Fort Fisher

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

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Lt. Waddell, CSN, Looks Back at the War

DECEMBER 31ST, 1864:  As the year 1964 ended at sea, far from the Confederacy, Lt. Waddell, commander of the CSS Shenandoah, wrote in his journal: "Thirty-first of December closed the year, the third since the war began.

"And how many of my boon companions are gone to that bourne from whence no traveler returns.  They were full of hope, but not without fears, when we last parted."

Even the tireless Waddell could by this time sense the impeding defeat of the South, despite great gallantry, overwhelmed by Union advantages especially the ceaseless, crushing power of the sea.

--Almost Over Now.  --Old B-Runner

Two Union Launches Captured at Charleston Harbor

DECEMBER 31ST, 1864:  Two launches from the USS Wabash and Pawnee ran aground and were captured in Charleston harbor.  While on guard duty, the two launches were driven aground close to Fort Sumter by a strong flood tide and freshening wind..  A total of 27 sailors were captured.

DECEMBER 31ST, 1864: The USS Metacomet, Lt.Cmdr. Jouett, captured schooner Sea Witch southeast of Galveston, Texas, with cargo of coffee and medicine.

--Old B-R'er

New York City Thanks Farragut

DECEMBER 31ST, 1864:  Vice Admiral Farragut received a gift of $50,000 in government bonds from the merchants of New York as a symbol of esteem in which he was held by them.

A letter from the merchants added: "The citizens of New York can offer no tribute equal to your claims on their gratitude and affection.  Their earnest desire is, to receive you as one of their number, and to be permitted, as fellow citizens, to share the renown you will bring to the Metropolitan City."

In other words, they wanted him to make his home there.

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Union Determination to Take Fort Fisher "Without the Former Commander"

DECEMBER 30, 1864:  Determined to take Wilmington and close the South's last important port but dissatisfied with General Butler's leadership, Rear Admiral Porter strongly urged the general's removal from command.

General Grant wrote Porter: "Please hold on where you are for a few days and I will endeavor to be back again with an increased force and without the former commander."

Ships of the fleet kept up a steady bombardment of Fort Fisher to restrict the erection of new works and the repair of the damaged face of the fort.

(It is of interest that Porter, although highly in favor of the powder ship experiment had come to say that he knew it wouldn't work.  just another Butler idea.)

--Old B-R'er

Shenandoah and Rattler

DECEMBER 29TH, 1864:  The CSS Shenandoah captured and destroyed the bark Delphine in the Indian Ocean with cargo of rice.  Delphine was the ship's last capture of the year and ninth prize in eight weeks.

DECEMBER 30TH, 1864:  The USS Rattler parted her cables in a heavy gale, ran ashore, struck a snag and sank in the Mississippi River near Grand Gulf.  Most of the supplies and armament were saved but the small paddle-wheel ship had to be abandoned and later was burned by the Confederates.

--Old B-Runner

Monday, December 29, 2014

Thanks to Union Navy in the Nashville Campaign

DECEMBER 29TH, 1964:  Major General Thomas, summarizing the successful repulse of General Hood's Confederate Army in Tennessee, paid tribute to the assistance of the Navy in a letter to Rear Admiral Lee: "Your efficient cooperation on the Tennessee River has contributed largely to the demoralization of Hood's army."

With the big guns and mobility of the river warships efficiently  aiding his forces ashore, General Thomas had succeeded in virtually destroying the most effective Confederate force in the West, thus protesting General Sherman's line of communications on his march through Georgia.

--Old B-R'er

Naval Brigade Withdrawn in South Carolina

DECEMBER 28TH, 1864:  The military situation having stabilized on the Tulifinny River area of South Carolina (where things were getting hot Dec. 5-9), Rear Admiral Dahlgren withdrew the naval brigade Under Commander Preble and returned the sailors and marines comprising it to their respective ships.

The 500-man brigade hastily brought together and trained in infantry tactics, performed vital service in the arduous 4 week campaign.

Major General Foster, commanding the Military District of the South, complimented Dahlgren on the Brigade's courage and skill:  "...its gallantry in action and good conduct during the irksome life in camp won from all the land forces with which it served the highest praises."

Although the Savannah-Charleston railroad was not cut by the expedition, it did succeed in diverting Confederate troops opposing Sherman's March across Georgia.

--Old B-Runner

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Action in Texas

DECEMBER 27TH, 1864:  Shortly after midnight a boat crew from the USS Virginia cut out the schooner Belle in Galveston Harbor, loaded with cotton.  Belle was at anchor only some 400 yards from the Confederate guard boat Lecompte when the Union sailors boldly boarded it and sailed her out of the harbor.

DECEMBER 28TH, 1864:  The USS Kanawha forced an unidentified blockade running sloop ashore near Caney Creek, Texas, and destroyed her.

--Old B-R'er

Blockade-Runner Chameleon Slips Out of Wilmington

DECEMBER 26TH, 1864:  Blockade-runner Chameleon, formerly the dread raiser CSS Tallahassee, under the command of Lt. Wilkinson, slipped out of Wilmington amid the confusion of the aftermath of the first attack on Fort Fisher.

In Bermuda, the Chameleon loaded badly needed foodstuffs for the Confederate armies, but by the time Wilkinson could get back to Wilmington in January, the port had already fallen.

--Old B-Runner

The First Battle of Fort Fisher-- Part 6: Aftermath

Confederate reinforcements under General R.F. Hoke were in Wilmington and arrived at Confederate Point just as the last Union forces departed from the beach on the 27th.

The Army transports returned to Hampton Roads to prepare for a second attack on Fort Fisher, while Porter's fleet remained in the Wilmington-Beaufort area and continued sporadic bombardment in an effort to prevent repair to the fort.

--Old B-R'er

The First Battle of Fort Fisher-- Part 5: Bombardment and Failure

Late in the Afternoon, Union skirmishers advanced to within yards of the fort, supported by the guns of the fleet.

Lt. Aeneas Armstrong, CSN, inside Fort Fisher, later described the bombardment: "The whole of the interior  of the fort, which consists of sand, merlons, etc., was as one eleven-inch shell bursting.  You can now inspect the works and walk on nothing but iron."

Union Army commanders, however, considered the works too strongly defended to be carried by assault with the troops available, and the soldiers returned to the landing zone and began to reembark.  However, some 700 troops were left on the beach there when the weather worsened.

They were protected by gun boats under Captain Glisson, USS Santiago de Cuba, who had lent continuous close support to the landing.  By December 27th, the last ones on shore had embarked; the first major attack on Fort Fisher had failed.

--Old B-Runner

The First Battle of Fort Fisher-- Part 4: Christmas Day

At 10:30 a.m. the following morning, Christmas Day, Porters ships again rained destruction opn the fort and maintained it while Butler's troops landed north of the fort near Confederate Flag Pond Battery.  Naval gunfire kept the fort's garrison pinned down and away from their guns as Butler landed about 2,000 men who advanced toward the land face of the fort.

Meanwhile, Porter attempted to find a channel through New Inlet in order to attack the fort from the rear (Cape Fear River).  When Commander Guest, USS Iosco and a detachment of double-ender gunboats encountered a shallow bar over which they could not pass, Porter called on the indomitable Lt. William Cushing, hero of the CSS Albemarle sinking, to sound the channel in small boats, buoying it for the ships to pass through.  Under withering fire from Battery Buchanan, even the daring Cushing was forced to turn back, one of his boats being cut in half by a Confederate shell.

Not Even Cushing.  --Old B-R'er

The First Battle of Fort Fisher-- Part 3:Christmas Eve Day

From the Civil War Naval Chronology.

DECEMBER 24-25TH, 1864

Naval forces under the command of Rear Admiral Porter and Army units under Major General Butler launched an unsuccessful attack against Fort Fisher.

Transports carrying Butler's troops had retired to Beaufort from their station off Fort Fisher in order to avoid the anticipated results of the explosion of the powder boat Louisiana, and fleet units had assembled in a rendezvous area 12 miles from the fort.

At daylight on 24 December, the huge fleet got underway, formed in line of battle before the formidable Confederate works, and commenced a furious bombardment.  The staunch Southern defenders under the command of Col. William Lamb, were driven from their guns and into the bombproofs of the fort, but managed to occasionally return fire from a few of the guns.

Transports carrying Butler's troops did not arrive from Beaufort until evening; too late for an assault that day  As such, Porter withdrew his ships, intending to return and again bombard the next day.  Most of his casualties this first day came from the bursting of five 100-pounder Parrott guns on board five different ships.

By taking shelter the defenders, too, suffered few casualties despite the tremendous bombardment.  At times, as many as a 100 shells a minute were being fired at the big sand fort.

--Duck and Cover.  --Old B-Runner

Friday, December 26, 2014

The First Battle of Fort Fisher-- Part 2: Much Ado About Nothing

Porter rthen sailed in at daylight and opened fire with the 635 heavy naval guns at his disposal.  They were throwing over a hundred shells a minute at times.  Many flew over the fort, but many struck and did little damage other than moving some sand around.

The bombardment was renewed Christmas Day and an amphibious landing was made north of Fort Fisher.  Some 2,000 Union soldiers got ashore and made their way southward toward the fort where they observed only very minimal damage to the fort.  They began skirmishing with Lamb's men.

General Robert E. Lee had dispatched Major General Robert Hoke's division from his army to assist with the defense of the fort.  His timely arrival to the north of the Union troops convince Butler to cancel his attack on the fort and return to the transports.

Federal officials were enraged by the failure to attack and removed Butler from command and replaced him with Brigadier General Alfred Terry.

Porter and Terry closed out 1864 planning for the renewed attack on Fort Fisher.

One for the Confeds.  --Old B-R'er

The First Battle of Fort Fisher-- Part 1: Big Bang Over Fisher

From This Week in Civil War History: Dec. 24-30, 1864 by Michael K. Shaffer.

Sailing toward Fort Fisher, North Carolina, Rear Admiral David Dixon Porter had 61 ships, the largest assemblage of American ships ever up to that time.  Major General Benjamin Butler had 6,500 soldiers along with him.  The object was to be an amphibious expedition against the huge sand fort.

Colonel William lamb and about 1,900 men held the fort and prepared for the forthcoming fight.

Butler had conceived the idea to blow up a Union ship loaded with gun powder.  The old USS Louisiana, had 150 tons of the explosive stuff aboard it.  During the early morning hours of Christmas Eve, Dec. 24th, the Louisiana was run aground near the fort and exploded.  There came a lot of noise and repercussion, but no damage was done to the fort.  Both Butler and Porter had hoped it would knock the fort into ruins.

The Original Big Bang Theory?  --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

150 Years Ago Today, Butler's Powder Ship Blows Up-- Part 2

The clock mechanism to blow the ship up failed to ignite the powder at the appointed time, 1:18 a.m., and after agonizing minutes of waiting, the fire set in the stern of the Louisiana reached the powder and a tremendous explosion occurred.

Fort Fisher and its garrison, however, were not measurably affected, although the blast was heard many miles away; in fact, Col. Lamb, the fort's commander wrote in his diary: "A blockader got aground near the fort, set fire to herself and blew up."

It remained for the massed gunfire from ships of Porter's huge fleet, the largest ever assembled up to that time under the American flag, to cover the landings and reduce Fort Fisher.

For tghe events of what happened today in te battle, hit the First Battle of Fort Fisher label below and go to Dec. 24, 2012.

--Old B-Runner

150 Years Ago Today, Butler's Powder Ship Blows Up-- Part 1

DECEMBER 24TH, 1864:  After many days of delay because of heavy weather, the powder ship USS Louisiana, Commander Rhind, towed by the USS Wilderness late at night, anchored and was blown up 250 yards off Fort Fisher, North Carolina.  After Rhind and his gallant crew set the fuses and a fire in the stern, they escaped in small boats to the Wilderness.

Rear Admiral Porter and General Butler, who was waiting in Beaufort, N.C., about 70 miles away, to land his troops the next morning to storm Fort Fisher, placed great hope in the exploding powder ship, hope that Rear Admiral Dahlgren as an ordnance expert no doubt disdained.

--Old B-R'er

Cutting Off Hood's Retreat in Alabama

DECEMBER 24TH, 1864:  After Confederate General Hood's defeat at Nashville, he began retreating to Alabama with what was left of his army.  Today, Rear Admiral Lee, commanding the Mississippi Squadron, arrived off Chickasaw, Alabama, in an attempt to cut off the retreat.  At Chickasaw, the USS Fairy destroyed a Confederate fort and magazine, but even this small, shallow-draft river boat was unable to go beyond Great Mussel Shoals on the Tennessee River because of low water.

On 27 December, gunboats engaged and destroyed two field pieces near Florence, Alabama, but by this time the water of the Tennessee River had fallen drastically, and Lee's vessels were compelled to withdraw toward Eastport.

--Old B-R'er

Christmas Eve 150 Years Ago Came In With a Bang at Fort Fisher

From the Dec. 16, 2014, Jacksonville, N.C. Daily News "150 Years after Fort Fisher fight, Civil War is big business" by Ben Steelman.

"Christmas Eve came with a bang 150 years ago in Southeastern North Carolina."

At 1:46 a.m. on the morning of  December 24, 1864, the USS Louisiana, a flat-bottomed powder ship, blew up 600 yards off Fort Fisher.  This was the project of Union General Benjamin Butler who thought the explosion would knock the big sand fort down.

The explosion was heard at Wilmington and some accounts have it being heard at Beaufort, North Carolina, 70 miles away.

The explosion failed to even damage the fort.  Undertow and a strong offshore breeze pulled the Louisiana off course.  The ship's commander miscalculated the distance and thought he was just 300 yards away and then set the fuses and abandoned the ship.

A group of teen-aged N.C. Junior Reserves were camping near the beach and the explosion jarred them from their tents :like popcorn from a popper."  they were frightened, but otherwise unhurt.

Today, ironically, the Fort Fisher State Historic Park will be closed Dec. 24-Dec. 26, 2014, for the holidays, which dates also mark the 150th anniversary of the First Battle of Fort Fisher.

The fort marked its observance last Saturday with re-enactors and the firing of the fort's 32-pdr. gun.

--Old B-Runner

Fort Fisher Visitors Center Closed Today and Christmas Day

It's sad to say, but the Fort Fisher Visitors Center and Museum will be closed today, Christmas Eve and tomorrow, Christmas Day and Friday  These three days mark the 150th anniversary of the First Battle of Fort Fisher.

I think that considering this was to be such an important anniversary that it should have remained open.

--Old B-R'er

Workers Preparing Fort Fisher for 159th Anniversary of Its Fall

From the Dec. 17, 2014, WECT NBC Wilmington, N.C. "Workers at Fort Fisher get ready for massive anniversary crowd" by Bob Townsend.

The year 2015 marks the end of the Civil War Sesquicentennial observance which has been good, but not as good as the centennial one was back in 1961-1965 (when I was ages 10-14).  Workers have been busily preparing for the observance of Fort Fisher's capture by Union force on January 15, 1865.

A new palisade fence was been erected along the land face of the earthen fort.  Also, new way sign markers have been placed.  (The old ones had gotten very faded out over the years.)

After Fort Fisher fell, the war lasted less than 90 days which makes its capture quite important.  Two battles were fought at the fort.  The first one began 150 years ago today, Christmas Eve, 1864.  The Union forces lost that one and withdrew, but came back about three weeks later and this time succeeded.

Fort Fisher officials will conduct special tours the weekend of Jan.17-18, 2015.  Over 500 re-enactors are expected to be on hand and over 20,000 visitors are expected.

There will be parking at the Air Force Fort Fisher Recreation Area to handle the overflow  vehicles.

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Powder Ship Louisiana Arrives Off Fort Fisher

DECEMBER 23RD, 1864:  After the delay of many days due to heavy weather, the powder ship USS Louisiana, Commander Rhind, was towed to a position 250 yards off Fort Fisher.

Early in the morning of the 24th, Christmas Eve morning, it was blown up, but more on that tomorrow, the 150th anniversary of Butler's powder ship.

--Old B-Runner

Bragg Comes to Wilmington-- Part 2: "Goodbye Wilmington"

Another famous line about Braxton Bragg was that when news of his being assigned to Wilmington in October 1864, reached the public, the Richmond Enquirer wrote, "General Bragg is going to Wilmington.  Goodbye Wilmington."

And, relieved Major General Whiting at Wilmington had his supporters.  None bigger was Fort Fisher's commander, Col. William Lamb, who wrote: "No one was so capable of defending the Cape Fear as the brilliant officer who has given so much of his time and ability for its defense.

One of Lamb's lieutenants recalled that "Little Billy's" relief (what Whiting was called by his men due to his size) and Bragg's arrival brought gloom to the entire command.

While Whiting had commanded the Cape Fear District he had constantly pleaded for more troops and supplies.  But when Bragg arrived on October 22, 1864, he reported the city and its defenses to be in good shape.

Bragg's Not the Man.  --Old B-R'er

Bragg Comes to Wilmington-- Part 1: Quarreling With Himself

From the December 15, 2014, Wilmington (NC) Star-News "Back Then" by Scott Nunn.

Scott Nunn considered the appointment of General Braxton Bragg to command Wilmington, N.C. over Gen. W.H.C. Whiting as "one of the stranger pieces of history from the Battles of Fort Fisher."  The other was Gen. Butler's powder ship.

Bragg was once a highly respected military commander, but as the war progressed, his reputation diminished.  he was noted as being extremely argumentative and was deeply disliked by his subordinates.

During the Mexican War, his own troops tried to assassinate him twice.

His temper was legendary and he feuded with everyone, even himself.  Once, while serving as both quartermaster and company commander he got into an argument with himself.  he called out to the post commander to sort things out.  Supposedly that officers said, "My God, Mr. Bragg!!  You have quarreled with every officer in the army and now you are quarreling with yourself!"

A Quarrelsome Fellow.  --Old B-Runner

Lincoln Creates Rank of Vice Admiral: Farragut Gets It

DECEMBER 23RD, 1864:  President Lincoln signed a bill passed the preceding day by Congress which created the rank of vice admiral.  A fortnight earlier, secretary Welles had written in his report to Lincoln: "In recommending, therefore, that the office of vice-admiral should be created, and the appointment conferred on Rear-Admiral David G. Farragut, I but respond, as I believe, to the voice and wishes of the naval service and the whole country."

Thus was Farragut made the first vice admiral in the Nation's history as he had also been the first rear admiral.

The Army-Navy Journal wrote of him: "In Farragut the ideal sailor, the seaman of nelson's and Collingwood's days, is revived, and the feeling of the people toward him is of the peculiar character as that which these great and simple-hearted heroes of Great Britain evoked in the hearts of their countrymen."

--Old B-R'er

Confederates Destroy the Savannah Squadron Before the Fall of the City-- Part 2

Then Thomas Brent continued: "....Under these circumstances it did not seem to me possible to carry out the instructions of the Department in regard to taking the Savannah to sea and fighting her way into this [Charleston] or some other port."

After attempting to move the smaller of his vessels upriver, Flag Officer Hunter this date destroyed the CSS Savannah, Isondiga, Firefly and floating battery Georgia,

General Sherman occupied Savannah on December 23rd, having fought his way across Georgia to the sea where he knew the mobility of the Union's seapower would be ready to provide him with support, supplies and means of carrying out his next operation, a march through South Carolina and into North Carolina.

--Old B-Runner

Monday, December 22, 2014

Confederates Try to Save Remnants of the Savannah Squadron-- Part 1

DECEMBER 21ST, 1864:  The Confederate Navy continued vigorous efforts to save the remnants of the Savannah squadron still at the city on the eve of its capture.  On 10 December Commander Thomas Brent of the CSS Savannah, ordered the torpedoes in Savannah Harbor removed in order that his vessels might fight their way to Charleston, S.C..

As Brent later reported to Flag Officer Hunter: "...after every endeavor he found that with all the appliances at his command, grapnels, etc., he was unable with the motive power of the boats to remove any of them, the anchors to which they are attached being too firmly embedded in the sand...."

--Old B-Runner

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Back Then, Impending Attack on Fort Fisher-- Part 4

As bad as the sand and insects were, there were several good things about being stationed at Fort Fisher.  off duty, the garrison could go swimming in the ocean or river, fishing and plentiful clams and oysters.

Chris Fonvielle quotes William A. Burgess of Co. A, 40th North Carolina (3rd N.C. Artillery) in a letter to his parents, "We fare a grate deel better than the soldiers in other parts of the Confederacy."

Troops who got leave could go to Wilmington where there were plenty of folks ready to take their money.  However, the leaves to Wilmington became increasingly hard to get after the appearance of yellow fever there in 1862

Scott Nunn says he will next write about the "notorious General Braxton Bragg, replacing Whiting as Wilmington's commander.  (However, i have used up my "free" articles to the Wilmington Star-News, so most likely won't write about Bragg.)

--Old B-Runner

The Owl Slips Out of Wilmington and Action in S.C.

DECEMBER 21ST, 1864:  The Blockade runner Owl, Commander Maffitt, departed Wilmington through the Federal blockaders with a large cargo of cotton.  The Owl was owned by the Confederate government and was one of several blockade runners commanded by Southern officers.

DECEMBER 20-21ST:  A boat expedition from the USS Ethan Allen carried out a reconnaissance of the Altamaha River, S.C., engaging Confederate pickets and bringing off prisoners and horses,

--Old B-R'er

Action at Rainbow Bluff, N.C.-- Part 2

As many as 40 torpedoes were found in some bends of the river.  Union troops intending to operate with the gunboats weer delayed.

By the time they were ready to advance on Rainbow Bluff, the Confederate garrison there had been strongly reinforced.

Torpedoes in the river, batteries along the banks below that point, and the difficulty of navigating the river forced the abandonment of the operation.  The wrecks of the Ostego and Bazely were destroyed to prevent their falling into Confederate hands on December 25th.  The expedition got back to Plymouth three days later.

--Old B-Runner

Action at Rainbow Bluff, NC-- Part 1

DECEMBER 20TH, 1864:  Boats from the USS Chicopee, Valley City and Wyalusing under the command of Commander Macomb on an expedition to engage Confederate troops at Rainbow Bluff, N.C., on the Roanoke River, were fired upon while dragging for torpedoes, seven miles below the bluff.

Macomb then put skirmishers on the banks to clear the Southerners out, but made very slow process.

After the destruction of the USS Ostego and Bazely on 9 December, the Union gunboats moved very slowly and carefully up the river, using small boats to drag for the torpedoes and were continuously harassed by riflemen on the banks.

--Old B-R'er

USS Hartford Goes In for Repairs

DECEMBER 20TH, 1864:  The USS Hartford, Rear Admiral Farragut's flagship, was turned over to Rear Admiral Paulding at the New York Navy Yard for much-needed repairs.

Farragut wrote Secretary Welles: " flag [was] hauled down at sunset...."

Thus did the two, man and ship, who had served together so heroically for so many months together, close their active Civil War careers.

Farragut died in 1870, but his old ship survived until 1956.

--Old B-Runner

Friday, December 19, 2014

CSS Water Witch Burned

DECEMBER 19TH, 1864:  The CSS Water Witch, captured from the Union on June 3, 1864 in a daring attack, was burned by the Confederates in the Vernon River near Savannah, in order to prevent her capture by Sherman's troops who were getting mighty close to the city by then.

The USS Princess Royal captured schooner Cora off Galveston with cargo of cotton.

--Old B-Runner

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Initial Fort Fisher Attack Called Off

DECEMBER 18TH, 1864:  Commander Rhind and his brave crew of volunteers aboard the USS Louisiana were towed in toward Fort Fisher by the USS Wilderness to be exploded and perhaps knock down the fort.

They found the ocean swells too severe and turned back.

Major General Butler, still at Beaufort, saw the weather worsening and asked Porter to postpone the attempt to blow up his powder boat (it was his idea) until the sea was calm enough to land his troops safely.

The attack was called off.

(It is strange to me that the Navy attack was to commence without Army support being there on the scene.)

--Old B-Runner

The Powder Ship USS Louisiana Arrives Off Fort Fisher:

DECEMBER 18TH, 1864:  The USS Louisiana, Commander Rhind, arrived off Fort Fisher, having that day been towed from Beaufort, North Carolina, by the USS Sassacus, in company with Rear Admiral Porter and his fleet.

The Louisiana had been loaded with powder and was to be blown up as near Fort Fisher as possible in the hope of reducing or substantially damaging that Confederate work.  (In other words, they were hoping the concussion from the explosion would knock the fort down since it was made of sand and turf.)

The day before, Porter had sent Commander Rhind detailed instructions, adding: "Great risks have to be run, and there are chances that you may lose your life in this adventure; but the risk is worth the running, when the importance of the object is to be considered, and the fame to be gained by this novel undertaking, which is either to prove that forts on the water are useless or that rebels are proof against gunpowder....

"I expect more good for our cause from a success in this instance than from an advance of all the armies in the field."

--Old B-R'er

Back Then, Impending Attack on Fort Fisher-- Part 3: Mosquitoes and Deer Flies

Another cause of discomfort were the mosquitoes.    Even back to the War of 1812, attacks by these varmints almost led one group of American militia to mutiny against authorities.

And, also there were the ever present gnats, no-see-ums and seasonal deer flies.  Scott Nunn said that the latter are still there at Fort Fisher.  Once he was exploring the fort one humid late-summer day and got on an off-the-beaten path and was run out of the grove by a swarm of deer flies.

I can relate to that as one May day near Savannah at my sister's house, i was out in her backyard to collect Southern soil for use on the graves of Confederates buried in the North when she warned me about the deer flies.  I've often encountered flies so figured perhaps they were like the big old horse flies, fairly easily avoided.

I went out to the back and stooped to get the dirt when suddenly a huge cloud of deer flies descended upon me.  They were so thick I almost couldn't see and landing everywhere on me.  My sister and family were watching from the house and were greatly amused to see me running full tilt out of the trees, waving my hands and yelling (well, probably screaming).  It was indeed my "Great Skedaddle!"

I tell you, I hope to never have an encounter with them again.

Still Having Nightmares 'Bout 'Em.  --Old Secesh

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Back Then: The Impending Attack on Fort Fisher-- Part 2: Battling the Sand

The fort's garrison's "biggest complaint seemed to be the ubiquitous beach sand that filled every nook and cranny."

Fonvielle wrote: "Ironically, the substance of which the fort was constructed-- sand--  also caused the troops serious discomfort.  Above all else, sand was a soldier's constant companion and his main source of discontentment at Fort Fisher.

"Sand was everywhere--  as far as your eye could see-- and the granules had a nasty way of getting into everything a soldier owned: his uniform, brogans, blanket, rifle musket and food.  There was no refuge from it. and it gave no mercy."

--Old B-R'er

Back Then: The Impending Attack on Fort Fisher-- Part 1

From the December 5, 2014, Wilmington (NC) Star-News "Back Then" by Scott Nunn.

Tjhis article was based on Chris Fonvielle's book "The Wilmington Campaign: Last Rays of Departing Hope."  Scott Nunn doubts that anyone knows more about Wilmington and Fort fisher than this man.  I agree.  Fonvielle is the author of at least five books on this subject.

People had to wonder why Fort Fisher, the Cape Fear River and Wilmington had stayed under Confederate control for so long, even as its importance grew substantially throughout the war.  The North did nothing, nor, for that matter did the South do much to protect.  general lee repeatedly turned down requests from Wilmington's commander, Major General W.H.C. Whiting for reinforcements.  Confederate authorities believed Whiting was exaggerating the need.

The fort was commanded by Col. William Lamb.  The garrison passed its time keeping Fort Fisher in good shape, placing cannons, drilling and making it larger and more defensible.

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Dangerous Reconnaissance Off New Inlet, N.C.

DECEMBER 16-17TH, 1864:  Acting master Charles  A Petit, USS Monticello, performed a dangerous reconnaissance off New Inlet, N.C. removing several Confederate torpedoes and their firing apparatus near the base of Fort Caswell.

Petit's expedition was part of the Union's extensive preparations for the bombardment and assault on Fort Fisher and the defenses of Wilmington, planned for late December.

Note: New Inlet is by Fort Fisher and Old Inlet is by Fort Caswell.  The USS Monticello was William Cushing's ship.

--Old B-Runner

Action in Virginia and North Carolina

DECEMBER 15TH, 1864:  An expedition including the USS Cour De Lion and USS Mercury seized and burned more than 30 large boats which the Confederates had been massing on the Coan River, Virginia, and drove off defending soldiers in a brief engagement.

DECEMBER 16TH, 1864:The USS Mount Vernon and USS New Bern captured and burned the schooner G.O. Bigelow in ballast at Bear Island, N.C..

--Old B-R'er

Naval Action at Battle of Nashville-- Part 2

"I therefore maneuvered around above them till the afternoon, when our cavalry had reached the desired position in the rear; the USS Neosho and Carondolet then moved down again and the rebels, finding the position they were in, had tried to remove the guns, but were too late; our cavalry closed in and took them with but little resistance."

The Union gunboats then engaged other batteries down the river, in some cases silencing them with gunfire and others absorbing the attention of the Confederate gunners while Union cavalry encircled them.

By the afternoon of 15 December, Hood's batteries on the Cumberland River had been captured and his left flank, further inland, was in full retreat.

In reply to President Lincoln's congratulations on the big victory, Thomas remarked: "I must not forget to report the operations of Brigadier-General Johnson in successfully driving the enemy, with cooperation of the gunboats under Lieutenant Commander Fitch, from the established batteries on the Cumberland River below the City of Nashville...."

An Oft-Overlooked Aspect of the Battle.  --Old B-Runner

Naval Action at Battle of Nashville-- Part 1

DECEMBER 15-16, 1864:  As Major general George Thomas opened his offensive in the Battle of Nashville, gunboats of the Mississippi Squadron, commanded by Lt.Cmdr. Fitch, operated closely with the Union Army by engaging batteries on the Cumberland River and helping secure a resounding victory for Thomas.

On the night of Dec. 14th, Fitch, together with the seven gunboats of his command, had moved down toward the main Confederate battery guarding the river and Major General Forrest's far left.

Fitch described the joint effort: "Acting Volunteer Lieutenant Howard then returned to where I was, just above their works, and reported but four guns in position.  These I could have easily silenced and driven off, but our army had not yet sufficiently advanced to insure their capture."

--Old B-R'er

Confederate Forts in Savannah's Outer Defenses Captured

DECEMBER 14-21ST, 1864:  Union gunboats supporting general Sherman's advance aided in the capture of Forts Beaulieu and Rosedew in Ossabow Sound, Georgia, the outer defenses of Savannah.  Wooden steamer USS Winona, USS Sonoma and mortar gunboats shelled the forts until they were abandoned 21 December.

The Winona's log entry for that date: "At 10:05 saw the American Ensign flying on Fort Beaulieu.  Ships ; captain left in gig and proceeded up to the fort."

--Old B-Runner

Monday, December 15, 2014

Lincoln Lauds William B. Cushing

DECEMBER 15TH, 1864:  President Lincoln wrote in a message to Congress: "I most cordially recommend that Lieutenant William B. Cushing, U.S. Navy, receive a vote of thanks from Congress for his important, gallant, and perilous achievement in destroying the rebel ironclad steamer Albemarle on the night of the 27th October, 1864, at Plymouth, N.C.

"The destruction of so formidable a vessel, which had resisted the continued attacks of a number of our vessels on former occasions, is an important event touching our future naval and military operations, and would reflect honor on any officer, and redounds to the credit  of this young officer and the few brave comrades who assisted in this successful and daring undertaking."

Now, if the President had at the same time recommended a Medal of Honor for Lt. Cushing, it would not be necessary to have to work for his receiving one now. especially in light of one of the men with him receiving one.

Give Cushing a Medal of Honor.  --Old B-R'er

Don't Give Up the Ships (In Savannah)

DECEMBER 14TH, 1864:  Foreseeing the fall of Savannah, Secretary Mallory wrote wrote Flag Officer Hunter, commanding the naval squadron at that city:  "Should the enemy get ahold of Savannah, and you can do no further service there, you are expected to dispose of your squadron to the greatest injury to him and the greatest benefit to our country.

"If necessary to leave Savannah, your vessels, except the Georgia, may fight their way to Charleston.  Under  circumstances should they be destroyed until every proper effort to save them shall have been exhausted."

Three days later, Captain S. S. Lee, CSN, addressed a similar letter to Hinter: "Under any circumstances, it is better for the vessels, the Navy, for our cause and country, that these vessels should fall in the conflict of battle, taking all the risks of defeat and triumph, than that they should be tamely surrendered to the enemy or destroyed by their own officers."

Like I Said, Don't Give Up the Ships.  --Old B-Runner

Huge Union Fleet Departs Hampton Roads for Fort Fisher Attack

DECEMBER 13TH, 1864:a  The Union fleet massed for the bombardment of Fort Fisher departed Hampton Roads for Wilmington.  Wooden double-ender USS Sassacus was assigned to tow the powder ship Louisiana to Beaufort, N.C. where she was to take on more powder.

Army transports carrying the invasion force commanded by Major General Butler left Hampton Roads at approximately the same time as the supporting naval group.

--Old B-R'er

Raphael Semmes Back in the Confederacy-- Part 2

DECEMBER 13, 1864:  Semmes described the night crossing of the Mississippi River in a crowded skiff:  "Our boat was scarcely able to float the numbers that were packed into her.... As we shot within the shadows of the opposite bank, our conductor, before landing, gave a shrill whistle to ascertain whether all was right.

"the proper response came directly, from those who were to meet us, and in a moment more, we leaped on shore  among friends."

Federal forces on the river had been alerted in an effort to capture the elusive Captain Semmes of the CSS Alabama, but he succeeded in getting home, and later to Richmond, to receive the thanks of the Confederacy and promotion to the rank of Rear Admiral.

--Old B-Runner

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Raphael Semmes Back in the Confederacy-- Part 1: Lots of Blockaders

DECEMBER 13TH, 1864:  Returning to the Confederacy from London, Captain Semmes had landed the month before in Bagdad, Mexico, near Matamoras.  This date, en route to his home in Mobile for a brief respite before making his way to Richmond, Semmes crossed the Mississippi River with his son, Major O.J. Semmes.

He later wrote: "We reached the bank of the Mississippi just before dark.  There were two of the enemy's gunboats anchored in the river, at a distance of about three miles apart...the enemy had converted every sort of water craft, into a ship of war, and now had them in such number, that he was enabled to police the river in its entire length, without the necessity of his boats being out of sight of of each other's smoke...."

--Old B-R'er

Farragut Arrives in New York to Great Fanfare

DECEMBER 13TH, 1864:  Rear Admiral Farragut arrived in New York on board his battle-scarred flagship, USS Hartford.

A New York newspaper hailed his return in verse:

To Farragut all glory!
The Sea-King's worthy peer,
Columbia's greatest seaman, Without reproach or fear.

--Old B-Runner

Friday, December 12, 2014

Sherman Arrives Near Savannah

DECEMBER 12TH, 1964:  Rear Admiral Dahlgren wrote to President Lincoln, reporting news of the greatest importance to the Union:  "I have the great satisfaction of conveying to you information of the arrival of General Sherman's near Savannah, with his army in fine spirits....  This memorable event must be attended by still more memorable consequences, and I congratulate you most heartily on its occurrence."

The value of seaborne supply to Sherman was inestimable.  His army switched from rail logistics in Chattanooga to sea logistics on the Atlantic.

Getting In On the Glory.  --Old Secesh

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Fort Fisher Re-enactment Last Weekend

From the December 1, 2014, Wilmington (NC) Star-News "Fort Fisher showcases Civil War artillery."

The sights and sounds of Civil War artillery was highlighted from 10-4 this past Saturday, December 6th at the Fort Fisher State Historic Site in the "WE Kept Our Courage Up: Artillery of Fort Fisher."

This was a precursor of the huge re-enactment to take place at the fort in January to mark the 150th anniversary of the fort's fall.  There were re-enactment camps showing the lives of soldiers, sailors and Marines from both sides and it is free and open to the public.

Fort Fisher's 32-pounder seacoast rifled and banded cannon at Sheppard's Battery will be fired at 10, noon, 2 and 4.  Costumed interpreters will explain the drill and equipment of the cannon before each firing.

Fort Fisher is located near the southern terminus of US-421, south of Kure Beach, North Carolina.

It is too bad I live so far away as I sure would have liked to have been there.

Oh Well.  Perhaps I Will be Able to Make the 150th Anniversary of It.  --Old B-R'er

New Confederate "Explosive Ball"

DECEMBER 11TH, 1864:  Commander George H. Preble, commanding the Naval Brigade fighting ashore with the forces of Major General Foster up the Broad River, South Carolina, reported to Rear Admiral Dahlgren concerning a unique "explosive ball" used by Confederate forces against his skirmishers: "It had a conical ball in shape, like an ordinary bullet.

"The pointed end is charged with a fulminate.  The base of the ball separates from the conical end, and has a leaden standard or plunger.  The explosion of the charge drives the base up, so as to flatten a thin disk of metal between it and the ball, the leaden plunger is driven against the fulminate, and it explodes the ball.... It seems to me that the use of such a missile is an unnecessary addition to the barbarities of war."

I didn't quite follow how it operated, but I sure wouldn't want to get hit by one of these.

Those Nasty Confederates.  --Old Secesh

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Hey Navy/Marine Re-Enactors, Time's Running Out to Sign Up for Fort Fisher 150th!

From the Dec. 9, 2014, Civil War Navy and Marine Forum Digest #208.

Andrew Duppstadt reminded everyone that the registration deadline for the 150th Fort Fisher re-enactment is just one week away, Dec. 15th.  He urges that you get it in.  If you need any help, contact him.

I am thinking about attending this since I am such a big Fort Fisher nut.  I am not, however, a re-enactor.

--Old B-Runner

Confederate Gunboats On the Move on the Savannah River

DECEMBER 10-12TH, 1864:  The CSS Macon, CSS Sampson and CSS Resolute, under Flag Officer Hunter took Union shore batteries under fire at Tweedside on the Savannah River.  Hunter attempted to run his gunboats downriver to join in the defense of Savannah, but was unable to pass the strong Federal batteries.

The Resolute was disable din this exchange of of fire December 12th, and was abandoned and captured.  Recognizing that he could not get his remaining two vessels to Savannah, and having to destroy the railroad bridge over the Savannah River that he had been defending, Hunter took advantage of the unusually high water to move upstream to Augusta.

Also this date: The USS O.H. Lee captured the British schooner Sort off Anclote Keys, Florida, with cargo of cotton.

--Old B-R'er

More Blockade-Runners Captured

DECEMBER 8TH, 1864:  The USS J.P. Jackson and USS Stockdale capture the blockade-running schooner Medora in Mississippi Sound with cargo of cotton.

The USS Cherokee captured blockade-running British steamer Emma Henry off the coast of North Carolina with cargo of cotton.

The USS Itasca chased blockade-running sloop Mary Ann ashore at Pass Cavallo, Texas.  After removing its cargo of cotton, it was destroyed.

--Old B-Runner

Blockade-Runner Stormy Petrel Run Ashore Off Wilmington

DECEMBER 7TH, 1864:  Blockade-Running steamer Stormy Petrel was run ashore and fired upon by gunboats of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron while attempting to enter Wilmington.  the ship was totally wrecked a few days later by a gale.

In his report of the incident, Rear Admiral Porter remarked: "In the last fifty days we have captured or destroyed $5,500,000 worth of the enemy's property in blockade runners.  To submit to these losses and still run the blockade shows the immense gains the runners make and the straits the enemy are in."

The Noose is Tightening.  --Old B-R'er

USS Narcissus Sunk by Torpedo in Mobile Bay

DECEMBER 7TH, 1864:  The USS Narcissus struck a Confederate torpedo in a heavy storm while lying off the city of Mobile.  Its commander, Acting Ensign William G. Jones, reported: "...the vessel struck a torpedo, which exploded, lifting her nearly out of the water and breaking out a large hole in the starboard side, amidships...causing the vessel to sink in about fifteen minutes."

The tug went down without loss of life and was raised later in the month.

Mobile Bay was in Union hands, but Southern torpedoes took a heavy toll on their ships.  And, Mobile was still in Confederate hands.

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

USS Ostego Sunk by Torpedoes in the Roanoke River, N.C.

DECEMBER 9TH, 1864:  The USS Ostego sank in the Roanoke River near Jamesville, North Carolina, after striking two torpedoes in quick succession.  The double-ended Ostego, along with the USS Wyalusing, Valley City and tugs Belle and Bazely had formed an expedition to capture Rainbow Bluff on the Roanoke River, and to investigate the Confederate ram reported to be building at Halifax.

Commander Macomb anchored his squadron at Jamesville to await the arrival of cooperating Union troops and the Ostego struck two torpedoes while anchoring.

The Bazely came alongside to lend assistance and also struck a torpedo and sank instantly.

Lt. Cmdr. Arnold and part of his crew remained on board the sunken Ostego to cover that portion of the river with the guns remaining above water on the hurricane deck.

The resrt of the group moved upriver, dragging for torpedoes, to commence their attack on Rainbow Bluff which took place December 20th.

--Old B-R'er

Fitch Returns Later in the Day

DECEMBER 6TH, 1864:  Undaunted, Leroy Fitch returned to the scene of the battle later in the day, this time accompanied by the ironclad USS Carondelet and again engaged those pesky batteries.  This time, he chose a different firing position and disabled some of the Confederate guns..

Attesting to the endurance of the Neosho under fire, Fitch was able to report to Rear Admiral Lee: "During the day the Neosho was struck over a hundred times, but received no injury whatever.

--Old B-R'er

Medal of Honor in Previous Action Entry

DECEMBER 6TH, 1864:  During this action, Quartermaster John Ditzenback, seeing the USS Neosho's ensign shot away by the concentrated Southern fire, coolly left the pilot house, and, despite the deadly shot raking the Neosho's decks, took the flag which was drooping over the wheelhouse and made it fast tp the stump of the highest mast remaining.

For this courageous act Ditzenback was awarded the Medal of Honor.

--Old B-Runner

More Fighting on the Cumberland River in Tennessee

DECEMBER 6TH, 1864:  The USS Neosho, with Lt.-Cmdr. LeRoy Fitch aboard, embarked with three small steamers: USS Fairplay, Silver Lake and Moose and several Army transports and moved down the Cumberland River from Nashville to engage Confederate batteries near Bell's Mills, Tennessee.

The Neosho was an ironclad and took the lead and single-handedly engaged the Confederates.  Fitch sailed to within 20-30 yards to test his ship's strength and to fire canister and grape shot at that distance: "Our fire was slow and deliberate, but soon had the effect to scatter the enemy's sharpshooters and infantry, but owing to the elevated position of the batteries directly over us we could do but little injury.

"The enemy's fire was terrific, and in a very few minutes everything perishable on our decks was completely demolished."

Fitch returned to Nashville with the lighter ships.

--Old B-R'er

More Blockade Runners Seized

DECEMBER 6TH, 1864:  USS Chocura, Lt.-Cmdr. Meade, seized blockade-running British schooner Lady Hurley off Velasco, Texas, with cargo including bar iron, steel, salt and medicines.  The Lady Hurley, according to Meade, was the consort of the Carrie Mair, captured by the USS Itasca a few days earlier.  She was the third prize taken by Meade in as few days as the Union blockade got tighter on the Texas coast.  Lots of crew prize money.

The USS Princess Royal captured blockade-running schooner Alabama after driving her aground near San Luis Pass, Texas.  Her crew abandoned ship and a boarding party worked her free and took the prize to Galveston.  Her cargo included iron bars, rope, flour and soda.

USS Sunflower seized blockade-running sloop Pickwick off St. George's Sound, Florida.

Fighting in Georgia

DECEMBER 5-9, 1864:  The naval landing force under Commander Preble participated in heavy fighting around Tulifinny Crossroads, Georgia, while federal troops attempted to cut the vital Savannah-Charleston Railway and join with the advancing forces of General Sherman.

The Naval Brigade was withdrawn from Boyd's Landing, Broad River, on 5 December, and while Union gunboats made a feint against the Coosawwatchie River fortifications, soldiers and sailors landed up the nearby Tulifinny River.

During the next four days, the versatile naval brigade participated in a series of nearly continuous heavy actions, though plagued by rain and swampy terrain.  Union forces advanced close enough to the strategic railway to shell it but failed to destroy it.

--Old B-Runner

Monday, December 8, 2014

Plans for the Powder Vessel at Fort Fisher

DECEMBER 8TH, 1864:  Rear Admiral Porter wrote to Lt. Cmdr Watmough, senior officer off New Inlet, North Carolina, regarding the plan to explode a vessel laden with powder off Fort Fisher:  "I propose running a vessel drawing 8 1/2 feet (as near to Fort fisher as possible) with 350 tons of powder, exploding her by running her upon the outside and opposite Fort Fisher.

"My calculations are that the explosion will wind up Fort Fisher and the works along the beach, and that we can open fire with the vessels without damage."

Major general Butler had suggested the powder ship late in November, and Porter, anxious to get the long-delayed Wilmington attack underway, agreed to attempt his unlikely means of reducing the fort before the landing.

--Old B-R'er

Confederates Capture Tug Lizzie Freeman in Virginia

DECEMBER 5, 2014,:  Confederate force under Acting Master William A. Hines, CSN, captured tug Lizzie Freeman by boarding near Smithfield, Virginia.  The daring raid took place shortly before midnight while the Union tug, with two Army officers on board, lay at anchor.

USS Chocura, Lt. Cmdr. Meade, seized blockade-running British schooner Julia south of Velasco, Texas, with cargo including bar iron, medicines, cotton bagging and rope.

DECEMBER 5-6TH, 1864:  Monitors USS Saugus, Onondaga, Mahopac and Canonicus (most of them at the Battle of Fort Fisher 19 days later) participated in a lively engagement with strong shore batteries at Howlett's, James River, Virginia.  The Saugus received a solid 7-inch shot which disabled her turret.

--Old B-Runner

Blockade-Runner Armstrong Captured Off Wilmington

DECEMBER 4TH, 1864:  The USS R.R. Cuyler, USS Mackinaw and USS Gettysburg, captured blockade running steamer Armstrong at sea.  The Cuyler and Gettysburg, joined by the USS Montgomery, picked up a  number of bales of cotton thrown overboard by the Armstrong during the chase.

The Mackinaw had earlier in the day captured the brig Hattie E. Wheeler with a cargo of sugar.

Good Prize Money.  --Old B-R'er

CSS Shenandoah Captures and Burns Whaling Ship

DECEMBER 4TH, 1864:  The CSS Shenandoah captured and burned whaling bark Edward off Tristan da Cunha in the South Atlantic.  Lt. Waddell noted in his journal: "Her outfit was of excellent quality, and I lay by her two days supplying the steamer with deficiencies.... Two of her boats were new, and took the place of my old and worthless ones."

--Old B-Runner

Sunday, December 7, 2014

December 7, 1941

From the December 6, 2014, Whidbey (Washington) News-Times "Story of Pearl Harbor survivors to be shared Dec. 7" by Janis Reid.


Continued from today's Saw the Elephant blog.  This is always a day to remember and be prepared.

Gail Vyskocil will share her late husband James' Pearl Harbor story as part of the Pearl Harbor Day remembrance today at 12:30 p.m. in the chapel at Ault Field.

The Cascade Chapter of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association has lost many members in the last several years and is now down to just a few.

Her remarks will come from a speech James gave.  James was a signal man third class that day.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

150 Years Ago: Grant Writes Butler About Wilmington Expedition

DECEMBER 6TH, 1864:  Major general Grant wrote Major General Butler regarding the objectives of the proposed joint expedition against Wilmington, one of the most ambitious of the war:  "The first object of the expedition under General Weitzel is to close the port of Wilmington.

"If successful in this, the second will to be capture Wilmington itself....The object of the expedition will be gained by effecting a landing on the mainland between Caope Fear River and the Atlantic north of the north entrance to the river, then the troops should entrench themselves, and by cooperating with the Navy effect a reduction and capture of those places.

"These in our hands, the Navy could enter the harbor and the port of Wilmington would be sealed."

Old B-R'er

Naval Activity Early December 1864

DECEMBER 3RD, 1864:  Boat expedition from USS Nita, Stars and Stripes, Hendrick Hudson, Ariel and Two Sisters destroyed a large salt work at Rocky Point, Tampa Bay, Florida.

USS Mackinaw captured schooner Mary at sea off Charleston with cargo of cotton, tobacco and turpentine.

DECEMBER 4TH, 1864:  USS Chocura, Lt.Cmdr. Richard. Meade, captured schooner Lowood south of Velasco, Texas, with cargo of cotton.  Calling the Lowood "a notorious blockade runner", Meade said"  "We had been watching this schooner for some time and finally laid a trap for her, which had proved successful."

USS Pembina seized blockade running Dutch brig Geziena Hilligonda near Brazos Santiago, Texas, with cargo including medicines, iron and cloth.

Boats from the USS Pursuit captured Peep O'Day near Indian River, Florida, with cargo of cotton.

--Old B-Runner

Action on the Cumberland River

DECEMBER 3-4TH, 1864:  The USS Moose, Carondolet, Fairplay Reindeer and Silver Lake engaged Confederate field batteries on the Cumberland River near Bell's Mills, Tennessee, silencing them and recaptured three transports taken the day before.

The gunboats were protecting General Thomas' right flank before Nashville, had started down the river on the night of the 2nd after hearing that Confederate troops under General Forrest had erected a battery at Bell's Mills.  They succeeded in surprising the Confederates and a sharp engagement ensued.

The ships returned to Nashville with valuable information on the composition and strength of Southern forces that proved vital in the upcoming Battle of Nashville.

--Old B-R'er

Secretary Welles' 4th Annual Report to Lincoln-- Part 2

"Over fifty such results have occurred since Rear-Admiral Dahlgren anchored his monitor inside of Charleston bar and closed that port to commerce."

By this date the United States Navy, consisting of only 42 ships on active duty in March 1861, had grown to 671 ships mounting more than 4,600 guns.  A total of 203 ships had been built for naval service since March 1861, including 62 ironclads.

The growing force had ringed the South with an increasingly close blockade, which, by December 1864 had taken nearly 1,400 prizes.  In addition, Welles noted that four ships had been lost to the Southern naval cause in the course of the year: the commerce raiders Alabama, Florida and Georgia, and the fearsome ram Albemarle.

Moreover, the last major Gulf port had been closed by the Union victory at Mobile Bay.  The fierce engagement, Welles wrote, was one which "in many respects [is] one of the most remarkable on record, and which added new lustre even to the renown of Rear-Admiral Farragut...."

Doing a Swell Job.  --Old B-Runner

Friday, December 5, 2014

Secretary Welle's 4th Annual report to the President-- Part 1

DECEMBER 5TH, 1864:  In his fourth annual report to Lincoln, Welles noted the great impact on the Confederacy made by Union seapower.  Of the tireless blockaders, he wrote:  "The blockade of the coastline...greater in extent than the whole coast of Europe from Cape Trafalgar to Cape north is an undertaking without precedent in history."

Welles observed that while successful runs through the blockade brought huge profits, "the blockade has not been violated with impunity.  Heavy losses have befallen most of those who have engaged in the illicit trade.  Sixty-five steamers, the aggregate value of which, with their cargoes, will scarcely fall short of thirteen millions of dollars, have been captured or destroyed in attempting to enter of escape Wilmington."

More to Come.  --Old B-Runner

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Confederate Naval Defenses at Savannah As Sherman Approached

DECEMBER 3, 1864: As Union pressure on Savannah increased, the Savannah Squadron, under Captain W.W. Hunter, CSN, played an increasing role in the defense of the city and the important railroad above it.

This date, Hunter wrote Lt. Joel S. Kennard of the CSS Macon:  "The Charleston and Savannah Railway Bridge at the Savannah River is a very important point to defend, and, should it become necessary, endeavor to be in position there to defend it.

"In order to do so, and also to patrol the Savannah River, watch carefully the state of the river, and do not be caught aground or be cut off from the position of the bridge."

--Old B-R'er

Army-Navy Expedition Up Chowan River, N.C.

DECEMBER 2-6TH, 1864:  Joint Army-Navy expedition, including sailors from the USS Chicopee, Cmdr. Harrell, captured and burned a large quantity of Confederate supplies and equipment near Pitch Landing on the Chowan River, North Carolina.

In addition, a large quantity of cotton and over $17,000 in Confederate money and bonds were brought off.

And, How Much Was Confederate Money Worth At This Time?  --Old B-R'er

Blockade Runners at the Cape Fear River

DECEMBER 1ST, 1864:  The USS Rhode Island, Cmdr. Stephen D. Trenchard, captured the blockade-running British steamer Vixen off the Cape Fear, North Carolina, with cargo including arms.

DECEMBER 2-3, 1864:  The USS Pequot, Lt.Cmdr. Braine, sighted the blockade running steamer Ella off the coast of South Carolina and pursued her for nearly seven hours before darkness halted the chase.

Early in the morning 3 December, the USS Emma sighted the Ella steering for the Western Bar of the Cape Fear River, and, attempting to intercept her, forced the runner aground near the light at Bald Head Point.Ships of the blockading squadron shelled the grounded Ella for two days before a boarding party burned the ship on 5 December.

--Old B-Runner

Confederate Activity Along the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers

DECEMBER 1ST, 1864:  In order to cope with powerful rifled batteries erected by Confederates along the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers, Rear Admiral Lee, commanding the Mississippi Squadron, strengthened the forces of Lt.Cmdr. Fitch with the ironclads USS Neosho and USS Carondelet.

Major General Thomas, responsible for halting General Hood's advance on Nashville, wired Major General  Halleck this date: "I have two ironclads here, with several gunboats, and Commander Fitch assured me that Hood can neither cross the Cumberland or blockade it.  I therefore think it is best to wait here until Wilson can equip all his cavalry."

In the coming, as in the whole Tennessee campaign, the Mississippi Squadron played a key role in covering Union Armies, engaging shore batteries in support of troop movements, and insuring river lines of supply.

--Old B-R'er

Aiding a Prison Escape in South Carolina

NOVEMBER 30-DECEMBER 4TH, 1864:  Acting on intelligence that Union prisoners were attempting to reach blockading ships after having escaped from a prisoner train en route to Savannah, five boats and nearly 100 men from the USS Ethan Allen and Dai Ching, scoured the South Altamaha River, South Carolina, without finding any of the reported escapees.

After encountering and engaging a considerable Confederate force, they were compelled to withdraw to their ships.

--Old B-Runner

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Naval Action Late November '64: Whiskey and Opium

NOVEMBER 29TH, 1864:  A ship's boat from the USS Elk captured an unidentified small craft with cargo of whiskey and opium near Mandeville, Louisiana.  Can't let THAT get through the blockade, you know.

NOVEMBER 39TH, 1864:  Boat expedition from the USS Midnight landed at St. Andrew's Bay, Florida, and destroyed a salt work and took prisoners.

USS Itasca seized British blockade-running schooner Carrie Mair off Pass Cavallo, Texas.

--Old B-R'er

Naval Brigade Engages at Honey Hill, S.C.

NOVEMBER 30TH, 1864:  Naval Brigade, composed of 350 sailors and 150 Marines from ships of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron and commanded by Commander George H. Preble joined an Army action at Honey Hill, near Grahamville, South Carolina.

In order to aid General Sherman in his march toward Savannah, Major General Foster had proposed to Admiral Dahlgren a campaign up the Broad River to cut the Charleston-Savannah Railway and establish contact with Sherman.

Preble organized an artillery and two naval infantry battalions to operate with the Army, and they were landed at Boyd's Landing on Broad River on 29 November.  Sailors and Marines played a vital role in the ensuing Battle of Honey Hill on 30 November, after which they entrenched on the Grahamville Road.

General Foster then decided with Dahlgren, who accompanied the brigade as far as Boyd's Landing, that the main thrust should come up the Tulifinny River toward Pocotaligo.

--Old B-Runer

Monitors Engage Howlett's Battery on the James River

NOVEMBER 29TH, 1864:  Double-turret monitor USS Onondaga and single-turret monitor Mahopac engaged Howlett's Battery, on the James River in Virginia in an engagement which lasted for three hours.  This was part of continuing action below Richmond.

Major Francis W. Smith, CSA, remarked: "I think the monitors (although they retired under our fire below Dutch Gap) will probably return...."

--Old B-Dutch

William Turner, USN

In my Saw the Elephant Civil War blog today, I wrote about the auction of "Cotton" Reynolds' huge Civil War collection in August of this year.  One of the items was the footlocker of Captain William Turner, USN. which was loaded with items.  It went for $4,700.

I have been unable to find any information on the man's service, but it was bought by Mayo Cameron who plans to exhibit it in his museum in North Carolina.

There is a Cameron Art Museum located in Wilmington, so perhaps that is its destination.

--Old B-Runner