Fort Fisher

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

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Yellow Fever Strikes Wilmington 150 Years Ago-- Part 4: Three Possibilities

There are three possible explanations for how yellow fever arrived in Wilmington.  The first and most widely held was that the blockade-runner Kate brought it.  The second is that it was already in Wilmington.  Yet a third, as suggested in a September 29th letter (150 years ago today), to the Wilmington Journal saying that the Union conspired to spread it.

On Nov. 17th, the Journal reported 654 dead out of an estimated 1500 cases.  The Rev. Pritchard continuing preaching at his church and was among one of the last to die, on November 14th and is buries beside Dr. Dickson in Oakdale Cemetery.

Four hundred of the poorer dead are buried together at Yellow Fever Hill in Oakdale.   More affluent victims were buried in individual plots elsewhere in the cemetery.

Quite an Epidemic.  --Old B-Runner

Friday, September 28, 2012

Straw Hats in the Navy?

From the Yahoo! Civil War Navy and Marine Forum.

There was a question in the forum as to whether in spring, the ship's purser would buy straw material for making hats for the crew.

Steve Sessoms, an expert on the Navy of the era, replied that he had never heard that it was a Navy-wide thing, but Paymaster Keeler of the USS Monitor in his diary wrote that he went ashore at Hampton Roads to buy straw hats for the crew, but couldn't find any.  He did buy a quantity of straw and brought it back to the ship where the crew set to working making their own hats.  Those that knew how to helped show ones with no clue, but they still ended up with all sorts of styles and off-looking hats.

I'd Have Liked to See a Picture of Those Hats.  --Old B-R'er

Yellow Fever Strikes Wilmington 150 Years Ago-- Part 3: "Fires of Rosin and Lightwood"

The Sept. 26, 1862, Charleston (SC) Courier reported that Wilmington Mayor Dawson had sent dispatches asking that city for help, "The yellow fever is epidemic here, increasing rapidly, and our physicians are nearly exhausted.  Some of them are already sick," he wrote.

Civilians and military rushed to help, but it was too late for Dr. Dickson, who died September 28th, 150 years ago today.

In September 30th, the Confederate Army assigned three surgeons to temporary duty in Wilmington.  One was Dr. William T. Wragg, of Charleston who was an expert on the disease.  He wrote of his arrival, "At the time of our arrival the alarm and excitement of the population were thoroughly aroused, a large part of the inhabitants had fled from the city to seek refuge in other places, and fires of rosin and lightwood were burnt in the streets in every portion of this city."

Dr. William George Thomas contended that it arrived on the Kate.  Wragg maintained that it was already in the city, saying that ten patients were already displaying jaundice and other yellow fever symptoms before August 6th.

Well, the Burning Fires Would Discourage Mosquitoes Somewhat.  --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: September 26th to 30th-- Mobile Support


The USS State of Georgia and Mystic chased a blockade-running schooner (name unknown) ashore at New Inlet, NC, and destroyed it.

Rear Admiral Du Pont wants "mobile support" in the form of ships holding 1000 tons of coal and with hoisting equipment to be on blockade station.  This way, the blockading ships would not have to leave station and sail to supply depots to replenish.

This antedated the modern use of fleet oilers.  Store ships, receiving ships and machinery repair hulks were already being used at Port Royal, the principal base of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron.


The USS State of Georgia and Mystic  captured British blockade-running steamer Sunbeam near New Inlet, NC.


Asst. Sec. of the Navy Fox wrote Commodore Blake, Superintendent of the Naval Academy, now located at Newport, RI, that "The seamanship is of utmost importance, in my opinion, notwithstanding steam, and iron clads.  I share the old Jack Tar feeling that a sailor can do anything, and that a man is not goof for much, who is not a thorough seaman."

D.D. Porter was afraid training was getting too scientific.

Old B-R'er

Yellow Fever Strikes Wilmington 150 Years Ago-- Part 2: "Wagon-loads of Corpses"

On September 13th, the Wilmington Daily Journal noted that the weather was warm and mosquitoes numerous (of course, people didn't know the mosquito connection until 900 when Major Walter Reed discovered the connection).

Also, on the 13th, Wilmington physicians met and determined there indeed was a yellow fever epidemic.  Dozens of cases were reported that same day.  Many families began leaving town.  Soon, some 6,000 of the city's 10,000 residents were gone.

Dr. James H. Dickson was the first physician to report the disease:  "Since Tuesday the 9th I have seen five cases of the disease.  Of those two have died, one is discharged as convalescent and two are still under treatment with doubtful prospects."  His letter was printed in the September 16th Daily Journal.

The wealthy Bellamy family left town under advice of Dr. Dickson, who came down with the disease himself on September 24th.

John H. Bellamy later wrote, "I recollect well, having stood at our home on Market and Fifth Streets, watching wagon-loads of corpses go by to Oakdale Cemetery,of those who had died of the malignant disease."

More to Come.  --Old B-Runner

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Yellow Fever Strikes Wilmington 150 Years Ago-- Part 1

From the August 2, 2012, Wilmington (NC) Star-News "Historic yellow fever attack led to 'agon-loads of corpses" by Jim Ware.

In the accompanying photo, Dave Rice is examining the headstone of Elizabeth Day at Oakdale Cemetery in Wilmington "Born Oct. 15th, 1830.  Died of Yellow Fever Oct. 15,1862.  Aged 32 years."

On August 6, 1862, the blockade-runner Kate docked at 2 PM in Wilmington after a voyage from Nassau through the blockade.  Along with its valuable cargo, it also brought, many believe, the dreaded yellow fever.  It didn't remain long and left carrying a load of cotton and other goods.

Much of this account comes from the memoir of the Rev. John L. Pritchard, pastor of the First Baptist Church in town.

At first, yellow fever was not acknowledged by physicians or suspected by the people until the end of August.  They simple believed it could not happen at Wilmington.

The first death attributed to it was 36-year-old, German-born wood and coal dealer Lewis Swartzman, who died Sept. 9th.  He had a business near the Kate's wharf at the foot of Market Street.

James Sprunt said his family physician told him to move his family to the country.

It Can't Happen Here.  --Old B-R'er

Back to the Blakelys: The CSS Alabama's Blakelys

From the CSS Alabama Association.

The Alabama's pivot Blakely, the 100-pdr. was so light that it became overheated after a few rounds, causing the charge to have to be reduced.  Another problem was a tremendous recoil. essentially, after a few rounds, it would be of little use in a prolonged engagement.  Probably one of the problems when the ship faces a real warship like the USS Kearsarge.

From the Patriot Files.

The 100-pdr was recovered from the wreck June 29, 1995, and it was found to be loaded.  On March 10, 1995, the shell was carefully defused by French explosive experts.  The percussion-type fuse was unscrewed and removed without difficulty using a specially-made tool for just that purpose.  The black powder inside the shell was found to be perfectly dry and ready to do its duty had there been a spark.

Attempts were made three months later to remove the shell.

Currently, the gun is undergoing conservation in Cannes, France.

The Alabama mounted eight cannons, six of which were of Blakely patent.

Two of the cannons were of Royal Navy style.  Four of the 32-pdrs were Blakelys.  Of course, so was the 7-inch, 100-pdr pivot.  There was also a 68-pdr smoothbore gun.

One of the 32-pdrs had a percussion lock mechanism and stamped on the top of gun are the words "Fawcett Preston & Co., Liverpool 1862."  Blakely made similar-type guns for Confederate ships and forts.

So, That's a Blakely.  --Old B-Runner

Monday, September 24, 2012

Is It the CSS Alabama's Flag?

From the June 12, 2011, Tarrytown-Sleepy Hollow (NY) Patch.

The Historical Society of Tarrytown -Sleepy Hollow has a flag said to have come from the Confederate Raider CSS Alabama which resides in a large glass case, supported with acid-free paper.  The staff has been working on validating its Alabama connection.

They say that when it's unfurled that it takes up an entire room.

It has been in the society's collection a long time and was originally labelled as the flag from the Alabama.  If it is confirmed as such, it will be sent to the History Museum of Mobile (Al) if they can get something in exchange.  The Alabama museum has a large CSS Alabama collection, including one of the ship's cannons.

I looked at the Wikipedia article on the CSS Alabama and it didn't mention this flag.

In addition, the historical society has  a small display dedicated to John L. Worden, the USS Monitor's original commander, Lt. John L. Worden, who was born, according to the Patch, just north of Sleepy Hollow in Scarborough.  Wikipedia lists him as being born in Sparta, Mount Pleasant Township, Westchester County.

It Will  Be Interesting to Find Out If the Flag Indeed Came From the Alabama.  --Old B-Runner

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Blakely Rifles-- Part 3: Some Specific Guns

One famous Blakely gun was "The Widow Blakely," a 7.5-inch rifle used in the Confederate defense of Vicksburg, Mississippi, in 1863.  On May 22nd, a shell exploded in the gun's barrel while it was firing at a Union gunboat.  It took part of the end of the muzzle off.  The Confederates cut what had been a 124-inch long barrel back to 100 inches and continued to use it as a mortar until the city fell.

It was taken to West Point as a war trophy where it remained for 96 years when it was returned to Vicksburg and is still on display about a mile from where it was located during the battle.

The CSS Alabama had a pivoting 100-pdr Blakely rifle on its forecastle.  it was recovered from the wreck.

The "Lady Polk" is a restored Blakely 12-pdr field piece that had been used at Fort Pemberton.  Today, it is at the Cottonlandia Museum, along with the ship's flag and fragments from the USS Star of the West.

More to Come.  --Old B-Runner

Friday, September 21, 2012

Blakely Rifles-- Part 2

Some 400 of his cannons were produced, most made of iron.  Blakely also sold some to Russia and apparently, the state of Massachusetts bought an eight 9-inch and four 11-inch ones.

He continued to experiment with designs and had at least five and possibly as many as ten different designs with several varieties each.  There were at least nine varieties of the 3.5-inch, 12-pdr rifles (I believe the one in Raleigh is one of these).

The two primary rifling types used appears to be flat-sided bores or bores with grooves cut in them into which flanges on shells would fit.

Variations included:
2.5-inch, 6-pdrs  (length and weight)
3.5-inch, 12-pdr.
3.75-inch, 16-pdr.
4-inch, 18-pdr.
4.5-inch, 20-pdr.
6.4-inch, 100-pdr.
and larger models.

Getting a Bit Too Technical for Me.  --Old B-R'er

Blakely Rifles-- Part 1

This is referring to the blog entry from Tuesday, the dedication of the Fort Fisher cannon at the North Carolina History Museum in Raleigh.  Wednesday I wrote about why it takes me so long to do these blogs.  Like I said, I was unfamiliar with Blakely rifled cannons, so had to do some research which ended up in many areas and over more hours than I intended putting into the effort.

From Good Ol' Wikipedia.

Blakely rifles were a series of muzzle-loading rifled cannons designed by British Army officer Theophilus Alexander Blakely.  These guns were best known for their use by the Confederacy.

Blakely tried to interest the British government in his design, but with no success.  His design involved a cast iron core with wrought iron or steel binding to reinforce the breech.  His designs were very similar to those of Sir William George Armstrong (whose 150-pdr gun was at Fort Fisher).  Blakely believed that Armstrong had infringed on his patent.  When Armstrong became superintendent of the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich, Blakely stopped offering his design to the British Army.

He sold his cannons mostly to the Confederacy, though he didn't actually manufacture the guns himself, but contracted out to companies like Fawcett, Preston & Co. of Liverpool (where the one in Raleigh was made), Low Moor Iron Co. and the Blakely Ordnance Co. of London (possibly his?).

Armstrong or Blakely.  Whose Is It?  --Old B-Runner

Thursday, September 20, 2012

My Great Summer at Fort Fisher-- Part 9

From my journal, July 30, 1982.

"At closing (of Fort Fisher), Mary (Hollowell) drove me to the Blockade Runner where we met Jim Legg who works there.  We bought some beer and then backtracked to Fort Fisher.  Jim has done extensive research and legwork on the fighting that occurred there and up the peninsula.

He showed me Camp Wyatt, the Union camp and lines, lunettes, bullet trench (near Dowd Road, the site of the battle and the entrenchments that are left on Sugar Loaf.  The battle site is primarily a big lake now as that is the place all the sand on the beach came from..  Jim could hardly mention the Army Corps of Engineers and not put expletives in front of it.  It is always sad to lose a Civil War site of any sort but progress must go on.  Jim had even prepared an accurate map for us to use."

This Was Quite the Walk-About.  --Old B-R'er

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: September 20th to 25th,1862-- Riding the Storm Out


Answering a letter to Asst. sec. of Navy Fox,  who was pushing for the capture of Charleston, SC, Rear Admiral Du Pont replied that it was a much bigger job than Port Royal.

However, this same day, he wrote Senator Grimes in Iowa: "The thorn in my flesh is Charleston, they have been allowed seventeen months to prepare its defenses-- and in no part of the wretched Confederacy has there been more industry, energy, and intelligent zeal, and science displayed."

Throughout the fall, the ironclads he would need were being built.


Writing during a storm ("I suppose the true equinoctial gale"), Rear Admiral Farragut noted that "these are the times that try the commander of a squadron.  I could not sleep last night, thinking of the blockaders.  It is rough work lying off a port month in and month out...I have 6 vessels off Mobile, so that one can always come in for coal.  They are at all times breaking down and coming in for repairs."


The USS Kensington, Rachel Seaman and Henry Janes bombard Confederate batteries at Sabine Pass, Texas until the defenders abandon the works and spike the guns.  Sabine City surrendered the next day.

Old B-Runner

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

So, That's Why It Takes So Long to Do These Blogs

Two nights ago, I came across an article in the September 17th Raleigh (NC) News & Observer about a cannon from Fort Fisher that was to be dedicated at its new display in front of the North Carolina History Museum.  Well, that led to one thing after another.  This refers to the last post from yesterday.

Firstly, it was a Blakely cannon and I didn't know anything about Blakely cannons.  Some more research and I found out that these were English cannons of a wide variety of sizes and that there was a big Blakely gun in pivot on the CSS Alabama along as several more of its guns.  Then, there was a "Widow Blakely" cannon at Vicksburg and another one called "The Lady Polk" that was at Fort Pemperton.

The CSS Alabama gun was found loaded with a shell set to be fired.

Then, the gun was captured at what is called the Hebe Skirmish.  When the blockade-runner Hebe ran aground seven miles north of Fort Fisher, and out of its gun range, a flying battery was sent to protect it and the Blakely in front of the museum was one of the two guns, the other being a Whitworth.  Initially successful in fending Union blockaders off, the USS Minnesota arrived on the scene and used its 48-guns to force the Confederates to abandon the pieces and led to their capture.

I then found several accounts of the battle/skirmish.

Then, I came across a Rear-Admiral Joseph P. Fyffe who had been an officer aboard the Minnesota at the Hebe fight..

Then, it turns out there was a Dutch freighter named the Hebe which sank after a night time collision with a British sub-chaser in 1942 off South Carolina.  That led to more research, along with two other ships sunk in 1942 by German U-Boats in 1942.

I'll be writing about these stories, but...

No Wonder It takes Me So Long to Do These Doggone Blogs.  --Old B-R'er

The USS Monitor Still Serves the Nation

From the March 8, 2012, Times-Union.

The USS Monitor wreck site is the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary, a one-mile in diameter park created Jan. 30, 1975, shortly after the ship's site was discovered.

Fifteen percent of the Monitor is at the Mariner's Museum in Newport News, Virgina, and the remaining 85% in the ocean.  The turret and other parts were rescued as the rest is in too poor of a shape to be removed, unfortunately.

The iron plates of the ship were made in South Troy, New York.

Still Serving her Nation.  --Old B-Runner

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Fort Fisher Cannon Dedicated Today in Raleigh

From the September 17th Raleigh (NC) New & Observer "Civil War cannon to be dedicated Tuesday at N.C. history museum" by Jeanna Smialek.

This cannon was used by Confederates at Fort Fisher and now will find a home sitting on a concrete pad in front of the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh's Bicentennial Park.  It is a Blakely cannon, manufactured in 1862 by Fawcett, Preston & Co., of Liverpool, England.

This particular piece was used at the battle over the blockade-runner Hebe which had run aground north of Fort Fisher, guarding New Inlet of the Cape Fear River leading to Wilmington.  This cannon was captured by the USS Minnesota and other gunboats and shipped to Washington, DC, as a war trophy.

It has been at the Washington Navy Shipyard for decades since until the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum at Hatteras requested it for a USS Minnesota display.  When the staff realized it had not been used on the Minnesota, they contacted the Raleigh museum.

The N.C. Museum of History secured a renewable 5-year loan and sent it to East Carolina University where months were spent cleaning and preparing it for display.  Workers there went through many layers of rust and paint and made an exciting discovery.  There was a maker's mark on the weapons carriage.  They also cleared up an inscription concerning the cannon's capture.

Wow, a Fort Fisher Cannon.  --Old B-Runner

USS Plymouth: Also Scuttled at Norfolk

Launched at Boston Navy Yard (which also built such notable ships as the Merrimack, Hartford, Wachusett and Housatonic) in 1844, this sailing ship also mounted 22 guns and its first commander was Henry Henry (I have to wonder what the parents were thinking).

After several service assignments, it accompanied Perry's fleet in the opening of Japan and was used for midshipman training.  In 1858, it tested new naval ordnance under Cmdr. John A. Dahlgren (bet it was a Dahlgren gun).

It was in Norfolk for repairs when it was scuttled April 20, 1861, to prevent capture by Confederates.

I found no mention of whether it was ever raised, so its remains might still be there.

Old B-R'er

USS Germantown: Scuttled at Norfolk

This ship had a very short US career in the war and a fairly short CS one as well.  Probably the only ship to be sunk twice.

Launched in 1847, this sloop of war was first commanded by Franklin Buchanan, who earned much fame as a Confederate Naval officer.

The ship was 150 feet long with a 36-foot beam and 210 crew.  Powered by sails and mounted four 8-inch and eighteen 32-pdr. cannons.

It served in the Mexican War and in the African Squadron, charged with intercepting slave ships.

It had been overhauled completely and waiting to go to sea at Gosport Navy Yard in Virginia when it was scuttled April 20, 1861.

The Confederates later raised it in June and fitted the ship out as a floating battery to protect Craney Island and Norfolk.  It was sunk as an obstruction in the Elizabeth River May 10, 1862, when Norfolk was being abandoned.  The US Navy raised it April 22, 1863, and the hulk sold at auction in Norfolk February 8, 1864.

Sink Me Once, Shame On You.  --Old B-Runner

Monday, September 17, 2012

Confederate Naval Operations on the James River, 1862

From the Civil War Day By Day, UNC Libraries.  Report dated Sept. 12, 1862 from Charles Wilkins, commanding officer of the James River Flotilla to Secretary of Navy, Gideon Welles.

Welles wanted to know the state of the Confederate fleet on the James River.

"1st:  Richmond (Merrimack No. 2). Yorktown, Raleigh, Patrick Henry, Nansemond, Beaufort and Hampton.

2nd:  Ironclad (Richmond) has four 8-inch shell guns, two placed at either end and two in the center, three ports on a side; the forward and after guns pivoted for three ports.

3rd:  Not sure when ironclad (will be) finished--but not soon.  Slow progress.  Only half iron on.  Will be 2 layers, each two inches thick, laid at right angles to each other, in bands 8 inches wide horizontal and vertical on the roof.  her roofing and timber projecting to about 6 feet at water."

A ram was to be placed on its bow and its engine machinery was taken from the "old Arctic."

It is thought that Captain Buchanan will again command.  Captains Pegram, Lee, Davidson, Minor and others command the smaller vessels.

The Yorktown is half ironclad, thickness three and a half inches and will mount 4 side guns and 2 pivot guns, 30-pdr. rifles.

Four  small tugs the size of the Teaser mounting smoothbore and rifled 20-pdrs on pivots: Raleigh, Sumter and Patrick Henry.

The barrier is just above Fort Darling, not below it.  It is almost a solid mass of concrete.

So, there You have It.  --Old B-R'er

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: September 17th to 19th,1862: Roll, Alabama


Rear Admiral S.P. Lee is concerned about the building of the new Confederate ironclad "Merrimack II" at Richmond and wrote to  Asst. sec. of Navy Fox asking that an ironclad be sent to Norfolk.  Essentially, he wanted the USS New Ironsides.  Fox replied to him that he should have the New Ironsides by Sept. 24th saying, "With the Ironsides you will feel no anxiety. She is fast, and has a terrible battery, and is a match for the whole Southern navy.  If the Merrimac [k] #2 comes down I trust they will follow her up and destroy her."

CSS Alabama captured and burned the whaling ship Virginia near the Azores.


CSS Alabama captured and burnedwhaling ship Elisha Dunbar near the Azores.  Semmes decides that since the whaling season in the Azores was now over, he was to switch his operations to the Banks of Newfoundland.


The ram Queen of the West, under Medical Cadet Charles R. Ellet, escorting two transports, had a sharp engagement with Confederate infantry and artillery above Bolivar, Mississippi.

A ship under command of a medical cadet?  But, could that name be the one associated with the Ellet gunboats?

Old B-Runner

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Modern Greece Blockade-Runner Again-- Part 4

This blog entry goes back to May 16th of this year and was the last one before Blogspot decided to go mean on me which led to a month's sabbatical from my entries.

Students arrived Monday, for three days of work.  Most of the water was pumped out of the tanks, leaving a three-foot layer of mostly rotted leaves and muck that had combined to preserve the artifacts extremely well.

For the students, it was kind of a treasure hunt as they did not know what they would be pulling up next.

There were a lot of British-made Enfield rifles, many of which were fused together in bundles that had taken the shape of the box they had been shipped in.  Then, there was tableware, ebony-handled Bowie knives, remnants of scabbards, bayonets, cinderblock-sized stacks of tin sheets, axe heads and chisels.

The artifacts were processed assembly-line style.  First, they were hosed off at a grilled table set up on saw horses.  Then, they were taken to another table covered with white plastic where they were tagged, photographed and logged into a laptop.

Lastly, they were placed in tanks of clean water in a nearby building.

Hopefully, it won't be another fifty years before they're examined again.

As I Said Before, I Sure Would Have Like to Have Been On This Project.  --Old B-Runner

Friday, September 14, 2012

Charleston Harbor Civil War Mapped

From the September 8th Navy Times "Watery battlefield of Charleston Harbor mapped" by Bruce Smith, AP.

Shipwrecks, obstructions and blockade-runners in Charleston Harbor have been mapped out in a project that took nearly as long as the war itself.

James Spirek and others from the University of South Carolina Institute for Archaeology and Anthropology spent almost $500,000 financed by an American Battlefield Protection grant matched by the institute.'

The map includes the locations of the 29 ships in the Stone Fleet and 13 blockade-runner wrecks.The 1st Stone Fleet's wrecks were found by locating ballast mounds in the main shipping channel.  A second group of 13 ships was at another channel, but it wasn't found.  Efforts will be made to locate these later this year.  The Stone Fleets were attempts by the Union to close Charleston to blockade-runners by sinking obsolete ships (mostly whalers) loaded with stones in Charleston Harbor's shipping channels.

Four sunken ironclads were also found.  Three of them are buried under sediment and the 4th, the monitor USS Patapsco is near the main shipping channel.

Most of the wrecks are in areas that are bad for divers with  strong currents and black water.

During the war, Confederates ashore could easily see the Union blockaders, who, at the same time could easily see them.  Both also cracked each other's signal codes so there wasn't a lot of top secrecy.

These findings will be useful to harbor managers, the US Corps of Engineers and historians.  Plans are in the works to increase the depth of the main channel beyond its current 45 feet.

All Civil War Research Is Always Welcome.  --Old B-R'er

Fort Fisher 5th Biggest North Carolina Museum and Historical Attraction in 2010

From the Feb. 22, 2011, RR Newswire.

Attendance figures for state attractions are in and Fort Fisher ranked the fifth highest with 618,373.

The Figures:

1.  Biltmore-- Asheville-- 1,069,359
2.  Fort Macon State Historic Site-- Atlantic Beach--  799,322  (What, Macon outdrew us?)
3.  NC Zoo--  Asheville--  755,531
4.  NC Museum of Natural Sciences--  Raleigh--  708,398
5.  Fort Fisher State Historic Site--  Kure Beach--  618,373

6.  Marbles Kids Museum--  Raleigh--  570,793
7.  Discovery Place--  Charlotte--  530,423
8.  Wright Brothers Memorial--  Kill Devil Hills--  478,391
9.  Museum of Life and Science--  Durham--  433,018
10.  Fort Fisher NC Aquarium--  Kure Beach--  429,883  (Well worth the admission)

13.  NC Museum of History--  Raleigh--  324,200
15.  Fort Raleigh National Historic Site--  Manteo--  305,711
18.  Grandfather Mountain--  Linville--  255,000
20.  Battleship North Carolina--  Wilmington--  209,034
21.  NASCAR Hall of Fame--  Charlotte--  202,460
22.  North Carolina Maritime Museum--  Beaufort--  185,155

Of course, part of Fort Fisher's attendance is based on people coming for the beach park.

Some History Still Popular.  --Old B-Runner

Thursday, September 13, 2012

It Wasn't a Blockade-Runner, It Was a 1923 Ship (Maybe a Rum-Runner)

From September 7th Yahoo! News "Shifting sands from Isaac reveal 1923 shipwreck" by Melissa Nelson Gabriel.

Last week, I wrote about the shipwreck that turned up on shore near Mobile, Alabama's Fort Morgan by Hurricane Isaac.  At the time, there was some conjecture as to whether or not the ship was a blockade-runner.

The schooner Rachel's eight man crew ran aground Oct. 17, 1923, during a tropical storm.  It was heading for Mobile after a stop in Cuba.  All survived, fortunately, as the storm sank another schooner with the loss of all aboard.

The ship was later burned and eventually covered up by sand until Hurricane Camille in 1969, when its burnt timbers were again seen.  Sand was pushed over its remains, only to be revealed again by 1979's Hurricane Frederick and 2004's Ivan.

Michael Bailey saw the 20th century features on the remains and also found a US Army Corps of Engineers mention of it in a shipwreck study.  (So, it definitely was a blockade-runner, too bad.)

The Rachel was built at Mosspoint, Mississippi, at the De Angelo Shipyard and was a common ship for her time.  However, considering that she was coming from Cuba in 1923, she might very-well have been bringing in bootleg liquor because of Prohibition.

Hurricane Isaac uncovered the ship more than any of the others storms.

Now, it must be intentionally recovered with sand because of the danger of people receiving cuts, scrapes and bruises from climbing on it.

Hopefully, it will still be uncovered this January-February when we're in the area.  I'd definitely like to see it.

Let It "Live" a Few Months Longer.  --Old B-Runner

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: September 12th to 16th, 1862: Thanks for My New Rank

From the Civil War Naval Chronology.


Rear Admiral Du Pont wrote to senator Grimes of Iowa thanking him for his tremendous support of the Navy in Congress.  Grimes had strongly backed the creation of the rank of rear admiral.  (I wonder why?)


CSS Alabama seized and burned whaling ship Altamaha near the Azores.


CSS Alabama seized and burned whaling ship Benjamin Tucker near the Azores.  (Evidently, mighty good hunting for Captain Semmes near the Azores.)


Confederate Congress passed a resolution thanking Commander Ebenezer Farrand, CSN, senior officer in command of the combined naval and army forces at Drewry's Bluff for his successful defense of that position May 15th.

CSS Alabama captured and burned whaling ship Courser near the Azores.

Old B-R'er

The Sinking of the Picket-- Part 2

Originally, the occupation of Washington, NC, went well, but the next day, September 6, 1862, Confederate forces counter-attacked.  Gunboats opened fire to support ground troops.

The call to quarters had just been made on the Picket when a tremendous explosion in the powder magazine tore the ship apart, killing 19 of the 24 man crew.  The remaining five, all injured, were rescued by nearby gunboats.

The bodies of the 4 Sag Harbor men were not recovered.  The writer's ancestor, Quartermaster William H. Chester, 22, was among the Sag Harbor dead.  Also killed from Sag Harbor:  Captain Sylvester D. Nichols, 42; Quartermaster Jeremiah Lodowick Hedges, 23; and Seaman Henry B. Howell, 22.

Captain Nicholls was a well-respected and successful whaling skipper.

A plaque was placed July 2012 in Oakland Cemetery in Sag Harbor, for William Chester, but his remains are still on the Picket.  It reads: William H. Chester, Quartermaster, 1st Marine Artillery, GAR, NY.  Killed by an explosion during hostile action on board the USS Pickett at Washington, North Carolina Sept. 6, 1862."

I'm not sure what the Marine Artillery was and not sure why the GAR would be on the plaque.  If that refers to the Grand Army of the Republic,, that was formed until after the war.

Still a Lot of Confusion About the Facts Concerning the Battle and Picket, or Was It Pickett?  --Old B-Runner

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Sinking of the Picket-- Part 1

From the Sag Harbor (NY) Express.

Even though I came across no notice of the 150th anniversary in the Washington, NC, newspaper or any in NC for that matter, I did find mention of the battle and loss of the Picket from a New York newspaper.

It turns out that four of the dead on the Picket were Sag Harbor men, including the captain.

One hundred and fifty years ago, four gave all for the cause.

Earlier in 1862, General Burnside boarded the small Union Army gunboat Picket while crossing the dangerous Hatteras bar into Pamlico Sound in February 1862.

The ship was lost September 6, 1862, during another Burnside expedition into the Confederacy.

The USS Picket was just 45 feet long with a 10-foot beam  It had been fitted out as a gunboat for the US Marine Artillery and actually was an iron barge.  It carried just a 12-pdr. cannon.  It is believed that there were a lot of Sag Harbor boys on it as well as 25 in the whole expedition fleet.

In early September, transports and gunboats entered the Pamlico River and proceeded to Washington.

More to Come.  --Old B-Runner

Monday, September 10, 2012

My Great Summer at Fort Fisher-- Part 8

JULY 30, 1982, FRIDAY

"After lunch, Dad and I went to the Marine Resource Center at Fort Fisher to look at the artifacts recovered from the Monitor.  they have one-third of them on display there this summer and the rest at the other two centers along the North Carolina coast.

After that, he dropped me off at Fort Fisher and I did some more research.  Gehrig and I went through all the maps they had at the center about the fort and area.  That took well over an hour but was interesting.  I also copied down some more newspaper articles about Fort Fisher.

I am acquiring quite a bit of information about the subject this summer.  I will probably have too much for Bob to carry home.  He is always  very worried about how much people take because his company car is so small."

Old B-R'er

The James Eads Turret

From the Sept. 9th Alton (Il) Telegraph.

The Missouri History Museum in St. Louis is extending its Civil War in Missouri exhibit through June 2, 2013.

It includes James Eads' patent model for his "Improved Turret for War Vessels" from 1862.  Eads was responsible for the construction of most of the ironclads on western waters.

From the City of Art site, Early Turret Ships.

The USS Chickasaw, a Winnebago-class monitor built specifically for use on the Mississippi River and its tributaries, had an Eads turret in the bow and an Ericsson turret aft.  The site mentions that there are no drawings of the Eads turret on the web.

What set these turrets apart were that they used steam power to lower the whole turret after firing, where the guns cold be safely reloaded and then raised back into firing position.  Eads turrets were  used on all four Winnebago-class monitors: Milwaukee, Winnebago, Chickasaw and Kickapoo.

These monitors were 970 tons, 226 feet long, 57 foot beam and drew 6 feet of water.

Where'd It Go?  --Old B-Runner

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: September 8th to 11th,1862: Alabama Rolling and the Flying Squadron


Commodore Wilkes ordered to command a "Flying Squadron" to seek out, capture or destroy the CSS Florida and Alabama.  The USS Wachusett, Dacotah, Cimarron, Sonoma, Tioga, Octorara, and Santiago de Cuba assigned to it.  The squadron did capture some blockade-runners, but never the Alabama or Florida.

USS Kingfisher landing party destroys the salt works at St. Joseph's Bay, Florida that could produce 200 bushels a day.   Three days later another salt works destroyed at St. Andrew's Bay, Florida, by USS Sagamore landing party.

CSS Alabama captured and burned whaling ship Ocean Rover near Azores.


CSS Alabama captured and burned whaling ships Alert and Weather Gauge near Azores.


USS Patroon and Uncas engage Confederate batteries at St. John's Bluff, Florida.  Uncas receives damage but force temporary abandonment of the batteries.

Old B-R'er

Isaac Reveals Blockade-Runner or Gin-Runner?

From the September 4th Yahoo! News the Sideshow "Mysterious shipwreck washes onto Alabama shore, believed to be from Civil War."

Hurricane Isaac washed the remains of what some people believe to be a blockade-runner up on the shore of an Alabama beach near Fort Morgan, by Mobile Bay.

Some believe it to be the remains of the blockade-runner Monticello.  This is the fourth time the wreckage has been seen.  The first time was after 1969's Hurricane Camille, then 2004's Hurricane Ivan and Hurricane Ike in 2008.

Others think it might be a Prohibition-era rum runner.

Museum of Mobile marine archaeologist Shea McLean thinks it is the Monticello, but can't know for sure unless they find a ship's bell with the name on it.

The wreck is 136 feet long and eventually shifting sands will bury it again.  Another powerful storm will uncover it.

Apparently, the ship did not wash ashore during Hurricane Isaac.  It was there all the time, just covered with sand.

It Would Sure Be Neat If It Was a Blockade-Runner.  --Old B-Runner

Friday, September 7, 2012

My Great Summer at Fort Fisher-- Part 7

I had always wanted to spend some extended time at Fort Fisher, and, in 1983, I got the chance when my folks rented a cottage at Carolina Beach for two weeks.  I took full advantage of it.  Now, my mom has a place at Topsail Beach, but that is about fifty miles away, and then there is that horrendous Wilmington traffic to deal with, so I don't get to the fort too often.

Continued from my journal, JULY 29TH, 1982 (30 years ago):

"We then went to the battleship USS North Carolina and bought a Confederate flag which I put on the grave of Whiting on the way out of Wilmington.  He is my favorite general on the Confederate side.

We also went to the National Cemetery where we found some of the graves of the Union sailors and soldiers killed at Fort Fisher.  The superintendent was from Springfield, Illinois.  I talked with her for awhile."

Later that night, it was to the Carolina Beach boardwalk for me.

A Great Day.  --Old B-R'er

Yet Some More on the Army Gunboat Picket(t)

The New York Times writing about the Union victory at New Bern, NC, in March 1862, mentions that the Picket had captured two boats loaded with grain.  Commander of the Picket was Captain J. Poynton Ivies and Acting Master James W. Weeks.

The Picket had been continuously employed since Dec. 16th and during that time only had 15 hours to clean ts boilers.

Perhaps it was a boiler explosion which caused it to sink.

Old B-Runner

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The 150th Anniversary of the Sinking of the Army Gunboat Picket(t)

I doubt that anyone else is observing this event, but here goes with some more information I found on this ship.

From the August 8, 1984, Washington (NC) Daily News.

The wreck of the Picket(t) lies in 15 feet of water on the south side of the Tar River near the US-17 bridge.  People in town would like to find a place to house the items that have been brought up from the ship.

The Picket(t) was a 200-ton boat mounting one 30-pdr Parrott gun and two other light guns.

On the morning of September 6, 1862, Confederate infantry supported by cavalry and artillery attacked Washington.  The USS Louisiana and Picket(t) helped turn the enemy back.  But, for unknown reasons, there was an explosion and the Picket(t) went down.  A captain and 19 crew members were aboard.

Plans call for divers to investigate the wreck and focus on two area:  a grid plan to see what there is and the stern area as there is some disagreement as to whether the ship was a sidewheeler or propeller driven.

And, I Found a Little More.  --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Army Gunboat Picket (t)

Since tomorrow is the 150th anniversary of the loss of the US Army gunboat Picket (or Pickett), I decided to see if there was any other information on it.

I am not familiar with the Army having gunboats as well.

I came across two articles from the Washington (NC) Daily News in the CircamEast website.


The US Army gunboat Pickett is still reportedly at the bottom of the Tar River covered with silt and sand and there is a feasibility study to see if it can be raised.  It is located west of the Washington City Bridge.

It was originally named either the Philadelphia or J.W. Winslow and was a river boat converted into a gunboat by the US Army.

The article suggests a boiler explosion caused the ship to sink.  Some 500 artifacts have been recovered including rifles and cannonballs.

More to Come Tomorrow,  --Old B-R'er

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: September 5th to September 7th-- CSS Alabama Sets Off


Rear Admiral DuPont concerned about Confederate ironclads building at Charleston, SC.  A weakness is their poor engines but if they get English engines as he has heard, it becomes necessary to send Union ironclads to him.

The CSS Alabama seized and burned the Ocmulgee near the Azores, the first of many Union ships.


The USS Louisiana joined Union forces in repelling an attack on Washington, NC.  (The Louisiana eventually became Butler's powder ship at Fort Fisher.)  US Army gunboat Picket destroyed by accidental magazine explosion during the engagement.


CSS Alabama captured and burned schooner Starlight near Azores.

USS Essex steamed down the Mississippi to New Orleans past Confederate batteries at Port Hudson and was struck with heavy shot 14 times.

Old B-Runner

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

My Great Summer at Fort Fisher-- Part 6: Oakdale Cemetery


"Came home for lunch and then dad and I went to Oakdale Cemetery.  Yesterday, I had found out that Whiting had been buried in New York City, but had been exhumed in 1900 and returned to Wilmington where he was buried alongside his wife in Oakdale.

We went to the cemetery office and inquired as to where he and several other people were buried.  They didn't know but looked it up and found the sites.  The cemetery superintendent was kind enough to give me has only walking map of the cemetery and that made it much easier to find things.

We first found the grave of John Newland Maffitt, a famous Confederate  naval captain.  It was almost overgrown as the superintendent had informed me that he never purchased the perpetual care package.  I cleared off the grave as best I could and photographed it.

next, we found W.H.C. Whiting's grave and it was in better shape.  I took a picture of it and also took pictures of  the graves of Rose  O'Neil Greenhow, a Confederate spy who drowned off Fort Fisher, and William Lord DeRosset who was the first commander of Fort Fisher."

I Wonder If Maffitt's Grave Is Now Taken Care Of?  --Old B-R'er

USS Isaac Smith Captured by Confederates

From the June 14, 2011, Columbia (SC) State "Civil War Moment in South Carolina.

On Jan. 30, 1863, Confederate forces captured the USS Isaac Smith in the Stono River, south of Charleston when it was caught in across-fire by concealed Confederate batteries.  It was disabled and suffered 8 dead and 19 wounded.  This was the only time in the Civil War that a ship was captured by land forces.

Renamed the Stono, it attempted to run the blockade off Charleston June 5, 1863, and was wrecked near Fort Moultrie.

The Official Records of the Confederate Navy say the ship was finally burned when Charleston was evacuated in 1865.

It seems that I remember writing about another Union ship captured by Confederate land forces, but I'm not sure.

The Army Beats Navy.  --Old B-Runner

Monday, September 3, 2012

Whiting's Uniform One of Three Conserved Artifacts

From the July 2010 WECT TV.

The Cape Fear Museum in 2010 received a $27,000 grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services over a two-year period.  That money and other money will be used to preserve the uniform (expected to cost $17,000) and two flags: a 34-star US and a Second National Confederate.

The US flag was shipped off first in July where it is expected to take six months to a year to treat it.  The Confederate flag was shipped off in Jan. 2011 and the uniform in July 2011.  The museum expects to display all three items in 2012.

Great to Save Stuff Like This.  --Old B-R'er

The Union's Short-Lived Ironclad: The USS Galena

From the Aug. 23rd Civil War Connections Blog "Short-Lived Ironclad" by Brian Whitenton.

I knew the Galena was not a very successful ironclad (one of the first three such ships the U.S. government paid to have built, the other two considerably more successful, the Monitor and New Ironsides), but did not know it eventually had its iron removed and served the rest of the war as a wooden steamer.

The USS Galena guarded McClellan's troopships during his withdrawal from Hampton Roads to Fredericksburg.  Later, the ship was mauled at Drewry's Bluff on the James River, exposing the shortcomings of its thin armor which provided practically no protection from enemy shot.  And, the iron was only on the sides, not the decks.  At this battle, Confederate gunners fired down on the Galena.

It remained on duty in Hampton Roads for most of the war.  In late 1863 it was retrofitted and had its armor removed and armament increased.

It was at the Battle of Mobile Bay in a supporting role at the rear of the fleet, so no "Damn the Torpedoes" for the Galena.

An Ironless Ironclad.  How Interesting.  --Old B-Runner

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: September 1st to 4th,1862


The CSS Florida, under command of Lt. Maffitt, put into Havana after suffering a yellow fever epidemic on board which was fatal to several crew members.


The USS Essex, in pursuit of the CSS Webb, had a landing party fired on at Natchez, Miss.  The Essex bombarded the town for an hour and the mayor surrendered it.


The Confederate Congress had its first session of its Naval Investigating Committee to examine Secretary of Navy Mallory's administration and reasons for the loss of New Orleans.  The final report was favorable to Mallory.

The CSS Florida, Lt. Maffitt ran the blockade into Mobile Bay and anchored under the guns of Fort Morgan.  Many of the crew were still suffering from yellow fever.  This successful run led to orders for stricter enforcement of the blockade.

Old B-Runner

The Last Days of and Death of Confederate General Whiting

From Wikipedia.

Yesterday, I wrote about the general's newly-conserved display now being on display at the Cape Fear Museum in Wilmington, NC. 

The wounded W.H.C. Whiting was taken prisoner after the fall of Fort Fisher Jan. 15, 1865.  Weaken by his years of service and the wound, he died of dysentery at the Union military hospital at Fort Columbus on Governor's Island in New York City on March 10, 1865.

Another one of his brothers, Jasper, died in Confederate service.

He was buried at  New York's Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, where his brother Robert was in charge.  In 1900, his widow, Kate, had the body exhumed and moved to Oakdale Cemetery in Wilmington.

This ties in nicely with one of my next posts Monday.

The General's Coat.  --Old B-R'er

Yellow Fever Comes to Wilmington 150 Years Ago

From the August 28th Wilmington (NC) Star-News Looking Back column.

AUGUST 6, 1862, the Blockade-runner Kate eluded the blockade and sailed up the Cape Fear River with a valuable cargo.  Unfortunately, that also included the dreaded yellow fever.  By mid-September, a full-scale epidemic was underway.  A total of 654 persons died from it.

Old B-Runner