Fort Fisher

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

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Ingenuous Plan to Save Porter's Fleet

APRIL 29TH, 1864:  Union Army and Navy commanders accept a daring plan proposed by Union Lt.Col. Joseph Bailey to raise the water level of the Red River to enable the vessels to pass the treacherous rapids.  He proposed  the construction of a large dam of logs and debris across the river to back up the water level to a minimum height of  seven feet.

The dam would be broken and the ships would ride the crest of the rushing water to safety.  Work on the dam began on April 30th.

Porter wasn't sure about it, but any effort to save the ships was worth the attempt.  He wrote: "The proposition looked like madness, and the best engineers ridiculed it, but Colonel Bailey was so sanguine of success that I requested General Banks to have it done... two or three regiments of Maine men were set to work felling trees...every man seemed to be working with a vigor seldom seen equalled....These falls are about a mile in length, filled with rugged rocks, over which at the present stage of water it seemed to be impossible to make a channel."

Doubtful Porter, But Anything Is Worth a Shot At This Point.  --Old B-R'er

A Confederate Plan to Destroy Porter's Fleet

APRIL 29TH, 1864:  Major General Taylor, CSA, seeking to take advantage of Porter's vulnerable position above the Alexandria falls, proposes they "convert one of the captured transports into a fire ship to burn the fleet now crowded above the upper falls."

A Union boat expedition up the Rappahannock River in Virginia engaged Confederate cavalry and destroyed a camp.

The USS Honeysuckle captured the blockade-running schooner Miriam west of Key West.  It had boarded the Miriam the day before and found its papers in order and released the Miriam.  However, the Honeysuckle kept an eye on the Miriam and determined the ship was not following the course it should have been.  Another boarding and mail for the Confederate States was found and the Miriam was seized.

--Old B-Runner

Porter Sums Up the Red River Campaign

APRIL 28TH, 1864:  Rear Admiral Porter summed up the results of "this fatal campaign" on the Red River which has "upset everything" to date:  "It has delayed 10,000 troops of General Sherman, on which he depended to open the State of Mississippi; it has drawn General Steele from Arkansas and already given the rebels a foothold in that country; it has forced me to withdraw many light-clad vessels from points om the Mississippi to protect this army...."

Porter is not a happy man.

Old B-R'er

Porter Facing Serious Situation on Red River

APRIL 28TH, 1864: Rear Admiral David Porter and his fleet is stranded above the Red River rapids at Alexandria due to falling waters. Especially troubling is the withdrawal of the Union Army under General Banks which was supposed to support him.

He wrote Welles:   "... I find myself blockaded by a fall of three feet of water, 3 feet 4 inches being the amount now on the falls; 7 feet being required to get over; no amount of lightening will accomplish the object....  In the meantime, the enemy are splitting up into parties of 2,000 and bringing in the artillery... to blockade points below here."

At this point, Porter faced the very likely possibility of having to destroy his fleet to prevent it from falling into Confederate hands and continued: "...you may  judge of my feelings at having to perform so painful a duty."

Only the most ingenious planning and strenuous efforts of thousands of soldiers and sailors was this fleet destruction avoided.

Old B-Runner

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

State of Confederate Navy Officer Corps April 1864

APRIL 27TH, 1864: The CSS Alabama captured and burned the bark Tycoon at sea east of Salvador, Brazil. APRIL 28TH, 1864: Cmdr. John K. Mitchell, CSN, in charge of the Office of Orders and Detail wrote: "A deficiency of lieutenants and younger officers continues, owing top the impossibility of obtaining persons suitably qualified. The total number of officers of all grades, commissioned, warranted, and appointed, now in the service amounts to 753, all of whom, except 26, are on duty. The total number of enlisted persons now employed in the Navy within the Confederacy is 3,960, and abroad about 500, making a total of 4,460."

Monday, April 28, 2014

Confederate Plans to Liberate Johnson's Island Prisoners

APRIL 27TH, 1864: President Davis appointed Jacob Thompson representative of the Confederate States in Canada. It was from Canada that Thompson planned to liberate prisoners held on Johnson's Island in Lake Erie. //// In addition, he had plans to burn steamboats on the inland waters, coordinated the return of escaped Confederate prisoners through Canada via Halifax to Bermuda, and sought to maintain liason with the organization known as "Sons of Liberty" in the North which was opposed to the continuance of the war. //// Busy Man, That Jacob Thompson. --Old B-R'er

150 Years Ago-- April 26th-27th: Action on St. John's and Red River

APRIL 26TH, 1864: Navy ships escorted Army transports up St. John's River, Florida. This was because of information received about Confederate troops operating near Union-held Fort Gates and threatening St. Augustine.

APRIL 26TH-27TH, 1864: Attempting to reach Alexandria, Union gunboats under Porter fought a running engagement with Confederate troops and artillery along the Red River. Union ships getting ready to blow up the stranded USS Eastport came under heavy attack. The USS Cricket, the admiral's flagship came under especially heavy fire.

Much damage to Union vessels. The USS Fort Hindman was partially disabled and Champion No. 5 was so damaged it was grounded, abandoned and burned.

--Old B-Runner

Saturday, April 26, 2014

150 Years Ago-- April 25th, 1864: Sherman Requests Gunboat Assistance

APRIL 25TH, 1864: Major General Sherman, in Nashville, preparing for his campaign against Atlanta, requests gunboat assistance from Fleet Captain Pennock at Cairo to protect his line of supply and communication. //// He is sure the Confederates will work to get in behind him. //// He was aware that the Mississippi Squadron was short of men and offered to man and equip any gunboats needed. //// Pennock replies he will assist as much as he can. //// --Old B-Runner

Friday, April 25, 2014

150 Years Ago-- April 23rd, 1864: CSS Alabama Captures Rockingham

APRIL 23RD, 1864: The CSS Alabama, Captain Semmes, captured and destroyed the ship Rockingham with a cargo of guano at sea west of the Cape Verde Islands. //// Semmes wrote of the capture: "It was the old spectacle of the panting, breathless fawn, and the inexorable stag-hound. A gun brought his colors to the peak, and his main-yard to the mast.... We transferred to the Alabama such stores and provisions as we could make room for, and the weather being fine, we made a target of the prize, firing some shot and shell into her with good effect and at five p.m. we burned her and filled away on our course." //// Boding ill-fortune in the future, during the shelling, some of the shells did not explode, a factor in the upcoming battle with the USS Kearsarge. //// Hopefully the Alabama was Upwind When It Burned the Ship (Considering Its Cargo). --Old B-R'er

Thursday, April 24, 2014

CSS Neuse Gets Underway and Aground

APRIL 22ND, 1864: More problems for the Union Navy, well sort of, in North Carolina sounds. The ironclad CSS Neuse, Lt. Benjamin P. Loyall, got underway from Kinston and began steaming downriver to operate on the state's inland waters. //// She grounded in the Neuse River just below Kinston and could not be gotten off. //// General Montgomery D. Corse reported: "I fear she will be materially injured if not floated soon. The water has fallen 7 feet in the last four days and is still falling." //// The Confederates could not float the Neuse and nearly a year later, was burned to prevent capture.

More On the CSS Albemarle

APRIL 21ST, 1864: Lt.Cmdr. William T. Truxton of the USS Tacony wrote Davenport: "The ironclad, from all accounts, is very much like the first Merrimack (CSS Virginia), with a very long and very sharp submerged prow.... The loss of so good a vessel as the Southfield and so valiant a life as that of the brave Flusser should show the impossibility of contending successfully with a heavy and powerful ironclad with nothing but one or two very vulnerable wooden vessels." In other words, definitely contradicting Lee in the previous post. //// --Old B-Runner

The CSS Albemarle Must Be Destroyed

APRIL 21ST, 1864:Rear Admiral Lee emphasized the urgent need to destroy the CSS Albemarle. If not by gunfire, then by torpedo. He wrote Cmdr. Henry K. Davenport, senior officer in the NC sounds: "I propose that two of our vessels should attack the ram, one on each side at close quarters, and drive her roof in. //// The railroad iron will not stand the concussion of our heavy guns... Our vesels must maneuver to avoid being rammed, and once close alongside, there will be no danger of firing into each other.... I think the ram must be weak, and must fail if attacked on the side." //// Definitely a Lot Easier Said Than Done. --Old B-R'er

150 Years Ago-- April 21st, 1864: Capture of USS Petrel

APRIL 21ST, 1864: Union ships attack Yazoo City and came under fire. The USS Petrel was disabled and captured. Confederate Gen. Wirt Adams wrote: I removed her fine armament of eight 24-pounder guns and the most valuable stores and had her burned to the water's edge. //// Boat crews from the USS Ethan Allan landed near Murrell's Inlet, SC and destroyed a large salt work. The Union sailors mixed the 2,000 bushels of salt into the sand and then burned the four salt workds and 30 other buildings. //// Boats from USS Cimmaron destroyed a rice mill and 5,000 bushels of rice stored at Winyah Bay, SC. //// Boat expedition from the USS Sagamore took over 100 bales of cotton and destroyed an additional 300 near Clay Landing, on the Suwannee River, Florida. //// --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Attack On Confederate Saltworks at Masonboro Sound, NC

APRIL 21ST, 1864: Boat crews from the USS Howquah, Fort Jackson and Niphon, commanded by Lt. Joseph B. Breck, destroyed Confederate salt works at Masonboro Sound, North Carolina. //// The sailors landed under cover of darkness at 9 PM without being detected. and rapidly demolished the works while taking some 160 prisoners. //// Breck then returned to the ships which were standing by to provide gunfire if necessary. //// Major General W.H.C. Whiting, CSA, noted that the incident demonstrated the necessity of maintaining a guard to protect "these points", and thenceforth there were no salt works constructed at Masonboro Inlet. //// The Union Navy conducted a regular campaign against Southern salt works as the need for salt was critical to the Confederacy and getting in much less supply. //// --Old B-Runner

150 Years Ago-- April 19th, 1864: Another David Attack at Charleston

APRIL 19TH, 1864: A "David" torpedo boat attempted to sink the steam frigate USS Wabash off Charleston, SC. It was the same one which had attacked the USS Memphis on 6 March. It was sighted while still 150 yards off and the Wabash slopped its cable and rapidly got underway, pouring a hail of musket shot at the Confederate ship. When only 40 yards away, the David turned back because of heavy swells that threatened to swamp the low-lying boat. //// APRIL 19TH, 1864: The USS Virginia captured the Mexican blockade-running schooner Alma off the coast of Texas. //// --Old B-R'er

CSS Albemarle at Plymouth, NC-- Part 3,

The sinking of the USS Southfield almost pulled the CSS Albemarle down with it. The ram was eventually able to free itself from the hole it had caused and opened fire on the retreating USS Miami. //// The small steamer USS Ceres and 105-tin tinclad Whitehead moved quickly down the river as well. The shots of the Union ships and shore batteries had been completely ineffective against the Albemarle's iron sides. //// The brave Lt.Cmdr. Flusser had been killed early in the fight. He was highly regarded by all who knew him. //// The CSS Albemarle now controlled the waters around Plymouth and a rare time of Confederate superiority. On April 20th, Plymouth surrendered. ////

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

CSS Albemarle at Plymouth, NC-- Part 2: Sinking the USS Southfield

APRIL 19TH, 1864: Cooke immediately weighed anchor and stood down the river to engage.. Anticipating an attack at Plymouth, Union Lt.Cmdr. Flusser lashed the wooden double-enders USS Miami and Southfield together for mutual protection and to concentrate firepower. //// When the Albemarle arrived, the two Union ships attacked the ram. The Albemarle rammed the Southfield a devastating blow. It was reported that there was a gaping hole clear through to the boiler. Cooke reported his ship had driven ten feet into the side of the Union ship. //// Cooke immediately put his engine into reverse as the Southfield sank, but not soon enough to reply to the cannon fire from the Miami. //// It's Not Over Yet--Old B-Runner

Monday, April 21, 2014

CSS Albemarle at Plymouth, NC-- Part 1

APRIL 19TH, 1864: The ironclad ram CSS Albemarle, Commander Cooke, attacked Union warships at Plymouth, NC, at 3:30 in the morning. It had departed Hamilton on the evening of the 17th. //// While en route "a portion of the machinery broke down" and "the rudderhead broke off," but repairs were promptly made; and despite the navigational hazards of the crooked Roanoke River, Cooke proceeded and anchored above Plymouth at 10 PM on the 18th. //// A planned rendezvous with Confederate troops did not take place, so Cooke sent a small boat to learn the locations of Union vessels and batteries. Shortly before midnight the boat returned and informed him they would be able to pass over enemy onstructions due to the high water in the river. ////

Saturday, April 19, 2014

This Date, 150 Years Ago, The CSS Albemarle Takes On the USS Miami and Southfield

From Wikipedia. //// The much anticipated and feared Confederate ironclad ram CSS Albemarle made its appearance off Plymouth, North Carolina, on this date. And, it definitely was rushed into action, having been launched and commissioned just two days earlier on the 17th. As a matter of fact, work was still ongoing on the ship as it steamed downriver to engage Union vessels. It was part of a joint Army-Navy attack on Union-held Plymouth. The Albemarle was 158 feet long, had a 35.4 foot beam and drew nine feet of water, manned by a crew of 150 and mounted two 6.4 Brooke double-banded rifles for armament. Under the command of Captain James W. Cooke, it sailed down the Roanoke River, anchoring 3 miles above Plymouth and sending pilot John Lock and two seamen in a small boat to take soundings. They found that the river was running high and there was ten feet of water over obstructions the Union forces had sunk at Thoroughfare Gap in preparation for the Albemarle's arrival. The ship crossed the obstructions with a foot to spare and then its armor fended off cannonballs from Federal forts at Warren;s Neck and Boyle's Mill. The Albemarle then engaged two Union ships, the USS Miami and USS Southfield. It sank the Southfield by ramming it and the Miami was able to escape. Union forces surrendered the town and the Confederates had an increasingly rare victory. Yeah! Albemarle. --Old B-Runner

Friday, April 18, 2014

Confederates Attack Plymouth, NC

APRIL 17TH-18TH, 1863: Confederate troops launched a sustained attack obn Plymouth, North Carolina. Union gunboats coming to their aide came under fire from Confederate batteries. //// On the 18th, the fighting intensified as the Confederates pressed home their attack. The Union Army steamer Bombshell was sunk. //// The attacks stopped at 9 PM. Lt.Cmdr. Flusser reported: "The Southfield and Miami took part and the general says our firing was admirable." he added that: "The ram [Albemarle] will be down to-night or to-morrow." The Confederates needed naval support to be successful at Plymouth. //// --Old B-R'er

Secretary Mallory Orders Torpedo Stuff

APRIL 16TH, 1864: Mallory wrote Commander Bulloch in England to have 12 small marine engines and boilers built for torpedo boats (40-50 feet in length, 5 to 6 feet beam, and drawing three feet of water). He also wanted 25 miles of good insulated wire and the best gun cotton to be used for torpedoes. //// Unable to produce essentials for pursuing the torpedo warfare that had been so successful, the South looked to Europe for the materials. //// --Old B-Runner

150 Years Ago-- April 15th-18th, 1864: Action in Texas, Florida and Virginia

APRIL 15TH, 1864: The USS Virginia destroyed the sloop Rosina at San Luis Pass, Texas. //// APRIL 17TH, 1864: The USS Owasco seized blockade-running British schooner Lilly at Velasco, Texas. //// APRIL 18TH, 1864: Boats from the USS Beauregard seized blockade-running schooner Oromoneto at Mantanzas Inlet, Florida (near St. Augustine). // Landing party from USS Commodore Read destroyed a Confederate base at Circus Point on the Rappahannock River, Virginia. // USS Fox captured and burned the schooner Good Hope at the mouth of the Homosassa River, Florida. //// Always Something Going On. --Old B-R'er

USS Eastport Strikes Confederate Torpedo

APRIL 15TH, 1864: The USS Eastport struck a Confederate torpedo in the Red River eight miles below Grand Ecore. The shock of the explosion almost threw the leadsmen forward overboard and Lt. Cmdr. Phelps reported "a particular trembling sensation." //// He immediately ran the Eastport into shoal water. For six days, he and other gunboats attempted to float the ship and finally got it underway. The next five days, the ship ran aground many times and traversed just 60 miles. //// The last time, they were unable to refloat her and Porter ordered Phelps to transfer his men to the USS Fort Hindman and destroy the Eastport. //// Phelps was the last man to leave the ship and detonated 3,000 pounds of gunpowder that shattered the gunboat. The ironclad was completely destroyed. //// The Eastport had been captured from the Confederates while under construction in the Tennessee River following the capture of Fort Henry two years earlier. //// I'll Bet Selfridge Was Glad It Wan't His Ship. --Old B-Runner

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Porter's Situation on Red River Getting Worse

APRIL 14TH, 1864: With water level still not rising, Porter's situation on the Red River was continuing to worsen. He wrote Welles: "I found the fleet at Grand Ecore somewhat in an unpleasant situation, two of them being above the bar, and not likely to get away again this season unless there is a rise of a foot.... //// If nature does not change her laws, there will no doubt be a rise of water, but there was one year--1846-- when there was no rise in the Red River, and it may happen again. The rebels are cutting off the supply [of water] by diverting different sources of water into other channels, all of which would have been stopped had our Army arrived as far as Shreveport." //// He also praised the efforts of his pilots. //// --Old B-Runner

150 Years Ago-- April 13th-14th, 1864: Looking for the Squib

APRIL 13TH-14TH, 1864: A joint Army-Navy expedition advanced up the Nansemond River, Virginia, to capture Confederate troops and destroy the torpedo boat Squib which had recently attacked the USS Minnesota and was rumored to be in the area. //// From prisoners, they learned that the Squib had departed from Smithfield to Richmond already. //// APRIL 14TH: Small steamers of the Mississippi Squadron continued to engage Confederate activity along the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. This date, Confederates entered Paducah, Kentucky. They also appeared by Columbus, Kentucky on the 13th. --Old B-Runner

The Importance of Pilots to the Confederacy

APRIL 13TH, 1864: John S. Begbie, an agent of the Albion Trading Company of London, with which the Confederacy dealt, wrote Confederate States Commissioner John Slidell in Paris regarding Southern regulations on pilots (who were needed to guide the blockade-runners in and out). He said that he had been informed of these three things: "1. Pilots are liable to the conscription. 2. If losing their ship are forced to enlist. 3. If demanding or receiving more than the Government regulation pilotage they are, if found out, deprived of their license and obliged to serve." //// He protested against these regulations and continued: "It is desirable and in the interest of the Confederate Government that staemers should run in with stores and out with cotton, paying the Government debts and influencing greatly their credit, surely pilots are more usefully employed to the States as pilots than as fighting men."

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

First Use of a Periscope In Action?-- Part 2

APRIL 12TH, 1864: //// Of course, the use of the periscope in warfare really came into use during the age of submarine warfare in World War I and II. //// The high banks of the Red River posed a great difficulty for the Union gunners in aiming their cannons from water level. Doughtry's ingenius invention helped solve that problem. //// Selfridge wrote that: "On first sounding to general quarters....[I] went inside the turret to direct (he was the Osage's commander) its fire, but the restricted vision from the peep holes rendered it impossible to see what was going on in the threatened quarter, whenever teh turret was trained on the loading position. //// In this extremity I thought of the periscope, and hastily took up station there, well-protected by the turret, yet able to survvey the whole scene and to direct an accurate fire." //// Thus was the periscope, a familiar sight on gun turrets and on submarines brought into the Civil War use on the Western waters. //// New Technology. --Old B-Runner

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

First Use of Periscope in Action?-- Part 1

APRIL 12TH, 1864: The engaement between Porter's ships and dismounted Confederate cavalry at Blair's Landing, Louisiana, also featured what may have been the first use of a periscope in action. //// It had been developed by Chief Engineer Thomas Doughtry of the ironclad USS Osage and later described by Lt.Cmdr Thomas O. Selfridge as "a method of sighting the turret from the outside, by means of what would now be called a periscope...." In other words, he could peer through it from the safety of inside and sight his guns. //// --Old B-R'er

150 Years Ago-- April 12, 1864 More Worries About Torpedo Boats

APRIL 12TH, 1864: Not only were torpedo boats a problem along the Atlantic coast, but also in the Gulf of Mexico. Major General Hurlbut, USA, wrote Secretary Welles regarding Confederate torpedo boat operations in Mobile Bay: "The craft, as described to me, is a propeller about 30 feet long, with engines of great power for her size, and boiler so constructed as to raise steam with great rapidity. //// She shows above the surface only a small smoke outlet and pilot house, both of which can be lowered and covered. //// The plan is to drop down within a short distance of the ship, put out the fires, cover the smoke pipe, and sink the craft to a proper depth, then work the propeller by hand, drop beneath the ship, ascertaining her position by a magnet suspended in the propeller, rise against her bottom, fasten the torpedo by screws, drop their boat away, pass off a sufficient distance, rise to the surface, light their fires and work off." //// Quite astounding that the Union general woul;d have this detailed of a source as to an enemy secret boat. There is no evidence that Hurlbut's vessel ever was in Mobile Bay, but another submersible boat, the Saint Patrick, was constructed by Captain Halligan at Selma, Alabama. This ship was taken to Mobile Bay and unsuccessfully attacked the USS Octorara in early 1865. ////

Monday, April 14, 2014

Red River Campaign: Action At Blair's Landing

APRIL 12TH, 1864: As Porter's fleet and the Army transports returned down the Red River from Springfield Landing, they came under fire from Confederate guns from the high bluffs. //// At Blair's Landing, dismounted Confederate cavalry supported by artillery, engaged the Union fleet. It was kind of strange to see troops and warships fighting it out. The battle continued for an hour before the Confederates were driven off and their commander, General Green killed. //// Porter described it as "a curious affair." However, this battle saw the introduction of a naval first, which I will talk about in my next post. //// --Old B-Runner

Saturday, April 12, 2014

150 Years Ago: April 11-12th, 1864: Forrest Attacks Fort Pillow

The USS Nita captured blockade-runner Three Brothers at the mouth of the Homosassa River, Florida, with assorted cargo. //// The USS Virginia captured blockade-runner Juanita off San Luis Pass, texas. However, on April 13th, the Juanita went aground and was recaptured by the Confederates along with the prize crew. //// APRIL 12TH, 1864: Confederate cavalry under Gen. Nathan B. Forrest commenced an attack on Fort Pillow near Memohis on the Mississippi River. The small gunboat USS New Era supported the Union troops in the fort and drove the Confederates awau initially, but Forrest came back and overwhelmed the fort. // Forrest made many attacks during March and April and taxed the resources of the Mississippi Squadron. // The battle at Fort Pillow became known as a massacre when Confederates killed MANY OF the black Union troops who made up the majority of the fort's defenders. //// --Old B-R'er

150 Years Ago: :Red River Campaign-- Union Declines Invitation

april 10, 1864: Porter's gunboats and Army transports are proceeding toward Shreveport, but are delayed at Springfield Landing, Louisiana, by what Porter described to Sherman as: "When I arrived at Springfield Landing I found a sight that made me laugh. It was the smartest thing I ever knew the rebels to do. // They had gotten that huge steamer, New Falls City, across the Red River, 1 mile above Loggy Bayou, 15 feet of her on shore on each side, the boat broken down in the middle, and a sand bar making below her. // An invitation in large letters to attend a ball in Shreveport was kindly left stuck up by the rebels, which invitation we were never able to accept." //// Before the obstruction could be removed, word arrived that Gen. Banks had been defeated at the Battle of Sabine Cross-Roads near Grand Ecore and he had retreated toward Pleasant Hill. //// Gen. Smith was ordered to return with his troops and join Banks. //// This was the high tide of the Unuion's Red River Campaign. //// With falling water and increased attacks from Confederate troops onshore, it was only with great difficulty that Porter was able to get his ships out of the dire straits they found themselves in. //// --One For the Confeds. --Old B-Runner

Friday, April 11, 2014

Fear of Torpedo Attack Spreads

APRIL 9TH, 1864: The concern caused by the attack on the Minnesota, coming as it did so soon after the Hunley sank the USS Housatonic, was widespread. //// William Winthrop, US Consul at Malta wrote concerning measures needed to be taken: "In these days of steam and torpedoes, you may rest assured that outlying picket boats and a steam tug at all hours ready to move are not sufficient protection for our ships of war, where a squadron is at anchor. // They require something more, and this should be in having their own boats rowing around all night, so that in a measure every ship should protect itself. // If this precaution be not taken , any vessel in the dark and foggy night could be blown out of the water, even while a watchful sentry on board might still have his cry of 'All's well' yet on his lips as the fiendish act was accomplished." //// Something Else to Worry About. --Old B-Runner

Confederate Torpedo Boat Squib Strikes the Minnesota-- Part 4

The Squib escaped under heavy musketry fire. Union tug Poppy did not have steam up and could not pursue the torpedo boat, which withdrew safely into the James River. Davidson, a pioneer in torpedo warfare, was promted to commander for his "gallant and meritorious conduct." //// --Old B-R'er

Confederate Torpedo Boat Squib Strikes the USS Minnesota-- Part 3

APRIL 9TH, 1864. //// Little damage resulted. Nevertheless, Confederate Secretary of the Navy Mallory later said of the attack: "The cool daring , professional skill, and judgement exhibited by Lieutenant Davidson in the hazardous enterprise merit high commendation and confer honor upon the service of which he is a member." //// Actually, like the Hunley a shorrt time earlier, the Squib also was almost lost. As the Minnesota reeled under the blow the seven Confederates on the Squib had their own lives imperilled. The Squib was sucked under the Union ship's port quarter. As the Minnesota rolled back to port, however, John Curtis reported, "the pressure of the water shoved us off." But so close to the Union ship they were that Curtis leaped on the torpedo boat's forward deck and pushed against the Minnesota to get the small craft clear. //// --A True Daring Feat. --Old B-Runner

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Confederate Torpedo Boat Squib Strikes USS Minnesota-- Part 2

He hailed the craft and the Confederates replied "Roanoke." Acting Ensign James Birtwistle ordered her to stay clear, to which Davidson replied "Aye, Aye." The Squib continued appraoching rapidly. The Minnesota attempted to open fire, but the distance between the two ships was so little her guns could not be brought to bear. //// The Squib rammed its charge of 50 pounds of gunpowder into the Minnesota's port quarter. //// The log of the Minnesota recorded that "a tremendous explosion followed." //// Aboard tne Squib, Curtis wrote that he had closed his eyes at the moment of impact, "opening them in about a second, I think, I never beheld such a sight before, nor since. The air was filled with port shutters and water from the explosion, and the heavy ship was rolling to starboard, and the officer of the deck giving orders to save yourselves and cried out 'Torpedo! Torpedo!'" //// Unfortunately for the Confederates, though, little damage resulted, though the "shock was quite severe." //// --Old B-R'er

Confederate Torpedo Boat Squib Strikes the USS Minnesota-- Part 1

APRIL 9TH, 1864.

The Confederate torpedo boat Squib, under Lt. Hunter Davidson, successfully exploded a spar torpedo against the steam frigate USS Minnesota off Newport News, Virginia.

Second in command of the Squib Acting Master John A. Curtis, described it as wooden, "about thirty-five feet long, , five feet wide, drew three feet of water, two feet freeboard, designed by Hunter Davidson....

The boiler and engine were encasedd with iron, forward of the boiler was the cockpit, where the crew stood and from where we steered her."

A Northern officer observed the attack as "a deed as daring as it was vicious", took place about 2 AM. The officer of the deck saw a small boat 150-200 yards off, just forward of the port beam.

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

North Carolina Lighthouses During the War-- Part 4: Federal/Confederate Point Lighthouse

The second Federal/Confederate Point lighthouse, which the Confederates destroyed, but used the keeper's quarters as Fort Fisher's headquarters, was completely detsroyed, but a few years ago, its site was determined and an archaeological excavation undertaken. It was found, investigated, then covered up again. //// Personally, I think they should have left it uncovered. //// After the war, the third and final Federal Point Lighthouse was constructed in the sporing of 1866 and stood where the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher stands today. //// The light went into operation on April 30, 1866. //// However, after the Army Corps of Engineers completed the "Rocks, across New Inlet, which closed the channel, it became unnecessary and discontinued its light on December 31, 1879. //// Of interest, the engineer in charge of the construction of the "Rocks" was Henry Bacon, the father of the Henry Bacon who was the architect for Washington, D.C.'s Lincoln Memorial. //// --Old B-Runner

Monday, April 7, 2014

150 Years Ago-- April 7th, 1864: Red River Campaign

APRIL 7TH, 1864: Rear Admiral Porter detailed Lt.-Cmdr. Phelps to remain in command of the heavier gunboats at Grand Ecore while he personally continued to advance up the Red River toward Shreveport with ironclads USS Osage, Neosho and Chillicothe and wooden steamers Fort Hindman, Lexington and Cricket. he hoped to bring up his remaining gunboats if the water level began to rise. //// That busy USS Beauregard captured the Spunky near Cape Canaveral, Florida. //// --Old B-R'er

Getting Those Cruisers Out and About

APRIL 6TH, 1864: Sec. Mallory wote Flag Officer Barron, CSN, in Paris regarding possible operations of ships being fitted out in France: "If the vessels about to go out to sea can be united with the two you sent off [CSS Florida and Georgia], they might strike a blow at the enemy off Wilmington, during the summer, and then separate to meet for a blow at another point." //// Along with that, he wanted the ships to continue commerce raiding to keep Union warships chasing after them. //// However, Mallory's hit-and-run cruise was not to happen. The Florida was captured before the year was out, the Georgia was sold and the CSS Rappahannock never ventured to sea under Confederate colors. //// --Old B-Runner

Worrying About the CSS Albemarle

APRIL 5TH, 1864: Late in March, Union forces at Plymouth, NC, had sunk hulks, some with percussion torpedoes attached to them, to obstruck the Roanoke River and provide additional protection for the ironclad uprever, the CSS Albemarle. //// Lt. Cmdr. Flusser, USN, reported to Admiral Lee another of the freely circulating rumors about the Confederate ship, saying that the large ship was said to be of such light draft "that she may pass over our obstructions in the river without touching them." //// However, the draft of the Albemarle was actually about 9 feet, but on March 27th, Flusser had heard it as being "6 to 8 feet" according to a carpenter who had worked on her. //// Mean Old Albemarle. --Old B-Runner

Operations on Florida's St. John's River

APRIL 5TH, 1864: Navy ships on Florida's St. John's River, under Commander Balch continued to patrol and convoy Army troops as it had for the past month. On 4 April Union troops had evacuated Palatka. Ships involved in these operations were the USS Ottawa (Lt. Cmdy. Breese), Pawnee, Mahaska, Unadilla, and Norwich. //// This date, General John P. Hatch wrote: ...I consider it very important...that the naval force should be retained here as a patrol of the river, to aid us in the event of an attack, and to cover the landing of troops at other points.... The length of the river now occupied (100 miles) requires for its thorough patrol a naval force od the size of the present squadron. ////

150 Years Ago-- April 1-3rd, 1864: Pesky Guerrillas

APRIL 1ST, 1864: During the last year of the war, bands of Confederate guerrillas continually attacked Union warships isolated on patrol duty, as well as commercial ships. This date, the Union Secretary of War passed a captured letter from Mallory along to Welles about these operations, who passed it along to Porter on the Mississippi.

APRIL 2ND, 1864: Union Gen. Banks continued with his Red River Campaign deployments. Union ships convoyed Gen. Smith's corps to Grand Ecore, Louisiana.

APRIL 3RD, 1864: The USS Sciota capturedschooner Mary Sorly attempting to run out of Galveston, Texas. It had precviously been the U.S. Revenue Cutter Dodge, seized by the Confederates in Galveston at the war's outbreak.

--Old B-R'er

Confederate Cruisers to Strike California Ships?

APRIL 1ST, 1964: Secretary Welles wrote Rear Admiral C.H. Bell in the Pacifix expressing concern that Confederate cruisers might strike at the California trade. //// Intelligence had been received that Confederate raiders Florida and Georgia might assemble at "the straits of Le Maire, between the island of Tierra del Fuego and Staten Island through which...nine out of every ten California-bound ships must pass, in plain sight from either shore....the protection of the land in these straits is such that the rebel steamers could lie almost obscured and in comparatively smooth water...while escape [by] merchantmen would be impossible." //// Always Something to Worry About. --Old B-Runner

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Army Transport Harvest Moon Destroyed by Torpedo in St. John's River

APRIL 1, 1864: The Army transport Harvest Moon was returning from carrying troops to Palatka, Florida, when it struck and was destroyed by a Confederate torpedo (mine) in the St. John's River. She was one of several victims of torpedoes on this river after Confederates had placed twelve floating torpedoes on it, each containing 70 pounds of powder. //// On April 16th, Army transport General Hunter was also destroyed by one at almost the same place near Mandarin Point. //// Confederate torpedoes continued to play an increasing role in the defense of harbors and rivers. //// As Major General Patton Anderson, CSA, noted, the torpedoes "taught him [the Northerners] to be cautious in the navigation of our rivers." //// Old B-Runner

Friday, April 4, 2014

North Carolina Lighthouses During the Civil War: Federal Point (Fort Fisher) Lighthouse

The Civil War lighthouse that once stood on Federal Point, the name given to the peninsula formed by the opening of New Inlet by the hurricane in the 1700s between the Atlantic Ocean and Cape Fear River, was the second lighthouse at the spot and contained within the growing Fort Fisher. The name Federal Point was changed to Confederate Point during the war. //// There are no-known images of the original Federal Point Lighthouse built in 1817 and destroyed by fire April 13, 1836. //// During the Civil War, Captain George Tate of the 40th NC Regiment stationed at the fort, drew a sketch of the second lighthouse which was completed in 1837. //// It was destroyed by Confederates in 1863. However, if I remember correctly, the keeper's cottage became the fort's headquarters. The fort's commander, Col. William Lamb, had it destroyed for fear it would be too much a target of Union gunfire during an anticipated attack. //// --Old B-Runner

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

North Carolina Lighthouses During the War-- Part 2: Federal Point and Cape Fear River Lighthouses

Lights at Fort Fisher.

Farther north from the Baldy Head Island Lighthouse were two lights at Fort Fisher, constructed by Confederates to defend New Inlet, a major entrance and exit for blockade runners.  New Inlet had been formed by a major hurricane that struck in 1761.  New Inlet has since been closed off after the construction of "The Rocks," a man-made jetty across it.

According to the book, the light erected on top of Fort Fisher's massive "Mound Battery" was not an official aid to navigation, but did aid blockade-runners coming through New Inlet.  The height of the "Mound" enabled an enfilading fire on Union blockaders.

After Fort Fisher's fall on January 15, 1865, the light on the Mound" was re lit and several blockade-runners, unaware of the fort's capture, ran into what they considered to be safety in the Cape Fear River, only to be captured.

Sneaky Yankees.  --Old B-R'er

North Carolina Lighthouses During the War-- Part 1: "Old Baldy"

From North Carolina Lighthouses and Lifesaving Stations by John Hairr.  One of those wonderful Arcadia Books, great sources of local history.

Taking the Civil War-era lighthouses going south to north along the coast.

The second, and current lighthouse on Bald Head Island, at the mouth of the Cape Fear River, called "Old Baldy," is the state's oldest lighthouse, built in 1817.  With the coming of the Civil War, Confederates removed the lens from it.  The structure managed to escape destruction, a fate of many of the lighthouses along the Confederate coast.

Confederate Fort Holmes was built nearby it.

--Old B-Runner