Fort Fisher

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

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Modern Greece Blockade-Runner Again-- Part 3

The Modern Greece was 210 feet long.  Historical accounts of its wreck say that some of the cargo was salvaged and brought ashore, but part of it was liquor and that got no further than the Confederate soldiers on the beach.

In the spring of 1962, there was a violent storm that cleared the sand from the wreck.  By the summer, eleven Navy divers, working off a loaned Coast Guard barge anchored over the site had retrieved 11,500 artifacts.  With this huge number, the challenge came to be what to do with them once ashore.

Some were treated and sent to museums.  The rest were put into outside tanks initially covered with plywood which rotted, allowing leaves to get in.

Leslie Bright was hired in 1964 as an assistant in the lab and later ran it until retiring 13 years ago.   He says the leaves were a good thing, turning the water a swampy black and leaching oxygen out of the mix which greatly slowed deterioration.

Stan Register was 13, fifty years ago, and worked at a hot dog stand on the beach when the Navy divers showed up.  They were staying at a hotel across from his stand and one day they invited him to come out to the barge and watch.  He can remember seeing the outline of the wreck below the barge.  That day they brought up a small cannon and banded cases of rifles along with four buckets of bullets and let him keep a couple.

More to Come.  --Old B-R'er

The Blockade-Runner Modern Greece Again-- Part 2

A team of students from East Carolina University and University of North Carolina-Wilmington were sponsored by the Friends of Fort Fisher (to which I belong) went into the muck of half-century old storage tanks at the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources Underwater Archaeology Branch on the Fort Fisher grounds. (Items recovered in 1962, were placed in these tanks at the time with plans to preserve them at a later date as funds became available.  The tanks were covered with plywood that eventually disintegrated allowing leaves to settle in the water and proving to be some great preservation in nature's own way.)

They had to pull out, clean, catalog the item and return them to the tanks where they will finally receive modern preservation treatment.

In June of this year there will be a seminar and the labs at the Underwater Archaeology Branch will be open.  The labs are usually off limits to the public.  (I sure wouldn't mind being there for the seminar and tour.) Plans are also in the works for signage both on the beach and US-421 pointing out the wreck site.  In addition, there will be a new spring expedition to the site to examine its present state and properly record it.

I do not believe you can see any part of it above the water.  However, several miles north, you can see the upper part of the blockade-runner Beauregard at low tide at Carolina Beach.

More to Come.  --Old B-Runner

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

On the Robert Smalls Thing in Charleston-- Part 1

The next several entries will be about that remarkable, and extremely fortunate event in Charleston Harbor where a slave, Robert Smalls and a group of other slaves were able to commandeer a Confederate ship and take it out to the Union fleet.  This past Sunday marked the 150th anniversary of it.

This was a remarkable accomplishment under any circumstance, but Robert Smalls was the right man at the right place to do it.

From the May 12th Navy Times "Events honor slaves who seized Confederate ship." AP.

Descendants of Robert Smalls were in Charleston this weekend for activities to commemorate his accomplishment.  Just a year later, he was the pilot on a Union ironclad in an attack on Fort Sumter.  After the war, he served in the South Carolina General Assembly and as a U.S. customs inspector.

His descendants spoke at events and a markers were placed where he seized the Planter and where he picked up his family members.  (Taking the ship was one thing, but going elsewhere in the heavily defended harbor to pick up his family and others was really remarkable.)

Sunday, there was a harbor tour retracing the path the Planter took in the harbor and out to the Union fleet.

Remarkable, Nothing Short of Remarkable Accomplishment.  --Old B-R'er

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: May 15th to May 18th,1862-- Attack on Drury's Bluff

As I write about these events, using that fantastic book "Civil War Naval Chronology," a must-have for any naval library on the war, it becomes apparent that regardless of the Union Army's failures to destroy the Confederacy, the opposite was true of the Naval forces.  It was nothing short of dismemberment.


MAY 15TH

The James River Flotilla, including the USS Monitor, Galena, Aroostook, Port Royal and Naugatuck, under Cmdr. J. Rogers engaged Confederate batteries at Drury's Bluff, Virginia, on the James River, just eight miles from Richmond.  For his role in the action, Corporal John B. Mackie, a Marine on the Galena, received the first Medal of Honor issued to a Marine.

During the action, the Galena was heavily damaged, proving the ineffectiveness of this early ironclad prototype.  Rogers stated at the time that had the fleet been supported by troops, Drury's Bluff would have fallen and Richmond captured.


MAY 16TH

Union naval squadron under Cmdr. S.P. Lee in USS Oneida, advancing north on the Mississippi River toward Vicksburg, shells Grand Gulf, Mississippi..


MAY 17TH

Joint Army-Navy expedition ascends the Pamunkey River in Virginia to 25-miles above White House.  Confederates burned  17 vessels to prevent capture.  The river here was so narrow, Union ships had to return stern-first for several miles.


MAY 18th

Union forces submit a demand for Vicksburg's surrender which Confederates promptly refuse, setting off a year-long Army-Navy land and water assault on the fortress.

Old B-Runner

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Blockade-Runner Modern Greece Again-- Part 1

From the March 9th Stars and Stripes "Artifacts recoveries on Civil War shipwreck in time for anniversary" by Jay Price.

There are hundreds of shipwrecks along the North Carolina coast, including Blackbeard's ship, the Queen Anne's Revenge (QAR) and the USS Monitor.  They don't call it the graveyard of the Atlantic for nothing.

Work is being done on the QAR, but a Civil War blockade-runner which was excavated 50 years ago was in the news a couple months ago.

The Modern Greece lies in the surf close by Fort Fisher, North Carolina.  Discovery of this previously "lost" ship in 1962 led to a huge trove of artifacts, a state law to protect the site and huge advances in preservation techniques.

And, there are about thirty more shipwrecks, most from the Civil War, along the coast near the Modern Greece.

And, the 150th anniversary of its sinking is also this year.

Now, This Is Something I Can Sink My Teeth Into.  --Old B-Runner

Friday, May 11, 2012

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: May 11th to 13th,1862-- The CSS Virginia Blown Up

Another big blow to the Confederacy on top of one after another losses along the coast and rivers.

MAY 11TH

The CSS Virginia, no longer possessing a home port after the capture of Norfolk, is blown up by its crew off Craney Island to avoid capture.  It was discovered that the ship drew too much water to go up the James River.  The ship's commander, Josiah Tattnall wrote, "Thus perished the Virginia and with her many highflown hope of naval supremacy and success."

For the North, the ship's destruction eliminated the continuing threat to Fort Monroe and the Chesapeake Bay, but also allowed Flag Officer Goldsborough's fleet passage up the James River as far as Drewry's Bluff.  This greatly helped the Union's Peninsular Campaign then going on.


MAY 12TH

Union gunboats made a reconnaissance of Pamuckey River in support of an Army advance to a new supply base at White House, Virginia, within 22 miles of Richmond.

Officers and crew of the CSS Virginia ordered to establish a battery below Drewry's Bluff on the lft bank of the river to prevent Union ships from passing.  It was to be under the command of  Lt. Catesby ap R. Jones.


MAY 13TH

The Confederate steamer Planter in Charleston Harbor was taken by its entirely black crew under Robert Smalls to the Union fleet.  The ship's commander was ashore when the ship was taken.  I'll be writing about this tomorrow.

The USS Iroquois occupied Natchez, Mississippi as Farragut's fleet continues ascending the Mississippi River to Vicksburg.

B-R'er

USS Perry-- Part 2

This ship was decommissioned and commissioned on many occasions.  There are several mistakes in the Wikipedia article.

After its commissioning in 1843, the Perry, named after Oliver Hazard Perry, hero of the Battle of Lake Erie, embarked on a round-the-world cruise until 1845  During te Mexican War, it was struck by a hurricane and ended up running onto a reef with no casualties and later was kedged off.

In 1847, the ship joined the Brazil Squadron and was involved with capturing two ships involved with the slave trade.

In 1855, the Perry participated in an American show of force in Paraguay where the USS Water Witch (the same ship captured by Lt. Thomas Pelot and his force during the Civil War) had been fired upon.

Recommissioned during the Civil War, it escorted troops to Annapolis, Maryland, during the early stages of the war before joining the newly established Atlantic Blockading Squadron.  Steaming southeast of Cape Lookout, NC, it captured the blockade-runner Hannah B. Johnson on May 31, 1861 and three days later, the Confederate privateer Savannah.

Then, it was called back to Washington, D.C., where it took position in the Potomac River to protect the capital in the aftermath of the First Battle of Bull Run.

In February 1862, the Perry took position off New Inlet, NC, in the Outer Banks.  (However, the only New Inlet in North Carolina I'm familiar with is the one by the Cape Fear River in Wilmington.

The ship ended the war with the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron.

It was decommissioned a final time in 1865 and sold that same year.

Quite a Busy Ship.  --Old B-Runner

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Bits of the Fort: Northrup Cottage-- Bell's Book-- Medal of Honor

Bits of the Fort--  News About Fort Fisher.


1.  NORTHRUP COTTAGE--  From the March Wrightsville Beach (NC) Magazine--  The Northrup Cottage which once stood at 305 South Lumina Avenue in Wrightsville Beach was destroyed by Hurricane Hazel Oct. 15, 1954.  It was built by Harris Northrup who served in the Wilmington Light Artillery at Fort Caswell and Fort Fisher where he helped engineer construction.


2.  BELL'S BOOK--  From the January Wilmington (NC) Star-News--  As part of the 147th anniversary of the fall of Fort Fisher, a Union Army tactical manual, originally belonging to Col. Louis Bell, who commanded the 3rd Brigade, Second Division, XIV Corps at Fort Fisher and was killed in action, has been donated to the museum by Richard Boisvert of Townsville, NC.


3.  MEDAL OF HONOR--  Gunners Mate Charles J. Bibber, USN, USS Agawamn, received a Medal of Honor for his Dec. 23, 1864, action of volunteering to serve on the powder boat Louisiana which was blown up.

Just Some News.  --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: May 9th to 10th ,1862

MAY 9TH

Captain Davis temporarily relieves Flag Officer Foote of command of the Western Flotilla who had been wounded at Fort Donelson.

President Lincoln still in Hampton Roads on his "command ship, the Miami", personally reconnoitered to the seaward of Sewell's Point and found an unfortified landing site at Willoughby Point.  Troops landed there the next morning.

He then ordered the USS Monitor to reconnoiter Sewell's Point to see if the batteries were still manned.  They weren't and troops landed.  Lincoln then ordered General Wool troops to march to Norfolk.


MAY 10TH

Norfolk Navy Yard set afire by evacuating Confederates in a withdrawal up the peninsula to defend Richmond.  Norfolk also abandoned and occupied by General Wool.

Pensacola, Florida, reoccupied by Union forces.  The Navy Yard, Forts Barrancas and McRee, the CSS Fulton and an ironclad building on the Escambia River destroyed.  The Confederacy had been planning to evacuate Pensacola ever since Foote had his success in the Upper Mississippi.  Guns and troops were needed there to slow Union advance.  The fall of New Orleans was the final straw.

The USS New Ironsides launched in Philadelphia.

More Confederate Losses.  --Old B-Runner

The Confederate River Defense Fleet's eight gunboats made an attack on the Union's gunboats and mortar boats at Plum Point Bend, Tennessee.  The USS Cincinnati was sunk in shallow water and USS Mound City ran aground to avoid sinking.  Confederate ships drew too much water to press home attack and withdrew.  The two Union ships were quickly raised, repaired and returned to service.

Old B-Runner

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Rescued Curtis at Fort Fisher

I came across this obituary for Francis Parody who rescued Newton Curtis after he was wounded at Fort Fisher, January 15, 1865.

Potsdam, New York, April 19.

The funeral of Francis Parody, who died at home here late Monday afternoon was held here this afternoon, Rev. F.R. Griffiths officiating and internment was made at Bayside.  Mr. Parody was a well known veteran of the Civil War and bore the distinction of rescuing the late General newton M. Curtis of Ogdensburg when he was wounded at Fort Fisher.

He enlisted in the spring of 1861 in the 92nd regiment, raised in this vicinity by the late Colonel Jonah Sanford of Hopkinton, and was a member of Company E of that Regiment until it was disbanded in 1865.

During the attack on Fort Fisher, General Curtis was wounded, the injury eventually costing him the use of an eye.  Mr. Parody was able to get him to a place of safety and was always proud of the part he played in saving the general's life.  He was a member of the Marsh Post, G.A.R..

He is survived by two sons, William Parody and F.W. Parody of this village and two daughters, Mrs. Francis Tracy of Potsdam and Mrs. Frank Kitteridge of Erie, Pennsylvania.

A Hero in His Own Time.  --Old B-Runner

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Ladies Gunboat

From the April 29th Augusta (Ga) Chronicle.

Former Augusta mayor Bob Young spoke at the Confederate Memorial Day observance at West View Cemetery in Augusta.  About 68 Confederate soldiers are buried there.

His topic was the Confederate floating battery CSS Georgia whose career and final resting place is at Savannah.  Lt. Thomas Pelot, who led and was killed in the attack on the USS Water Witch, commanded this vessel at one time.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is planning to raise it as it is an obstacle to river navigation.

This ship is sometimes referred to as the "Ladies Gunboat" as $75,000 of the final $115,000 cost was raised by various members of a women's group called the Ladies Gunboat Association, many of whom were from Augusta.  The rest of the money to build it came from the State of Georgia.
As thanks for their efforts, the women were able to name the captain of the Georgia and they could also name the cannons after Georgia cities.  The first so-named cannon was the Augusta because the ladies there raised the most money.

I Wonder If the Cannon Augusta Is Still On Board?  --Old B-Runner

Friday, May 4, 2012

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: May 5th to 8th,1862; Norfolk Evacuated, Baton Rouge Occupied

MAY 5TH

President Lincoln goes to Hampton Roads on the steamer Miami to personally direct the stalled Peninsular Campaign.  He directed gunboat operations in the James River and the bombardment of Sewell's Point in the five days he acted as Commander-in-Chief in the field.


MAY 6TH-7TH

USS Wachusett, Chocura and Sebago escorted Army transports up the York River and supported the landing at West Point, Virginia.


MAY 8TH

USS Monitor, Dacotah, Naugatuck, Seminole and Susquehanna, by "direction of the President," shelled Confederate batteries at Sewell's Point.  Lincoln receives news that Norfolk is being abandoned and that the CSS Virginia planning to proceed up the James or York rivers.  Plans made for a battle between the two ironclads should the Virginia initiate one.  The idea was for the Monitor to draw the Virginia into deep water where it could be rammed by Union steamers.

A landing party from the USS Iroquois seized the arsenal and took possession of Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

More and More Confederate Losses.  --Old B-Runner

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Fort McRee, Florida

While doing a blog entry on Perdido Key on my Roadlog blog, I came across this Civil War fort, which guarded the western entrance to Pensacola Bay, across from Fort Pickens.  It was a masonry fort built before the war and took part in the shelling of the Union-held Fort Pickens.

I was under the idea that it was no longer there, but it must be as the source I was using mentioned McRee's ruins, although accessible only by boat and with no facilities. 

I'll be doing some more research on it.

Still There After All These Years.  --Old B-Runner

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

USS Perry-- Part 1

Back on June 7, 2011, I wrote about the USS Perry capturing the Confederate privateer Savannah (although Wikipedia calls the Savannah the Chotank, which was the name of the ship after the Union Navy acquired it) on June 3, 1861.  This was in my Saw the Elephant Blog.

Back in 1861, the Confederacy was scrambling for any thing that floated to combat the vastly superior fleet of the North.  Privateers were accepted into service.  Lincoln's government considered them pirates and threatened to hand them and came close enough with one case that Jefferson Davis threatened to hang captured Union soldiers in retaliation.  Lincoln quietly backed off from the explosive situation.

Anyway, I had never heard of the USS Perry, so good old Wikipedia to the rescue.  The Perry led a long career in the Union Navy, being commissioned and decommissioned on many occasions.  It was originally commissioned in 1843 and finally decommissioned in 1865 and sold that same year.  It was 105 feet long, with a 25.6 foot beam and a crew of 67.  Armament consisted of two 32-pdr. guns and six 32-pdr carronades.

When first in service, it went on a round-the-world cruise.  Recommissioned for the Mexican War, it was demasted by a hurricane and returned to Philadelphia for repairs.

More to Come.  --Old B-Runner