Fort Fisher

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

Monday, May 30, 2016

155 Years Ago: USS Merrimack Is Raised at Norfolk Navy Yard

MAY 30TH, 1861:  The USS Merrimack, scuttled and burned at Norfolk Navy Yard, is raised by Confederates.  And, we know what they did with it.

**  USS Quaker City, Acting Master S.W. Mather, seized schooner Lynchburg, en route Richmond with cargo of coffee.

MAY 31ST, 1861:  USS Perry, Lt. Enoch G. Parrott, captured Confederate blockade-runner Hannah M. Johnson.

--Old B-Runner

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Ramping Up to Save the USS Monitor Turret-- Part 2: Samuel Lewis' Spoon

Continued from May 19th.

The Monitor's turret interior had a series of shields in place to protect the gun crew from metal fasteners that might be blown off by enemy cannon fire.  There are still four or five of them intact and it is hoped that artifacts that might have ended up behind them during the ship's sinking might be found.

The last time they had the water drained from the turret tank, they found a silver table spoon with the initials S.A.L., which had belonged to Third Assistant Engineer Samuel Augee Lewis, who went down with the ship after being struck with a bad case of sea sickness in the storm and was so sick he couldn't even rise from his bunk.

--Old B-Runner

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

155 Years Ago: Potomac Flotilla Engages Confederate Batteries at Aquia Creek, Virginia.

MAY 29TH-JUNE 1ST, 1861:  The Potomac Flotilla, consisting of the USS Thomas Freeborn, Commander Ward, USS Anacostia, Lt. Napoleon Collins, USS Resolute, Acting Master William Budd, engaged Confederate batteries at Aquia Creek, Virginia.

The flotilla was joined by the USS Pawnee, Commander Rowan, on the evening of May 31st.

--Old B-Runner

155 Years Ago: Savannah Blockade Set

MAY 28TH, 1861:  USS Union, Commander John R. Goldsborough, initiated blockade of Savannah.

MAY 29TH, 1861:  Confederate privateer J.C. Calhoun, captured American brig Panama, which she took to New Orleans with two earlier prizes, American schooners Mermaid and John Adams.  That probably caused a bit of a stir when the ships passed the USS Brooklyn.

**  USS Powhatan, Lt. D.D. Porter, captured schooner Mary Clinton attempting to run the blockade near Southwest Pass, Mississippi River.  Evidently, when you set a blockade of a port, you can seize incoming ships right away.

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

155 Years Ago: Blockades Set at New Orleans and Mobile

MAY 25TH, 1861:  Commander Dahlgren, Commandant Washington Navy Yard, reported the capture of steamer Thomas Colyer by USS Pawnee, Commander Rowan, in Alexandria.

**  USS Minnesota, Flag Officer Stringham, seized bark Winfred near Hampton Roads.

MAY 26TH, 1861:  USS Brooklyn, Commander Charles H. Poor, set blockade of New Orleans and mouth of the Mississippi River.

**  USS Powhatan, Lt. D.D. Porter, set blockade at Mobile.

Setting a blockade required notifying the port and then giving a certain amount of time for ships to leave and for word to get around of the blockade to incoming vessels.

--Old B-Runner

155 Years Ago: Alexandria, Virginia, Surrenders to Union Navy

MAY 24TH, 1861:  Commander Rowan, commanding the USS Pawnee, demanded the surrender of Alexandria, Virginia; amphibious expedition departed Washington Navy Yard, after embarking secretly at night under Commander Dahlgren's supervision, and occupied Alexandria.

Admiral D.D. Porter later noted of this event: "The first landing of Northern troops upon the Virginia shores was under cover of these improvised gunboats [USS Thomas Freeborn, Anacostia, and Resolute] ... at Alexandria...  Alexandria was evacuated by the Confederates upon demand of a naval officer-- Commander S.C. rowan ... and ..the American flag was hoisted on the Custom House and other prominent places by the officer in charge of a landing party of sailors-- Lieutenant R.B. Lowry.

"This ... gave indication of the feelings of the Navy, and how ready was the service to put down secession on the first opportunity offered."

--Old B-Runner

Monday, May 23, 2016

Bringing Home the Fort Anderson (NC) Flag

From a 2005, North Carolina Historic Sites News Release "Help Bring Home Brunswick Town/Ft. Anderson State Historic Site Flag."

The Confederate flag that flew over Fort Anderson on the Cape Fear River south of Wilmington.has been located and the staff at the site is seeking donations to purchase it.  It is currently owned by a dealer and described as being in excellent condition and authenticated.  The dealer is asking $40,000 for it.

Chris Fonvielle in his book Fort Anderson: Battle for Wilmington says that Federal troops found it rolled up after falling off a wagon during the hasty retreat.  A soldier from Co. A, 140th Indiana found it and turned it over to the regiment's commander, Col. Thomas J. Brady.

Four weeks later, Brady presented it to Indiana Governor Oliver P. Morton at a ceremony in front of the National Hotel in Washington, D.C..  Abraham Lincoln was also at that ceremony and reviewed the 140th Indiana.

This ceremony took place on March 17, 1865, the same day that John Wilkes Booth planned to kidnap Lincoln on his way to Campbell Hospital where the president was originally going until the presentation and review happened.

The site now has the flag.

--Old B-Runner

155 Years Ago: USS Mississippi Sabotaged, Northern Ships in New Orleans Seized

MAY 23RD, 1861:  The USS Mississippi, Flag Officer William Mervine, was compelled to put back into Boston for repairs because of sabotage damage to her condensers.

MAY 24TH, 1861:  The Confederate States Marshall at New Orleans seized all ships from Northern states which had arrived after May 6, 1861.

Sneaky Confederates.  --Old B-Runner

155 Years Ago: Guarding Washington, D.C.

MAY 18TH, 1861:  Commander Dahlgren suggested a plan for the erection of batteries on commanding points along the Potomac, and "the placing of vessels of some force at two or three intervals from the kettle bottoms of the Yard [Washington Navy Yard] near suspected positions, with communications kept up by some fast and light steamers."

MAY 19TH, 1861:  USS Monticello, Captain Henry Eagle, and the USS Thomas Freeborn, engaged a Confederate battery at Sewell's Point, Virginia.

**  CSS Lady Davis, Lt. Thomas P Pelot, captured American ship A.B. Thompson off Charleston.

There was some question as to whether or not this was a privateer.

--Old B-Runner

Friday, May 20, 2016

155 Years Ago: Plans Set Forward to Confederate Navy for Ironclad Rams

MAY 21ST, 1861:  USS Pochahontas, Commander John P. Gillis, seized steamboat James Guy off Machodoc Creek, Virginia.

**  John A. Stevenson of New Orleans discussed with Confederate Secretary of Navy Mallory a "plan by which the enemy's blockading navy might be driven from our coasts," and wrote President Davis, "We have no time, place, or means, to build an effective navy.  Our ports are, or soon will be, all blockaded.

"On land we do not fear Lincoln, but what shall we do to cripple him at sea?  In this emergency, and seeing that he is arming many poorly adapted vessels, I have two months past been entirely engaged in perfecting pans by which I could so alter and adapt some of our heavy and powerful tow-boats on the Mississippi as to make them comparatively safe...

"...against the heaviest guns afloat, and by preparing their bow in a peculiar manner, as my plans and model will show, render them capable of sinking by collision the heaviest vessels ever built..."

--Old B-Runner

155 Years Ago: Confederate Government Prepping for War with Patents and Privateers

MAY 20TH, 1861:  The USS Crusader, Lt. T.A. craven, captured the Neptune near Fort Taylor, Key West, Florida.  The Crusader had been under the command of J.N. Maffitt before this and he had relinquished the command to join the Confederacy.

MAY 21ST, 1861:  The USS Constellation, the oldest United States warship afloat, Captain John S. Nicholas, captured the slaver brig Triton at the mouth of the Congo River, Africa.

**  The Confederate government guaranteed the right of patent for any invention beneficial to the war effort, reserving for the government the right to use it, and provided that, in addition to bounties otherwise provided, the government "will pay to any private armed vessel commissioned under said act 20 percentum on the value of each and every vessel of war belonging to the enemy that may be sunk or destroyed."

--Old B-Runner

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Ramping Up to Save the USS Monitor Turret-- Part 1: Removing the Metal Shields

From the May 4, 2016, Daily Press (Hampton Roads, Va.) "USS Monitor gun turret: Ramping up to save a landmark artifact" by Mark St. John Erickson.

One thing I can say for sure is that Mr. Erickson sure gets all the good reporting stories.

There are ramped up efforts underway to raise funds to preserve the famous gun turret of the USS Monitor.  I was disappointed that the rest of the ship was unrecoverable, but at least this artifact, which set the level for naval armaments even to this day, was saved.

The huge container the turret sits in is now drained during weekdays while work is done on marine concretions both inside and out.  This time, in addition, a series of 20-inch wide metal shields in the turret's interior will be removed to remove the concretions and look for artifacts lodged behind them from the ship's sinking.

These shields were put in place to protect the Monitor's gun crew from metal fasteners blown off by the impact of enemy ordnance.

--Old B-Runner

Wednesday, May 18, 2016


I had to look it up.

The definition is to extend a watercraft hull dimension at or below the waterline to increase floatation or add lift when underway.

So, the Fry had a hull extension at or below the waterline.

--Old B-R'er

Further Work at the Wreck of the Agnes E. Fry Blockade-Runner

From the May 11, 2016, BBC News "new image of Clyde-built ship used in America's Civil War" by Steven McKenzie.

There is now a sonar mosaic of the Agnes E. Fry blockade-runner.  The article contains this.

There is also a North Carolina Department of Cultural resources of a deck light and what looks like the handle of a homemade knife recovered from the wreck.

Specialist divers from the Charlotte Fire department and sonar experts from Nautilus Marine Group assisted in the mosaic.

The Agnes E. Fry was launched with the name Fox and ran aground 27 December 1864 while attempting to run into Wilmington, North Carolina.  Since this was between the two attacks on Fort Fisher, it is doubted that much in the way of salvage was done at the time.

The mosaic photo of the wreck includes two possible sponsons, boiler fragments, decklight (recovered) broken hull plating and frames and I-beam frames, smoke stack sections and outer hull plating.

--So, What Is a Sponson?  --Old B-Runner

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Keep the Fort Fisher Dam Rock Solid

From the May 5, 2016, Wilmington (N.C.) Star- News  "Editorial: Keep Fort Fisher dam rock solid."

Photograph accompanying it:  "A massive engineering feat of the 1800s, also known as the New Inlet Dam, 'The Rocks' constitute a gigantic breakwater, or rock jetty, at the tip of federal Point.  The rocks extend from the mainland and beyond Zeke's Island for more than three miles."

Senator Michael lee, R-New Hanover County, proposed removing a section of the 130-year-old dam which was built to close New Inlet into the Cape Fear River which was formed by a storm in 1761.  This was the favored entrance to the Cape Fear River and Wilmington by blockade-runners during the Civil War and protected by the guns of Fort Fisher.

Lee wants the southern section, called the Swash Defense Dam removed to recreate the natural flow.

The Army Corps of Engineers, who built it, is not sure exactly why Lee wants it removed, nor is the Wilmington Star-News, concluding, "We're still puzzled by Lee's request, and we're not alone in our puzzlement."

I, myself, don't want it removed.  I have walked on it many times.

--Old B-R'er