Fort Fisher

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

Saturday, November 16, 2019

USS Hendrick Hudson (former Blockade Runner CSS Florida)-- Part 1: Built in New York

From Wikipedia.

Earlier this week, I wrote about this ship and the USS Nita making a recon mission into Tampa Bay, Florida on November 12, 1864, and failing to destroy a Confederate salt work.


Was a schooner-rigged screw steamer:  460 tons, 171 feet long, 29.11 foot beam, , 11 knots, armament: four 8-inch guns, two 20-pounder cannons.

It was built as the Florida in Greenpoint, New York, in 1859.    Taken into CSN service in 1862 as the CSS Florida.  Not to be confused with the Confederate raider CSS Florida.

--Old B-Runner

Thursday, November 14, 2019

USS Nita-- Part 2: Three Prizes and the Salt Works

On the morning of February 24, 1864, Lt. Smith, who had been alerted by Union agents in Cuba, spotted the steamer Nan Nan, loaded with cotton attempting to slip out to sea from the Suwanee River.  The Nita gave immediate chase, running aground twice in the shallow waters, but forced the Nan Nan to throw her cotton overboard.

It ran ashore and was burned by her crew.

The Nita's next prize was on 11 April when she  captured the schooner Three Brothers at the mouth of the Homosassa River after a chase of three hours.  The Three Brothers had been attempting to slip into the river carrying supplies from Havana.

The third and final ship the Nita captured was 24 October when two of her boats boarded the abandoned and burning schooner Unknown in Clearwater Harbor.  They were able to put the fire out and took it to Key West for adjudication.

On 12 November, the Nita and USS Hendrick Hudson steamed into Tampa Bay and made a reconnaissance  and landed a party of sailors at Rocky Point to destroy a Confederate salt works, but were driven off by Southern cavalry.  On 3 December, the Nita and four other Union ships returned and destroyed the salt works.

In 1865, the Nita continued patrolling west Florida's coast  until decommissioned in Key West 3 May 1865 and sold at public auction.

The History of a Lesser-Known Ship.  --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

USS Nita-- Part 1: Former Blockade Runner

Yesterday, I wrote about this ship and the USS Hendrick Hudson attacking a Confederate salt work near Tampa, Florida.

From Wikipedia.

The USS Nita was a captured Confederate steamer built in Mobile, Alabama in 1856 and captured carrying food and medicine from Havana.

It was 210 tons, 145 feet long, 22.4 foot beam, with 5 foot draft which made it a good choice for operating in shallow water.  Crew of 46 with armament of one  12-pounder howitzer and two 12-pounder smoothbores.

After being condemned in prize court, the U.S. Navy bought her  10 September 1863. and commissioned 8 January 1864, with Acting Volunteer Lieutenant Robert B. Smith in command.  It was assigned to the East Gulf Blockading Squadron and operated for the remainder of the war primarily between the mouth of the Suwanee River and the Anclote Keys.

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

November 12, 1864: Attempt to Destroy Salt Works in Florida Fails

From the Civil War Naval Chronology.

NOVEMBER 12, 1864:  A boat expedition from the USS Hendrick Hudson, Acting Lieutenant Charles H. Rockwell, and USS Nita, Acting Lieutenant Robert B. Smith, attempted to destroy Confederate  salt works while on a reconnaissance near Tamp Bay, Florida, but the sailors were driven back to their boats by Southern cavalry.

--Old B-Runner

Monday, November 11, 2019

In Honor of Veterans Day: My Experience at the USS Constitution

The last two days I have been writing about five places you can visit to appreciate the service of our veterans in my Not So Forgotten:  War of 1812 blog.

One of them was the USS Constitution and I visited it, well went to it, but did not board it.

We were on a trip along the New England Coast from Boston through Maine and decided to go to this historic ship and tour it.  That is one beautiful ship.  All that rigging and tall masts.  We are fortunate that this ship was preserved for future generations.  And, I especially like the fact that it is still manned by active duty Navy personnel and is the oldest still-commissioned warship in the world, still capable of sailing under its own power.

And, it was still commissioned during the Civil War.

Sadly, however, the line was way too long and we just enjoyed looking at it.

Maybe, another time.

So, I Didn't Get To Go On It, But Saw It.  Beautiful Ship.  --Old B-Runner

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Friday, November 8, 2019

Arthur Sinclair, CSN-- Part 2: Former Officer in U.S. Navy

Arthur Sinclair, CSN, lost his life when the blockade runner Lelia sank off Liverpool on her maiden voyage to Nassau and before running the blockade into Wilmington, North Carolina.  I have been writing about the unfortunate sinking of this ship in this blog.

From Find a Grave.

Arthur Sinclair was an officer in the U.S. Navy before resigning to join the Confederate Navy.  He joined the U.S. Navy at the age of 13 on 4 March 1823 as a midshipman.  His commission as a lieutenant came on  3 March 1835 and commander on 14 September 1855.

He was involved in the expedition of Japan (under Commodore Matthew Perry) which tried to open the country;s ports to American commerce.  He commanded the USS Supply which carried gifts to the Japanese in friendship and to show what American industry could produce.

--Old B-Runner

Thursday, November 7, 2019

CDR. Arthur Sinclair, CSN-- Part 1: His Father Was a U.S. Navy Officer 1798-1831

From Find-A-Grave.

Birth:  29 November 1810 in Norfolk, Virginia

Death:  14 January 1865 in Fylde Burrough Lancashire, England

Buried:  Fleetwood Cemetery, Wyre Burrough, Lancashire, England


His father was Arthur Sinclair,  Commodore, U.S. Navy.

Born:  28 February 1780,  Mecklenburg County, Virginia

Died:  7 February 1831, Norfolk, Virginia

Buried:  Cedar Grove Cenglemetery, Norfolk, Virginia.

Entered U,S, Navy service as a midshipman on November 15, 1798.  became captain on July 28, 1813.

Served in the Quasi War with France, the First Barbary War and the War of 1812.

--Old B-R'er

The Blockade Runner Lelia That Didn't-- Part 6: Sinclair's Burial

Richard Taylor added that Federal forces had since occupied Norfolk, Virginia, and had  "ejected Mrs. Sinclair and her family from their home with great barbarity."

Captain Sinclair had lost his previous ship near Bermuda in 1864 before his voyage on the ill-fated Lelia and was said by Taylor to have been at the siege of Vicksburg.  His funeral took place on third June 1865 in Fleetwood and was attended by his two sons, Arthur Jnr and Terry.

His gravestone bears the inscription, "Scared to the memory of Captain Arthur Sinclair of Norfolk Virginia who perished in the wreck of the Lelia--  January 14th, 1865.  Not lost but gone before."

In addition to Sinclair, , Thomas Miller, Captain Skinner, Mr. Robson, J.B. Cropper an all the officers of the Lelia drowned--  only 12 were saved.

At the subsequent inquiry,  it was recorded that the Lelia was a well found ship but the fact that her four boats were without oarlocks contributed to the large loss of life..

--Old B-Runner

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

The Blockade Runner Lelia That Didn't-- Part 5" "Profits From His Exploits"

Continued from  the October 18, 2019, blog entry.  This from "When Liverpool was Dixie:The Sad Voyage of the Lelia The Blockade Runner that didn't."

An inquest as to the cause of the sinking was held at Fleetwood on June 2, 1865 at the Steamer Hotel.

In attendance were Richard Taylor, former Paymaster of the CSS Florida, the Confederate warship built at Millers yard.  Taylor was living in Liverpool at the time, following his release by federal authorities after being captured on board the Florida  when she was rammed in the port of Bahia, Brazil -- a violation of International Law.

He informed the committee that he identified the body for the police from the watch, clothing and accompanying documents that related to a 1300 pound deposit with Crenshaw and Company of Liverpool.

In a subsequent interview with a reporter of the Fleetwood Chronicle, Taylor said that Sinclair had left instructions, in the event of his death or capture, that 100 pounds be paid from this sum to each of his sons, the remainder to his wife.

According to Taylor, Sinclair had run the blockade successfully from Nassau to Wilmington on several occasions and this deposit was  presumably  profits from his exploits.

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

November 5, 1864: Cushing the Gallant

NOVEMBER 5TH, 1864:  In general order No. 34 to the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, Rear Admiral Porter wrote:  "The gallant exploits of Lieutenant Cushing previous to this affair will form a bright page in the history of the war, but they have all been eclipsed by the destruction of the Albemarle.

"The spirit evinced by this officer is what I wish to see pervading this squadron....Opportunity will be offered to all those who have the energy and skill to undertake like enterprises."

He's So Proud of Cushing.  --Old B-Runner

Monday, November 4, 2019

Blockade Runner Annie-- Part 2: Facing the Hurricane

"I made a second voyage through the blockade in the Annie, passing within a cable length of two of the Federal fleet, who failed to observe us.

We again loaded the Annie in Nassau and cleared for Wilmington, but fell in with a hurricane shortly afterwards and were obliged to heave to for about forty hours, during which we lost our reckoning, and failing to get observations for three days, waited until the gale subsided and then anchored the ship in smooth water, by kedge, until the captain succeeded in getting an observation of the North Star, by which he worked out his position, we then shaped our course straight for the blockade fleet off Fort Fisher.

At that time, and subsequently, it was the custom for the Flag Ship of the blockading squadron to carry a large light, and, this being the only one visible, served the purpose of guiding the blockade runners until they get the bearing of the Mound Light...."

This was his last voyage on the Annie.

Thanks Blockaders, For That Light.--Old B-Runner

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Blockade Runner Annie-- Part 1

This ship had quite an active October 1864, when it was almost captured running into Wilmington and captured at the end of the month on its way out of that port.  This was the ship the USS Aster was chasing when it ran aground and was lost, that the USS Berberry was trying to pull off when it to ran aground before being rescued by the USS Niphon.  I have been writing about these ships the last several weeks.

On October 31, 1864, the Annie was captured by the USS Niphon and Wilderness.

The following pilot shipped aboard the Annie several times through the blockade at Wilmington.

From James William Craig, A Veteran Cape Fear River Pilot."

After successfully piloting several runners into and out of Wilmington, he was ordered to go to Nassau in the blockade runner Fanny, (former Orion), and report to Captain Watters in the blockade runner Annie.

"I remember we left [Wilmington] in the Fanny on a Saturday night and arrived in Nassau before daylight of Tuesday morning, where I found the Annie loaded and ready for sea and waiting for me.  We accordingly left about 4 o'clock in the afternoon and arrived without incident inside the Cape Fear Bar on the Friday night following."

More Adventures in the Annie Next.  --Old B-Runner

USS Berberry-- Part 5: Continued Operations in North Carolina Waters

Repairs were finished by November 1864 and the Berberry departed Norfolk on the 23rd and headed back to the waters off New Inlet, arriving ion the 26th.  That night her guns persuaded a blockade runner to give up its attempt to escape to sea.

Early in December, illness forced Ensign Milton Griffith (who had commanded the Berberry ever since commissioning) to request relief and Ensign Robert W. Browntree took command of the tug on December 4.    On the 10th, a bad storm forced the Berberry to Beaufort, N.C. for repairs.

Mid-month, the ship was in the Sounds of N.C. where she served the rest of the year.

On January 3, 1865, Acting Ensign Peter C. Asserson took command and returned to blockade duty off New Inlet.   She operated there until February 26.  She then returned to Beaufort and operated in the sounds until the collapse of the Confederacy.

On 29 May, it left N.C. waters and returned to Hampton Roads the following day. Then on to New York where she was decommissioned at New York Navy Yard on June 10 and sold at public auction two days later.

She was redocumented as the tug Rescue and  served through the turn of the century before being purchase by a foreign interest in 1902.

Quite a Busy Service.  --Old B-Runner

Friday, November 1, 2019

USS Berberry-- Part 4: The USS Niphon Rescues the Stricken Berberry

As she moved away from the stricken Aster, the Berberry ran across the hawser that had been used in the attempt to draw the ship off the shoals and it got all tangled in the propellers.  The Berberry's commander then had his men raise all the awnings, blankets and other large pieces of cloth as jury-rigged  "sails to drift the Berberry off shore."  meanwhile, he burned Costan signal lights to call for help.

When the USS Niphon saw the lights it had been preparing to launch boats to board the stranded blockade runner Annie that the Aster had been chasing.  They immediately abandoned that project and  and headed for the Berberry to lend aid.

About this time, the Aster burst into flame, illuminating both Union ships and Confederate batteries opened fire on them.  Despite this, the Niphon was able to pull the Berberry off.  The berberry was leaking so badly, however, that she had to go to Norfolk for repairs.

--Old B-Runner