Fort Fisher

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

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Semmes of the CSS Alabama-- Part 2

When the CSS Alabama transferred to Confederate service (at sea and away from England), Semmes had a problem getting the "crew" made up primarily of British sailors to join the Alabama's crew.  He offered them double wages and a signing bonus along with a share in prize money.  The ploy succeeded.

Semmes' mission was not to fight Union warships, but attack any American-owned ship it encountered on the high seas.  Then, it was to sink it.

After that, it was off on a very successful cruise, operating the first two months in the eastern Atlantic and then the ship migrated southwest to the Azores and then west to winter in the Caribbean.  If you have been following my Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago entries, you will get an indication of how much success the Alabama had.  Sometimes the ship captured and sank American ships on a daily basis.

It did fight two Union ships, sinking the USS Hatteras in the Gulf of Mexico and then being sunk itself by the USS Kearsarge off Cherbourg, France, June 19, 1864.  Semmes was able to escape when picked up by a private yacht and later returned to the Confederacy where he was promoted to the rank of admiral.

After the war, he returned to Mobile, where a grateful city gave him a house to live out his years.  He is buried there and his home still stands as well as the statue of him and name on a downtown hotel.  Recently, a town near Mobile was named for him.

Old "Beeswax."  --Old B-R'er

Semmes of the CSS Alabama-- Part 1

From the Nov. 17, 2012, Biloxi (Ms) Sun Herald "Semmes was a fearless commander of the CSS Alabama" by Tim Isbell.

Raphael Semmes commanded the famous Confederate commerce raider Alabama for two years.  Born in Maryland, he moved to Mobile and opened a law practice after the Mexican War.  Once Alabama seceded, he resigned from the US Navy and was given a commission as an officer in the Confederate Navy which, because of resources, was forced to turn to commerce raiding to offset Northern superiority.

Semmes' first command was the CSS Sumter, after which he was captain of the Alabama, a screw sloop of war powered by both sail and two 300 hp horizontal steam engines that drove a single twin blade brass screw propeller.  The ship could move 10 knots an hour under sail or 13 when combined with steam.

More to Come.  --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Spend a Night in the Monitor's Turret

From the Nov. 23, 2012, Richmond (Va) Times-Dispatch :Auction offers macabre U.S.S. Monitor opportunity."

Now, you and up to five of your closest friends can have the experience of as lifetime and spend the night of December 30-Dec. 31st in the turret of said ship, exactly 150 years to the day the ship sank.

The Mariner's Museum  and Monitor National Marine Sanctuary in Newport News, Virginia, is having an e-Bay auction with bids opening at $1,000 and with an undisclosed reserve price.  Funds raised will help go to the preservation of the turret which alone costs some $2,000 a day.

The famous USS Monitor sank between midnight December 30th and 1 AM December 31st.  Sixteen of the 52-man crew died that night.  Two of those skeletons were found in the turret after it was raised. 

The two Dahlgrean guns in the turret have been removed for conservation.  The successful bidder also receive lodging near the museum as well as food and entertainment at the well as time in the 20-foot diameter turret.

Calling All My Friends.  --Old B-Runner

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Lincoln's Blockade Order to Be Auctioned-- Part 2

Some of Lincoln's cabinet objected to the move, saying it could be seen as a de facto recognition of the Confederate States of America as a soverign nation as countries do not blockade their own ports.  (Lincoln refused to admit that the southern states were out of the Union.)  Lincoln, however, was less interested in the legal ramifications of the war  than in winning it and went ahead with it anyway.

The document was owned by a private collector who wishes to remain anonymous and had been exhibited recently at museums, including the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential; Museum and Library in Springfield, Illinois.

The single-page document directed Lincoln's secretary of state to"affix the Seal of the United States to a Proclamation setting on foot a Blockade of the States of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.  This effectively declared war on the Confederacy.

It was later extended to the states of North Carolina and Virginia after they too seceded.

This Means War!!  --Old B-Runner

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Lincoln's Blockade Order To Be Auctioned-- Part 1

From the Nov. 21, 2012, Goldsboro, (NC) News-Argus by AP.

A document signed by Abraham Lincoln that ordered a Union blockade of all Confederate ports, marking the official beginning of the Civil War is being offered for sale.

The Raab Collection out of Philadelphia is selling it and calles it one of the most important documents in American history and with an asking price of $900,000.  The proclamation is dated April 19th, 1861, just one week after the firing on Fort Sumter.

After the war had ended, in 1865, the U.S. Supreme Court, in an opinion, ascribed the document as the official beginning of the war.  Nathan Raab of the company said, "This action was bold and with great risk.  Lincoln was aware that blockading the ports was an act of war."

More to Come.  --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Declaring a Blockade

Now, you can have your very own copy of a rather imporatnt Civil War for your own house if you si desire.  All it will take is a nifty $900,000.  Chump change.

Even better, it has a rather important signature attached to it, and that would be from a man named Abraham Lincoln.

It is going up for sale with an asking price of almost the million dollars I mentioned.

I am not sure how the seller came to have it.

No blockade and no job for me.

Old B-Runner

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: November 25th to 30th, 1862-- It's a Coal Thing


The USS Kittaninny captured b-rs both days.  The Matilda was bound from Havana to Matamoras, Mexico.  The next day, the Diana was bound from Campche, Mex. to Matamoras.  Matamoras was right across the Rio Grande River from Brownsville, Texas, and a favorite b-r port.


Admiral Farragut is not happy that he has nothing to do at New Orleans: "I am still doing nothing, but waiting for the tide of events and doing all I can to hold what I have., & blockade Mobile.  So soon as the river rises, we shall have Porter down from above, who now commands the upper squadron, and then I shall probably go outside...We shall spoil unless we have a fight occasionally."  Farragut was not happy that he could not get troops to support an attack on Mobile.


In late November, Captain H.A. Adams, was ordered to special duty in Philadelphia as coordinator of coal supply.  All coal used in the US Navy at the time was anthracite and came from the eastern district of Pennsylvania, being forwarded to Philadelphia by rail or barge down the Schuylkill River.  Then it is loaded into coal schooners and sent to the various blockade stations.

Squadron commanders were having great difficulty keeping their ships supplied with coal and often had to borrow from the Army.  To give an idea of how much coal was needed, in mid-December, Du Pont notified the Navy Department that it took 950 tons of coal a week to keep his South Atlantic Blockading Squadron operating.

USS Mount Vernon captured b-r Levi Rowe off New Inlet, NC.


CSS Alabama captured and burned bark Peter Cook off the Leeward islands in the Caribbean.

Old B-Runner

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: November 20th to 24th,1862-- Cushing's At It Again

Since I will be on the road the next two weeks and the Civil War Naval Chronology book, where I get this information is pretty big, I'm going to get caught up for the month now.


Two b-rs (blockade-runners) captured, one at Charleston and the other at Pensacola Bay.

Confederates at Matagorda Bay, Texas, captured a boat crew from US mortar schooner Henry Janes who were ashore to "procure" fresh beef.  See what happens when you "steal."


Joint Army-Navy expedition to Matthews Court House, Virginia destroyed numerous salt works, hundreds of bushels of salt, burned three schooners, numerous small boats and captured 24 large canoes.  Wonder what they were going to do with the canoes?


Landing party from the USS Ellis under Lt. Cushing, captured arms, mail and two schooners at Jacksonville, NC.  While under attack by Confederate artillery, the Ellis grounded the next day.  Every effort was made to float the ship, but failed.  On the 25th, Cushing ordered it to be set afire to avoid capture.  Cushing reported: "I fired the Ellis in five places and having seen the battle flag was still flying, trained the gun on the enemy so that the vessel might fight herself after we had left her."

That rascal Cushing.


USS Monticello  destroyed two salt works near Little River Inlet, NC.

Old B-R'er

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: November 15th to 19th,1862-- Close One for Lincoln


President Lincoln and secretaries Seward and Chase went to the Washington Naval Yard to view the trial of the Hyde rocket and were joined by Captain Dahlgren.  One defective rocket accidentally explodes, but Lincoln escaped injury.


USS Kanawha and Kennebec chased a b-r ashore near Mobile.  Of the blockade's effectiveness, Farragut wrote, "Blockading is hard service, and difficult to carry on with perfect success....I don't know how many (b-rs) escape, but we certainly take a good many prizes."

USS Cambridge forced b-r British schooner J.W. Pindar aground at Masonboro Inlet, NC, and sent a boat crew to destroy the vessel.  The boat swamped and the crew was captured after firing the schooner.


CSS Alabama arrived at Martinique where it was blockaded by the USS San Jacinto.  In foul weather during the evening of the 19th, the Alabama slipped out.

USS Monticello chased b-rs British schooners Ariel and Ann Maria ashore and destroyed them near Shallotte Inlet with cargoes of salt, flour, sugar and lard.


USS Wissachikon and Davis engaged Fort McAllister, Georgia.  The Wissachickon was badly damaged.   The two Union ships had the mission to keep the CSS Nashville in the Ossabaw Sound so it wouldn't become another commerce raider the the CSS Alabama.

Old B-Runner

Friday, November 16, 2012

Back Then: Carolina Beach

From the Jan. 16, 2010, Wilmington (NC) Star-News "Back Then" column.

On Jan. 21, 1960, Carolina Beach civic leader Glen M. Tucker was assured by state officials that US-421 from Wilmington to Carolina Beach would be expanded to four lanes and that a new bridge would be built over Snow's Cut.

Before that, the beach was served bu a two-lane road that had problems with the large numbers of people going to the beach.  Plus the new bridge was to be built high enough that boats along the intercoastal waterway would not have to cause the bridge to go up.

Snow's Cut was named after Army Corps of Engineers Major William A. Snow, who directed it and was completed in 1930.  Parts of the old two-lane road can still be seen.  Making the cut caused the Federal Point peninsula to, in effect, become an island.  I remember always getting excited crossing Snow's Cut Bridge and seeing the ocean to the east from the top of it.  "We're at the beach!!  And Fort Fisher is so near!!"

Up until 1910, there was no paved road between Wilmington and Carolina Beach.  As the beach increased in popularity, visitors generally boarded steam boats in Wilmington and went down the Cape Fear River to a point near Sugar Loaf, disembarked and  took a small train to the beach.

US-421 continues past Carolina Beach all the way to past Fort Fisher to the "Rocks" by the old Battery Buchanan.  The "Rocks" closed off New Inlet, a favorite entrance for blockade-runners during the Civil War.

Oh Boy!!  The Beach!!  --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Confederate Navy March 15, 1861

From the March 15, 1861, Richmond Dispatch.

If the sides during the war wanted to know numbers and locations of the enemy, all they really had to do was a copy of the enemy's newspaper which were tell-all.  I'm sure Union "spies" were really happy to get this information.

The previous entry, I wrote about the USS Corwin which was a revenue cutter, but one that wasn't seized by Confederate forces in the early days of the country.

CS Navy revenue cutters seized from the U.S. government:

McClelland, 4 side guns, 1 pivot, 35 crew. (Later became the CSS Pickens)
Lewis Cass, one 69 pdr., 45 men
Aiken, one 42-pdr, 35 men (Became the privateer Petrol and sunk by the USS St. Lawrence)
Washington, one 42-pdr.
Dodge, one pivot gun

Also, there was the propeller tug James Gray, purchased in Richmond and mounting a 42-pdr Columbiad

Bonita, a slave ship brig being converted into a war vessel
Nina, steamship, gunboat, mounts one gun and has just returned to Charleston from a ten-day cruise off the coast.
Everglade-- steamer
USS Fulton, steamer seized at Pensacola Navy Yard while in ordinary, four 32-pdrs.  Will cost $10,000 to get ready for sea.

Thanks Richmond Paper.  --Old B-R'er

The USS Corwin

From Wikipedia.  Another ship I'd never heard of before.

The Corwin was built in 1849 for the US Coast Survey and transferred to the US Revenue Service in April 1861 then to the Navy in September of that year.  It weighed 330 tons and mounted two 32-pdrs and two 12-pdr. guns.

In September, it surveyed and buoyed Hatteras Inlet in advance of the fleet's advance against Confederate North Carolina.  November 14th, it engaged the CSS Curlew and also fought Confederate gunboats in Pamlico Sound.  During this time it was under the command of Thomas Phelps who later became a rear admiral.  He went on to command the USS Juanita during the attacks on Fort Fisher.

In April 1862, the ship was transferred to the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron and stood station at Hampton Roads.

Old B-Runner

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Fort Fisher Love Story-- Part 3

Daisy Lamb died in 1892 and William never remarried.  In 1893, he purchased a $3,500 stained glass window and had it installed at St, Paul's Episcopal Church in Norfolk, Virginia.

Lamb, who kept a diary, wrote in it May 1892:  "The world is absolutely a different place.  I seem to have no settled or definite plans for the future, for everything I did or planned for was for her pleasure and comfort."

The display was at the Fort Fisher Museum until the end of January, 2011.

Wish I Had Seen It.  --Old B-R'er

A Fort Fisher Love Story-- Part 2

Sarah Anne Chaffee Lamb was originally from Providence, Rhode Island and traveled to Confederate Point (Federal Point) in 1863 when her husband took command of the Fort Fisher.  At that time, the young couple had three children and brought her two oldest with her.

Col. Lamb had a small cottage built for them north of the fort, where the Fort Fisher Air Force Recreational Facility is today. (I wonder if the foundation remains?)  A housewarming party was given by the fort's officers and female guests in May 1863.  It featured a picnic, dancing and music from a local string band.

The Fort Fisher museum has a rare photo of the cottage as well as the couple's Wilmington home that stood on the northeast corner of Third and Chestnut streets (across Chestnut from the Thalian Hall).

One of her few luxuries at the cottage was a vase she mentioned no less than five times in her diary.  It was given to her by the Anglo-Confederate Trading Company whose blockade-runners were protected by her husband's guns.

True Love.  --Old B-Runner

Monday, November 12, 2012

The United States' Mediterranean Squadron-- Part 1

From Wikipedia.

Until I mentioned the USS Constellation being in the Mediterranean Squadron during the Civil War, i was completely unaware that there was one.  So, I had to do some research.

It was also called the Mediterranean Station and formed in response to the Barbary Wars.  In the 1820s to 1860s, it primarily was used to suppress piracy from Greece and to use Gunboat Diplomacy (The Big Stick).

The USS Constellation, the last all sail frigate,  was sent to its duty in 1855.  In the Civil War years it mounted sixteen 8-inch shell guns, four 32-pdr. guns, one 30-pdr. Parrot pivot rifle and a 20-pdr. Parrott pivot rifle.

In 1865, it was renamed the European Squadron.  From July 1865 to 1867, Rear Admiral Louis M. Goldsborough commanded it from the USS Colorado.

More to Come.  --Old B-Runner

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Thank You Veterans

And, of course, veterans would also include those of the naval bent.  Going all the way back to the Revolutionary War and through today.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: November 10th to 14, 1862


Confederate commander Maury, en route to Liverpool, England wrote his wife from Halifax, Nova Scotia and found that the people there "are strongly 'secesh'."


The USS Kensington capture two different blockade-runners off the Florida coast.


Rear Admiral Farragut had been at Pensacola, preparing for an attack on Mobile, but developments on the Mississippi River necessitated his return.  The French and British had ships in the vicinity "and we sailors understand each other better in many cases than landsmen."

He was pressuring General Butler as to when he could get a force of troops "to attack Fort Gaines (by Mobile Harbor)...I would attack the forts and go through to Mobile Bay without his assistance, but it would embarrass me very much not to have my communication open with the outside."

So, plans are afoot to attack the forts guarding Mobile Bay if troops can assist in the reduction of the forts.

Old B-R'er

A Fort Fisher Love Story-- Part 1

From the December 7, 2010, Wilmington (NC) Star News "Fort Fisher exhibit delves into Civil War love story" by Amy Hotz.

"An epic love story set against the backdrop of the Civil War," says Ray Flowers, an interpreter with the Fort Fisher State Historic Site of the latest exhibit at the museum.

He gave a 30 minute talk to the Cape Fear Civil War Round Table on December 9th. "Heart, Hearth and Home: The Life of Colonel and Mrs. (Daisy) Lamb.  It explores the day-to-day lives of the fort's garrison and commander's family between battles.

The Friends of Fort Fisher recently acquired six spoons, four forks and a knife that belonged to the Lambs.  It would be interesting to know how they came to acquire the items.  The fort's staff did research around these eleven objects and "found a love story as dramatic and tragic as 'Gone With the Wind.'"

Like the Lincolns, Daisy and William Lamb lost children during the war.  One died in Wilmington and the other at Fort Fisher.  In all, the couple lost seven children, six in infancy and one at 26.

More to Come.  --Old B-Runner

Friday, November 9, 2012

Wilmington's Fever Continues

From the UNC Libraries' Civil War Day By Day Blog.  Each day, they write about something in their holdings that ties in with that same date during the war.

From the October 16, 1862 Wilmington (NC) Journal.

"The physicians report 66 new cases of Yellow Fever yesterday.  Few make reports of deaths, but from the best information we can obtain, we are led to the belief that the deaths yesterday (Wednesday) will not differ much from those of the two days last preceding them, --say 16 or 16.

From appearances, we are constrained to think that every person resident in Wilmington during the epidemic has had or will have it in some form, more or less malignant.  It was out painful duty yesterday to record the death of Rev. Dr. Drane, of the Episcopal Church.  To-day we find that the very estimable paster of the Catholic Church here, Rev. Thos. Murphey, prostrated by the disease, also Rev. Dr. Corcoran of Charleston.  Both we trust and believe, are in light form, and will soon pass off.  (I'm not quite sure what this sentence means, but likely the two men only had a mild case and will soon get better.)

The fever does not abate, but we are now in the third week of October, and in the natural course of things we must soon have cooler weather, and some relief in that way."

This Epidemic Hit Wilmington Hard, But Life Went On.  --Old B-Runner

A Good Time At Fort Fisher in 1982

From my journal.

THURSDAY, AUGUST 5, 1982  Thirty years ago.

"We went by the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, or UNC Wonderful as it is commonly called, and toured the area.  It is definitely a beautiful campus and growing fast.

I also went to the Blockade Runner (Museum).  Chris Fonvielle offered me a position next year as Assistant Director at from between $15-18,000 a year salary.  He said we could do great things if we teamed up on our research.

I told him that he certainly knew a lot more about Fort Fisher than I did, but he replied that was only because he had always lived there.  I walked from the B-R back to the cottage."

I went to Fort Fisher at 4.  "I met Wilson and Jim Legg there.  Ron, Wilson, Mary, Jim and I drove out to the main Union line."

 That offer from Chris sure had me thinking about it.  That was around what I was earning teaching in Illinois and to have the chance to be that close to Fort Fisher.  That would be a dream come true.

To Fisher or Not to Fisher.  --Old B-R'er

Old B-Runner

Death of Underwater Archaeologist Charles Peery II

From the October 10, 2012, Wilmington Star News "Surgeon and underwater archaeologist Charles Vance Peery II dies at 71" by Ben Steelman.

Died October 6th in South Carolina.  Born June 22, 1941, in Kinston, NC.  As a teenager, he recovered artifacts from the CSS Neuse which started his great interest in underwater archaeology that he was involved with his whole life.  He was very active in various state diving groups and was one of the young divers who aided in the recovery of items from the blockade-runner Modern Greece in the early 1960s.  He later dove on the blockade-runners Ranger and Condor (the one that carried Rose O'Neal Greenhow).

Later, with friends, he founded the maritime archaeology firm MARS to explore and excavate the blockade-runner Ella sunk off Bald Head Island in December 1864.

He was also on the board of the Friends of the Hunley (Confederate submarine) and left much of his big Civil War collection with them.

A Man After My Own Heart.  --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: November 4th to 9th, 1862-- Clossing Off Shallotte and New Topsail


Rear Admiral S.P. Lee reported to Sec. Fox "There is no doubt that a large trade was carried on with Wilmington (NC) through Shalotte Inlet 25 miles below, & New Topsail Inlet 15 miles above Wilmington.  I have shut both doors."

The USS Daylight and Mount Vernon forced blockade-running British bark Sophia aground and destroyed her near Masonboro Ilet, NC.


The USS Louisiana captured the schooner Alice B. Webb at Rose Bay, NC.


CSS Alabama captured and burned the ship T.B. Wales southeast of Bermuda.


Greenville, NC, surrendered to a joint Army-Navy landing force under Second Assistant Engineer J.L.Lay of the USS Louisiana.

The Louisiana eventually became Butler's powder ship for his experiment before the First Battle of Fort Fisher.

Old B-Runner

A Mule Makes His Escape

From the June 27, 2011, Long Reach Blog.  From the June 27, 1861, Mobile Advertiser article about events at Pensacola.  Unfortunately, this blog ceased in 1861 when it got to be too much for the several people running it.  They would do events reported each day from newspapers and had plenty of interesting tidbits that I so love.

This is a prime example:

"Another deserter to day from Fort Pickens.  A mule from one of the recently arrived transports, not liking his quarters on the island, or driven by desperation by the sandfleas, swam from the beach of Fort Pickens to our shore, and made his way to the hills in spite of soldiers and batteries, which were charged in gallant style.  Verity, old Lincoln's service must be a hard and degrading one, when his mules depart."

Somebody's Got a Sense of Humor.  --Old B-Runner

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The "French Lady" of the St. Nicholas Capture

From the July 10, 2011, Long Recall blog.

In July 1861, the steamer St. Nicholas left Baltimore and had on board about 50 "secessionists" in disguises and in a "piratical crime" seized the ship.

This is a follow up article back in the Northern Newspapers of the day.

The paper had reported the seizure back on July 3rd and there was some dispute "which Southern officer dressed as a woman in order to hide himself away on the ship until the time of the strike occurred.

We appear to now have confirmation not only of the man in disguise was Captain Thomas of St. Mary's County, but also that he has been captured.  Lieutenant Thomas H. Carmichael and Mr. John Horner apprehended him in Baltimore July 9."

Those Sneaky Rebels.  --Old B-R'er

A Rebel Slaver and Privateer Captured at Hayti

From the July 11, 2011, Long Recall Blog.

This was taken from the Northern Press.

"An attempt at slave-dealing was lately made on the very coast of Hayti (Haiti), by a vessel of New Orleans, the William, Captain Le Pelletier, but owing to the energetic interference of the French vice consul, the vessel, which had dared to shelter herself under the French flag, was seized , and her captain arrested.

Among the papers found on board was a certificate of Mr. Lewis, the United States consul at Port-au-Prince, stating that the vessel had left that place, and not Havana as was pretended, and also a document which proved that she had been previously captured, with four hundred and fifty-four negroes on board, by an American cruiser.

After the imprisonment of the captain, the William was closely searched, and there was found on board a number of six-barrelled revolvers and double-barrelled rifles with sabre bayonets."

Old B-Runner

Monday, November 5, 2012

Confederate Camp at North Carolina's Masonboro Sound

From the Oct. 7, 2012 Wilmington (NC) Star-News My Reporter "Was there a Confederate camp at Masonboro Sound?"

A reader wrote in and wanted to know the answer.

There was plenty of Civil War action around Masonboro Sound.  General Braxton Bragg, worried about Federal troops now entrenched in the lower Cape Fear River and a possible siege of Wilmington, ordered a line of breastworks built from just below Wilmington at Fort Meares, one of the river batteries, east to Hewlett's Creek near Masonboro Sound.

This would give Confederates a defensive line in case Sugar Loaf (by present-day Carolina Beach) fell.

According to Fort Fisher's Becky Thatcher, the Union did attempt an unsuccessful landing between Wrightsville Sound and Masonboro Sond.

There are some structures still standing in the area.

Old B-R'er

Fort Wool, Virginia-- Part 3

President Andrew Jackson made Fort Calhoun his "White House."  Calhoun became Jackson's enemy when he threatened to pull out of the Union over state;s rights.  Jackson had a hut built for him and watched ships sailing on the Chesapeake Bay from his advantage point. 

He also had policy discussions with cabinet members on the island.

President John Tyler lived there after the death of his second wife.  Lincoln also visited the fort which remained only half built during the Civil War.  Soon after the Battle of Hampton Roads (Monitor versus Virginia), the federal government renamed the fort after Gen. John Ellis Wool, commander of Fort Monroe.

Actor Sir Alec Guinness ran into a minefield off the fort during World War II and comedian Red Skelton entertained troops there.  Much of the original fort was replaced by a concrete one built in the early 20th century.

Between 10,000 and 12,000 visit the fort each year.

I'd Actually Never Heard of the Fort Before This.  --Old B-Runner

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Fort Wool, Virginia-- Part 2

Continued from Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012.

Fort Wool and Fort Monroe were designed by  Simon Bernard of France, who served under Napoleon.

Construction of the fort and garrison duty were both harsh, especially during the summer's heat.

It was dedicated (even though not complete) 1826 as Fort Calhoun, named after Secretary of War John C. Calhoun.  By 1834, Fort Monroe was completed, but there were already problems with Fort Calhoun as its foundation was settling and the fort was never completed.

The original plans for the fort called for 232 cannons to be manned by a garrison of 1,000.  Robert E. Lee was given the task of stabilizing it in 1834 as his first independent command.  He found that the island wouldn't hold the weight of the two tiers of casemated and brought more stone in to stabilize it, but the fort never reached its intended size.  Essentially, Lee failed in his task.

One little-known aspect of the fort's history involved President Andrew Jackson, who in the late 1820s and 1830s, came to the fort heartbroken over the death of his first wife and in frail health.

More to Come.  --Old B-Runner

Friday, November 2, 2012

The USS Montgomery

From Wikipedia.

Last week, I wrote about some October action off Cuba that almost caused a war with Spain involving the USS Montgomery and its commander, Charles S. Hunter. 

I'd never heard of the ship, so looked it up.  It was a wooden screw steamer built in 1858 and purchased by the Navy and commissioned May 27, 1861 with Cmdr. O.S. Glisson in command.

From June to November it was off Apalachicola, Florida before going to the Wilmington, NC, blockade where it had a running fight with the CSS Tallahassee.  In January 1862, it joined the East Gulf Blockading Squadron and then the West Gulf one where it captured several blockade-runners.

In April 1862, it freed American citizens being held in Mexico and in late April captured the British schooner Will o- the Wisp by the Rio Grande River.

Then, October 7th came the capture and destruction of the Blanche, also known as the General Rusk in Cuban waters.  Oct. 28th it captured the CSS Carolina.

Then, in 1863, it joined the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron and searched for the CSS Tacony which was cruising off Nantucket before joining the Wilmington blockade again in August.  It made a career of capturing blockade-runners: Feb. 11, 1864, it captured Pet, the Dove June 7, the Bendigo aground at Wilmington Bar June 13th and the Bat October 11th.

It participated in both battles of Fort Fisher.  After the fall of Fort Fisher, it was in the Cape Fear River and engaged Half Moon Battery February 11th.

The Montgomery was sold in August 1865 and was in the merchant service until 1877.

Must Have Been Quite the Fast Ship and a Happy Crew with All That Prize Money.  --Old B-R'er

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: Oct. 31st to November 3rd, 1862-- Pooks and Improvising the Cartridge Bags


Naval expedition of USS Hetzel, Commodore Perry, Hunchback, Valley City and Army gunboat Vidette, opened fire on Confederate encampment at Plymouth, NC, forcing them to retreat.  Then the expedition was ordered to meet Gen. John G. Foster at Williamston on Nov. 3rd to support Army assault on Hamilton, NC.  Nov. 4th, Confederates evacuated Hamilton and troops took possession.

Then, an Army attack on Tarboro failed.  The Union fleet transported 300 sick and wounded soldiers back to Williamston.


Rear Admiral Porter writes Fox seeking authority over the Ellett rams in western waters.  They were needed badly because the "The old 'Pook Turtles' are only fit for fighting--they can not get along against the current without a tow."  Fox agreed and took it to Lincoln who also agreed and on November 7th, all war vessels on the Mississippi transferred to the Navy.  This provided much greater efficiency for operations there.

CSS Alabama captured and burned whaling ship Levi Starbuck near Bermuda.


The CSS Cotton and shore batteries engaged4 Union ships at Berwick Bay, Louisiana and caused considerable damage to them until the Cotton ran out of cartridge bags forced the Confederate ship to withdraw.  The Cotton's commander reported that the final shots were fired using the legs of his men's pants as improvised cartridge bags.

Commander Henry Thatcher wrote Fox about the cruise of the historic USS Constellation in the Mediterranean Sea and requested more ships at that station to make other countries think the US Navy is stronger and can spare ships from the blockade.  Also, he wanted them in case a Confederate cruiser slipped into that body of water.

I kind of doubt that he got more ships.

The USS Penobscot, Cmdr. Clitz, destroyed b-r British ship Pathfinder after forcing it aground off Shallotte Inlet, NC.

Old B-Runner