Fort Fisher

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

Monday, April 30, 2012

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: April 29 to May 4,1862


Expedition under Lt. Alexander C. Rhind, USS E.B. Hale, landed and destroyed Confederate battery at Grimball's, Dawho River, South Carolina and exchanged fire with field pieces near Slann's Bluff.


USS Jamestown captured British blockade-runner Intended off the coast of North Carolina intending to run the blockade with a cargo of salt, coffee and medicines.

USS Marblehead shelled Confederate positions at Yorktown in the Peninsula Campaign


Boat crew from the USS Wachusett raised the US flag at Gloucester Point, Va., after McClellan's troops occupied Yorktown.  Two schooners captured.

USS Calhoun captured the Charles Henry off St. Joseph, Louisiana and raised the US flag over Fort Pike which had been evacuated.

Old B-Runner

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Worst Maritime Disaster in U.S. History: SS Sultana-- 147th Anniversary

From the April 27th Minneapolis (Mn) Star "Sultana yet another night to remember" by Billy Shannon.

News of this disaster was practically buried back then and is completely overlooked with all the hoopla around the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.  I  admit that I had never heard of it before until awhile back the remains of the Sultana were found in a farm field near the Mississippi River.

The Sultana sank 147 years ago, April 27, 1865, and at least 1,800 Union soldiers perished that night, some 300 more than the Titanic.  Even worse, these soldiers had recently been released from Confederate prisons (some having also been at Andersonville) and were just a few days from returning home to family and friends when they died.

South of Memphis, the seriously overloaded ship's boiler exploded, causing men to be sent through the air and then the ship caught fire.

The tragedy was mentioned, but largely overlooked with the events occurring in April that year: Lee's surrender, Lincoln's assassination, the search for Booth, the capture and death of Booth, the funeral train procession and t he surrender of Johnston.

About the only-known commemoration taking place for the Sultana will be one held in Cincinnati today where the ship was built in 1863.  About 60-70 are expected to attend.  A descendants group was organized in 1987.  Plans are being made for its 2015 sesquicentennial observance.

Not Completely Forgotten.  --Old B-Runner

Friday, April 27, 2012

Bits of War: Last Veteran-- Fort Fisher Speaker

Some New News About An Old War.

1.  LAST VETERAN--  The April 24th Wilmington (NC) Star-News Back Then Column reported that back on April 12, 1942, Michael Thomas Davis, New Hanover County's last Civil War veteran had died at his home at 913N. Third Street at age 95.  Considering that World War II was going on, Mr. Davis had seen a lot of history.

2.  FORT FISHER SPEAKER-- The April 25th Topsail Island (NC) Advertiser reported that the Historical Society of Topsail island was going to have a talk by Nathan Henry, a North Carolina state archaeologist and conservator on May 10th.

He works at the Underwater Archaeology Branch at Fort Fisher and has been involved in many discoveries and retreavals including the recent Modern Greece blockade-runner artifacts.

Sure Like to be There, But Too Far.  --Old B-R'er

Civil War Shipwreck Treasures Revealed

From June 2, 2011, Fox 10 TV.

Fathom Exploration was permitted to survey the Gulf waters off Fort Morgan at the entrance to Mobile Bay, Alabama, in 2004 and found a shipwreck.  They brought up a 31-inch, 700 pound bronze bell that was too big for a ship's bell with an 1860 date on it.

On June 5, 1861, the British bark Amstel was running the blockade into Mobile to pick up cotton before Union ships arrived to blockade the port.  It ran aground at Mobile Bar, now called Dixie Bar.  A salvage vessel came, but Union ships arrived and captured  the salvage vessel, the first naval action at Mobile.

The company has also recovered railroad axles and huge slabs of Pennsylvania stone.  It is believed that the bell and stone were going to some building project in Alabama or Mississippi.  The bell was displayed at Lulu's in Gulf Shores, Alabama, for a week.

That Sunday marked the 150th anniversary of the Amstel running aground.

Sometimes You Make It, Sometimes You ....   --Old B-Runner

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Reasons Not to Attack Fort Pickens at Pensacola

From the June 3, 2011 Long Recall Blog, reporting from the June 3, 1861, Charleston (SC) Mercury.

The paper doesn't want Confederate forces to attack Union Fort Pickens because it is a mile and a third distant from Pensacola, too far to breach and the barracks certainly can't be burned out like they had been at Fort Sumter.

Any storming party would come under fire from the Union fleet and the fort's entry had been sandbagged.  This would result in a heavy loss of life.

Other reasons not to attack:

It is expensive for the Lincoln government to maintain the Union fleet guarding it.

Fort Pickens is a very sickly place, especially with bouts of Yellow Fever.

Union forces described as "on their best behavior."  I'm not sure what this one meant.

Leave It Be!!  --Old B-R'er

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: April 26th to 28th: Fall of Fort Macon


Farragut issues orders for fleet to give thanks to God for the victory at New Orleans.

Fort Macon, NC, surrenders to combined land-sea forces under Commander Lockwood and Brigadier General John G. Parke.  The USS Daylight, State of Georgia, Chippewa and Gemsbok heavily bombard the fort and two blockade-runners, the Alliance and Gondar were captured after the fort's surrender.


Fort Livingston, Bastian By, Louisiana, surrenders to Navy.    Boat crew from the USS Kittatinny raised the U.S. flag over the fort.


Forts Jackson and St. Philip, isolated since the fleet ran past them, surrender to Navy aboard USS Harriet Lane, Commander David D. Porter's flagship.

The CSS Louisiana, Defiance and McRae destroyed to prevent capture.

Another Really Bad Three Days for the Confederacy.  --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: April 25, 1862-- New Orleans Captured


Farragut's fleet silenced Confederate batteries at Chalmette en route to New Orleans.  High water allowed the ships to be able to fire over the levees into the city.  The largest and wealthiest city and seaport in the Confederacy surrenders.

Now Union ships can steam up the Mississippi River and conduct operations with those coming southward.

The CSS Mississippi, launched  on April 19th and described by Confederate officers as "the strongest...most formidable war vessel that had ever been built," was destroyed to prevent capture.  Had the Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond been able to finish her shaft in time, it might have been a different story.

Commander Charles H. McBlair, CSN, notified the Navy department that because of the passage of the forts below New Orleans, he was going to take the unfinished ironclad Arkansas, building at Memphis, up the Yazoo River to complete.  He also had ordered the Tennessee to be destroyed on the stocks if Memphis fell.

Too bad for the CSS Mississippi.  --Old B-R'er

Some Mighty Fine Speakers Coming to Cape Hatteras

From the Surf or Sound Hatteras Blog "The Civil War comes to Cape Hatteras at Flags Over Hatteras Commemoration Event."

April 26, 27 and 28th three nationally known authors and historians will be speaking at the Hatteras Village Civic Center, one each day.  I sure wish I lived closer as I would be there despite the price to hear them.  They are James McPherson, Ed Bearss and Craig Symonds.

It is open to the public and cost is $175 for all three.  That will include dinner each session, refreshments and other speakers.  Attendance is limited to 175.

Just to finally get the chance to see Ed Bearss would be worth it to me.  From what I have heard, he is one really unique person.

Worth It if You're in the Area.  --Old B-R'er

Lt. Thomas Pelot, CSN

From the March 6, 2011 Charleston (SC) Post and Courier "Lt. Thomas Pelot, CSN and the capture of the Water Witch" by Gary Nichols, Citadel Professor Emeritus.

Thomas Pelor graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1853 at the age of 17 and resigned his commission when South Carolina seceded and then was commissioned a lieutenant in the Confederate States Navy.

He commanded the iron tug Lady Davis in Charleston harbor and on June 21, 1861, captured the USS A. B. Thompson and took the prize to Beaufort, SC.

Promoted to 1st Lt, he was placed in command of the Confederate floating battery Georgia in the Savannah Squadron commanded by Flag officer William J. Hunter.  In late May, 1864, Hunter placed Pelot in command of an expedition to surprise and capture an enemy vessel reported anchored at the mouth of the Little Ogeechee River, south of Savannah.  Twelve officers and 115 men were selected from the crews of the Georgia, ironclad Savannah and gunboat Sampson.

Pelot was assisted by Lt. jg Joseph Price.  The expedition left June 1st, with seven rowboats and muffled oars.  Arriving at the mouth of the river, they found the ship had left and went looking for it., finding it at anchor in Occabow Sound, about three miles away.

In a poring rain on the night of June 2nd, the expedition approached the USS Water Witch, were sighted and fired upon.  They continued the attack.  Lt. Pelot was the first Confederate on deck and shot through the heart, dying instantly.  Five others shared his fate and eleven were wounded, but they took the ship.

Of the 80 Union crew, 2 were killed and 12 wounded, the rest captured.

How to Capture an Enemy Ship.  --Old B-Runner

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Naval happenings 150 Years Ago: April 24th, 1862-- A Really Bad day for the Confederacy

From the Civil War Naval Chronology.

Perhaps Confederate ground forces were doing well so far in the war, but not so in the naval department.  Other than a few raiders getting put and doing damage and the CSS Virginia's first day attacking the Union fleet in Hampton Roads, the rest is just plain bad.

And today was one of the worst of all.


Flag Officer Farragut's fleet ran past Forts Jackson and St. Philip and engaged the Confederate ships.  At 2 AM, the USS Hartford signaled to get underway in three divisions through the gap in the obstructions that had been opened.  A hot fight between the forts and ships developed.

The Hartford got aground near Fort St. Philip and was set afire by a fire raft.  Farragut directed the extinguishing of the fires. 

The USS Varuna was rammed twice and sank.  Eight Confederate ships were destroyed and the pride of the fleet, the CSS Manassas was driven ashore by the USS Mississippi and sunk.  Two more surrendered and two others were sunk to prevent capture.

Confederate Secretary of the Navy Mallory wrote, "The destruction of the Navy at New Orleans was a sad, sad blow..."

The fate of New Orleans was decided.

The CSS Nashville made a successful run into Wilmington with 60,000 stand of arms and 40 tons of powder.

Well, One Good Thing, But That Sure Doesn't Offset the Loss of New Orleans.  --Old B-R'er

A Follow Up on Gilbert Elliott, Builder of the CSS Albemarle

From Green-Wood Cemetery "The Confederate Ironclad Ram Albemarle."

Although a Confederate, Gilbert Elliott (1843-1895) is buried at Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery.  I wrote about him on April 10th. 

He was trained as a young man in boat building and had some experience as a law clerk.  In 1862, he enlisted in the 17 NC Infantry and became a first-lieutenant and adjutant in the regiment.  In 1863, he was detailed to build the CSS Albemarle in a cornfield on the Roanoke River in North Carolina.

He accomplished this despite horrendous supply problems while following the design of Confederate Chief Engineer John L. Porter.  The ship only drew nine feet of water so was able to operate in the shallow river.

On April 19, 1864, the Albemarle engaged Union ships at the Battle of Plymouth, NC.  In may, the Union fleet attacked the ship, but it survived the battle only to be sunk by a daring attack by Union commando William Cushing.

Elliott was originally interned in lot 8839, but was later moved to Section 137, Lot 29238 on November 10, 1895.

Of interest, his grave is now located just a few feet from that of Louis Napoleon Stodder, the last surviving officer of the USS Monitor when it engaged the CSS Virginia.

A Confederate Soldier Building a Confederate Ironclad and Buried in the North.  --Old B-Runner

Monday, April 23, 2012

USS Isaac P. Smith

On the 14th of this month, I posted about this being surprised and captured by Confederate land forces near Charleston, SC.

Some more info on the ship from Wikipedia.

It was built in 1861 as a passenger-cargo ship on New York's Hudson River and purchased by the Navy in September of that year.  Stats: 453 tons, 171 feet, 31,4 beam, 56 crew, one 30-pdr. Parrott rifle and eight 8-inch Dahlgren smoothbores.

She served in the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron and participated in the assault on Port Royal.  Once it was caught in a hurricane so bad the ship was forced to jettison guns but came to the aid of the Marine Corps transport Governor which foundered off Cape Hatteras.

Nov. 4th and 5th engaged and repelled 3 Confederate steamers and silenced batteries at Hilton Head, SC.March-April 1862 it was off St. Augustine, Florida and then served three months in the St, Johns River.

Then came the fight in the Stono River when the Smith was caught in a crossfire by masked Confederate batteries.  The deck was covered with blood and the wounded.  Losses aboard were 8 dead and 17 wounded, forcing the ship's surrender.

The ship served in the Confederate Navy around Charleston under its new name CSS Stono.  June 5, 1863, it was wrecked near Fort Moultrie while attempting to run the blockade.

Serving Two Navies.  --Old B-R'er

Union Ironclads Hanging Around Off Charleston

The March 30, 1863, Charleston Mercury reported a Union fleet of 17 ships and 4 ironclads off the harbor on blockade.  Later there was another report of a gunboat and three transports approached Cole's Island at the mouth of the Stono River and landed 200 troops. 

Union Admiral Samuel F. DuPont was worried about Confederate mines at the entrance to the harbor, but couldn't confirm their existence.  He felt the ironclad monitors Patapsco, Passaic and Nahant were too slow and prone to breakdown and didn't think they were any match for the Confederate forts.

But, he was under huge pressure from Lincoln's government to press forward with an attack.

On Tuesday, April 7th, the Mercury reported 30 wooden ships, 8 monitors and the USS New Ironsides had appeared off the bar the day before and a battle was imminent.

There was a big battle.  The ironclad Keokuk, under Capt. A.C. Rhind, was extremely battered and started sinking after the battle.  It was abandoned off Morris Island.  Over the next week, equipment and furniture from it washed up on the beach.  Confederates took off an 11-inch gun and mounted it at Fort Sumter.

It Was Ironclads Vs. Forts.  --Old B-Runner

Saturday, April 21, 2012

CSS Georgia to Be Raised (Well, What's Left of It, Anyway)

From the April 19th Georgia Public Broadcasting News "Plan Would Raise Confederate Shop" by Orlando Montoya.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have released their final Savannah Harbor Deepening Report which goes public April 20th.  It is a massive document according to sources and focuses primarily on environmental and economic issues.

Of particular interest to us Civil War Navy folk is the situation of the CSS Georgia, an ironclad sunk in 1864 to prevent captures as Sherman's men approached the port city.  It is still located by Old Fort Jackson.

It lies in the way of dredging and the Corps of Engineers plans to spend $14 million to raise and conserve it.  Raising it is not a new idea as plans have been made for the last twenty-five years to do so.  But, archaeologists warn that it will not look like much when raised as it is in pieces and has had almost 150 years in which to decay at the river bottom.

The total Savannah Harbor and river dredging project is expected to cost $650 million.

Raiding the Old Ship.  Always Something Good.  --Old B-R'er

Students Unearthing History

From the Dec. 21, 2010, Wilmington (NC) Star-News "Students planning to unearth more Brunswick Town history in dig" by Jason Gonzales.

Twenty-one archaeology students from Peace College had a successful dig back in 2009 and will be returning in mid-May 2011.  The state is conducting its own exploratory digs and hopes to have restoration work done at the governor's house by February.

In 2009, the first large-scale dig since State Archaeologist Stanley South stopped in 1968 took place.  No work was done at the site, downriver from Wilmington, was done in the intervening years because of a lack of money and a de-emphasis of the site by state archaeologists.

This Colonial site also features Fort Anderson, of Civil War significance.  From March to May 1865, a refugee camp for blacks following Sherman's Army was also set up at the site.

A 2009 survey shows that 80% of the site is Colonial, 11% Civil War and 9% Native American.  There is still much to be dug.  It is estimated that there are 27 or more buildings still to be uncovered.

Getting That Old Digging Feeling.  --Old B-Runner

Friday, April 20, 2012

Infantry Marine Service?

I had come across the name of DeWitt C. Hotchkiss of the 112th New York Infantry who had served aboard the USS Monitor as a member of the Infantry Marine Service.  I had never heard of this group, the Infantry Marine Service.

He received a Medal of Honor at the Second Battle of Fort Fisher, Jan. 15, 1865.

I inquired of the Yahoo! Civil War Navy and Marine Forum.

Steve Hesson called it a "confused collection of data.  The Monitor carried no "Infantry" or "Marines."  It sank in 1863 and was not at Fort Fisher.

Mason Howse said there was a Mississippi Marine Brigade Infantry from 1863 to 1865.  Both the Union and Confederate River defense coordinated with the Army.  The Marine Infantry was probably like a provost duty with different regiments assigned at different times.  It also could be a coalition of Marines and Infantry set up to storm fortified positions.

Chuck Viet said there was definitely confusion with a core of truth.  Hotchkiss probably served aboard a monitor, as the entire class was called and not THE Monitor.  He also believes there were a small number of infantry regiments designated as Marine.

Good and Confusing?  --Old B-Runner

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Titanic Connection-- Part 2

Samuel Baird Riesen was born  June 3, 1842, in Kent, England.  he did not immigrate to the U.S. until 1869 and brought his wife and son, Samuel W. Risien.  They lived in Michigan for awhile, but eventually settled and lived in Groesbeck, Texas.

An article in the April 20, 1912, Dallas Morning News said the couple had made no fewer than 15 trips to Europe. 

The 1910 census had them renting a home in Galveston and listed him as a "hotel proprietor."  In 1911, the couple returned to England for an extended stay and returning they booked Third Class steerage on the Titanic.

Before sailing, he sent a postcard to his son: "About the time you get this we will be leaving for N. York.  We expect to sail in the new ship "Titanic" largest in the world and her trip (45,000 tons) two more papers I think will all I can send.  We shall sail from Southampton in April 10th that is if they can get coal enough to go on, it is getting very scarce and dear.  Both well, Papa."

There is no doubt that he was on the Titanic and was not one of the survivors, but was he on the CSS Alabama? The information in the Confederate Veteran Magazine is the only source that says he was.  He definitely was the ship's engineers as all of the ship's officers are well known.  Perhaps he was a crew member.  Plus, many of the Alabama's crew used aliases.

Only History Knows.  --Old B-R'er

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: April 20th to 23rd,1862


Two US ships breached river obstructions below Confederate forts protecting New Orleans while under heavy fire, opening the way for Union fleet to pass.

Potomac Flotilla capture nine ships at mouth of the Rappahannock River.


Farragut reports that he's been bombarding the forts at new Orleans for three or four days, but current running too fast for ships to run up.  Confederate forts keeping up tremendous fire on fleet.


USS Arthur captures three ships at Aransas Pass, Texas, but forced to abandon them when attacked by Confederate vessels and troops.


Gen. Duncan, commanding Fort Jackson, notified Gen. Lowell in New Orleans that bombardment continues and making repairs as best he could. Barbette guns still in working order, but most have been disabled at times.  Estimated that 25,000 8-inch shells had been fired (actually 5,000).

Old B-Runner

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Titanic Connection?-- Part 1

From Andy Hall's April 15th Dead Confederate Blog.

A December 1912 issue of the United Confederate Veterans' Confederate Veteran magazine listed eleven members of the Joe Johnston UCV Camp 94 of Mexia, Texas, who had died between July 1911 and July 1912.

One was of particular interest. It read: "Risien, Samuel-- Born in England; went down on the steamer Titanic April 4, 1912. Engineer on Confederate steamer Alabama under Admiral Rafael Semmes."

This is of particular interest as we observe the centennial of the Titanic's sinking this month. In 1912, there were a lot of Confederates still alive, so it is possible Samuel Riesen might have been aboard the doomed ship.

However, the Confederate Veteran did have the date wrong. The Titanic sank April 15th after hitting the iceberg on the night of the 14th.

Was there a Confederate on the Titanic?

More to Come. --Old B-R'er

Action at Chaleston, SC-- Part 3: Slaves and Running the Blockade

Some Charleston News:

On March 10th, W.B. Ryan reported selling 15 slaves in Charleston for an average price of $912, which included $1,810 for a 20-year-old woman.

On March 17th the blockade-running steamer Ruby arrived from Nassau and sold its cargo at a substantial profit.

On March 18th, the British steamship Calypso outran the blockaders and cannon fire.

March 19th the British steamer Georgiana gained the South Carolina coast with medicine, dry goods and six pieces of field artillery. Off Drewers Island it passed two blockaders but was not seen.

A few minutes later, it was seen by another blockader which fired on the Georgiana. One shell took out the ship's rudder. The captain ran it ashore on Long Island, present-day Isle of Palms. It hit the beach and flooded to prevent the Union Navy from taking the cargo.

Charleston at War. --Old B-Runner

Monday, April 16, 2012

Action at Charleston, SC-- Part 2: An Ironclad Attack and Rules of Blockade

The CSS Palmetto State attacked the Union fleet on Jan. 31, 1863.

There were an estimated 30,000 Union troops at Hilton Head, SC.

On Feb. 21st, a gunboat approached Sullivans Island with a white flag flying. It was the USS Flambeau trying to deliver mail to the captured crew of the USS Smith.

On March 12th, there was much firing in the harbor for two hours. It turned out to be Confederate batteries testing for a possible attack. One battery did not hear about the test and opened fire for real. One shot damaged a house on Sullivan's Island.


In order to establish a blockade, the enemy has to give ample notice of intent. Afterwards, if the enemy fleet is dispersed even for a brief time, they have to give notice.

The attack by the CSS Chicora and CSS Palmetto State on Jan. 31st did cause some blockaders to withdraw, but the US Navy refused to give notice again. On March 7th, the Charleston Mercury published a letter from the officers of the blockading fleet saying, "No vessels were sunk and none set on fire" during the attack.

Meanwhile, the blockading fleet continued to build up. Even so, blockade-runners continued to come and go.

City at War. --Old B-R'er

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: April 16th to 19th , 1862


After careful preparations and planning, Flag Officer Farragut moves his fleet upthe Mississippi River to take position below the the Confederate forts. High water had caused flooding at the forts, mounting some 100 guns. A chain obstruction supported by hulks spanned the river.

Besides the forts and obstructions, Confederate defenses consisted of the uncompleted ironclad Louisiana, the ram Manassas, several small, makeshift gunboats and fire rafts. Farragut, in his flagships, the USS Hartford, had 17 ships mounting 154 guns and 20 mortar boats.


**  The Confederate Congress, growing tired of Union successes on the water authorized contracts for the purchase of not more than six ironclads to be paid for with cotton.

**  Union mortar boats under Commander David D. Porter, began a five-day bombardment of Fort Jackson from 3,000 yards away.  They concentrated their shells, weighing as much as 285 pounds, on Fort Jackson, which was the nearest of the two forts that they could get too under cover of woods on shore.  The garrison heroically stuck to their guns.


Mortar schooner USS Maria J. Carlson, bombarding Fort Jackson, was sunk by Confederate fire.  Commander Bell observed that the Confederate guns were being worked "beautifully and with effect."

Old B-Runner

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Action At Charleston, South Carolina-- Part 1

From the March 6, 2011, Charleston (SC) Postand Courier "Charleston At War: Wave after wave of gunboats descend on coast" by Brian Hicks.

More and more Union gunboats were entering and ascending Stono River. The USS Isaac P. Smith, a converted river steamer, was especially becoming a problem. Its commander, Lt. F.S. Cooper, allowed bored crewmen to pass time taking target practice in houses and people along the river.

They once landed at an abandoned plantation on John's Island and painted a picture of a man on the carriage house. For days afterward, the amused sailors fired shots at it.

News of the Smith's fun soon reached Confederate General Beauregard who decide to put an end to such practice and make an example out of the Union ship. He ordered that several heavy guns be moved to James Island and hidden near the river at Thomas Gimball's plantation. Other guns were mounted on John's Island, two of them at the infamous carriage house.

By January 29, 1863 the trap was ready but they had to wait until the 30th when the Isaac P. Smith came steaming up the Stono again, very close to Gimball's plantation. The Confederates under Captain John H. Gary opened fire at less than 100 yards. The first shot went through the ship. Greatly surprised, the Smith returned fire, taking out one enemy gun.

Then the other guns got off three good shots in a row. One of them knocked out the Smith's engine and it was forced to surrender.

This was one of the first times in history that a ship surrendered to shore batteries.

A Hot Time at the Old Plantation Today. --Old B-Runner

Friday, April 13, 2012

Visitation Record at Fort Sumter

From the April 6th NBC4 "Visitation hits record level where Civil War began" by Bruce Smith.

A record 328,000 visitors took the boat ride out to Fort Sumter in Charleston, SC, for the 150th observance of the Civil War in 2011. And that trend continues this year where it was up another 11% for the first three months.

The Fort Sumter Monument also includes Fort Moultrie in Sullivans Island and the Charles Pinckney Historic Site in nearby Point Pleasant.

Fort Sumter usually draws 200,000 visitors a year. Attendance had only exceeded 300,000 one other year and that was the year after 9-11, 2002.

Going to See the Fort!! --Old B-R'er

Confederate Torpedo Boats Defends Charleston

From March 18, 2011, The State (Columbia, SC).

Most know about the Confederate submarine Hunley, but it was not the only stealth weapon in the arsenal at Charleston. The CSS David was one of several small, steam-powered "torpedo boats" there.

The torpedo wasn't what today's folks consider a torpedo, but a explosive device attached to the bow of the vessel by way of a long spar (piece of wood). This ship was the design of Charleston chemist St. Julian Ravenal. They were privately-funded and built at Stoney Landing on the Cooper River.

Though they resembled submarines, they were not. They couldn't dive and had an open cockpit and were powered by a small steam engine. It would ram the 60-70 pound charge of gunpowder into a ship, detonate it and leave quickly.

On October 5, 1862, a David attacked the USS Ironsides, causing some damage, but not sinking it. However, it was the first successful torpedo attack in history.

Three of the crew, including its commander William T. Glassell, were captured after abandoning the ship when the David's boiler went out. Two other members were able to relight it and returned to safety.

There was one other attempt in the Stono River, but the torpedo did not explode.

Several other Davids were made, but no one is sure how many?

Confederate Stealth weapons. --Old B-Runner

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Confederate Ironclad CSS Virginia

From the March 3, 2012, Virginia Daily Press "Battle of Hampton Roads: Construction of CSS Virginia" by Mark St. John Erickson.

The Union Navy was by far superior to that of the Confederate Navy at the outbreak of the war, 42 vessels to none, forcing Confederate Secretary of the Navy Stephen Mallory to opt for ironclads to even it out.

The Confederates raised the scuttled Union frigate Merrimack at Portsmouth's Gosport Navy yard and began transforming it into an ironclad. Some 1,500 men labored around the clock for nine months and they, the South had the weapon they hoped would break the Union's control of the sea.

Plans for the ship were drawn up by naval constructor John L. Porter with refinements made by John Mercer Brooke who determined the ship would have a single deck, ten big guns and be protected by an iron casemate. That would have two layers of two-inch armor plate backed by 22 inches of oak and pine that could stand up to any Union Navy guns.

Along with the powerful guns, there were two large smoothbore ones that could fire hot shot, especially dangerous to the wooden Union ships for starting fire.

Brooke also designed four rifled cannons, including two bow and stern-pivot ones whose range and firepower surpassed that of any Union ones.

One last thing included on this modern marvel was a weapon dating back to the earliest naval ships, a huge iron ram.

This Was One Formidable Ship. --Old B-R'er

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: April 13 to 14, 1862-- Feeling the Mississippi Noose Tighten


A Coast Survey team began surveying the Mississippi River below Forts Jackson and St. Philip. Worked for five days despite harassing fire from the forts and riflemen along the river, but were able to provide Farragut wit an accurate map of the river, forts, water batteries and obstructions in the river.

The USS Beauregard demanded the surrender of Fort Brooke, Tampa Bay, Florida. refused and shelled the fort before withdrawing.


Union mortar boats of Flag officer Foote commence regular bombardment of Fort Pillow, Tennessee, the next objective on drive down the Mississippi.

The Potomac Flotilla ascended Rappahannock River and destroyed Confederate batteries and captured three vessels.

Old B-Runner

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Some Pennsylvania Sailors at Fort Fisher

From the March 22nd Union City, pennsylvania's Past Time: Some Civil War Navy men from Union City and Northwestern Pennsylvania" by Kathy Warnes.

There was a long list with information about them, but I just selected those mentioned as being at Fort Fisher.

HIRAM RICE of Waterford. Enlisted July 1864 and served in the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron on USS Pontoosuc. At both battles of Fort Fisher and Fort Darling. Served ten months and honorably discharged.

Commander of J.F. Rice Post No. 345 of Waterford, named for his brother killed at the Battle of Malvern Hill.

MELVIN M. SMITH of Lowvlle. Enlisted August 1863 and assigned to South Atlantic Blockading Squadron under Porter. Served on the R.R. Cuyler and at engagements of Hampton Roads, Wilmington, NC and New Orleans. Discharged June 1865. (I'm not sure of these facts.)

H.N. WADSWORTH-- of Harbor Creek. Enlisted 1864 and served under Capt. M.W, Caldwell on USS R.R. Cuyler. Participated at Fort Fisher. Mustered out July 1, 1865.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Gen. Lee Says Pulaski Can't Fall

From the April 8th Savannah (Ga) Now "Engineers' promises didn't stand up to Union bombardment of Fort Pulaski" by Richard Burkhart.

"It was observed that...a breach was made in the wall of the southeast angle, nearest Tybee Island, and that before the fort surrendered this breach was wide enough to drive a four-horse team through."-- Brig. Gen. Lawton, Cmdr. Georgia Coastal Defense.

On Jan. 3, 1861, then-Col. Lawton and three militia units came down the Savannah River and took over Fort Pulaski from its one officer garrison.

Completed in 1847, the fort had never seen action. Robert E. Lee and the other U.S. Army engineers who built it believed to to be impregnable.

Nearby Tybee Island had not been fortified and Union forces just walked in and took it. Over the next several months, they constructed works within range of Pulaski with much difficulty. General Lee, now in charge of Confederate coastal defenses at the time, told the fort's commander, Col. Charles Olmstead, "they will make it pretty warm for you here with shells, but they cannot breach your walls at that distance." Those walls were seven and a half feet thick.

Of course, at this time, the accuracy, power and distance of the new rifled cannons were not fully understood.

On today's date in 1862, the Union bombardment began with mortars and rifled cannons. By the next day, the southeast walls had been breached, exposing the northwest powder magazine and after 30 hours of Union shells, the fort surrendered on April 11, 1862.

Another Blow to the South. --Old B-Runner

The Blockade Comes to Mobile

From the May 27, 2011, Mobile (Al) Press Register.

From the Mobile Evening News of May 27, 1861, announcing the establishment of the blockade at Mobile Harbor.

"The turn of Mobile to feel her first blast of the condign vengeance of Lincoln has come at last." The blockade had begun at 11 AM this morning.

A large war steamer took position to command the ship channel entrance to the bay. "Low and off Fort Morgan. The war vessel was seen to bring to a small steamer in the offing. The defenders of the fort welcomed the blockading steamer by displaying the federal flag, union down, from the same staff, but below the banner of the Stars and Bars."

In case you're wondering (like me), condign means deserved, appropriate. (I had to look it up.)

That Union vessel was the USS Powhatan. The USS Brooklyn was doing likewise at New Orleans.

So, It Begins. --Old B-Runner

Confederates at New York's Greenwood Cemetery: Gilbert Elliott, the CSS Albemarle's Builder

From the May 22, 2011, New York Times.

Seventy-five former Confederates are buried at Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, including the first general killed in the war, Robert Selden Garnett, killed in 1861.

Another one is Gilbert Elliott, a shipbuilder and 1st Lt. from North Carolina. At age 19, he was in charge of Confederates building the 152-foot-long ironclad CSS Albemarle, the ship that caused so much consternation in the North until sunk by William Cushing in a daring expedition.

Elliott spent his final years around New York City and associated with former enemies.

Said Jeffrey Richman, Greenwood's historian, "They were going to dinners with the Union guys, hoist a few for old times' sake. They'd go to reunions together-they weren't hostile to each other."

The South in The North. --Old B-Runner

Monday, April 9, 2012

New Orleans' Fort St. Philip-- Part 2

On January 9, 1815, one day after Jackson stopped the British at Chalmette (The Battle of New Orleans), the British fleet attacked Fort St. Philip in a battle that lasted eight days before they had to withdraw. Had the navy been able to pass the fort and hooked up with British General Packenham's army, the Battle of New Orleans would have been significantly different.

The improve in the defense, Fort Jackson was built on the other side of the river after the war.

The fate of New Orleans was determined when Farragut passed these two forts.

Fort St. Philip was originally built by the Spanish in the 1790s to protect their territory. It was also used in the Spanish-AmericanWar and World War I when disappearing batteries were installed on the premises.

Since Farragut, the fort's major attackers have been hurricanes and time. Its moat is silted in badly. You can find it on the east bank of Plaquemines Parish, 5 miles below the end of the road. Obviously, it is hard to get to and has been on private property since the 1920s and has the reputation of being infested with water moccasins.

A Bit of "Lost" History. --Old B-Runner

New Orleans' Fort St. Philip-- Part 1

From May 11, 2011, Fox 8, New Orleans.

It was 150 years ago this month that Flag Officer, later admiral, David Farragut's fleet ran past this fort and Fort Jackson on the other side of the Mississippi River to capture the Confederacy's largest city, New Orleans.

Today, you can hardly even see the walls of the old fort through the thick underbrush and trees. There is no road you can drive to get to it, the only access is by boat.

Former TV reporter and amateur historian Richard Angelveo studies Fort St. Philip on both the ground and in historical records.

It's location was key as the Mississippi River makes a bend by it, causing sailing ships to tack onto the wind against the current and come under the fort's guns.

Back during the war, the fort mounted 20 guns facing the river and another 12 guarding the land approach. There were two extended batteries on either side of the fort with 22 more heavy guns and 24 12-pounders.

The History of a Fort. --Old B-R'er

The Initiation of the Blockade

From the May 7, 2011, Mobile (Al) Press Register "Today in History: Mobile ships beat the blockade as Civil War begins."

Two Mobile boats, the Dick Keys and Henry Lewis had been engaged since January, 1861, carrying provisions and war materials from Mobile to Pensacola, Florida for Confederate troops quartered at the Florida Navy Yard and barracks.

The first notification of the Northern blockade occurred when a Union ship under the command of David D. Porter stopped the Lewis and insisted the two steamers go to Pensacola, adding that they would be the last Southern vessels allowed to enter port.

Porter must have been in the USS Powhatan, a steam frigate.

And, So it Begins. --Old B-Runner

Saturday, April 7, 2012

"Dr. Livingston, I Presume" at Fort Fisher

From the April 3, 2012, Examiner.

This Confederate private in the 6th Arkansas Infantry sure had one interesting Civil War career. Captured at the Battle of Shiloh, 150 years ago, he became a "Galvanized Yankee" at Camp Douglas in Chicago and was in the Union Army for 18 days until discharged with a severe case of dysentery.

After that, he stayed in the North serving on various merchant ships until joining the US Navy. His first stint was aboard the receiving ship USS North Carolina and then he was on the Moses S, Stuyvesant where he was "ship's wtiter."

Later, he became a record keeper on the USS Minnesota. It is in this job that he became interested in journalism. He wrote an eyewitness account of his ship's relentless bombardment of Fort Fisher for northern newspapers.

An account of it is on pages 220-221 in the "Autobiography of Sir Henry Morton Stanley" written by Dorothy Stanley. Unfortunately, I did not find the account.

After the war, he began writing for newspapers and six years later, he uttered those famous words and on into the history books.

I Didn't Previously Know This. --Old B-Runner

Four Sunken Blockade-Runners Along Upper Texas Coast

From the May 19, 2011, Dead Confederates Blog.

Andy Hall wrote about the wrecks of four blockade-runners along the upper Texas coast. Two, the Acadia and the Denbeigh have been positively identified. One is believed to be the Will o' the Wisp and the Caroline (or Carolina) may have been located.Some other sites also had dives on them.

From 1997 to 2003, Andy Hall was one of the lead investigators on the Denbeigh, the only one excavated as a formal archaeology project. The Denbeigh was built in the same Birkenhead yard as the Alabama and it was the second-most successful runner during the war.

It made eleven round-trip voyages between Havana and Mobile and Havana and Galveston before being lost on the inbound part of its 12th voyage in May 1865.

Aye, Blockade-Running Is the Life for Me. --Old B-R'er

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: April 8-11th ,1862

From the Civil War Naval Chronology.


Gen. Robert E. Lee writes Secretary of the Navy that McClellan seems to be shifting base of operations in his Peninsular Campaign from the James to the York River, probably for fear of the CSS Virginia.


Union forces are leaving the Jacksonville, Florida, area.

Mallory is still convinced that the primary threat to New Orleans is coming down the Mississippi River with Foote.


The CSS Virginia, under Flag Officer Tattnall rounded Sewell's Point for second appearance in Hampton Roads. Under the Virginia's protection, the CSS raleigh captures three Union transports. However, no second battle between the ironclads took place. The Monitor's job was to contain the Virginia in support of McClellan's operations. The Virginia was to protect Norfolk.

Fort Pulaski Georgia, surrendered after a two-day Union bombardment. Savannah is essentially sealed.

The USS Tuscarora reports that the CSS Sumter has essentially been abandoned by Semmes and its crew in Gibraltar where the Tuscarora had been blcokading it. In its short career, it had captured 18 Union ships

Secretary of the Navy Welles writes to Lincoln that the export of anthracite coal overseas should be strictly forbidden and Confederates get it in Nassau and Havana. It burns without smoke making it easier for blockade-runners to get in and out of blockaded ports.


Friday, April 6, 2012

Adelbert Ames, Rockland's Medal of Honor Winner-- Part 2

During the rest of the war, he commanded both artillery and infantry regiments. One of these was the famous 20th Maine. He also was on staff duty and was continually promoted until he held the rank of major general at the end of the war.

In case you're wondering why an Army man would be in this naval blog, Ames commanded troops of his father-in-law, General Benjamin Butler, at Fort Fisher.

In 1868, he was appointed governor and later US senator from Mississippi and in 1876 began his business career. On occasion, he exchanged heated words with another Fort Fisher veteran, Gen. Newton Curtiss.

In 1898, he was appointed brigadier general of volunteers in the Spanish-American War and fought in Cuba. He died in 1933, the last surviving general of the Civil War.

Quite the Interesting Life. --Old B-R'er

Adebert Ames, Rockland's Medal of Honor General-- Part 1

From the February 21, 2012, Knox Village (Maine) Soup.

The Union Historical Society held its first-ever meeting and Rockport's David Sulin gave a presentation on Rockland's favorite son: sailor, soldier and politician Adelbert "Del" Ames.

Born in 1835 and the son of a sea captain. He spent much of his early life at sea and then went to the US Military Academy at West Point where he was still a cadet when the war began. On May 6, 1861, he graduated fifth in his class and was commissioned second lieutenant in the artillery.

Eight days later, he was promoted to 1st Lt. in another artillery regiment.

In July, he was at the Battle of Bull Run and breveted to the rank of major and was awarded the new Congressional Medal of Honor which read, "Remained upon the field in command of a section of Griffin's Battery directing its fire after being severely wounded and refusing to leave the field until too weak to sit upon the caisson where he had been laced by the men of his command."

More to Come. --Old B-Runner

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: April 5 to 7th,1862: Island No.10 Falls-- First Navy Hospital Ship, Battle of Shiloh


Flag Officer Farragut, on USS Iroquois, reconnoitered Forts Jackson and St. Philip. Despite fire from the forts, Farragut, observing from a mast, remained as "calm and placid as an onlooker at a mimic battle."


USS Tyler and Lexington protected Grant's army at the Battle of Shiloh (Pittsburg Landing). Fire from the two wooden gunboats helped hold off successful Confederates until reinforcements arrived.


USS Pittsburg ran past Island No. 10.

Island No. 10 surrendered to naval forces of Flag Officer Foote. Heavy cannons and munitions captured as well as four steamers. The CSS Grampus was sunk to prevent capture. This opened Mississippi River to Fort Pillow.

After surrender of Island No. 10, USS Mound City captured Confederate ship Red Rover which was later converted into the Navy's first hospital ship. Joined fleet June 10th and shortly afterwards received her first patients. Sisters of the Holy Cross volunteered and served on board., pioneers of US Navy's Nurse Corps.

USS Pensacola and Mississippi successfully brought over the bar of the Passes into the Mississippi River after several failed attempts, becoming the heaviest ships ever to do so. Flag Officer Farragut says he's ready to go after New Orleans.


More Confederate Naval Burials at Savannah's Bonaventure Cemetery

From the site.

It turns out that the Bonaventure Cemetery used to be part of the Tattnall family's plantation named Bonaventura. Confederate flag officer Josiah Tattnall was born there and buried there.

CAPTAIN (FLAG OFFICER) JOSIAH TATTNALL, SAVANNAH SQUADRON, MOSQUITO FLEET-- Admiral Franklin Buchanan wrote, in response to his be appointed Confederate Admiral, that he thought Tattnall should have been the first Confederate admiral. Born Nov. 9, 1795. Died June 14, 1871.

JOHN R.F. TATTNALL, CSMC-- Son of Josiah Tattnall. Born near Middleton, Ct, in 1829. Died 17 August 1917. Grave in Tattnall family plot, section E.

The folks at CSNavy are looking for the grave of Paulding Tattnall, Josiah's other son.

EDWARD FENWICK NEUFVILLE, 2ND LT. CSMC-- 2ND LT. CSMC-- son-in-law of Josiah Tattnall.

JACOB PAULSEN-- Born 1 August 1837, in Eddelak Parish, Denmark, residing in Apalachicola, Florida, in 1860. Died 23 February 1919.

Seaman on CSS Chattahoochee, CSS Savannah, CSS Palmetto State and at the Wilmington Station.

Resided in Savannah after the war and involved in business pursuits becoming prominent in local politics. A street in Savannah is named after him.

Quite a Confederate Family. --Old B-Runner

USS Roebuck

On Tuesday, I wrote about the skirmish at St. Andrews, Florida, near present-day Panama City, between Confederates and a boat party from the USS Roebuck. I had never heardof this ship, so good old Wikipedia to the rescue.

The ship was a sailing bark, launched in 1856 and acquired by the US Navy in 1861, serving throughout the war, decommissioned in 1865 and sold in July of that year. The 455 tons ship was 135 feet long, had a 27-foot beam, 69 crew members and mounted four 32-pounders.

It first served in the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron and in September 1862 moved to the East Gulf Blockading Squadron and was stationed off St. Martin, Florida, where it captured a blockade-runner.

On Feb. 1, 1863, it relieved the USS Ethan Allen on blockade station at St. Andrews Bay, Florida, where it had the skirmish on land. In May, it captured the British schooner Emma Amelia. Then it was duty off Indian River, Florida where it hit pay dirt, capturing none blockade-runners.

With weakened rigging from service, in July 1864 it reported to Tampa Bay where it acted as a store ship. Yellow fever hit the crew and the ship was ordered north where it remained until the end of the war.

The Story of a Little-Known Ship. --Old B-R'er

Some More on the Grand Hotel

It was built in 1847 by F.H. Chamberlain and stood two stories high featuring 40 rooms, a kitchen, dining room and a full-service bar called The Texas. It was located (and still is) on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay, about half way from the entrance to the city.

During the Civil War, it served as a hospital for Confederate soldiers and there are 150 of their graves at Confederate Rest Cemetery at the hotel's Azalea Golf Course.

It reopened to the public in 1869.

A fire burned most of it down a few years later.

A Lot of Unaffordable History for Me. --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Grand Hotel at Point Clear, Alabama's Civil War Heritage

They even offer a Civil War Stay Package for $239. Too expensive for me.

This hotel, when it was the Point Clear Hotel, was fired upon by Union Admiral Farragut at the Battle of Mobile Bay. A hole in the wall caused by a cannonball was discovered during recent renovation. next to the hole was a note saying "Compliments of Admiral Farragut."

More than 300 Confederate soldiers died here while it was a Civil War hospital and are buried at Confederate Rest on the grounds.

The hotel was first built in 1847. During World War II it was a military training facility.

A Stay With a Confederate History. --Old B-Runner

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

St. Andrew Skirmish-- Part 2

I'm still not sure if it is St. Andrew or St. Andrews. I've seen it both ways.

From the marker.

The Confederates were commanded by Captain Walter J. Robinson and Union forces from the USS Roebuck by Acting Master James Folger who were looking for a blockade-runner near the Old Town spring.

After the battle, the Union force was granted safe passage to retrieve their dead and wounded. Four were buried on Hurricane Island at the mouth of the bay and the Confederates buried another.

The Confederate unit later became Company A of the 11th Florida Infantry.

After the war, the Union dead were reinterred at the Fort Barrancas National Cemetery in Pensacola.

From HMDB Hurricane was one of four islands at the mouth of St. Andrews Bay, including Sand, Hammock and Crooked islands. An 1868 hurricane altered them, forming just one now called Shell Island. Now, this is a popular destination for shelling.

Bet You Didn't Know This Much About This Before. I Sure Didn't. --Old B-R'er

The St. Andrews Bay Skirmish

The Union's East Gulf Blockading Squadron (which stretched between Cape Canaveral on the east coast of Florida to St. Andrews Bay on the panhandle) began raiding Confederate salt works in November 1862. You'd kind of think that East Gulf would refer to Key West to St, Andrews.

On March 20, 1863, while looking for a spring for drinking water, an eleven-man group came ashore near what is now St. Andrews Episcopal Church and were surprised by 23 Confederates who demanded their surrender.

The sailors refused and a fight ensued. Several sailors were killed but no Confederate casualties.

A historical marker is now at the site.

Later, Old Towne St. Andrews was destroyed in retaliation. Thirty-two homes and businesses were burned from Union incendiary shells and there was no mention of a St. Andrews in any public records after the event.

The End of a Town. --Old B-Runner

Monday, April 2, 2012

Salt Production in the Florida Panhandle

From the Feb. 27, 2011, Panama City (Fl) News Herald

Other than at Pensacola, there was no major actions around Panama City/St. Andrew along Florida's panhandle other than blockade-running and salt production.

Before the war, salt was imported primarily from the North and Europe. Back then, it was more than a seasoning. It was a method of preservation. A Confederate soldier received a ration of 1.5 pounds of salt a month.

With outside sources cut off, Southerners began boiling seawater to procure the salt.

By the end of 1861, salt was the biggest industry in the St. Andrew area. Salt prices were always rising. In the very first months of the war, salt rose to $1 a pound. A salt maker could make $180 a day.

In St. Andrew's alone, there were 5,000 involved in salt-making during the course of the war. Union attacks from the East Gulf Blockading Squadron destroyed some $6 million in equipment and salt.

No Salt for My Steak? --Old B-R'er

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: April 3 to 4,1862


Flag Officer Du Pont and Gen. Henry Benham planning to cut off Fort Pulaski from Savannah in a joint operation. Du Pont orders the USS Mohican to reconnoiter the Wilmington River to determine best means of obstructing it.


USS Carondelet, shrouded by a heavy storm at night, runs past Island No. 10 on the Mississippi River and reached Gen. Pope's army at New Madrid. The ship's commander had piled cordwood around the boilers and extra deck planking and anchor chain for added protection.

A.T. Mahan wrote, "The passage of the Carondolet was not only one of the most daring and dramatic events of the war; it was also the death blow to the Confederate defense of this position." With the support of the Carondolet, Union forces could now safely cross the river and take Island No. 10 from the rear.

CSS Carondolet, Pamlico and Oregon engaged USS J.P. Jackson, New London and Hatteras, but could not prevent the landing of 1200 Union men at Pass Christian, Mississippi. They destroyed the Confederate camp there.

Old B-Runner