Fort Fisher

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

Friday, May 31, 2013

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: May 30th-31st, 1863


The USS Rhode Island was ordered to look for the CSS Alabama and Oreto in the West Indies early in 1863.  It never found them, but did capture the blockade-runner Margaret and Jessie off Eleuthera Island this date.  The runner took a shot in the boiler and had to run ashore to keep from sinking.  It had a large cargo of cotton.

The Rhode Island had also been towing the USS Monitor when it foundered and later took part in both attacks on Fort Fisher.  The Margaret and Jessie later may have become  the USS Gettysburg.

I came across some differing information on both ships so will have to do some more research.

Bloackade-runner A.D. Vance sailed from Great Britain to Wilmington, this was the first of 11 successful runs through the blockade for the ship, one of the best records of any runner.  I believe this was a North Carolina-owned blockade-runner.


The USS Carondolet, patrolling the Mississippi River below Vicksburg aided Union troops cut off by Confederates near Perkins Landing, Louisiana.

Admiral Porter volunteered to put a battery ashore to support General Sherman at Vicksburg.

Old B-Runner

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: May 29th, 1863


General Grant sent two communiques to Porter requesting naval assistance for Army operations below Vicksburg. 

In the first he requested help for General Blair who was attempting to clear out Confederates between the Big Black and Yazoo rivers.

In the second, he requested that the Marine Brigade be sent to Haynes' Bluff and occupy it until he could relieve them with his troops.

CSS Alabama captured and burned the Jabez Snow in the South Atlantic.

Old B-Runner

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Wilkinson's Point, NC

In today's Naval Happenings entry, I mentioned that on May 26, 1863, Union ships destroyed schooners and boats at Wilkinson's Point, NC.  Later, they covered an Army landing to occupy the place.  There was the clue of it being on the Neuse River.  I'd never heard of it so looked it up.  Not much at all on it.

I did determine, though that it is near New Bern, NC, and probably upriver since the Union already controlled the city at the time.

Not Much At All.  --Old B-R'er

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: May 26th to May 28TH,1863-- Good and Bad for Confederacy on the 27th


Army-Navy expedition and occupation of Wilkinson's Point, North Carolina.  Three ships reconnoitered the area along the Neuse River, capturing and destroying a number of small schooners and boats.  Then, the gunboats covered the Army landing until they were solidly entrenched.


The USS Cincinnati engaged Confederate positions at Vicksburg and despite safety precautions, a shot entered its magazine and the ship began filling with water.  The Cincinnati suffered 25 killed or wounded and 15 probable drownings.

Confederate defenders defeat a Union attack on  Port Hudson, inflicting severe losses on the Army.  General Banks' troops returned to their siege positions and asked Farragut to continue his day and night bombardment.

The CSS Chattahoochee, under Lt. John J. Guthrie, was accidentally sunk with a "terrible loss of life" by a boiler explosion.  Some 18 were killed. and many wounded and scalded.  She was later raised, but never in action again.


Porter instructs his fleet that "it will be the duty of the commander of every vessel to fire on the people working on the enemy's batteries, to have officers on shore examining the heights, and not to have it said that the enemy put up batteries in the sight of them and did nothing to prevent it."

Old B-Runner

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: May 24th to 26th, 1863


Confederates firedon the commissary and quartermaster boat of the Marine Brigade above Austin, Mississippi.  Ellet's force went ashore and engaged them.


Union ships ascended the Yazoo River and burned four steamers and destroyed places along the river.


CSS Alabama burned ship Gildersleeve and bonded the Justice off Bahia, Brazil.


General Banks writes Farragut asking him to have his  "mortars destroy the enemy's rest at night" at Port Hudson.  They were.

Old B-R'er

Not Too Much on the Yazoo City Confederate Navy Yard

Yesterday, I wrote about the capture of Yazoo City, Mississippi, and destruction of its navy yard. 

I looked it up and wasn't aable to find out much about it.

It was established in 1862 and the ironclad CSS Arkansas was launched there July 14, 1862.  It was burned and destroyed by Lt. Isaac Brown and occupied May 21, 1863.  The vessels Mobile and Republic were seized (I had also read that these two ships had been burned).  No other mention of the "monster ship" being built there.

I also saw mention that the Yazoo City Navy Yard had been moved there from Memphis before that city fell.

That's About It.  --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: May 21st to 22nd, 1863: What Was That Monster Ship?


Union ships push up the Yazoo River from Haynes' Bluff to Yazoo City, Mississippi.  As they approached, Cmdr. Isaac N. Brown, CSN, who had commanded the CSS Arkansas, was forced to destroy three "powerful steamers, rams" and a "fine navy yard, with machine shops of all kinds, sawmills, blacksmith shops, etc..."

Admiral Porter noted that the Confederate steamers destroyed were the Mobile, Republic and "a monster, 310 feet long and 70 feet beam."    Had the latter been completed, "she would have given us much trouble."  I wonder what the name of this behemoth would have been?

Farragut wrote Captain John R.  Goldsborough, commanding the blockade off Mobile and congratulated him on the number of captures made off that port.


Early in the morning, Union ship sengaged Vicksburg's hill batteries and temporarily silenced the works.  Then other gunboats attacked the water batteries, getting to within a quarter mile of them.  When it became apparent there would be no Union Army assault, Porter withdrew.

The gunboats were hit numerous times, but no major damage and were about out of ammunition.

Union Army steamer Allison destroyed schooner Sea Bird with a cargo of coal near New Bern, NC.

Old B-Runner

Skull Creek, South Carolina

In my last post, I mentioned Confederates placing torpedoes along Skull Creek, SC.  I'd never heard of this creek, so had to do some research.

Wikipedia said Skull Creek and Mackey Creek separate Hilton Head Island from the mainland.  Another source said a wreck was discovered in Skull Creek in 1985, possibly Union or Confederate.  Perhaps the torpedoes claimed at least one Union vessel?

I found numerous mentions of a Skull Creek Marina and restaurant.

The Hilton Head History site said that:

8,000 to 1000 BC, a four foot high ridge of shells was built along Skull Creek by Indians.

1779--  British privateers burned homes along Skull Creek

1813--  During the War of 1812, British troops landed on Hilton Head Island and burned houses along Skull Creek.

1862--  Union forces built Fort mitchell to protect them from Confederate attack across Skull Creek.

That's What I Found--  Old B-R'er

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: May 18th to May 20th, 1863


Confederate troops planted torpedoes in Skull Creek, SC, "with a view of destroying the enemy's vessels, which are constantly passing through this thorougfare."


As Grant's troops advance on Vicksburg, he constantly seeks naval support.  He asked Porter to have ships shell the rear of the city.

Lt. Cmdr. Reigart B. Lowry, USN, wrote Welles requesting that officers and sailors not actively employed be used to man forts and defenses along the coast.


Farragut reported to Welles that he was "again about to attack Port Hudson."  It will be attacked from above and below.

Rear Admiral Du Pont, summing up his failed attack on Charleston by his ironclads: "...moreover that Charleston could not be taken by a purely naval attack-- nor can it be...."  To try again would result in another disaster.

Old B-Runner

USS Shepherd Knapp: Couldn't Catch Semmes

From Wikipedia.

Last week, I wrote about this ship running aground on a coral reef off Haiti and sinking on Naval Happenings for May 18, 1863.  I'd never heard of this ship before and had to research it.  I did not find much outside of Wikipedia.

The ship was acquired by the US Navy 28 August 1861 in New York City.  It was a large sailing ship, 160 feet long, 838 tons and carried eight guns.

In 1861, it unsuccessfully pursued Captain Raphael Semmes in the CSS Sumter before returning to NYC in April 1862 where it was laid up.  January 20, 1863, it put to sea again, this time looking for Semmes in the CSS Alabama.

Again, the ship didn't catch the elusive Confederate and finally ran aground on a reef off the north coast Haitian city of Cap-Haitien.  It was abandoned after equipment taken off.

Old B-Runner

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The USS America: The Cup, the War

From the April 24, 2013, Civil War Navy Sesquicentennial "U.S.S. America-- The Most Famous Civil War Ship You've never Heard Of" by Gordon Calhoun.

In 1851, the British royalty gave a trophy cup called the 100 Guinea Cup to the Royal Navy Yacht Club for its annual race around the Isle of Wight.  The New York Yacht Club in the U.S. commissioned a specially built ship to win it and beat 15 British ships to bring it home where it was renamed America's  Cup which it is still known by.  Even to this day, there is competition every four years for the honor.

Soon after the race, the owners sold the America to a British lord who sold it to Henry Deice.  He then gave it to the Confederacy as a courier ship/blockade-runner out of Jacksonville, Florida.  When that city was captured, the America was scuttled in the St. John River.

It was raised by Union forces and sent to the Washington Navy Yard for repairs under John Dahlgren.  Three small cannons were mounted on it and it was commissioned the U.S.S. America.  Sent to the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, it captured or chased ashore several blockade-runners including the schooner David Crocke and steamers Georgina and Stonewall Jackson.

After the war, it was used as a training vessel at the USNA and later sold to General Benjamin Butler.  It survived into the 1940s.  A replica sails on the West Coast of the United States.

A Mighty Fast Ship.  --Old B-Runner

Monday, May 20, 2013

James E. "Fighting Jim" Jouett

From Wikipedia.

"Fighting Jim" Jouett (1826-1902)

American Navy in the mexican War and Civil War.  His grandfather was Revolutionary War hero Jack Jouett and his father Matthew Harris Jouett, a noted American painter.

James Jouett was born 7 February 1826, near Lexington, Kentucky.  He was captured at the beginning of the Civil War at Pensacola, Florida, and after parole, joined the Gulf Blockading fleet off Galveston, Texas.  On November 7-8th, he was on the USS Santee when it captured the Royal Yacht and later he commanded the USS Montgomery and the USS R.R. Cuyler (I have written about these two ships).

In September 1863, he took command of the USS Metacomet.  At the Battle of Mobile Bay, August 5, 1864, the Metacomet was lashed to Farragut's flagship, the USS Hartford and later sent off in pursuit of two Confederate gunboats.  The Metacomet riddled the CSS Gaines with shot and captured the CSS Selma.

After the war, Pruett commanded the North Atlantic Squadron in 1884.  He retired in 1890 after brilliant service.  He made his retirement home at "The Anchorage" in Sandy Springs, Maryland, and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Section 1, Site 85 A.

Two destroyers carried his name, one in each world war, and there was a guided missile cruiser.

Quite the Career.  --Old B-Runner

Friday, May 17, 2013

So, How Much Do You Know About the Naval War?

From the Civil War Talk Naval Forum.  There was a vote to determine how many people felt they were knowledgeable about different aspects of the Naval part of the war.

The Blockade and Blockade-Runners--  44%
Confederate Cruisers--  37%
Confederate Naval Operations in Europe--  28%
Western River Operations--  54%
Eastern Operations--  40%
Monitor and Merrimack (CSS Virginia)--  61%
Other Ironclads--  56%
Submarines--  49%
Torpedoes--   30%

I voted and had to say that I am somewhat knowledgeable in all these areas, but I continue to learn, with a lot of it from this blog.   For example, I had never heard of the cruiser CSS Georgia before I wrote about it recently.

How About You?  --Old B-Runner

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Andrew Bierne, CSN: Citizen of Virginia

I did a quick bit of research and found that he had indeed been in the USNA and had resigned at the beginning of the war which would explain his U.S. Navy service.  Of course, the term midshipman refers to someone in the process of becoming a naval officer.

From the Navy Department Library by William S. Dudley.

Among the numerous midshipmen resigning and going south, was one Andrew Bierne:

Date resignation was tendered 20 April 1861
Date resignation accepted 20 April 1861
Birth state: Virginia  (Probably the part that became West Virginia)
Appointed from: Virginia
Citizenship: Virginia  (Now, I find this of interest.  Instead of United States citizenship like we would have today, his citizenship was of his state.)
Date of CSN Appointment 24 June 1861
Appointment: Acting Midshipman

Eight other midshipman at the Naval Academy also turned in their resignations that day, April 20th, primarily from Virginia.  Before April, most of the resignations were from already seceded states.  After Fort Sumter, Lincoln ordered the remaining Southern states to send troops for Union service which was the final straw that had those states secede.

Secession Times.  --Old B-Runner

Blockade-Runners Took Advantage of Florida's Coast-- Part 2


There was a lighthouse on Egmont Key, but the lens and equipment of it had been taken away by Confederates and hidden in Tampa.  Some equipment turned up during a brief Union occupation in May 1864.  The rest was returned and the light repaired and activated at the close of the war.


Captains James McKay, Edward A. Clarke and Christoher L. Friebele were some of the best-known Tampa blockade-runners.  They would take cotton past the blockaders to Havana or Nassau and return with medicines, clothing, cigars, coffee, muskets and other munitions of war.

By far, the best-known was James McKay, a prominent person in the early history of Tampa.  His first ship, the Salvor, was captured and confiscated.  After his release, he acquired two more vessels, the steamer Scottish Chief and sloop Kate Dale, and continued his business.

In October 1863, the Union blockade learned that both vessels were at Hillsborough River in Tampa Bay and determined to end their careers.  The USS Tahoma and Adela sailed into Hillsborough Bay and landed 85 men at Gadsden Point.  At daybreak, they surprised the crews of the two runners who surrendered.

More to Come.  --Old B-R'er

Andrew Bierne's Confederate Naval Cutlass-- Part 2

Andrew P. Bierne was promoted to Passed Midshipman in January and was Acting Master of the CSS Chickamauga in September 1864, a former blockade-runner refitted as a cruiser.  On a short cruise from Wilmington, NC, to the Bahamas, it captured several prizes and was involved in the defense of Fort Fisher.  The ship was burned to prevent capture February 25, 1865.

Bierne was paroled at Nanna Hubba Bluff, Alabama, May 10, 1865.

After the war, he moved to West Virginia, married and lived there until his death in July 1916.  He is buried at Green Hill Cemetery at Union, Monroe County, West Virginia.

I would have liked to have known the story of what happened to the cutlass after the war.

The Chicakamauga was under the command of Lt. John Wilkinson, CSN, which was originally the blockade-runner Edith.  It took several prizes in a cruise north to Long Island Sound.

Interesting Story.  -- Old B-R'er

Andrew Bierne's Confederate Naval Cutlass-- Part 1

From Cowan's Auctions "Confederate Naval Cutlass Attributed to Midshipman Andrew P. Bierne, CSN."

I've never heard of the man, which made the story all the more interesting. 

The auction house was expecting to get $2,350 for it.  Not sure if they did, though.

English-made 24" long.

Bierne was born in 1846 and was sixteen when he joined the Confederate Navy in June 1861 after a brief service with the U.S. Navy (perhaps at Annapolis?)

There is some confusion as to his service, but from 1861-1862, he was at the Richmond Station.  He may have also served briefly at the Savannah Station in early 1863 as one of fifty officers on the CSS Georgia cruiser.  (Probably the ironclad CSS Georgia that was essentially a floating armored battery tied up at Fort Jackson.  I do not believe the cruiser CSS Georgia ever went to Savannah which was securely blockaded by 1863.)

More to Come.  --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: May 16th to 18th,1863


Commander Bulloch wrote Secretary Mallory from London that the French shipbuilders would not, as had been thought, build ships for the Confederacy on credit and insisted on cotton certificates.

Four  blockade-runners captured, two off Florida and two off South Carolina.


Four more blockade-runners captured of destroyed: two in Gulf of Mexico, one off South Carolina and one off Virginia,


Joint Army-Navy operation against Confederate works to the rear of Vicksburg, capturing Snyder's Bluff and causing Haynes' Bluff to be evacuated.  Porter then moved his gunboats into position and began shelling Vicksburg's hill batteries day and night.

Three more blockade-runners captured or destroyed.

The USS Shepherd Knapp, ran aground on a reef at Cape Haitien, West Indies and could not get off.  It was stripped of all usable stores, provisions and instruments before being abandoned.

Old B-Runner

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The USS Massachusetts

From the June 19, 2011, Biloxi (Ms) Sun-Herald.

  Before the Civil War, the USS Massachusetts was a civilian steamer built in Boston.  At the onset of the war, the US Navy consisted of just 90 vessels, many of which were sailing vessels.  But the new era meant that steamers were needed.  The Navy Department immediately bought 80 additional steamers and 60 sailing ships.

The Massachusetts was purchased May 3, 1861 and commissioned May 24th under commander Melancton Smith III, son of War of 1812 officer Melancton Smoth, Jr..  It was assigned to the Gulf Blockading Squadron, arriving at Key West June 8th.

On June 9th, it captured the British blockade-runner Perthshire with a cargo of cotton near Pensacola.  It then continued its Gulf patrol, capturing ships on the 17th, 19th and four on the 23rd.

While on patrol, the Confederates decided to take and fortify Ship Island with its then-named Fort Twiggs after General David Twiggs, who was now a Confederate general.  The Union also considered the fort of importance and a month later there was a battle.

Old B-R'er

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: May 15th, 1863: The Nuts and Bolts of Blockade Duty.


Admiral Du Pont wrote Benjamin F. Isherwoof, Chief of the Bureau of Steam Engineering regarding the naval floating machine shops at Port Royal, SC:  "This establishment is a most essential and important accesion to the efficiency of this squadron.... as the wants of the steamers now by long service so frequently requiring repairs.

In this connection I would call the attention of the Bureau to the necessity of sending out a small store vessel in which the materials requited for work at the machine shop, now constantly increasing since the arrival of the ironclads, could be stored, and that some person be carefully selected to take charge thereof.

The machine shop, which the Bureau is aware is in two old hulks, one of which is taken up entirely as a workshop and for quarters; and the other is in too decayed a condition to be suitable for the purpose of stowage."

In other words, keep the supplies coming, put someone with knowledge in charge and please send another ship for the purpose.

Old B-Runner


Monday, May 13, 2013

CSS Georgia, Confederate Cruiser-- Part 2

Continued from April 30th.

The Cruiser CSS Georgia crossed the Atlantic Ocean to Brazil and Trinidad, then back to Africa, arriving August 16, 1863.

By October 28th, the ship was in Cherbourg, France, and had captured nine ships.  Repairs were ordered.  In January 1864, it was decided to transfer the Georgia's guns to the CSS Rappahannock, but this never happened.

On May 2, 1864, it was taken to Liverpool and sold to a merchant.  On August 11th, the ship put out to sea and was captured by the USS Niagara off Portugal.  It was then taken to Boston and sold as a prize and became the merchant ship SS Georgia.  It was sold to Canada in 1870 and sank off the Maine coast in 1875 after running aground.

The Story of a Ship.  --Old B-Runner

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Farragut Marker Removed in Tennessee

From the September 22, 2011, (Tn) by Hugh G. Willett.

Lylan Fitzgerald owns the Stony Point property on Northshore Drive, has removed the marker because of problems with vandals and trespassers.  The monument/marker is 111-years-old and honors the site believed to be Union Admiral David G. Farragut's birthplace.

It was installed by the DAR in 1900.

Rumors say a history collector has it, perhaps living in Texas.

Farragut's father Jorge Farragut, a Spanish immigrant and Revolutionary War veteran was deeded the property in 1796.

David Farragut died in1870 and is buried in Bronx, New York.

I Have to Doubt That History Folks Would Be the Ones Trespassing or Vandalizing.  --Old B-R'er

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: May 12th to 13th, 1863


Union expedition on Tennessee River to destroy any vessel that might be of use to Confederates and engaged enemy detachments.

USS Conemaugh and USS Monticello bombarded five schooners aground at Murrell's Onlet, SC.  In less than an hour, had set 100 bales of cotton on the beach afire, one of the schooners afire and damaged the others.


The consistent Army-Navy operations against Viclsburg caused troops from the east to be transferred there, leaving Charleston undermanned.

CSS Florida captured and burned Crown Point off Brazil.

Old B-Runner

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Grave of Garrett J. Pendergrast

From Gond-A-Grave.

Garrett J. Pendergrast commanded the Union Navy in the early days of the war in southern Chesapeake Bay.  He is buried at Laurel Hill Cemetery, Section 1, Lot 106, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

His son, Commander Austin Pendergrast is also interred on the plot but there is no mention of him on the family obelisk monument there.  Austin Pendergrast was the one who surrendered the USS Congress and had another command of his, the USS Water Witch, captured by a Confederate raiding party.  Austin died in 1874. 

But, the monument does have an anchor.

Wikipedia refers to Garrett Pendergrast as being Austin's uncle.

A Naval Followup to the Battle of Gloucester, Virginia.

Old B-R'er

The War in Real Time: Importance of Wilmington

Well, it would have been real time had I not gotten busy yesterday with the yard before the rain and cool came.

From the Civil War Naval Chronology.


Captain Case, commanding the USS Iroquois, reported that the Confederates were mounting guns on the northern face of Fort Fisher at Wilmington.  "They appear," he wrote Rear Admiral S.P.Lee, " to be large caliber."

This defensive strengthening of the Southern position was in keeping with the view voiced by Lt. John Taylor Wood, CSN, in a 14 February 1863 letter to President Davis concerning Wilmington's defenses:  "The batteries covering the water approaches, as far as I am able to judge, are well placed and admirably constructed.  But the great want, the absolute necessity of the place if it is to be held against naval attack, is heavy guns, large caliber."

As we know, Fort Fisher withstood one huge Union Navy assault in December 1864, before falling to an even bigger one in January 1865.

The Confederacy's Malakoff Tower.  --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: May 8th to 10th, 1863


Secretary Welles tells President Lincoln of the fall of Grand Gulf, Mississippi, who had not heard of it yet.

Union mortar flotilla supported by USS Richmond opens fire on Port Hudson, Mississippi.


USS Aroostook captured Sea Lion bound from Mobile to Havana with a cargo of cotton.


The USS Mound City engages a Confederate battery near Warrenton and sets it afire.  "Thus ended a fort in the space of an hour which had taken the rebels five months to build, working day and night."

Old B-Runner

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Lee's Take on Wilmington's Importance

From the January 22, 2013, Wilmington (NC) Star-News.

On January 4, 1863, Confederate General Robert E. Lee cautioned the Confederate high command, "Wilmington must be defended at all hazards to protect vital supplies coming in on British blockade-runners."

That Important.  --Old B-R'er

The Blockade-Runner Modern Greece

From the January 22, 2013, WWAY (Wilmington, NC) 3 ABC, "Marking History" Blockade runner Modern Greece" by Tim Buckley.

The ship was destroyed June 27, 1862, by Fort Fisher's guns to prevent its capture after it had run aground.

In 1962, US Navy divers started recovering thousands of artifacts which also started a new science, underwater archaeology.  Once items are removed from the ocean, they will fall to pieces if not conserved under the direction of a professional.

Eleven thousand artifacts were recovered from the ship.  A new highway marker was dedicated recently at South Fort Fisher Boulevard in Kure Beach, North Carolina.

Raeford Brown mentioned that he dove on the Modern Greece with two buddies back in the late 1960s.  He said they had to feel their way around because of the poor visibility.

The wreck is located within swimming distance of shore.

Old B-Runner

Monday, May 6, 2013

Fort Fisher a Mighty Popular Place to Visit

From the March 4, 2013, Wilmington (NC) Star-News "Fort Fisher, Battleship among the state's most visited attractions" by Gareth McGrath.

North Carolina's 30-most-visited museums and historical attractions:

#7  Fort Fisher with 564,269
#12 North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher with 433,954
#21 Battleship USS North Carolina with 211,043

These rankings are a good thing as the state has begun closing down less-visited sites such as the Governor Aycock home near Goldsboro.  The USS North Carolina is self-sustaining as far as funds.

By the way, the #1 attraction:  The NC Museum of Natural Science in Raleigh with 1,220,814.  (I wonder if that is based on class fieldtrips?  This wa sthe first time in the last nine years that Biltmore in Asheville wasn't #1.

Old B-R'er

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: May 6th to 7th,1863: Confederates Recover the Keokuk's Guns


Commander North, CSN, wrote Secretary Mallory concerning Confederate ships being built in Scotland and England: "For the first time I begin to fear that our vessels stand in much danger of being seized by this Government.  I have written to our minister in France to know if this ship can be put under the French flag."

Not sure what ship he is referring to.  Obviously, the Union's efforts at preventing Confederate ships from being built by Britain is getting more successful.

CSS Florida, Lt. Maffitt captured the brig Clarence off the coast of Brazil.  He intends to use the Clarence for a raid Union shipping either at Hampton Roads or Baltimore.  The CSS Alabama was also operating off Brazil at this time.  Two Confederate cruisers in one area, best to stay away.


The Charleston Mercury reported: "The guns of this famous ironclad [USS Keokuk] now lie on the South Commercial wharf.  They consist of two long XI-inch columbiads, and will be mounted for our defense, valuable acquisitions, no less than handsome trophies of the battle at Charleston Harbor."

Confederates had particular difficulty getting at the guns as the turrets had to be removed first and this dome underwater and at night, sometimes under protection of gunboats and other times not.

The Bounty of War.  --Old B-Runner

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Confederate Fortifications at Sunset Parl, Wilmington, NC

According to old maps and the Thomas Legion, there were four Confederate fortifications along the east bank of the Cape Fear River that may well have been the fortifications at what is now Sunset Park.

Those four are Davis Battery, Lee Battery, Campbell Battery and Meares Battery.  All four were right by each other on a bluff overlooking the Cape Fear River about three miles below 1860s Wilmington.

Old B-R'er

Sunset Park, Wilmington, NC-- Part 2

The subdivision had a newsletter called the Dramtree (for the tree on the Cape Fear River).

The subdivision is located just minutes from downtown and across the road from Greenfield Lake with its magnificent cypress trees.

They were added to the NRHP in 202.  The subdivision is down to 225 acres now.  Originally it was intended for the upper class, but the pressing need for housing during World War II caused more cheaply and quickly built homes to be constructed.

The subdivision was annexed into Wilmington in 1946.

Old B-Runner

Sunset Park, Wilmington, NC-- Part 1

From the Sunset Park site.

The last post, I mentioned a skeleton being found at the construction site where the new, back in 1913, Sunset Park subdivision was being built.  I had never heard of this neighborhood, but knew that the Confederates had built fortifications along the Cape Fear River and construction in the early 1900s had obliterated the remains of them.

Sunset Park was established in 1912 by the Fidelity Trust and Development Company which began selling lots October 5, 1912.  It was a southern Wilmington subdivision of 442 acres which the corporation had purchased in 1911. 

A topographical survey was made and roads and boulevards laid out.  The original main entrance to the subdivision was on Northern Boulevard.

Highlights were its location along the Cape Fear River, 90-foot wide boulevards along with water and sewer systems.

Homes were built between 1812 and the 1960s, with most construction occurring during World War II between 1940 and 1943 to handle all the people coming to Wilmington to work at the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company,  other war industries and the military.

I'll Have to Check This Subdivision Out the Next Time I'm In the Area.  --Old B-R'er

Back in 1913, Workers Find a Skeleton at Confederate Fortification Near Wilmingtons

From the January 30, 2013, Wilmington (NC) Star-News "Back Then."

JANUARY 16, 1913--  "Workmen engaged in leveling the old fortifications on the Cape Fear River at Sunset Park found the complete skeleton of a man, supposedly a soldier.  The bones were placed in a box and will be kept for awhile..

Confederate fortifications were once near the new Sunset Park neighborhood.  Union troops later occupied them and there are reports of fighting there."

These would be fortifications further north along the Cape Fear River, closer to Wilmington than Fort Fisher.

Old B-Runner

Friday, May 3, 2013

Some More on Gloucester (Tyndall's Point)

From the Gloucester, Virginia Parks and Recreation.

In 1608 Robert Tyndall arrived in Virginia and in 1610, Captain John Smith noted the name of Tyndall's Point on his map of Virginia.

During the Revolutionary War, it became Gloucester Point.

Fort James was built on it in 1667 and was rebuilt with brick in 1671.

In 1781, the British Army refortified it to protect Yorktown.  In 1807, cannons were again placed at the fortifications.

A series of fortifications were established at the point over the years after that, including the Civil War.

Old B-R'er

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: May 2nd to 5th, 1863


Union gunboats under Lt.Cmdr. Selfridge fought guerrilla activity in the Greenville, Mississippi area.


Porter once again moved against Confederate batteries at Grand Gulf, only to find them already abandoned.  Grant had his force behind defenders.

That evening Porter rendezvoused with Farragut's fleet at the mouth of the Red River.  He received supplies and then headed up that river to Alexandria, Louisiana, which he took possession of May 7th.

CSS Alabama captured and burned the Union Jack and Sea Lark off Brazil.


Farragut says he will return to New Orleans.


Union General Dix requests Naval support for his operations along Virginia's York River which he received.

Old B-Runner

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Gloucester Point (Tyndall's Point)

The very first fortifications at Gloucester Point were built in 1667 and named Fort James.

During the Civil War, the new battery was largely the creation of Robert E. Lee, who was putting his engineering skills to good use, of course, before he became the the leader of the Army of Northern Virginia.

The main battery was constructed right at the end of the point, 100 yards long, enclosed and with 7 1/2 foot parapets, 20-foot thick and with embrasures for 12 guns.

Above it, Lee ordered a star-shaped fort to be built to protect the water battery from rear attack.

There is a marker in Tyndall Point Park by the earthworks.

Watch Out for Those Guns.  --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: May 1st to 2nd


The Confederate Congress creates a Provisional Navy to forward careers of younger, more energetic officers.  The regular Confederate Navy became more of a retired list.  The secretary of the Navy could then bring forth younger officers without offending the older ones.

Congress also allowed for the transfer of Army soldiers to Naval service.  The Navy always had an acute shortage of seamen

The first part sure sounded like politics.


Captain John Rodgers wrote Secretary of Navy Welles in regards to the April ironclad attack on Charleston  saying that the monitors had proven they could withstand the heaviest artillery fire, but apparently there were problems with "gun gear."  Their ability to shoot back was diminished under heavy fire. 

Withdrawing the monitors afterwards was the right thing to do because if " a single monitor were to fall into enemy hands then the whole character of the war would have changed-- the wooden blockade would have been at an end--  as far at least as Charleston is concerned."

USS Sacramento seized blockade running British schooner Wanderer off Murrell's Inlet, SC with cargo of salt and herring.

Old B-Runner

The Battle of Gloucester Point, Virginia--Part 2

On May 7, 1861, Flaf Officer Garrett J. Pendergast ordered Lt. Thomas O. Selfridge Jr to examine reported Confederate fortifications at Gloucester Point in the USS Yankee, a converted steam tugboat.  Selfridge (the sinker of ships later on) sailed up the York River and fired 12-13 shots at the Confederates who returned the fire.

After the action, Selfridge reported that all but two of the enemy shells were short.  Also, Selfridge reported that the Confederates had two "long 32s" and an 8-inch gun.  Actually, the Confederates only had smaller 6-pdr. guns.

Guarding a strategic point as it was, the Confederates immediately began strengthening the position and by May 11th had two 9-inch guns and two more ready to mount and by June 25th, 14 heavy guns.

So, about all that was accomplished by Selfridge was that it alerted Confederates as to the weakness of their position.

The batteries at Gloucester Point and Yorktown were abandoned during the night of May 3-4, 1862, during the Peninsular Campaign the following year.

Very Inconclusive I'd Say.  --Old B-R'er

The Battle of Gloucester Point, Virginia-- Part 1: Flag Officer Garrett J.Pendergast

From Wikipedia.

The battle took place May 7, 1861, during the early days of the Civil War and was inconclusive.

Flag Officer Garrett J. Pendergast commanded the Union Navy during this battle.  He was the uncle of Lt. Cmdr Austin Pendergast who took command of the USS Congress as it was sinking after being attacked by the CSS Virginia the next year.  His surrender of the ship worked against him as far as further promotion after that.  His reputation was further sullied when he commanded the USS Water Witch and it was captured later in the war by a Confederate boarding party.

Flag Offiver Pendergast (1802-1862, commanded the USS Boston during the Mexican War and commanded the pride of the US Navy, the USS Merrimack when it was commissioned February 20, 1856.  At the outbreak of the Civil War, he was in command of the USS Cumberland (later sunk by the CSS Virginia as well).

Pendergast's fleet began seizing Confederate ships and privateers off Fort Monroe, capturing 16 in short order.

After Glouchester Point, he was made a commodore in July 1862 and assigned to the Philadelphia Navy Yard where he died November 7, 1862, of a paralytic stroke.

It's a Family Affair.  --Old B-Runner