a Portuguese sea captain--were released without being brought to trial.

--Old B-R'er

Why I'm Going Ahead

I'm not sure when I will next be able to post on the blog, so decided to go ahead with entries as this is the 150th anniversary of the end of the war.

--Old B-Runner

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Action Along the Cumberland River

APRIL 29TH, 1865:  Acting Master W.C. Coulson, commanding the USS Moose on the Cumberland River, led a surprise attack on a Confederate raiding party, numbering about 200 troops from Brigadier general Abraham Buford's command.

The raiders, under the command of a Major Hopkins, were crossing the Cumberland River to sack and burn Eddyville, Kentucky.  Coulson sank two troop laden boats with battery gunfire and then put a landing party ashore which engaged the remaining Confederates.

This landing force dispersed the detachment after killing or wounding 20 men, taking 6 captives, and capturing 22 horses.

ALSO ON APRIL 29TH:  The USS Donegal was ordered to cruise from Bull's Bay, S.C., to the Savannah River in search of the CSS Stonewall.

--Old B-R'er

Welles Congratulates Thatcher on Fall of Mobile

APRIL 29TH, 1865:  Secretary Welles congratulated Rear Admiral Thatcher and his men for their part in bringing about the fall of Mobile:  "Although no bloody strife preceded the capture..., the result was none the less creditable.

"Much has been expended to render it invulnerable, and nothing but the well-conducted preparations for its capture, which pointed to success, could have induced the rebel commander to abandon it with is formidable defenses, mounting nearly 400 guns, many of them of the newest pattern and heaviest caliber, its abundant supply of ammunition and ordnance stores, and its torpedo-planted roads and waters, without serious conflict."

--Old B-Runner

Continued Operations at Mobile

APRIL 28TH, 1865:  Rear Admiral Thatcher reported to Secretary Welles that the USS Octorara, Sebago and Winnebago were up the Tombigbee River, Alabama, blockading the CSS Nashville and Morgan.  The Confederate ships had steamed upriver when Mobile fell.

The admiral concluded:  "They must soon fall into our hands or destroy themselves.

--Old B-Runner

Still Looking for Davis

APRIL 28TH, 1865:  Secretary Welles directed Rear Admiral Thatcher of the West Gulf Blockading Squadron:  "Lieutenant General Grant telegraphs to the War Department under the date 26th instant, from Raleigh, N.C., that Jeff Davis, with his Cabinet, passed into South Carolina, with the intentions, no doubt, of getting out of the country, either via Cuba or across the Mississippi.

"All the vigilance and available means at your command should be brought to bear to prevent the escape of those leaders of the rebellion."

--Old B-R'er