Fort Fisher

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

Friday, July 25, 2014

Confederate Navy Yard Marker Missing

From July 1, 2014, Shreveport (La.) Times.

The marker read: "Confederate Navy Yard: One block west near the mouth of Cross Bayou at Red River the ironclad Missouri and ram Webb built.  Missouri armored with railroad iron.   In 1863 the Webb fought USS Indianola near Vicksburg.  Missouri was surrendered here May 1865."

The state purchased the aluminum sign and placed it on a traffic island.  It is now gone and no one knows what happened to it.

Also, a few years ago, a bronze marker detailing where Confederate forts and batteries were located on Marshall Street was stolen.

The missing marker was placed in 1975 at a cost of $325.  Estimates show a replacement one will cost $1,900 to $2,200.

--Old B-Runner

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Cassidey's Shipyard-- Part 2

Work on the CSS Raleigh, a four-gun steam sloop sometimes classified as a ram. began in mid-1862, about the same time that work on the CSS North Carolina began at Beery's Shipyard did across the river.

The Raleigh's construction was frequently stalled.  Crews and workers fled yellow fever epidemics of 1862 and 1863.  Then, workers went on strike when pay was delayed by the Confederate Navy department.

It wasn't until April 30, 1863, that the Raleigh was commissioned.

After the war, Cassidey's Shipyard merged with Benjamin W. Beery's adjoining works at the foot of Nun Street and was renamed Cassidey & Beery.  In 1881 S.W. Skinner took over the facility, and by 1911 the Cape Fear  Machine Works had moved onto the site.

--Old B-Runner

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Cassidey's Shipyard-- Part 1

From the Encyclopedia of North Carolina.

This was the smaller of the two Confederate shipyards in Wilmington, North Carolina during the war and the construction site for the ironclad ram CSS Raleigh.

The yard  was founded when James Cassidey (1792-1866), a ship's carpenter, bought a waterfront lot at the foot of Church Street on the east bank of the Cape Fear River and by the late 1830s he was operating a shipyard at the site.  By 1846, he was advertising a maritime railway.

By 1850, he was repairing and copper-bottoming sailing ships on the west Indies trade.

More to Come.  --Old B-Runner

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Yellow Fever in Key West

JULY 27, 1864:  Rear Admiral Bailey wrote Secretary Welles from Key West describing the severe epidemic of yellow fever among the officers and men of his squadron:  "My worst fears have been more than realized, and for more than two months the disease has held course without abatement and now as virulent as at any time....

"The mortality on the island I am told has reached as high as 12 to 15 in a day.... The squadron is much crippled."

Yellow Fever Was a Problem on Both Sides.  --Old B-R'er

Union Convoy Problems on the White River

JULY 27TH, 1864:  Col. Lewis B. Parsons, USA, Assistant Quartermaster and Chief of Western River Transportation, wrote Lt.Cmdr. Phelps, US Navy commander on the White River, about the unavailability of sufficient gunboats to convoy needed supply ships: "I am now in receipt of letters from three different officers, urgently enquiring if something can be done to prevent the detention of boats for convoys, in consequence of which, it is extremely difficult to send stores and supplies from Helena, Memphis, and other points....

"I have no doubt everything is being done in your power and consistent with your means, but considering the importance of the subject and the expenditure, is it not advisable to increase the means, so that convoys, if necessary, may be sent as boats arrive?

"If this can not be done, would it not do if two or three gunboats be stationed at different and dangerous points and boats be permitted to proceed without convoys?"

What Parsons was talking about was that supply ships were not allowed to proceed up the river without being in a convoy and protected by Union gunboats.  Often this meant waiting until several ships gathered and a warship found to escort them, causing delays.

Confederates were constantly harassing Union shipping along the western rivers.

--Old B-Runner

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Union Get Torpedo Boats in NC

JULY 27TH, 1864:  Rear Admiral Lee sent tugs Belle, Martin and Hoyt, fitted out as torpedo boats, to Commander Macomb, commanding Union naval forces at New Bern, North Carolina..  These tugs were to be used against reported Confederate ironclads in the area (CSS Neuse) and carried spar torpedoes described by Lee as: "This form of torpedo is intended to explode on impact, and  to be placed on a pole or rod projecting not less than 15 feet, and if possible 20 feet, beyond the vessel using it.

"It contains 150 pounds of powder."

Initially the Union rejected torpedo warfare, but as the war progressed, the North utilized it to their advantage.

--Old B-R'er

150 Years Ago-- July 26-27 USS Shokokon Engaged on James River

JULY 26-27TH, 1864:  Pickets from the USS Shokokon were attacked by Confederate sharpshooters at Turkey Bend, James River, Virginia.  The Shokokon supported the embattled landing party with gunfire and succeeded in preventing their capture.

The next day, the ship engaged a Confederate battery at the same place.

Hot Turkeys.  Old B-Runner

Friday, July 18, 2014

Disabling Mines in Mobile Bay

JULY 25TH, 1864:  Boats from the USS Hartford, Monongahela and Sebago, commanded by Rear Admiral Farragut's flag lieutenant, J.C, Watson, reconnoitered the Mobile Bay area in an attempt to discover the type and number of water torpedoes (mines) laid by Confederates off Fort Morgan.

Watson and his men located and cut loose many of the torpedoes; they were aided by the fact that a number were inoperative.

This hazardous work was indispensable to the success of the Navy's coming operations against Mobile.

Several other similar night operations were also conducted.

Get Rid of Those Torpedoes. Farragut Wants to Come Through.   --Old B-R'er

Keeping an Eye on the CSS Albemarle

JULY 25TH, 1864:  As Union Naval forces in Albemarle Sound, NC, kept a close watch on the powerful ram CSS Albemarle, Acting master's Mate John Woodman with three men made the first of his three daring reconnaissances up the Roanoke River to Plymouth, North Carolina.

Reported Woodman:  "The town appeared very quiet; very few persons were moving about; I could hear the blacksmiths and carpenters at work in the town near the river."

The ram, he added, was "lying at the wharf near the steam sawmill."

The danger posed by the Albemarle was a prime Union concern for several more months until Cushing took it out.  It prevented Union operations along the river.

Sounds Like a Cushing Sort of Thing.  --Old B-Runner

150 Years Ago-- July 23-24: Army Transport B.M. Runyan Sinks in Mississippi River

JULY 23RD, 1864:  Army transport B.M. Runyan, with some 500 military and civilian passengers, sank in the Mississippi River near Skipworth's Landing, Mississippi, after hitting a snag.  USS Prairie Bird rescued 350 survivors and salvaged part of the cargo.

JULY 24TH, 1864:  Confederate guerrillas captured and burned steamer Kingston, which had run aground the preceding day between Smith's Point and Windmill Point on the Virginia shore of the Chesapeake Bay.

--Old B-R'er

150 Years Ago-- July 21-22, 1864: Daring Operation Near Fort Morgan

JULY 21, 1864:  USS Prairie Bird seized steamer Union on the Mississippi River for violation of revenue laws and giving "aid and comfort to the enemy."  The Union, not the USS Union I've been writing about, must have bought some contraband cotton from Confederates.

JULY 22, 1864:  Lt. Charles S. Cotton and Acting Ensign John L. Hall, led a landing party from the USS Oneida on a daring expedition that resulted in the capture of a Confederate cavalry patrol near Fort morgan, Mobile Bay.

The sailors rowed in from the Oneida under cover of darkness, and lay in wait for a nightly Southern patrol which had been under observation for some time.  Surprise was complete, and Hall marched a detachment four miles further inland (well east on the long peninsula) to destroy the patrol's camp site.

Lt. Cotton reported:  "The results of the expedition were-- captured 1 lieutenant and 4 privates of the Seventh Alabama Cavalry, arms and ammunition; 5 horses, with their equipments complete, and all the camp equipage and stores."

Of course, along with Farragut operating against Fort Morgan, it would be necessary to land Union troops to take the fort.  Getting rid of this patrol would help the landing of the troops.

--Old B-Runner

Mallory Wants More Torpedo Boats

JULY 18TH, 1864:  Confederate Secretary of the Navy Mallory wrote Commander Bulloch in Liverpool, England, saying:  "...we can operate effectually against the enemy's blockading fleets with torpedo boats...  As these boats select their own time for operating and may thus secure a smooth sea, and as they must operate at night, and avoid being seen, it is important that they should be as low in the water as may be consistent with their safety.

"They are expected to carry from five to seven men, coal for twenty-four hours, and four torpedoes with their shifting poles, and to go at least 10 miles an hour with all on board...  The torpedo is usually made of copper or iron boiler plate, contains from 40 to 100 pounds of powder and is prepared with three sensitive tubes which explode on impact...

"The torpedo boats are miniature swift steamers, and they must be strongly built and a slight as may be consistent with strength...  I suppose these boats might be built and sent to us without interference by the authorities; but if not they might be built in sections and thus sent over.

"We are so destitute of mechanics, however, that they should be sent as complete as possible...."

Finding ways to battle overwhelming odds and still that pesky workmen problem.

--Old B-R'er

CSS Florida Commotion in Maine

JULY 18TH, 1864:  Governor Samuel Corry of Maine wrote Secretary Welles regarding the exploits of the CSS Florida.  He was gravely concerned about the captures made by the Confederate cruiser had been recently been making along the Atlantic coast.

He asked that one or two gunboats be constantly on patrol along the coast, and stated:  "We are at war with a brave, energetic adversary, fruitful in resources, ready to strike at any exposed point, and which, with one or two piratical cruisers, besides destroying a great amount of tonnage, has driven a large share of our commerce under the protection of flags of other nations."

Secretary Welles was well aware of the Florida's cruise and had sent ships in pursuit.

--Old B-Runner

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Farragut Outlines Attack Plans Against Mobile

JULY 18TH, 1864:  Rear Admiral Farragut wrote of his plans to attack Mobile Bay: "I propose to go in according to programme-- fourteen vessels, two and two, as at Port Hudson; low steam; flood tide in the morning with a light southwest wind; ironclads on the eastern side, to attack the Tennessee, and gunboats to attack rebel gunboats as soon as past the forts."

This is exactly what happened August 5th.

It was characteristic of the admiral's farsighted attention to detail to have battle plans drawn up and his fleet ready for action when the most favorable moment to move forward arrived.

--Old B-R'er

The USS Union-- Part 2

After the collision with the Spanish ship, the Union returned to Hampton Roads to refuel and repairs.  On July 28, 1861, the Union found the Union brig B.T. Martin aground north of Cape Hatteras.  It had been captured by the Confederate privateer York earlier.  The USS Union destroyed it.

The Union was transferred to the Potomac Flotilla in August 1861 and 11 October destroyed a Confederate schooner at Dumfries Creek and engaged shore batteries there.  It was decommissioned in Philadelphia 10 December 1861 after a busy year.

Recommissioned 20 January 1863 and was used as a store and dispatch ship between New York City, Hampton Roads, Port Royal, SC, Florida and the Gulf of Mexico.  During that time, it captured six ships.

After the war, it was decommissioned and sold.  redocumented as the SS Mission, it caught fire and sank in the Bahamas 22 October 1872 with 69 deaths.

Story of a Ship.  --Old B-Runner