Fort Fisher

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

Monday, February 20, 2017

February 19, 1862: Robert E. Lee Issues Orders on Defense of Florida

FEBRUARY 19TH, 1862:  General Robert E. Lee, harassed by the Confederate inability to cope with the guns of the Union fleet, wrote Brigadier General Trapier regarding the defenses of Florida:  "In looking at the whole defense of Florida, it becomes important to ascertain what points can probably be held and what points had better be relinquished.

"The force that the enemy can bring against any position where he can concentrate his floating batteries renders it prudent and proper to withdraw from the islands to the main-land and be prepared to contest his advance into the interior.

"Where an island offers the best point of defense, and is so connected with the main that its communications cannot be cut off, it may be retained.  Otherwise it should be abandoned."

Watch Out For Their Gunboats.  --Old B-Runner

The Battle At Elizabeth City, N.C.: A Big Act of Bravery

One example of the "dash" Ammen referred to in the previous post, was called to Flag Officer Goldsborough's attention by Commander Rowan.  "I would respectfully call your attention to one incident of the engagement which reflects much credit upon a quarter gunner of the Valley City and for which Congress has provided rewards in the shape of medals.

"A shot passed through her magazine and exploded in a locker beyond containing fireworks.  The commander, Lieutenant Commander Chaplain, went there to aid in suppressing the fire, where he found John Davis, quarter gunner, seated with commendable coolness on an open barrel of powder as the only means to keep the fire out."

For demonstrating such courage, "while at the same time passing powder to provide te division on the upper deck while under fierce enemy fire," Davis was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by General Order 11, 3 April 1863.

Not Sitting This One Out.  --Old B-R'er

February 10, 1862: Huge Union Success at Elizabeth City, N.C.

FEBRUARY 10TH, 1862:  Following the capture of Roanoke Island, a naval flotilla, including embarked Marines, under Commander Rowan in the USS Delaware, pursuing Flag Officer Lynch's retiring Confederate naval force up the Pasquotank River, engaged the gunboats and batteries at Elizabeth City, North Carolina.

The CSS Ellis was captured and the CSS Seabird was sunk; the CSS Black Warrior, Fanny and Forrest were set on fire to avoid capture; the fort and batteries at Cobb's Point were destroyed.

Of Commander Rowan's success, Admiral Daniel Ammen later wrote:  "Nothing more brilliant in naval "dash" occured during the entire Civil War than appears in this attack."

--Old B-Runner

February 19, 1862: Trial Run of the Monitor

FEBRUARY 19TH, 1862:  The trial run of the two-gun ironclad USS Monitor in New York Harbor.  Chief Engineer Alban C. Stimers, USN, reported on the various difficulties that were presented during the trial run and concluded that her speed would be approximately six knots, "though Captain Ericsson  feels confident of 8."

--And, Away We Go.  --Old B-Runner

Sunday, February 19, 2017

February 19, 1862: Action At Winton, N.C.

FEBRUARY 19TH, 1862:  The USS Delaware, Commander Rowan, and USS Commodore Perry, Lt. Flusser, on a reconnaissance of the Chowan River, engaged Confederate troops at Winton, North Carolina.  The following day, Rowan's force covered the landing of Union troops who entered the town, destroying military stores and Confederate troop quarters before re-embarking.

**  The USS Brooklyn,  Captain T.T. Craven, and USS South Carolina, Lt. Hopkins, captured the steamer Magnolia in the Gulf of Mexico with large cargo of cotton.

--Old B-Runner

February 19, 1862: Foote Captures Another Fort and a City

FEBRUARY 19TH, 1862:  Confederates evacuated Clarksville, Tennessee.  Colonel W.H. Allen, CSA, reported to General Floyd:  "Gunboats are coming; they are just below point; can see steamer here.  Will try and see how many troops they have before I leave.

Lieutenant Brady set bridge on fire, but it is burning very slowly and will probably go out before it falls."

Asking in a postscript that any orders for him to be sent "promptly,"  Allen noted that "I will have to go in a hurry when I go."

Union forces under Flag officer Foote occupied Fort defiance and took possession of the town. Foote urged an immediate move on Nashville and notified Army headquarters in Cairo:  "The Cumberland is in a good stage of water and General Grant and I believe we can take Nashville."

--Old B-Runner

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Saturday, February 18, 2017

February 18, 1862: Action in Florida

FEBRUARY 18TH, 1862:  The USS Ethan Allen, Acting Lt. Eaton, entered Clearwater Harbor, Florida, and captured the schooner Spitfire and sloops Atlanta and Caroline.

--Old B-Runner

February 17, 1862: CSS Virginia Commissioned, Foote Moves On Clarksville

FEBRUARY 17TH, 1862:  The ironclad CSS Virginia (ex USS Merrimack) commissioned.  Captain Franklin Buchanan commanding.

**  Flag Officer Foote informed Secretary of Navy Welles:  "I leave immediately with the view of proceeding to Clarksville with eight mortar boats and two ironclad boats, with the Conestoga, wooden boat, as the river is rapidly falling.

"The other ironclad boats are badly cut up and require extensive repairs.  I have sent one of the boats already since my return and ordered a second to follow me, which, with eight mortars, hope to carry Clarksville."

--Old B-R'er

Friday, February 17, 2017

February 16, 1862: Sweeping Up the Cumberland River

FEBRUARY 16TH, 1862:  Gunboats of Flag Officer Foote's force destroyed the "Tennessee Iron Works" above Dover on the Cumberland River.

General McClellan wired Flag officer Foote from Washington:  "Sorry you are wounded.  How seriously?  Your conduct was magnificent.  With what force do you return?  I send nearly 600 sailors to you to-morrow."

--Old B-Runner


February 16, 1862: Fort Donelson Surrenders

FEBRUARY 16TH, 1862:  Fort Donelson surrendered to General Grant on February 16.  Major General Lew Wallis, speaking of the renewed gunboat support on 15 February, summed up the substantial role of the gunboats in the victory:  "I recollect yet the positive pleasure the sounds [naval gunfire] gave me...the obstinacy and courage of the Commodore...."

Was the attack "of assistance to us?  I don't think there is room to question it.  It distracted the enemy's attention, and I fully believe it was the gunboats ... that operated to prevent a general movement of the rebels up the river or across it.  , the night before the surrender."

Coming quickly after the fall of Fort Henry, the capture of Fort Donelson by a combined operation had a heavy impact on both sides.  News of the fall of Fort Donelson created great excitement in New Orleans where the press placed much blame on Secretary of Navy Mallory because "we are so wretchedly helpless on the water."

With their positions in Kentucky now untenable, the Confederates had to withdraw, assuring thatstate to the Union.  On the Mississippi, Confederate forces fell back on Island No. 10.  Nashville could not be held, and the Union armies were poised to sweep down into the heart of theSouth.

--Old B-Runner

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

February 15, 1862: Battle of Fort Donelson Continues, Confederate Ships Attack Union Forces Near Savannah

FEBRUARY 15TH, 1862:  The Battle of Fort Donelson, Tennessee, continues.

**  Four Confederate gunboats under Commodore Tattnall attacked Union batteries at Venus Point, on the Savannah River, Georgia, but were forced back to Savannah.  Tattnall was attempting to effect the passage of the steamer Ida from Fort Pulaski to Savannah.


--Old B-R'er

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

February 14, 1862: Obstructions and the USS Galena

FEBRUARY 14TH, 1862:  An armed boat from the USS Restless, Acting Lt. Edward Conroy, captured and destroyed sloop Edisto and schooners Wandoo, Elizabeth and Theodore Stoney off Bull's Bay, South Carolina.  All the ships carried heavy cargoes of rice for Charleston.

**  Confederate ships sank obstructions in the Cape Fear River near Fort Caswell, North Carolina, in an effort to block the channel.

**  The USS Galena, an experimental sea-going ironclad, was launched at Mystic, Connecticut.

--Old B-Runner


February 14, 1862: Attack on Fort Donelson Begins

FEBRUARY 14, 1862:  Gunboats USS St. Louis, Carondelet, Louisville, Pittsburg, Tyler and Conestoga under Flag Officer Foote joined with General Grant in attacking Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River.  Donelson, on high ground, could subject the gunboats to a plunging fire and was a more difficult objective than Fort Henry.

Foote did not consider the gunboats properly prepared for the assault on Donelson so soon after the heavy action at Fort Henry; nevertheless, at the "urgent request" pf both Grant and General Halleck to reduce the fortifications, Foote moved against the Confederate works.

Bitter fire at close range opened on both sides.  The flagship, St. Louis, was shit fifty-nine times and lost steering control, as did the Louisville.  Both disabled vessels drifted down stream and the gunboat attack was broken off.

Flag Officer Foote suffered injuries which forced him to give up command three months later.

--Old B-Runner

Monday, February 13, 2017

February 13-15, 1862: Those "Infernal Machines"

FEBRUARY 13-15, 1862:  The USS Pembina, Lt. John P. Bankhead, discovered a  battery of "tin-can" torpedoes (mines) while engaged in sounding the Savannah River above the mouth of Wright's River.  The mines, only visible at low tide, were connected by wires and moored individually to the bottom.

The following day, Bankhead returned and effected the removal of one of the 'infernal machines" for purposes of examination.  On the 15th, Bankhead "deemed it more prudent to endeavor to sink the remaining ones than to attempt to remove them," and sank the mines by rifle fire.

Torpedoes were planted in large numbers in the harbors and rivers of the Confederacy, constituting a major hazard which Union commanders had to consider and reckon with in planning operations.

Don't Go in the Water.  Old B-R'er


Sunday, February 12, 2017

February 11, 1862: Foote Underway to Fort Donelson

FEBRUARY 11TH, 1862:  Flag officer Foote, foreseeing the realities of the situation into which he was being pulled by the tide of events, wrote Secretary of the Navy Welles:  "I leave [Cairo] again to-night with the Louisville, Pittsburg, and St. Louis for the Cumberland River, to cooperate with the army in the attack on Fort Donelson....

"I shall do all in my power to render the gunboats effective in the fight, although they are not properly manned....  If we could wait ten days, and I had men, I would go with eight mortar boats and six armored boats and conquer."

Despite the serious difficulties they faced, Foote and his gunboat fleet made what General Grant was to term admiringly "a gallant attack."

--Old B-Runner