Fort Fisher

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

Saturday, November 29, 2014

"The Civil War Adventures of a Blockade Runner"-- Part 2

Topics covered in Chapter 7"

The vessel again repaired
Another detention
A large Federal fleet on the coast
Capture of Captain Downs's vessel and others
The Forts bombarded
The Rob Roy again employed in the Government service
Arrival of a schooner escaped from her captors
Captain McLusky
Account of her capture and escape

--Old B-Runner

Thursday, November 27, 2014

"The Civil War Adventures of a Blockade Runner"-- Part 1

By William Watson.

This is one of the two Civil War Navy books I bought at Half Price Books in Columbus, Ohio, last week.

Of course, having cut my Civil War "teeth" on Fort Fisher and its role as protector for blockade-runners and the port of Wilmington, N.C., I am interested in all accounts of blockade-running (hence my sign-off Old B-Runner and Old B-R'er).  This one deals with blockade-running in the Gulf of Mexico (though I would have preferred the east coast).

William Watson spent two years evading Union blockaders and dealing with "sharpers."

In the book, he shares his life aboard his ship, the Rob Roy as he made runs from Galveston to Havana, "braving gales and a hurricane, and surviving plots against his ship and his life.

--Old B-Runner

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Buying Those Civil War Navy Books

On November 20th, I was on the outskirts of Columbus, Ohio, on my annual Thanksgiving trip to North Carolina.  Driving around the motel, I found one of my favorite stores anywhere, Half Price Books.  I love the place even though it always cost me big bucks to go into one of them.

I was beginning to think I might just be in luck and get out without buying anything when I found two Navy books, one by blockade-runner William Watson relating his experiences and the other about the CSS Virginia.

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Fort Fisher Replacing Replica Fence

From the November 24, 2014, Wilmington (N.C.) Star-News by Julian March,

The smell of fresh-cut woods once again is among the sand dunes that make up the remnants of the Confederacy's mightiest defensive position, Fort Fisher.  This fence runs between the Atlantic Ocean and the Cape Fear River and was built as a defense against Union land attack.

The fence it is replacing was a replica of the one built in 1864 and installed in the 1960s.  The wood in the 1960s fence is in need of replacing which will have a final cost of $140,000.This one is being constructed a whole lot faster than the 1860s one due to modern machinery.

The nine-foot poles of wood are sharpened at the top and have loopholes cut in them for sharpshooters.  Every 50 to 100 yards, the fence is angled so Confederates could shoot perpendicularly.  Such fences are referred to as palisades in military jargon,

Of course, this is being done in prelude to the big 150th commemoration of the two attacks of Fort Fisher and its eventual capture next month and in January.

A Lot of Wood.  --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Union Attack On Wilmington Imminent

From the October 28, 2014, Wilmington (N.C.) Star-News "Back Then" by Scott Nunn.

Looking at the October 1864 newspapers there were stories of intelligence being received by military officials regarding an imminent Union attack on the city and its defenses.

General Lee warned the Cape Fear military authorities that if Wilmington fell, he would not be able to maintain his lines at Petersburg, Virginia.

The survival of his Army of Northern Virginia and the Confederacy now depends on Wilmington, North Carolina, "The Lifeline of the Confederacy."

--Old B-Runner

Cushings in the Union Civil War Navy-- Part 2

STEPHEN CUSHING:  Acting Assistant Surgeon 11 June 1864.  Honorably discharged 10 October 1865.

THOMAS B.: CUSHING:  Acting Assistant Paymaster 14 August 1863.  Resigned 9 March 1865.

WILLIAM BARKER CUSHING:  Acting Midshipman 25 September 1857.  Resigned 23 March 1861.  Acting Master's Mate 1861.  Lieutenant 16 July 1862, Lt. Cmdr. 27 October 1864 (after sinking of the CSS Albemarle), Commander 31 January 1872.  Died 17 December 1874.

--Old B-R'er

Cushings in the Union Civil War Navy-- Part 1

From the Officers of the Continental and U.S. Navy and Marines 1775-1900.

I have been writing a lot in the past month on the four Cushings from the same family, three of whom made quite a name for themselves: William, Alonzo and Howard (the last two being in the Army Artillery).

William and Milton Cushing were in the Navy, but upon looking up the name Cushing, I found quite a few others in the Navy during the war.

CHARLES C. CUSHING:  Acting Ensign on Admiral Lee's staff November 1864.  Honorably discharged 3 October 1865.

EDMUND H. CUSHING:  Acting Assistant paymaster, 30 June 1863.  Passed Asst. Paymaster 23 July 1866, Paymaster 16 September 1868.  Died on USS Tuscarora 11 March 1869.

HENRY CUSHING: Acting Assistant Paymaster 29 July 1862.  Discharged 3 October 1865.

MILTON CUSHING:  (brother of William) Acting Assistant Paymaster 20 August 1864, Passed Assistant Paymaster 23 July 1866, Paymaster 12 March 1869.  Retired List 1 April 1882.  Died 1 June 1887.

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

General Butler's Headquarters Steamer Destroyed, Perhaps By a Coal Torpedo

NOVEMBER 27TH, 1864:  An explosion and fire destroyed General Benjamin Butler's headquarters steamer Greyhound, on the James River, Virginia, and narrowly missed killing the general, Major General Schenck and Rear Admiral Porter, on board for a conference on the upcoming Fort Fisher expedition.

because of the nature of the explosion, it is likely that one of the deadly Confederate coal torpedoes had been planted in the Greyhound's boiler.

Butler recalled: "The furnace door blew open and scattered coals throughout the room."

Coal torpedoes were finely turned pieces of cast iron containing ten pounds of powder and made to resemble closely a lump of coal, and was capable of being used with devastating effect.

Rear Admiral Porter later described the event: "We had left Bermuda Hundred five or six miles behind us when suddenly an explosion forward startled us, and in a moment large volumes of smoke poured out of the engine room."

He continued: "In devices for blowing up vessels the Confederates were far ahead of us, putting Yankee ingenuity to shame."

Coal torpedoes are suspected as being the cause of several unexplained explosions during the war.  I know that is one possible reason for the explosion and sinking of the tragic SS Sultana six months later.

Who Knows, Maybe a Left-Over Confederate Coal Torpedo Was responsible for the Sinking of the USS Maine in 1898?  --Old B-R'er

Attacking the Salt Works in Florida

NOVEMBER 30TH, 1864:  A boat expedition from the USS Midnight landed at St. Andrew's Bar, Florida, and destroyed a slat work and took prisoners.

--Old B-R'er

Action in Western Mississippi,Monitors in Action, No Whiskey or Opium for You

NOVEMBER 27TH, 1864:  Ram USS Vindicator and USS Prairie Bird transported and covered a successful Union cavalry attack on Confederate communications and transportation in western Mississippi.  Thirty miles of track and an important railroad bridge over the Big Black River, east of Vicksburg, were destroyed.

These two ships were in the 6th Division Mississippi Squadron.

Double-turret monitor USS Onondaga and single-turret USS Mahopac engaged Howlett's Battery on the James River, Virginia, for three hours.  This was part of ongoing operations below Richmond.

A ship's boat from the USS Elk captured an unidentified small craft with a cargo of whiskey and opium near Mandeville, Louisiana.

--Old B-Runner

Harsh Work on the Blockade, Especially on Launch Duty

NOVEMBER 27TH, 1864:  Blockade-running British steamer Beatrice was captured by picket boats of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron off Charleston, S.C..  The prize crew accidentally grounded the Beatrice near Morris Island and she soon was a total wreck.

Rear Admiral Dahlgren noted the ship was captured by small boats and not seagoing vessels, adding: "The duty is severe beyond what is imagined.  I  the launches the men may be said to live in the boats, and all of them are, in these long nights, exposed to every hardship of sea, wind, and weather; in the stormiest nights they are cruising around close int o the rebel batteries."

The Federal Navy spared no efforts to tighten the blockade now that final victory was coming into sight.

Bad enough to be out on a full-sized ship, but imagine in a little launch.

--Old B-R'er

Capturing Blockade-Runners

NOVEMBER 24TH, 1864:  USS Chocura, Lt. Cmdr. Meade, sighted schooner Louisa and chased her ashore on the bar off San Bernard River, Texas.  A heavy gale totally destroyed the schooner before it could be boarded.

NOVEMBER 27TH, 1864:  USS Princess Royal seized blockade-running British schooner Flash in the Gulf of Mexico off Brazos Santiago with cargo of cotton.  Later that day, the Princess Royal also captured blockade-running schooner Neptune.

Lots of prize money for the Princess Royal, but Commander Woolsey reported: "The vessel was empty, having just a cargo of salt, said salt having, according to the master's statement, 'dissolved in her hold'."

The USS Metacomet, Lt.Cmdr. James Jouett, captured blockade-running steamer Susanna in the Gulf of Mexico off Campeche Banks.  Half her cargo of cotton was thrown overboard in the chase.  Rear Admiral Farragut had regarded the Susanna as "their fastest steamer."

NOVEMBER 30TH, 1864:  USS Itasca seized blockade-running British schooner Carrie Mair off Pass Cavallo, Texas.

--Old B-Runner

Monday, November 17, 2014

Milton B. Cushing, USN

I have been writing about the four Cushing brothers who served in the U.S. military during the Civil War.  Milton and William were in the Navy and Alonzo, who just received the Congressional Medal of Honor, and Howard were in the Army.

I have just made an entry on Milton Cushing in my Saw the Elephant Civil War blog.  He was an Assistant Paymaster on the USS Seneca during the war.  This ship was one of the 90-Day Gunboats and took part in the attacks on Fort Fisher.

--Old B-Runner

Baker's Plan to Capture Fort Pickens-- Part 2

A month later, after having conferred with President Davis and General Braxton Bragg, Mallory ordered Baker to proceed with his plan.

On 25 October James McC Baker departed Mobile with a number of sailors on the steamer Dick Keys and rendezvoused with 100 soldiers from general Dabney Maury's command that night in Blakely, Alabama.

As they were preparing to get underway, Maury ordered a temporary delay because of information received which reported that Union forces had landed at Pensacola Navy Yard near Fort Pickens.  By the 30th this intelligence was demonstrated to be inaccurate, but Maury still was reluctant to go ahead.

Concerned that the Northerners now had knowledge of the attempt, he suggested the soldiers return to their units  Maury intimated that the expedition might proceed in the future "with more secrecy and certainty of success."

On the 24th of November, Maury called it all off: "I regret that circumstances beyond the control of the department or yourself should have thus terminated an enterprise which seemed to promise good results."

If the expedition had gone undetected and if there were just two soldiers posted at Fort Pickens, I'm sure it would have been a success, but I'm sure the Confederates would have quickly been cut off by Union ships and soldiers on the peninsula of land and eventually forced to surrender.

But, it Would Have Made Up a Little for Cushing's Success Against the CSS Albemarle.  --Old B-R'er

Lt. James McC Baker, CSN, Wants to Take Fort Pickens-- Part 1

NOVEMBER 24TH, 1864:   Lt. James McC Baker's preparations for the capture of Union-held Fort Pickens at Pensacola, Florida,  were terminated by Secretary Mallory: "Major-General Maury having withdrawn his men from the enterprise to the command of which you were assigned, its prosecution becomes impracticable."

It was a bitter blow to the daring young Confederate naval officer who had first undertaken the scheme in April and had fought persuasively for months to bring it off.  By mid-August, still unable to obtain authorization from the local command to proceed with the plan, the bold lieutenant had written Mallory outlining his scheme to seize Fort Pickens.

"Not dreaming that we have any designs upon it, and deluding themselves with the idea that its isolated position renders it safe from attack, they have been exceedingly careless, having only two sentinels on duty...."

Baker proposed to take a landing force of sailors and soldiers in small boats and, "...pulling down the eastern shore of the bay (evidently Mobile Bay) into Bon Secours, and, hauling the boats across qa narrow strip of land into Little Lagoon, I would enter the Gulf at a point 20 miles east of Fort Morgan and be within a seven hours' pull of Fort Pickens, with nothing to interrupt our progress.

A Daring Move.  --Old B-Runner

Admiral Lee Looking for More Ships in Western Waters

NOVEMBER 23RD, 1864:  Constantly alert to the need to strengthen his squadron for the difficult work of convoying and patrolling the Western Rivers, Rear Admiral Lee on this date dispatched a group of officers on a confidential mission to Cincinnati, Pittsburgh "and other places if necessary, for the purpose of purchasing ten sound, strong, and swift light draft steamers to be converted into gunboats."

Ten were eventually bought, converted and added to the Mississippi Squadron in early 1865.

--Old B-R'er

Engagement on the Mississippi River and Capture of Blockade-Runner

NOVEMBER 21ST, 1864:  Boats from the USS Avenger capture a large quantity opf supplies on the Mississippi River near Bruinsburg, Mississippi after a brief engagement.  Union gunboats maintained a vigilant patrol to prevent Confederate supplies from crossing the Mississippi River for the armies in Tennessee and Alabama.

Also, the USS Iosco captured blockade-running schooner Sybil with a cargo of cotton off the North carolina coast.

--Old B-Runner

USS Louisiana to Become Powder Boat Experiment at Fort Fisher

NOVEMBER 20TH, 1864:  Rear Admiral Porter directed Commander Macomb to send the USS Louisiana to Beaufort, N.C..  The Louisiana was to become the powder ship which Porter and General Butler hoped to use to level Fort Fisher and obviate the need for a direct attack on the big sand fort.

The hope was that the concussion from a huge explosion might knock down the ramparts of the fort.

Early in December, she was taken to Hampton Roads, where she was partially stripped and loaded with explosives.

--Old B-R'er

Confederate Submersible Torpedo Boat Saint Patrick

NOVEMBER 20TH, 1864:  Edward La Croix of Selma, Alabama, writing Secretary Welles from Detroit (spy?), reported that a torpedo boat had been constructed at Selma for use against Union forces at Mobile Bay.

he described her:  "Length, about 30 feet; has watertight compartments; can be sunk or raised as desired; is propelled by a very small engine, and will stow five men.  It has some arrangement of machinery that times the explosions of the torpedoes, to enable the operators to retire to a safe distance.

"the boat proves to be a good sailer on the river and has gone to Mobile to make last preparations for trying its efficacy on the Federal vessels."

La Croix was referring to the submersible torpedo boat Saint Patrick built by John P. Halligan who was also her first commander.  It was a source of concern for Federals in Mobile Bay and in 1865, did attempt to sink a blockader.

--Old B-Runner

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Not a Blockade-Runner, Per Se: The CSS Chickamauga Returns to Wilmington

NOVEMBER 19TH, 1864:  The CSS Chickamauga, Lt. Wilkinson, ran the blockade into Wilmington under cover of a heavy fog.  He had miscalculated his position the day before and successfully run through the blockade to Masonboro Inlet instead of New Inlet.

Wilkinson dropped down the coast and early in the morning of the 19th anchored under the guns of Fort Fisher to await high tide when the Chickamauga could cross the bar and stand up the Cape Fear River to Wilmington.

As the fog lifted blockaders USS Kansas, Wilderness, Cherokee and Clematis opened on what they thought at first was a grounded blockade runner.  The Chickamauga broke out its Confederate flag and returned the fire, joined by the heavy guns of Fort Fisher.

Fog and the range of the fort's guns thwarted efforts to destroy the cruiser and by mid-morning, the Chickamauga was safely up the river and nearing Wilmington.

Nearly an Oops.  --Old B-R'er

Reconnaissance Up the Roanoke River in N.C

NOVEMBER 17TH, 1864:  Now that the CSS Albemarle was no longer a threat and Plymouth under Union control, upper Roanoke River became a Union consideration.    On this date the USS Ostego and Ceres ascended the river to Jamesville, N.C. on a reconnaissance.

The smaller Ceres continued upriver to Williamston.  Although Confederates had been reported to be in the area, no batteries or troops were encountered.

--Old B-R'er


Fear of the CSS Tallahassee Strikes Conncticut

Governor William A. Buckingham of Connecticut wrote secretary Welles of the "defenselessness of Stonington."  The citizens of that city, he reported, "feel that the Tallahassee having been near them, that or some other vessel may make them a piratical visit at any hour, and urge that an ironclad be stationed in their harbor not only for their protection, but for the protection of other towns on the sound and sound steamers."

The governor's letter typified the grave concern caused by the infrequent but devastating Confederate raids along the Northern coast.

Imagine how they would have felt if they were Southerners along the coast living in constant threat of visit by Northern ships.

--Old B-Runner

Work on Dutch Gap Canal Progressing

A Union expedition reconnoitered Confederate  naval forces above Dutch Gap on the James River in Virginia.  Work was progressing ahead quickly on the Dutch Gap Canal, which would allow Union gunboats to bypass obstructions and defenses at Trent's Reach.

This expedition provided valuable information regarding the positions of enemy ships and fortifications.

--Old B-Runner

Salt Works in Florida

NOVEMBER 9TH, 1864:  The USS Stepping Stones captured blockade running sloops Reliance and Little Elmer in Mobjack Bay, Virginia.

NOVEMBER 12TH, 1864:  A boat expedition from the USS Hendrick Hudson and USS Nita attempted to destroy Confederate salt works on a reconnaissance near Tampa Bay, Florida, but the sailors were driven back to their boats by Confederate cavalry.

--Old B-R'er

Confederate Attempt to Seize the SS Salvador Thwarted

NOVEMBER 11TH, 1864:  Commander Henry K. Davenport, USS Lancaster, captured Confederates on board steamer Salvador, bound from Panama to California, after learning that they planned to seize the ship and turn her into a commerce raider.  The Salvador's captain had warned naval authorities at Panama Bay that the attempt was to be made, and Davenport and his men arranged to search the baggage of the passengers after the vessel passed the territorial limits of Panama (actually a part of Colombia at the time).  This was done to avoid international law problems.

The search revealed guns and ammunition, along with a commission from Confederate Secretary Mallory for the capture; the Confederates were promptly taken into custody.

This daring party, led by Acting master Thomas E. Hogg, CSN, was one of many attempting to seize Union steamers and convert them into commerce raiders, especially with the view toward capturing the gold shipments from California.  Union ships usually convoyed the California ships to avoid capture.

It Costs Money to Fight a War.  --Old B-Runner

Friday, November 14, 2014

Dahlgren Planning Another Joint Attack on Charleston, S.C.

NOVEMBER 10, 1864:  Rear Admiral Dahlgren wrote to Secretary Welles regarding plans for another joint attack on Charleston.  Dahlgren well understood the great advantage of mobility and supply enjoyed by the Union through its control of the sea.

He wrote: "Part of the troops could be landed at Bull's Bay, whence there is a good road for some 15 miles; part would enter the inlet seaward of Sullivan's Island, seize Long Island, and with the aid of the Navy, land in the rear of Sullivan's Island, join the force coming from Bull's Bay, and occupy Mount Pleasant... .

"This operation would requite 30,000 to 50,000 good men because it is reasonable to admit that the present small force of rebels would receive large additions.  Still, we have the unquestioned advantage of being able to bring here additional forces more promptly in the present position of the main armies.

"Hood must pass around Sherman to give any aid, and general Grant equally obstructs the road from Richmond."

--Old B-Runner

Thursday, November 13, 2014

CSS Shenandoah's Busy Cruise

NOVEMBER 8TH, 1864:  Captured and burned bark D. Godfrey southwest of the Cape Verde Islands with cargo of beef and pork.

NOVEMBER 10TH, 1864:  Captured and scuttled brig Susan at sea southwest of the Cape Verde Islands with cargo of coal.  Waddell described her as in bad shape and moved very slowly.

NOVEMBER 12TH, 1864:  Seized and bonded clipper ship Kate Prince and brig Adelaide in the mid-Atlantic near the equator.

NOVEMBER 13TH, 1864:  Captured and burned schooner Lizzie M. Stacey in the mid-Atlantic near the equator with cargo of pinesalt and iron.  Two of its crew joined the Shenandoah.  It was the last prize the Shenandoah would take for some three weeks.

--Old B-Runner

Breaking Up Court in Edenton, N.C.

NOVEMBER 8TH, 1864:  Acting Master Francis Josselyn, USS Commodore Hull, landed a party of sailors at Edenton, North Carolina, under orders from Commander Macomb to break up a court session being held there.

Josselyn described the unique expedition: "I landed with a detachment of men this afternoon at Edenton and adjourned sine die a county court which was in session in the court house at that place under so-called Confederate authority.  This court, the first that had been held at Edenton since the breaking out of the war, the authorities had the impertinence to hold under my very guns."

No Justice Today.  --Old B-R'er

John C. Tennett, CSN-- Part 2

I was able to find him listed as being an officer on the CSS Fredericksburg May 31, 1864, as First Assistant Engineer.  He is listed in the Portal to Texas History,  Register of Officers CSN, 1861-1865, but they gave only the information from the Arlington National Cemetery site.

As far as his being a chaplain as mentioned in the previous post, there is no mention of him, but there is a John C. Tennent listed in one source as being  from North Carolina and serving as Chaplain F&S in the 32nd N.C. Infantry Regiment (Lenoir Braves).  Another source lists John C. Tennent as being chaplain of the 2nd Battalion Gyrmes Brigade (probably Grimes).

John C. Tennett, CSN

From the Arlington National Cemetery site, Confederate Burials.

John C. Tennett, First Assistant Engineer, CSN.

Appointed from North Carolina.  Served aboard the CSS Fredericksburg in 1864.  Resigned in late 1864 and joined the Confederate Army as a chaplain.

Died July 11, 1913.

--Old B-Runner

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Farragut on Sea Power

NOVEMBER 8TH, 1964:  Rear Admiral Farragut, writing Secretary Welles, expressed his deeply held conviction that effective sea power was not dependent so much on a particular kind of ship or a specific gun but rather on the officers and men who manned them:  ...I think the world is sadly mistaken when it supposes that battles are won by this or that kind of gun or vessel.

"In my humble opinion the Kearsarge would have captured or sunk the Alabama as often as they might have met under the same organization and officers.  The best gun and the best vessel should certainly be chosen, but the victory three times out of four depends upon those who fight them.

"I do not believe that the result would have been different if the Kearsarge had nothing but a battery of 8-inch guns and 100-pound chase rifle.  What signifies the size and caliber of the gun if you do not hit the adversary?"

--Old B-R'er

Black Market Cotton?

NOVEMBER 7, 1864:  Upon learning that Confederate officers were quartered in a house on the Arkansas side of the Mississippi River near Island 69, Acting Lt. Frederic S. Hill led an expedition from the USS Tyler to capture them.  However, they had departed.

The mother of one of them boldly showed Hill her permit to transport cotton up the Mississippi and a request, officially endorsed by Major General Cadwallader C. Washburn, USA, for gunboat protection.

Hill reluctantly complied with the request, remarking to Rear Admiral Lee: " the face of all these documents, as I was upon the spot and a steamer then at hand ready to take the cotton, I considered it proper to give her the required protection, although with a very bad grace.

"Permit me, admiral, respectfully to call your attention to the anomaly of using every exertion to capture rebel officers at 2 a,m,, whose cotton I am called upon to protect in its shipment to a market at 10 a.m. of the same day, this affording themselves with every comfort money can procure ere they return to their brother rebels in arms with Hood."

Wondering What Washburn's Cut Was?  --Old B-Runner

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Day to Honor All Veterans

Memorial Day is the commemoration of military service that grew out of the Civil War.  Today is the one that grew out of the end of World War I, or First World War as the British refer to it.

Nonetheless, both commemorate the service of all veterans and that includes the Civil War veterans.  And, even though some people hate this idea, those who served the Confederacy are also included as our nation's veterans.

So, To All Veterans, a Very Big Thank You

Monday, November 10, 2014

Action at Charleston, High Seas, Texas and Florida

NOVEMBER 5TH, 1864:  The monitor USS Patapsco bombarded and set afire an unidentified sloop aground off Fort Moultrie, Charleston with cargo of cotton and turpentine judging by the resulting fire.

CSS Shenandoah captured and burned the schooner Charter Oak off the Cape Verde  Islands.

USS Fort Morgan captured blockade runner John A. Hazard off the Texas coast with cargo of coffee, rice, oil, dry goods and medicine.

NOVEMBER 6TH, 1864:  USS Fort Morgan captured blockade running schooner Lone off Brazos Pass, Texas.

Boats from the USS Adela captured blockade running schooner Badger attempting to run the blockade out of St. George's Sound, Florida, with cargo of cotton.

--Old B-R'er

Confederate Plans to Attack the USS Michigan and the Great Lakes

NOVEMBER 5TH, 1864:  W.G. Fargo, Mayor of Buffalo, New York, telegraphed Secretary Welles that the ship Georgian had been purchased in Toronto by Southern sympathizer Dr. James Bates: "My information is that she will be armed on the Canada shore for the purpose of encountering the USS Michigan and for piratical and predatory purposes on the Lakes..."

Though Commander Carter of the USS Michigan discounted these rumors, the Georgian continued to rouse grave concern in the Great Lakes area.

To be commanded by Master John Y. Beall, CSN, she was in fact to be a part of the new plot on the part of Confederate agent Jacob Thompson to capture the Michigan and attack the cities on Lake Erie, but the suspicions of Union authorities and the strict surveillance under which the ship was placed by Union agents prevented the plot from being carried out.

Welles ordered the Carter to seize the Georgian if she ventured into American waters, but she was searched twice by Canadian and American authorities without any hint of her true character being detected.    The Georgian was eventually laid up at Collingwood, on the Canadian side, and later sold to private interests.

--Old B-Runner

Saturday, November 8, 2014

More on the Confederate Naval Academy

NOVEMBER 5TH, 1864:  Secretary Mallory reported to President Davis on the continuing contributions of the Confederate Naval Academy which was training young midshipmen not only in the classroom but under fire: "In my last report I brought to your notice that the steamship Patrick Henry had been organized as a school and practice ship for the education of midshipmen in the several essential branches of their profession.

"The system of instruction conforms, as nearly as practical, to that of the most approved naval schools, and this institution will serve as a nucleus for an establishment which the necessities of naval service and the interests of the country will at an early day render necessary.

"Under the efficient command of Lieutenant Commander Parker, aided by  zealous and competent officers, the beneficial  of the school are already visible in the progress, tone, and bearing of our midshipmen.

""Though but from 14 to 18 years of age, they eagerly seek every opportunity presented for engaging in hazardous enterprises who are sent upon them uniformly exhibit good discipline, conduct, and courage."

Cadet classroom ordnance theory classes were often interrupted by very real ordnance "drills" of helping to man ship and shore batteries to repel Union attack.

--Old B-R'er

More Honors for Cushing

NOVEMBER 5, 1864:  In General order No. 34 to the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, Rear Admiral Porter wrote: "The gallant exploits of Lieutenant Cushing previous to this affair will form a bright page in the history of the war, but they have all been eclipsed by the destruction of the Albemarle.

"The spirit evinced by this officer in what I wish to see pervading this squadron.... Opportunity will be offered to all those who have the energy and skill to undertake like enterprises."

What You Gonna Do With Cushing?  --Old B-Runner

Friday, November 7, 2014

More Action on the Tennessee River

NOVEMBER 4TH, 1864:  Paddle-wheelers USS Key West, USS Towah and small steamer USS Elfin were destroyed after an engagement with Confederate batteries at Johnsonville, Tennessee, along with several transport steamers and a large quantity of supplies.

Acting Lt. King, in command of the naval group, was patrolling the river and protecting the Union depot and headquarters at Johnsonville as the forces of General Forrest suddenly struck the city.

--Old B-Runer

Action Heating Up on the Tennessee River

NOVEMBER 2ND, 1864:  Paddle-wheelers USS Key West and USS Towah, patrolling the Tennessee River, encountered the Undine and Venus, which the Confederates had captured three days earlier.

After a heated running engagement, the Venus was retaken, but Undine, though badly damaged, escaped.  Carrying Confederate troops, the Undine outran her pursuers and gained the protection of Confederate batteries at Reynoldsburg Island, near Johnsonville, Tennessee.

--Old B-R'er

Blockade's Impact on Confederate Medicines

NOVEMBER 1, 1864:  Dr. W.A.W. Spotswood, Surgeon in Charge, Office of medicine and Surgery, CSN, reported the effect of the continuing blockade:  "It affords me much satisfaction to report that, by the operations of the purveyor's department, an ample supply of medicines, instruments, and everything to meet the wants of the sick has been furnished up to the present time, but owing to the strict blockade of the seacoast and harbors of the Confederacy, rendering it impossible to procure medical supplies from abroad, I feel that there will necessarily be much difficulty in procuring many valuable articles soon required for the sick.

"Every effort has been made to procure a large supply, but in vain, and it is to be regretted that the
supplu of cotton placed in the hands of the Navy agent at the port of Wilmington can not be sent to Bermuda to purchase more or to pay for the medicines that have been received."

Things Are Going to Get Even Worse and Soon.  --Old B-Runner

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Navy News 150 Years Ago

OCTOBER 31ST, 1864:The USS Katahdin captured British blockade-runner off Galveston with cargo of cotton.

NOVEMBER 1ST, 1864:  Rear Admiral Lee assumed command of the Mississippi Squadron at Mound City, Illinois.

NOVEMBER 2ND, 1864:  USS Santiago de Cuba, Captain Glisson, captured blockade-running steamer Lucy at sea east of Charleston with cargo of cotton and tobacco.

NOVEMBER 5TH, 1864:  The monitor USS Patapsco bombarded and set afire an unidentified sloop aground off Fort Moultrie, Charleston, S.C..

CSS Shenandoah captured and burned the schooner Charter Oak off the Cape Verde Islands after removing her passengers and a quantity of fruit, vegetables and other provisions.

USS Fort Morgan captured blockade-runner John A. Hazard off Texas coast with cargo of coffee, rice, oil, dry goods and medicines.

--Old B-R'er

CSS Chickamauga Still At It

NOVEMBER 1ST, 1864:The Chickamauga, now rid of Mrs. Drinkwater,  captured and scuttled the schooners Godspeed, in ballast, and Otter Rock, cargo of potatoes, off the northeast coast of the United States.

NOVEMBER 2ND, 1864:  The CSS Chickamauga captured bark Speedwell off the New Jersey coast and bonded her for $18,000.

--Old B-Runner

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Blockade-Runner Annie Seized Off New Inlet, N.C.: Some Question About Procedure

OCTOBER 31ST, 1864:  The USS Wilderness and USS Niphon seized British blockade-runner steamer Annie off New Inlet, N.C..  New Inlet was one of the two entrances to the Cape Fear River and Wilmington.  The Annie was outward bound with a cargo of tobacco, cotton and turpentine

Concerned by reports that the officers of the two ships had not properly signaled other Union blockaders during the chase in order to obtain a larger share of the prize money, Rear Admiral Porter wrote: "This war is not being conducted for the benefit of officers to enrich them by the capture of prizes, and every commander is deficient in the high moral character which has always been inherent in the Navy who for a moment consults his private interests in preference to the public good, hesitates to destroy what is the property of the enemy, or attempts to benefit himself at the expense of others... Honor and glory should be the watchword of the Navy, and not for profit."

A steamer such as the Annie brought in large prize money from all ships within sight of its capture.  The fewer the ships, the more the shares of money for its captors.  I have to wonder how many blockade-runners avoided capture when a blockader "neglected" to alert others about its presence?

--Yea, Right!  --Old B-R'er

CSS Chickamauga Captures Two Union Ships and Has to Deal With Mrs. Drinkwater

OCTOBER 31ST, 1864:  The CSS Chickamauga, Lt. Wilkinson, captured and burned the ship Emma L. Hall, with cargo of molasses and sugar, and the ship Shooting Star, with cargo of coal, off the northeast coast of the United States.  The Chickamauga had slipped through the Union blockade off Wilmington, N.C., on the 28th.

Wilkinson transferred the passengers of the Shooting Star to a passing vessel, Albion Lincoln, which headed directly for New York to spread the word that the Chickamauga was out again.

Wilkinson later wrote of the transfer of prisoners: "In truth, I was relieved from an awkward dilemma by the opportune capture of the Albion Lincoln for there was absolutely no place for a female aboard the Chickamauga.  I do not doubt, however, that the redoubtable Mrs. Drinkwater [wife of Shooting Star's Master] would have accommodated herself to the circumstances by turning me out of my own cabin.

"Heavens! what a tongue she wielded.  The young officers of the Chickamauga relieved each other in boat duty to and fro and she routed every one of them ignominiously."

A Lady You Don't Want to Mess With.

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Fall of Plymouth, N.C.-- Part 2

Tinclad USS Whitehead was lashed to the port side of the Tacony, with tugs Bazely and Belle lashed to the Shamrock and Ostego.  The fleet sailed boldly up and engaged the Plymouth batteries and rifle pits at close range.

A violent battle ensued in which the Commodore Hull sustained heavy damage.  The Union cannonade detonated a large magazine ashore with a tremendous explosion shortly thereafter.  The Southerners began to evacuate their fortifications.

Macomb reported: "I then made signal to cease firing, and then to land and take possession of the batteries, which was done without resistance."  A landing party from the Wyalusing entered Fort Williams, captured prisoners and raided the Stars and Stripes again over Plymouth.

Macomb captured 37 prisoners, 22 cannon, a large quantity of stores, 200 stand of arms, and the sunken, but still important CSS Albemarle.  For his dashing and timely action, Macomb was praised by Secretary Welles and advanced ten numbers in grade by Congress.

President Lincoln enthusiastically recommended the advancement, speaking of Commander Macomb's "distinguished conduct in the capture of the town of Plymouth, North Carolina...."

The Union again held this strategic town and thus commanded the Roanoke River, Albemarle Sound, and threatened the interior of North Carolina from the sea.

--Old B-R'er

Fall of Plymouth, N.C.-- Part 1

OCTOBER 29-NOVEMBER 1, 1864  Capitalizing on Lt. Cushing's success destroying the CSS Albemarle, Commander Macomb moved against Plymouth, North Carolina, capturing the town and defenses after a heated engagement.

Immediately after Cushing's return on 29 October, Macomb steamed up the Roanoke River with six ships.  The USS Valley City proceeded via Middle River and entered the Roanoke above Plymouth to cut off the garrison's escape by water.  Macomb's gunboats engaged the lower batteries protecting the town, but seeing that two schooners had been sunk by the sunken USS Southfield, obstructing the river, withdrew to Albemarle Sound.

On the 30th, Macomb took his fleet through the Middle River to attack the city and its defenses from above, spending the entire day navigating the treacherous channels and shelling the Confederate works at long range.  On 31 October, Macomb formed his line of battle, with converted ferryboat USS Commodore Hull in the lead, followedby the sidewheel double-enders USS Tacony, USS Shamrock, USS Ostego and USS Wyalusing.

--Old B-Runner

Newtons in Confederate Naval Service

Besides Charles A. Newton from the last post, I also found these men as serving in the Navy.

GEORGE NEWTON:  Surgeon Steward, CSS Morgan 1862-1864.

JAS. M. NEWTON:  Quartermaster General CSS Arctic, 1862-1864.  This ship was at the Wilmington, N.C. Station.

VIRGINIUS NEWTON:  Midshipman, CSS Beaufort 1861-1862.

W.T. NEWTON:  CSMC.  Held at Point Lookout Prison in Maryland.

I found someone at the GenForum looking for information on these men.  They said that Charles A. Newton was an Acting Master; George Newton was a sailmaker in Mobile, Alabama 1863-1865 and Virginius Newton was a midshipman 1861-1865.

--Old B-R'er

Charles A. Newton, Confederate Navy

In my Saw the Elephant Blog, I have been writing about Confederate Engineer Corps Captain Simon L. Sommers, who ended up living in Macomb, Illinois, after the war.  He married Margaret Newton in 1863, who was the daughter of Charles A. Newton who was listed as formerly being in the U.S. Navy.

I had to wonder if perhaps Charles was in the Confederate Navy since the marriage must have happened in the South.?

I found a list of men with last name Newton who were in Confederate service.

One was a Charles A. Newton listed as an acting master on the Richmond Station who died 11 August 1862.  I went through a list of U.S. Navy officers of the era and did not find his name, so perhaps he was an enlisted man.

Perhaps this was Margaret's father?

--Old B-Runner

Monday, November 3, 2014

CSS Shenandoah Destroys Its First Ship

OCTOBER 30TH, 1864:  The CSS Shenandoah, Lt. Waddell, captured and scuttled the bark Alina south of the Azores and due west of Dakar, Africa.  The Alina, a new bark on her maiden voyage, was the Shenandoah's first prize and carried a cargo of railroad iron.

Waddell wrote: "It was fortunate my first capture could be scuttled, for the steamer's position was good and a bonfire would have given alarm to all Yankees within 30 miles, and then, too, a cruiser might have been in the neighborhood, which would have [been] attracted by the red flare of the sky and interfered with our fun...we were forced to destroy our prizes because we were not allowed to take them into a neutral port [for] adjudication."

--Old B-Runner

USS Undine Captured-- Part 2

The Undine continued to fire on the batteries for nearly three hours, but nearing the end of its ammunition and  engine disabled, the ship attempted to surrender.  This was unobserved by the Confederates who continued firing so the commander tried unsuccessfully to destroy his ship.

The Undine was taken intact as were the two transports and could be put to good use ferrying Confederate troops across the Tennessee River.

The attacking troops were operating in territory long under Union control and were a part of general Nathan Bedford Forrest's cavalry, who were attempting to cross the river to join forces with general Hood for the large-scale Confederate assault on Tennessee.  By this drive into Tennessee, Hood and Forrest hoped to sever General Sherman's supply lines and force him to abandon his march across Georgia.

--Old B-R'er

USS Undine and Transports Venus and Cheeseman Captured-- Part 1

OCTOBER 30TH, 1864:  Confederate batteries on the Tennessee River near Johnsonville, Tennessee, fired on and captured the USS Undine and transports Venus and Cheeseman, after a sharp engagement.

The Undine had convoyed the transport Anna to a point below Sandy Island, and was returning upstream when the sound of artillery was heard further downstream and returned to investigate.  Near Paris Island, it was attacked by a battery of several guns and volleys of musketry.

While the Undine was engaged, the transport Venus steamed down the river and joined in the engagement.  About 20 minutes late the transport Cheeseman also came down the river and joined.  The last one was immediately disabled and captured.

--Old B-Runner

Saturday, November 1, 2014

It's About Time for William Cushing to Get His Due: The Medal of Honor

This month, William Cushing's brother, Alonzo H. Cushing, will be receiving the long-delayed Medal of Honor for his heroic deeds at the Battle of Gettysburg during Pickett's Charge on July 3, 1863, which cost him his life.  It is well-deserved.

But, perhaps now it would be appropriate to also give one to William Cushing, if, for no other reason than his sinking of the Confederate ram CSS Albemarle.  In addition, there were his numerous reconnaissance missions around Wilmington, North Carolina, any one of which could have easily resulted in his death or capture.

And for that matter, perhaps one for John Woodman.

--Old B-R'er

Don't Let the Confederates Cross the Mississippi River

OCTOBER 28TH, 1864:  Captain Pennock, temporarily in command of the Mississippi Squadron, issued an order stressing: "The enemy must not be allowed to cross the [Mississippi] river.  Officers in command will develop the utmost vigilance and activity, and take every precaution to prevent such a movement. Vessels must be kept in motion night and day."

The inability of major Confederate forces to cross the Mississippi from the West in the face of patroling Union vessels illustrated the vast importance of Union naval control of the river, and was a major factor in the developing Tennessee Campaign.

--Old B-Runner

150 Years Ago: Fighting Along the Tennessee River in Alabama

OCTOBER 28TH, 1864:  The USS General Thomas engaged Confederate batteries near Decatur, Alabama, on the Tennessee River.  It sustained damage but passed the batteries and with the Army gunboat Stone River poured such a withering crossfire on the Southern positions that they were abandoned.

They deserted their guns with a portion retreating to the main Confederate lines and others trying to hide among trees along the bank.  The guns of the Union ships, double-shotted with canister and at a distance of less than 300 yards, poured on a terrific fire.

As the Confederates under General Hood neared the Tennessee River in their campaign to divert Sherman by invading Tennessee, patroling Union gunboats, invaluable not only for guarding against river crossings, but also in collecting invaluable information about troop movements, were attacked by mobile field batteries with increasing frequency and intensity.

--Old B-R'er

Sinking of the CSS Albemarle-- Part 8: Aftermath

When news of the dashing young lieutenant's feat reached the squadron, rockets were set off, and all hands called to "cheer ship".  Elated, Porter said that Lieutenant Cushing had "displayed a heroic enterprise seldom equalled and never excelled.... He has shown an absolute disregard of death or danger, and will no doubt be suitably rewarded by the Government, which reward he well deserves."

The Admiral's enthusiasm was well-founded, for the destruction of the Albemarle paved the way for the capture of Plymouth, N.C., and firm control of the entire Roanoke River area.  It also released ships that had been kept guarding against the ram for other blockade duties.

Congress commended Cushing for his bravery and enterprise, and promoted him to Lieutenant Commander.  Edward J. Houghton, the only other man to escape death or capture, was awarded the Medal of Honor.

--Old B-Runner