Fort Fisher

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

Friday, July 25, 2014

Confederate Navy Yard Marker Missing

From July 1, 2014, Shreveport (La.) Times.

The marker read: "Confederate Navy Yard: One block west near the mouth of Cross Bayou at Red River the ironclad Missouri and ram Webb built.  Missouri armored with railroad iron.   In 1863 the Webb fought USS Indianola near Vicksburg.  Missouri was surrendered here May 1865."

The state purchased the aluminum sign and placed it on a traffic island.  It is now gone and no one knows what happened to it.

Also, a few years ago, a bronze marker detailing where Confederate forts and batteries were located on Marshall Street was stolen.

The missing marker was placed in 1975 at a cost of $325.  Estimates show a replacement one will cost $1,900 to $2,200.

--Old B-Runner


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Cassidey's Shipyard-- Part 2

Work on the CSS Raleigh, a four-gun steam sloop sometimes classified as a ram. began in mid-1862, about the same time that work on the CSS North Carolina began at Beery's Shipyard did across the river.

The Raleigh's construction was frequently stalled.  Crews and workers fled yellow fever epidemics of 1862 and 1863.  Then, workers went on strike when pay was delayed by the Confederate Navy department.

It wasn't until April 30, 1863, that the Raleigh was commissioned.

After the war, Cassidey's Shipyard merged with Benjamin W. Beery's adjoining works at the foot of Nun Street and was renamed Cassidey & Beery.  In 1881 S.W. Skinner took over the facility, and by 1911 the Cape Fear  Machine Works had moved onto the site.

--Old B-Runner

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Cassidey's Shipyard-- Part 1

From the Encyclopedia of North Carolina.

This was the smaller of the two Confederate shipyards in Wilmington, North Carolina during the war and the construction site for the ironclad ram CSS Raleigh.

The yard  was founded when James Cassidey (1792-1866), a ship's carpenter, bought a waterfront lot at the foot of Church Street on the east bank of the Cape Fear River and by the late 1830s he was operating a shipyard at the site.  By 1846, he was advertising a maritime railway.

By 1850, he was repairing and copper-bottoming sailing ships on the west Indies trade.

More to Come.  --Old B-Runner

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Yellow Fever in Key West

JULY 27, 1864:  Rear Admiral Bailey wrote Secretary Welles from Key West describing the severe epidemic of yellow fever among the officers and men of his squadron:  "My worst fears have been more than realized, and for more than two months the disease has held course without abatement and now as virulent as at any time....

"The mortality on the island I am told has reached as high as 12 to 15 in a day.... The squadron is much crippled."

Yellow Fever Was a Problem on Both Sides.  --Old B-R'er

Union Convoy Problems on the White River

JULY 27TH, 1864:  Col. Lewis B. Parsons, USA, Assistant Quartermaster and Chief of Western River Transportation, wrote Lt.Cmdr. Phelps, US Navy commander on the White River, about the unavailability of sufficient gunboats to convoy needed supply ships: "I am now in receipt of letters from three different officers, urgently enquiring if something can be done to prevent the detention of boats for convoys, in consequence of which, it is extremely difficult to send stores and supplies from Helena, Memphis, and other points....

"I have no doubt everything is being done in your power and consistent with your means, but considering the importance of the subject and the expenditure, is it not advisable to increase the means, so that convoys, if necessary, may be sent as boats arrive?

"If this can not be done, would it not do if two or three gunboats be stationed at different and dangerous points and boats be permitted to proceed without convoys?"

What Parsons was talking about was that supply ships were not allowed to proceed up the river without being in a convoy and protected by Union gunboats.  Often this meant waiting until several ships gathered and a warship found to escort them, causing delays.

Confederates were constantly harassing Union shipping along the western rivers.

--Old B-Runner

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Union Get Torpedo Boats in NC

JULY 27TH, 1864:  Rear Admiral Lee sent tugs Belle, Martin and Hoyt, fitted out as torpedo boats, to Commander Macomb, commanding Union naval forces at New Bern, North Carolina..  These tugs were to be used against reported Confederate ironclads in the area (CSS Neuse) and carried spar torpedoes described by Lee as: "This form of torpedo is intended to explode on impact, and  to be placed on a pole or rod projecting not less than 15 feet, and if possible 20 feet, beyond the vessel using it.

"It contains 150 pounds of powder."

Initially the Union rejected torpedo warfare, but as the war progressed, the North utilized it to their advantage.

--Old B-R'er


150 Years Ago-- July 26-27 USS Shokokon Engaged on James River

JULY 26-27TH, 1864:  Pickets from the USS Shokokon were attacked by Confederate sharpshooters at Turkey Bend, James River, Virginia.  The Shokokon supported the embattled landing party with gunfire and succeeded in preventing their capture.

The next day, the ship engaged a Confederate battery at the same place.

Hot Turkeys.  Old B-Runner





Friday, July 18, 2014

Disabling Mines in Mobile Bay

JULY 25TH, 1864:  Boats from the USS Hartford, Monongahela and Sebago, commanded by Rear Admiral Farragut's flag lieutenant, J.C, Watson, reconnoitered the Mobile Bay area in an attempt to discover the type and number of water torpedoes (mines) laid by Confederates off Fort Morgan.

Watson and his men located and cut loose many of the torpedoes; they were aided by the fact that a number were inoperative.

This hazardous work was indispensable to the success of the Navy's coming operations against Mobile.

Several other similar night operations were also conducted.

Get Rid of Those Torpedoes. Farragut Wants to Come Through.   --Old B-R'er

Keeping an Eye on the CSS Albemarle

JULY 25TH, 1864:  As Union Naval forces in Albemarle Sound, NC, kept a close watch on the powerful ram CSS Albemarle, Acting master's Mate John Woodman with three men made the first of his three daring reconnaissances up the Roanoke River to Plymouth, North Carolina.

Reported Woodman:  "The town appeared very quiet; very few persons were moving about; I could hear the blacksmiths and carpenters at work in the town near the river."

The ram, he added, was "lying at the wharf near the steam sawmill."

The danger posed by the Albemarle was a prime Union concern for several more months until Cushing took it out.  It prevented Union operations along the river.

Sounds Like a Cushing Sort of Thing.  --Old B-Runner

150 Years Ago-- July 23-24: Army Transport B.M. Runyan Sinks in Mississippi River

JULY 23RD, 1864:  Army transport B.M. Runyan, with some 500 military and civilian passengers, sank in the Mississippi River near Skipworth's Landing, Mississippi, after hitting a snag.  USS Prairie Bird rescued 350 survivors and salvaged part of the cargo.

JULY 24TH, 1864:  Confederate guerrillas captured and burned steamer Kingston, which had run aground the preceding day between Smith's Point and Windmill Point on the Virginia shore of the Chesapeake Bay.

--Old B-R'er

150 Years Ago-- July 21-22, 1864: Daring Operation Near Fort Morgan

JULY 21, 1864:  USS Prairie Bird seized steamer Union on the Mississippi River for violation of revenue laws and giving "aid and comfort to the enemy."  The Union, not the USS Union I've been writing about, must have bought some contraband cotton from Confederates.

JULY 22, 1864:  Lt. Charles S. Cotton and Acting Ensign John L. Hall, led a landing party from the USS Oneida on a daring expedition that resulted in the capture of a Confederate cavalry patrol near Fort morgan, Mobile Bay.

The sailors rowed in from the Oneida under cover of darkness, and lay in wait for a nightly Southern patrol which had been under observation for some time.  Surprise was complete, and Hall marched a detachment four miles further inland (well east on the long peninsula) to destroy the patrol's camp site.

Lt. Cotton reported:  "The results of the expedition were-- captured 1 lieutenant and 4 privates of the Seventh Alabama Cavalry, arms and ammunition; 5 horses, with their equipments complete, and all the camp equipage and stores."

Of course, along with Farragut operating against Fort Morgan, it would be necessary to land Union troops to take the fort.  Getting rid of this patrol would help the landing of the troops.

--Old B-Runner

Mallory Wants More Torpedo Boats

JULY 18TH, 1864:  Confederate Secretary of the Navy Mallory wrote Commander Bulloch in Liverpool, England, saying:  "...we can operate effectually against the enemy's blockading fleets with torpedo boats...  As these boats select their own time for operating and may thus secure a smooth sea, and as they must operate at night, and avoid being seen, it is important that they should be as low in the water as may be consistent with their safety.

"They are expected to carry from five to seven men, coal for twenty-four hours, and four torpedoes with their shifting poles, and to go at least 10 miles an hour with all on board...  The torpedo is usually made of copper or iron boiler plate, contains from 40 to 100 pounds of powder and is prepared with three sensitive tubes which explode on impact...

"The torpedo boats are miniature swift steamers, and they must be strongly built and a slight as may be consistent with strength...  I suppose these boats might be built and sent to us without interference by the authorities; but if not they might be built in sections and thus sent over.

"We are so destitute of mechanics, however, that they should be sent as complete as possible...."

Finding ways to battle overwhelming odds and still that pesky workmen problem.

--Old B-R'er

CSS Florida Commotion in Maine

JULY 18TH, 1864:  Governor Samuel Corry of Maine wrote Secretary Welles regarding the exploits of the CSS Florida.  He was gravely concerned about the captures made by the Confederate cruiser had been recently been making along the Atlantic coast.

He asked that one or two gunboats be constantly on patrol along the coast, and stated:  "We are at war with a brave, energetic adversary, fruitful in resources, ready to strike at any exposed point, and which, with one or two piratical cruisers, besides destroying a great amount of tonnage, has driven a large share of our commerce under the protection of flags of other nations."

Secretary Welles was well aware of the Florida's cruise and had sent ships in pursuit.

--Old B-Runner

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Farragut Outlines Attack Plans Against Mobile

JULY 18TH, 1864:  Rear Admiral Farragut wrote of his plans to attack Mobile Bay: "I propose to go in according to programme-- fourteen vessels, two and two, as at Port Hudson; low steam; flood tide in the morning with a light southwest wind; ironclads on the eastern side, to attack the Tennessee, and gunboats to attack rebel gunboats as soon as past the forts."

This is exactly what happened August 5th.

It was characteristic of the admiral's farsighted attention to detail to have battle plans drawn up and his fleet ready for action when the most favorable moment to move forward arrived.

--Old B-R'er

The USS Union-- Part 2

After the collision with the Spanish ship, the Union returned to Hampton Roads to refuel and repairs.  On July 28, 1861, the Union found the Union brig B.T. Martin aground north of Cape Hatteras.  It had been captured by the Confederate privateer York earlier.  The USS Union destroyed it.

The Union was transferred to the Potomac Flotilla in August 1861 and 11 October destroyed a Confederate schooner at Dumfries Creek and engaged shore batteries there.  It was decommissioned in Philadelphia 10 December 1861 after a busy year.

Recommissioned 20 January 1863 and was used as a store and dispatch ship between New York City, Hampton Roads, Port Royal, SC, Florida and the Gulf of Mexico.  During that time, it captured six ships.

After the war, it was decommissioned and sold.  redocumented as the SS Mission, it caught fire and sank in the Bahamas 22 October 1872 with 69 deaths.

Story of a Ship.  --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The USS Union-- Part 1

From Wikipedia.

A ship whose allegiance is clear.

This is the ship that John Timlin served on which I wrote about in my June 12-13 blogs.  He finally had his grave marked in Staten Island, New York earlier in June 2014.

Bought by the U.S. Navy and commissioned 10 May 1861 at Philadelphia.  Decommissioned Dec. 1861, recommissioned 20 Jan 1863 and decommissioned again 29 September 1865 at New York City.  Burned and sank while in the merchant service 22 October 1872.

220 feet long, 1,114 tons, mounted one 12-pdr. rifle gun and rated at 13.5 knots.

Assigned to the Atlantic Blockading Squadron initially., operating in the Savannah-Charleston waters in April and May 1861.

Captured schooner F.W. Johnson in Chesapeake Bay June 1, 1861.  Odd Charleston 18 June, captured blockade-runner Amelia and delivered its crew to Fort Monroe, Virginia, 23 June.

Rejoined the Charleston blockade and suffered much damage when it was involved in a collision with the Spanish ship Plus Ultra on July 2, 1861.

More to Come.  --Old B-Runner

Rouen: A Blockade-Runner Again?

From In Armegeddon's Shadow.

The Rouen, built at Millwood, London, in the 1850s, was captured and released by the Union Navy.

It became a blockade-runner again but was sunk off Galveston, Texas.

This would be a very interesting story.

--Old B-R'er

Blockade-Runner Rouen Sold at Auction

From the August 25, 1964, New York Times.

The Rouen was captured off Wilmington July 2, 1864. and sold in Boston, Massachusetts on Wednesday, August 24, 1864.

"The following captured blockade-runners were sold here to-day at auction:  The Little Ada was bought by the Government fir $35,000; the Rouen sold for $30,500, and the Boston for $18,500."

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Frederick W. Gregory: Signal Officer on the Rouen-- Part 2: Escape to Bermuda

"After six weeks' imprisonment we succeeded in effecting our escape through the medium of English gold, after which we went down to East River and found an old barque loaded with staves and hay for St. Thomas.

"Each one of us gave the Captain $25 in gold with the understanding that he would sail by St. George, Bermuda, and land us there.  We reached this place after several weeks to find it devastated by yellow fever."

An Escape to What?  --Old B-Runner

Frederick W. Gregory, Signal Officer on B-R Rouen-- Part 1: Captured

From "Derelicts" by James Sprunt.

Back on July 2nd, 2014, I wrote about the Rouen being captured by the Keystone State on that date in 1864.

"After the Index (blockade-runner) was sent back to Glasgow, Captain Marshall took charge of the steamer Rouen and I joined her as signal officer.  We loaded our cargo and started for Wilmington and on the third day out sighted a steamer about one o'clock p.m..

"This ship proved to be the USS Keystone State, which captured us after a hot chase of six hours.

"We were all transported to the Margaret and Jessie, a former blockade runner which had been captured and now utilized as a cruiser (to capture other blockade-runners).  We were taken to New York and confined in the Tombs Prison.  Subsequently, all the officers and crew were discharged except for four of us, and we were transferred to the Ludlow Street Jail for further investigation."

--Old B-R'er



Blockade-Runner Caledonia/Caledocia

On 31 March 1864, the steamer Caledonia/Caledocia left Bermuda heading for Wilmington, NC, commanded by Captain Libbey, a new man, a Southerner.

Old B-Runner

Monday, July 14, 2014

150 Years Ago-- July 13-14th, 1864: An Attempt to Retake the CSS Water Witch

JULY 13-14TH, 1864:  In order to protect Union batteries around Annapolis. Maryland, from rear attack, the USS Vicksburg detailed a boat expedition to destroy all means of crossing the South River.

JULY 14TH, 1864  Acting Master George R. Durand of the USS Paul Jones, was captured while making an attempt in Ossabow Sound, Georgia, to destroy the CSS Water Witch, a former Union  ship which had been taken in June 1864.  Durand had been concealing himself and his men by day and moving by night only to be discovered and captured by Confederates.

USS Pequot and Commodore Morris engaged Confederate batteries in the vicinity of Malvern Hill, James River, Virginia, for four hours but no damage done on either side.

Two days later, this battery engaged the Pequot, Commodore Morris and USS Mendota and the last ship had minor damage and casualties.  The presence of this battery below Four Mile Creek temporarily closed the James River navigation in that area.

--Old B-R'er

No More CSS Alabama, Bring On the CSS Rappahannock

JULY 13TH, 1864:  Flag Officer Barron, CSN, wrote Secretary Mallory from Paris: "In the course of this week...I hope to have the pleasure of reporting the Rappahannock at sea...She is strictly watched by Federal cruisers in the channel: Kearsarge at Dover, Niagara at or off Cherbourg, and Sacramento off Ushant.

"This disposition of the enemy's ships increases the risks and affords decided chances of capture; but if we be permitted to leave port with the number of officers and men on board I shall assuredly encounter all the chances and risks, knowing your anxiety and great importance of keeping a sufficient number of vessels afloat to keep up the rates of maritime insurance in the United States, and a wholesome dread of our active and enterprising little Navy amongst their commercial marine."

Despite Barron's strong efforts, however, the Rappahannock remained in port until the war ended.  Not only was the U.S. navy extremely vigilant, but there were also the unending efforts by Union spies and agents in Europe which caused the Confederacy problems.

--Old B-Runner



Saturday, July 12, 2014

Confederates Getting Ready for Farragut's Visit to Mobile Bay

JULY 13TH, 1864:  Union Colonel Albert J. Myer forwarded intelligence to Rear Admiral Farragut regarding the naval defenses of Mobile Bay:  "A line of piles driven under water extends from the shoal water near Fort Gaines, across Pelican Pass Channel, and to the edge of the main ship channel.

"One observant describes this obstruction as five rows of piles driven closely together.  The other informant does not know how many are the piles are how closely driven....

"From the  western edge of the main ship channel, where the fixed obstructions terminate, a torpedo line extends eastward across that channel to a point differently estimated as 400 yards and as at nearly one half mile from Fort Morgan."

A "torpedo party" of seven men was reported to be in charge of the underwater obstructions.  These torpedoes almost turned back Farragut one month later, until he uttered those famous words.

"____ the Torpedoes, Full ____ _____."  --Old B-Runner

Friday, July 11, 2014

150 Years Ago-- July 11-12, 1864: Another Salt Works Goes Down

JULY 11TH, 1864:  Landing party from USS James L. Davis destroyed Confederate salt works near Tampa, Florida.  The works were capable of producing 150 bushels of salt a day.  On 16 July, a similar raid near Tampa was carried out in which a salt work consisting of four boilers was destroyed.

JULY 12TH, 1864:  USS Whitehead and Ceres, in company with transport steamer Ella May, conducted a joint expedition up the Scuppernong River to Columbia, NC.

The Whitehead, a small tinclad, and Ceres, a 140-ton paddle-wheeler, landed troops near Columbia, and the soldiers succeeded in destroying a bridge and a quantity of grain.

USS Penobscot captured the schooner James Williams off Galveston with cargo including medicines, coffee and liquor.

--Old B-Runner

Union Warships Coming After the CSS Florida

JULY 10TH, 1864:    Reflecting the widespread concern caused by the exploits of the CSS Florida (fully replacing the Alabama in Northern fears) off the Virginia and Maryland coasts, Rear Admiral lee of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron dispatched the screw steamers USS Mount Vernon, Lt. Cmdr. Henry A. Adams, Jr., and the USS Monticello, Lt. Cushing (yes, that Cushing who would have to put his plans to sink the Albemarle on hold) to "cruise together, and on finding the Florida will make a joint attack on her and capture her."

The career of the CSS Florida, one of the most successful Confederate raiders, was nearing an end, but the honor of capturing her was to go to neither Adams or Cushing.  Many ships went after her, but few ever even got a glimpse of her.

This date, Lee also ordered the USS Ino, with her battery and crew disguised to look like a merchant ship to entice the Florida "alongside when you, being prepared, will open upon her suddenly and effectually."

The Germans and Allies used this guise in both world wars.

Hunting the Florida.  --Old B-R


CSS Florida Causing Havoc Along U.S. East Coast-- Part 1

JULY 10TH, 1864:  The CSS Florida, commanded by Lt. Charles M. Morris, captured and burned the bark General Barry with cargo of hay and straw.  This is its third capture in three days.    This action took place just 35 miles  from Maryland's eastern shore as Morris continued his dashing raid on Union shipping.

Shortly after this capture, Morris gave chase to the bark Zelinda and captured her in ballast.  He reported: "Put and officer and prize crew on board of her, with orders to follow us, went in chase of a schooner to teh eastward.  Found her to be the Howard...with a cargo of fruit belonging to English merchants.  Bonded the schooner for $6,000, and put all of the prisoners (sixty-two in all) on board...."

Morris then removed the Zelinda's provisions and burned her.

The Florida made yet another capture that day, the mail steamer Electric Spark; her passengers were transferred to the passing British ship, Lane.  Seeking to create the impression that he had made a tender of the Electric Spark, Morris scuttled her during the night rather than putting her to the torch.  The prize yielded a quantity of cash in addition to other important articles, including mail.

Realizing that Union warships by this time would be in hot pursuit, turned the Florida on an easterly course into the Atlantic, where its vastness was of great aide in hiding commerce raiders.

Six Captures in Three Days.  --Old B-Runner


Thursday, July 10, 2014

150 Years Ago: July 9-10, 1864: CSS Florida Still Cruising

JULY 9TH, 1864

CSS Florida captured and burned bark Greenland with cargo of coal and schooner Margaret Y. Davis at sea off Cape Henry, Virginia.

USS Gettysburg captured steamer Little Ada with pig iron and potash at sea off Cape Romain, SC after a lengthy chase.

JULY 10TH, 1864:

USS Roebuck captured Terrapin at Jupiter Inlet, Florida, with cargo of cotton and turpentine.

USS Monongahela, Lackawanna, Galena, and Sebago, open fire on steamer Virgin, describes as a very large blockade-runner aground near Fort Morgan, at Mobile Bay, Alabama.

Under cover of the guns of Fort Morgan, a river steamer attempted to tow the Virgin off, but was forced to withdraw by the shelling of the Union blockaders.  The next day, however, the Confederates towed the Virgin back into Mobile Bay.

--Old B-Runner

Confederate Plan to Seize Point Lookout-- Part 2

Rumors of this daring plan reached Lt. Stuyvesant of the USS Minnesota, on July 18 and he warned the Navy department and Rear Admiral Lee that Wood was reported to have left Richmond with 800 volunteers on July 7-8.  The projected expedition caused considerable excitement among Union authorities, President Davis, on 10 July, had already advised against it.

Wood reported that he was ready to run the blockade out of Wilmington on 9 July, but the Confederate President warned him: "The object and destination of the expedition have somehow become so generally known that I fear your operation will meet unexpected obstacles."

The expedition was abandoned, but did show the extreme measures the South contemplated as the war turned against them.

--Old B-R'er

Confederates Plan to Seize Prison Camp at Point Lookout, Maryland-- Part 1

JULY 9TH, 1864: (150 Years Ago) Major John Tyler, CSA, Asst. Adjutant General, wrote Major General Sterling Price regarding a proposed attack on Point Lookout, Md., to release Confederate prisoners held there:  The plan is that he [Lt. Gen. Jubal Early] shall seize Baltimore and hold it with his infantry while his cavalry proceeds to Point Lookout to liberate our prisoners there concentrated to the extent of nearly 30,000.

"In the meantime Captain [John Taylor] Wood, of the Navy, proceeds from Wilmington [NC] with 5 gunboats and 20,000 stand of arms for the same point by water.  If successful in thus liberating and arming our imprisoned soldiers, Washington will be assaulted and no doubt carried.  This I regard as decidedly the most brilliant idea of the war."

Big Plans, Longshot for Success Though.  --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Cushing's More Than Willing to Take a Shot at the Albemarle

JULY 10TH< 1864:  William Cushing, who had proven his ability and daring on earlier expeditions into the Cape Fear River by Wilmington on Feb. 29 and June 23-24, 1864, was more than willing to add the Albemarle's destruction to his resume.  he immediately began planning for this new adventure, destined to become one of the most dramatic and dangerous of the war.\

He wrote Lee: "Deeming the capture or destruction of the rebel ram Albemarle feasible, I beg leave to state that I am acquainted with the waters held by her, and am willing to undertake the task."

The admiral saw in Cushing an officer with the spirit and skill to accomplish this difficult mission, and noted in his closing letter to Welles: "He is entirely willing to make an attempt to destroy the ram, and I have great confidence in his gallantry."

No wonder there is a book on Cushing titled "Lincoln's Commando."

Quite the Thorn in Rebel Side.  --Old B-R'er

Federal Plans to Destroy the CSS Albemarle: Let Cushing Do It

JULY 9TH, 1864:  In a confidential letter to Secretary Welles, Rear Admiral Lee disclosed plans for an operation to destroy the Confederate threat posed by the CSS Albemarle:  "I concur in Captain Smith's opinion that it would be inexpedient to fight the ram with our long double-enders in that narrow river [the Roanoke].

"I proposed to Lieutenant Cushing a torpedo attack, either by means of the india-rubber boat heretofore applied for, which could be transported across the swamp opposite Plymouth, or a light-draft, rifle-proof, swift steam barge, fitted with a torpedo."

Cushing's just the Guy You Want for Such an Attempt.  --Old B-Runner

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

150 Years Ago-- July 8, 1864: Runners Captured

JULY 8TH, 1864:  USS Fort Jackson captured British steamer Boston off SC coast.  USS Kanawha forced Matagorda aground near Galveston.  USS Sonoma captured steamer Ida off Stono River, SC.  USS Azalea and Sweet Brier captured the Pocahontas off Charleston.  Three of the four were captured off South Carolina.

CSS Florida captured whaling bark southwest of Bermuda.

--Old B-Runner

Monday, July 7, 2014

150 Years Ago-- July 7-12, 1864: Operation in Florida

JULY 7-12TH, 1864:  Small schooners USS Ariel, Sea Bird and Stonewall and sloop Rosalie transported Union troops on a raid to Brookville, Florida.

After disembarking the soldiers, the Ariel and Sea Bird continued to Bayport where a landing party captured a quantity of cotton and burned the customs house.

The Union troops rejoined the two schooners at Bayport, and the force returned to Anclote Key the next day.

--Old B-R'er

The Fourth of July Celebration in Japan

JULY 6, 1864:  Captain Cicero Price of the USS Jamestown, wrote Secretary Welles from Yokohama, Japan, regarding the celebration of Independence Day in that far-off port: "The Fourth was very handsomely celebrated here, all the foreign ships of war participating by dressing their ships, as well as saluting.  It was very marked on the part of the British."

With the tide of war ashore as well as afloat swinging to the Union, British intervention of the side of the South was no longer much of a possibility.

--Old B-Runner


Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Importance of the CSS Albemarle

JULY 6TH, 1864:  Illustrating the great paucity of Confederate naval power and the strategic importance of the CSS Albemarle to the defense of North Carolina, Brigadier general  Lawrence S. baker, CSA, wrote to Commander Maffitt, captain of the ironclad, cautioning him against risking the vessel: "I beg leave to remind you of the importance to the Confederacy of the country opened to us by the taking of Plymouth, to suggest that its recapture  now engages the serious attention of the U.S. Government, and that the loss of the gunboat which you command would be irreparable and productive of ruin to the interests of the government, particularly in this State and district, and indeed would be a heavy blow to the whole country....

"I have no doubt that in event of an attack by you the most desperate efforts will be made to destroy your boat, and thus open the approach to Plymouth and Washing [NC]."

While criticism was level at the Confedertae Navy department for not bringing the Albemarle to action, her presence at Plymouth constituted a serious threat to Union  control of the North Carolina sounds, demanded a vigilant patrol by many Union ships, and prevent a recapture of the area by Union troops.

--Old B-Runner

Friday, July 4, 2014

July 4, 1864: Confederates Provide Excuse for Firing Celebratory Cannons in Arkansas

JULY 4TH, 1864:  The USS Hastings engaged Confederate sharpshooters on the White River above St. Charles, Arkansas.  Lt.Cmdr. Phelps said of the 300-ton, eight-gun Hastings in his report to Rear Admiral Porter: "I had been at a loss to know how we should celebrate the Fourth, being underway and having so much of a convoy in charge, but this attack occurring about noon furnished the opportunity of at once punishing the enemy and celebrating the day by firing cannons."

Just one year earlier, the July Fourth celebration was made even better by the Union victory at the Battle of Gettysburg the previous day and the surrender of Vicksburg, two events that were the beginning of the end for the Confederacy.

--Old B-R'er

July 4th, 1864: Making a Run for It

JULY 4TH, 1864:  The USS Magnolia captured three boats at sea several hundred miles east of Florida with small cargoes of cotton and turpentine.  The intrepid Southern boatsmen had been at sea for some 40 days attempting to reach Nassau.

I imagine they might have been somewhat happy to be captured as opposed to perishing at sea.

The Naval Chronology remarked that the attempt to run the blockade in small boats like these, powered by sail and oars, was an extreme measure even for the South's struggling economy.  But I am sure the attempt had nothing to do with supporting the Confederacy.  It was all about making some big bucks.

--Old B-Runner

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Action in South Carolina

JULY 2-9, 1864:  Single-turreted monitors USS Lehigh and Montauk and other ships of the South Atlantic Blockading squadron supported an Army demonstration up the Stono River, SC.  Hearing that Confederate forces were about to move against the blockaders off Charleston. Rear Admiral Dahlgren and Major General Foster planned a diversionary expedition up the Stono River, intending to cut the important Charleston-Savannah railroad.

Union ships shelled Confederate works on both sides of the river with telling effect in support of Army units ashore.

Brigadier General Schimmelfennig, commander of the troops, reported top Dahlgren on 6 July: "I take pleasure in informing you of the excellent practice by your gunboats and monitors on Stono River yesterday.  They drove the enemy out of his rifle pits and prevented him from erecting an earthwork which he had commenced.

"As I shall probably have to occupy that line again before long, this fire of your monitors will  undoubtedly save many lives on our side, for which I desire to express to them my thanks."

Dahlgren's ships later successfully covered the Army's withdrawal from the Stono River.

--Old B-Runner

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Her Great Grandfather on the Blockade-Runner Rouen

From the Mariner's-L Archives.

The blockade-runner Rouen was captured off Wilmington 150 years ago today as mentioned in the previous post.

Jane Ward is doing research on her great-grandfather who was on the ship when it was captured and "given the choice of the hulks (prison) or joining the Union Navy, and being a smart and non-political, joined the Union Navy, served on the 'Grand Gulf' and later collected a pension on less than a year's service.

"His Scottish wife, much younger, collected a Union pension until her death in 1946, and used his service to claim U.S. citizenship."

You never know how things are going to turn out.

USS Keystone State Captures Blockade-Runner Rouen

JULY 2ND, 1864:  The USS Keystone State, Commander Crosby, captured blockade-running British steamer Rouen at sea off Wilmington, NC.  The steamer had thrown her cargo of cotton overboard during the four hour chase.

It was not forced to surrender until the Keystone State had fired 22 shots at her, "all of them falling quite near and some directly over her."

Just Another Day on Duty.  --Old B-R'er

Shortage of Confederate Mechanics Causing Ordnance Shortages

JULY 1ST, 1864:  Confederate Secretary of the Navy Mallory wrote President Davis that due to a shortage of mechanics the ordnance works at Selma, Alabama, could not "make more than one gun a week, whereas with a proper number of mechanics it could manufacture with carriages and equipments complete, three in a week and in a few months one every day...."

Shortage of skilled craftsmen was a handicap the South could never overcome.

The manpower and material shortages at Selma specifically crippled the progress of the ironclad squadron Admiral Buchanan was desperately trying to develop in Mobile Bay.  Only ram Tennessee was ready when the critical moment arrived in just over a month, August 5th, when Farragut "Damned the torpedoes."

--Old B-Runner


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

150 Years Ago-- July 1, 1864: CSS Florida Still Raiding

JULY 1ST, 1864:  The CSS Florida, Lt. Morris, captured and burned the bark Harriet Stevens at sea southwest of Bermuda with cargo of lumber, cement and gum opium (drugs?).  Morris sent the opium in a blockade runner for hospital use.

The Florida, now under command of Lt. Morris instead of Captain Maffitt, was still doing the job the Alabama could no longer do.

The USS Merrimac, captured the blockade-running sloop Henrietta at sea west of Tampa, Florida, with a cargo of cotton.

--Old B-Runner