Fort Fisher

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

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Fort Wool, Virginia-- Part 1

From the July 4, 2011, Virginia Daily Pilot.

Fort Wool, originally named Fort Calhoun, is on a man-made island in the middle of Hampton Roads, Virginia, guarding the northern side of the channel in combination with Fort Monroe.

A young officer named Robert E. Lee was stationed there at one time.

The fort was off-limits from 2003 to 2006 after Hurricane Isabel wrecked the pier.  Some 20,000 people visited it each year.  Today, the Miss Hampton II Harbor Cruises run two trips each day to the fort from downtown Hampton.

Fort Monroe has always been much more famous, especially back in 2011 when the Army was preparing to turn it over to the State of Virginia.

The Army left Fort Wool in 1967 and turned it over to the Virginia.  The town of Hampton leases it from the state.

It was built after the War of 1812 as a further deterrent to the British.  Construction began in 1819 when crews began dumping tons of granite boulders  Four years later, an island rising six feet from the water had been formed.  It was one of 41 forts built by the United States for defense of coastal waters. 

More to Come.  --Old B-Runner

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Mighty Good Time at Fort Fisher 30 Years Ago-- Part 2

AUGUST 3RD, 1982

Ran again without Julie.  She does not like to get up at 6:30 AM to run.  After swimming, I went to Fort Fisher and found still more material to copy.

Ron and Mary believe Gehrig is a poor site manager as he has been there for 17 tears and has done little in the way of improving the exhibits or making anything along the walking tour which would better enable persons to relate to the fort.

AUGUST 4TH, 1982

Ran to Fort Fisher with Julie and then back to Kure Beach.  Sat on the pier and walked back to Carolina Beach.  Seemed a very long walk back as the beach sand is very slanted and the only flat areas consist of the soft stuff.  Both are extremely hard on the feet.  Julie says she will not do this again.

I went to the Blockade-Runner where I stayed until Bob picked me up at 4:45.

Still Not Getting My Fisher Fill.  --Old B-Runner

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: October 30th to Oct. 31st, 1862: A Bounty for the Alabama and Torpedoes


That pesky CSS Alabama!!  I have been noting the names of the ships the CSS Alabama was capturing and it was becoming a real pain in the side of the Lincoln administration  The Navy department would give $500,000 to anyone who captured and delivery of the ship, or $300,000 if it was destroyed, if, of course, Congress authorized the expenditure.  In addition, a dozen Navy ships were out looking for it.

USS Daylight captured the schooner Racer between Stump Inlet and New Topsail Inlet, NC, with cargo of salt.

In a little blockading clarification, Rear Admiral Du Pont ordered that foreign ships captured while running the blockade would continue to fly the flag of their country until their cases decided.  However, the US flag will be flown at the fore to show it is under U.S. charge.


During October, the Confederate Congress formalized a Torpedo Bureau in Richmond under General Gabriel Rains and a Naval Submarine Battery Service under Lt. Hunter Davidson.  The purpose was to organize and improve methods of torpedo (mine) warfare that was pioneered by Commander Matthew Fonaine Maury.

Old B-Runner

Monday, October 29, 2012

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: October 28th to Oct. 29th,1862: But, Who Would Want to Capture That?


Group led by Lt. John Taylor Wood, CSN, boarded, captured and burned the ship Alligator at anchor in the Chesapeake Bay off the mouth of the Rappahannock River with a cargo of guano from Baltimore to London.  Something's mighty batty around here.  Now who would want to capture a load of ..... .

CSS Alabama captured and burned Lauratta south of Halifax, Nova Scotia.

USS Montgomery, Commander Hunter, captured b-r steamer Carolina near Pensacola.  Usually I just do blockade-runners off Wilmington, but this was the guy and ship that in trouble for capturing a b-r in Cuban waters that I wrote about last week.


Landing party from the USS Ellis, Lt. Cushing, destroyed a large Confederate salt works at New Topsail Inlet, NC.  Cushing reported that "it could have furnished all Wilmington with salt."

USS Dan exchanged fire with Confederate troops near Sabine Pass, Texas.  It shelled the town on Oct. 30th and landed sailors and burned a mill and several buildings.

CSS Alabama seized the brigantine Baron de Castine south of Nova Scotia.  The ship was old and of little value so Semmes reported, "I released her on ransom bond and converted her into a cartel, sending some forty-five prisoners on board of her--the crews of the three last ships burned."

Some Mighty Good Pickins Off Nova Scotia.  --Old B-Runner

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Cuban Missile Crisis Had a Counterpart in the Civil War-- Part 2

The blockade-runner General Rusk, though in Spanish waters was boarded and captured.  Somehow a fire broke out and destroyed the vessel.

Commander Charles S. Hunter of the USS Montgomery thought he had clear orders from Farragut to end the Rusk's blockade-running days and he was extremely proud of his accomplishment.  He boasted of it and went on to capture two more runners.

What he didn't know was that the Spanish government was enraged and even went so far as to threaten war if something wasn't done, something the Lincoln administration definitely didn't want at this point.  The good commander was court-martialed and Secretary of State Seward was forced to issue a formal apology and pay $300,000.

Hunter was cleared of military misconduct at the court martial, but guilty of violating neutral waters and removed from service.

Oh Well.  --Old B-Runner

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Mighty Good Time at Fort Fisher 30 Years Ago

From my journal.


Saturday.  At the cottage.  Dad got wiped out by a wave swimming at Carolina Beach and refused to let us get him an ambulance to take him to the hospital.  It was that serious.  Mom and Dad left for Goldsboro for tomorrow's Hood Reunion.  Julie and Tommy arrived and we went to the boardwalk until  midnight.


Sunday.  The first-ever reunion of the Prince family with 60 people, catered by Wilber's.  Julie, Tommy and I went back to the cottage in Carolina Beach, along with Bob and Cathy.


Monday.  Back to the regular routine of a run, followed by swim in the ocean and then Fort Fisher research.  Not a bad way to spend a vacation.

Went to Fort Fisher and copied until my hand felt like it would fall off.  I will keep writing as long as I can while I'm here.

I helped Ron Graham prepare some of the talk he was going to give on Fort Fisher during his guided tours.  This is a great idea as most people visiting the fort can not conceptualize what it was.  They have much easier times with forts like Macon and Pulaski which are masonry and brick.

I'm Glad the Guided Tours Continue To This Day.  --Old B-Runner

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Don't Want to Lose Fort Gaines

From the June 10, 2011, Mobile (Ala) Press Register editorial "We Can't Lose Fort Gaines: Piece of the Past."

The fort is best-known for its role in the Battle of Mobile Bay "the last major naval engagement of the Civil War," as the editors called it.  That would be true if they were referring to a ship vs. ship fight, but not for ships versus fort, which would be Fort Fisher and Fort Anderson in North Carolina.

Fort Gaines is losing land to erosion at a startling rate due to fierce storms, rising water levels and dredging for the Mobile Ship Canal.

The fort made the National Trust for Historic Places' "Eleven Most-Endangered List."  In 2009 it was on the list of the Civil War Preservation Trust's Most Endangered Battlefields.

The original cannons and brickwork are "too precious to be washed into the Gulf of Mexico."  The site has already lost 400-feet of shoreline.  One possible solution is beach nourishment where clean sand from near Sand Island Lighthouse could be hauled in.

Let's Hope It Is Saved.  --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Cuban Missile Crisis Had a Counterpart in the Civil War-- Part 1

From the Civil War Navy Sesquicentennial Blog "Playing with Fire Off the Cuban Coast in Oct. 1862."

This past Monday, October 22nd was an eventful day in the U.S. history.  And, it scared me more than any Halloween monster.  This was the date in 1962 that President Kennedy went on the TV and said that the Soviet Union had placed nuclear missiles in Cuba, just 90 miles from our country.  I thought this signalled the end of the world in a nuclear holocaust.  I wrote about it in my Cooter's History Thing Blog for that date.

But, 100 years before that, events unfolded that almost led to another war.  Of course, the Civil War was underway, but the United States came close to having a war with Spain over something that happened in Cuba.

A lively trade developed during the war consisting of cotton from Matamoras, Mexico, military supplies from Havana, Cuba and Mobile, Alabama.

Union Commander Charles S. Hunter was patrolling off the coast of Cuba and especially on the lookout for the blockade-runner General Rusk, sometimes called the Blanche, that had made the run between the ports six times.  On the seventh attempt into Cuba, carrying 569 bales of cotton, the ship had managed to run aground, but its commander wasn't worried as the ship was in Spanish waters and flying the Spanish flag.  He thought he was safe.

He Wasn't.  --Old B-Runner

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

From the Ranks to Flag Officer: Oscar Walter Farenholt-- Part 2

Oscar Farenholt reentered naval service in February 1863 after recovery from the wound and was assigned to the monitor USS Catskill and was involved in the daily battles around Charleston, SC, in 1863 and also took part in the storming of Fort Sumter.

He was appointed Acting Ensign August 19, 1864, and placed in command of the mortar schooner USS Henry James. in the sounds of North Carolina and as such participated inthe recapture of Plymouth, NC and was at Fort Fisher (I can't find him in any mention of the battle, though).  I looked up the USS Henry James and according to Wiki, the ship was always on station along the Gulf Coast.

After the war, he remained in the Navy, rising through the ranks to commander in 1892.  During the Spanish-American War, he commanded the USS Monocacy.  In 1900 he was promoted to captain and then to rear admiral in 1901, before retiring.

Never Heard of Him.  --Old B-Runner

From the Ranks to the Flag: Oscar Walter Farenholt-- Part 1

Yesterday I wrote that a howitzer battery from the USS Wabash participated in the Battle of Pocatligo, South Carolina,  a battle I had never heard of before.  I will be writing about the battle in my Saw the Elephant Civil War Blog since this was mostly  a land action.  However, one of the Wabash's sailors manning the howitzers was one Oscar Walter Farenholt whom the Navy Chronology said was the first-ever sailor to go from enlisted to flag-rank (admiral).  I'd never heard of him before so good old Wiki to the rescue.

Oscar Walter Farenholt (I keep thinking Farenheit for some reason) May 2, 1945-June 30, 1920.  Was a naval man in the Civil War and Spanish-American War and the first enlisted man to reach flag rank.  He was born in San Antonio, Texas, and spoke only German until the age of 8.

Later, he became a merchant sailor before entering US Navy service April 24, 1861.  Participated in the Hatteras Inlet, Port Royal and Fort Pulaski battles.

On Oct. 22, 1862, while serving on the USS Wabash, he was severely wounded at the Battle of Pocotaligo in South Carolina and later discharged because of the injury.

More to Come.  --Old B-R'er

Naval Happening 150 Years Ago: October 23rd to Oct. 27th, 1862-- Everyone Wants Ironclads


CSS Alabama captures and burned American bark Lafayette south of Halifax, Nova Scotia.


Sailors on horseback, a landing party from the USS Baron De Kalb, debarked at Hopefield, Arkansas, to engage a Confederate scouting party.  The horses had been impressed (Holy Shades of War of 1812).  A nine-mile fight ensued, ending with the capture of the Confederates.  That had to be a funny looking group of sailors, but since this was a Brown Water action, perhaps the Union sailors were good horsemen.


Rear Admiral Du Pont is still worried about Confederate ironclads under construction from Charleston to Savannah and wants the "Ironsides (New Ironsides) and Passaic...dispatched at an early day."


CSS Alabama captured and burned schooner Crenshaw south of Halifax, Nova Scotia.


Rear Admiral Lee wrote to Welles about difficulty of blockading the coast of North Carolina, "Our supremacy in the sounds of NC can...only be maintained by iron clads adapted to the navigation there....The defense of the Sounds is a very important matter...."

"That, My Friend, Is a Horse of a Different Color."  --Old B-Runner

Monday, October 22, 2012

North Carolina's Topsail Battery

Earlier today, Iwrote about Lt. William Cushing destrouing the blockade-runner Adelaide by New Topsail Inlet on this date 150 years ago.

I couldn't find any more information about the Adelaide, but I did find some stuff on a marker that Ihave seen many times on US-17, south of Hamstead, NC.

It reads:


Confederate breastworks were constructed in this vicinity in 1862 to protect Wilmington from an attack from the north and for coastal defense.

The NC Dept. of Cultural Resources had an essay with more information on it.

The earthworks were constructed in the fall of 1862 to protect Wilmington from an attack coming down the Old New Bern Road (present-day US-17) from New Bern.  Its secondary purpose was to protect New Topsail Inlet and Topsail Sound for blockade-runners.

The attack from New Bern never materialized, though Union General J.G. Foster did plan one.  Reinforcement troops and artillery were sent to the site in 1864 by Confederate General Whiting.

The Topsail earthworks did see action several times.  On Oct. 22, 1862 (today's date 150 years ago) Lt. William B. Cushing destroyed the blockade-runner Adelaide nearby.  A week later, Cushing was back and set fire to a large salt works and was fired on from artillery in the battery.

During August 1863, Cushing again tried to enter the inlet but was driven off.  That same month, Cushing destroyed the blockade-runner Alexander Cooper and captured several of its men.  In Oct. 1864, the same Cushing became even more famous for sinking the ironclad CSS Albemarle.

The remains of the Confederate earthworks are threatened by development.  Originally they stretched for over a half mile and at points stood 10 feet high from the bottom of the dig pits to the top.  A large section was destroyed in the 1950s by the widening of US-17 (which is five lanes in the area).

That Cushing Was Something.  --Old B-Runner

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: October 21st to 22nd ,1862


USS Louisville escorted Union troops too Beldsoe's Landing and Hamblin's Landing in Arkansas.  These towns were burned in reprisal to attacks by Confederate guerrillas on mail steamer Gladiator on Oct. 19th.  Warned the people that any more attacks would be dealt with in similar fashion.  Kind of a mean retaliation if you ask me.


Three 12-pounder boat howitzers from the USS Wabash furnished artillery support for Union troops at the battle of Pocotaligo, SC.  I didn't quite understand this, but ordinary seaman Oscar W. Farenholt, the first enlisted man in the Navy to reach flag rank, was severely wounded.  This Wabash battery took part in amphibious operations all along the South Atlantic coast.

USS Penobscott, Commander Clitz, captured the British blockade-running brig Robert Bruce off Cape Fear, NC.

Lt. William B Cushing reported that the USS Ellis captured and destroyed blockade-runner Adelaide at New Topsail Inlet, NC, with cargo of turpentine, cotton and tobacco.  (Definitely trying to run out.)


These actions, while not huge, continued to put pressure on strained Confederate resources throughout the war.  Constant attacks along the rivers and coasts, especially in conjunction with the Army, were devastating. 

And, then, the blockade continually got more effective.  Usually, I just write about blockade-runners captured in the Wilmington area, but the Chronicles has a lot more.

Old B-R'er

So, Maffitt's Channel at Charleston, SC Got Its Name from Who I Thought It Did

I have been writing about the recent archaeological survey in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, and came across Maffitt's Channel a lot.

I got to wondering how it got its name, knowing of a famous Confederate commerce raider and blockade-runner captain from North Carolina named John Newland Maffitt.  It is not a real common name.  And, a sea-faring man would surely know his channels.  Perhaps it was named after his father or a relative.

Using good old Wikipedia, I found that the Confederate John Newland Maffitt entered the U.S. Navy in 1832 at the age of 13 as a midshipman and was assigned to the USS Constitution in 1835.

In 1842, he was transferred to the U.S. Coast Survey where he spent 14 years in the hydrographic survey, chiefly in Nantucket, Mass., Wilmington, N.C., Charleston, S.C. and Savannah, Georgia.  The Charleston channel was named after him, hence Maffitt's Channel.

Just Wanted to Know.  --Old B-Runner

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Archaeological Survey of Charleston Harbor-- Part 1

Back on Oct. 9th I started this entry and will do some more of it.


The Main Ship Channel and Maffitt Channel were the ones used most by blockade-runners, so it was determined by the Union Navy to obstruct them.  Forty-five ex-whaling ships were filled with rocks in New England and sent to Charleston for that purpose.  Being old and decrepit, some sank en route and others were diverted elsewhere.

Between Dec. 17th and Dec. 21st, 1861, sixteen were sunk in the Main Ship Channel and another thirteen were sunk Jan. 20-25 in the Maffitt Channel.

Locating large mounds of rocks is key to locating these wrecks today.  They were sunk in an organized checkerboard pattern.  Underwater archaeologists found 15 such ballast mounds with 14 being packed closely together.  They couldn't find the Second Stone Fleet at Maffitt's Channel.

They did find four wrecks with large stones, but they think they were flat-bottom boats used to construct the Charleston Harbor jetties from 1878 to 1896.

More to Come Monday.  --Old B-R'er

Fragments of the War

From the Oct. 2, 2012, Wilmington (NC) Star-News "Museum to display 'Fragments,' of Civil War" by Ben Steelman.

Among items on display will be three little stars indicating the rank of a Confederate colonel from Fort Fisher's Col. William Lamb's uniform.

Also, scraps of British-made fabric carried into Wilmington aboard a blockade-runner.

A commission signed by Abraham Lincoln.

The Cape Fear Museum has assembled a lot of little pieces for their next exhibit "Fragments of War" which will be on display from now to May 5th.  They are doing this for to commemorate the war's 150th anniversary and they are showing items that haven't been on display for awhile.

You can also see General W.H.C. Whiting's uniform tunic (also at Fort Fisher).

There is also a 34-star U.S. flag that flew over Wilmington before the war.

A Confederate Second National flag sewn by the ladies of Wilmington for Col. Lamb.

And, a flask carried by an officer of the United States Colored Troops at Fort Fisher.

I've never been to this museum, but understand they received a lot of the material from the old Blockade-Runner Museum in Carolina Beach.  Now would be a good time to see it.

Going to the Museum.  --Old B-Runner

Friday, October 19, 2012

Monitor Museum Up In the Air

From the Oct. 14, 2012, New York Post "Historic ship in a land war" by Kate Briquelet.

Janice and George Weinman, of Brooklyn, New York, have dreams of building the Greenport Monitor Museum, but for the last ten years, New York City has been threatening to take their land for the museum to be used as part of a park.

Their Monitor Museum has been a roadshow since 1996, mostly visiting schools.

In 2003, Motiva Company gave them a one acre site near Quay Street where the Monitor was built.  Unfortunately for the Weinmans, their parcel is in part of where the city plans to build a 28 acre park stretching from North 9th Street to Quay Street.

The city has so far only acquired 2 of 6 privately-owned parcels of land.  Worse, there is no schedule or budget to get those land units needed.  The city has offered some unacceptable choices to the Weinmans as to there museum.  One of the offers involves a room attached to a comfort station.

I'm Pulling for the Weinmans.  --Old B-R'er

Civil War Wrecks Off the Carolina Coast

From Coastal site.

Two of the shipwrecks they offer scuba diving trips to are near Wilmington.

THE SHERMAN--  Originally a 200-foot long blockade-runner, post-Civil War wreck 52 feet deep and six miles out from Little River Inlet.  Lots of marine life and artifacts including US belt buckles, buttons and bottles.  A very popular spot for divers of all skill levels.  Half-Day Trip for $75.

THE GOVERNOR--  South Carolina shipwreck of a 200-foot Civil War paddle wheeler in 80 feet of water, 22 miles off the coast.  The true identity of the ship is not known.  Brass artifacts, Southern stingrays and marine life.  Three/fourths day trip for $90.

And, I Used to Dive, But No More.  Drat.  --Old B-Runner

Thursday, October 18, 2012

CSS Neuse Moving to a New Location

From the March 8, 2012, NBC News.

It has already moved, but here is a story about it.

Over 250 tons of history will be moving through the streets of Kinston.  The CSS Neuse, one of 22 ironclads commissioned by the Confederacy in its effort to achieve independence is going to be moved to a building on Queen Street in about a month.  It is currently at the CSS Neuse and Caswell Memorial on Vernon Avenue in the town. 

During the week of April 16th, contractors specializing in moving heavy equipment will transport it to an indoor memorial being constructed right now near the intersection of Queen and Caswell streets.  Iron beams will be placed under the hull of the ship, then it will be jacked up and then attached to wheels for transport.  It will then travel the US-70 bypass into Kinston and to King Street.

As of yet, they are not sure if the entire hull (all that is left of the ship) will be moved at once of if it will be cut into three pieces.

It was pulled out of the Neuse River in 1962 during the Civil War Centennial.

Glad It Is Now At Its New Home.    --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

CSS Virginia

The Confederate ship spent the night of March 8-9 docked at Sewell's Point and got underway at 7 AM, march 9th to finish off the USS Minnesota, only to encounter the USS Monitor.

The battle between the two ironclads, the first time ships of this sort fought each other, lasted three hours and was over by noon.

Old B-R'er

The New York Times Reports the Last Sea Trial of the Monitor

From the March 10, 1862, New York Times.

The last of the Monitor's last sea trial took place last Monday when the ship went down the bay to about five miles beyond Fort Lafayette and its guns were fired to see whether the concussion in the turret would injure ears.

The first charge was blank with the hatches in the roof of the turret open.

Then, a cannister charge, weighing 13.5 pounds fired by 15 pounds of powder was tried twice, first with the hatches open and then closed.

It was found that the concussions were less than had the men been standing on an open deck.

The Monitor attained a speed of six and one-fourth knots.

Who Needs Spies When the Newspapers Do Such a Good Job.  --Old B-Runner

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

It Was Monitor Vs. the Virginia-- Part 3

Officers on the USS Monitor:

Lt. Cmdr. John S. Worden
Lt. and Exec. Officer S.D. Green
Acting Masters L.N. Stodder and J.W. Webber
Acting Asst. paymaster William F. Keeler
Acting Asst. Surgeon D.C. Logue
Chief Engineer A. J. Steiners

Engineers : 1st Asst. isaac Newton, 2nd Asst. Albert S. Campbell, 3rd Assts. R.W. Sands and M.T. Sunstron

Acting Master's Mate George Frederickson

And That's the Officers.  --Old B-R'er

It Was Monitor Vs. the Virginia-- Part 2

From the March 9, 2012, New York Times by the Learning Network.

From the March 9, 1862, New York Times, which described the Merrimack as "looking like a submerged house with the roof only above the water."

The March 10, 1862 Times reported, "The new Ericsson Battery, or as she is called now, the Monitor left port last Wednesday and fought the rebel battery Merrimac on Sunday."

The Monitor's keel was laid Oct. 25, 1861 and rapid work was done completing her.  Construction was under the superintendance of Engineer Alban C. Stuiners and Assistant Engineer Isaac  Newton of the USS Roanoke.

More to Come.  --Old B-Runner

Monday, October 15, 2012

It Was Monitor Vs. the Virginia-- Part 1

When the Monitor arrived on the scene that night, its commander Worden was charged primarily with the protection of the USS Minnesota.  Jones at first thought the Monitor to be a  boiler being towed from the Minnesota. 

Once he determined it was this new Union ship he'd been hearing about, Jones fired first, the shot missing and hitting the Minnesota.

To her disadvantage, the Virginia only had shell ammunition, not armor-piercing which would have been much helpful against the Union ship.  As for the Monitor, its guns had only the 15-pound powder charges, not enough to penetrate armor.

The battle ceased when a chance shot from the Virginia hit the Monitor's pilot house, exploded and temporarily blinded Worden.  After that, the Monitor withdrew.

A Lucky Shot.  --Old B-R'er

The CSS Virginia Attacks the Federal Fleet

Lt. Catesby ap Roger Jones had directed most of the conversion of the USS Merrimack into the CSS Virginia and was very disappointed when he was not chosen to command her. Sec. of Navy Mallory wanted the more aggressive Franklin Buchanan for that job.

The North Atlantic Blockading Squadron under Flag Officer Louis M. Goldsborough planned to catch the Virginia in a crossfire.  That plan broke down when four of his wooden ships ran aground, one intentionally,  when the Confederate ironclad finally appeared.

On the day of the battle, Goldsborough was absent

The USS Congress was raised September 1865 and taken to Norfolk Navy Yard and later sold.  Cloth from its sails were later sewn into a flag in her honor.

A Commander Should be With His Ship in a Fight.  --Old B-Runner

The Meade Family in the Civil War

Richard Worsam Meade II was in the USN and the brother of Union General George Meade

Richard Worsam Meade III was in the USN

Henry Meigs Meade was in the USN

Robert Leamy Meade was USMC

That's Sure a Lot of Participation.  --Old B-Runner

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Robley Evans at Fort Fisher-- Part 4: Robley Gets Hammered

"We had only eighteen inches of water under us when we  finally anchored and began firing rapidly...There was the wreck of a  blockade-runner between us and the battery at which we were to fire, and it was evident that this had been used as a target and that the range was well known.  One or two shots were fired in line with it, each one coming closer to us, and then they struck us with a ten-inch shot.

Four more followed, each one striking nearly in the same place, on the bends forward of the starboard wheel, and going through on to the berth deck.  Then for some reason the shot and shell began going over us, striking the water thirty or forty feet away.

Probably the gunners on shore could not see the splash of these shots, and thought they were striking us.  If they had not changed their range when they did they would have sunk us in an hour.  As it was, we hauled out at sundown, pretty well hammered, and leaking so that we had to shift all our guns to port in order to stop the shot holes.

We had damaged the fort to the extent of dismounting some of its guns and burning the barracks and officers' quarters.  When the whole line was fairly engaged the sight was magnificent, and never to be forgotten by those who saw it.  No fort has ever been subjected to such a fire, and the garrison could only make a feeble response; most of them were driven into the bomb-proofs, where they remained till we hauled off for the night. 

The heaviest losses on our side had been caused by the bursting of the one-hundred pound Parrott rifles, thirty-five or forty men had been killed or wounded in this way."

An Interesting Account of the First Battle of Fort Fisher.  --Old B-Runner

Friday, October 12, 2012

Robley Evans at Fort Fisher-- Part 3: Robley Climbs a Mast and Sees a Flying Lamp-Post

Robley had been sent up into the rigging to find out where some guns from Fort Fisher were firing at his ship.  He was aboard the USS Powhatan at the time.

"When I had taken my place in the mizzen rigging, just below the top, I put the corner of my hard-tack in my mouth, and was holding it between my teeth while I was looking through the glasses for the guns.  I caught them at once, and saw gunners train one of them until I could only see the muzzle of it, which interested me because I knew it was pointing directly at us.

There was a puff of smoke, something like a lamp-post crossed the field of the glass, and a moment after, the rigging was cut four feet below me and I swung into the mast.  I at once thought about my hard-tack, but it was gone, and I never found even a crumb of it.  I am sure that I swallowed it whole.

When I had reported what I had made out of the battery, I was directed to lay down from aloft to my station, which was in charge of the after division of the guns; but I hesitated to do so, because my knees were shaking, and I was afraid the men would see it.  However, I had to come down, and as soon as I reached the deck, I stood p and looked at my legs, and was greatly relieved to find that they did not show the nervous tremor which worried me so.  I soon forgot all about it as I became interested and warmed up to my work."

Imagine If a seaman on the deck had been struck by the hard-tack from Evans' mouth and wondered exactly what the Rebels were shooting at them.  Or, had he been injuer\red by it.  I could see him answering as to the nature of his wound, "Struck by hard-tack."

I can definitely see how having a shell pass that close to you might cause some unease.

Watch Out for Those Flying Lamp=Posts.  --Old B-R'er

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: October 12th to 15th, 1862-- Maury Knows


Commander Matthew Fontaine Maury, on board the blockade-runner Herald, departed Charleston for England to buy vessels for the Confederacy.

The captain of the herald was new and got lost finding Bermuda.  Maury come to his aid and took a location fix and they found the island.

Lack of funds and under close scrutiny by Union agents caused only limited success.  But maury did purchase the CSS Georgia the following spring.


CSS Alabama captured and burned bark Lamplighter southeast of Nova Scotia.

Boats from the USS Rachel Seaman and Kensington destroyed the Confederate railroad bridge at Taylor's Bayou, Texas, preventing the transportation of heavy artillery to Sabine Pass.  Also burned schooners Stonewall and Lone Star, and barracks.

This constant pressure by attacks all along the Confederate coast drained resources.

Some were unusual for sailors, such as another expedition where 1,500 head of cattle were captured and transported to New Orleans with great difficulty.

Boat crews from USS Fort Henry reconnoitering the Apalachicola River, Florida and captured the sloop C.L. Brockenborough with cargo of cotton.

Old B-Runner

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Robley Evans at Fort Fisher-- Part 2: Butler Beats a Hasty Retreat

"At daylight we were heading in for the fort, and almost in range, when we saw General Butler's flagship coming in at full speed, heading straight at Fort Fisher, which looked to us very grim and strong and totally uninjured.  Everything was very quiet until the general got fairly within range, when there was a flash from the fort and a prolonged roar, and all the guns on the face of that work opened on his ship.

If he had any notion that he could land unopposed he was quickly undeceived, and the way that ship turned and got off shore spoke well for the energy of her fire-room force!  The last we saw of her she was running east as fats as her engines could carry her.  The powder boat had proved a failure, and the General was grievously disappointed.  A rebel newspaper reported that a Yankee gunboat had blown up on the beach and all hands lost.

We had been up many of us all night and our only breakfast had been coffee and hard-tack.  As we approached our position, Commodore Schenck sent me aloft with a pair of glasses to locate, if possible, some guns that were annoying him.  It was a raw cold morning, and I had on a short double-breasted coat, in the pockets of which I had stowed several pieces of hard-tack."

Find Out What Happened Next.  --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Robley Evans At Fort Fisher-- Part 1: Butler's Powder Ship

From the Legends of America "Attack on Fort Fisher" By Robley D. Evans in 1865."

After Admiral Porter assigned to command the attack on the fort, daily target practice took place in the fleet.  In early December, General Butler's troopships arrived  Robley believed Butler's powdership was the old steamer Georgiana (actually the USS Louisiana). 

It ran in close to shore during the evening of December 24, 1864 and Robley wrote: "No man in the navy believed for a moment that she would do much harm, but none of us anticipated how little damage would come from the explosion."  At 11 PM, Porter steamed through the fleet in his flagship,the Malvern and made the signal: "Powder boat will blow up at 1:30 AM.  Be prepared to get underway, and stand in to engage the fort

"After that there was no sleep for anyone; we stood and watched and waited as the hours slowly dragged by.  Half past one came and no explosion, and we were fearful of some mishap; but just as the bells struck two o'clock, it came.  First came a gentle vibration, then the masts and spars shook as if they would come down about our ears; and then came the low rumble like distant thunder while the sky to the westward was lighted up for a few seconds, and then great masses of powder smoke hung over the land like thunder clouds.

Surely the powder boat had blown up, and as the fleet rapidly formed for battle there was great curiosity everywhere to see what the effect had been."

More to Come.  --Old B-Runner

Missed It!!

Too bad as it would have been an interesting talk by noted Civil War author Michael C. Hardy "Glory Enough For All."  The talks were given on the 145th anniversary of the fall of Fort Fisher, Jan. 15, 2010.  His focus was on post-war reunions and efforts to memorialize the battle, including its becoming a national park.

I would have liked to have been there as the post war Civil War is of great interest to me.

Old B-R'er

The Big Fort Fisher Boo!!

From the Oct. 2, 2012, Wilmington Star-News "Ghost Hikes at Fort Fisher."

Be Prepared to Get Scared at the old fort: Oct. 5-6, Oct. 18-20 and Oct. 31.  Meet at the visitor center and take a ranger-guided tour down trails of the Fort Fisher Recreation Area that are usually closed at night due to strange things happening. This one's free, I believe.

Who knows, you might get to meet the Ghost of General Whiting who reportedly walks at night.

Also, in Wilmington, you can tour the "Ghost Ship" which goes by the name of the battleship USS  North Carolina at 7 PM Oct. 19-20, Oct. 26-27.  Hatches are guaranteed to creak those nights.  Admission is $10.

Like, BOO!!!   --Old B-Runner

Hurricanes During the Civil War?

From the Sept. 18, 2011, Chicago Tribune "10 things you might not know about Hurricanes" by Mark Jacob and Stephan Benzkofer.

Despite Farragut writing about the bad storm his fleet experienced in the Gulf of Mexico a few months ago in 1862, the fact is that the longest hurricane-free period of time in the continental United States in the last 160 years took place between November 1861 and October 1865, roughly the time frame of the war.

The poor guys manning the blockade ships had enough to deal with as it was.  To be sure, there were some bad storms, but nothing as bad as a hurricane.  Imagine seeing an old Jack Tar holding onto the rails of a pitching ship talking before the camera.  "Well, as you can see, it's blowing REAL HARD and I'm about to get seasick, so STEP BACK!!"

Blow Me Down.  --Old B-Runner

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Charleston Harbor Survey Completed-- Part 1

From the Sept. 17, 2012 Maritime Executive "USC Archaeologists Complete Survey of Charleston Harbor Civil War Naval Battlefield."

Charleston's blockade was in the shape of an arc stretching from Dewee's Inlet by the north end of the Isle of Palms (then called Long Island) down to Stono Inlet, south of Folly Beach, considered Charleston's backdoor if one went up the Stono River.

Between the two inlets were five channels, north to south: Maffitt's, North, Swash, Main Ship and Lanford.

Fortified points included: closest to the city Castle Pinckney and a sand island turned into Fort Ripley; in the mouth was Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie on Sullivans Island and farther out Battery Marshall to the north of the Isle of Palms and Battery Wagner on Morris Island, now under water.

Throughout the harbor, there was a variety of obstructions including framed torpedoes and mine fields.

Shipwrecks discovered from the period include the First Stone Fleet which was sunk to block the Main Ship Channel and Maffitt's Channel, the two most-favored by blockade-runners.

More to Come.  --Old B-Runner

Monday, October 8, 2012

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: October 7th to 11th, 1862-- CSS Alabama Off Nova Scotia


British Chancellor of the Exchequer William Gladstone remarked, "There is no doubt that Jefferson Davis and other leaders of the South have made an army; they are making it appears a navy; and they have made what is more than either--they have made a nation."  Asst. Sec. of Navy Fox observed,  "It is a most interesting piece of history...."

CSS Alabama captured and burned bark Wave Crest and brig Dunkirk east of Nova Scotia.

US Army transport Darlington captured steamer Governor Milton in St. John's River, Florida, as operations continue there.


CSS Alabama captured and released on bond the packet Tonawanda southest of Nova Scotia.


USS Monticello captured British blockade-runner Revere off Frying Pan Shoals, NC.

CSS Alabama captured and burned Manchester  southeast of Nova Scotia.  Captain Semmes said that from New York papers on the ship, he found out where all the US gunboats were and what they were doing.  Of course, Semmes made good use of the information.

USS Maratanza damaged by Confederate battery at Cape Fear River, NC, and was forced to retire seaward.

Old B-Runner

Friday, October 5, 2012

Exploring the USS Hatteras

From the Sept. 12, 2012, Houston Chronicle "Sunken ship yields secrets to technology."

The USS Hatteras was a passenger ship converted into a warship to enforce the blockade.

That fateful day, as an unknown ship hove into view, Acting Master Henry O. Porter said, "That sir, I think, is the Alabama.  What shall we do?"  The ship's commander, Lt. Cmdr. Homer C. Blake, answered, "If that is the Alabama, we must fight her."  And that the Hatteras did and went right on down.

The Hatteras is listed on the NRHP and protected by the Sunken Military Craft Act as a war grave since two of the crew went down with the ship.

Reports say 80% of the ship in intact.  The $60,050 mission to sonar map the Hatteras was paid for by the Edward E. and Marie L.Matthews Foundation of Wilmington, Delaware and the OceanGate Foundation of Seattle.

Shifting sands revealed the ship and fifteen divers worked shifts to sweep the ship.  This effort "virtually" raises the Hatteras.

The Hatteras' bolted-on armor plate and fur 32-pdr. cannons were no match for the Alabama and its eight cannons, including her 110-pdr. rifles gun.  It went down in just 13 minutes.

Like I Said, Always Good to Explore a Civil War Ship.  --Old B-Runner

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Taking a Look at the USS Hatteras-- Part 2

From the Houston Chronicle.

The USS Hatteras was a 210-foot long steamship that had previously fought the CSS Mobile.  It's captain was Homer C. Blake and a crew of 125 when it battled the Alabama.

From NBC News

Two days of scanning were spent September 10th and 11th.

The 1,126-ton Hatteras was built in 1861 in Wilmington, Delaware as a civilian steamship.  Purchased by the Navy to implement the blockade, it was commissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard after refitting.

Before the scanning began, a brief memorial service was held for the two crewmen who did not survive.: William Healy, 32, coal heaver and John Cleary, 24, a stoker.  Both were from Ireland and probably Catholic, so a priest officiated.

Always Enjoy Hearing These Kind of Stories.  --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Yellow Fever Panic in Wilmington

From the Sept. 28, 2012, WECT 6 NBC TV, Wilmington, NC by Bob Townsend.

It was wet this summer and there is the threat of West Nile virus and there was another threat to Wilmington 150 years ago  An alarming number of Wilmington's 10,000 population were getting sick and dying from yellow fever with there possible explanations as to how it arrived in town: on the blockade-runner Kate, it had already been in town before the Kate, and perhaps it was a Yankee-induced plot.

Some 6,000 fled the city and over 600 died.

In Oakdale Cemetery, there is a Yellow Fever section where many no longer have tombstones., but records indicate that 343 are buried in the plot.  before the war, the section was known as the public burying ground and was set aside for people of lesser means, were indigent, or died while passing through the town.

Others were buried in family plots.

There will be a Yellow Fever walking tour of Oakdale Cemetery October 20th and a luminary event October 28th.

Not a Pleasant Thing to Live Through.  --Old B-Runner

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Taking a Look at the USS Hatteras-- Part 1

From the September 10, 2012 ENEWSPF "NOAA Partners To Document Civil War -Era Warship Sunk in Gulf of Mexico Battle."

Teams of archaeologists and technicians today began creating a 3-D sonar map to document the storm-exposed remains of the USS Hatteras, the only US warship sunk in combat in the Gulf of Mexico during the war.  (At least one was sunk in Mobile Bay.)

The iron-hulled steamship was converted into a gunboat and sunk by the CSS Alabama on January 11, 1863, about twenty miles off Galveston, Texas.

Today, the wreck is largely intact, about 57-feet down in sand and silt.  Recent hurricanes and storms have removed enough sediment to make the effort possible. Shifting sands, however, may rebury it so speed is of utmost importance.

It has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a war grave as two of the crew went down with the Hatteras and their bodies never recovered.

The expedition would like to have the job finished by the 150th anniversary if the sinking.

Another Ship Documented.  --Old B-Runner

Monday, October 1, 2012

Landsman Naylor Wins Medal of Honor at Battle of Mobile Bay

From the June 2, 2012, Westerly (RI) Sun "Not an ordinary seaman: Naylor showed bravery at Mobile Bay" by Sam Simons.

David Naylor was carrying black powder charges from the ship's magazine to the 30-pdr Parrott gun as "Red hot pieces of metal, wooden splinters and sparks flew around the young Navy recruit, while steam screamed from a direct hit on one of the boilers.  Ahead, the ironclad CSS Tennessee was bearing down."  This was the August 5, 1864, Battle of Mobile Bay and the Union fleet was passing by Confederate Fort Morgan in an extremely hot fight. 

Naylor's ship, the USS Oneida was at the back of the 14 wooden ship Union line and lashed to the USS Galena (formerly an ironclad, but now stripped of its ineffective armor).  As it passed the fort, it became a particular target and the shells flew.  The one that hit the ship's boiler had scalded seven men to death.

The ship's commander, J.R.M. Mullaney was mortally wounded.

Naylor was using a passing box when it was knocked out of his hands and overboard by an explosion.  The passing box is designed to protect the black powder charges from sparks as it is being moved.  Definitely something you want in this situation.  He saw that it had landed on one of the Galena's boats.

Lt. Charles Huntington had taken command of the Oneida and reported that Naylor "jumped overboard, recovered his boz and returned to his station."

Fir this action, Naylor was awarded the Medal of Honor.  He survived the war and was eventually buried in Westerly's Riverbend Cemetery.

A Brave Lad.  --Old B-R'er

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: October 1st to 6th,1862: Galveston Captured


The Western Gunboat Fleet transferred from the Army to the Navy and the unit renamed the Mississippi Squadron.  David Dixon Porter appointed Acting Rear Admiral and put in charge of it.


A Naval expedition engaged Confederate troops on the Blackwater River in Virginia for six hours.

A joint Army-Navy expedition engaged and captured a Confederate battery at St. John's Bluff and occupied Jacksonville, Florida.

The CSS Alabama captured the Brilliant. bound from New York to Liverpool and sank it.

Naval force bombarded and captured the defenses of the harbor and city of Galveston, Texas.  Six days later, the city officially surrendered.  That city, Corpus Christi and Sabine City now under Union control.  Farragut asks for "a few soldiers to hold the places."


The USS Somerset attacked Confederate salt works at Depot Key, Florida.

Old B-Runner