Fort Fisher

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

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Action in Louisiana

MARCH 26-27TH, 1865:  A detachment of sailors led by Acting Ensign Peyton H. Randolph of the USS Benton joined troops under the command of Brigadier General B.G. Farar in a combined expedition to Trinity, Louisiana,  where they captured a small number of Confederate soldiers as well as horses, arms and stores.

--Old B-Runner

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Lee Makes Last Attempt to Break Grant's Lines-- Part 2

Lee's attack was his last bold gamble for great stakes.  Never one to submit tamely to even the most formidable odds, he sought in the surprise attack to cripple Grant's army so that the overwhelming spring attack the Federals were building up could not be launched.

Lee hoped that he could speed to North Carolina with part of the veterans, join General Johnston and crush Sherman while still holding his Richmond-Petersburg line.  Had the attack gone as well in its latter stages as it did in the first onslaught, he would have been within range of City Point, only some ten miles away.

The wholesale destruction of the host of supply ships, mountains of stores, and vast arsenal would have ended Grant's plan for seizing Richmond that spring.

--Old B-R'er

Lee Makes Last Attempt to Break Grant's Lines-- Part 1

MARCH 25TH, 1865:  General Grant wired Rear Admiral Porter that General Lee's soldiers had broken through the right of his lines and that he thought they would strike toward the central James River supply base at City Point a few miles from the breakthrough.

"I would suggest putting one or two gunboats on the Appomattox up as high as the pontoon bridge, he told the Admiral.  Porter immediately ordered gunboats up the Appomattox River to guard the bridge "at all times."

Simultaneously, the USS Wilderness was ordered up the Chickahominy River to communicate with General Sheridan, carry intelligence about any Confederate activity along the river, and bring back dispatches from Sheridan for Grant.

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

USS Republic Engages Wheeler's Cavalry on the Cape Fear River

MARCH 24TH, 1865:  The USS Republic was dispatched up the Cape Fear River from Wilmington to check reports that detachments of General Wheeler's cavalry were operating in the area.  About six miles up the river a cavalry squad was driven away with gunfire.

They then landed a reconnoitering party.  It was learned that the mounted Confederates had broken into small squads and were plundering the countryside.

They also made contact with a rear guard detachment of General Sherman's army en route to Fayetteville.

--Old B-R'er

Lincoln Visits With Gen. Grant and an Army-Navy Problem With Horses and Boats

MARCH 24TH, 1865:  President Lincoln visited General Grant at City Point, Virginia, arriving at this all-important water-supported supply base at 9 p.m. on board the steamer River Queen.  Accompanied by Mrs. Lincoln and his son Tad, he was escorted up the James River by the USS Bat, Lt.Cmdr.  John S. Barnes.

Two days later Barnes accompanied Lincoln and Grant on a review of part of the Army of the James.  General Horace Porter, serving on the general's staff, later recalled:  "Captain Barnes, who commanded the vessel which had escorted the President's steamer, was to be part of the party, and I loaned him my horse.

"This was a favor which was usually accorded with some reluctance to naval officers when they came ashore; for these men of the ocean at times tried to board the animal on the starboard side, and often rolled in the saddle as if there was a heavy sea on; and if the horse, in his anxiety to rid himself of the sea-monster, tried to scrape his rider off by rubbing against a tree, the officer attributed the unseaman-like conduct of the animal entirely to the fact that his steering-gear had become unshipped....

"Navy officers were about as reluctant to lend their boats to to army people, for fear they would knock holes in te bottom when jumping in, break the oars in catching crabs, and stave in the bows through an excess of modesty which manifested itself in a reluctance to give the command 'Way enough!' in time when approaching a wharf."

Wondering How Lr. Cmdr. Barnes Did On That Horse?  --Old B-Runner

The CSS Stonewall Attempts to Engage the USS Niagara and Sacramento-- Part 2

MARCH 24TH, 1865:  However, as Craven explained to secretary Welles:  "At this time the odds were in her favor were too great and too certain, in my humble judgement, to admit of the slightest hope of being able to to inflict upon her even the most trifling injury, whereas, if we would have gone out, the Niagara would most likely have been easily and promptly destroyed.

"So thoroughly a one-sided combat I did not consider myself called upon to engage in."

Craven was subsequently courtmartialed and found remiss in his duties for failing to engage the Stonewall.  Serving as President of the court was Vice Admiral Farragut and sitting as a member was Commodore John A. Winslow who had sunk the Confederate raider Alabama.

The court sentenced Craven to two years suspension on leave pay.  Welles refusesd to approve what he regarded as a "paid vacation" for an officer who had been found guilty and instead restored Craven to duty.

Quite An Interesting Story.  Perhaps a Book Is Needed.  --Old B-R'er

CSS Stonewall Puts to Sea and Attempts to Engage USS Niagara and Sacramento-- Part 1

MARCH 24TH. 1865:  The heavily armed Confederate ironclad Stonewall, Captain T.J. Page puts to sea from Ferrol, Spain, after two previous attempts had failed because of foul weather.  Page cleared the harbor at mid-morning and attempted to bring on an engagement with the wooden frigate USS Niagara and sloop-of-war USS Sacramento, under Commodore T. T. Craven.

The Sacramento was commanded by Captain Henry Walke, who had gained fame as captain of the Eads ironclad gunboat USS Carondolet in the Mississippi Campaign.  Craven had kept his ships at anchor at nearby Coruna, Spain,  and refused to accept the Stonewall's challenge.

Page wrote to Commander Bulloch in Liverpool:  "To suppose that these two heavily-armed men-of-war were afraid of the Stonewall is to me incredible...."

--Old B-Runner

Monday, March 23, 2015

USS Constellation "Oldest Warship Afloat" Still Providing Service

MARCH 23RD, 1865:  The USS Constellation, approaching its 68th birthday of her launching and already the United States' oldest warship afloat, as she still is today, continued to serve a useful purpose in the new era of steam and iron.

This date Commodore Radford reported from Norfolk to Rear Admiral Porter:  "I have ordered the men transferred from the Wabash to this ship [USS Dumbarton] for the James River Flotilla on board the Constellation."

My question:  What about the USS Constitution?

What About It.  --Old B-R'er

Directions for the North Carolina Sounds

MARCH 23RD, 1865:  From the James River, Rear Admiral Porter directed Commander Macomb, commanding in the North Carolina  Sounds: "It  seems to be the policy now to break up all trade, especially that which may benefit the rebels, and you will dispose your vessels about the sounds to capture all contraband of war going into the enemy's lines.

"You will stop all supplies of clothing that can by any possibility benefit a soldier; seize all vessels afloat that carry provisions to any place not held by our troops and send them into court for adjudication.  Recognize no permits where there is a prospect of stores of any kind going into rebel hands....

"For any capture, send in prize lists and make full reports.  You will see by the law (examine it carefully) that an officer is authorized to send all property 'not abandoned' into court, especially property afloat."

Let Nothing Move.  --Old B-Runner

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Lincoln and His Generals Have Conference

MARCH 22ND, 1865:  Assistant secretary Fox directed Commodore Montgomery, Commandant of the Washington Navy Yard, to have the USS Bat ready to convoy the steamer River Queen, bound for City Point at noon the next day:  "The President will be in the River Queen, bound for City Point."

Lincoln was headed for a conference with his top commanders.

In a hard battle (19-22 March), General Sherman had just defeated a slashing attack by General Johnston at Bentonville, midway between his two river contacts with the sea at Fayetteville and Goldsboro.

At Goldsboro Sherman was joined by General Schofield's Army, which had been brought to Wilmington by ships.

Confident of the security of his position, Sherman could leave his soldiers for a few days and take the steamer Russia to City Point and the meeting with Lincoln, Grant and Porter.

--Old B-Runner

Destitute Folks at Biloxi and Action in the Fish River

MARCH 21ST, 1865:  Lt.Cmdr. Arthur R. Yates, commanding the USS J.P. Jackson, in Mississippi Sound, reported to Rear Admiral Thatcher that he had issued food from his ship's stores to relieve the destitute and starving condition of the people in Biloxi, cut off from Mobile from which provisions had been formerly received.

Yates demonstrated the humanitarian heritage of the Navy.

ALSO THIS DATE:  The heavy guns of Union gunboats supported the landing of troops of general Canby's command at Dannelly's Mills on the Fish River, Alabama.    This was a diversionary action intended to prevent the movement of additional Confederate troops to Mobile during the week prior to the opening of the Federal attack against that city.

--Old B-R'er

CSS Stonewall Attempts to Put Out to Sea

MARCH 21ST, 1865:  The CSS Stonewall having been detained in Ferrol, Spain, for several days because of foul weather, attempted to put to sea.  However, the seas outside were still too heavy and the ironclad put back into port.

Two days alter another attempt to get to sea met with similar results.  They off-loaded some 40 tons of coal to make her more seaworthy.

--Old B-Runner

Friday, March 20, 2015

Successful Raising of the CSS Albemarle

MARCH 20TH, 1865:  Commander Macomb, USS Shamrock, reported the successful raising of the Confederate ram Albemarle.  The formidable ironclad had been sunk the previous autumn during the daring attack by Lt. William Cushing in an improvised torpedo boat on October 27, 1864.

A major blow to Confederate hopes in the sounds of North carolina.

--Old B-R'er

CSS Neuse Center Grand Opening in Kinston-- Part 4

Scharf was wrong, though.  Actually the CSS Neuse was still in the Neuse River at its end and the Confederates at Kinstin were under Bragg.  The Federals were led by General  Jacob D. Cox in 1865 at Kinston.

The General Foster that Scharf mentioned did lead an attack against Kinston in 1862 (and also attacked the Neuse while under construction at Seven Springs, N.C., near Goldsboro).  Confederate General Hardee wasn't too far away at the time of the Neuse's destruction.  He fought Union General Henry Slocum at the Battle of Averasboro.

North Carolina Sites director Andrew Duppstadt will present "Final Days of the Neuse" presentation at 11 a.m.

Wade Sokolosky will then talk about the Battle of Wyse Fork (Second Battle of Kinston) at 1 p.m..

Historian Dennis Harper will then lead a tour of that battlefield at 2 p.m..

Like I Said Before, I Sure Would Have Liked to Have Been There.  --Old B-Runner

Thursday, March 19, 2015

USS Massachusetts Strikes Torpedo in Charleston Harbor

MARCH 19TH, 1865:  The USS Massachusetts struck a torpedo in Charleston Harbor; "fortunately it did not explode."  The incident took place two days after the Coast Survey steamer Bibb had been damaged by a torpedo in the harbor and occurred within 50 yards of the wreck of the monitor USS Patapsco, which had been sunk by a torpedo two months earlier on January 15th.

The danger to those attempting to clear torpedoes from the waters previously controlled by the South was constant, as was the risk to ships that were simply operating in the waters.

Not an Easy Duty.  --Old B-R'er