Fort Fisher

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

Friday, August 31, 2012

General Whiting's Uniform On Display in Wilmington, NC

From July 23rd WWAY 3 ABC News  "Cape Fear Museum unveils Confederate general's uniform.

 The museum has had W.H.C. Whiting's uniform since it was established in the late 1800s.  It was one of three Civil War artifacts conserved recently with money from a grant, donations and county funding.

I would like to know how they got Whiting's uniform and was it the one he was wearing when wounded at Fort Fisher.  Was it on display before this?  This ties in nicely with tomorrow's entry on my 1982 vacation to Carolina Beach.

I have never been to the Cape Fear Museum and need to get there one of these days.  Going back to yesterday's post, I have heard this is where many of the Blockade Runner Museum's items ended up.

Quite an Interesting Character, This Whiting.  --Old B-Runner

Thursday, August 30, 2012

My Great Summer At Fort Fisher-- Part 5: The Blockade Runner Museum and Chris Fonvielle

Taken from my journal. 

JULY 29, 1982

"I went to the Blockade Runner Museum in the morning.  I am sorry to learn that they will be closing the place down at the end of this year.  They say they are not doing enough business in their present location and they are selling the building to a church.  Then, they will either move the collection to a site near the USS North Carolina or perhaps near Fort Fisher.

There is some hope that the state will buy it but that is not likely because of the budget tightening.  There is a distinct possibility that the collection will be broken up which will be an unfortunate eventuality should it occur.

The Foards, I found out, never owned the B-R, but operated and helped construct it.  The real ownership rests with a group of private investors.  Jim Legg and Chris Fonvielle were working in there.  Chris is very involved with Fort Fisher and has recently spent $300 getting half of the O'Sullivan pictures of Fort Fisher printed from their original negatives.

We spent some time examining the prints in detail with a special magnifier.  We picked out two torpedoes lying at the Mound Battery that looked just like the one at the Fort Fisher Museum.  He is also making up a chart of the Union order of battle for both battles.  He makes me look like I don't know anything about the battle."

Meeting Mr. Fort Fisher Thirty Years Ago.  --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

My Great Summer at Fort Fisher-- Part 4: Mary Holloway and the Underwater Archaeology Branch

JULY 28th, 1982, WEDNESDAY

"I went straight to Fort Fisher after breakfast, arriving at 9:45 and staying until 5, when they closed.  Gehrig Spencer, the manager, was not there, but Ron, the assistant manager, and Mary Holloway, the secretary, were.  They went out of their way to make me feel at home.

I was able to copy all of Lamb's diary that I needed with an assist by Ron who copied the last 8 pages at the N.C. Underwater Archaeology Building at the other end  of the parking lot.  I went with him and met Richard Lawrence, one of the people involved in the diving.  He showed me their files on the Beauregard and gave me a lot of material on the Monitor and work done at a place in N.C. called Fort Branch.

Old B-Runner

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: August 29th to August 31st: Another Ironclad


USS Pittsburg (correct spelling for the ship) escorted steamers carrying troops to Eunice, Arkansas where it shelled and dispersed Confederate troops.  A large boat fitted out as a hotel was seized.  This constant patrolling of the Mississippi and its tributaries kept Confederates from establishing strong positions.


The USS Passaic ironclad monitor launched at Greenpoint, New York.  I'm not sure, but it may have been the second monitor.  The Union was committed to having these as their major new class of warships.


US transport W.B. Terry, carrying coal for Union gunboats ran aground at Duck River Shoals, Tennessee, and was captured by Confederate troops.

Old B-R'er

USS Fairplay

I was writing about the 76th Ohio Infantry in my Civil War blog, Saw the Elephant, and there was mention of the regiment capturing the Confederate steamer Fairplay in the Mississippi River.  Kind of an interesting thought that a land unit captured a water one, and since I'd never heard of the ship, some further research was in order.

Here it is, thanks to good old Wikipedia.

The Fairplay was a wooden steamer of 156 tons built in 1859 in New Albamy, Indiana, for service on the Mississippi Rivers and others.  It was pressed into Confederate service until it was captured by the 76th Ohio August 18, 1862.  I couldn't find anything about its capture.  There was no mention of it in the Naval Chronology of the Civil War which I have been using for Naval Happenings.
It was then taken into Union Army service in September  and transferred to the Navy in October.  So, we just had the 150th anniversary of its capture and it served in both Confederate and Union navies and both Union services.  Interesting career right there.

It became Tinclad #17, one of 63 shallow draft ships that convoyed troop and supply ships along the rivers in the western theater.

That  Fairplay.  --Old B-Runner

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: August 24 to August 26th, 1862: It's Admiral Buchanan to You


USS Isaac N. Seymour ran aground aground and sank in the Neuse River, NC.

USS Henry Andrew wrecked after grounding in a storm 15 miles south of Cape Henry, Va.  Blockading duty could be risky as these last two show.

USS Stars and Stripes (how's that for the name of a Union ship?) captured British ship Mary Elizabeth, attempting to run the blockade into Wilmington with a cargo of salt and fruit.


Log entry of USS Benton for the day shows how busy the ships on western waters were: "At 7 [am] sent a boat ashore, which destroyed seven skiffs and one batteau.  At 11:40 came to at Bolivar Landing [Mississippi].  At 11:45 General Woods landing troops; opened fire upon the enemy.  We opened fire with out bow and starboard guns in protecting the landing of the troops...fired a number of shots in the direction of the rebel force."


Captain Franklin Buchanan promoted to admiral in the Confederate Navy " for gallant and meritorious conduct in attacking the enemy's fleet in Hampton Roads and destroying the frigate Congress, sloop of war Cumberland.

Old B-Runner

Friday, August 24, 2012

Navy Divers Start Recovering Items from the Modern Greece 50 Years Ago

From the August 14th Wilmington (NC) Star-News Looking Back column.

AUGUST 2, 1962

Navy divers from Charleston, SC, began a ten-day effort to recover items from the sunken blockade-runner Modern Greece off Fort Fisher.  This is part of a continuing effort to explore all known ships sunk off the Cape Fear River during the Civil War and to find new ones.

This is the 50th anniversary of that effort, and that effort was on the 100th anniversary of the ship's sinking in the first place.

I've seen drawings of Fort Fisher during the war that show sunken ships by the fort.  This very likely was one of them.

The Modern Greece, the Ship That Rocked Maritime Conservation.  --Old B-Runner

Thursday, August 23, 2012

My Great Summer At Fort Fisher-- Part 3: Jogging to the Fort/ Gehrig Spencer


Jogged down to a point about a mile south of Kure Beach, which would have put me close to Fort Fisher and about where the Naval Column landed, formed and made its advance on the fort.  Running in the sand was really hard on my ankles because of its softness and slope.  Don't think I'll do that again.  You have to wonder how hard it was for those sailors and Marines with their sealegs to march along it.

 Later, in the afternoon, cousin Graham came down to Carolina Beach in his new boat and I went back with him to Topsail Beach, where he had a condo. No telling how many blockade-runners might have come into the sounds.  Maybe even Cushing had been where we were.


Took Chris and Andy to Fort Fisher.  Neither one was much interested in it so I took them back to the cottage in Carolina Beach.  After lunch I returned and copied some information from the exhibits "before going up to the desk and asking if I could look through their material in the back.

They let me come back and the manager of the place, Gehrig Spencer, spent the rest of the afternoon showing me what they had. He knows quite a bit about the fort and is presently trying to accumulate as many letters concerning the fort as he can."

Getting Down to the Good Stuff.  --Old B-R'er

The USS Adirondack Sank Today, 150 Years Ago

As I already mentioned in the most recent Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago, the USS Adirondack sank this date.  Part of the reason it sank had to do with what I wrote about on August 24th, and that was the commissioning of the CSS Alabama.  The Adirondack was hurrying back to Nassau to look for the Confederate ship.

I had never heard of the USS Adirondack before this.  I had to do some research.  Thanks to good old Wikipedia and for the information.

The Adirondack was an Ossipee-Class wooden screw steamer built in 1861 at the New York Navy Yard and launched Feb. 22, 1862 and commissioned in June so it had a very short navy career.  It was 203 feet long, had a 38-foot beam, weighed 1240 tons, mounting 2X11-inch smoothbore, 4X32-pdr smoothbores, 2X24-pdr. smoothbores and 1X12-pdr smoothbore cannons.  A crew of 160 manned the ship.

While assigned to the South Atlantic Blockading squadron, it had been looking for the CSS Florida and had been recalled to Port Royal only to be immediately ordered back to Nassau with the coming of the CSS Alabama.

En route, the ship ran aground on Little Bahama Bank in the Abaco Islands of the Bahamas.  Efforts to break loose failed and the ship began to break up.  The crew was rescued by the Canadaiguia.

The scattered remains of the ship are in between ten and thirty feet of water and it has become a favorite dive spot.  Divers can see the two huge 10,000 pound 11-inch bore cannons and twelve smaller ones scattered about.  Seaworms have eaten most of the wood.

So, That's the Story of the Adirondack.  --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

My Great Summer at Fort Fisher-- Part 2: Beauregard Almost In Reach

Taken from my 1982 journal.

It cost $275 a week to rent Aunt Anna Mae's cottage at Carolina Beach.  She no longer owns it, but we continue to calll it that..

JULY 24, !982

Stopped at Paul's Hot Dogs on the way down to the beach, a family tradition.  Nephew Andy and I went swimming in the ocean and discovered that the Army Corps of Engineers had done beach nourishment and it was about four times wider than it had been.

"A person can get mighty tired just walking across the huge beach.  The Beauregard (Civil War blockade-runner) was so close I could have hit it with a rock.  It is too bad I am too scared to go out to it and get a piece.

If Mama Gert and Daddy Graham (my grandparents) still had their cottage they'd definitely have some property as their deed read from the road to the shoreline."

The blockade-runner Beauregard (also known as the Havelock and General Beauregard) was rumored to have been carrying gold when it was forced ashore in 1863.  The upper portion can still be easily seen at low tide.  I've always considered it as my blockade-runner.

I would really love to have a piece of it and it would be a prized possession.

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: August 22nd to 24th , 1862-- Roll! Alabama!


Welles orders NABS (North Atlantic Blockading Squadron) to assist Army in withdrawing from Fortress Monroe as the Peninsular campaign winds down.


USS Adirondack hit a reef off Man of War Cay, Little Bahamas and was abandoned after efforts to save the ship failed.  The blockade was not without its dangers.

The USS James S. Chambers seized schooner Corelia off the coast of Cuba.  The blockade was not only off the coast of the Confederacy.


Raphael Semmes took command of the CSS Alabama at sea off the island of Teceira, Azores.  The Confederate flag replaced the English one and a gun was fired.  "The air was rent by a deafening cheer from the officers and men.  The band, at the same time, playing Dixie."

Thus, the Alabama was christened and began her famous career.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

My Great Summer at Fort Fisher-- Part 1

I am reading my journal from 1982, thirty years ago, and found that was when I spent a fantastic two whole weeks at Carolina Beach, spending my time jogging, swimming, sitting out on the beach, doing research at Fort Fisher and visiting the Blockade Runner Museum and enjoying the nightlife.  (I started my journal back in the summer of 1978 and sure wish I'd been keeping it before that.  It is amazing what I forget.)

That was one great way to spend some time.

I was just getting started in my deejay business and teaching school in Round Lake, Illinois.  I stayed for two weeks at Aunt Anna Mae's cottage on Carolina Beach's Southern Extension.  The first week was with my parents and the second with my brother and sister and their families.

Why, one day I even jogged to Fort Fisher.

I'll Be Going Back Into the Journal and Writing My Fort Fisher-related experiences.

Fort Fisher's Caitlin Rifenburg

From the Summer 2012 Powder Magazine newsletter of Fort Fisher.

Caitlin is the 2012 Mary Holloway Seasonal Interpreter at the fort.

Born in Kentucky, but moved to Wilmington as a child. Mary Holloway, who was at Fort Fisher in the early 1980s developed the program for interns in costume to guide people around the fort.  Caitlin gives two tours daily Wednesday through Sunday.

Ms. Rifenburg graduated early from Richlands High School near Jacksonville and plans on attending Cape Fear Community College this fall.  She says her mother worked at Fort Fisher when she was very young and that she practically grew up on the grounds.

When asked is she could have dinner with anyone from the 19th century, she said she'd have it with Colonel Lamb and his time and family while commanding the fort.

Always Great to See Young People Getting Involved in History, Especially That of Fort Fisher.  --Old B-R'er

Major Reilly's Descendants-- Part 3

E. Lawrence Lee, (1912-1996) longtime Citadel University (SC) history professor was the grandson of Major Reilly on his mother's side.  He was the author of "The Lower Cape Fear in Colonial Days" and "Indian Wars in North Carolina."  He did much of the initial survey work on colonial Brunswick Town site (south of Wilmington) which led to the excavations by Dr. Stanley South in the 60s and the creation of the Brunswick Town State Historic Site.  Civil War Fort Anderson stretches across the ruins of the town.

Lee's grandchildren no longer live in the Wilmington area, but many other Reilly descendants still do according to Chris Fonvielle, including members of the Newell, Symmes and Bethune families.

Ken Fortier commented on the story that the Lockfaw family of Wilmington is also descendants and that he has some of James Reilly's personal items and pictures.

An Unsung Southern hero.  --Old B-Runner

Monday, August 20, 2012

Major Reilly's Descendants-- Part 2

In April 1861, James Reilly sent in his resignation to the Union War Department and joined the Confederate Army where he served with distinction commanding the Rowan Artillery and eventually rose to the rank of major.

He and his battery were detached from the Army of Northern Virginia and sent to Fort Fisher.  In the final battle there, he became the senior officer (after Whiting and Lamb were wounded) and officially surrendered the fort.

In doing that, he may be the only one on either side to surrender a fort at the beginning of the war and end of the war, from one side to the other.

He was held a prisoner of war and later returned to Wilmington where he lived at 111 S. sixth Street.  Later in life, he had a small farm in the Maco community in Brunswick County.  He died in 1896 and is buried at Wilmington's Oakdale Cemetery.  If I recall, Reilly's grave is fairly close to Whiting's.

His Descendants Next.  --Old B-Runner

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: August 18th to 21st,1862: Farragut Says to Bring 'Em On!!!


Sec. of Navy Welles wrote Commodore Wilkes of the James River Squadron that since Army movements in the area had ceased that future orders will "be controlled by developments elsewhere."

Welles also instructed squadron and cruiser commanders to restate their duties as far as stopping and searching suspicious ships upon the seas as a result  of "some recent occurrences."  They were to "manifest to the world that it is the intention of our Government, while asserting and maintaining our own rights, to respect and scrupulously regard the right of others...You are specifically informed that the fact that a suspicious vessel has been indicated to you...does not in any way authorize you to depart from the practice of the rules of visitation, search and capture prescribed by the law of nations."

I'm not sure what the occurrences were, perhaps some commanders were overstepping the law of nations in regards to a blockade.


Admiral Farragut must have been responding to newspaper fears of foreign intervention in the conflict and wrote, "...if it does come, you will find the United States not so easy of a nut to crack...We have no dread of 'rams' or 'he-goats'..."  I'm not really sure what a "he-goat" is?

USS Bienville captured British blockade-runner Eliza, bound from Nassau off Shallotte Inlet, NC.

Go Get 'Em, David!!  --Old B-R'er

Major Reilly's Descendants-- Part 1

I came across this article after returning home from this latest trip to North Carolina since I heard that fine talk on Reilly's life by Col. Jack Travis.  The Wilmington Star-News has an excellent column that appears every so often where readers send in a question and reporters do research on it.  Now, that's real interactive reporting right there.  Usually, Ben Steelman does the researching as he did on this one.

May 10, 2010 "Mr Reporter: Do any descendants of Major James Reilly still live in the area?"

Quite a few still in the Wilmington area.  James Reilly (1822-1896) was born in Ballydonaugh, Ireland, and moved at an early age to the United States and later joined the Army's artillery, serving under General Winfield Scott in the Mexican War where he was in most every engagement up to the occupation of Mexico City.

After the war, he was strongly recommended for a commission in the Regular U.S. Army (he was an enlisted man who had not attended West Point.  According to tradition, one W.H.C. Whiting (later Confederate general) was a particular champion.  But, Reilly was passed over.

January 1861 found Reilly as an ordnance sergeant and only occupant of Fort Johnson in Smithville (now Southport), North Carolina, when state  militia came and demanded his surrender, which he did.  However, since the state had not seceded, the governor made them return the fort.

Jumping the Gun a Bit, That Militia.  --Old B-Runner

Friday, August 17, 2012

New Method for Conserving Artifacts Found?-- Part 2

Currently, in order to stabilize iron objects from the sea, they have to be placed in a chemical bath or electrolysis used to leach out salt.  A lot of this technology came out back in 1962, starting with the recovery of the cargo from the blockade-runner Modern Greece off Fort Fisher, North Carolina.  Right now, this process is also being used on the turret of the USS Monitor.

The new processes experimented on metal shavings and bolts from the Hunley.  It took 18 months using traditional methods to conserve other blocks, but just ten days under subcritical treatment.  The newest reactor holds 40 liters and is now being used to conserve a shell from the Fort Sumter National Monument.

Two years ago, it took six years to conserve two cannons from the CSS Alabama.  Using the subcritical process would have taken just six months.  The next step in the new technology might be to make a chamber big enough to hold the eight-ton cannons from the USS Monitor which are currently being conserved in the traditional way in Virginia.

Quite a Scientific Breakthrough.  --Old B-Runner

New Method for Conserving Artifacts Found? -- Part 1

From the August 11th Charleston West Virginia Gazette-Mail "South Carolina scientists trim years in conserving artifacts" by Bruce Smith, AP.

Clemson University scientists have succeeded in conserving Civil War shot and a ballast block from the Confederate submarine Hunley using a subcritical and supercritical treatment that could revolutionize the way historic artifacts are conserved.  This was just a theory a decade ago.

In the subcritical process, water is put under intense heat and pressure which has unique dissolving characteristics.  The item is put into a reactor vessel and salts that can cause deterioration are quickly removed.

A small supercritical reactor is at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center in North Charleston, where the Hunley is being saved.  In the supercritical process, carbon dioxide is subjected to intense heat and pressure to remove moisture and preserve cork from shipwrecks.

I'm not sure what all this is about, but to speed up conservation would be a great thing.  Once we get it, I'm always clamoring to see it right away.

More to Come.  --Old B-R'er

USS Alligator: The Union's Submarine-- Part 2

MID-JULY 1862-- 

After assuming command of the submarine, Lt. Thomas O. Selfridge traveled to the New York Navy Yard to recruit volunteers from the receiving ship USS North Carolina (the old ship-of-the-line).  Expecting no success, he is surprised when so many volunteer and has to choose from among them.

AUGUST 6, 1862

Selfridge and crew take the Alligator on its first voyage.  The results of this and others are included in Selfridge's critical report, which ends his association with the Alligator.  He is given command of the uSS Cairo of the Mississippi River Squadron.  His fourteen hand-picked crewmen accompany him.

The Alligator's biggest problem according to Selfridge was its oar propulsion system.  De Villerei's adoption of oars was odd, since the original submarine he sailed down the Delaware River used a screw propeller.

Most Folk Don't Know the US Navy Had Its Own Submarine.  --Old B-Runner

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: August 16th to 17th, 1862


A joint Army-Navu expedition up the Mississippi River as far as Helena as far as the Yazoo River.  Landed at various points en route.  Captured a steamer above Vicksburg, dispersed Confederate troop encampments and destroyed a newly erected battery 20 miles up the Yazoo River.

One of the ships on the expedition was the USS General Bragg.  Kind of strange that they would have aship named after a Confederate general.

Confederate Sec. of Navy wrote about the South's desperate need of iron for its ironclads.  He wants the Congress to increase supply.  Scrap iron being collected and "rolling railroad iron into plates."


Union naval force bombard Corpus Christi, Texas and attempted to land and seize a Confederate battery, but driven off.  Lack of troops to occupy Corpus Christi, Sabine City and Galveston kept Farragut's ships holding these ports, but they kept them under blockade.


A joint landing party from the USS Ellis, under command of Master Benjamin H. Porter and Army boats destroyed Confederate salt works, a battery and barracks near Swansboro, NC.

Old B-Runner

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

USS Alligator: The Union's Submarine-- Part 1

From the Civil War Submarine/Naval Chronology.  A really handy site listing events in both services in different colors so it makes it real easy to distinguish from them.  Quite a bit was going on with the USS Alligator around this time, 150 years ago.

JULY 4, 1862--  The tug Fred Kopp leaves the James River, Virginia, and tows the Alligator to the Philadelphia Navy Yard.  On the same day, the USS Maratanzas captures the CSS Teaser and found on board detailed plans for the new CSS Virginia II, which is nearing completion.  The Alligator is immediately recalled Washington Navy Yard,  but its civilian crew declines the mission.

MID-JULY--  The Alligator is at the Wsahington Navy Yard (you have to wonder if President Lincoln came down to look at it as he was always interested in new technology and this was definitely something new.  After all, he was looking at the Rafael gun in August 1862.

Lt. Thomas O. Selfridge, the hero of the USS Cumberland--CSS Virginia battle (and, later, sinker of ships), has been appointed to command the submarine.

Selfridge Was Especially Hard on Ships Beginning With the Letter "C."  --Old B-Runner

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: August 13th to 15th,1862-- Confederate Ironclads


Admiral Du Pont reporting on Confederate rams and ironclads at Charleston and Savannah wrote that the CSS Savannah was more of a floating battery with eight ten-inch guns.  Has list, leaks and not enough power to go against the stream.  It definitely wasn't the Fingal.  (Probably referring to the CSS Georgia.

The Charleston vessels weren't ready yet and he was hoping would move along slowly.

The success of the CSS Virginia caused the Confederacy to make every effort to launch ironclads, but lack of critical material and industrial facilities prevented their rapid deployment.  And lack of power was a huge problem.


Commander Wilkes, commanding the James River Flotilla to cover McClellan's left wind withdrawing from Harrison's Landing.

Old B-Runner

Saturday, August 11, 2012

USS Lodona: Back to Hell Gate

Back on my August 4th Naval Happenings I wrote that the USS Unadilla had captured the British blockade-running steamer Lodina at Hell Gate, Georgia, and that led to one of my famous two hour detours to find out more about that place, which I had never heard of before.

I also had never heard of a blockade-runner by that name.  Thanks to good old Wikipedia, I learned more.

The Lodona was a bark-rigged iron screw steamer built at Kingston-upon-Hull, England in 1862 and owned by Z.C. Pearson of London.  It was evidently captured very early in its career if not on its first attempt through the blockade. 

It was taken to Philadelphia under Lt. C.H. Greene and condemned, making for a nice payday for the Unadilla's crew.  Of course, the Navy saw that this would be a perfect new ship to pursue other runners and it was purchased in prize court 20 Sept 1862, and after renovation for blockade duty, commissioned as the USS Lodona in Philadelphia 5 Jan 1863.

Blockade-Runners Capturing B-R's, Who'd A-Thought?  --Old B-Runner

Friday, August 10, 2012

It Happened Again

One little search ended up being two hours and still didn't get it all.  As I said before, no wonder it takes so long to do these things.

Earlier today, I posted about a group of Confederate Veterans taking a 48th anniversary excursion to Fort Morgan guarding the entrance of Mobile Bay on the 49th anniversary of the battle.

I thought there was just one UCV (United Confederate Veterans) camp in Mobile, Camp 11 Raphael Semmes.  Turns out, there was a second one, Camp 675 Jones M. Withers (part of the name mentioned in the article about the excursion, the other being Buchanan).

Never heard of this Withers guy either.  Had to do research.

Then, while looking at the lost of UCV camps, I came across that of No. 797, the Thomas Ruffin Camp from Goldsboro NC, my hometown.  Never heard of it or him, so had to, of course, do some research.

Two Hours Later and NO Blog Entries.  --Old B-R'er

Confederate Survivors of Battle of Mobile Bay Celebrate the 48th Anniversary

From the July 21st Mobile (Al) Press Register.  From the July 21, 1912, Press Register.

Members of the Withers and Buchanan Survivors Camp No. 675, United Confederate Veterans will be having a bay excursion and picnic to Fort Morgan on Tuesday August 5th, the 48th anniversary of the Battle of Mobile Bay.

Nearly all members were at the battle fighting Farragut from the ramparts of the three lower bay forts: Morgan, Gaines and Powell or from the few Confederate naval vessels.

I always like when I come across a post-war account of things pertaining to it.

The Brave Defenders.  --Old B-Runner

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The USS Unadilla: Back to Hell Gate and Then Fisher

From the Coastal Guide.

This was the Union ship that captured the blockade-runner Lodona at Hell Gate, Georgia, 150 years ago.  Like I said, one thing led to another and there went a couple hours of research in an ever-expanding ring.

The USS Unadilla was one of 23 "90-Day Gunboats" built early in the war to provide the US Navy with ships desperately needed for the blockade.  The ship reported to duty with the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron and, on July 29th, along with the USS Huron and Madgie, exchanged heavy gunfire with Fort McAllister, Georgia, (near where the Unadilla captured the Lodona).

On August 4, 1862, it captured the British blockade-running steamer Lodona while patrolling between the Ogeechee and Vernon rivers.  The runner was carrying a cargo of foodstuffs, dry goods and building materials.  The Lodona later became a US Naval ship.

The Unadilla later took part in both battles of Fort Fisher as well as the capture of Fort Anderson in the Cape Fear River afterwards in the Wilmington Campaign.

At Fort Fisher.  --Old B-R'er

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: August 8th to 11th ,1862-- Farragut Gets Vindictive


Confederate Secretary of Navy Mallory wrote Commander Bulloch in London that he was glad the Navy's credit (access to money) was good in England and needed to be maintained.  He was endeavoring to secure more funds, but the interest rate was 200-210%.  John Fraser & Co. of Charleston was handling the funds (also having a branch in England).


Rear Admiral Farragut reported that he had partially destroyed Donaldsonville, Louisiana, in reprisal for guerrillas firing on his ships from there.


Rear Admiral Farragut received his promotion from flag officer to rear admiral and "hoisted my flag at the main."  He lauded his fleet, "Let it be your pride to show the world that danger has no greater terror for you in one form than in another; that you are as ready to meet the enemy in the one shape as in the other, and that you, with your wooden vessels, have never been alarmed by fire rafts, torpedoes, chain booms, ironclad rams, ironclad gunboats, or forts."

Old B-Runner

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Secessionville's Importance Often Overlooked

From the June 14th Charleston (SC) Post and Courier by Brian Hicks.

It's not a famous battle, but had the Union won, it might have been huge as Charleston might have fallen.

June 16th is the 150th anniversary of it.

In the spring of 1862, the Union was on the move to take James Island after receiving information froom Robert Smalls that Confederate troops were not properly guarding the mouth of the Stono River.  In early June, 6,000 Union troops landed with little reconnaissance.  For two weeks, small confrontations took place across the island.

On June 16th, two divisions of U.S. troops charged Tower Battery, later renamed Fort Lamar in Secessionville, a James Island area named for an earlier dispute (not South Carolina's secession).

Confederates at the Tower Battery had worked late into the night shoring up defenses and were aided by reinforcements from Fort Johnson.

Although outnumbered three -to-one, they fought off the attacks.  In five hours time, there were three attacks and by 9 AM, the Federals were retreating.

It would be another year before the Union mounted another serious threat to James Island.

I remember driving out to Folly Beach a few years back and seeing a sign for Secessionville, but didn't know anything about it.  Now, I do.

So, That Secessionville.  --Old B-Runner

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Rafael a Machine Gun, Not a Repeating Cannon

In the last post, I mentioned that President Lincoln and two members of his cabinet witnessed the testing of the Rafael repeating cannon at the Washington Navy Yard under the guidance of John A. Dahlgren, noted for development of the Dahlgren cannons.

Evidently, this was taken to mean that the Rafael was a cannon that could be fired very rapidly.  Further research would indicate that the Rafael was actually a machine gun.  I'll be writing about it in tomorrow's Saw the Elephant Blog since it was intended more for Army use.

When Is a Rafael Not a Rafael?  --Old B-R'er

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: August 5th to August 7th, 1862: Loss of the CSS Arkansas


U.S. Naval forces aide Army in defense of Baton Rouge and defeat Confederate attack.


The CSS Arkansas, under temporary command of Lt.Henry Stevens, became unmanageable after engine failure while advancing to support the Confederate attack on Baton Rouge.  Stevens ordered it destroyed to prevent capture.  Regular Arkansas commander Brown had become ill and was not on the ship at the time, knew that critical repairs were needed on the ship and had ordered Stevens not to move her until his return.

However, Confederate General Earl Van Dorn had ordered the Arkansas into battle to ensure the success of his attack on Baton Rouge which would have reopened the important Red River supply line to the Confederates.


President Lincoln and Secretaries Seward and Stanton visited Captain Dahlgren at the Washington Navy Yard for a two hour demonstration of the "Rafael" repeating cannon.  Later, Dahlgren took the group on board a steamer to cool off and rest.

CSS Florida departed Nassau under Wilmington, NC, native Lt. John Newland Maffitt.

Old B-Runner

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Second Saturday at Fort Fisher Again Next Week

From the Visit NC site "2nd Saturday: "Spies, Signals and Secrets at Fort Fisher."

August 11th will be the final Second Saturday observation at Fort Fisher for the year.  I was fortunate to go to the last one.  This, of course, means re-enactors and cannon firings.

Hands-on activities will be available including the exploring of the signal flag alphabet and creation of cipher disks.  A discussion will be held about the life of Confederate spy Rose O'Neal Greenhow, who lost her life when the blockade-runner Condor ran aground at Fort Fisher.

Guided tours of the fort will also be given.

Sure Would Like to Be There.  --Old B-Runner

Friday, August 3, 2012

A Walk Around Fort Fisher-- Part 4

I mentioned the plaque located at Big Daddy's Seafood Restaurant in Kure Beach which said this is where Union forces landed in the attacks on Fort Fisher.  The guide said that that information was incorrect.  The Navy Column landed at where Big Daddy's is today.  The Army landed farther north at what is today Carolina Beach.
Located near the front of the Fort Fisher Visitors Center and  Museum is a new Modern Greece blockade-runner display.  Along with the history of the ship, there are other artifacts recovered from the wreck back in 1962, the 100th anniversary of its sinking.

In addition, there is a plate from the blockade-runner Kate which brought yellow fever to Wilmington in August 1862.

Of interest were examples of two types of coal burned in the steamers.  One was bituminous, rather soft and dull, and the other anthracite, a shiny hard coal.  Anthracite was by far the preferred coal to burn when running the blockade as it was essentially smokeless.and the runners did not want blockaders spotting their smoke and giving chase.

I Could Have Spent Lots More Time at Fort Fisher, But Sister Julie Was Not Enjoying It At All.  --Old B-Runner

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Why It Takes So Long To Do These Confounded Blogs

OK, yesterday, while doing my Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago entry, I mentioned that on August 4, 1862, that the USS Unadilla had captured a British blockade-runner named the Lodona at Hell Gate, Georgia.  I'd never heard of Hell Gate, Georgia, so looked it up and found that it was near Savannah (I had an entry about it yesterday).  While looking for information on it, I came across a town called Georgia, Vermont, which had the nickname Hell's Gate which it got during the War of 1812.  Well, I had to check that out as well and blogged about it on my War of 1812 blog.

Then, I looked up the service record of the USS Unadillo and found out it was one of the 23 "90 Day Gunboats" constructed in that length of time at the beginning of the war and that it had participated in both battles of Fort Fisher and the capture of Fort Fisher.

Then, I found out that the blockade-runner Lodona became the USS Ladona and captured other blockade-runners.  Its first commander, Edmund R. Colhoun later became a rear-admiral and commanded the monitor USS Saugus at both battles of Fort Fisher where he was commended.

No wonder it takes me so long to do these blogs.

Small World.  --Old B-R'er

A Walk Around Fort Fisher-- Part 3

The Confederate defenders of Fort Fisher, besides being extremely outnumbered by their Union foes (just the Naval Column had more men than the entire fort), they were ourgunned by the Union Navy.  Just one ship, the USS Minnesota, mounted more cannons than the entire fort.

Another Union advantage was that seven of their regiments were armed with the new Spencer repeating rifles which could fire seven shots before reloading, plus, they were breech-loading.

How hot was the action?  Seventy Medals of Honor were given out afterwards for heroism.  The USMC received 17.

The highlight of the tour was when the guide looked at us when we were at Sheppard's Battery and said "This will be loud.!"  A bunch of re-enactors dressed in Confederate artillery uniforms were on top of the battery preparing to fire off the fort's 32-pdr cannon (not an original one).  The guide said it was a $30,000 gift from Canada .

Now, I've been at a lot of re-enactments and there is always field artillery firing, but I had the idea that this much-larger cannon would be much louder.  It was!!  Considerably louder and we were standing way below the battery and behind it.

It takes a five-pound charge of powder to fire it each time, about $60.  Obviously, they rarely fire it, but always do on a Second Saturday program which was why I was so glad to be there.  They've had the gun for quite a few years now, but I had never seen it fired.

Had they been firing a real 32-pdr. shell, it would have taken 10-12 pounds of powder in the charge.

I'm Still Walkin'.  --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Walk Around Fort Fisher-- Part 2

The tour guide said that the state rents Fort Fisher from the Sunny Point Ammunition Depot, across the river for a whopping $1 a year.  This is the largest army ammunition depot in the country.  I always thought Sunny Point was a strange name for something containing something that dangerous.

During World War II, US anti-aircraft gunners trained at Fort Fisher, causing some of the fort to be torn down for a landing strip (where the parking lot and visitors center are located today).  Recently, he had a walk and some of the tourists were older gentlemen who had trained at Fisher in the 1940s (when it was part of the huge Camp Davis, north of Wilmington).  One was a 92-year-old former captain who commanded the guns that shot down the very first German jet.  Unfortunately, the captain just recently died.

Col. William Lamb was transferred from Fort St. Phillip (later Fort Anderson) across the Cape Fear River because of the drunkenness that occurred in Fort Fisher's garrison after the stranded blockade-runner Modern Greece's liquor stores were discovered.  Someone was needed to restore order.

He was fortunate enough to have his wife and children join him at Fort Fisher.  Even though his wife, Daisy, was from Rhode Island, he loved her dearly and even commissioned a $3,500 stained glass window at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Norfolk (Lamb's hometown) after her death around the turn of the century.

He also kept a diary which Daisy must have read as he carefully worded one entry "Daisy cross today...but a great wife."  Obviously she looked at it as she added a comment.

Smart Guy, That William Lamb.  --Old B-Runner

Hell Gate, Georgia

In the last post I mentioned the blockade-runner Ladona that was captured August 4, 1862, at Hell Gate, Georgia, by the USS Unadilla.  I'd never heard of a Hell Gate, Georgia, so had to do some research.

It is located near Savannah, south of Skidaway Island, east of the town of Richmond Hill in Chatham County.  I also saw that it is a channel and there is fishing there.

It's lat. and long. N-31.8672, W-81.08372.

My sister, Julie, lives near there.  I wonder if she has ever heard anything about it?

I also found a connection with a town in Vermont named Georgia that got the name Hell's Gate during the War of 1812, so will write about that in my War of 1812 Blog, Not So Forgotten.

Old B-R'er

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: August 1st to 5th,1862-- Modern Torpedoes?


USS Penobscot captured sloop Lizzie off New Inlet, NC, with cargo including salt.


William H. Aspinwall, a Union merchant, and big booster of ironclads, wroteAsst. sec. of the Navy Fox suggesting a weaponry innovation that would be the forerunner of the modern torpedo, "...a properly shaped cylindrical shot fired 6 or 8 feet under the water....  At short range great effect could be attained below the iron plating....  I have  the plan for firing a gun projecting 6 or 6 or 10 feet below the waterline of a vessel, which I think would worl well, if it is found that a shot can be relied on to do the intended injury-- under water."

Of course, during the war, the term torpedo referred to what today would be classified as mines.  The closest either side came to a torpedo moving through the water were Cushing's launch ramming a torpedo into the CSS Albemarle and the Confederate submarine Hunley's ramming a torpedo into the USS Housatonic.

In 1864, when Admiral Farragut said, "Damn the torpedoes!  Full speed ahead!" he was referring to the mines near Fort Morgan in Mobile Bay.


USS Unadilla captured British steamer Lodona attempting to run the blockade at Hell Gate, Georgia.  Normally, I only list blockade-runners being captured off Wilmington, but the Name Hell Gate intrigued me.


Asst. Sec. Navy Fox reports that the Richmond Inquirer had a story about the first meeting of an army and navy officer after McClellan's withdrawal after the Seven Day Battles had the Army officer throwing his arms around the Navy man's neck and saying, "Oh, my dear Sir, we ought to have a gunboat in every family."  The Navy helped cover McClellan's withdrawal.

Old B-Runner