Fort Fisher

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

Saturday, August 30, 2014

150 Years Ago-- August 31, 1864: Another Runner Out of Business

AUGUST 31, 1864:  The blockade-running British steamer Mary Bowers ran aground between Rattlesnake Shoals and Long Island, South Carolina and was a total loss.  She was bound for Charleston where, it was reported, she was to load a cargo of cotton bound for Halifax.

--Old B-R'er

More Action on the White River, Arkansas

AUGUST 30TH, 1864:  Even though the major rivers in the West were under Union control, Confederate batteries and troops would set up ambushes at various points and times.  The USS Fawn convoyed Union troops and artillery in the transport Kate Hart on an expedition up the White River from Devall's Bluff, Arkansas.  They were to join General West's  cavalry who were searching for General Shelby's force of Confederate raiders who were operating along the White River.

The Fawn and transport returned to Devall's Bluff on Sept. 2nd and commenced a second foray with a larger force in three more transports.  On Sept. 3rd, above Peach Orchard Bluffs, Confederate batteries opened on the convoy, but the Fawn drove them away.  However, the convoy was unable to proceed further because of low water and scouts and cavalry put ashore to communicate with General West, and returned.

The convoy then returned to Devall's Bluff on Sept. 6th.  Shelby's force continued to elude Union troops and harass shipping along the White River.

--Old B-Runner


Friday, August 29, 2014

Some More on Henry Marmaduke, CSN

Henry Marmaduke received a light wound in the fight with the USS Monitor on March 8, 1862.  His ship, the CSS Virginia, went into battle without its ensign showing Missouri on one of its stars.  (Marmaduke was from Missouri.)

His father, Meredith Miles Marmaduke remained a Unionist and his brother was Confederate General John Sappington Marmaduke.

A Split Family.  Old B-R'er

Henry H. Marmaduke, CSN-- Part 3

In 1865, Marmaduke commanded Confederate batteries on the James River in Virginia and commanded a company in the Navy Brigade after the fall of Richmond.  He was wounded and captured at the Battle of Saylor's Creek.  The end of the war found him as a prisoner on Johnson's Island in Lake Erie.  Two of his brothers were killed in action fighting for the Confederacy.

He spent most of his life after the Civil War in Washington, D.C., part of that time as Superintendent of the  Consular Bureau in South American Republics.  In 1902, the government asked Marmaduke to take command of the warship Bogote and chase rebel ships.  He was very successful and received the thanks of that government.

--Old B-Runner


Thursday, August 28, 2014

More Torpedo Problems at Mobile Bay

AUGUST 29TH, 1864:  While removing Confederate obstructions from the channel leading into Mobile Bay, five sailors were killed and nine others injured when a torpedo exploded.

Farragut regretted the loss, but resolutely pressed on with the work:  "As it is absolutely necessary to free the channel of these torpedoes, I shall continue to remove them, but as every precaution will be used, I do not apprehend any further accident."

Like the loss of the monitor USS Tecumseh, this event demonstrated although that some torpedoes had been made inactive by long immersion, many were very much alive when Farragut made his famous instant decision, "Damn the Torpedoes...."

Farragut Was a Very Lucky Soul That August 5th Day.  --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Expedition to North Carolina's Masonboro Inlet

AUGUST 27TH, 1864:  The USS Niphon and USS Monticello conducted an expedition up Masonboro Inlet, N.C., (near Wilmington) to silence a Confederate battery which was reported to have been erected in the vicinity.  The two steamers shelled the shoreline and a number of buildings in Masonboro.

Landing parties went ashore and captured a quantity of rifles, ammunition and foodstuffs.

--Old B-Runner

Farragut Asks to Be Relieved of Duty

AUGUST 27, 1864:  In failing health and with the assault on Mobile delayed indefinitely awaiting adequate troops, Rear Admiral Farragut wrote Secretary Welles requesting to be relieved of duty:  "It is evident that the army has no men to spare for this place beyond those sufficient to keep up an alarm, and thereby make a diversion in favor of General Sherman....

"Now, I dislike to make of show of attack unless I can do something more than make a menace, but so long as I am able I am willing to do the biding of the Department to the best of my abilities.  I fear, however, my health's giving way.

"I have now been down in this Gulf and the Caribbean Sea nearly five years out of six, with the exception of  the short time at home last fall, and the last six months have been a severe drag on me, and I want rest, if it is to be had."

Two months later the great leader set course to the North for a well-deserved leave.  This, however, was to be his last sea duty.

A Well-Deserved Rest.  --Old B-R'er

--

Henry H. Marmaduke, CSN-- Part 2

The name Marmaduke made me think that there was a Confederate general by that name and there was.  And, that general, John Sappington Marmaduke was one of Henry's brothers.  So, he came from quite an important family as far as notables.

I came across mention of John Marmaduke in the book "Crimsom Confederates: Harvard Men Who Fought for the South" by Helen Trimpi.  It said that John Marmaduke entered Yale in 1851, transferred to Harvard in 1852 and then transferred to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1853 and graduated from there in 1857.

Anyway, back to Henry Marmaduke.  Henry entered the U.S. Naval Academy at age 16.  In 1861, he became a midshipman in the Confederate States Navy and initially served at New Orleans.  In 1862, he was assigned to the new Confederate ironclad ram CSS Virginia where he directed a 14-man gun crew during the famous battle with the USS Monitor.  He was seriously wounded in the battle and was recognized by  the Virginia's commander Franklin Buchanan.

He was later assigned to the CSS Shenandoah and was on the CSS Albemarle when it was sunk by William Cushing in 1864.

--Old B-Runner.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Henry Hungerford Marmaduke, Captain, CSN: Last Survivor of Virginia-Monitor Battle-- Part 1

I have been going through the list of North Carolina Confederates buried at Arlington National Cemetery and came across this man, who, although not from  the state, had an interesting history and since he was in the Confederate Navy, I will write about him here.

Henry Hungerford Marmaduke is regarded as the last surviving participant in the famous battle between the CSS Virginia and USS Monitor.  He died in Washington, D.C., on November 14, 1924, at age 82.  He was interred in the Confederate Section of Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.

He was born in Saline County, Missouri in 1844, the son of M.M. Marmaduke, the governor of Missouri.  His older brother, John S. Marmaduke was elected Missouri governor in 1884.

And, then, I was thinking that there was a Confederate General by the name Marmaduke.  Was Henry related to him?

--Old B-Runner

Monday, August 25, 2014

CSS Tallahasee Returns to Wilmington

AUGUST 25TH, 1864:  The CSS Tallahassee, Commander Wood, successfully ran the blockade into Wilmington, N.C., after being chased and fired at by several blockading vessels.  Rear Admiral Lee issued orders urging "utmost vigilance" to prevent her from going back out.

In her cruise, cut short by lack of coal, Wood took some 31 prizes, all but eight of which were destroyed.

Job Well Done.  --Old B-R'er

150 Years Ago: Blockade-Runner Lilian Captured Off Wilmington

AUGUST 24TH, 1864:  The USS Keystone State, Commander Peirce Crosby,  and USS Gettysburg, Lt. R.H. Lamson, captured the blockade-runner Lilian off Wilmington with cargo of cotton.  Both ships fired on the Lilian and when she finally hove to she was in sinking condition.

Crosby managed to repair the damage and sent her to Beaufort. She was later purchased by the Union Navy and assigned to the squadron under the same name.

--Old B-Runner

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Fort Morgan Surrenders

AUGUST 23RD, 1864:  Having doggedly withstood naval bombardment as well as a land siege for two weeks, Brigadier General Page surrendered Fort Morgan, the last Confederate bastion in lower Mobile Bay.

"My guns and powder had all been destroyed, my means of defense gone, the citadel, nearly all the quartermaster stores and a portion of the commissariat burned by the enemy's shells," he reported.

"It was evident the fort could hold out but a few hours longer under a renewed bombardment.  The only question was: Hold it for this time, gain the eclat, and sustain the loss of life from the falling of the walls, or save life and capitulate?"

And, sadly, one of the ships mercilessly pounding Fort Morgan was a former defender of it5, the CSS, now USS, Tennessee.

--A Valiant Fight.  --Old B-Runner

Another Union Reconnaissance Up the Roanoke River to Check on the Albemarle

AUGUST 23RD, 1864:  Acting Masters' Mate John Woodman made his second dangerous reconnaissance up the Roanoke River, N.C., to gather intelligence on the CSS Albemarle and the defenses of Plymouth.

Woodman reported:  "At 10 a.m. I arrived on the Roanoke River, opposite Plymouth.  The ram Albemarle was lying alongside of the wharf at Plymouth, protected by timbers, extending completely around her...."

Woodman, who would make yet another reconnaissance mission, gained much vital information upon which Lt. Cushing planned the expedition that ended the Albemarle's service to the Confederacy.

--Old B-R'er

Boat Expedition in Georgia

AUGUST 22-24TH, 1864:  A boat expedition from the USS Potomska captured prisoners and some small arms and destroyed over 2,000 barrels of rosin and turpentine on the Satilla and White rivers in Georgia..

If it was on the water anywhere in the Confederacy, Confederate supplies were fair game for Union naval forces.

--Old B-Runner

Friday, August 22, 2014

Pontoosuc Misses the Tallahasse By Just Seven Hours

AUGUST 20TH, 1864:  The USS Pontoosuc entered Halifax and learned that the Tallahassee had sailed late the night before and that he had failed to intercept her by only seven hours.  The Pontoosuc departed immediately in pursuit.

Based on information reported by Consul Jackson, the Pontoosuc steamed north into the Gulf of St. Lawrence, while Wood, feeling that he did not have sufficient coal to actively pursue his raid, had set a course for Wilmington, N.C..

This date, the Tallahassee captured the brig Roan and burned her.  She  was the last prize taken on this brief bur most effective raid.

--Old B-R'er

The CSS Tallahassee Puts in Halifax-- Part 2: Getting More Coal

Nova Scotia's Lt. Gov. Richard G. MacDonnell, did, however, ask Admiral Sir James Hope to advise him on the amount of coal he considered sufficient to reach Wilmington, N.C.,   The next day, MacDonnell advised Wood, who had put into port with just 40 tons of coal, that he could depart with no more than 100 tons.

However, the Confederate cruiser, which put to sea on the night of the 19th, sailed with more than that quantity.

Wood later reported: "I am under many obligations to our agent, Mr. Wier, for transacting our business, and through his management about 120 tons of coal were put aboard, instead of half that quantity."

Sliding Right On Out of There.  --Old B-Runner

Thursday, August 21, 2014

CSS Tallahassee Puts Into Halifax, Nova Scotia-- Part 1

AUGUST 18TH, 1864:  The CSS Tallahassee, Commander Wood, put into Halifax to replenish its coal supply.  U.S. Consul Mortimer M. Jackson wire Secretary Welles:  "Tallahassee has just come into port.  Will protest against her being coaled here."

Welles in turn, wired the USS Pontoosuc which had put into port at Eastport, Maine, the preceding day to steam to Halifax without delay.

Consul Jackson protested the sale of coal, but was informed that "...his excellency does not consider it his duty to detain the Tallahassee, or any man-of-war of a belligerent state, on the chance of evidence being hereafter found of her having violated international law, and in the absence of proof to that effect he cannot withhold from her commander the privilege of obtaining  as much coal as may be necessary to carry him to a port in the Confederate  States...."

--Old B-R'er


Action in Georgia

AUGUST 16TH, 1864:  A boat expedition from the USS Saratoga and T.A. Ward captured some 100 prisoners and a quantity of arms on a daring raid into McIntosh County, Georgia.

They also destroyed a salt works and a strategic bridge across the South Newport River on the main road to Savannah.

--Old B-Runner

More Action on the James River-- Part 2

AUGUST 17TH, 1864:  General Robert E. Lee, attempting to consolidate his position on the James River below Richmond, turned to the ships of Flag Officer Mitchell's squadron for gunfire support and telegraphed:  "The enemy is on Signal Hill, fortifying.  Please try and drive him off.  Our picket line is reestablished with the exception of Signal Hill."

The ironclads Virginia II and Richmond immediately steamed into position above Signal Hill where they opened fire on the encroaching Union position.  Shortly afterwards, the Federals withdrew and Lee's troops now commanded the hill.

--Old B-R'er

More Action on the James River-- Part 1

AUGUST 16TH, 1864:Ships of the James River Division, North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, transported and supported Union troops in an advance from Dutch Gap.  The USS Mount Vernon transported troops from Dutch Gap to Aiken's Landing and stayed to provide support.  The monitor USS Canonicus shelled the Confederate lines and paid particular attention to Signal Hill Battery.

Throughout the long months of stalemate along the James, naval forces operated intimately with  the Army, facilitating small advances and checking reverses with their big guns.

--Old B-Runner

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

CSS Tallahassee Running Short of Coal

AUGUST 17TH, 1864:  The CSS Tallahassee, Commander Wood, was by now running short of coal and headed for Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he hoped to refuel in order to continue his devastating attack on Federal commerce.

En route, the Tallahassee destroyed the schooners North America and Josiah Ashom and released the brig Neva on bond.

--Old B-Runner

USS Niagara Captures Formed CSS Georgia

The USS Niagara, Commodore Thomas T. Craven, captured the steamer Georgia off the coast of Portugal.  The Georgia was the former commerce raider CSS Georgia, which had been sold to British merchants in June 1864.

American ambassador to England, Charles Francis Adams recommended that she be taken when she put to sea because of her previously belligerent status.  The Georgia was later condemned by a prize court in Boston.

--Old B-R'er

Farragut's Fleet Continues Bombarding Fort Morgan

AUGUST 15TH, 1864:  Rear Admiral Farragut's fleet sustained its pounding of Fort Morgan with shot from its heavy guns.  Typical of the action that took place in Mobile Bay from the time the ships passed into it August 5th, until general Page surrendered the fort was a log entry from the monitor USS Manhattan:  "At 7 [p.m.] opened fire on Fort Morgan.  At 8 Fort Morgan opened fire on this ship and fired two shot.

"From 8 to midnight: Continuing to fire on Fort Morgan; Morgan fired one shot at this ship.  At 10:20 ceased firing having fired 7 XV-inch shell.  Fort fired on our encampment on shore from 9 till end of watch."

--Old B-Runner

More CSS Albemarle Rumors

AUGUST 15TH, 1864:  Rumors concerning the CSS Albemarle continued to reach Union naval forces in the Albemarle Sound.  Colonel David W. Wardrop, Union Army commander in the area, wrote top Commander Macomb:  "I have received information from the parties heretofore reliable that the enemy have been fitting up some of their boats with torpedoes and are intending to attack the fleet in conjunction with the ram on Tuesday next.

"It is also confidently reported that a second ram will be done in a fortnight.  They are very busy up the Roanoke River, but it is very difficult to learn what is being done...."

--Old B-R'er

Action on James River

AIGUST 13TH, 1864:  The USS Agawan engaged three different Confederate batteries near Four Mile Creek on the James River.  The Agawan fired 228 shells at them and were about out of ammunition and dropped downriver.  It engaged the same batteries the next day in support of Union troops moving along the ricer.

Sgips of the Confederate James River squadron, including the ironclads CSS Virginia II, CSS Richmond CSS Fredericksburg and CSS Hampton, CSS Nansemond and CSS Drewry, shelled Union positions near Dutch Gap. Virginia, for over eleven hours.

This was done at the request of the Army and intended to support Confederate troop movements.

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Tallahassee Captures Eleven Union Ships in Two Days

AUGUST 15TH, 1864:  The CSS Tallahassee captured and scuttled the schooners Mary A. Howes, Howard, Floral Wreath, Restless and Etta Caroline and bonded the Sarah B. Harris off New England.  The Harris then carried prisoners away.

AUGUST 16TH, 1864:  The Tallahassee captured and burned off the New England Coast the bark P.C. Alexander and schooners Leopard, Pearl, Sarah Louise and Magnolia.

--Old B-Runner

Action at Arkansas on the Mississippi River

AUGUST 10-11TH, 1864:  Small steamers USS Romeo, USS Prairie Bird and transport steamer  Empress engaged a Confederate battery at Gaines Landing, Arkansas, on the Mississippi River.  The Confederates had secretly wheeled it into place.

The Empress was attacked on the 10th and had its captain killed and disabled her.  The Romeo came to its aid, engaged the battery and towed the Empress to safety.

The next day, the Confederates opened up on the Prairie Bird which was passing by.  Hearing the firing, the Romeo returned and the two ships were able to drive them away.

All three ships were severely engaged in the two day battle.  The Empress alone had received some sixty-three hits.

--Old B-R'er

Sickness a problem on Confederate Ships on the James River-- Part 2

The conclusion reached in the subsequent report illustrated the hazards of duty on the river:  "We consider the causes of the  great amount of sickness on board said vessels to be, first, and chiefly, that the exposure to malaria, the necessary consequence of a residence on the waters of  James River; as a secondary cause to this, but in our opinion highly conducive to the hurtful influence, we would enumerate the  heated exposure of the ironclads, especially when at quarters and during action, the want of proper exercise on shore, and of  a deficient supply of vegetables and fruits for the ships' companies...."

Difficult living conditions and sickness were common, especially in the summer, for both navies on the James River as well as elsewhere throughout the tidewaters of the South.

--Old B-Runner

Monday, August 18, 2014

All Out Union Effort to Stop the CSS Tallahassee

AUGUST 14, 1864:  As all-out Union efforts to capture the CSS Tallahassee, Commander Wood,  increased, the cruiser seized and scuttled the ship James Littlefield with cargo of coal.

Rear Admiral Paulding noted in New York"  "Our vessels must fall in with her.  They strip everybody of everything valuable."

--Old B-R'er

Sickness a Problem for the Confederate Ships on the James River-- Part 1

AUGUST 10, 1864:  One of the additional difficulties of naval operations in the lowlands surrounding the James River, was the high rate of sickness.

This date, Flag Officer Mitchell, commanding the Confederate James River Squadron, wired Major General George E. Pickett:  "Our crews are so much reduced in numbers from sickness that we shall have to discontinue our picket guard at at Osborne's on the James River to enable us to man our batteries, in order that we may act against the enemy.  About one-third of the men are sick."

Later in the month, a board of surgeons inspected the ships of the squadron with a view toward reducing the prevalence of malaria and other disabling diseases.

--Old B-R'er

Importance of Commerce Raiding for the Confederacy

AUGUST 10, 1864:  Secretary Mallory wrote Commander Bulloch in Liverpool of the continuing importance of commerce raiding to the Confederacy: "It seems certain that we could not obtain such ships as we specially want; but we must not therefore desist in our attempts and must do the best we can under the circumstances which surround us.

"The enemy's distant whaling grounds have not been visited by us,  His commerce constitutes one of his reliable sources of national wealth no less than one of his best schools for seamen, and we must strike it,  if possible."

The secretary's desires were to be carried out with even greater success than he had anticipated with the CSS Shenandoah.

--Old B-Runner

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Great Alarm on U.S. Coast Because of the CSS Tallahassee

AUGUST 13TH, 1864:  Reports of the Tallahassee's destructive success created much alarm in northern seaports.  This date, John D. Jones, president of the Board of Underwriters, wired Secretary Welles from New York: "Confederate steamer Tallahassee is reported cruising within sixty miles of this port.  She has already captured six vessels.

"Will you please have the necessary measures taken, if not already done, to secure her capture?"

Half an hour after receipt of this message, Welles replied: "Three vessels left New York Navy Yard yesterday afternoon; more leave to-day.  Vessels left Hampton Roads last night; more leave to-day.  Several vessels leave Boston to-day and to-morrow.  Every vessel available has been ordered to search for the pirate."

In addition this date, Captain C.K. Stribling, Commandant of the Philadelphia Navy Yard, despatched three ships "in pursuit of the pirate."

However, Commander Wood and his Tallahassee continued its havoc, burning the schooner Lamont Du Pont and bark Glenavon.

--Old B-R'er

Confederate Midshipmen Training Continues

AUGUST 10TH, 1864:  Reporting from Paris, Flag Officer Barron reported to Secretary Mallory that all Confederate midshipmen in Europe except the Alabama's had been examined for promotion.

Though its ships were few in numbers, the Confederacy continued an active and systematic training program for its young naval officers.

In his annual report to President Davis, Mallory stressed the value of training for naval service: "Naval education and training lie at the foundation of naval success; and the power that neglects this essential element of strength will, when the battle is fought, find that its ships, however formidable, are but built for a more thoroughly trained and educated enemy....

"While a liberal education at the ordinary institutions of learning prepares men for useful service not only in the Army, but in most branches of public affairs, special education and training, and such as these institutions cannot afford, are essential to form a naval officer."

The Confederate Naval Academy, on board the CSS Patrick Henry in the James River, performed this service for the stateside midshipmen.

--Old B-Runner

Grant Wants Monitors Retained in the James River

AUGUST 9TH, 1864:  Lt. General Grant wrote to Rear Admiral Lee in response to a question as to the usefulness of the Union ironclad monitors in the James River:  "...I think it would be imprudent to withdraw them.  At least two such vessels, in my judgement, should be kept in the upper James.

"They stand a constant threat to the enemy and prevent him taking the offensive."

Plus, the monitors had the best chance of fighting off the three Confederate ironclads at Richmond.

From experience, Grant well understood the vital role sea power played in the war.  He was a master of using the North's naval advantage for his own uses.

--Old B-Runner

Friday, August 15, 2014

Farragut Pounds Fort Morgan and USS Tennessee (formerly CSS) Gets Steam Up

AUGUST 10TH, 1864:  Rear Admiral Farragut continues his steady day and night bombardment of Fort Morgan, battering down the walls.  The fort is resolutely defended by his old shipmate, General Page.

AUGUST 12TH, 1864:  The ram Tennessee got up steam for the first time since her capture by Union forces on August 5th.  She had been fitted with a new smokestack on the 11th and this date tried it out by steaming around the bay.

On the 13th, the Tennessee steamed down and opened fire on Fort Morgan.

--Old B-Runner

CSS Tallahassee Continues Its Work

AUGUST 12TH, 1864:  The CSS Tallahassee seized six more prizes while continuing her devastating cruise off the New York Coast.  It burned the ships Atlantic, Adriatic and Spokane with cargoes of lumber.  It attempted to scuttle the brig Billow with a cargo of lumber and released the bark Suliote and schooner Robert E. Parker on bond.

 The Billow did not sink and was later retaken by the USS Grand Gulf, Commander Ransom, two days later.

--Old B-R'er

Confederate Torpedo Corps Strike City Point

AUGUST 9TH, 1864:  Two resourceful members of the Confederate Torpedo Corps, John Maxwell and R.K. Dillard, planted a clockwork torpedo containing twelve pounds of powder on a Union transport at City Point, Virginia, causing a huge explosion which rocked the entire area.

Maxwell and Dillard succeeded in getting through Union lines to the wharf area, where Maxwell convinced the trusting wharf sentry that he had been ordered by the captain of the ammunition barge to deliver a box to the ship.

The box was accepted and the two Confederates hastily started back for Richmond.  When the torpedo exploded an hour later, it set in motion a devastating chain reaction which spread the holocaust from the barges to storage buildings on shore and even to General Grant's headquarters.

Grant hurried off a message to General Halleck in Washington: "Five minutes ago an ordnance boat exploded, carrying lumber, grape, canister and all kinds of shot over this point.  Every part of the yard used as my headquarters is filled with splinters and fragments of shell."

Sneaky Confederates.  --Old B-Runner

Thursday, August 14, 2014

CSS Tallahassee Having a Field Day Off New Jersey

AUGUST 10-11TH, 1864:  Cruising within 80 miles of Sandy Hook, New Jersey, the CSS Tallahassee, Commander Wood, took seven prizes, including schooners Sarah A. Boyce and Carrol, brigs Richards and Carrie Estelle, pilot boats James Funk (No.22) and William Bell (No. 24) and bark Bay State.

All were scuttled and burned except the Carrol, which was bonded for $10,000 and sent to New York with the passengers and crews of the other ships.

Rear Admiral Henry Paulding, Commandant of the New York Navy Yard, immediately wired Secretary Welles" "Pirate off Sandy Hook, capturing and burning."

By evening, Paulding had three ships in pursuit of the Tallahassee.  Welles, hoping to prevent another cruise similar to the June 1863 raid by Lt, Charles Read of the CSS Tacony, telegraphed naval commanders at Hampton Roads, Philadelphia and Boston to begin a large-scale search for Wood.

--Old B-R'er

Battle of Mobile Bay

Costly as the Union victory was and as stubbornly as the Confederates defended it, the victory effectively closed the last Confederate port on the Gulf of Mexico (even though Mobile did not fall anytime soon).

It was now inevitable that the other Confederate fortifications would be compelled to surrender.

The afternoon of August 5th, the monitor USS Chickasaw stood down and engaged Fort Powell at a distance of less than 400 yards.  The Confederates evacuated the fort during the night and blew it up.

Forts Morgan and Gaines would also soon fall.

After this, Union naval efforts would be concentrated on the east coast, though "mopping up" operations would continue along the Gulf and western rivers.

--Old B-Runner

Farragut Receives Congratulations for Battle of Mobile Bay

Secretary Welles warmly congratulated Rear Admiral Farragut on his stunning triumph: "In the success which has attended your operations you have illustrated the efficiency and irresistible power of a naval force led by a bold and vigorous mind, and insufficiency of any batteries to prevent the passage of a fleet thus led and commanded.

"You have, first on the Mississippi and recently in the bay of Mobile, demonstrated what had been previously doubted, the ability of naval vessels, properly manned and commanded, to set at defiance the best constructed and most heavily armed fortifications.

"In these successive victories you have encountered great risks, but the results have vindicated the wisdom of your policy and the daring valor of our officers and seamen."

Congrats to Farragut.  --Old B-R'er

The Tennessee Now Fighting for Farragut

AUGUST 9TH, 1864:  The ram Tennessee, whose big guns had so valiantly fought to defend Mobile Bay on August 5th, now in Union hands, bombarded Fort Morgan.

Her log recorded this date: "At 10 a.m. having no steam up in the vessel, the USS Port Royal took us in tow down towards Fort Morgan.  Anchored between the Middle Ground and the fort and opened out battery upon the fort."

At 10 p.m. Winnebago towed Tennessee back up to her anchorage.

The sight of their former ship, the CSS Tennessee, now turning its guns against them must have been quite disheartening to the fort's beleaguered defenders.

--Old B-Runner

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Action Continues at Mobile Bay: Fort Morgan Refuses to Surrender

AUGUST 9TH, 1864:  Though the Union fleet controlled Mobile Bay and Forts Powell and Gaines were un Union hands, Brig. Gen. Richard L. Page, formerly a U.S. Navy officer and until recently a commander in the CSN, gallantly refused to surrender Fort Morgan to the overwhelming forces arrayed against him.

Federal naval forces took station off the fort while troops began a land siege

After a brief bombardment, Farragut and Union Army commander Major General Gordon Granger advised Page: "To prevent the unnecessary sacrifice of human life which must follow the opening of our batteries, we demand the unconditional surrender of Fort Morgan and its dependencies."

Undaunted, the Confederate officer replied: "I am prepared to sacrifice life, and will only surrender when I have no means of defense."

He was fighting his fort as he would have his ship.

It was too bad that Fort Gaines' commander couldn't have been more like Page.

--Old B-R'er

USS Violet Runs Aground and Sunk Off Cape Fear River

AUGUST 8TH, 1864:

The USS Violet, Acting Ensign Thomas Stothard, ran aground off the western bar of the Cape Fear River, North Carolina, and was destroyed.

Stothard and his men labored to keep Violet afloat for five hours, but seeing that the water was gaining, fired her magazine and abandoned the small wooden steamer.

I never heard of this ship.

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Dahlgren Poses the Idea of Naval Infantry

AUGUST 8TH, 1864:  Sailors in the Civil War were often called upon to perform duties far removed from ordinary shipboard routine.

This date, Rear Admiral Dahlgren wrote to the commanders of his South Atlantic Blockading Squadron on the subject of naval infantry.

"It has frequently happened that the peculiar nature of the duties of this command has required the service of bodies of men to be landed from vessels to act for a short time as infantry, assisted by light fieldpieces.  In order to meet similar exigencies commanders of vessels will take pains to select from their crews such men as may seem to have a turn for this kind of duty and have them drilled with small arms until they have attained the necessary proficiency....The light infantry drill will be best adapted to this service, and to be habits of the seamen."

A good idea.  And, it is likely some of the sailors were originally in the Union infantry who could help with the training.  Perhaps even borrow infantry officers for it.  Five months later, Union naval forces on land at Fort Fisher suffered heavy losses in an essentially botched land attack.

--Old B-Runner

Fort Gaines To Be Surrendered

AUGUST 7TH, 1864:  Col. Charles D. Anderson, CSA, commanding Fort Gaines at Mobile Bay, proposed the surrender of his command to Rear Admiral Farragut.

The monitor USS Chickasaw had bombarded the fort the day before and Anderson wrote: "Feeling my inability to maintain my present position longer than you may see fit to open upon me with your fleet, and feeling also the uselessness of entailing upon ourselves further destruction of life< i have the honor to propose the surrender of Fort Gaines, its garrison, stores."

Before 10 a.m., 8 August, the Stars and Stripes were flying over the works.

I'd have to consider this an act of cowardice on Anderson's part.  One for which he should have been court martialled.

--Old B-R'er


CSS Tallahassee Runs Out of Wilmington

AUGUST 6TH, 1864:  The Css Tallahassee, Commander Wood, ran out of Wilmington, North Carolina, and, after eluding Union blockaders off the bar, embarked on one of the most destructive commerce raiding cruises of the war.

Jefferson Davis later wrote: "This extemporaneous man-of-war... soon lit up the New England coast with her captures...."

In the next two weeks Wood, whom Davis called "an officer of extraordinary ability and enterprise," took or destroyed more than 30 ships.

--Old B-Runner

Monday, August 11, 2014

CSS Albemarle On the Move

AUGUST 6TH, 1864:  The powerful CSS Albemarle, Captain J.W. Cooke, steamed from Plymouth, North Carolina, to the mouth of the Roanoke River, causing great consternation among the Union blockading ships before returning to Plymouth.

Commander Harrell, USS Chicopee, reported: "...the ram made its appearance this morning at a few minutes before 4 a.m.  It advanced as far as the mouth of the river and halted....  From the number of people in sight on the beach, no doubt it was expected that an engagement would ensue....

"The ram is now lying in the river blowing off steam.  I do not think, however that she will advance.  Should she do so, however, I will endeavor to draw her down toward the fleet.  I shall now pay my respects to those gentlemen on the beach in the shape of a few shells.

--Old B-Runner

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Battle of Mobile Bay-- Part 6: The Battering Continues and Surrender

The Hartford struck a glancing blow and poured a broadside into the Tennessee from ten feet.  The Chickasaw pounded the ram with heavy shot.  The Lackawanna and Hartford had a collision, but recovered.  The Monongahela and Ossipee were preparing to ram.

Admiral Buchanan, commanding the Tennessee, had been wounded and turned command over to Commander James D. Johnston.  The ship's steering was knocked out, but, unable to maneuver and taking on water,  it struggled on, being pounded mercilessly by the whole Union fleet.

Johnston and Buchanan concurred that further resistance would be of no avail and at 10 a.m., the white flag was hoisted.

The Union now had closed the port of Mobile to the outside world, but the city still remained in Confederate hands.

--Old B-R'er





Battle of Mobile Bay-- Part 5: The Tennessee Takes a Battering

The battle between the Union fleet and Tennessee raged for over an hour.  The USS Monongahela rammed the Tennessee, but only succeeded in damaging herself.  The Lackawanna rammed at full speed, but, as Farragut described it, "the only perceptible effect on the ram was to give it a heavy list."

However, a shot from one of the monitor USS Manhattan's 15-inch guns made a big impression of the Tennessee's crew.  Lt. Wharton, CSN, reported"  "The Monongahela was hardly clear of us when a hideous-looking monster came creeping up on our Port side, whose slowly revolving turret revealed the cavernous depths of a mammoth gun.  'Stand clear of the Port side!' I shouted.

"A moment after a thunderous report shook us all, while a blast of dense, sulpherous smoke covered out port-holes, and 440 pounds of  iron, impelled by sixty pounds of powder, admitted daylight through our side, where, before it struck us, there had been over two feet of solid wood, covered with five inches of solid iron.

"This was the only 15-inch shot that hit us fair.  It did not come through; the inside netting caught the splinters, and there were no casualties from it.  I was glad to find myself alive after that shot."

Watch Out for Those 15-inchers!  --Old B-Runner




Friday, August 8, 2014

Battle of Mobile Bay-- Part 4 The CSS Tennessee

Hardly past one hazard, there came the CSS Tennessee.    Admiral Buchanan tried to ram the USS Hartford with his CSS Tennessee.  The Union ship easily avoided the attack, but was raked by the CSS Selma, commanded by Lt. Peter U. Murphey,  while doing so.

The USS Metacomet, commanded by Lt.Cmdr. Jouett, engaged the Selma and caused her to surrender.shortly after 9 a.m..

The Tennessee then tried to ram the Brooklyn, but failed as well.

The CSS Gaines advanced but had her steering hit and came under heavy fire.  It was run aground near Fort Morgan and settled in two fathoms.  The CSS Morgan tried to save the Selma, but when faced with the possibility of being cut off, ran under the cover of Fort Morgan's guns and later made a run to safety to Mobile.

The USS Philippi ran aground and came under fire of Fort Morhan and riddled the ship with shot and shell, forcing the crew to abandon ship.    A boat crew from the CSS Morgan boarded it and set her on fire.

The Union fleet was now in Mobile Bay and anchored for a short time.  Farragut saw that Buchanan had intentions of destroying the Hartford and ordered the monitors and wooden vessels he considered best to engage the Tennessee to attack the ram with both guns and ram it when possible.

Phase Two Over.  --Old B-Runner

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Battle of Mobile Bay-- Part 3: "Damn the Torpedoes..."

Captain Alden, commanding the USS Brooklyn, was to the Tecumseh's port side at the time began backing up to clear "a row of suspicious-looking buoys" directly under his bow.  The entire line of wooden vessels was beginning to deteriorate in confusion under the guns of Fort Morgan.

Rear Admiral Farragut, lashed to the rigging of his flagship, the USS Hartford to better observe the action to avoid the billowing smoke observed this and acted promptly and resolutely, characteristic of a great leader who in war must constantly meet emergencies fraught with danger.

The only course open to him was the boldest--  through the torpedo field.  "Damn the torpedoes," he ordered; "full speed ahead."  (Flag Lieutenant John C. Watson later recalled that Farragut's exact words were: "Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead, Drayton!  Hard starboard; ring four bells! Eight bells! Sixteen bells!")  I'm not sure what the bells referred to.

The Hartford swept past the Brooklyn into the rows of torpedoes; the fleet followed.  The torpedoes were heard bumping against the hulls, but none exploded.  Farragut's fleet steamed into Mobile Bay.

Farragut was certainly fortunate that Watson had done such a good job disabling the torpedoes in the days preceding the action.  Either that, or most of the torpedoes (mines) were defective.  Had they started going off, a great victory would have ended up an inglorious disaster.

And, That Was Pretty Much That.  But Now It is Up to the Tennessee.  --Old B-R'er


Battle of Mobile Bay-- Part 2: End of the USS Tecumseh

Shortly before 7 a.m., the ironclad monitor Tecumseh, Commander T.A.M. Craven, opened fire on Fort Morgan.  The action quickly became general.  The small Confederate squadron under Admiral Buchanan, including the ironclad CSS Tennessee (6 guns), Gaines (6 guns), Selma (4 guns) and Morgan (6 guns) moved out to fight.

Craven headed the Tecumseh for the Tennessee, intent on engaging her at once.  Suddenly, a terrific explosion rocked the monitor which careened violently and sank in seconds, the victim of one of those feared torpedoes.

Amidst the confusion below deck as men struggled to escape the sinking ship, Craven and the pilot, John Collins, arrived at the ladder leading to the main deck.  The captain stepped back and said, "After you, pilot.  Collins survived, but the captain did not.  He and some 90 officers and men out of the Tecumseh's crew of 114 went down with the ship.  Captain Alden later called them "intrepid pioneers of that death-strewed path."

The End of a Gallant Ship.  --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Battle of Mobile Bay: August 5, 1864-- Part 1

Rear Admiral Farragut took his squadron of 18 ships, including four monitors and one of which was the USS Tecumseh which had rushed from Pensacola, against the heavy Confederate defenses of Mobile Bay.  Soon after 6 a.m., the Union ships crossed the bar and moved into the bay.

The monitors Tecumseh, Manhattan,  Winnebago and Chickasaw formed a column to the starboard of the wooden ships in order to take most of Fort Morgan's fire, which they had to pass at the closest range.  The seven smaller wooden ships were lashed to the port side (away from Fort Morgan) of the larger wooden screw steamers, as in the passage of Port Hudson earlier in 1863.

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

150 Years Ago: The Battle of Mobile Bay

Now, it was go time.  Like with the Confederate forts at New Orleans, Rear Admiral Farragut ran his 18 ships past the guns of Fort Morgan and Fort Gaines, guarding Mobile Bay, Alabama.

His success today, 150 years ago, effectively closed the port of Mobile to the outside world.

More on the battle starting tomorrow.  --

--Old B-Runner

One More Mobile Bay Reconnoitering

AUGUST 3RD, 1864: Union Lt. J.C. Watson and his boat crew made a final night expedition into the waters of Mobile Bay under the guns of Fort Morgan.  Although they were constantly in danger of being discovered by the lights of the fort, the bold sailors worked all night to deactivate and sink Confederate torpedoes in the channel preparatory to Farragut's rush into Mobile Bay.

Ready, Set...  --Old B-R'er

Hurry the USS Tecumseh to Mobile Bay

AUGUST 3RD, 1864:  Rear Admiral Farragut's Fleet Captain, Percival Drayton, wrote the senior officer at Pensacola, Florida, Captain Thornton A. Jenkins, urging that the monitor Tecumseh be hurried to Mobile Bay for Farragut's attack.

"If you can get the Tecumseh out to-morrow, do so, otherwise I am pretty certain the admiral won't wait for her.  Indeed, I think a very little persuasion would have taken him in to-day, and less to-morrow.  The army are to land at once, and the admiral does not want to be thought remiss."

Farragut was ready to launch his attack and the soldiers were already getting ready to land to begin siege operations against Fort Morgan.

Farragut also wrote Jenkins saying: "I can lose no more days.  I must go in day after to-morrow morning at daylight or a little after.  It is a bad time, but when you do not take fortune at her offer you must take her as you find her."

The Much Anticipated Attack Is Getting Near.  --Old B-Runner

150 Years Ago: Action on the James River

JULY 28TH, 1864:  The USS Mendota and USS Agawam shelled Confederate positions across Four Mile Creek, on the James River, in support of Union moves to clear the area and restore full Northern use of the river at that point.

AUGUST 3RD, 1864:  The USS Miami engaged Confederate batteries at Wilcox's Landing, Virginia, who weer firing on Union transports, forcing them to withdraw after an hour.

The next day, the Miami and USS Osceola drove off batteries firing on other transports at Harrison's Landing on the James River.

Throughout the South, Union gunboats kept vital communications and supply lines open despite Confederate efforts to disrupt and destroy them.

--Old B-R'er

More Problems for the CSS Rappahannock-- Part 2

Private agents acting for the Confederacy had purchased the Rappahannock from the British in November, 1863, at Sheerness, where she was refitting.  Concerned that the British, suspecting that she was to be used as a cruiser, would detain her, the Confederates ran the ship out of port on 24 November.

Her officers joined in the channel, and intended to rendezvous with the CSS Georgia off the French coast, where she would take on armament.  However, in passing out the James estuary, her bearings burned out and she was taken across the channel to Calais for repairs.

Though the South had entertained high hopes for her as a commerce raider, she was destined never to put to sea under the Confederate flag.

Her commander, Fauntleroy was so depressed with his command that he termed her "The Confederate  Elephant."

--Old B-Runner

Monday, August 4, 2014

More Problems for the CSS Rappahannock-- Part 1

AUGUST 2, 1864:  After months of attempting to ready the CSS Rappahannock and negotiating her clearance from French authorities in Calais, Flag Officer Barron reluctantly concluded that she could not be taken to sea under a Confederate flag.

This date he received a letter from Lt. Charles M. Fauntleroy, CSN, the ship's commander, informing him that the French would now permit her to put out to sea, but her crew could not exceed 35 men.

Barron at once replied: "I agree with you in the absolute impossibility of navigating the ship with so small a complement as thirty-five, including yourself and officers.  You will therefore proceed to pay off and discharge your officers and crew, keeping sufficient officers and men to look after the public property, and lay up the ship until we can determine upon what course we shall pursue in regard to her."

--Old B-R'er

Naval Landing Attack at McIntosh County Court House, Georgia

AUGUST 1-4, 1864:  Landing party under Commander George M. Colvocoresses, 115 men. raided a meeting of civilians forming a coastal guard at McIntosh County Court House, Georgia.  They marched overland after coming ashore the night of Aigust 2nd, destroyed a bridge to prevent being cut off by Confederate cavalry, and captured 26 prisoners and 22 horses before making their way back to the USS Saratoga.

The Commander had seen the meeting notice in a captured Savannah newspaper.  Said Rear Admiral Dahlgren:  "...feeling considerable interest in the object of the meeting, concluded that he would attend it also, which he did, with a number of United States citizens [from the Saratoga].

"Captain Colvocoresses then read to the meeting from the newspaper the order of Colonel Gaulden [CSA] for their assembling, and regretting that the Colonel had failed to attend, he invited the meeting to accompany him, which they did, and arrived safely on the Saratoga, where they meet daily under the United States flag."

The Confederate Col. Gaulden heard about this and published a letter in the Savannah Republican adding a challenge to the observant Union officer:  "As the Captain seems to be a reader of your paper, I take the opportunity to make my compliments to him and say that when he calls to see me again I shall be at home, and will try and give him a more respectful reception."

Hetting Their Jollies In, I Suppose.  --Old B-Runner







Saturday, August 2, 2014

150th Anniversary of the Battle of Mobile Bay This Weekend

From the July 8, 2014, Mullet Wrapper.

On August 5, 1864, 18 Union warships participated in passing the dangerous guns of Fort Morgan, guarding Mobile Bay, Alabama, and engaged the ironclad CSS Tennessee and her consorts in what is regarded as the largest naval battle of the Civil War.

Starting yesterday, the largest Civil War re-enactment held in the South will be held, continuing until tomorrow, August 3rd.

There will be a nighttime pyrotechnical bombardment of Fort Morgan.  Events kicked off Friday with a bang as the guns of the Fort Morgan Water Battery fired and famed Civil War singer Bobby Horton will have a concert.

Saturday morning, there will be a re-enactment of the naval battle and then Union troops re-enactors will begin their siege of Fort Morgan.  The fort will surrender on Sunday.

I'll be at the Fox Lake, Illinois, Venetian festival later tonight, which will conclude with a fireworks display, so will be thinking Mobile Bay.

--Old B-Runner

Operations in North Carolina

JULY 29TH, 1864:  Tinclad USS Whitehead and Army steamers Thomas Colyer and Massasoit went on an expedition up the Chowan River in North Carolina, to confiscate contraband.  The steamer Arrow was captured at Gatesville with a cargo of cotton and tobacco.

JULY 30TH, 1864:  Much was made of keeping the ram CSS Albemarle out of action in North Carolina for fear of its loss and as a continued threat at Plymouth to the Union fleet.

However, on this date, Secretary Mallory wrote: "...she was not designed as a floating battery merely, and while her loss must not be lightly hazarded, the question of when to attack the enemy must be left to the judgement of the naval officer in command, deciding in view of the relation she bears to the defenses of North Carolina."

--Old B-Runner

Attacks on Georgia Salt Works

JULY 30TH, 1864:  Landing party from the USS Potomska under Acting Lt. Robert B. Swann, destroyed two large Confederate salt works near Back River, Georgia.  Returning to their ship, they encountered a sharp fight with Confederates.  He reported that his "Spencer rifles , saved us all from destruction, as the rapidity with which we fired caused the enemy to lie low, and their firing was after the first volley very wild..

"We fought them three-quarters of an hour, some of the time up to our knees in mud, trying to land and capture them, and some of the time with the boats for a breastwork."

They were finally able to get back to the Potomska and received a commendation from Rear Admiral Dahlgren for bravery and skill on the expedition.

--Old B-R'er

Reconnaissance in Mobile Bay

JULY 27-30TH, 1864:  Boat crew commanded by  Lt. J.C. Watson made daylight reconnaissances of the Mobile Bay channel..  Watson and his men were towed into the bay by the small tug Cowslip, sounded the outer channel and marked the outside limits of the Confederate torpedo fields with buoys for the coming attack, now just a week away.

This would have had to be a highly dangerous operation as I'm sure the Confederates wouldn't particularly like what they were doing.

--Old B-Runner