Fort Fisher

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

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Upcoming Battle of the Ironclads

From the Feb. 25th Rockbridge (Me) Weekly "Morrison to Speak on the Battle of Hampton Roads, March 8th."

His talk will be athe Bath County Public Library.

As we approach the 150th anniversary of that fateful battle, that was actually a draw, but did really have an impact on Naval technology for the next sixty years.

It's sometimes called the Battle of Hampton Roads, or the Battle of the Monitor and the Merrimac (k), or the Battle of the Ironclads. On March 8th, the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia had had a field day with the Union blockading fleet in Hampton Roads, destroying two Union ships before retiring to return the next day to destroy the USS Minnesota.

That evening, the Federal ironclad, USS Monitor, arrived and the stage was set for their encounter.

The two ships never met in combat again. And, both were gone by the start of 1863.

This encounter spelled the end of wooden ships. France, Britain and other countries halted construction of further wooden ships. The North began construction of a new class of ironclads based on the design of the Monitor. These ships featured a small number of heavy caliber guns in a turret which allowed them to be fired in any direction.

Confederate ironclads continued to be built along the lines of the Virginia.

Rams at the prow of ships were also incorporated in new ironclad warships.

Setting Naval technology On Its Ear. --Old B-Runner

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: February 26-28 ,1862


New Orleans Committee of Safety reported that the finances of the Confederate Navy in that city were deplorable and that was causing problems with enlistment.


The USS Monitor had been delayed by lack of ammunition for its guns, but departed New York City this day, but had to return to port because of steering failure.

his same day, at Norfolk, Flag Officer Forrest, CSN, reported that lack of gun powder was delaying readiness of CSS Virginia to begin her operations against the Union blockading fleet in Hampton Roads, Virginia.

So the two ships about to rock naval technology were having problems.

Black in Blue: Blacks in the Navy

From the Feb. 19th Columbus (Ga) WTVM 9 News "Black In Blue" African Americans in the Civil War Navies" by Brittany Dionne.

A history program was held at the Natinal Civil War Naval Museum in Columbus, Georgia, about three people.

Moses Dallas was a nominal slave (new term for me). Owner, Mrs. Elbert, gave him papers and he could live where he wanted, negotiate his own contracts and keep the money he earned. He loved being a pilot for ships so remained a slave because of a Georgia law which did not allow a free black to be a pilot. A slave, however, could be one.

He had used the money he earned to buy the freedom of his wife and daughter and worked in the Confederate Navy for three years before piloting the expedition to capture the USS Water Witch in which he and five others were killed.

The Confederate Navy had full military honors at his funeral and paid for it, but his last paycheck was sent to Mrs. Elbert and not his widow.

Now, This Is An Interesting Story. --Old B-Runer

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Charleston's Castle Pinckney

From the Fe, 9, 2011, Charleston (SC) Post and Courier.

Smoke could be seen billowing from long abandoned Castle Pinckney in Charleston Harbor which had become extremely overgrown with brush and small trees. Members of the Department of Natural Resources and students from Clemson University and the College of Charleston worked on the old fort.

Many of the college students were getting hands on learning for their preservation studies.

The fort was completed in 1809, but saw little action in the War of 1812. After South Carolina's secession, 150 state troops had seized it. In 1861, it briefly served as a prison for Union soldiers captured at the Battle of First Manassas, the it was fort for the rest of the war.

Abandoned after the war, in 1933 President Roosevelt turned it over to the National Park Service. It is currently off limits to the public.

Some comments on the article. There is a cross on the island.

As teens we used to go and dig musket balls and small cannon balls, but it got so overgrown, it was not worth it.

A little-Known Confederate Fort. --Old B-R'er

George Davis Statue Dedicated in Wilmington in 1911

From the April 19, 2011, Wilmington (NC) Star-News Looking Back Column.

On April 21, 1011, the unveiling and formal dedication of the statue of the Honorable George Davis, attorney general of the Confederacy took place. The statue was a gift from the local group of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

The ceremony was preceded by a parade of civic, military and allied Confederate organizations from the city which went from the Wilmington Light Artillery Armory to the site (where it remains today).

Davis died in 1896 and is buried in Wilmington's Oakdale Cemetery.

Honoring the Past. --Old B-Runner

Friday, February 24, 2012

A Little More on Former Chief Engineer Quinn

The New York Paper sure thought former Chief Engineer Michael Quinn had something to do with the engine problem on the USS Mississippi (from a couple blogs ago). I'd have to agree that this is a distinct possibility, but I couldn't learn anything more about the incident. I also couldn't find out much about the man.

But, I did find this. His name was struck from the Navy on May 18, 1861 and he later became chief engineer, CSN, on the CSS Virginia and was the man put in charge of recovering the engines from the sunken USS Merrimack at Norfolk, Virginia, and placing them on the new ironclad CSS Virginia being constructed from the ship's remains.

A Story of Civil War Sabotage. Did He? --Old B-R'er

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: February 24-25, 1862


Captain Buchanan, CSN, ordered to command the James River, Virginia, naval forces and to fly his flag aboard the new CSS Virginia, along with other vessels: Patrick Henry, Jamestown, teaser, Raleigh and Beaufort.

Sec. of War Mallory added that the Virginia was such a novelty of construction "is untried, and her powers unknown; and hence the department will not give specific orders as to her attack upon the enemy." He suggested use of the ram, especially because of ammunition scarcity.

An attack up the Potomac River to Washington, DC, would be great as well.


The USS Monitor is commissioned in New York Harbor. Captain Dahlgren describes the Monitor as "a mere speck, like a hat on the surface."

The USS Cairo arrived at Nashville, Tennessee, with troops. The troops landed and occupied the city without resistance. Flag Officer Foote quoted a Nashville paper as stating: "We had nothing to fear from a land attack, but the gunboats are the devil."

The Upcoming Battle of the Ironclads Is Certainly Coming Together. --Old B-Runner

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: February 21- 23 ,1862


Flag Officer Farragut formally relieved Flag officer McKean as commander of the West Coast Blockading Squadron. As ships arrived, he sent those whose draft was small enough over the bar at the Southeast Pass to initiate the blockade "in the river." Plans continue for the attack on New Orleans.

Key West was to play a role as a key Naval base.


Naval ships entered Savannah River through Wall's Cut, isolating Fort Pulaski.

Flag Officer Farragut ordered Coast Survey team to sound the Mississippi passes and determine the safest channel for his ships.


Flag Officer Du Pont wrote that he was proceeding to move against points along the SC, Georgia and Florida coasts, saying that in "three weeks I hope to hold everything by and inside or outside blockade from Cape Canaveral to Georgetown, SC."

Flag officer Foote reconnoitered the Mississippi River down to Columbus, Kentucky, with four ironclads, two mortar boats and three transports with a thousand men.

The USS Tyler conducted a reconnaissance on the Tennessee River to East Port, Mississipi. At Clifton, Tn., he seized large supplies of food.

The Confederacy Under Attack from All Quarters. --Old B-R'er

Disgraceful Conduct of a Seceding Navy Officer?

From New York papers. Dated Boston, Ma. May 23, 1861.

Is it possible that some Southern naval officers resigning from the Union Navy, may have sabotaged Union ships or facilities before leaving? Some definitely thought so as evidenced by this article.

"The Mississippi, which sailed this afternoon, has returned and anchored off the Navu yard. She had proceeded but a few miles down the harbor, when it was discovered that in repairing the engines, about two inches of the delivery pipe, through which the water from the condensers was forced out of the side of the ship, had been cut out and, in its place, a joint of gum and canvas susbstituted, when it should have been a slip joint of iron or other metal.

The defective part gave way, pouring a flood of water into the ship, when the engines were immediately stopped, and the anchor thrown out. Temporary repairs were made, so that she was enabled to return, but lost a 6,000 pound anchor by parting of a cable.

Michael Quinn, of Virgina, late Chief Engineer in the Navy, superintended the repairs on the Mississippi. It is stated that he recently resigned, returned to Virginia and his name stricken from the navy roll. It will take a week to repair the machinery."

The paper definitely suspected Quinn of sabotaging the Mississippi.

I Guess We'll never Know. --Old B-Runner

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Robert Hooker Gillette: Killed at Fort Fisher

Was born in Hartford, Connecticut, son of US Senator Francis Gillette, an abolitionist, crusader of women's suggrage, public education and temperance.

Robert Gillette, joined the Union Army and served in the Antietam Campaign, became invalided, sent home sick, recovered and joined the Navy where he was assigned to the USS Gettysburg.

He took part in both attacks on Fort Fisher. he survived the fighting, but tragically was killed the morning after the surrender, Jan. 16, 1865, when the powder magazine of the fort blew up. The commander of the detachment of sailors and Marines from the Gettysburg which participated in the attack was Lt. Roswell Lamson.

There is an eight-page letter in the Civil War Manuscripts Project from Anne Elizabeth Dickinson of Greenfield, Massachusetts dated Jan. 30, 1865, to Francis Gillette. It is a letter of condolence upon the death of Robert Gillette, Acting Paymaster, USN. Enlisted 1863.

She seemed to think he had been mortally wounded in the battle and had died the next day.

A Brave One at the Fort. --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Rear Admiral William Radford

In my last post, I mentioned seeing the uniform of Commodore William Radford, commander of the Union ironclad USS New Ironsides, arguably the most powerful ship in the fleet. At the time I saw it, it didn't occur to me that the Ironsides was at Fort Fisher (I knew it, just didn't occur).

That, of course, would make it even more special for me, given my interest in that fort.

I was unfamiliar with the man, so, of course, went to Wikipedia.

WILLIAM RADFORD (March 1, 1808-Jan. 8, 1890)

Fought in the Mexican War and Civil War. Became lieutenant in 1830s. Commanded a landing party that captured a Mexican warship and participated in several actions in the Pacific Ocean during the Mexican War (and I didn't even know the Mexicans had any warships).

Although born in Virginia, he elected to remain in the US Navy during the Civil War. He was the commander of the USS Cumberland when that ship was sunk by the CSS Virginia March 8, 1862, but was not on board at the time because he was on the USS Roanoke for a Court of Inquiry.

Appointed Commodore 24April1863, he commanded the USS Ironsides. At Fort Fisher, he was commended for how well his ship supported the forces on land and eight of his men received Medals of Honor.

Promoted to Read Admiral in 1866, he commanded the US European Squadron from 1869 to 1870, when he retired.

Two US ships have been named in his honor.

So, That's the Guy. --Old B-R'er

Civil War High Tech at Lake County Discovery Museum

Well, it was until last fall and I got an opportunity to tour the exhibit. I'm hoping that the interactive part will be going to other local museums. Definitely an interesting show, and judging by all the kids there when I toured it (summer school day camp trip) the little ones all became young submariners.

The exhibit also feature Lake County, Illinois' role in the war.

From the Naval aspect of the war, there was a full-scale mock up of the USS Monitor's turret, complete with bolts, as well as a mock up of the Hunley which allowed people to get in and turn the propellers, just like what that brave crew had to do. Even a rubber propeller at the stern that turned.

Also, they had the US Navy Commodore's uniform worn by William Radford of the USS New Ironsides, who was also in command of the USS Cumberland when it was sunk by the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia. That 150th anniversary is coming up in about three weeks.

They had photos of the ironclads CSS Neuse, CSS Atlanta, USS Choctow and USS Chickasaw.

If You hear of It Coming to Place Near You, See It. --Old B-Runner

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

USS/CSS Water Witch Event in Columbus, Georgia

From the Columbus (Ga) Ledger-Examiner "Port Columbus has a special Water Witch event next month" b Sandra Okamoto.

OK, this is a bit old, but of interest.

On June 3, 1864, the USS Water Witch was captured by Confederates. The National Civil War Naval Museum at Port Columbus at 1002 Victory Drive in the city has a full-sized replica of that ship now, and from 6:30 to 9:30 PM June 3-4, there will be a recreation of that capture.

This will be real time in that events from that night in 1864 will take place at the same time.

There will be a Columbus connection to the even. An actress will play the role of former slave Harriet Dallas, whose husband was killed in the raid. That would make him black as well and involved in the Confederate attack.

The program is "Two Navies, One Ship" and will be a multi-media presentation of the ship's story.

There will also be a program in the museum theater and actors portraying four people involved with the attack, including Mrs. Dallas.

Admission is $5 to $6.50.

Wish I Had Been There. --Old B-R'er

USS Monitor Sea Trials

Unlike present-day US warships, those built and purchased by the Navy during the Civil War normally did not receive much of a trial period. They were pressed into service right away as need was tremendous.

The Monitor especially had little prep time.

On February 19, 1862, the ship had its first sea trials in New York Harbor. It was found to have some steering problems, but even so, its commander, Lt. Worden, was ordered the same day to proceed to Hampton Roads.

The threat of the new Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia was just too great.

Hurry Up, Hurry Up. let's Go!! --Old B-Runner

Monday, February 20, 2012

Looking Back At Naval Events

Week of Jan. 15, 1862

The USS Hatteras goes to cedar Key, Florida, along the Gulf Coast and captures seven small ships suspected to be blockade-runners. Sailors land and destroy a railroad depot and a huge supply of cedar wood for shipbuilding.

Week of Jan. 22, 1862

The 100-ship US fleet off Hatteras Inlet hit by a huge storm. Some vessels swamped with water. Three dead. Better weather will have to be awaited. "Heavy wind and a rough sea caused one vessel to labor very heavily, and some were obliged to be cut loose from the vessels towing them.

Two Confederate vessels spying on the fleet were also chased off.

Going Back. --Old B-R'er

Nvaal Happenings 150 Years Ago: February 15-20, 1862


Four Confederate ships attack Union batteries at Venus Point on Savannah River, but were forced back.


Union gunboats destroyed the Tennessee Iron Works above Dover on the Cumberland River.


Ironclad CSS Virginia commissioned under Captain Franklin Buchanan.

Flag Officer Foote writes Welles that he is leaving for Clarksville, Tn., with eight mortar boats and two ironclads. The other ironclads pretty cut up after the engagement at Fort Donelson and remaining for repairs.


Confederates evacuate Clarksville, Tennessee, on the Cumberland River. Foote occupies Fort Defiance and urged an immediate move on Nashville.

Trial run of USS Monitor in New York Harbor. Approximate speed will be between 6-8 knots.

General Robert E. Lee, in charge of Confederate coastal defenses is dismayed about inability to oppose Union guns on the blockaders and notifies Brigadier General Trapier in Florida that he must determine which positions can probably be held and which need to be relinquished.


Flag Officer Farragut arrives at Ship Island to begin preps for attack on New Orleans. naval ships and soldiers have been gathering at Ship Island for several s weeks already.

Rumors abound that the CSS Virginia is to attack Newport News and Hampton Roads.

Secretary of Welles wrote to Lt. Worden, commanding the USS Monitor to proceed to Hampton Roads.

The Stage Is Being Set for the Famous Battle Between the Two Ironclads. --Old B-Runner

Thank You Liz

My wife put in about three hours Saturday, but got me back up and running. As the dumb old commercial used to go, "My wife, I think I'll keep her."

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Help, Blogspot Has Declared War On Me!!

Looks like the Naval War will have to stop for awhile until I find out why Blogger is mad at me.  I get the message that blogger no longer supports my browser.  I think that means my computer as that sems to be the only one that won't let me into blogspot.

Typing this in on a different one.

See You Later, Hopefully.  --Old B-Runner

Friday, February 17, 2012

Killed at Fort Fisher

From the Feb. 13th Madison County (NY) News "A Civil War Story" by Hobie Morris.

Most of the story was about two men coming together in a religious experience before the war, but one was killed at the Second Battle of Fort Fisher, so I will tell about that man.

Orimel Gillette stood 5'9" and was a farmer born in 1835 in Shelby, New York.  On August 14, 1862, he enlisted as a private in Co. I of the 117th New York Infantry, at age 27.  He volunteered for a three year tour of duty and was mustered in the next day.

On July 15, 1864, he was lightly wounded in the head at Petersburg, Virginia.

On August 25, 1864, he was captured at Bermuda Hundred near Petersburg and sent with other prisoners to a Confederate prison in Salisbury, NC.  Exchanged and paroled, he rejoined the 117th.

At age 30, he was killed at Fort Fisher, NC, where the 117th led the land assault.  He is buried at he Westernville, NY, Presbyterian Cemetery.

The Story of a Man.  --Old B-Runner

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Still Fighting Around Wilmington After Fall of Fort Fisher-- Part 2

In early February 1865, several Union warships went up the Cape Fear River to engage Fort Anderson, but the main attack started Feb. 17th.  The monitor USS Montauk joined in on the attack.  On February 18th, Union General Jacob Cox decided against attacking the Confederate fortifications frontally and sent two thirds of his force around Orton Pond and found the enemy right flank poorly protected.

General Oscar W. steel's brigade found the undermanned 2nd SC Cavalry out of their trenches and got in behind Fort Anderson.  General Hagood , the fort's commander, outgunned and outnumbered and with no hope of reinforcements decided the evacuate.

By daylight, Feb. 19th, most of the Confederates were out of the fort and heading toward new defensive lines along Town Creek.  A short battle ensued with Confederate defeat and Wilmington fell Feb. 22nd.

That Was About It for the Confederacy.  --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Still Fighting Around Wilmington After Fall of Fort Fisher-- Part 1

From the Feb. 7th Wilmington Star-News "Key battles fought in 11865 led to fall of Wilmington" by Chris Fonvielle.

Fort Fisher fell to a huge Union attack Jan. 15, 1865, but the city it was defending held out for another five weeks before being evacuated by Confederate forces.

At the same time, Fort Fisher fell, all of the coastal and island forts near Smithville, today's Southport, also were blown up and evacuated, including Fort Holmes on Bald Head Island.

Confederate forces retreated to the Sugar Loaf/Fort Anderson line.  Sugar Loaf was on the east side of the Cape Fear River and Fort Anderson on the west.

Fort Anderson was another strong sand fort (essentially a smaller Fort Fisher) built on the ruins of long-abandoned Old Brunswick Town ( a colonial town predating Wilmington).  The massive, 26-feet high parapets stretched nearly a mile. Lt. Thomas Rowland was ordered to begin construction March 24, 1862.  It commanded a narrow part of the Cape Fear River with a strong current forcing enemy ships to come up close to the fort to operate.  There they would be vulnerable to the fort's heavy guns and torpedoes which were placed in the river.

More to Come.  --Old B-Runner

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

"You Will Need Bigger Guns Than That": NJ Sea Captain First to Be Fired Upon by Confederates

From the Dec. 30, 2010 New Jersey

A 55-year0old New Jersey sea captain drew the first Confederate fire during the Civil War, some three months before the famous Battle of Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861.  Lame-duck President James Buchanan was under increasing pressure to relieve Major Anderson's beleaguered garrison at Fort Sumter and secretly dispatched the civilian steamer Star of the West under the command of Captain John McGowan of Elizabeth, NJ.

At sunrise of Jan. 9, 1861, while approaching Fort Sumter with 200 badly needed reinforcements, Confederates in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, fired a shot across his bow, but he continued on his mission, defiantly calling out, "You will need bigger guns than that, boys!"

Then some more rounds hit the ship, which was unarmed, and it wasn't such a joke anymore.  Captain McGowan turned his ship around and left.

McGowan continued to fight the Confederates after that and at his death, 30 years later, was honored.  Few people know his name today.

The New Jersey Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee's Heritage Association hopes to restore his tombstone at Evergreen Cemetery in Hillside which, after all the years, is fairly illegible.

I Have to Wonder What He Had to Say After Shots Hit?  --Old B-Runner

Monday, February 13, 2012

Monitor USS Patapsco

The USS Patapsco was a 1335-ton Passaic class monitor built at Wilmington, Delaware and commissioned January 1862.  It served in the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron off South Carolina and Georgia and took part in a Naval attack on Fort McAllister March 3, 1863.

In April of 1863, it took part in the attack on Fort Sumter and was hit 47 times.  In January 1865, the ship struck a mine in Charleston harbor and sank in less than a minute with 62 of her crew.

Watch Those Confederate Mines Also.  --Old B-R'er

Unexploded Shell Found at Fort McAllister-- Part 2

Sometimes, extra shells were fired off by ships, but a person has to wonder how come the Patapsco missed by a mile.  However, Civil War shells were notoriously flawed.

When fired,, the shell base sometimes would fracture and the shell would go erratically.  Also, sometimes the fuse would twist and the powder would not be ignited when it struck.

These Parrott shells had a range of 3-5 miles and were made of cast iron and made at West Point Foundry in Cold Springs, New York.  Even though called a 200-pound shell, they actually weighed 145 pounds because it was a shell, filled with gunpowder and not a solid shot or bolt, which would have then weighed 200 pounds.

The shell will undergo preservation and is the fourth unexploded Parrott one found in the Fort McAllister area.

So,When You Go Walking Around a Civil War Battlefield, Watch Where You Step.  --Old B-Runner

Unexploded Union Naval Shell Found at Fort McAllister-- Part 1

From the Jan. 20, 2011, Savannah Daily News "Unexploded Union Naval shell found at Fort McAllister" by Jamie Parker.

In March 1863, the monitor USS Patapsco, 1600 yards of Confederate Fort McAllister in the Ogeechee River was firing shells at the earthen fort.

In 2010, one of its shells turned up.  Where and how it was found is a mystery, but the fact was that after almost 150 years, the shell was live and capable of exploding.  The person who found it said it was about a mile from the fort behind a house.  He knew it was probably a live shell because there were no holes in it and the fuse was intact.  The 200-pound Parrot rifled shot was deactivated by drilling two holes into it (I imagine quite carefully) and flushing out two pounds of black powder with water and removing the fuse.

Had the shell gone off, it probably would have made a hole large enough to bury a pony in it.

Experts think the monitor was probably just trying to get rid of the shell because it was so far from the fort, but most likely, the person who found it was looking where he shouldn't have been.

Bet the Guy Was Where He Shouldn't Have Been.  --Old B-R'er

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago-- February 14 to 16, 1862: Fall of Fort Donelson


Gunboats USS St. Louis, Carondolet, Louisville, Pittsburg, Tyler, Conestoga, under Flag Officer Foote join Army forces under U.S. Grant in attacking Fort Donelson which was much better situated than Fort Henry, on high ground and could deliver plunging fire on the ships and also difficult to hit from the river.

Foote did not consider his force properly prepared, coming so soon after Fort Henry.  The St. Louis hit 59 times and lost steering control, as did the Louisville. Both vessels drifted back down the Cumberland River.  Foote suffered injuries to himself.

Fort Donelson surrendered February 16th.  New Orleans greatly alarmed by the quick fall of both forts.  Papers blame Confederate Secretary of the Navy Mallory for losses.  Confederate positions in Kentucky no longer defensible and all forces withdraw.

On Mississippi River, Confederates fall back to Island No. 10.  Nashville could not be held and Union forces poised to take it.

Also, Feb. 14th, Confederate ships sank obstructions in the Cape Fear River near Fort Caswell, in an effort to block the channel.

The experimental ironclad, USS Galena, launched at Mystic, Connecticut.  Of the first three Union ironclads, this proved to be the least successful.

Huge Setbacks for the Confederacy.  --Old B-Runner

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Lt. Hall Rescues the Fort Sumter Flag

I have been writing about Lt. Norman J. Hall in my Saw the Elephant Blog.  He was a West Point graduate who was at Fort Sumter, serving as an emissary between Major Anderson and the Confederates.  He made a name for hamslf by rescuing the US garrison flag after it was knocked down by enemy fire and did so by running through a fire.  Then, he and two others raised the flag again.

He later made a name for himself for bravery as colonel of the 7th Michigan Infantry regiment and then commanded the Third Brigade, Second Division, II Corps.  At Fredericksburg, he commanded troops who crossed the river under fire to secure the southern end of the pontoon bridges and at Gettysburg, commanded the very center of the Union line attacked by Pickett's charge.

Unfortunately, his health began to ebb and he was discharged in 1864 and died in 1867.

Interesting Story.  --Old B-Runner

"A Pretty Severe Initiation to Salt Water": A Voyage to Port Royal-- Part 3

A schooner was spotted and it went to shore to report the USS Vermont's plight.  Four vessels went looking for her and found it on March 7th.  The ship was repaired and able to sail to Port Royal under its own power and arrived April 12, 1862.

There it remained anchored until 1864, serving the SABS as an ordnance, hospital, receiving and store ship.

Said Fenn, "The majority of our crew were landsmen and were sick enough so they could scarcely move.  It was pretty severe initiation to salt water for them, I assure you...."

From Wikipedia.

The schooner that went for help was the Flying Mist.  The Vermont served at Port Royal until July 25, 1864, when it was sent to New York City and replaced by its sister ship-of-the-line USS New Hampshire.  It remained as a receiving/store ship in New York City for 37 years.  It was condemned and struck 19 December 1901 and sold in 1902.

After All, How Seasick Can You Really Get?  --Old B-Runner

"A Pretty Severe Initiation to Salt Water": A Voyage to Port Royal-- Part 2

Sailors from Rochester were spread Ito vessels all over the Union fleet.  Most entered as landsmen, meaning they had no experience as sailors.

The USS Vermont was built in 1825 and mounted 74 cannons, but spent its whole career in "ordinary" at Boston Navy Yard.  In other words, it was mothballed.

However, since Port Royal was being turned into a major Naval base for operations in the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron,a need was there for a receiving/supply ship to be on station and the old Vermont was the perfect ship for the task.

It was commissioned again Jan. 30, 1862, and quickly put into shape to sail and be towed to Port Royal.  It left Boston under tow of the steamer Kensington.  A major northwest gale struck off Cape Cod Light and brought snow along with it.  By 8 PM, all the Vermont's sails were gone.  The cable between the two ships was cut.

The next day, fear went through the ship when it was thought it was sinking, but it didn't.  The ports on the berth deck broke open and water poured into the ship, but they were able to close them.  Then, the rudder was lost and the ship drifted aimlessly with the wind and current.  By the 26th, it was drifting eastward.

More to Come.  --Old B-R'er

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: February 11-15, 1862

From the Civil War Naval Chronology.


Flag officer Foote preparing to attack Fort Donelson, but says he would be much stronger if given ten days to prepare.


USS Pembina discovered a battery of  "tin-can" torpedoes in the Savannah River above Wright's River.  Only visible at low tide and attached by wires. The next day, returned and removed one to examine.  On the 15th decided it would be best to blow them up rather than remove them and did so by rifle fire.

Torpedoes were placed in large numbers in Confederate harbors and proved to be a major hazard for Union ships.

Friday, February 10, 2012

"A Pretty Severe Initiation to Salt Water": A Voyage to Port Royal-- Part 1

From the Feb. 6th Rochester (NY) Democrat Chronicle "A Rochester sailor's near-fatal ordeal" by Bob Marcotte.

"We left Boston on the 24th of February (1862).  That night I shall never forget, " wrote Edward Fenn in a letter home.

That night, he and his crew nearly drowned when his ship, the old Ship-of-the-Line USS Vermont encountered a sever gale on its way to Port Royal, South Carolina where it was to serve as a receiving and store ship  The Vermont was battered for two days and left drifting helplessly.

Fenn was a surgeon's assistant on the ship.


The US Navy was clearly not up to the task of enforcing a blockade of 3,549 miles of Confederate shoreline, including some 189 harbors and inlets.  However, by the end of the war, the Navy had grown to a force of 641 ships.  And, as Confederate port and positions continued to fall, the blockade gained in intensity.

In the Army, regiments were recruited from the same area.  Thus, the 13th, 108th and 140th New York  Infantry regiments consisted primarily of men from Monroe County.

The Navy, however, assigned recruits at random to ships, usually at receiving ships where new enlistees entered service.

More to Come.  --Old B-Runner

Thursday, February 9, 2012

USS Hunchback

I mentioned this ship in my post for today on my Saw the Elephant Civil War blog.  Sgt. Major George Washington Whitman, the brother of poet Walt Whitman, was a member of the 51st NY Infantry at the Battle of Roanoke Island and had seen this ship before the war when it had operated as a Staten Island ferry.

Some Wikipedia information about the vessel:

sidewheel steamer
built 1852 as a NY ferry
Purchased by Navy Dec. 16, 1861 and commissioned within a month.
512 tons
179 feet long
29 foot beam
125 officers and enlisted
Mounted 3 X 9-inch guns and 1 X 100 pdr. Parrott rifle

After commissioning, assigned to North Atlantic Blockading Squadron and received heavy damage battling Fort Bartow at Roanoke Island, NC.  After fall of the island, continued operating in NC waters and assisted in the capture of New Bern and had several expeditions up the Chowan River.

Spent time in Baltimore undergoing much-needed repairs and the assigned to patrol the James River in Virginia.  Ended the war back in NC, operating along the Chowan River.

Decommissioned 12 June 1865 and sold the following month and became a ferry in New York again, being renamed the General Grant..  In 1880, it was retired and scrapped.

The Story of a Ship.  --Old B-R'er

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: Feb. 8, 1862: Confederate Loss at Elizabeth City, NC


Foote's new armored gunboats, the Eads ships, show their worth at Fort Henry.

Two Confederate ships in Virginia ordered to stay in readiness to assist the Merrimack when it is ready for service.

USS Conestoga had gone up the Tennessee River to Chickasaw, Alabama, and seized two steamers.  Confederates destroyed three others to prevent capture.  The Union Navy pressing forward on their victory at Fort Henry.


Union ships pursuing retiring Confederate fleet up the Pasquotank River.  Engaged batteries and Confederate ships at Elizabeth City.  CSS Ellis captured, CSS Seabird sunk and three others burned to prevent capture.  Confederate fort and batteries at Cobb Point destroyed.

Foote receiving requests to send warships up Cumberland River to protect transports getting ready to attack Fort Donelson in Tennessee.

Union Secretary of Navy Welles forwarded to Cmdr. D.D. Porter names of 22 sailing vessels and 7 steamers which will be mortar boats for attack on New Orleans.

Captain Buchanan of the Merrimack (not yet renamed CSS Virginia) reported that he could not get crew from the Army.

CSS Virginia Getting Ready.  Union Navy Pressing Home Their Successes.  --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Some More on the Battle of Roanoke Island, NC

From the Feb. 7th New York Times Opinionator "Lost Again" by Gregory P. Downs.

On february 7, 1862, Union soldiers landed on Roanoke Island, NC where some 300 years earlier the Lost Colony was founded.

In 1862, its importance lay in that it controlled the inner waterways between the Outer Banks and the mainland of the state.  The North had captured Hatteras Inlet the year before, but small blockade-runners were still able to sneak in through the other inlets along the Outer Banks and a lively trade was going on.  Business was booming in New Bern, Edenton and Elizabeth City.  Supplies and munitions were able to reach the important Confederate naval facilities at Norfolk where the dread new ironclad was being built.

Both sides knew the importance of Roanoke Island.  Former Virginia governor Henry Wise, now a Confederate general had stationed 3,000 troops on the island, sunk obstructions in the waters around it and had begun fortifying it.

The North sent Brigadier General Ambrose Burnside with 13,000 troops t cooperate with the huge Union fleet in the capture of the island. 

The troops and fleet arrived Feb. 6th.  The eastern shore of Roanoke was too shallow for naval operations and the west too fortified.  An escaped teenage slave named Tom came aboard the Union ships and told where a landing could be obtained south of the Confederate fortifications.

On February 7th, advancing federals found a Confederate battery commanding the only roadway across a swamp and sidestepped it through the water and captured it.

By the 8th, the island was under Union control.

Federal troops found the site of the Lost Colony and started doing sightseeing and so many were taking souvenirs that a guard had to be put upon it.

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: February 8, 1862: The Fall of Roanoke Island, NC


A joint amphibious expedition under Flag Officer L. M. Goldsborough and Brigadier General Burnside captured Roanoke Island, NC. on this date.  The expedition departed Hatteras Inlet Feb. 5th, but was delayed a day by inclement weather.

Feb. 7th, the Navy began bombarding Confederate defenses, especially Fort Bartow.  late that afternoon, the Army landed at Ashby's Point.


Attack resumed at 9 AM.  By 4 PM, water obstructions removed enough to allow Union fleet to enter Albemarle Sound.  Fort Bartow captured.  Confederate fleet of small ships under Flag Officer Lynch outgunned and forced to withdraw.

The capture of Roanoke Island enabled further Union attacks along the NC sounds and cut off Norfolk, Va., from its main supply line.

A Second Major Blow to Confederate Hopes in Two Days.  --Old B-Runner

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Naval Happening 150 Years Ago: Feb. 6 to 7, 1862: Fall of Fort Henry


Naval forces under Flag Officer Foote captured the strategic Fort Henry on the Tennessee River.  originally, it was to be a joint attach, but heavy rains had delayed Gen. Grant's troops.  All of Foote's efforts as to gunnery fire led to accurate fire from the fleet, forcing the Confederates to surrender with just four guns still serviceable  The USS Essex was disabled during the attack.

Foote left the USS Carondelet on station at Fort Henry and returned to Cairo with damaged ships and began repairs and planning the attack on Fort Donelson.

In the next three days, Union ships swept up the Tennessee River, seizing the unfinished steamer Eastport (later became the USS Eastport) and destroying a railroad bridge over the river.

The fall of Fort Henry punched a gaping hole in Confederate defenses in the west.

This action proved the worth of Eads' ironclads and served as their baptism of fire.  They would play a major role in most every engagement on the western waters.

I have also heard some call  Fort Henry's capture as the beginning of the end for the Confederacy.


USS Conestoga forced Confederates on Tennessee River to abandon and burn steamers Samuel Orr, Appleton Belle and Lynn Boyd.  The Orr was loaded with torpedoes and Belle with powder, cannon and shot.  The concussion from their explosions badly shook and did damage to the Union ships.

Brig. General John A. McClernard, new commander of Fort Henry, wrote Foote that he was going to change the name of the place to Fort Foote in honor of his success.

A Major Blow to the Confederacy.  --Old B-Runner

Blockade-Runner Modern Greece Getting Anniversary Attention-- Part 3

Organizers would also like to have an expanded exhibit of the MG's cargo at the Underwater Archaeology Branch building at Fort Fisher (which is always closed when I go there).  I sure would like to see some of that stuff.

Chris Fonvielle would even like to see funds raised for a documentary on the Modern Greece, it's history, excavation and artifacts to come out in 2014.  The nonprofit North Carolina Maritime History Council would do private fund-raising for it.

Both Fonvielle and Ramsing-Wilde would like to have a survey done of the shipwreck site using modern remote sensing technology which is tentatively scheduled for March and April.  Marine Technology students from Cape Fear Community College would take part in it.

This March, conservation students from East Carolina University will complete the task they started last year where they remove, clean, catalog and assess shape of the remaining MG artifacts that are still stored in salt water tanks where they were placed fifty years ago in the Underwater Archaeology Branch shed at Fort Fisher.

Thousands of objects are still not processed these fifty years later.  Some of the items have definitely undergone further deterioration.

One other thing Fonvielle would like to do would be too collect the oral histories from divers and others who worked on recovering the items back in 1962.

Perhaps a Trip back to Fort Fisher Is In Order.  --Old B-R'er

Blockade-Runner Modern Greece Getting Anniversary Attention-- Part 2

Much of the ship's cargo was salvaged in the weeks that followed, but, as it turned out in 1962, much remained.

Divers recovered thousands of artifacts and the ship became a training and experimental proving ground for underwater archaeology.  Things learned on the Modern Greece (MG) were later used on the USS Monitor, H.L. Hunley and Blackbeard's flagship, the Queen Anne's Revenge, sunk in 1718 and rediscovered in the 1990s near Atlantic Beach, NC.

Mark Wilde-Ramsing and Chris Fonvielle are organizing a series of programs and activities to mark the MG's double anniversary this year.

In June, a public symposium will be held at the UNC-Wilmington campus and also a new exhibit on MG recovered artifacts will be unveiled at the Fort Fisher Museum in Kure Beach.

Fonvielle refers to the MG as "The Iconic Blockade-Runner" and would like to have a pavilion erected at the beach by Fort Fisher with panels to tell the ship's story.

That Modern Greece Ship.  Gone, But Not Gone.  --Old B-Runner

Monday, February 6, 2012

Blockade-Runner Modern Greece Getting Anniversary Attention-- Part1

From the Jan. 31st Wilmington (NC) Star-News "Civil War wreck to get anniversary attention" by Ben Steelman.

A coalition of local historians and archaeologists is banding together to celebrate the heritage of the  blockade-runner Modern Greece.  The 520-ton steamer was chased ashore off Fort Fisher, NC, on June 27, 1862, and was a total loss.  Some of the ship's cargo was recovered by Confederates on shore.  It was thought to have been completely destroyed and disappeared from history until a spring 1962 storm uncovered the wreck in 25 feet of water and just 300 yards offshore.

That's two major anniversaries taking place 150 years and 50 years ago.

That summer, 50 years ago, divers from the US Navy and North Carolina State Department of Archives and History began two years of recovering a treasure trove of artifacts from the wreck.

This diving eventually led to the creation of the North Carolina Underwater Archaeology Branch.

The British-owned vessel (by the way, happy anniversary of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II who celebrates her 60th year of being the monarch today) was in-bound carrying a cargo of Whitworth cannon, Enfield rifles, bayonets, bullets, hand tools, cutlery, medicine and other items intended for Confederate forces.

You can always tell which way a blockade-runner was heading, in or out, depending upon what it was carrying.  Outboard-bound ones would be carrying items like cotton and tobacco.

More to Come.  --Old B-Runner

Saturday, February 4, 2012

What is a Flag Officer?

I have been mentioning the term Flag Officer a lot in my Naval Happenings entries and my brother wanted to know exactly what a Flag Officer was.  I knew he was of high rank (like an admiral since they commanded a group of ships), but to tell you the truth, didn't really know for a fact.

So, did a little research and found out that a flag officer is a senior commissioned officer in the US Navy before the Civil War.  The Confederacy also used the rank.  The term rechnically means that the officer is so important, they can fly their own flag from the ship they command (I imagine one showing his rank).

Today, the term is no longer used, but would apply to an admiral.  Before the Civil War, a captain with a lot of seniority would be called a Flag Officer.  They would command their own ship and a squadron as well.

In 1862, Congress authorized the use of the title admiral for Flag Officers.  An admiral commanded a group of ships, but would have a Flag Captain command the ship he was on.

I Sometimes Call Them Flah Oggicers When I Hit the Wrong Keys.  --Old B-Runner

Friday, February 3, 2012

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago-- Feb. 2- 4, 1862: The Great Skedaddle


USS Hartford, Flag Officer Farragut, departs Hampton Roads, Va., to Ship Island, Mississippi to take command of the West Gulf Blockading Squadron and to begin preparations to attack New Orleans.

Out west, Flag Officer Foote still admonishing his men not to be wasteful on shells.  Make sure you score hits after the first shot.


Foote writes Welles that he would have more ships to take against Fort Henry, except that he does not have enough men to man them.  Halleck orders Grant to provide men for temporary duty on the warships.  Grant's men, 23 regiments in all, leave from Cairo and  Paducah, with Foote's gunboats in the lead.


Brig. Gen. Lloyd Tilgham, CSA, commander of Fort Henry,  informed his superior that enemy "gunboats and transports in Tennessee River.  Enemy landing in force five miles below Fort Henry.  Grant and Foote proceed up the river with four gunboats and exchange shots with the fort.


Torpedoes planted in the river and torn loose by flooding come floating by.  Foote had some fished out to inspect.  "Suddenly there was a strange hiss.  The deck was rapidly cleared.  Grant beat Foote to the top of the ladder.  When Foote asked Grant why he was in such a hurry, Grant replied 'the Army did not believe in letting the Navy get ahead of it.'"

Grant Must Have Been in Better Shape.  --Old B-Runner

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Watch What You Kick in the Water

From the Jan. 27th Channel 9 CBS WNCT Greenville, NC "Men make Civil War-era discovery in waters near Oriental."

This past Wednesday, two men found a Civil War era explosive device in the water near Oriental, NC.  It is about the size of a soft drink bottle and weighs about five pounds.  They handed it over to the military bomb squad at Cherry Point and was blown up Friday.

Before turning it over, they hit it twice with a hammer and then took to one of their homes in New Bern.  (Smart move.)  Nearby homes were evacuated.

The Jan. 27th WITN reports that it was determined to be a 3.1 to 3.5-inch mortar shell from the Civil War-era.  It was covered with barnacles and oysters.

Don't Go Messing With Civil War Ordnance.  --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

150th Anniversary of the USS Monitor's Launch

From the Jan. 31, 2012 Soundings "USS Monitor's 150th anniversary website launched."

The NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries launched a new website Jan. 30th, to commemorate the historic ship's launching in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

It will cover the ship's construction, wartime operations through to its sinking Dec. 31, 1862, and then continue on to its 1974 discovery and the ongoing discoveries.

Definitely One Worth Checking Out for You Civil War Naval Buffs Like Me.  --Old B-R'er

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: Jan. 30-Feb.1, 1862

Finally Getting Caught Up On This.


USS Monitor launched at Greenpoint (Brooklyn) New York.  The Assistant Secretary of the Navy wired inventor John Ericsson, "I congratulate you and trust she will be a success.  Hurry her for sea, as the Merrimack is nearly ready at Norfolk, and we wish to send here here."

General Halleck orders the combines Navy-Army expedition up the Tennessee River against Fort Henry.

USS Conestoga and USS Lexington reconnoiter Fort Henry.

Confederate Commissioners Mason and Slidell arrive in Southampton, England.


The British sent out two questions to European countries about the sinking of the Stone Fleet and whether the blockade was effective.  Surprisingly, the European nations considered the Stone Fleet an outrage and that the blockade was ineffective.


Flag Officer Foote reports that he is leaving with four ironclads for Fort Henry.  No new news on the mortar boats.  Thirty-two men have shipped from the Army to his gunboats in the past two days.

Go You Little Monitor, Go.  --Old B-Runner