Fort Fisher

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

Friday, December 28, 2012

War Along the South Carolina Coast

From the August 25, 2012, WIS TV 10 "Poor Fort Sumter: Museum curator describes destruction" by Renee Standera.

The head South Carolina State Museum Curator of History, JoAnn Zeise, described the destruction of Fort Sumter.  It was bombarded at the beginning of the war, then on a regular basis starting in 1863 until those tall brick walls were reduced to rubble.

The museum's newest exhibit "Naval War on the Coast" tells of the fort's woes and is one of six planned in the future.

Other items of interest:

**  At Port Royal in 1861, it was brother versus brother.  Captain Percival Drayron commanded the USS Pochahontas battling his brother Confederate General Thomas Drayton in the forts.  Port Royal then became a major Union base for the duration of the war.

**  Then, there were the blockade-runners, a very specifically designed ship (especially toward the end of the war).  Sleek, fast and hard to see to run through the Union blockade.

**  South Carolina ladies learned that their New Orleans counterparts had raised money to build ironclads.  They held balls and other things to raise money to help finance the four ironclads built at Charleston: Palmetto State, Chicora, Columbia and  Charleston.

Old B-Runner

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: December 28 to 31st-- Loss of the Monitor


Porter's gunboats supported General Sherman's attempt to capture Confederate-held Chickasaw Bluffs, upstream from Vicksburg.  Union forces forced to withdraw.


The USS Monitor foundered and was lost off Cape Hatteras en route from Hampton Roads to Beaufort, NC.  This ship accomplished much in its short ten-month career.

The Confederate embargo, the capture of New Orleans and a blockade that continued to improve greatly curtailed the export of the South's major product, cotton.  Meanwhile, the Union's control of the seas ensured their goods reached foreign markets and paid for war materials.

Old B-R'er

The First Battle of Fort Fisher 148 Years Ago Today


Fort Fisher remains in Confederate hands.  General Butler and his troops departs for Hampton Roads.

FROM NOON TO LATE AFTERNOON Confederate General Bragg arrives at Sugar Loaf.  General Hoke with Hagood's Brigade and the rest of Kirkland's men arrive later in the afternoon.


Instead of overwhelming Curtis's vulnerable troops, Bragg lets them escape and they are rescued from the beach.

As the Union fleet departs, Lamb orders Fort Fisher to fire one last defiant parting shot.

NIGHT  The steamer Wild Rover runs the blockade at New Inlet.

Whiting and Lamb are irate with Bragg for doing nothing.  Grant and Welles are infuriated to learn of the expedition's failure.


MORNING  The steamer Banshee runs the blockade at New Inlet.

5:30 PM--  Lincoln asks Grant, "If there be no objection, please tell me what you now understand of the Wilmington expedition, present and prospective."

Grant replies: "The Wilmington expedition has proven a gross and culpable failure.  Many of the troops are now back here [in Virginia].  Delays and free talk of the object of the expedition enabled the enemy to move troops to Wilmington to defeat it.  After the expedition sailed from Fort Monroe three days of fine weather were squandered, during which the enemy was without a force to protect himself.  Who is to blame I hope will be known."

So, First Time Wasn't the Charm.  --Old B-Runner

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The First Battle of Fort Fisher 150 Years Ago Today

Day 2 of the battle.

December 25, 1864

MORNING  Union ships shell woods north of Fort Fisher to make it safer to land infantry.  Bombardment begins again.  Another 10,000 shells fired.

2 PM, Union infantry begins landing.  Brevet Brig. General Newton Martin Curtis is first Union soldier on beach.  Later Curtis strikes toward the fort with142nd and 112th New York regiments.

3 PM.  Curtis and Weitzel advance to within a mile and a half of Fort Fisher.  Later Curtis within 75 yards of Shepherd's Battery.

3:20 TO DUSK  Lt. William Walling of the 142nd NY picks up a garrison flag that had been knocked down by the bombardment.

Curtis believes the fort can be taken, but Butler calls a halt to the operation.

NIGHTFALL  Curtis advances a skirmish line toward the fort.

DARK  Confederates in fort open fire on Union soldiers.  Most of the Union troops have already gone back to the transports offshore.  By the time Curtis gets to the landing zone, the weather has gotten too bad to leave shore so Curtis and 600 men are left on shore.

Not Much To Do About Anything.  --Old B-Runner

Monday, December 24, 2012

The First Battle of Fort Fisher: 148 Years Ago Today

The brave lads defending the vaunted Fort Fisher were awakened at around 1:40 AM this morning by the explosion of the Union powder vessel USS Louisiana off the fort.  It was Gen. Butler's belief that the force of the concussion would knock down the sand walls of the fort.  It didn't.

At dawn in a thick fog, the Union fleet of 64 ships begins to take battle positions off the fort.

12:40 PM, the fleet opens fire.  The Union Navy's five largest frigates were on hand.  The USS Colorado alone, had 52 guns, more than the fort's 47.

Until DUSK, the fleet fires an unprecedented bombardment with around 10,000 rounds of solid shot and shells.  The fort's headquarters and barracks set afire.

At dusk, the fleet hauls off for the night.

Day One.  --Old B-R'er

Naval Happening 150 Years Ago: December 22nd to ,1862


Captain Dahlgren, confidant and advisor of Lincoln was called to the White House at the president's request to observe the testing of a new type of gunpowder.  Imagine them testing ordnance at the White House these days.  Lincoln, of course, was always interested in new technology.


The USS New Era was called to Columbus, Kentucky. to support the Army in imminent threat of Confederate attack.  Had the Confederates recaptured the city this would have seriously interrupted the flow of supplies down the Mississippi to Union operations against Vicksburg.


Adm. Porter received a request from the Army to assist the forthcoming Arkansas campaign.  Although his fleet was busy against Vicksburg, the USS Conestoga, under command of ship-sinker Selfridge,   sent to patrol "between the White and Arkansas rivers.

The same day, his fleet had engagement with Confederate batteries at Drumgould's Bluff by the Yazoo River.

Old B-Runner

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Sinking of the USS Monitor-- Part 2

In 1973, the Duke University Marine Laboratory launched a two-week mission to find the Monitor.  The night of August 27th, researchers saw a black squiggle on the ship's fathometer, a sonar instrument used to measure the depth under a ship.  They then used a side-scan sonar and determined there was something doen there at 230 feet.

Was it the Monitor?

The next year, a US Navy ship using high-resolution deep water imaging techniques determined it was indeed the Monitor.  It was sixteen nautical miles south and southeast of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.

Over the next thirty years there were many expeditions out to the wreck.  Unfortunately, the ship had decomposed to the point the whole thing could not be lifted.  But, the turret was good to go and raised in 2002.  Two Dahlgren guns and two skeletons were found in it.

John Broadwaker was first to enter the turret once on land and found the first skeleton immediately.  The second was found several weeks later.

The remains were sent to the U.S. Joint Prisoner of War/Missing In Action Accounting Command in Hawaii for analysis.  Who were they?

It is now believed most likely they were 21-year-old Jacob Nicklis of Buffalo, New York, and Robert Williams, a first class fireman in his early 30s.

Nothing Like Good Historical Research.  --Old B-R'er

The Sinking of the USS Monitor-- Part 1

From the Dec. 14, 2012, US News & World Report "Scientists Unlock Secrets of Civil War-Ear Shipwreck" by Kira Zalan.

Some of the sailors aboard the USS Monitor had been on the ship since the March 9, 1862 battle with the CSS Virginia and had become celebrities.  Even the president had visited the ship, but these 20-foot waves they were encountering off North Carolina in the last days of the year were something else.

Around 5 PM, December 30th, the crew had had their dinner, but come 11 PM, they hoisted a red lantern, signalling the ship was in distress.  Boats were sent from the USS Rhode Island to rescue the crew.  Some of the Monitor's sailors were swept off the deck and drowned.  Others climbed into the rescue boats, but 12 sailors and four officers died when the ship went down around 1 AM, December 31st.

The exact location of the shipwreck was unknown for more than a century.

Getting That Old Sinking Feeling (Must Be Bear Fans.)  --Old B-Runner

Friday, December 21, 2012

Isaac Newton Brown, CSN, Honored

From the July 13, 2012, Corsicana (Tx) Daily Sun "Saturday ceremony to honor Confederate officer."

Isaac Newton (wonder where they got that name) Brown is buried at Oakwood Cemetery in Corsicana, a good distance from any water that might a float ship.  After leading a career in the U.S. Navy, he became a Confederate naval officer.

On July 14th, the local SCV honored him with a ceremony.The Union Navy came close to capturing Vicksburd a year before Grant accomplished the feat, but thanks to brown, were unsuccessful.  In late August 1862, Farragut attacked the fortress city on the Mississippi River.

Lt. Brown had been given the unenviable job of completing the CSS Arkansas with nonexistent machinery, iron and inexperienced men.  He accomplished the near impossible and July 15th, with a crew having little or no experience on ships, much less an ironclad,, blasted his way through Union ships guarding the confluence of the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers.

He then fought off Farragut's ships and anchored under the guns of Vicksburg.

For his heroics, he was promoted to the rank of commander and later earned a Confederate Medal of Honor.

And Hardly Anyone Remembers Him Today.  --Old Secesh

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Greenpoint Monitor Museum Container Almost Launched by Hurricane Sandy

From the December 6, 2012, Greenpoint (NY) Gazette by Jeff Mason.

Well, actually the storage container since the museum is being held up by city politics.  The Greenpoint Monitor Museum's storage container almost sank during the recent Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy.  The 40-foot long container had been placed upon the museum's future site on Brunswick Inlet during last year's 150th anniversary celebration of the USS Monitor's launching.

The site was covered several feet deep by the storm surge caused by Sandy and when it receded, the container went with it and drifted to near the exact spot where the Monitor had actually been launched.

Part of it rested precariously on land with part of it in the East River, but fast action grounded it.

Imagine It drifting to Where the Ship Was Actually Launched?  --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Navy Pictures on Old Photos Blog

Back in May 2011, this blog ran a series of mostly Civil War photos during Navy Week.

MAY 21  Admiral J.A. Dahlgren
MAY 22  USS Hatteras
MAY 23  A World War II aircraft carrier with planes ready to takeoff and a 48-star flag whipping in the breeze.
MAY 24  Double-turreted monitor USS Onondaga in the James River in 1864
MAY 25  A Union monitor
MAY 26   USS Maine entering Havana Harbor before the explosion
MAY 27  Navy pilots on aircraft carrier in the Pacific in 1945 awaiting orders to take off.

Great Old Photos.  --Old B-Runner

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Dedication of USS Monitor Memorial

From the Dec. 11, 2012, Virginian Pilot.

The Monitor National Marine Sanctuary will dedicate a memorial to the USS Monitor and its crew at a 2 PM ceremony to be held at the Hampton National Cemetery.

This commemorates the 150th anniversary of the ship's sinking on the night of December 30-31st, 1862.

And, I imagine a fortunate group of successful bidders will spend some time in the turret where it is undergoing preservation.

Old B-Runner

Monday, December 17, 2012

Civil War Naval Songs

A 52-minute CD from 2011 with 13 songs with a 32-page booklet, featuring northern, southern and British songs.

1.  The Fight of the Hatteras and Alabama
2.  The Jamestown Homeward Bound
3.  Farragut's Ball
4.  The Florida's Cruise
5.  The Old Virginia Lowlands, Low

6.  The Blockade Runner
7.  The Bold Privateer
8.  A Yankee Man-of-War
9.  The Sailor's Grave
10.  The Brooklyn, Sloop-of-War

11.  The Alabama
12.  The Fate of the Pirate Alabama
13.  The Monitor & Merrimac

Old B-R'er

A Navy-- How to Get It-- And the Work Before It-- Part 2

SECOND--  THE BLOCKADE  Vessels should be dispatched to the North Carolina coast where much Confederate commerce takes place in the sounds.  They had read in a Norfolk paper where foreign supplies were reaching that town by way of the Dismal Swamp Canal. 

Also, "Quite an active foreign trade, too, is being carried on at Wilmington and Beaufort."

THIRD--  "Third, why not give the Cotton States...something to do at home?  there are scores of exposed and defenceless points along the Gulf coast where an army of liberation could be landed."

In New Orleans, "They know that a small force landed upon the lake approaches to the Crescent City could capture it in a few hours, and by cutting off the New Orleans, Jackson and Great Northern Railroad, and by throwing up intrenchments on that line, could hold it."

Alright, let's Tip Our Hand to the Rebels.  --Old B-Runner

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: December 18th-20th, 1862-- Watch Out, England


Asst. Sec. of Navy Fox wrote, "I believe there is no workshop in the country capable of making steam machinery or iron plates and hulls that is not in full blast with Naval orders.  Before another year we shall be prepared to defend ourselves with reasonable hopes of success against a foreign enemy, and in two years we can take the offensive with vessels that will be superior to any England is now building."  By war's end, the US Navy was the most powerful force afloat in the world.

In other words, watch out England.


Farragut wrote Welles that he had advised newly arrived General Banks to occupy Baton Rouge, which he did.  That city was just 12-15 miles from Confederate Port Hudson and, "I am ready to attack the latter place and support General Banks the moment he desires to move against it." 

Port Hudson is the only other place on the Mississippi River still occupied by Confederates other than Vicksburg.


Rear Admiral Porter, on his flagship USS Black Hawk, joined Gem William Sherman at Helena, Arkansas and prepared for a joint attack on Vicksburg.  Admiral Porter's fleet was the largest ever placed under one officer's command in US history.  He had the same number of ships as the entire US Navy at the outbreak of the war.

Further Preparations for the End of the Confederacy.  --Old B-Runner

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Navy: How to Get It-- and the Work Before It

From the July 22, 1861, Philadelphia Inquirer.

According to the paper at this early date in the war, the country's Navy Department had had: "a commendable show of action.  Measures are under way for the construction or purchase, or both, of a fleet of vessels sufficient in number and force not only to make the blockade effectual and to capture the piratical privateers now infesting our shores, but to throw land forces upon the exposed parts of the Southern coast."

The paper made three observations to Washington:

FIRST-- regarding vessels--  every step to suppress Rebellion involving money expenditure has to be overseen because of the  "opportunity for speculation. This prostitution of a sacred trust to mere personal aggrandizement"  is not acceptable.  It is happening in the Army.

"To the same cause is to be attributed the purchase and charter, at enormous rates, of poor unseaworthy hulks like the Cataline, the suspicious conflagration of which has possibly averted a more serious disaster.

Not a vessel should be brought that is not swift, strong, new, and in every way specially adapted to the service in which she is to be engaged, and then only when she is offered at her fair market value."

So, They Had Those Guys Even Back Then.  More to Come.  --Old B-Runner

Friday, December 14, 2012

Hunley Replica Makes "Maiden Voyage" in Jacksonville Veterans Day Parade

From the Nov. 11, 2012 Florida Times-Union by Dan Scanlan.

It is a half-scale model.  The Sons of Confederate Veterans Kirby Smith Camp restored it.  It was originally built by Ron Parks in 2010.

I imagine they didn't have to do much restoration, but a fitting honor to the brave crews who lost their lives in the first successful submarine to sink an enemy ship.

I did not hear about any groups protesting it for what it stands for.

Old B-Runner

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Selfridge Sinks the Cairo

From the Dec, 12, 2012, Civil War Navy Sesquicentennial Blog "USS Cairo Strikes a Torpedo: December 12, 1862."

Yesterday, I wrote about the event and then today read this blog entry so will add to yesterday's information.

The wooden gunboats USS Marmora and Signal had gone on a reconnaissance of the Yazoo River earlier and reported they had found Confederate torpedoes in the river.  They could sweep and clear them if some larger warships provided cover fire from Confederates along the banks.  Captain Walke assigned the USS Cairo, Pittsburg (correctly spelled) and Queen of the West to do that, but with strict orders to stay out of the main river channel and stay behind the wooden ships.


Lt. Cmdr. Thomas Selfridge, late executive officer of the USS Cumberland (sunk by the CSS Virginia) reported that he thought the Marmora and Signal had come under Confederate fire and rushed from his position at the back of the squadron to assist.  He immediately stopped when he saw the two ships shooting at the torpedoes (mines), but too late, his ship blew up.

After the Cairo sank, the two remaining warships each fire about sixty shells at the woods and received no return fire.

The commander of the Queen of the West, US Army Captain Edwin Sutherland (an Army captain commanding a Naval ship?) reported that the Cairo came up beside him and inquired why he had stopped.  He said there were torpedoes ahead and then was shocked as the Cairo hurried on past him and entered the main channel, completely against orders.

He lost his ship, but no charges were ever filed, nor was there a court martial which seemed to have been in order under the circumstances.  Of course, Selfridge had the complete support of Admiral Porter which may help explain why there were no charges.

He went on to command another ship, and run it aground and was at Fort Fisher with Porter, of course. 

Porter's "Golden Boy?"  --Old B-R'er

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: December 12th to 16th,1862: Move Against Goldsboro, NC-- Wilmington Attack Planned?


The USS Delaware, Shawsbeen, Lockwood and Seymour with armed transports supported an Army expedition in the Neuse River to destroy the railroad bridges and tracks near Goldsboro, NC.  Low water in the river, however, prevented them from advancing more than 15 miles.


Asst. Secretary Fox wrote Admiral S.P. Lee, proposing an attack on Wilmington: "Though the popular clamor centers upon Charleston I consider Wilmington a more important point in a military and political point of view and I do not conceal from myself that it is more difficult of access on account of the shallowness of the bars, and more easily defended inside by obstructions, yet it must be attacked and we have more force than we shall possess again since the Iron Clads must go South so soon as four are ready."

Remarkably, Wilmington remained in Confederate hands until near the end of the war.


General Banks takes command in New Orleans, replacing General Butler.

Old B-Runner

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: December 12th, 1862-- Selfridge Does It Again, Sinks the Cairo


The USS Cairo, under command of the sinker of ships especially if they began with the letter "C", Lt.-Cmdr. Thomas O. Selfridge, on an expedition up the Yazoo River to destroy torpedoes, was sunk by one of the "infernal machines" and Selfridge reported: "The Cairo was sunk in about twelve minutes after the explosion, going totally out of sight, except the top her her chimneys (shouldn't that have been smokestacks?), in six fathoms of water."

This was another part of the Union efforts to capture Vicksburg, Mississippi, the South's last bastion on the Mississippi River.

The Cairo was the first of some 40 Union vessels to be sunk by torpedoes during the war.  We would call these torpedoes mines today.

The one that destroyed the Cairo was a large demijohn of powder fired with a friction primer by a trigger line from torpedo pits on the river bank.  So, a Confederate by the river bank set it off.

Rear Admiral David Dixon Porter wrote to rake away blame from Selfridge, "It was an accident liable to occur to any gallant officer whose zeal carries him to the post of danger and who is loath to let others do what he thinks he ought to do himself."

Despite the loss, Porter ordered his fleet to hold the Yazoo River at all costs.  "We may lose three or four vessels (hey, just let Selfridge command them), but will succeed in carrying out the plan for the capture of Vicksburg."

Evidently, Selfridge was a favorite of Porter.

Losing the Cairo was fortunate for us today, as the ship was not sold or scrapped after the war as most were.  It was raised and its remains can now be seen at the Vicksburg Military Park.

Old B-Runner

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

"Fighting Bob" Evans At Fort Fisher-- Part 3

As he neared the broken wooden palisade fence,  a sharpshooter wounded him in the left leg, about three inches above the knee.  (Lamb had instructed his best shots to aim at the Union officers.)  Another officer helped Evans bandage the wound and he got up again and led his men to that palisade.  Approaching the base of the parapet, another shot struck him in the right knee, causing it to bleed profusely.

Unable to stand, he began bandaging himself again when another shot entered the soul of his shoe and took off the rip of one of his toes and wrenched his ankle.  This so enraged Evans that he rolled over to face his antagonist, standing just 35-yards away and shot him in the throat, causing him to fall down the parapet and land near the young ensign.

Many of Evans' men and officers lay dead and wounded around him.  A Marine from his ship, Private Wasmouth, rescued Evans and eventually dragged him to a place of safety.  Another sharpshooter's bullet hit the Marine and caused him to bleed to death at the feet of the man he had just saved.

The rest of the column turned and began running to safety.  The Confederates stood up and started cheering only to be appalled by U.S. flags flying on the western parapets.  With Confederate attention focused on the northeast bastion, the Army had entered the fort.  Much fighting continued, but this was the turning point of the battle and the fort fell.

So, "Fighting Bob"  was sure fighting earlier in his career.

One Brave Young Officer.  --Old B-Runner 

"Fighting Bob" Evans at Fort Fisher-- Part 2

Thirty-three year old Lt. Cmdr. Kidder Randolph Breese, Porter's Fleet Captain, was appointed to lead the Naval assault and to coordinate with the Army's attack.  The force moved to within 1200 yards of the fort and the fleet set off its whistles to signal the attack.

The fort's commander, Col. William Lamb, led his men to the defense of the northeast bastion while the fleet continued its heavy fire until the sailors and Marines were withing 600 yards.  Ensign Robley Evans was assigned to lead his ship's contingent.  At 500 yards, the Confederates opened fire on the column, causing the men at the front to drop on their stomachs in the sand.

Naval and Marine officers rose and called on their men to follow on.  At 300 yards, another volley was let upon them.  Eighteen-year old Evans led his men along the beach at the head of his men.  He pulled his hat down over his eyes so as not to see the flash of guns from the top of the parapet and then he was wounded in the chest, but shortly realized he could continue on as it was a flesh wound.

Getting Hot Out There.  --Old B-Runner

Monday, December 10, 2012

"Fighting Bob" Evans at Fort Fisher-- Part 1

From the January 15, 2011, Naval History Blog.

It is amazing how many future admirals and high-rank officers participated in the attacks on Fort Fisher and this is the start of one of them.

"Fighting Bob" Evans is best remembered as the admiral who commanded the Great White Fleet in 1907 that circumnavigated the globe.  He earned his nickname while commanding the gunboat USS Yorktown off Chilean waters while protecting American interests after the deaths of two American sailors in Valparaiso on October 16, 1891.

But that tendency to fight was already evident at Fort Fisher back during the Civil War.

There, Admiral David D. Porter called for volunteers to form a 2,000 man Naval Brigade to assist the Army in storming the fort.  Civil War sailors regularly trained for landing parties.  Porter received an overwhelming response from the fleet and had to turn away hundreds.

Shortly after noon on Jan. 15, 1865, 1600 sailors armed with revolvers and cutlasses along with 400 Marines landed a mile and a half north of Fort Fisher and formed three divisions to attack the northeast bastion (probably the strongest part of the fort).

A Charge for the Ages.  --Old B-Runner

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: December 8th to 11th,1862-- Bailey One-Ups the Army


Lincoln sent a recommendation of thanks to Congress on behalf of Commander Worden of the Monitor for his part in the battle against the CSS Virginia.

USS Daylight captured the b-r sloop Coquette off New Topsail Inlet, NC, with cargo of whiskey, potatoes, apples and onions.  Hard by this cargo description to tell if it was inbound or outbound.


Rear Admiral Bailey assumed command of the Eastern Gulf Blockading Squadron reported that the pressure being exerted by the blockade on the Confederacy "is slowly, surely, and unostentatiously reducing the rebellion to such straits as must result in their unconditional submission, even though our gallant Army does not achieve another victory."

Sounds like a big "knock" on the Army to me.


USS Southfield disabled by a shot through the steam chest while rendering fire support to troops on shore at Plymouth, NC, under attack by Confederate forces.


Asst. Sec. of the Navy Fox wrote Rear Admiral Porter about the readying of ironclads and observed, "We shall soon be ready to try the Iron Clads against the few southern Forts yet in the hands of the Rebels."

Old B-Runner

Friday, December 7, 2012

Remembering a Naval Action in Another War: Pearl Harbor

Today marks the 71st anniversary of an event that shook the United States mightily, the attack on Pearl Harbor which brought the United States into World War II.

Even though this was ten years before my time, I will not ever forget to commemorate this date.

I have been making entries about it all week in my "Tattooed On Your Soul" World War II blog, including five entries today.  Just click on it on my blogs list.

Never To Forget.  --Old B-R'er

Parrott Rifles At Fort Fisher

From the Nov. 13, 2010, To the Sound of Guns Blog.

The USS Susquehanna  received two 8-inch Parrot guns mounted fore and aft.  Before Fort Fisher, it exchanged them for 6.4-inchers.  One burst in action.

The USS Colorado, Wabash and Minnesota, sister ships of the USS Merrimack (which became the CSS Virginia) all used 8-inch Parrotts during the war.  All three were at Fort Fisher (and any one of them mounted nearly as many guns as in the entire fort).

During the first attack, an 8-inch on the Colorado crashed after firing a Schenkel round.  Fortunately, the gunners had detected it early enough to prevent casualties, but this added even more to Admiral Porter's distrust of rifled guns.

The USS Pequoit fired 115 rounds from its 8-inch Parrot in the first battle.  The 6.4-inch gun on the USS Kansas burst during the first attack after firing 150 rounds.

Dixon wrote, "The bursting of the guns (six in all) disconcerted the crews of the vessels."  A total of 45 sailors were killed or wounded from this.  The admiral begged that the Navy not get anymore.

I Guess You'd Call This Friendly Fire of Sorts.  --Old B-Runner

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Plenty About Wilmington and Fort Fisher in the "Lincoln" Movie

Yesterday, I did get the chance to see this outstanding movie which should definitely garner some nominations for Academy Awards.

And, as I had heard, the Fort Fisher expedition and capture of Wilmington did play a large part in the background of the effort to get the 13 Amendment, forever abolishing slavery, passed. 

I had always known the importance of Wilmington and its primary defense at Fort Fisher, but people only since the 1990s are becoming aware of it.  Since then, we have had  several books printed on it.  Back in the 60s to 80s, I was even collecting information to write my own book about it if someone else didn't do so.

The capture of Wilmington was mentioned quite a few times, although at first, no mention of Fort Fisher.  At one point, in the War Department telegraph room, where Lincoln spent much time getting the most up-to-date information about the war, he did mention that General Whiting had been the engineer behind the construction of the fort and as such was going to be one rough nut to crack.

I did like Secretary of War Stanton charging out of the room when he thought Lincoln was going to tell another story.  They mentioned the huge bombardment and as such the fort just had to fall.  Then, there was great joy when the news did come through, quite late in the evening" that "the fort was ours."

It Really Was That Important.  --Old B-Runner

The Fate of Two Captured Guns

With the threat posed by the CSS Albemarle against the North Carolina town of Plymouth in 1864, the Union sent an 8-inch and a 6.4-inch Parrott rifles to that spot.

When the Confederates captured the town, they immediately took those guns away.

The 6.4-inch was shipped to Fort Fisher and the Confederate Navy received the 8-inch.

Old B_R'er

At Auction: Photos of Naval Leaders

Back in 2010, e-Bay had a pair of steel engravings from 1866 of Admirals David D. Porter and A.H. Foote.  They were done by Johnson Fry & Company of New York from a painting commissioned by Alonzo Chappal.

One was showing the officer on the deck of an ironclad (not a Monitor). 

Opening bid was $49.99.

Old B-Runner

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Off to See the "Lincoln" Movie

In a couple hours I will be driving to Round Lake Beach to see this movie about Abraham Lincoln and am really looking forward to seeing what is said about Fort Fisher.  I know that taking Wilmington was an important aspect of Union War plans from the earliest days of the war.

For some reason, the place was not attacked, especially when Fort Fisher was just getting built which should not have been too difficult of a place to overcome.  I was never sure why the attempt wasn't made.  I know part of it, like with Farragut at Mobile, was due to lack of troops to support an attack.

I'll write about what was said on tomorrow,

Old B-R'er

"The Largest Waste of Gunpowder" at Fort Fisher

Chris Fonvielle, Jr., wrote the Wilmington (NC) Star-News, that at least a third of the Union projectiles fired at Fort Fisher during both attacks went over the fort and into the river to its west.  He termed the bombardment as the largest waste of gunpowder in the annals of warfare.

He noted that Union ships concentrated their fire on the fort's flag, some to establish an effective range for their guns.  The main flagstaff was so damaged that the flag couldn't be raised.  The fort's commander, William Lamb, had others flags moved to the west end of the land defenses, hoping that the fleet would redirect its fire at that point.  It worked.

Ten years ago, illegal relic hunters pulled up about 100 projectiles from the river before state officials stepped in and stopped them.

I have also heard that during the first attack, Union ships fired at any part of the fort they wanted, but were much more effective in the second attack when each was assigned a specific Confederate battery on which to concentrate.  This effectively knocked most every gun out of action.
Watch Where You Swim in the River.  --Old B-Runner

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Fort Fisher Gets Mentioned in the New "Lincoln" Movie

From the Nov. 20, 2012, WECT News, Wilmington, NC.

The new movie by Stephen Spielberg about Abraham Lincoln mentions Fort Fisher on several occasions (I have not yet seen it).  Si Lawrence, media specialist at Fort Fisher, said, "This has definitely been a booster as far as getting Fort Fisher on the map and in the minds of people.  We believe the movie will do nothing but help garner the attention of what actually took place here."

"We have already garnered some interest in our site because of the movie and we feel it can only do wonderful things in terms of increasing visitation.  The Wilmington, NC, Chamber of Commerce will be adding Fort fisher's role in the movie in its advertising.

Anything To Get More Fort Fisher Publicity Is Good By Me.  --Old B-R'er

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: December 4th to 7th, 1862-- Alabama Cruising


Four Union ships engaged Confederate batteries at Port Royal, Virginia for an hour.

Rear Admiral Farragut wrote that keeping his ships supplied with coal and provisions "takes all my energies."  His fleet had captured or destroyed all the blockade-runners running from Havana or Nassau to his coast except the Cuba and Alice.  "I have all the coast except Mobile Bay, and am ready to take that the moment I get troops."


Boats from two Union ships capture and destroy several fine boats and brought back two from the Severn River in Maryland.  The captain of one claimed he was a Union man, but they thought he was endeavoring "to carry water on both shoulders."  Meaning he worked for both sides.

CSS Alabama captured and released on bond, the schooner Union off Haiti.


CSS Alabama captured the California steamer Ariel off coast of Cuba with 700 passengers on board, including 150 Marines.

Old B-Runner

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Look Back at Wilmington Events in 1910

From the 2010 Wilmington (NC) Star-News.

From July 8, 1910:  It was learned that the proposed inland waterway project would go through Wrightsville Sound and not Wilmington.  It would then go through a cut to be made across the peninsula to the Cape Fear River near Orton Plantation.

When made, this was known as Snow's Cut, named after its engineer.  This essentially made Fort Fisher to be part of an island.

December 9, 1910:  Fires at Carolina Beach destroyed a hotel and pavilion owned by Captain John Harper (whose ships ferried vacationers to the growing town).  Also, bathhouses and the Smith Cottage, owned by Hans A. Kure (who developed Kure Beach, of which Fort Fisher is a part) were destroyed. The fires were believed to be arson.

Events With an Impact.  --Old B-R'er

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: December 1st to 3rd ,1862-- State of the Navy


In his second annual report, Seceretary of the Navy Gideon Welles informed President Lincoln: "We have at this time afloat are progressing to rapid completion a naval force consisting of 427 vessels...armed in aggregate with 1,577 guns, and of the capacity of 240,028 tons...The number of persons employed on board our naval vessels, including receiving ships and recruits, about 28,000, and there are not less than 12,000 mechanics and laborers employed at the different navy yards and naval stations."

This was an extremely fast build-up from the Navy at the onset of the war.

Wilmington, North Carolina's Lt. Maffitt, commanding the CSS Florida wrte that the Alabama and his ship were the only two cruisers in the Confederate Navy and that the Federals would gladly sacrifice fifty armed ships to eliminate them.

Rear Admiral Du Pont wrote that English officers captured on blockade-runners say Charleston, SC,  is stronger than Sebastobol (considered the strongest defensive fortifications ever built during the Crimean War).  But they had also said that about New Orleans.


USS Cambridge captured schooner J.C. Roker off the coast of North Carolina with a cargo of salt.  Later this day, it captured the schooner Emma Tuttle off the Cape Fear.

USS Daylight, captured the British b-r attempting to run a cargo of salt into Wilmington.

The Wilmingtom Blockade Is Improving.  --Old B-Runner

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Back Then

From the July 30, 2010, Wilmington (NC) Star-News.

August 5, 1960, the US Coast Guard announced that the Frying Pan Lightship was to be replaced with a steel tower.

There had been a lightship anchored by the treacherous shoals ever since 1855, including the Civil War, but I haven't been able to find out too much about it.

Old B-Runner

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Semmes of the CSS Alabama-- Part 2

When the CSS Alabama transferred to Confederate service (at sea and away from England), Semmes had a problem getting the "crew" made up primarily of British sailors to join the Alabama's crew.  He offered them double wages and a signing bonus along with a share in prize money.  The ploy succeeded.

Semmes' mission was not to fight Union warships, but attack any American-owned ship it encountered on the high seas.  Then, it was to sink it.

After that, it was off on a very successful cruise, operating the first two months in the eastern Atlantic and then the ship migrated southwest to the Azores and then west to winter in the Caribbean.  If you have been following my Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago entries, you will get an indication of how much success the Alabama had.  Sometimes the ship captured and sank American ships on a daily basis.

It did fight two Union ships, sinking the USS Hatteras in the Gulf of Mexico and then being sunk itself by the USS Kearsarge off Cherbourg, France, June 19, 1864.  Semmes was able to escape when picked up by a private yacht and later returned to the Confederacy where he was promoted to the rank of admiral.

After the war, he returned to Mobile, where a grateful city gave him a house to live out his years.  He is buried there and his home still stands as well as the statue of him and name on a downtown hotel.  Recently, a town near Mobile was named for him.

Old "Beeswax."  --Old B-R'er

Semmes of the CSS Alabama-- Part 1

From the Nov. 17, 2012, Biloxi (Ms) Sun Herald "Semmes was a fearless commander of the CSS Alabama" by Tim Isbell.

Raphael Semmes commanded the famous Confederate commerce raider Alabama for two years.  Born in Maryland, he moved to Mobile and opened a law practice after the Mexican War.  Once Alabama seceded, he resigned from the US Navy and was given a commission as an officer in the Confederate Navy which, because of resources, was forced to turn to commerce raiding to offset Northern superiority.

Semmes' first command was the CSS Sumter, after which he was captain of the Alabama, a screw sloop of war powered by both sail and two 300 hp horizontal steam engines that drove a single twin blade brass screw propeller.  The ship could move 10 knots an hour under sail or 13 when combined with steam.

More to Come.  --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Spend a Night in the Monitor's Turret

From the Nov. 23, 2012, Richmond (Va) Times-Dispatch :Auction offers macabre U.S.S. Monitor opportunity."

Now, you and up to five of your closest friends can have the experience of as lifetime and spend the night of December 30-Dec. 31st in the turret of said ship, exactly 150 years to the day the ship sank.

The Mariner's Museum  and Monitor National Marine Sanctuary in Newport News, Virginia, is having an e-Bay auction with bids opening at $1,000 and with an undisclosed reserve price.  Funds raised will help go to the preservation of the turret which alone costs some $2,000 a day.

The famous USS Monitor sank between midnight December 30th and 1 AM December 31st.  Sixteen of the 52-man crew died that night.  Two of those skeletons were found in the turret after it was raised. 

The two Dahlgrean guns in the turret have been removed for conservation.  The successful bidder also receive lodging near the museum as well as food and entertainment at the well as time in the 20-foot diameter turret.

Calling All My Friends.  --Old B-Runner

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Lincoln's Blockade Order to Be Auctioned-- Part 2

Some of Lincoln's cabinet objected to the move, saying it could be seen as a de facto recognition of the Confederate States of America as a soverign nation as countries do not blockade their own ports.  (Lincoln refused to admit that the southern states were out of the Union.)  Lincoln, however, was less interested in the legal ramifications of the war  than in winning it and went ahead with it anyway.

The document was owned by a private collector who wishes to remain anonymous and had been exhibited recently at museums, including the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential; Museum and Library in Springfield, Illinois.

The single-page document directed Lincoln's secretary of state to"affix the Seal of the United States to a Proclamation setting on foot a Blockade of the States of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.  This effectively declared war on the Confederacy.

It was later extended to the states of North Carolina and Virginia after they too seceded.

This Means War!!  --Old B-Runner

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Lincoln's Blockade Order To Be Auctioned-- Part 1

From the Nov. 21, 2012, Goldsboro, (NC) News-Argus by AP.

A document signed by Abraham Lincoln that ordered a Union blockade of all Confederate ports, marking the official beginning of the Civil War is being offered for sale.

The Raab Collection out of Philadelphia is selling it and calles it one of the most important documents in American history and with an asking price of $900,000.  The proclamation is dated April 19th, 1861, just one week after the firing on Fort Sumter.

After the war had ended, in 1865, the U.S. Supreme Court, in an opinion, ascribed the document as the official beginning of the war.  Nathan Raab of the company said, "This action was bold and with great risk.  Lincoln was aware that blockading the ports was an act of war."

More to Come.  --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Declaring a Blockade

Now, you can have your very own copy of a rather imporatnt Civil War for your own house if you si desire.  All it will take is a nifty $900,000.  Chump change.

Even better, it has a rather important signature attached to it, and that would be from a man named Abraham Lincoln.

It is going up for sale with an asking price of almost the million dollars I mentioned.

I am not sure how the seller came to have it.

No blockade and no job for me.

Old B-Runner

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: November 25th to 30th, 1862-- It's a Coal Thing


The USS Kittaninny captured b-rs both days.  The Matilda was bound from Havana to Matamoras, Mexico.  The next day, the Diana was bound from Campche, Mex. to Matamoras.  Matamoras was right across the Rio Grande River from Brownsville, Texas, and a favorite b-r port.


Admiral Farragut is not happy that he has nothing to do at New Orleans: "I am still doing nothing, but waiting for the tide of events and doing all I can to hold what I have., & blockade Mobile.  So soon as the river rises, we shall have Porter down from above, who now commands the upper squadron, and then I shall probably go outside...We shall spoil unless we have a fight occasionally."  Farragut was not happy that he could not get troops to support an attack on Mobile.


In late November, Captain H.A. Adams, was ordered to special duty in Philadelphia as coordinator of coal supply.  All coal used in the US Navy at the time was anthracite and came from the eastern district of Pennsylvania, being forwarded to Philadelphia by rail or barge down the Schuylkill River.  Then it is loaded into coal schooners and sent to the various blockade stations.

Squadron commanders were having great difficulty keeping their ships supplied with coal and often had to borrow from the Army.  To give an idea of how much coal was needed, in mid-December, Du Pont notified the Navy Department that it took 950 tons of coal a week to keep his South Atlantic Blockading Squadron operating.

USS Mount Vernon captured b-r Levi Rowe off New Inlet, NC.


CSS Alabama captured and burned bark Peter Cook off the Leeward islands in the Caribbean.

Old B-Runner

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: November 20th to 24th,1862-- Cushing's At It Again

Since I will be on the road the next two weeks and the Civil War Naval Chronology book, where I get this information is pretty big, I'm going to get caught up for the month now.


Two b-rs (blockade-runners) captured, one at Charleston and the other at Pensacola Bay.

Confederates at Matagorda Bay, Texas, captured a boat crew from US mortar schooner Henry Janes who were ashore to "procure" fresh beef.  See what happens when you "steal."


Joint Army-Navy expedition to Matthews Court House, Virginia destroyed numerous salt works, hundreds of bushels of salt, burned three schooners, numerous small boats and captured 24 large canoes.  Wonder what they were going to do with the canoes?


Landing party from the USS Ellis under Lt. Cushing, captured arms, mail and two schooners at Jacksonville, NC.  While under attack by Confederate artillery, the Ellis grounded the next day.  Every effort was made to float the ship, but failed.  On the 25th, Cushing ordered it to be set afire to avoid capture.  Cushing reported: "I fired the Ellis in five places and having seen the battle flag was still flying, trained the gun on the enemy so that the vessel might fight herself after we had left her."

That rascal Cushing.


USS Monticello  destroyed two salt works near Little River Inlet, NC.

Old B-R'er

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: November 15th to 19th,1862-- Close One for Lincoln


President Lincoln and secretaries Seward and Chase went to the Washington Naval Yard to view the trial of the Hyde rocket and were joined by Captain Dahlgren.  One defective rocket accidentally explodes, but Lincoln escaped injury.


USS Kanawha and Kennebec chased a b-r ashore near Mobile.  Of the blockade's effectiveness, Farragut wrote, "Blockading is hard service, and difficult to carry on with perfect success....I don't know how many (b-rs) escape, but we certainly take a good many prizes."

USS Cambridge forced b-r British schooner J.W. Pindar aground at Masonboro Inlet, NC, and sent a boat crew to destroy the vessel.  The boat swamped and the crew was captured after firing the schooner.


CSS Alabama arrived at Martinique where it was blockaded by the USS San Jacinto.  In foul weather during the evening of the 19th, the Alabama slipped out.

USS Monticello chased b-rs British schooners Ariel and Ann Maria ashore and destroyed them near Shallotte Inlet with cargoes of salt, flour, sugar and lard.


USS Wissachikon and Davis engaged Fort McAllister, Georgia.  The Wissachickon was badly damaged.   The two Union ships had the mission to keep the CSS Nashville in the Ossabaw Sound so it wouldn't become another commerce raider the the CSS Alabama.

Old B-Runner

Friday, November 16, 2012

Back Then: Carolina Beach

From the Jan. 16, 2010, Wilmington (NC) Star-News "Back Then" column.

On Jan. 21, 1960, Carolina Beach civic leader Glen M. Tucker was assured by state officials that US-421 from Wilmington to Carolina Beach would be expanded to four lanes and that a new bridge would be built over Snow's Cut.

Before that, the beach was served bu a two-lane road that had problems with the large numbers of people going to the beach.  Plus the new bridge was to be built high enough that boats along the intercoastal waterway would not have to cause the bridge to go up.

Snow's Cut was named after Army Corps of Engineers Major William A. Snow, who directed it and was completed in 1930.  Parts of the old two-lane road can still be seen.  Making the cut caused the Federal Point peninsula to, in effect, become an island.  I remember always getting excited crossing Snow's Cut Bridge and seeing the ocean to the east from the top of it.  "We're at the beach!!  And Fort Fisher is so near!!"

Up until 1910, there was no paved road between Wilmington and Carolina Beach.  As the beach increased in popularity, visitors generally boarded steam boats in Wilmington and went down the Cape Fear River to a point near Sugar Loaf, disembarked and  took a small train to the beach.

US-421 continues past Carolina Beach all the way to past Fort Fisher to the "Rocks" by the old Battery Buchanan.  The "Rocks" closed off New Inlet, a favorite entrance for blockade-runners during the Civil War.

Oh Boy!!  The Beach!!  --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Confederate Navy March 15, 1861

From the March 15, 1861, Richmond Dispatch.

If the sides during the war wanted to know numbers and locations of the enemy, all they really had to do was a copy of the enemy's newspaper which were tell-all.  I'm sure Union "spies" were really happy to get this information.

The previous entry, I wrote about the USS Corwin which was a revenue cutter, but one that wasn't seized by Confederate forces in the early days of the country.

CS Navy revenue cutters seized from the U.S. government:

McClelland, 4 side guns, 1 pivot, 35 crew. (Later became the CSS Pickens)
Lewis Cass, one 69 pdr., 45 men
Aiken, one 42-pdr, 35 men (Became the privateer Petrol and sunk by the USS St. Lawrence)
Washington, one 42-pdr.
Dodge, one pivot gun

Also, there was the propeller tug James Gray, purchased in Richmond and mounting a 42-pdr Columbiad

Bonita, a slave ship brig being converted into a war vessel
Nina, steamship, gunboat, mounts one gun and has just returned to Charleston from a ten-day cruise off the coast.
Everglade-- steamer
USS Fulton, steamer seized at Pensacola Navy Yard while in ordinary, four 32-pdrs.  Will cost $10,000 to get ready for sea.

Thanks Richmond Paper.  --Old B-R'er

The USS Corwin

From Wikipedia.  Another ship I'd never heard of before.

The Corwin was built in 1849 for the US Coast Survey and transferred to the US Revenue Service in April 1861 then to the Navy in September of that year.  It weighed 330 tons and mounted two 32-pdrs and two 12-pdr. guns.

In September, it surveyed and buoyed Hatteras Inlet in advance of the fleet's advance against Confederate North Carolina.  November 14th, it engaged the CSS Curlew and also fought Confederate gunboats in Pamlico Sound.  During this time it was under the command of Thomas Phelps who later became a rear admiral.  He went on to command the USS Juanita during the attacks on Fort Fisher.

In April 1862, the ship was transferred to the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron and stood station at Hampton Roads.

Old B-Runner

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Fort Fisher Love Story-- Part 3

Daisy Lamb died in 1892 and William never remarried.  In 1893, he purchased a $3,500 stained glass window and had it installed at St, Paul's Episcopal Church in Norfolk, Virginia.

Lamb, who kept a diary, wrote in it May 1892:  "The world is absolutely a different place.  I seem to have no settled or definite plans for the future, for everything I did or planned for was for her pleasure and comfort."

The display was at the Fort Fisher Museum until the end of January, 2011.

Wish I Had Seen It.  --Old B-R'er

A Fort Fisher Love Story-- Part 2

Sarah Anne Chaffee Lamb was originally from Providence, Rhode Island and traveled to Confederate Point (Federal Point) in 1863 when her husband took command of the Fort Fisher.  At that time, the young couple had three children and brought her two oldest with her.

Col. Lamb had a small cottage built for them north of the fort, where the Fort Fisher Air Force Recreational Facility is today. (I wonder if the foundation remains?)  A housewarming party was given by the fort's officers and female guests in May 1863.  It featured a picnic, dancing and music from a local string band.

The Fort Fisher museum has a rare photo of the cottage as well as the couple's Wilmington home that stood on the northeast corner of Third and Chestnut streets (across Chestnut from the Thalian Hall).

One of her few luxuries at the cottage was a vase she mentioned no less than five times in her diary.  It was given to her by the Anglo-Confederate Trading Company whose blockade-runners were protected by her husband's guns.

True Love.  --Old B-Runner

Monday, November 12, 2012

The United States' Mediterranean Squadron-- Part 1

From Wikipedia.

Until I mentioned the USS Constellation being in the Mediterranean Squadron during the Civil War, i was completely unaware that there was one.  So, I had to do some research.

It was also called the Mediterranean Station and formed in response to the Barbary Wars.  In the 1820s to 1860s, it primarily was used to suppress piracy from Greece and to use Gunboat Diplomacy (The Big Stick).

The USS Constellation, the last all sail frigate,  was sent to its duty in 1855.  In the Civil War years it mounted sixteen 8-inch shell guns, four 32-pdr. guns, one 30-pdr. Parrot pivot rifle and a 20-pdr. Parrott pivot rifle.

In 1865, it was renamed the European Squadron.  From July 1865 to 1867, Rear Admiral Louis M. Goldsborough commanded it from the USS Colorado.

More to Come.  --Old B-Runner

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Thank You Veterans

And, of course, veterans would also include those of the naval bent.  Going all the way back to the Revolutionary War and through today.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: November 10th to 14, 1862


Confederate commander Maury, en route to Liverpool, England wrote his wife from Halifax, Nova Scotia and found that the people there "are strongly 'secesh'."


The USS Kensington capture two different blockade-runners off the Florida coast.


Rear Admiral Farragut had been at Pensacola, preparing for an attack on Mobile, but developments on the Mississippi River necessitated his return.  The French and British had ships in the vicinity "and we sailors understand each other better in many cases than landsmen."

He was pressuring General Butler as to when he could get a force of troops "to attack Fort Gaines (by Mobile Harbor)...I would attack the forts and go through to Mobile Bay without his assistance, but it would embarrass me very much not to have my communication open with the outside."

So, plans are afoot to attack the forts guarding Mobile Bay if troops can assist in the reduction of the forts.

Old B-R'er

A Fort Fisher Love Story-- Part 1

From the December 7, 2010, Wilmington (NC) Star News "Fort Fisher exhibit delves into Civil War love story" by Amy Hotz.

"An epic love story set against the backdrop of the Civil War," says Ray Flowers, an interpreter with the Fort Fisher State Historic Site of the latest exhibit at the museum.

He gave a 30 minute talk to the Cape Fear Civil War Round Table on December 9th. "Heart, Hearth and Home: The Life of Colonel and Mrs. (Daisy) Lamb.  It explores the day-to-day lives of the fort's garrison and commander's family between battles.

The Friends of Fort Fisher recently acquired six spoons, four forks and a knife that belonged to the Lambs.  It would be interesting to know how they came to acquire the items.  The fort's staff did research around these eleven objects and "found a love story as dramatic and tragic as 'Gone With the Wind.'"

Like the Lincolns, Daisy and William Lamb lost children during the war.  One died in Wilmington and the other at Fort Fisher.  In all, the couple lost seven children, six in infancy and one at 26.

More to Come.  --Old B-Runner

Friday, November 9, 2012

Wilmington's Fever Continues

From the UNC Libraries' Civil War Day By Day Blog.  Each day, they write about something in their holdings that ties in with that same date during the war.

From the October 16, 1862 Wilmington (NC) Journal.

"The physicians report 66 new cases of Yellow Fever yesterday.  Few make reports of deaths, but from the best information we can obtain, we are led to the belief that the deaths yesterday (Wednesday) will not differ much from those of the two days last preceding them, --say 16 or 16.

From appearances, we are constrained to think that every person resident in Wilmington during the epidemic has had or will have it in some form, more or less malignant.  It was out painful duty yesterday to record the death of Rev. Dr. Drane, of the Episcopal Church.  To-day we find that the very estimable paster of the Catholic Church here, Rev. Thos. Murphey, prostrated by the disease, also Rev. Dr. Corcoran of Charleston.  Both we trust and believe, are in light form, and will soon pass off.  (I'm not quite sure what this sentence means, but likely the two men only had a mild case and will soon get better.)

The fever does not abate, but we are now in the third week of October, and in the natural course of things we must soon have cooler weather, and some relief in that way."

This Epidemic Hit Wilmington Hard, But Life Went On.  --Old B-Runner

A Good Time At Fort Fisher in 1982

From my journal.

THURSDAY, AUGUST 5, 1982  Thirty years ago.

"We went by the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, or UNC Wonderful as it is commonly called, and toured the area.  It is definitely a beautiful campus and growing fast.

I also went to the Blockade Runner (Museum).  Chris Fonvielle offered me a position next year as Assistant Director at from between $15-18,000 a year salary.  He said we could do great things if we teamed up on our research.

I told him that he certainly knew a lot more about Fort Fisher than I did, but he replied that was only because he had always lived there.  I walked from the B-R back to the cottage."

I went to Fort Fisher at 4.  "I met Wilson and Jim Legg there.  Ron, Wilson, Mary, Jim and I drove out to the main Union line."

 That offer from Chris sure had me thinking about it.  That was around what I was earning teaching in Illinois and to have the chance to be that close to Fort Fisher.  That would be a dream come true.

To Fisher or Not to Fisher.  --Old B-R'er

Old B-Runner

Death of Underwater Archaeologist Charles Peery II

From the October 10, 2012, Wilmington Star News "Surgeon and underwater archaeologist Charles Vance Peery II dies at 71" by Ben Steelman.

Died October 6th in South Carolina.  Born June 22, 1941, in Kinston, NC.  As a teenager, he recovered artifacts from the CSS Neuse which started his great interest in underwater archaeology that he was involved with his whole life.  He was very active in various state diving groups and was one of the young divers who aided in the recovery of items from the blockade-runner Modern Greece in the early 1960s.  He later dove on the blockade-runners Ranger and Condor (the one that carried Rose O'Neal Greenhow).

Later, with friends, he founded the maritime archaeology firm MARS to explore and excavate the blockade-runner Ella sunk off Bald Head Island in December 1864.

He was also on the board of the Friends of the Hunley (Confederate submarine) and left much of his big Civil War collection with them.

A Man After My Own Heart.  --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: November 4th to 9th, 1862-- Clossing Off Shallotte and New Topsail


Rear Admiral S.P. Lee reported to Sec. Fox "There is no doubt that a large trade was carried on with Wilmington (NC) through Shalotte Inlet 25 miles below, & New Topsail Inlet 15 miles above Wilmington.  I have shut both doors."

The USS Daylight and Mount Vernon forced blockade-running British bark Sophia aground and destroyed her near Masonboro Ilet, NC.


The USS Louisiana captured the schooner Alice B. Webb at Rose Bay, NC.


CSS Alabama captured and burned the ship T.B. Wales southeast of Bermuda.


Greenville, NC, surrendered to a joint Army-Navy landing force under Second Assistant Engineer J.L.Lay of the USS Louisiana.

The Louisiana eventually became Butler's powder ship for his experiment before the First Battle of Fort Fisher.

Old B-Runner

A Mule Makes His Escape

From the June 27, 2011, Long Reach Blog.  From the June 27, 1861, Mobile Advertiser article about events at Pensacola.  Unfortunately, this blog ceased in 1861 when it got to be too much for the several people running it.  They would do events reported each day from newspapers and had plenty of interesting tidbits that I so love.

This is a prime example:

"Another deserter to day from Fort Pickens.  A mule from one of the recently arrived transports, not liking his quarters on the island, or driven by desperation by the sandfleas, swam from the beach of Fort Pickens to our shore, and made his way to the hills in spite of soldiers and batteries, which were charged in gallant style.  Verity, old Lincoln's service must be a hard and degrading one, when his mules depart."

Somebody's Got a Sense of Humor.  --Old B-Runner

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The "French Lady" of the St. Nicholas Capture

From the July 10, 2011, Long Recall blog.

In July 1861, the steamer St. Nicholas left Baltimore and had on board about 50 "secessionists" in disguises and in a "piratical crime" seized the ship.

This is a follow up article back in the Northern Newspapers of the day.

The paper had reported the seizure back on July 3rd and there was some dispute "which Southern officer dressed as a woman in order to hide himself away on the ship until the time of the strike occurred.

We appear to now have confirmation not only of the man in disguise was Captain Thomas of St. Mary's County, but also that he has been captured.  Lieutenant Thomas H. Carmichael and Mr. John Horner apprehended him in Baltimore July 9."

Those Sneaky Rebels.  --Old B-R'er

A Rebel Slaver and Privateer Captured at Hayti

From the July 11, 2011, Long Recall Blog.

This was taken from the Northern Press.

"An attempt at slave-dealing was lately made on the very coast of Hayti (Haiti), by a vessel of New Orleans, the William, Captain Le Pelletier, but owing to the energetic interference of the French vice consul, the vessel, which had dared to shelter herself under the French flag, was seized , and her captain arrested.

Among the papers found on board was a certificate of Mr. Lewis, the United States consul at Port-au-Prince, stating that the vessel had left that place, and not Havana as was pretended, and also a document which proved that she had been previously captured, with four hundred and fifty-four negroes on board, by an American cruiser.

After the imprisonment of the captain, the William was closely searched, and there was found on board a number of six-barrelled revolvers and double-barrelled rifles with sabre bayonets."

Old B-Runner

Monday, November 5, 2012

Confederate Camp at North Carolina's Masonboro Sound

From the Oct. 7, 2012 Wilmington (NC) Star-News My Reporter "Was there a Confederate camp at Masonboro Sound?"

A reader wrote in and wanted to know the answer.

There was plenty of Civil War action around Masonboro Sound.  General Braxton Bragg, worried about Federal troops now entrenched in the lower Cape Fear River and a possible siege of Wilmington, ordered a line of breastworks built from just below Wilmington at Fort Meares, one of the river batteries, east to Hewlett's Creek near Masonboro Sound.

This would give Confederates a defensive line in case Sugar Loaf (by present-day Carolina Beach) fell.

According to Fort Fisher's Becky Thatcher, the Union did attempt an unsuccessful landing between Wrightsville Sound and Masonboro Sond.

There are some structures still standing in the area.

Old B-R'er

Fort Wool, Virginia-- Part 3

President Andrew Jackson made Fort Calhoun his "White House."  Calhoun became Jackson's enemy when he threatened to pull out of the Union over state;s rights.  Jackson had a hut built for him and watched ships sailing on the Chesapeake Bay from his advantage point. 

He also had policy discussions with cabinet members on the island.

President John Tyler lived there after the death of his second wife.  Lincoln also visited the fort which remained only half built during the Civil War.  Soon after the Battle of Hampton Roads (Monitor versus Virginia), the federal government renamed the fort after Gen. John Ellis Wool, commander of Fort Monroe.

Actor Sir Alec Guinness ran into a minefield off the fort during World War II and comedian Red Skelton entertained troops there.  Much of the original fort was replaced by a concrete one built in the early 20th century.

Between 10,000 and 12,000 visit the fort each year.

I'd Actually Never Heard of the Fort Before This.  --Old B-Runner

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Fort Wool, Virginia-- Part 2

Continued from Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012.

Fort Wool and Fort Monroe were designed by  Simon Bernard of France, who served under Napoleon.

Construction of the fort and garrison duty were both harsh, especially during the summer's heat.

It was dedicated (even though not complete) 1826 as Fort Calhoun, named after Secretary of War John C. Calhoun.  By 1834, Fort Monroe was completed, but there were already problems with Fort Calhoun as its foundation was settling and the fort was never completed.

The original plans for the fort called for 232 cannons to be manned by a garrison of 1,000.  Robert E. Lee was given the task of stabilizing it in 1834 as his first independent command.  He found that the island wouldn't hold the weight of the two tiers of casemated and brought more stone in to stabilize it, but the fort never reached its intended size.  Essentially, Lee failed in his task.

One little-known aspect of the fort's history involved President Andrew Jackson, who in the late 1820s and 1830s, came to the fort heartbroken over the death of his first wife and in frail health.

More to Come.  --Old B-Runner

Friday, November 2, 2012

The USS Montgomery

From Wikipedia.

Last week, I wrote about some October action off Cuba that almost caused a war with Spain involving the USS Montgomery and its commander, Charles S. Hunter. 

I'd never heard of the ship, so looked it up.  It was a wooden screw steamer built in 1858 and purchased by the Navy and commissioned May 27, 1861 with Cmdr. O.S. Glisson in command.

From June to November it was off Apalachicola, Florida before going to the Wilmington, NC, blockade where it had a running fight with the CSS Tallahassee.  In January 1862, it joined the East Gulf Blockading Squadron and then the West Gulf one where it captured several blockade-runners.

In April 1862, it freed American citizens being held in Mexico and in late April captured the British schooner Will o- the Wisp by the Rio Grande River.

Then, October 7th came the capture and destruction of the Blanche, also known as the General Rusk in Cuban waters.  Oct. 28th it captured the CSS Carolina.

Then, in 1863, it joined the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron and searched for the CSS Tacony which was cruising off Nantucket before joining the Wilmington blockade again in August.  It made a career of capturing blockade-runners: Feb. 11, 1864, it captured Pet, the Dove June 7, the Bendigo aground at Wilmington Bar June 13th and the Bat October 11th.

It participated in both battles of Fort Fisher.  After the fall of Fort Fisher, it was in the Cape Fear River and engaged Half Moon Battery February 11th.

The Montgomery was sold in August 1865 and was in the merchant service until 1877.

Must Have Been Quite the Fast Ship and a Happy Crew with All That Prize Money.  --Old B-R'er

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: Oct. 31st to November 3rd, 1862-- Pooks and Improvising the Cartridge Bags


Naval expedition of USS Hetzel, Commodore Perry, Hunchback, Valley City and Army gunboat Vidette, opened fire on Confederate encampment at Plymouth, NC, forcing them to retreat.  Then the expedition was ordered to meet Gen. John G. Foster at Williamston on Nov. 3rd to support Army assault on Hamilton, NC.  Nov. 4th, Confederates evacuated Hamilton and troops took possession.

Then, an Army attack on Tarboro failed.  The Union fleet transported 300 sick and wounded soldiers back to Williamston.


Rear Admiral Porter writes Fox seeking authority over the Ellett rams in western waters.  They were needed badly because the "The old 'Pook Turtles' are only fit for fighting--they can not get along against the current without a tow."  Fox agreed and took it to Lincoln who also agreed and on November 7th, all war vessels on the Mississippi transferred to the Navy.  This provided much greater efficiency for operations there.

CSS Alabama captured and burned whaling ship Levi Starbuck near Bermuda.


The CSS Cotton and shore batteries engaged4 Union ships at Berwick Bay, Louisiana and caused considerable damage to them until the Cotton ran out of cartridge bags forced the Confederate ship to withdraw.  The Cotton's commander reported that the final shots were fired using the legs of his men's pants as improvised cartridge bags.

Commander Henry Thatcher wrote Fox about the cruise of the historic USS Constellation in the Mediterranean Sea and requested more ships at that station to make other countries think the US Navy is stronger and can spare ships from the blockade.  Also, he wanted them in case a Confederate cruiser slipped into that body of water.

I kind of doubt that he got more ships.

The USS Penobscot, Cmdr. Clitz, destroyed b-r British ship Pathfinder after forcing it aground off Shallotte Inlet, NC.

Old B-Runner

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Fort Wool, Virginia-- Part 1

From the July 4, 2011, Virginia Daily Pilot.

Fort Wool, originally named Fort Calhoun, is on a man-made island in the middle of Hampton Roads, Virginia, guarding the northern side of the channel in combination with Fort Monroe.

A young officer named Robert E. Lee was stationed there at one time.

The fort was off-limits from 2003 to 2006 after Hurricane Isabel wrecked the pier.  Some 20,000 people visited it each year.  Today, the Miss Hampton II Harbor Cruises run two trips each day to the fort from downtown Hampton.

Fort Monroe has always been much more famous, especially back in 2011 when the Army was preparing to turn it over to the State of Virginia.

The Army left Fort Wool in 1967 and turned it over to the Virginia.  The town of Hampton leases it from the state.

It was built after the War of 1812 as a further deterrent to the British.  Construction began in 1819 when crews began dumping tons of granite boulders  Four years later, an island rising six feet from the water had been formed.  It was one of 41 forts built by the United States for defense of coastal waters. 

More to Come.  --Old B-Runner

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Mighty Good Time at Fort Fisher 30 Years Ago-- Part 2

AUGUST 3RD, 1982

Ran again without Julie.  She does not like to get up at 6:30 AM to run.  After swimming, I went to Fort Fisher and found still more material to copy.

Ron and Mary believe Gehrig is a poor site manager as he has been there for 17 tears and has done little in the way of improving the exhibits or making anything along the walking tour which would better enable persons to relate to the fort.

AUGUST 4TH, 1982

Ran to Fort Fisher with Julie and then back to Kure Beach.  Sat on the pier and walked back to Carolina Beach.  Seemed a very long walk back as the beach sand is very slanted and the only flat areas consist of the soft stuff.  Both are extremely hard on the feet.  Julie says she will not do this again.

I went to the Blockade-Runner where I stayed until Bob picked me up at 4:45.

Still Not Getting My Fisher Fill.  --Old B-Runner

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: October 30th to Oct. 31st, 1862: A Bounty for the Alabama and Torpedoes


That pesky CSS Alabama!!  I have been noting the names of the ships the CSS Alabama was capturing and it was becoming a real pain in the side of the Lincoln administration  The Navy department would give $500,000 to anyone who captured and delivery of the ship, or $300,000 if it was destroyed, if, of course, Congress authorized the expenditure.  In addition, a dozen Navy ships were out looking for it.

USS Daylight captured the schooner Racer between Stump Inlet and New Topsail Inlet, NC, with cargo of salt.

In a little blockading clarification, Rear Admiral Du Pont ordered that foreign ships captured while running the blockade would continue to fly the flag of their country until their cases decided.  However, the US flag will be flown at the fore to show it is under U.S. charge.


During October, the Confederate Congress formalized a Torpedo Bureau in Richmond under General Gabriel Rains and a Naval Submarine Battery Service under Lt. Hunter Davidson.  The purpose was to organize and improve methods of torpedo (mine) warfare that was pioneered by Commander Matthew Fonaine Maury.

Old B-Runner

Monday, October 29, 2012

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: October 28th to Oct. 29th,1862: But, Who Would Want to Capture That?


Group led by Lt. John Taylor Wood, CSN, boarded, captured and burned the ship Alligator at anchor in the Chesapeake Bay off the mouth of the Rappahannock River with a cargo of guano from Baltimore to London.  Something's mighty batty around here.  Now who would want to capture a load of ..... .

CSS Alabama captured and burned Lauratta south of Halifax, Nova Scotia.

USS Montgomery, Commander Hunter, captured b-r steamer Carolina near Pensacola.  Usually I just do blockade-runners off Wilmington, but this was the guy and ship that in trouble for capturing a b-r in Cuban waters that I wrote about last week.


Landing party from the USS Ellis, Lt. Cushing, destroyed a large Confederate salt works at New Topsail Inlet, NC.  Cushing reported that "it could have furnished all Wilmington with salt."

USS Dan exchanged fire with Confederate troops near Sabine Pass, Texas.  It shelled the town on Oct. 30th and landed sailors and burned a mill and several buildings.

CSS Alabama seized the brigantine Baron de Castine south of Nova Scotia.  The ship was old and of little value so Semmes reported, "I released her on ransom bond and converted her into a cartel, sending some forty-five prisoners on board of her--the crews of the three last ships burned."

Some Mighty Good Pickins Off Nova Scotia.  --Old B-Runner

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Cuban Missile Crisis Had a Counterpart in the Civil War-- Part 2

The blockade-runner General Rusk, though in Spanish waters was boarded and captured.  Somehow a fire broke out and destroyed the vessel.

Commander Charles S. Hunter of the USS Montgomery thought he had clear orders from Farragut to end the Rusk's blockade-running days and he was extremely proud of his accomplishment.  He boasted of it and went on to capture two more runners.

What he didn't know was that the Spanish government was enraged and even went so far as to threaten war if something wasn't done, something the Lincoln administration definitely didn't want at this point.  The good commander was court-martialed and Secretary of State Seward was forced to issue a formal apology and pay $300,000.

Hunter was cleared of military misconduct at the court martial, but guilty of violating neutral waters and removed from service.

Oh Well.  --Old B-Runner

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Mighty Good Time at Fort Fisher 30 Years Ago

From my journal.


Saturday.  At the cottage.  Dad got wiped out by a wave swimming at Carolina Beach and refused to let us get him an ambulance to take him to the hospital.  It was that serious.  Mom and Dad left for Goldsboro for tomorrow's Hood Reunion.  Julie and Tommy arrived and we went to the boardwalk until  midnight.


Sunday.  The first-ever reunion of the Prince family with 60 people, catered by Wilber's.  Julie, Tommy and I went back to the cottage in Carolina Beach, along with Bob and Cathy.


Monday.  Back to the regular routine of a run, followed by swim in the ocean and then Fort Fisher research.  Not a bad way to spend a vacation.

Went to Fort Fisher and copied until my hand felt like it would fall off.  I will keep writing as long as I can while I'm here.

I helped Ron Graham prepare some of the talk he was going to give on Fort Fisher during his guided tours.  This is a great idea as most people visiting the fort can not conceptualize what it was.  They have much easier times with forts like Macon and Pulaski which are masonry and brick.

I'm Glad the Guided Tours Continue To This Day.  --Old B-Runner

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Don't Want to Lose Fort Gaines

From the June 10, 2011, Mobile (Ala) Press Register editorial "We Can't Lose Fort Gaines: Piece of the Past."

The fort is best-known for its role in the Battle of Mobile Bay "the last major naval engagement of the Civil War," as the editors called it.  That would be true if they were referring to a ship vs. ship fight, but not for ships versus fort, which would be Fort Fisher and Fort Anderson in North Carolina.

Fort Gaines is losing land to erosion at a startling rate due to fierce storms, rising water levels and dredging for the Mobile Ship Canal.

The fort made the National Trust for Historic Places' "Eleven Most-Endangered List."  In 2009 it was on the list of the Civil War Preservation Trust's Most Endangered Battlefields.

The original cannons and brickwork are "too precious to be washed into the Gulf of Mexico."  The site has already lost 400-feet of shoreline.  One possible solution is beach nourishment where clean sand from near Sand Island Lighthouse could be hauled in.

Let's Hope It Is Saved.  --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Cuban Missile Crisis Had a Counterpart in the Civil War-- Part 1

From the Civil War Navy Sesquicentennial Blog "Playing with Fire Off the Cuban Coast in Oct. 1862."

This past Monday, October 22nd was an eventful day in the U.S. history.  And, it scared me more than any Halloween monster.  This was the date in 1962 that President Kennedy went on the TV and said that the Soviet Union had placed nuclear missiles in Cuba, just 90 miles from our country.  I thought this signalled the end of the world in a nuclear holocaust.  I wrote about it in my Cooter's History Thing Blog for that date.

But, 100 years before that, events unfolded that almost led to another war.  Of course, the Civil War was underway, but the United States came close to having a war with Spain over something that happened in Cuba.

A lively trade developed during the war consisting of cotton from Matamoras, Mexico, military supplies from Havana, Cuba and Mobile, Alabama.

Union Commander Charles S. Hunter was patrolling off the coast of Cuba and especially on the lookout for the blockade-runner General Rusk, sometimes called the Blanche, that had made the run between the ports six times.  On the seventh attempt into Cuba, carrying 569 bales of cotton, the ship had managed to run aground, but its commander wasn't worried as the ship was in Spanish waters and flying the Spanish flag.  He thought he was safe.

He Wasn't.  --Old B-Runner

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

From the Ranks to Flag Officer: Oscar Walter Farenholt-- Part 2

Oscar Farenholt reentered naval service in February 1863 after recovery from the wound and was assigned to the monitor USS Catskill and was involved in the daily battles around Charleston, SC, in 1863 and also took part in the storming of Fort Sumter.

He was appointed Acting Ensign August 19, 1864, and placed in command of the mortar schooner USS Henry James. in the sounds of North Carolina and as such participated inthe recapture of Plymouth, NC and was at Fort Fisher (I can't find him in any mention of the battle, though).  I looked up the USS Henry James and according to Wiki, the ship was always on station along the Gulf Coast.

After the war, he remained in the Navy, rising through the ranks to commander in 1892.  During the Spanish-American War, he commanded the USS Monocacy.  In 1900 he was promoted to captain and then to rear admiral in 1901, before retiring.

Never Heard of Him.  --Old B-Runner

From the Ranks to the Flag: Oscar Walter Farenholt-- Part 1

Yesterday I wrote that a howitzer battery from the USS Wabash participated in the Battle of Pocatligo, South Carolina,  a battle I had never heard of before.  I will be writing about the battle in my Saw the Elephant Civil War Blog since this was mostly  a land action.  However, one of the Wabash's sailors manning the howitzers was one Oscar Walter Farenholt whom the Navy Chronology said was the first-ever sailor to go from enlisted to flag-rank (admiral).  I'd never heard of him before so good old Wiki to the rescue.

Oscar Walter Farenholt (I keep thinking Farenheit for some reason) May 2, 1945-June 30, 1920.  Was a naval man in the Civil War and Spanish-American War and the first enlisted man to reach flag rank.  He was born in San Antonio, Texas, and spoke only German until the age of 8.

Later, he became a merchant sailor before entering US Navy service April 24, 1861.  Participated in the Hatteras Inlet, Port Royal and Fort Pulaski battles.

On Oct. 22, 1862, while serving on the USS Wabash, he was severely wounded at the Battle of Pocotaligo in South Carolina and later discharged because of the injury.

More to Come.  --Old B-R'er

Naval Happening 150 Years Ago: October 23rd to Oct. 27th, 1862-- Everyone Wants Ironclads


CSS Alabama captures and burned American bark Lafayette south of Halifax, Nova Scotia.


Sailors on horseback, a landing party from the USS Baron De Kalb, debarked at Hopefield, Arkansas, to engage a Confederate scouting party.  The horses had been impressed (Holy Shades of War of 1812).  A nine-mile fight ensued, ending with the capture of the Confederates.  That had to be a funny looking group of sailors, but since this was a Brown Water action, perhaps the Union sailors were good horsemen.


Rear Admiral Du Pont is still worried about Confederate ironclads under construction from Charleston to Savannah and wants the "Ironsides (New Ironsides) and Passaic...dispatched at an early day."


CSS Alabama captured and burned schooner Crenshaw south of Halifax, Nova Scotia.


Rear Admiral Lee wrote to Welles about difficulty of blockading the coast of North Carolina, "Our supremacy in the sounds of NC can...only be maintained by iron clads adapted to the navigation there....The defense of the Sounds is a very important matter...."

"That, My Friend, Is a Horse of a Different Color."  --Old B-Runner

Monday, October 22, 2012

North Carolina's Topsail Battery

Earlier today, Iwrote about Lt. William Cushing destrouing the blockade-runner Adelaide by New Topsail Inlet on this date 150 years ago.

I couldn't find any more information about the Adelaide, but I did find some stuff on a marker that Ihave seen many times on US-17, south of Hamstead, NC.

It reads:


Confederate breastworks were constructed in this vicinity in 1862 to protect Wilmington from an attack from the north and for coastal defense.

The NC Dept. of Cultural Resources had an essay with more information on it.

The earthworks were constructed in the fall of 1862 to protect Wilmington from an attack coming down the Old New Bern Road (present-day US-17) from New Bern.  Its secondary purpose was to protect New Topsail Inlet and Topsail Sound for blockade-runners.

The attack from New Bern never materialized, though Union General J.G. Foster did plan one.  Reinforcement troops and artillery were sent to the site in 1864 by Confederate General Whiting.

The Topsail earthworks did see action several times.  On Oct. 22, 1862 (today's date 150 years ago) Lt. William B. Cushing destroyed the blockade-runner Adelaide nearby.  A week later, Cushing was back and set fire to a large salt works and was fired on from artillery in the battery.

During August 1863, Cushing again tried to enter the inlet but was driven off.  That same month, Cushing destroyed the blockade-runner Alexander Cooper and captured several of its men.  In Oct. 1864, the same Cushing became even more famous for sinking the ironclad CSS Albemarle.

The remains of the Confederate earthworks are threatened by development.  Originally they stretched for over a half mile and at points stood 10 feet high from the bottom of the dig pits to the top.  A large section was destroyed in the 1950s by the widening of US-17 (which is five lanes in the area).

That Cushing Was Something.  --Old B-Runner

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: October 21st to 22nd ,1862


USS Louisville escorted Union troops too Beldsoe's Landing and Hamblin's Landing in Arkansas.  These towns were burned in reprisal to attacks by Confederate guerrillas on mail steamer Gladiator on Oct. 19th.  Warned the people that any more attacks would be dealt with in similar fashion.  Kind of a mean retaliation if you ask me.


Three 12-pounder boat howitzers from the USS Wabash furnished artillery support for Union troops at the battle of Pocotaligo, SC.  I didn't quite understand this, but ordinary seaman Oscar W. Farenholt, the first enlisted man in the Navy to reach flag rank, was severely wounded.  This Wabash battery took part in amphibious operations all along the South Atlantic coast.

USS Penobscott, Commander Clitz, captured the British blockade-running brig Robert Bruce off Cape Fear, NC.

Lt. William B Cushing reported that the USS Ellis captured and destroyed blockade-runner Adelaide at New Topsail Inlet, NC, with cargo of turpentine, cotton and tobacco.  (Definitely trying to run out.)


These actions, while not huge, continued to put pressure on strained Confederate resources throughout the war.  Constant attacks along the rivers and coasts, especially in conjunction with the Army, were devastating. 

And, then, the blockade continually got more effective.  Usually, I just write about blockade-runners captured in the Wilmington area, but the Chronicles has a lot more.

Old B-R'er

So, Maffitt's Channel at Charleston, SC Got Its Name from Who I Thought It Did

I have been writing about the recent archaeological survey in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, and came across Maffitt's Channel a lot.

I got to wondering how it got its name, knowing of a famous Confederate commerce raider and blockade-runner captain from North Carolina named John Newland Maffitt.  It is not a real common name.  And, a sea-faring man would surely know his channels.  Perhaps it was named after his father or a relative.

Using good old Wikipedia, I found that the Confederate John Newland Maffitt entered the U.S. Navy in 1832 at the age of 13 as a midshipman and was assigned to the USS Constitution in 1835.

In 1842, he was transferred to the U.S. Coast Survey where he spent 14 years in the hydrographic survey, chiefly in Nantucket, Mass., Wilmington, N.C., Charleston, S.C. and Savannah, Georgia.  The Charleston channel was named after him, hence Maffitt's Channel.

Just Wanted to Know.  --Old B-Runner

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Archaeological Survey of Charleston Harbor-- Part 1

Back on Oct. 9th I started this entry and will do some more of it.


The Main Ship Channel and Maffitt Channel were the ones used most by blockade-runners, so it was determined by the Union Navy to obstruct them.  Forty-five ex-whaling ships were filled with rocks in New England and sent to Charleston for that purpose.  Being old and decrepit, some sank en route and others were diverted elsewhere.

Between Dec. 17th and Dec. 21st, 1861, sixteen were sunk in the Main Ship Channel and another thirteen were sunk Jan. 20-25 in the Maffitt Channel.

Locating large mounds of rocks is key to locating these wrecks today.  They were sunk in an organized checkerboard pattern.  Underwater archaeologists found 15 such ballast mounds with 14 being packed closely together.  They couldn't find the Second Stone Fleet at Maffitt's Channel.

They did find four wrecks with large stones, but they think they were flat-bottom boats used to construct the Charleston Harbor jetties from 1878 to 1896.

More to Come Monday.  --Old B-R'er

Fragments of the War

From the Oct. 2, 2012, Wilmington (NC) Star-News "Museum to display 'Fragments,' of Civil War" by Ben Steelman.

Among items on display will be three little stars indicating the rank of a Confederate colonel from Fort Fisher's Col. William Lamb's uniform.

Also, scraps of British-made fabric carried into Wilmington aboard a blockade-runner.

A commission signed by Abraham Lincoln.

The Cape Fear Museum has assembled a lot of little pieces for their next exhibit "Fragments of War" which will be on display from now to May 5th.  They are doing this for to commemorate the war's 150th anniversary and they are showing items that haven't been on display for awhile.

You can also see General W.H.C. Whiting's uniform tunic (also at Fort Fisher).

There is also a 34-star U.S. flag that flew over Wilmington before the war.

A Confederate Second National flag sewn by the ladies of Wilmington for Col. Lamb.

And, a flask carried by an officer of the United States Colored Troops at Fort Fisher.

I've never been to this museum, but understand they received a lot of the material from the old Blockade-Runner Museum in Carolina Beach.  Now would be a good time to see it.

Going to the Museum.  --Old B-Runner

Friday, October 19, 2012

Monitor Museum Up In the Air

From the Oct. 14, 2012, New York Post "Historic ship in a land war" by Kate Briquelet.

Janice and George Weinman, of Brooklyn, New York, have dreams of building the Greenport Monitor Museum, but for the last ten years, New York City has been threatening to take their land for the museum to be used as part of a park.

Their Monitor Museum has been a roadshow since 1996, mostly visiting schools.

In 2003, Motiva Company gave them a one acre site near Quay Street where the Monitor was built.  Unfortunately for the Weinmans, their parcel is in part of where the city plans to build a 28 acre park stretching from North 9th Street to Quay Street.

The city has so far only acquired 2 of 6 privately-owned parcels of land.  Worse, there is no schedule or budget to get those land units needed.  The city has offered some unacceptable choices to the Weinmans as to there museum.  One of the offers involves a room attached to a comfort station.

I'm Pulling for the Weinmans.  --Old B-R'er

Civil War Wrecks Off the Carolina Coast

From Coastal site.

Two of the shipwrecks they offer scuba diving trips to are near Wilmington.

THE SHERMAN--  Originally a 200-foot long blockade-runner, post-Civil War wreck 52 feet deep and six miles out from Little River Inlet.  Lots of marine life and artifacts including US belt buckles, buttons and bottles.  A very popular spot for divers of all skill levels.  Half-Day Trip for $75.

THE GOVERNOR--  South Carolina shipwreck of a 200-foot Civil War paddle wheeler in 80 feet of water, 22 miles off the coast.  The true identity of the ship is not known.  Brass artifacts, Southern stingrays and marine life.  Three/fourths day trip for $90.

And, I Used to Dive, But No More.  Drat.  --Old B-Runner

Thursday, October 18, 2012

CSS Neuse Moving to a New Location

From the March 8, 2012, NBC News.

It has already moved, but here is a story about it.

Over 250 tons of history will be moving through the streets of Kinston.  The CSS Neuse, one of 22 ironclads commissioned by the Confederacy in its effort to achieve independence is going to be moved to a building on Queen Street in about a month.  It is currently at the CSS Neuse and Caswell Memorial on Vernon Avenue in the town. 

During the week of April 16th, contractors specializing in moving heavy equipment will transport it to an indoor memorial being constructed right now near the intersection of Queen and Caswell streets.  Iron beams will be placed under the hull of the ship, then it will be jacked up and then attached to wheels for transport.  It will then travel the US-70 bypass into Kinston and to King Street.

As of yet, they are not sure if the entire hull (all that is left of the ship) will be moved at once of if it will be cut into three pieces.

It was pulled out of the Neuse River in 1962 during the Civil War Centennial.

Glad It Is Now At Its New Home.    --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

CSS Virginia

The Confederate ship spent the night of March 8-9 docked at Sewell's Point and got underway at 7 AM, march 9th to finish off the USS Minnesota, only to encounter the USS Monitor.

The battle between the two ironclads, the first time ships of this sort fought each other, lasted three hours and was over by noon.

Old B-R'er

The New York Times Reports the Last Sea Trial of the Monitor

From the March 10, 1862, New York Times.

The last of the Monitor's last sea trial took place last Monday when the ship went down the bay to about five miles beyond Fort Lafayette and its guns were fired to see whether the concussion in the turret would injure ears.

The first charge was blank with the hatches in the roof of the turret open.

Then, a cannister charge, weighing 13.5 pounds fired by 15 pounds of powder was tried twice, first with the hatches open and then closed.

It was found that the concussions were less than had the men been standing on an open deck.

The Monitor attained a speed of six and one-fourth knots.

Who Needs Spies When the Newspapers Do Such a Good Job.  --Old B-Runner

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

It Was Monitor Vs. the Virginia-- Part 3

Officers on the USS Monitor:

Lt. Cmdr. John S. Worden
Lt. and Exec. Officer S.D. Green
Acting Masters L.N. Stodder and J.W. Webber
Acting Asst. paymaster William F. Keeler
Acting Asst. Surgeon D.C. Logue
Chief Engineer A. J. Steiners

Engineers : 1st Asst. isaac Newton, 2nd Asst. Albert S. Campbell, 3rd Assts. R.W. Sands and M.T. Sunstron

Acting Master's Mate George Frederickson

And That's the Officers.  --Old B-R'er

It Was Monitor Vs. the Virginia-- Part 2

From the March 9, 2012, New York Times by the Learning Network.

From the March 9, 1862, New York Times, which described the Merrimack as "looking like a submerged house with the roof only above the water."

The March 10, 1862 Times reported, "The new Ericsson Battery, or as she is called now, the Monitor left port last Wednesday and fought the rebel battery Merrimac on Sunday."

The Monitor's keel was laid Oct. 25, 1861 and rapid work was done completing her.  Construction was under the superintendance of Engineer Alban C. Stuiners and Assistant Engineer Isaac  Newton of the USS Roanoke.

More to Come.  --Old B-Runner

Monday, October 15, 2012

It Was Monitor Vs. the Virginia-- Part 1

When the Monitor arrived on the scene that night, its commander Worden was charged primarily with the protection of the USS Minnesota.  Jones at first thought the Monitor to be a  boiler being towed from the Minnesota. 

Once he determined it was this new Union ship he'd been hearing about, Jones fired first, the shot missing and hitting the Minnesota.

To her disadvantage, the Virginia only had shell ammunition, not armor-piercing which would have been much helpful against the Union ship.  As for the Monitor, its guns had only the 15-pound powder charges, not enough to penetrate armor.

The battle ceased when a chance shot from the Virginia hit the Monitor's pilot house, exploded and temporarily blinded Worden.  After that, the Monitor withdrew.

A Lucky Shot.  --Old B-R'er