Saturday, April 19, 2014

This Date, 150 Years Ago, The CSS Albemarle Takes On the USS Miami and Southfield

From Wikipedia. //// The much anticipated and feared Confederate ironclad ram CSS Albemarle made its appearance off Plymouth, North Carolina, on this date. And, it definitely was rushed into action, having been launched and commissioned just two days earlier on the 17th. As a matter of fact, work was still ongoing on the ship as it steamed downriver to engage Union vessels. It was part of a joint Army-Navy attack on Union-held Plymouth. The Albemarle was 158 feet long, had a 35.4 foot beam and drew nine feet of water, manned by a crew of 150 and mounted two 6.4 Brooke double-banded rifles for armament. Under the command of Captain James W. Cooke, it sailed down the Roanoke River, anchoring 3 miles above Plymouth and sending pilot John Lock and two seamen in a small boat to take soundings. They found that the river was running high and there was ten feet of water over obstructions the Union forces had sunk at Thoroughfare Gap in preparation for the Albemarle's arrival. The ship crossed the obstructions with a foot to spare and then its armor fended off cannonballs from Federal forts at Warren;s Neck and Boyle's Mill. The Albemarle then engaged two Union ships, the USS Miami and USS Southfield. It sank the Southfield by ramming it and the Miami was able to escape. Union forces surrendered the town and the Confederates had an increasingly rare victory. Yeah! Albemarle. --Old B-Runner

Friday, April 18, 2014

Confederates Attack Plymouth, NC

APRIL 17TH-18TH, 1863: Confederate troops launched a sustained attack obn Plymouth, North Carolina. Union gunboats coming to their aide came under fire from Confederate batteries. //// On the 18th, the fighting intensified as the Confederates pressed home their attack. The Union Army steamer Bombshell was sunk. //// The attacks stopped at 9 PM. Lt.Cmdr. Flusser reported: "The Southfield and Miami took part and the general says our firing was admirable." he added that: "The ram [Albemarle] will be down to-night or to-morrow." The Confederates needed naval support to be successful at Plymouth. //// --Old B-R'er

Secretary Mallory Orders Torpedo Stuff

APRIL 16TH, 1864: Mallory wrote Commander Bulloch in England to have 12 small marine engines and boilers built for torpedo boats (40-50 feet in length, 5 to 6 feet beam, and drawing three feet of water). He also wanted 25 miles of good insulated wire and the best gun cotton to be used for torpedoes. //// Unable to produce essentials for pursuing the torpedo warfare that had been so successful, the South looked to Europe for the materials. //// --Old B-Runner

150 Years Ago-- April 15th-18th, 1864: Action in Texas, Florida and Virginia

APRIL 15TH, 1864: The USS Virginia destroyed the sloop Rosina at San Luis Pass, Texas. //// APRIL 17TH, 1864: The USS Owasco seized blockade-running British schooner Lilly at Velasco, Texas. //// APRIL 18TH, 1864: Boats from the USS Beauregard seized blockade-running schooner Oromoneto at Mantanzas Inlet, Florida (near St. Augustine). // Landing party from USS Commodore Read destroyed a Confederate base at Circus Point on the Rappahannock River, Virginia. // USS Fox captured and burned the schooner Good Hope at the mouth of the Homosassa River, Florida. //// Always Something Going On. --Old B-R'er

USS Eastport Strikes Confederate Torpedo

APRIL 15TH, 1864: The USS Eastport struck a Confederate torpedo in the Red River eight miles below Grand Ecore. The shock of the explosion almost threw the leadsmen forward overboard and Lt. Cmdr. Phelps reported "a particular trembling sensation." //// He immediately ran the Eastport into shoal water. For six days, he and other gunboats attempted to float the ship and finally got it underway. The next five days, the ship ran aground many times and traversed just 60 miles. //// The last time, they were unable to refloat her and Porter ordered Phelps to transfer his men to the USS Fort Hindman and destroy the Eastport. //// Phelps was the last man to leave the ship and detonated 3,000 pounds of gunpowder that shattered the gunboat. The ironclad was completely destroyed. //// The Eastport had been captured from the Confederates while under construction in the Tennessee River following the capture of Fort Henry two years earlier. //// I'll Bet Selfridge Was Glad It Wan't His Ship. --Old B-Runner

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Porter's Situation on Red River Getting Worse

APRIL 14TH, 1864: With water level still not rising, Porter's situation on the Red River was continuing to worsen. He wrote Welles: "I found the fleet at Grand Ecore somewhat in an unpleasant situation, two of them being above the bar, and not likely to get away again this season unless there is a rise of a foot.... //// If nature does not change her laws, there will no doubt be a rise of water, but there was one year--1846-- when there was no rise in the Red River, and it may happen again. The rebels are cutting off the supply [of water] by diverting different sources of water into other channels, all of which would have been stopped had our Army arrived as far as Shreveport." //// He also praised the efforts of his pilots. //// --Old B-Runner

150 Years Ago-- April 13th-14th, 1864: Looking for the Squib

APRIL 13TH-14TH, 1864: A joint Army-Navy expedition advanced up the Nansemond River, Virginia, to capture Confederate troops and destroy the torpedo boat Squib which had recently attacked the USS Minnesota and was rumored to be in the area. //// From prisoners, they learned that the Squib had departed from Smithfield to Richmond already. //// APRIL 14TH: Small steamers of the Mississippi Squadron continued to engage Confederate activity along the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. This date, Confederates entered Paducah, Kentucky. They also appeared by Columbus, Kentucky on the 13th. --Old B-Runner

The Importance of Pilots to the Confederacy

APRIL 13TH, 1864: John S. Begbie, an agent of the Albion Trading Company of London, with which the Confederacy dealt, wrote Confederate States Commissioner John Slidell in Paris regarding Southern regulations on pilots (who were needed to guide the blockade-runners in and out). He said that he had been informed of these three things: "1. Pilots are liable to the conscription. 2. If losing their ship are forced to enlist. 3. If demanding or receiving more than the Government regulation pilotage they are, if found out, deprived of their license and obliged to serve." //// He protested against these regulations and continued: "It is desirable and in the interest of the Confederate Government that staemers should run in with stores and out with cotton, paying the Government debts and influencing greatly their credit, surely pilots are more usefully employed to the States as pilots than as fighting men."

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

First Use of a Periscope In Action?-- Part 2

APRIL 12TH, 1864: //// Of course, the use of the periscope in warfare really came into use during the age of submarine warfare in World War I and II. //// The high banks of the Red River posed a great difficulty for the Union gunners in aiming their cannons from water level. Doughtry's ingenius invention helped solve that problem. //// Selfridge wrote that: "On first sounding to general quarters....[I] went inside the turret to direct (he was the Osage's commander) its fire, but the restricted vision from the peep holes rendered it impossible to see what was going on in the threatened quarter, whenever teh turret was trained on the loading position. //// In this extremity I thought of the periscope, and hastily took up station there, well-protected by the turret, yet able to survvey the whole scene and to direct an accurate fire." //// Thus was the periscope, a familiar sight on gun turrets and on submarines brought into the Civil War use on the Western waters. //// New Technology. --Old B-Runner

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

First Use of Periscope in Action?-- Part 1

APRIL 12TH, 1864: The engaement between Porter's ships and dismounted Confederate cavalry at Blair's Landing, Louisiana, also featured what may have been the first use of a periscope in action. //// It had been developed by Chief Engineer Thomas Doughtry of the ironclad USS Osage and later described by Lt.Cmdr Thomas O. Selfridge as "a method of sighting the turret from the outside, by means of what would now be called a periscope...." In other words, he could peer through it from the safety of inside and sight his guns. //// --Old B-R'er

150 Years Ago-- April 12, 1864 More Worries About Torpedo Boats

APRIL 12TH, 1864: Not only were torpedo boats a problem along the Atlantic coast, but also in the Gulf of Mexico. Major General Hurlbut, USA, wrote Secretary Welles regarding Confederate torpedo boat operations in Mobile Bay: "The craft, as described to me, is a propeller about 30 feet long, with engines of great power for her size, and boiler so constructed as to raise steam with great rapidity. //// She shows above the surface only a small smoke outlet and pilot house, both of which can be lowered and covered. //// The plan is to drop down within a short distance of the ship, put out the fires, cover the smoke pipe, and sink the craft to a proper depth, then work the propeller by hand, drop beneath the ship, ascertaining her position by a magnet suspended in the propeller, rise against her bottom, fasten the torpedo by screws, drop their boat away, pass off a sufficient distance, rise to the surface, light their fires and work off." //// Quite astounding that the Union general woul;d have this detailed of a source as to an enemy secret boat. There is no evidence that Hurlbut's vessel ever was in Mobile Bay, but another submersible boat, the Saint Patrick, was constructed by Captain Halligan at Selma, Alabama. This ship was taken to Mobile Bay and unsuccessfully attacked the USS Octorara in early 1865. ////

Monday, April 14, 2014

Red River Campaign: Action At Blair's Landing

APRIL 12TH, 1864: As Porter's fleet and the Army transports returned down the Red River from Springfield Landing, they came under fire from Confederate guns from the high bluffs. //// At Blair's Landing, dismounted Confederate cavalry supported by artillery, engaged the Union fleet. It was kind of strange to see troops and warships fighting it out. The battle continued for an hour before the Confederates were driven off and their commander, General Green killed. //// Porter described it as "a curious affair." However, this battle saw the introduction of a naval first, which I will talk about in my next post. //// --Old B-Runner

Saturday, April 12, 2014

150 Years Ago: April 11-12th, 1864: Forrest Attacks Fort Pillow

The USS Nita captured blockade-runner Three Brothers at the mouth of the Homosassa River, Florida, with assorted cargo. //// The USS Virginia captured blockade-runner Juanita off San Luis Pass, texas. However, on April 13th, the Juanita went aground and was recaptured by the Confederates along with the prize crew. //// APRIL 12TH, 1864: Confederate cavalry under Gen. Nathan B. Forrest commenced an attack on Fort Pillow near Memohis on the Mississippi River. The small gunboat USS New Era supported the Union troops in the fort and drove the Confederates awau initially, but Forrest came back and overwhelmed the fort. // Forrest made many attacks during March and April and taxed the resources of the Mississippi Squadron. // The battle at Fort Pillow became known as a massacre when Confederates killed MANY OF the black Union troops who made up the majority of the fort's defenders. //// --Old B-R'er

150 Years Ago: :Red River Campaign-- Union Declines Invitation

april 10, 1864: Porter's gunboats and Army transports are proceeding toward Shreveport, but are delayed at Springfield Landing, Louisiana, by what Porter described to Sherman as: "When I arrived at Springfield Landing I found a sight that made me laugh. It was the smartest thing I ever knew the rebels to do. // They had gotten that huge steamer, New Falls City, across the Red River, 1 mile above Loggy Bayou, 15 feet of her on shore on each side, the boat broken down in the middle, and a sand bar making below her. // An invitation in large letters to attend a ball in Shreveport was kindly left stuck up by the rebels, which invitation we were never able to accept." //// Before the obstruction could be removed, word arrived that Gen. Banks had been defeated at the Battle of Sabine Cross-Roads near Grand Ecore and he had retreated toward Pleasant Hill. //// Gen. Smith was ordered to return with his troops and join Banks. //// This was the high tide of the Unuion's Red River Campaign. //// With falling water and increased attacks from Confederate troops onshore, it was only with great difficulty that Porter was able to get his ships out of the dire straits they found themselves in. //// --One For the Confeds. --Old B-Runner

Friday, April 11, 2014

Fear of Torpedo Attack Spreads

APRIL 9TH, 1864: The concern caused by the attack on the Minnesota, coming as it did so soon after the Hunley sank the USS Housatonic, was widespread. //// William Winthrop, US Consul at Malta wrote concerning measures needed to be taken: "In these days of steam and torpedoes, you may rest assured that outlying picket boats and a steam tug at all hours ready to move are not sufficient protection for our ships of war, where a squadron is at anchor. // They require something more, and this should be in having their own boats rowing around all night, so that in a measure every ship should protect itself. // If this precaution be not taken , any vessel in the dark and foggy night could be blown out of the water, even while a watchful sentry on board might still have his cry of 'All's well' yet on his lips as the fiendish act was accomplished." //// Something Else to Worry About. --Old B-Runner