Fort Fisher

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

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Raid on St. Andrew's Bay, Florida

FEBRUARY 1ST-4TH, 1865:  A boat expedition from the USS Michigan landed and destroyed salt works "of 13,615 boiling capacity" at St. Andrews Bay, Florida (Panama City).

The making of salt from sea water became a major industry in Florida during the Civil War as salt was a critical commodity in the Confederate war effort.  Large quantities were needed for preserving meat, fish, butter and other perishable foods, as well as curing hides.

Federal warships continuously destroyed salt works along the coasts of Florida.  This expedition was the finale in the Union navy's effective restriction of this vital Confederate industry.

--Old B-Runner

Friday, January 30, 2015

USS Cherokee Engages Half Moon Battery On the Cape Fear

JANUARY 30TH, 1865:  The USS Cherokee exchanged gunfire with Confederate troops at Half Moon Battery, Cape Fear River, North Carolina.  Earlier in the month, on January 19th, the USS Governor Buckingham had opened on the battery in support of Army efforts ashore to clear the area of Confederates following the fall of Fort Fisher.

--Old B-Runner

Torpedoes Discovered in Virginia

JANUARY 30TH, 1865:  Returning from an afternoon reconnaissance of King's Creek, Virginia, Acting Ensign James H. Kerens, USS Henry Brinker, and his two boat crews "discovered 5 men, who, upon seeing us, immediately fled."  His suspicions aroused, Kerens determined to return under the cover of darkness to search the vicinity.

That night he and two boat crews returned to the mouth of King's Creek and, after more than an hour of careful searching, found "two very suspicious looking mounds...."  Removing the earth Kerens found two galvanic batteries and torpedoes, each containing some 150 pounds of powder.

Acting Third Assistant Engineer Henry M. Hutchinson and Landsman John McKenna cut the connections from the batteries to the torpedoes and the weapons were safely removed and taken on board the Henry Brinker.

Risk of life in little heralded acts such as this happened throughout the war.

--Old B-R'er

The Confederate Ironclad Must Go: Raising the CSS Georgia

From the Jan. 29, 2015, WIS TV, Savannah, Georgia "Before harbor gets deepened, Confederate shipwreck must go."

The ironclad CSS Georgia never fired a shot in battle and was scuttled in the Savannah River in December 1864 to prevent its capture by General Sherman's advancing army as he completed his March to the Sea from Atlanta.  It didn't amount to much during the Civil War, but has gotten a lot of press of late because its wreck is now in the way for the dredging project along the Savannah River to make way for large cargo ships.

The Army Corps of Engineers is working on the project and gave an update on Thursday on their efforts to bring the wreckage to the surface and move it out of the way.

Estimated cost of CSS Georgia recovery is $14 million, a small part of the whole $706 million project to deepen the harbor to 47 feet and deepen and extend the channel into the Atlantic Ocean and put oxygen injection system in the harbor.

That will be great to bring yet another artifact to the surface.

--Old B-Runner

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Another Blockade Runner Falls Into the Union Cape Fear River Trap

JANUARY 25TH, 1865:  Shortly after dawn, a boarding party from the USS Tristram Shandy, Acting Lt. Francis M. Green, seized blockade-running steamer Blenheim just inside the bar at New Inlet, North Carolina.  The Blenheim had run into the approach to Wilmington unaware that the Union now controlled it and anchored off the Mound Battery.

Green reported: "At the time of boarding they were endeavoring to get the vessel underway."  The Blenheim was the third prize to be lured into Union hands by the Confederate range lights at the Mound Battery which Rear Admiral Porter had kept burning.

Much Easier to Capture One If They Come to You.  --Old B-R'er


CSS Stonewall Now At Sea, Confederate Picket Boat Sunk

JANUARY 25TH, 1865:  Captain T.J. Page reported that the CSS Stonewall was now at sea off the coast of France and wrote to Secretary Mallory: "You must not expect too much of me; I fear the power and effect of this vessel have been too much exaggerated.  We will do our best."

I would have liked to see a pitched battle between the Stonewall and a Union monitor, however.  I wonder who would have won.

JANUARY 26TH, 1865:  The Confederate picket boat Hornet was sunk and Lt. Aenas Armstrong, CSN, was drowned as a result of a collision between the Hornet and the steamer Allison in the James River.

JANUARY 28TH, 1865:  The USS Valley City dispatched to Colerain, North Carolina, on the Chowan River, to protect a Union encampment there.

--Old B-R'er

CSS Shenandoah Puts In at Melbourne, Australia

JANUARY 25TH, 1865:  The CSS Shenandoah, Lt. Waddell, put into Melbourne for repairs and provisions 108 days out of England.  Although the cruiser had taken no prizes for four weeks and remained considerably undermanned--  Waddell reported that the berthing spaces would accomodate 150 men confortably but that he had only 51 crew men on board.

The Lieutenant promptly wrote Flag Officer Barron in Paris: "I am getting along boldly and cheerfully."

To Secretary Mallory he reported: ""...when I have done all that you have directed me to do I shall be better able to decide what ought to be done with the Shenandoah.  I shall keep her afloat as long as she is, in my opinion, serviceable."

Without the dry docking and machinery repairs accomplished at Melbourne, Wassell would not have been able to carry out his mission against American whalers in the Pacific.

--Old B-R'er

Sherman Commences His March Through the Carolinas: Support of the Navy

JANUARY 24TH, 1865:  Major General W.T. Sherman commenced his march north from Savannah while the ships of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron operated in the rivers in the proximity of his army.  These naval operations served to protect Sherman's army and simultaneously forced Confederate commanders to spread thin their remaining forces.

Rear Admiral Dahlgren reported to Secretary Welles the deployment of naval vessels supporting the advance of Sherman's men: "I have the Dai Ching and a tug on the Combahee to assist the move at the ferry.  The Sonoma is in the North Edisto, and the Pawnee leaves at early light with a tug to the Ashepoo, where a battery and obstructions are reported.

"The orders of all is to drive in the rebel pickets and knock down his batteries where they can be reached.  The Tuscorora, Mingoe, State of Georgia, and Nipsic are at Georgetown with orders to prevent erection there of any batteries.

"The Pontiac is in the Savannah River at Purysburg, advancing with General Sherman's extreme left.  The demonstration desired by General Sherman at Charleston may be said to be begun by the collection there of so many ironclads.

--Old B-Runner

New Commander for West Gulf Blockading Squadron: Keep an Eye on the Rio Grande

JANUARY 24TH, 1865:  Secretary Welles ordered Commodore Henry K. Thatcher to relieve Commodore James S. Palmer as Commander, West Gulf Blockading Squadron.  Welles cautioned Thatcher that the "Rio Grande is a great avenue through which supplies of every description reach the insurgents.

"Being a neutral highway, unscrupulous parties avail themselves of it to enrich themselves and aid the rebel cause.   ...But by vigilance and the maintenance of an adequate blockading fleet in the vicinity of the mouth of the river and in the route to and from Havana this trade may be seriously interrupted."

--Old B-R'er

Vice Admiral Farragut to James River

JANUARY 24TH, 1865:  President Lincoln dispatched Farragut to the James River to investigate the withdrawal of the Union squadron in the face of the offensive movement by the Confederate flotilla.  The Admiral's son, Loyall, later wrote: "Late in December, 1864, the Richmond papers announced a movement was on foot which would astonish the world.

"This turned out to be a scheme for the Confederate iron-clads and gunboats in the James to descend the river, break through the obstructions at Howlett's, destroy the pontoon bridges at Aiken's Landing, and cut off both the Army of the James and the Army of the Potomac (the former being on the left bank, and the latter on the right) from their base of supplies at City Point."

However, upon Farragut's arrival on the scene the next day, 25th, he found that the Confederate thrust had been turned back and the emergency had passed.  The gap in the obstructions which the Southerners had threatened to pass was filled with sunken coal barges, and, as young Farragut remarked, "the Confederate opportunity was lost forever."

Finding the Union naval force in firm control of the lower river, Vice Admiral Farragut returned to Washington.

I imagine the admiral also had orders to take control of the situation if it proved to ve perilous for the Union.

--Old B-Runner

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Confederate Torpedo Boat St. Patrick Attacks USS at Mobile Bay: Grabbing the 'Stack

JANUARY 28TH, 1865: Confederate torpedo boat St. Patrick, Lt. John T. Walker, struck USS Octorara, Lt.Cmdr. Low, but her spar torpedo failed to explode.  Although attacked by ship guns and small arms fire, Walker was able to bring St. Patrick safely back under the Mobile batteries.

A Northern correspondent wrote: "The intrepidity of the captain of the after-guard is worthy of the highest of the highest praise.  Though all expected momentarily to be blown up, this man, seeing how readily they could gain an advantage over the enemy by prompt action, grasped her smoke-pipe  as it came by the guards of the ship, at the same time crying out lustily for a rope to make the devil fast with.

"The remaining sailors, acting under different impulses, recoiled to the opposite side of the deck.Several shots were fired at this brave man, and as his exertions were hardly sufficient to retain his hold upon the hot pipe, he preferred to let go rather than be dragged overboard."

Who Was That Brave Man?  --Old B-Runner


CSS Stonewall Sorties

JANUARY 24TH, 1865:  At mid-morning, the CSS Stonewall, Captain T.J. Page, put into Quiberon Bay to rendezvous with the blockade-runner  City of Richmond.  The two ships remained there until January 28th when the Stonewall, still short on coal but unable to obtain more, "considered it prudent to sail."

The City of Rchmond remained with the ironclad, but by the morning of the 30th had become separated by five miles in heavy weather.  Page signaled Commander davidson on the City of Richmond that he was short of coal and intended to put into Ferrol, Spain.  The City of Richmond continued on to Bermuda.

--Old B-R'er

Future Confederate Gunboat Ajax Leaves Dublin, Ireland

JANUARY 22, 1865:  The steamer Ajax, with Lt. John Low, CSN, aboard as a "passenger", put out of Dublin, Ireland, for Nassau.  The Ajax had been built for the Confederacy in Dumbarton, Scotland, for use in harbor defense.

She had been detained in Dublin for more than a week because the U.S. Consul there suspected that the light draft vessel was bound for the South.  However, two inspections failed to substantiate this belief and the 340 ton would-be gunboat was released.

Nevertheless, Charles F. Adams, the American Ambassador in England, and Secretary of State Seward prevailed upon British Foreign Minister Earl Russell to prevent the armament of Ajax in Halifax, Bermuda, or Nassau.

--Too Late Anyway.  --Old B-R'er

Blockade Runners Captured in Louisiana and Florida

JANUARY 22ND, 1865:  A boat expedition from the USS Chocura, Lt.Cmdr. Meade, Jr., captured blockade running schooner Delphina by boarding in Calcasieu River, Louisiana.  She was carrying a cargo of cotton.

JANUARY 23, 1865:  USS Fox seized British schooner Fannie McRae near the mouth of the Warrior River, Florida, where she was preparing to run the blockade.

O Boy, Prize Money!  --Old B-Runner

Information On Union Disposition Along James River Before the Ironclad Attack

JANUARY 20TH, 1865: Flag Officer Mitchell wrote Major James F. Milligan of the Confederate signal corps seeking information "as to the number and disposition of the enemy's ironclads, gunboats, armed transports, torpedo boats, and vessels generally on the James...."

The commander of the Confederacy's James River Squadron was readying his ships for a thrust down the James River at the Union supply base at City Point at the time.

That attack came Jan. 23-24th and ended in failure.

--Old B-R'er

Rear Admiral Porter Reports to Welles About Fort Fisher

JANUARY 17TH, 1865:  Rear Admiral Porter wrote to Secretary Welles regarding Fort Fisher:  I have since visited Fort Fisher and the adjoining works, and find their strength greatly beyond what I had conceived; an engineer might be excusable in saying they could not have be captured except by regular siege.  I wonder even now how it was done.

"The work... is really stronger than the Malakoff Tower, which defied so long the combined power of France and England, and yet was captured by a handful of men under fire of the guns of the fleet, and in seven hours after the attack commenced in earnest."

"He concluded his report by proclaiming that Wilmington was hermetically sealed against blockade runners, "and no Alabamas or Floridas, Chickamaugas or Tallahassees will ever fit out again from this port, and our merchant vessels very soon, I hope, will be enabled to pursue in safety their avocation."

But, Admiral, the fort was taken by considerably more than a handful of men, about 10,000 to be more precise, and the Alabama and Florida never even visited Wilmington, though the Florida's commander was mainly John N. Maffitt from Wilmington.

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Capture of the CSS Scorpion on the James River

JANUARY 27, 1865:  After dark, a launch commanded by Acting Ensign Thomas Morgan from the USS Eutaw proceeded up the James River past the obstructions at Trent's Reach and captured the torpedo boat CSS Scorpion.  The boat had run aground during the Confederate attack downriver of the 23rd and 24th of January and had been abandoned after Union mortar fire destroyed the CSS Drewry which was similarly stranded nearby.

Morgan reported: "Finding her hard aground, I immediately proceeded to get her afloat and succeeded in doing so, and repassed the obstructions on my return to the fleet about 10:30 p.m.."

The Scorpion was found to be little damaged by the explosion of the Drewry, contrary to Confederate reports and Chief Engineer Alexander Henderson, who examined her, reported approvingly:  "She has fair speed for a boat of her kind, and is well adapted for the purpose for which she was built."

The Scorpion was reported to be 46 feet in length, 6 feet 3 inches beam, and 3 feet 9 inches in depth.

Sounded like this would have been a good job for Cushing had he been in the area.

--Old B-R'er

Catching Up On Events of January

I really got behind on the daily naval events this month because of Fort Fisher.

Right now, I am going back for some events and ending my daily posts with one thing happening this date.

--Old B-Runner

Blockade Runner City of Richmond Arrives in France for Rendezvous With CSS Stonewall

JANUARY 20TH, 1865:  The blockade runner City of Richmond, Commander Davidson, anchored in Quiberon Bay, France, to wait the arrival of the CSS Stonewall.  Davidson permitted no communication with the shore in order to preclude the possibility of others learning that the ironclad would rendezvous with him and effect a transfer of men and supplies.

Flag Officer Barron described the Stonewall as "a vessel more formidable than any we have yet afloat."

The same day, Flag officer Barron reported to Secretary Mallory that he had ordered Commanders James H. North and G.T. Sinclair and Lt.Cmdr. C.M. Morris, Confederate agents abroad to return to the Confederacy "...there being in my judgement no prospect for any duty for them."

--Old B-R'er

Fort Fisher Monitors Arrive at Charleston: Fear of Confederate Torpedoes

JANUARY 19TH, 1865:  The monitors USS Canonicus, Mahopac and Monadnock, having arrived at Charleston, receive orders from Rear Admiral Dahlgren showing his concern for the threat of Confederate torpedoes: "You will lose no time in securing the Canonicus against the possible action of the rebel torpedo boats; temporary fenders must be used until permanent fixtures can be provided.

"Boat patrol must be used with vigilance, and such other measures resorted to as are in common practice here."

These three monitors had participated in both attacks on Fort Fisher.

It is surprising that these monitors would be sent to Charleston when the threat of Confederate naval attack where they were formerly stationed on the James River in Virginia was such a threat.

--Old B-Runner

Cushing Hoists U.S. Flag Over Fort Caswell

JANUARY 18TH, 1865:  Lt.Cmdr. William B. Cushing, commanding the USS Monticello, landed at Fort Caswell, hoisted the Stars and Stripes, and took possession of it for the United States.

Fort Caswell was located at the western entrance to the Cape Fear River leading to Wilmington, North Carolina.

--Old B-R'er

Impact of the Blockade on the Confederacy

JANUARY 18TH, 1865:  J.B. Jones, a clerk in the Confederate War Department, wrote in his diary: "No war news.  But blockade-running at Wilmington has ceased; and common calico, bow at $25 per yard, will soon be $50.... Flour is $1250 per barrel, to-day."  Only five days before he had recorded: "Beef (what little there is in market) sells to-day at $6 per pound; meal, $80 per bushel, white beans, $5 per quart, or $160 per bushel."

The figures bore eloquent witness to the decisive role played by Federal seapower on the collapse of the Confederacy.  A giant amphibious assault had closed Wilmington, General Lee's last hope for sufficient supplies to sustain his soldiers.

Control of the Mississippi River and the western tributaries by Union warships, coupled with the South's weak railway system, prevented the transfer of men and supplies to the crumbling military situation in the East.

Thus, blockade of the coasts and continuing attack from afloat as well as land surrounded and divided the South and hastened its economic, financial, and psychological deterioration.  Just as civilians lived in deep privation, so, too, were the armies of the Confederacy gravely weakened from a shortage of munitions, equipment, clothing and food.

You have to wonder how bad the morale of the people of the Confederacy was at this point when there was no way they had a chance to achieve their independence.  The big wonder is how they even managed to fight on for another three months.

--Old B-Runner

Monday, January 26, 2015

Loss of the USS Dai Ching

JANUARY 26TH, 1865:  The USS Dai Ching, operating on the right flank of General Sherman's Army crossing through the state of South Carolina on the Combahee River, ran aground while engaging Confederate batteries.

After a seven hour battle, and only after all her guns were out of operation, the Dai Ching was abandoned and fired by her crew.  The tug USS Clover, which had been along with the Dai Ching, captured blockade-runner Coquette with a cargo of cotton.

--Old B-R'er

Confederate Attack Down the James River-- Part 2: Grounded Out

JANUARY 23-24, 1865:  This serious Confederate thrust, however, came to naught when both the Virginia No. 2 and the Richmond ran aground while passing the obstructions at Trent's Reach and were brought under heavy fire from Union sore batteries.  Gunboat CSS Drewry and torpedo boat Scorpion also went aground.

The Drewry was shattered by an explosion resulting from a mortar shell penetrating her magazine, and the Scorpion, thought to be damaged by that nearby explosion, was abandoned.

The USS Onondaga, flagship of Parker's squadron, returned to Trent's Reach the following morning and took the stranded Confederate ironclads under fire.  Her 15-inch Dahlgren guns spoke with devastating effect, and the damaged Virginia No. 2 and Richmond withdrew upriver as soon as they were refloated.

Although Parker was severely criticized for failing to engage the Confederates at once, the war's last battle of ironclads ended favorably for the North.  Grant's supply line remained unbroken and he could move inexorably toward Richmond.  Control of the James and Potomac Rivers was of inestimable value to the North.

--Old B-Runner

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Confederate Attack Down the James River-- Part 1

JANUARY 23-24, 1865:  Flag Officer Mitchell's James River Squadron launched its downstream assault against the Union fleet still in the river.  The fleet had been depleted with many ships taking part in the attack on Fort Fisher, so there was great hope of success.

The Union fleet there only had one double turreted monitor, the USS Onondaga and ten gunboats, while the Confederate fleet had three ironclads and eight gunboats.

The Union fleet withdrew upon the Confederate advance.  Commodore W.A. Parker explained that he moved downstream "because I thought there would be more room to maneuver the Onondaga and to avoid the batteries bearing on Dutch Gap."

--Old B-R'er

Mitchell Unable to Pass Obstructions on James River

JANUARY 22ND, 1865:  Flag Officer Mitchell of the Confederate James River Squadron reported that he was unable to get underway to pass the obstructions at Trent's Reach as he had planned because of heavy fog.  Mitchell had also received no report from Boatswain Thomas Gauley, whom he had dispatched on the 21st to remove Confederate torpedoes that had been placed in the channel near Howlett's Landing.

He wrote Major General Pickett: "To-morrow night, if the weather is sufficiently clear for the pilots to see their way, our movement will be made, and I will be glad to have your cooperation as agreed upon for to-night."

A successful downriver thrust by Mitchell's squadron could spell a major setback for the Union cause as General Grant would be deprived of his great water-supplied base at City Point and his armies would be divided by Confederate control of the James River.

A Move Against the Enemy Imminent.  --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Confederate Steamer Granite City Chased Ashore in Texas

JANUARY 21ST, 1865:  The USS Penguin chased steamer Granite City ashore off Velasco, Texas.  The blockade runner was under the protection of Confederate shore batteries.

The Penguin's commander reported that he was "of the opinion that the steamer could not be got off, and would eventually go to pieces, as there was a heavy sea rolling in and continually breaking over her, I did not think it was prudent to remain longer under the enemy's fire, as their guns were of longer range than ours."

--Old B-Runner

Confederate Steamers Granite City and Wave Run Louisiana Blockade

JANAUARY 17-19TH, 1865:  Confederate steamers Granite City and Wave (ex-U.S. Navy ships captured May 6, 1864) elude the USS Chocura, Lt.Cmdr. Richard W. Meade, Jr., on a "dark, foggy, and rainy" night and escaped from Calcasieu Pass, Louisiana.  The Granite City was reported to carry no cargo, but the Wave had a load of lumber for the Rio Grande.

Meade gave chase for 60 miles, "but our boilers being in disabled condition, and leaking badly, the speed of the ship was so much reduced that I reluctantly gave up hope of overtaking the Granite City before she could make a port."

Fix My Ship!!  --Old B-R'er

Action in Alabama and Florida

JANUARY 17TH, 1865:  Naval forces of the Mississippi Squadron cooperated with Army cavalry in a successful attack on the town of Somerville, Alabama.  They expedition resulted in the capture of 90 prisoners, 150 horses and one piece of artillery.

Two armed boats from the USS Honeysuckle captured the British blockade running schooner Augusta at the mouth of the Suwanee River with cargo of pig lead, flour, gunny cloth and coffee.

--Ole B-Runner

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Regulating Vessel Movement on the Cape Fear River Above Fort Fisher

JANUARY 22ND, 1865:  Rear Admiral Porter ordered Commander John Guest of the USS Iosco, to "regulated the movements of the vessels in the Cape Fear River above Fort Fisher...."

Porter sought to move the line of ships as near Fort Anderson, the position to which the Confederates had withdrawn following the fall of Fort fisher and adjacent forts, "as is consistent with safety, and in doing so care must be taken of the torpedoes and other obstructions."

The same day, the USS Pequot, Lt.Cmdr. Daniel L. Braine, steamed upriver and opened on Fort Anderson to reconnoiter and test its defenses.  The Confederates brought only two "small rifle pieces" in action, but, Braine reported: "I observed 6 guns, evidently smoothbore, pointing down the river, protected by the ordinary sand traverses."

Having sealed off Wilmington, the last major port of the South, the Union was now moving to occupy it.

Had they done so earlier than they did in late February, they would have captured a whole lot more supplies destined for Lee's Army which was in the process now of being hurriedly evacuated.

--Old B-Runner

23rd Army Corps Reach Cincinnati

JANUARY 21ST, 1865:  Elements of Major General Schofield's 23rd Army Corps disembark from transports at Cincinnati, Ohio, which they had reached in five days via the Tennessee and Ohio rivers from Clifton, Tennessee (See Jan. 16th in this blog).  The troops entrained for Washington, D.C., Alexandria, Virginia, and Annapolis, Maryland, where the first groups arrived Jan. 31st.

They were later by transport ships to the Cape Fear River for operations against Wilmington.

--Old B-R'er

Two Blockade-Runners Run Into Cape Fear and Get Captured

JANUARY 20, 1865: Blockade-Runners Stag and Charlotte, unaware that Fort Fisher and fortifications of the Cape Fear River had fallen, anchored in the harbor of Smithville near the USS Malvern, flagship of Rear Admiral Porter (which had been a former blockade-runner itself), and were captured.

Porter wrote: "I intrusted this duty to Lt. [Commander] Cushing, who performed it with his usual good luck and intelligence.  They are very fast vessels and valuable prizes."

Earlier I had written that Porter had insisted that the lights used for the blockade-runners be kept on in case something like this might happen.

The Stag was commanded by Lt. Richard H. Gayle, CSN, who had previously been captured while commanding the blockade-runner Cornubia on 8 November 1863.
The Ruse Worked.  --Old B-Runner

Monday, January 19, 2015

Blockade-Runner Chameleon Runs Into Cape Fear and Then Out Again

JANUARY 19TH, 1865:  The blockade-runner Chameleon (formerly the raiser CSS Tallahassee) under Lt. John Wilkinson, from Bermuda ran into the Cape Fear River loaded to the rails with commissary stores and provisions for General Lee's Army.

The ship had departed on this special  mission on December 24, 1864, during the First Battle of Fort Fisher.

Upon his return, Wilkinson successfully ran the blockade again (as he had done on 21 separate occasions during 1863 in the blockade-runner Robert E. Lee) and had entered the harbor before learning that Union forces had captured Fort Fisher during his absence.

The Chameleon reversed course and rushed safely back out to the sea.

He gave credit to his escape only because the ship had twin screws, which "enabled our steamer to turn as if on pivot in the narrow channel between the bar and the rip."

After an unsuccessful attempt to enter Charleston and in the absence of orders from Secretary Mallory, Wilkinson took the Chameleon to Liverpool and turned the ship over to Commander Bulloch, the Confederate naval agent.  Ironically, he arrived on 9 April, the same day Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox.

Quite An Escapade.  --Old B-R'er

Lights Out for Fort Fisher-- Part 3; The Naval Attack Fizzles

JANUARY 15TH, 1865:

Continuing with the Naval Column.

Some 60 men under Lt.Cmdr. Thomas O. Selfridge reached and broke through the palisade, but it was the high water mark of the attack.  They were hurled back and others recoiled under the withering fire coming at them from atop the fort's parapets.

Ensign Evans wrote: "All the officers in their anxiety to be the first into the fort, had advanced to the heads of the columns, leaving no one to steady the men in behind; and it was in this way we were defeated, by the men breaking for the rear."

The significance of the naval attack was perceived by Confederate Col. Lamb when he wrote that "their gallant attempt enabled the army to enter and obtain a foothold, which they otherwise could not have done."

It seems that this naval assault had a lot to do with the Navy capturing the fort instead of the Army.

--Old B-Runner

Bragg Orders Evacuation of Remaining Fortifications at Mouth of Cape Fear River

JANUARY 16TH, 1865:  With Fort Fisher lost and foreseeing the Union fleet's entrance into the Cape Fear River would cut his waterborne communications system, General Bragg ordered the evacuation of the remaining Confederate positions at the mouth of the river.

At 7 a.m. Forts Caswell and Campbell were abandoned and destroyed.  Fort Holmes on Smith's Island and Fort Johnson at Smithville were likewise destroyed by the retreating garrisons, which fell back on Fort Anderson, on the west bank of the Cape Fear River between Fort Fisher and Wilmington.

One Confederate wrote: "The Yankees have made a barren capture...."  In fact, however, Wilmington, the last major port open to blockade runners, was now effectively sealed and General Lee was cut off from his only remaining supply line from Europe.

Rear Admiral Porter was only too aware of the import of this capture and wrote Captain Godon:  "...the death knell of another fort is booming in the distance.  Fort Caswell with its powerful batteries is in flames and being blown up, and thus is sealed the door through which this rebellion is fed."

A Really Big Loss.  --Old B-R'er

Sherman Want Dahlgren's Cooperation

JANUARY 17TH, 1865:  Delayed in departure from Savannah, General Sherman wrote Rear Admiral Dahlgren: "When we are known to be in rear of Charleston, about Branchville and Orangeburg, it will be well to watch if the enemy lets go of Charleston, in which case Foster will occupy it, otherwise the feint should be about Bull's Bay.

"We will need no cover about Port Royal; nothing but the usual guard ships.  I think that you will concur with me that, in anticipation of the movement of my army to the rear of the coast, it will be unwise to subject your ships to the heavy artillery of the enemy or to his sunken torpedoes.

"I will instruct Foster, when he knows I have got near Branchville, to make a landing of a small force at Bull's Bay, to threaten, and it may be occupy, the road from Mount Pleasant to Georgetown.  This will make the enemy believe I design to turn down against Charleston and give me a good offing for Wilmington.

"I will write you again fully on the eve of starting in person."

So, Sherman had no plans to attack Charleston from the rear.

--Old B-Runner

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Lights Out at Fort Fisher-- Part 2: "Under a Perfect Hail of Lead"

JANUARY 15TH, 1865:

The Naval Brigade Attacks.

The Union attack land attack on the fort consisted of two columns who were supposed to strike at the same time, but the naval one, approaching along the beach targeting the Northeast Bastion, where the land and sea faces joined, got off first.

Ensign "Fighting Bob" Evans, later Rear Admiral, suffered four wounds in the attack, two that crippled his legs.  He later vividly described the naval assault: "About five hundred yards from the fort, the head of the column suddenly stopped, and, as if by magic,  the whole mass of men went down like a row of falling bricks....

"The officers called on the men, and they responded instantly, starting forward as fast as they could go.  At about three hundred yards they again went down, this time under the effect of canister added to the rifle fire.  Again we rallied them, and once more started to the front under a perfect hail of lead, with men dropping rapidly in every direction."

A Lot Different From Fighting On Ships.  --Old B-Runner

Fooling the Blockade-Runners at Fort Fisher

JANUARY 17TH, 1865:  Knowing that many blockade-runners, unaware of Fort Fisher's fall, would attempt to run into the river, Porter ordered the signal lights on the Mound "properly trimmed and lighted, as has been the custom with the rebels during the blockade."

He added: " "Have the lights lighted tonight and see that no vessel inside displays a light, and be ready to grab anyone who enters."

Three days later the admiral's resourcefulness paid dividends with the capture of two runners.

--Old B-R'er

Lincoln "Was Happy" to Learn of Fort Fisher's Capture

JANUARY 17TH, 1865:  News of the capture of Fort Fisher reached Washington and talk of the Army-Navy success dominated President Lincoln's cabinet meeting.

Secretary Welles noted in his dairy: "The President was happy."

According to the recent "Lincoln" movie, the president was closely following reports of the attack on Fort Fisher in the War Department telegraph room.

--Old B-Runner

Union 23rd Corps Leaves Tennessee for Wilmington

JANUARY 16TH, 1865:  The Twenty-Third Army Corps, Major General John Schofield, commenced embarking on transports at Clifton, Tennessee.  The corps had been ordered by General Grant to move by water and rail to the Washington, D.C.-Annapolis area and thence by water south for further action.  That action would be the capture of Wilmington and forming a juncture with Sherman's northward moving army.

It must have been nice to have such control of the water and transportation as the North had.

----Old B-R'er

Mallory Wants Attack on City Point-- Part 2

JANUARY 16TH, 1865:  City Point was essential to Grant's anticipated movement on Richmond.  The supplies to Union  soldiers on the Petersburg front reached City Point by water, assured of free passage by the Navy, and then were sent to the front by rail.  If the North was forced to abandon the base at City Point, it might also have to abandon a spring offensive against the Confederate capital.

Mallory added: "I regard an attack upon the enemy and the obstructions of the river at City Point, to cut off Grant's supplies, as a movement of the first importance to the country and one which should be accomplished if possible."

Mitchell replied that he was having the obstructions examined to ensure Read's report was correct.  "Should information be obtained that the passage of these obstructions is practicable I shall gladly incur all the hazards that may attend the proposed enterprise that promises, if successful, such bright results for our cause."

In Other Words, get a Move On.  --Old B-Runner


Friday, January 16, 2015

Big Explosions Mark Beginning and End at Fort Fisher

JANUARY 16TH, 1865.

The first attack on Fort Fisher was marked with the explosion of Gen. Butler's powder ship, the USS Louisiana.

The morning after the conclusion of the Second Battle of Fort Fisher, Union soldiers or sailors, either exploring for souvenirs or in a drunken stupor, managed to ignite the main powder magazine at Fort Fisher by the Northeast bastion.  The huge explosion killed around 200 Union and Confederates.

--Old B-R'er

Mallory Wants James River Squadron to Attack While Union Ships at Fort Fisher-- Part 1

JANUARY 16TH, 1865:  Seeking to take advantage of the reduced Union naval strength on the James River, Secretary Mallory wrote Flag Officer Mitchell to encourage him to pass the obstructions at Trent's Reach and attack General Grant's base of operations at City Point.

Mallory wrote: "From Lieutenant Read I learn that the hulk which lay across the channel [at Trent's Reach] and the net also have been washed away, and I think it probable that there is a passage through the obstructions.  I deem the opportunity a favorable one for striking a blow at the enemy, if we are able to do so.

"In a short time many of his vessels will have returned to the river from Wilmington and he will again perfect his obstructions.  If we can block the river at or below City point, Grant might be compelled to evacuate his position."

--Old B-Runner

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Lights Out for Fort Fisher, Jan. 15, 1865-- Part 1: Initial Success for Confederates

JANUARY 15, 1865:  The bombardment continued on the third day as Union troops and sailors and Marines prepared to attack the fort's land face.  At 3 p.m., the signal to cease firing was sent to the fleet with the whistles of the ships and everyone started forward.  The troops attacked the fort at where the land face met the Cape Fear River.  The sailors and Marines of the Naval Brigade dashed across the open beach attacking the Northeast Bastion.

The defenders of the fort opened a point-blank concentrated fire on the Naval Brigade "ploughing lanes in the ranks."  Leading the assault, Lt. Samuel W. Preston, one of the Navy's ablest young officers, and Lt. Benjamin H. Porter (no relation to the admiral), the commanding officer of Porter's flagship, the USS Malvern, were among those killed.

The assault continued under command of Lt. Cmdr. K. Randolph Breese.

Ensign Robley D. Evans, later to become a Rear Admiral with the well-earned sobriquet "Fighting Bob"--  suffered four wounds, two crippling his legs.

--Old B-R'er

Loss of the Monitor USS Patapsco at Charleston

JJANUARY 15, 1865:

At tne request of Sherman, Rear Admiral Dahlgren of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, issued orders to prepare a combined naval and military demonstration before Charleston to draw attention away from Sherman's March through the Carolinas.

Before making it, though, it was necessary to locate and mark numerous obstructions in Charleston Harbor.  Orders were issued to the monitors to do this.

That evening, while doing this, the monitor USS Patapsco, Lt. Cmdr. Stephen P. Quackenbush, struck a torpedo (mine) near the entrance of the lower harbor and sank instantly with the loss of 64 officers and men, more than half her crew.

She was the fourth monitor lost in the war, the second due to Confederate torpedoes.

Thereafter, only small boats and tugs were used in the search for obstructions.  The objective of the expedition was changed to Bull's Bay, a few miles northeast of Charleston.

--Old B-Runner

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Beginning of the End for Fort Fisher-- Part 2: Day 2, Jan. 15, 1865

The monitors had maintained a harassing fire during the night of the 13th-morning of the 14th.  Then, at daylight of the second day of the attack, the fleet's big guns reopened the bombardment in full fury.

General W.H.C. Whiting who had come to "counsel" with Colonel Lamb and share his fate inside the fort, remarked: "It was beyond description, no language can describe that terrific bombardment."

The Confederates were hardly able to bury their dead, much less repair the works, as the fleet poured its shells in, according to one estimate,100 shells a minute.  The defenders suffered some 300 casualties from the naval bombardment and had but one gun on the land face of the fort still serviceable.

During the day, the CSS Chickamauga fired on the recently landed Federal troops from her position in the Cape Fear River, but on the 15th, the USS Monticello, Lt. Cmdr. William B. Cushing, drove the former Confederate raider out of range.(firing over the peninsula).

On the evening of the 14th, General Terry visited Porter on the flagship USS Malvern, and the two planned the timing of the next day's operations.  The fleet would maintain its bombardment until the moment of the attack in mid-afternoon.  Then half of the 8,000 soldiers would assault the land face at the western end (by the Cape Fear River).  At the same time, some 2,000 sailors and Marines would attack the "Northeast Bastion."  The remaining troops would hold the defensive line against a possible attack from Wilmington.

It's About All Over Now.  --Old B-Runner

Fort Fisher's Historic Importance Largely Forgotten-- Part 1

From the Jan. 11, 2015, Fayetteville (NC) Observer by Chick Jacobs.

People thinking about the Civil War in North Carolina most-often think of the name Sherman.  Fort Fisher might even be an afterthought, but usually isn't.  However, historians believe it to be "one of the pivotal conflicts of the war."

It is still largely unknown outside of the state.

Jim Leutze, former chancellor of the UNC Wilmington is on the advisory board for the proposed North Carolina Civil War History Center in Fayetteville, gives two reasons for this:

1.  Much of the fort is gone.
2.  There was a lack of drama as the war was about over and there were no dramatic figures (like a Lee or Grant), involved in it.

Without a doubt, General Sherman benefited a whole lot from its fall.

Even though most of the fort is gone, under the waters of the Atlantic, we have a great idea of what it looked like because of the many photographs taken of it after its capture.

--Old B-R'er

Blockade Runner Lelia Founders

JANUARY 14TH, 1865:  Blockade Runner Lelia foundered off the mouth of the Mersey River, England.  Flag Officer Barron wrote Secretary Mallory from Paris: "The melancholy duty devolves  on me of reporting the death on the 14th instant, by drowning of Commander Arthur Sinclair and Gunner P.C. Cuddy, late of the Alabama."

Commander Hunter Davidson, learning of the accident while in Funchal, Madeira, early in February, commented: "What an awful thing the loss of the Lelia.  To death in battle we become reconciled, for it is not unexpected and leaves its reward; but such a death for poor Sinclair, after forty-two years' service...!"

Also, this date:  The USS Seminole captured schooner Josephine bound from Galveston to Matamoras with cargo of cotton.

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Beginning of the End for Fort Fisher-- Part 1: January 13, 1865

From the Civil War Naval Chronology.

JANUARY 13TH, 1865:  Early on the morning of the 13th, the second amphibious assault on Fort Fisher was begun.  Rear Admiral  Porter took some 59 warships into action.  Major General Alfred Terry commanded 8,000 soldiers.  The naval landing party of 2,000 sailors and Marines would raise the assaulting force to 10,000.  Colonel Lamb's valiant defenders in the fort numbered just 1,500.

The USS New Ironsides led the monitors USS Saugus, Canonicus, Monadnock and Mahopac to within 1000 yards of Fort Fisher and opened on its batteries.  A spirited engagement ensued.

Porter wrote to Secretary Welles:  "It was soon quite apparent that the iron vessels had the best of it; traverses began to disappear and the southern angle of Fort Fisher commenced to look very dilapidated."

The USS Brooklyn and Colorado led the heavy wooden warships into the battle and the Federal fleet maintained a devastating bombardment throughout the day until after dark.

In the meantime, General Terry selected a beachhead out of the fort's gun range and made naturally defensible on the northern side by a line of swamps and woods across the peninsula where he landed his 8,000 troops unopposed.

By daybreak on the 14th he had thrown up a line of defensive breastworks facing Wilmington in order to protect his rear from possible attack by the 6,000 Confederate troops stationed in that city under the command of General Braxton Bragg.

Porter wrote to Welles:  "We have a respectable force landed on a strip of land, which our naval guns completely command, and a place of defense which would enable us to hold on against a very large army."

And, Bragg did nothing to oppose the landing.

Goodbye Fort Fisher, Thanks a Lot, Bragg.  --Old B-Runner

Fort Fisher Observance This Weekend-- Part 2: Books on the Battle

Steven Spielberg's 2012 film "Lincoln" really featured the fort with Lincoln and his cabinet closely following incoming action reports in the War Department's telegraph room in Washington, D.C..  No doubt, this sent some historians scrambling looking to find out more about it.

There were no in depth books written solely about Fort Fisher and Wilmington until the 1970s .  Aware of this, it was one of my goals to write that first book and I had collected a lot of information.  However, Rod Gragg published a book and since then, there have been several books on the subject.  I didn't have to write that book.

I was always angry at my professors when they wouldn't let me write my Master's thesis on the battle.  I ended up doing it on the impact of the blockade on the Confederacy's food supply as a way to somewhat get around their ban.

--Old B-R'er

Fort Fisher Observance This Weekend-- Part 1

From the December 16, 2014, Jacksonville (NC) Daily News "150 Years after Fort Fisher fight, the Civil War is big business" by Ben Steelman.

The official observance of the Second Battle of Fort Fisher and its capture will be observed this weekend, January 17-18.  .  It is titled "Nor Shall Your Glory Be Forgot."  This is a line from Theodore O'Hara's poem "The Bivouac of the Dead."

More than 300 re-enactors will be on hand.  Some 7,500 visitors came to the 145th anniversary and between 10,000 to 15,000 are expected for the sesquicentennial.

Outside of southeastern North Carolina, Fort Fisher has "sometimes seemed like one of the Civil War's best kept secrets."  Pick up a Civil War textbook or history and you usually will find no mention of the fort.  Ken Burns in his"Civil War" mini series on PBS summed the battle and importance up in barely a sentence.  And, there was no mention whatsoever in his accompanying book.

--Old B-Runner

Monday, January 12, 2015

Porter's "Great Armada" Departs from Beaufort

JANUARY 12TH, 1865:  The "Great Armada," as Col. Lamb described Rear Admiral Porter's fleet, got underway from Beaufort, North Carolina, where a rendezvous had been made with 8,000 Union troops under the command of Major General Terry.

The fleet, up to that time the largest American force to be assembled under one command, proceeded along the Carolina coast northeast of Wilmington and arrived off Fort Fisher that same night.  Preparations were made for commencing a naval bombardment the following morning and for the amphibious landing of 10,000 soldiers, sailors and Marines.

It's About Here.  --Old B-Runner

CSS Columbia's Career Cut Short By Running Aground in Charleston

JANUARY 12TH, 1865:  The new and formidable Confederate ram Columbia, ready for service, grounded while coming out of her dock in Charleston.  Extensive efforts to refloat her failed and she was abandoned when Charleston was evacuated in mid-February.

The Columbia was saved by Union forces after much effort and refloated on 26 April.

Rear Admiral Dahlgren described the ram: "She is 209 feet long (extreme), beam 49 feet, has a casemate 65 feet long, pierced for six guns, one on each side and one at each of the four corners, pivots to point ahead or astern and to the side.

"She has two engines, high pressure, and [is] plated on the casemates with six inches of iron in thickness, quite equal, it is believed, to the best of the kind built by the rebels."

--Old B-R'er

The French and English Agree on Prizes

JANUARY 12TH, 1865:  James M. Mason, Confederate Commissioner in England,reported to Secretary of State Judah P. Benjamin, that France had proposed to Great Britain that each power permit Confederate prizes, having cargo in whole or part claimed by British of French citizens, to be taken for adjudication into ports of either nation.

--Old B-Runner

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Manning the Stonewall

JANUARY 10TH, 1865:  Bulloch wrote to Commander Hunter Davidson, one of the South's ablest naval officers who had directed the Torpedo Service and was now captain of the blockade runner City of Richmond, regarding an anticipated rendezvous between her and the Stonewall at Belle Ile, Quiberon Bay, France.

The City of Richmond carried officers and men as well as supplies for the Stonewall.  It was hoped the Stonewall could break the blockade at Wilmington and then attack New England shipping.

It sure would have been interesting to see what might have happened had the Stonewall arrived off Fort Fisher before or during the second attack on that fort.

--Old B-R'er


Confederates Obtain Ironclad Ram Stonewall

JANUARY 10, 1865:  Commander Bulloch wrote Secretary Mallory that he had obtained one of the French ironclads which Louis Napoleon, unwilling to provoke the United States government, had previously refused to release to the South.

The ironclad had been sold to Denmark for the Schleswig-Holstein War, but when that conflict ended abruptly before the ship could be delivered, the Danes refused to accept her, and she was sold secretly to the Confederacy.

Captain Thomas Jefferson Page took command of her in Copenhagen.  "I have requested Captain Page," Bulloch wrote, "to name the ironclad Stonewall, an appellation not inconsistent with her character, and one which will appeal to the feelings and sympathies of our people at home."

The Stonewall, with a temporary crew and under the name Spinx to divert suspicion as to her real ownership had departed from Copenhagen on 7 January.

And, of course, Stonewall Jackson.  --Old B-Runner


Friday, January 9, 2015

Upcoming Fort Fisher 150th Commemoration-- Part 1

From the Dec. 16, 2014, Jacksonville (NC) Daily News "150 years after Fort Fisher fight, Civil War is big business" by Ben Steelman.

In just a few weeks, Fort Fisher, North Carolina will be observing the Second Battle of Fort Fisher, the one that caused its surrender on January 15, 1865.  Historian Rowena Reed referred to this as "the largest amphibious operation in American history until the Allied invasion of Normandy, nearly 80 years later."

Sixty warships pounded the fort with thousands of shells.  Some 10,000 soldiers came ashore near Myrtle Sound (near Carolina Beach) and some 2000 sailors and Marines attacked the fort's 1500 defenders in a very hard fought, but lopsided battle in the Union favor.

The Friends of Fort Fisher(of which I am a member) is holding a reunion January 14-15 for descendants of the soldiers, sailors and Marines who fought at the battle on either side.  They had figured on having 50-60 attend, but so far they have 150 registered.

Those attending this will receive two days of VIP tours, lectures and presentations by conservators of the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh on how to save family papers and memorabilia.  (Hopefully new items will be found.)  These descendants will be encouraged to write down family oral history pertaining to Fort Fisher.

Wish I Could Be There.  --Old B-R'er

Confederate Agents Crossing the Potomac: Check Their Butttons

JANUARY 9TH, 1865:  Secretary Welles notified Commander F.A. Parker, commanding the Potomac Flotilla, of intelligence that Confederate agents enroute Richmond were crossing the Potomac River by India rubber boats at night in the vicinity of Port Tobacco, Maryland.

"These messengers," the report warned, "wear metal buttons, upon the inside of which dispatches are most minutely photographed, not perceptible to the naked eye, but are easily read bu the aid of a powerful lens."

Also, this date: The USS Wyalusing captured the schooner Triumph at the mouth of the Perquimans River, N.C., with a cargo including a large quantity of salt.

JANUARY 10TH, 1865:  The USS Valley City seized the steamer Philadelphia in the Chowan River, N.C., with cargo including tobacco and cotton.

--Old B-Runner

Thursday, January 8, 2015

New Confederate Warships Ajax and Hercules

JANUARY 8TH, 1865:  Commander James D. Bulloch, Confederate naval agent in England, ordered Lt. John Low, who had previously served aboard the CSS Alabama and as captain of the CSS Tuscaloosa, to assume command of the twin screw steamer Ajax, upon her arrival in Nassau.

Scheduled to sail from Glasgow on Jan. 12th, Ajax had been built in Scotland under a contract of 14 September 1864 and had been designated a tugboat "to deceive Federal spies".

Minor alterations were planned to make her--and her sister ship Hercules-- useful in the defense of Wilmington.  However, the Ajax never reached the Confederacy, and the Hercules was never completed.

On 1 March, Secretary Mallory wrote Bulloch: "A notice of the arrival of the Ajax at a port in Ireland has reached me through the United States papers, but no further advices as to her or the Hercules or other vessels have come to hand.

--Old B-R'er

Welles and Farragut Visit Lincoln

JANUARY 7, 1865: Secretary Welles and Vice Admiral Farragut visited President Lincoln in the White House.  The three discussed the capture of Mobile Bay which Farragut had led the previous August.

JANUARY 10TH, 1865:  The USS Valley City seized the steamer Philadelphia in the Chowan River, N.C., with a cargo including tobacco and cotton.

--Old-B-Runner

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Why I Have been Following the Civil War Naval Chronology So Closely

I did not start off to use this book at all, but then decided early on in this blog, back in 2012, to occasionally use it for big  "big events" and anything happening around Wilmington and the rest of North Carolina.

However, as I was looking at the book on a daily basis, I became aware that just concentrating on the big stuff and North Carolina was not sufficient to cover the true gamut of naval events so am now covering everything.

I understand that you can find whole months of the Civil War Naval Chronology printed on various sites around the internet, but this one breaks it down on a day-to-day basis, complete with headlines to make this more of an as-it-happened, in-real-time account of the often overlooked naval part of the war.

Plus, we are marking the 150th anniversary of the Civil War which ties in nicely.

--Old B-Runner

Porter Promises Cooperation With Sherman

"I have received a letter from Sherman.  he wants me to time my operations by his, which I think a good plan-- we will make a sure thing of it-- but the troops must be ready to strike at a moment's notice, and when the enemy least expects us.

"We will have the report spread that the troops are to cooperate with Sherman in the attack on Charleston.

"I hope Sherman will be allowed to carry out his plans-- he will have Wilmington in less than a month, and Charleston will fall like a ripe pear.  I expect you understand all this better than I do.

"I have made arrangements to keep communication open with Sherman from the time he starts."

--Old B-R'er

Sherman Contacts Dahlgren-- Part 2: Failure of First Fort Fisher Attack Due to Butler

Sherman continued with his thoughts about the first attack on Fort Fisher:  "The more I think about the affair at Wilmington the more I feel ashamed of the army there; but Butler is at fault, and he alone.

"Admiral Porter fulfilled his share to admiration.  I think the admiral will feel more confidence in my troops, as he saw us carry points on the Mississippi where he had silenced the fire.  All this will turn out for the best yet."

Sherman and Porter had worked closely together in operations along the Mississippi River earlier in the war.

--Old B-Runner

Sherman Contacts Dahlgren About His Plans-- Part 1

JANUARY 7TH, 1865:  General Sherman wrote something about his plans to Rear Admiral Dahlgren, revealing his understanding of the importance of sea communications and the support of concentrated naval gunfire where possible:

"The letter you send me is from Admiral Porter, at Beaufort, N.C..  I am not certain that there is a vessel in Port Royal from Admiral Porter, or I would write him.  If there be one to return to him I beg you to send this, with a request that I be advised as early as possible as to the condition of the railroad from Beaufort, N.C., back to New Berne;  and so on, toward Goldsboro;

"also all maps and information of the country above New Berne; how many cars and locomotives are available to us on that road; whether there is good navigation from Beaufort, N.C., via the Pamlico Sound, up the Neuse River, etc.

"I want Admiral Porter to know that I expect to be ready to move about the 15th; that I have one head of column across the Savannah River at this point; will soon have another at Port Royal Ferry, and expect to make another crossing at Sister's Ferry.

"I still adhere to my plan submitted to General Grant, and only await provisions and forage."

--Old B-R'er

Second Battle of Fort Fisher Timeline-- Part 2

JANUARY 15, 1865--  Midday--  Union bombardment had destroyed every gun on Fort Fisher's land face except two 8-inch Columbiads.

3:25 p.m.--  Naval landing party of 2,500 sailors and Marines who had landed earlier, attack the Northeast Bastion (where the sea and land faces of the fort came together) but are repulsed with heavy losses.

Simultaneously, a brigade of Ames' Division attacks the western end of the land face (by the Cape Fear River and succeed in getting into the fort.  A traverse to traverse battle then begins all the way eastward along the fort's land face.

9 p.m.--  Lamb and Whiting are both wounded and Major James Reilly assumes command of of worsening situation.  The fort's defenders are slowly pushed southward along the sea face of the fort to Battery Buchanan.

10 p.m.--  With no escape, Reilly surrenders the fort at Battery Buchanan.  Union ships fire off a huge fireworks display at the fort's surrender.

JANUARY 16, 1865--  The fort's main powder magazine explodes, killing about 250 Confederate prisoners and Union soldiers.

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Second Battle of Fort Fisher Timeline-- Part 1

JANUARY 12, 1865--  Colonel lamb sees the lights of the Union armada off his fort.

JANUARY 13, 1865--  7:30 a.m., Union fleet opens fire.

8 a,m,, Union forces start landing near Myrtle Sound, about a mile north of the previous landing spot.

Morning--  The 5,000 man Confederate division under Major General Robert F. Hoke arrives at Sugar Loaf (present-day Carolina Beach State Park).  Hoke decides to stay put and defend Wilmington.

JANUARY 14, 1865--  Union forces dig strong entrenchments across the peninsula to defend against a Confederate attack from Wilmington.  The bombardment continues.

--Old B-Runner

Monday, January 5, 2015

First Battle of Fort Fisher Timeline

From the December 16, 2014, Jacksonville (NC) Daily News.

DECEMBER 24, 1864: 1:46 a.m.--  The USS Louisiana explodes, much noise, little damage to Fort Fisher.

12:45 p.m. Delayed by morning fog, 64 vessels open fire and by dusk had fired 10,000 rounds of shot and shell.  Fort Fisher, with its 47 heavy guns and mortars, responds slowly while most men in bombproofs.

DECEMBER 25, 1864:

Daylight--  Shelling resumes and another 10,000 rounds fired that day.

2 p.m.--  Union troops ashore near the site of the present Kure Beach Pier.

Nightfall--  Brig. Gen. N. Martin Curtis orders a skirmish line witn three New York regiments to advance on the fort's land face.  Confederates fire on his troops.

DECEMBER 27, 1865

Last Union troops pulled off the beach and the fleet steams north.

--Old B-R'er

USS Indianola Refloated

JANUARY 5TH, 1865:  Acting Lieutenant James Lansing succeeded in refloating the USS Indianola in the Mississippi River.  It had been sunk by the Confederates nearly two years earlier and the Union had been attempting to float her ever since.

Rear Admiral Porter, who, as commander of the Mississippi Squadron and now was off Fort Fisher preparing his attack, had been particularly interested in salvaging the ironclad, warmly congratulated Lansing on his success:  "There are triumphs of skill such as you have displayed as glorious as if the result were from combat, and as such you have my highest commendations."

The Indianola was taken upriver to Mound City, Illinois, for repairs.

--Old B-Runner

Naval Situation of the James River-- Part 2: More Torpedoes and Obstructions

Mitchell continued:  "Would he be likely to do less on the James in any naval enterprise he undertakes against us?  Surely not, and we can never hope to encounter him on anything like equal terms, except by accident.  It behooves us, therefore, to bring to our aid all the means in our power to oppose his monitors in any advance they may attempt up the river."

He then recommended placing additional obstructions and torpedoes as the most reliable means of preventing a waterborne movement against Richmond.

However, he added that his own squadron, which was the largest and most formidable one at any point in the South, "will be expected to take a part, not only in opposing the advance of the enemy, but held in readiness to move and act in any direction whenever an opportunity offers to strike a blow."

Mitchell was to have his opportunity three weeks later.  With all but one of the monitors on the James River on the Fort Fisher expedition, there was never a better time to strike a blow.

--Old B-R'er

Naval Situation on James River-- Part 1

JANUARY 4, 1865:  The impact of Union seapower throughout the war strongly influenced the views of Confederate naval commanders as to their own capabilities.

This date, Flag Officer Mitchell, commanding the Confederate James River Squadron, expressed his estimate of the military situation on the river below Richmond: "The enemy, with his large naval establishment and unlimited transportation has, in all his expeditions against us, appeared in such overwhelming force as to render a successful resistance on the part of ours utterly out of the question, as witness his operations on the Mississippi from New Orleans up, and more recently at Mobile."

--Old B-R'er

Union Sea Power Again

JANUARY 3RD, 1865:  The USS Harvest Moon transported the first group of Sherman's men from Savannah, Georgia, to Beaufort, South Carolina, below Charleston.  Sherman had marched across Georgia from Atlanta to the sea where he knew the Navy would be able to supply and support his troops.

JANUARY 5TH, 1865:  A boat expedition from the USS Winnebago seized copper kettles used for distilling turpentine, 1300 pounds of copper pipes, and four sloop-rigged boats at Bon Secours Bay, Alabama.

--Old B-Runner

Operations of SABS-- Part 2

Dahlgren continued: "My cooperation will be confines to assistance in attacking Charleston or in establishing communication at Georgetown in case the army pushes on without attacking Charleston, and time alone will show which of these will eventuate.

"The weather of the winter, first, and the condition of the ground in the spring, would permit little advantage to be derived from the presence of the army at Richmond until the middle of May.  So that General Sherman has no reason to move in haste, but can chose such objects a she prefers, and take as much time as their attainment may demand."

Again, Sherman is not being real clear as to his eventual objective, but the navy will cooperate as much as possible.

--Old B-R'er

Operations of South Atlantic Blockading Squadron-- Part 1

JANUARY 3RD, 1865:  Rear Admiral Dahlgren returned to Savannah after a brief visit to Charleston where he had gone because of the threat of a breakout of the Confederate ironclads at that place.  He had been there to help check any attempt to breakout and then probably attack on Savannah and to insure "the perfect security of General Sherman's base."

After stationing a force of seven monitors at Charleston, sufficient to meet a breakout attempt, "and not perceiving any sign of the expected raid, I returned to Savannah to keep in communication with General Sherman and be ready to render any assistance that might be desired.

"General Sherman has fully informed me of his plans, and so far as my means permit, they shall not lack assistance by water....

"The general route of the army shall be northward, but the exact direction must be decided more or less by circumstances which it may not be possible to foresee."

--Old B-Runner


Saturday, January 3, 2015

Porter Orders a Naval Assault Column on Fort Fisher

JANUARY 4TH, 1865:  Rear Admiral Porter, laying meticulous plans for the second Fort Fisher attack, ordered each of his ship commanders to "detail as many of his men as he can spare from the guns as a landing party."

Armed with cutlasses and revolvers, the sailors and Marines were to hit the beach when the assault signal was made "and board the fort in a seaman-like way.  The marines will form in the rear and cover the sailors.  While the soldiers are going over the parapets  in front, the sailors will take the sea face of Fort Fisher."

I always believed this to be an attempt by Porter to cut into the glory of the capture of the fort.  He probably should have seen if he could have gotten Dahlgren's Naval Brigade which had experience with land operations.

--Old B-Runner

Grant Orders Terry to Take Command of Fort Fisher Army Expedition

JANUARY 3RD, 1865:  General Grant ordered Major General Alfred H. Terry to command the troops intended for the second attack on Fort Fisher.  "I have served with Admiral Porter," he wrote, "and know that you can rely on his judgement and his nerve to undertake what he proposes.  I would, therefore, defer to him as much as is consistent with your own responsibilities."

The same day Grant wrote to Porter that he was sending Terry to work with him and wished the Admiral "all sorts of good weather and success...."

--Old B-R'er

Welles Has Another Plan to Take Wilmington

JANUARY 2ND, 1865:  In September 1864, Union Secretary of the Navy had discussed with Farragut the importance of seizing Wilmington to cut General lee's vital link with Europe and to stop the Confederacy's credit-producing cotton shipments abroad.

He now called upon Secretary of War Stanton's attention to the present "fit opportunity to undertake such an operation."  Pointing to the availability of troops, "as the armies are mostly going into winter quarters," he urged on Stanton a proposal of Rear Admiral Porter to land an assault force at Fort Caswell, guarding the west entrance to the Cape Fear River, and stressed that the naval blockaders, which thus would be able to lie inside the river, would close Wilmington, "the only port by which any supplies whatever reach the rebels."

--Old B-Runner

Friday, January 2, 2015

Porter Readying for Renewed Attack on Fort Fisher

JANUARY 1ST, 1865:  Receiving Grant's 30 December notification of a renewed Army assault by sea on Fort Fisher with an "increased force and without the former commander [Benjamin Butler]", Porter acted vigorously to set up a massive and overwhelming attack behind the fleet's heavy guns.

He directed that his 43 warships concentrated at Beaufort, North Carolina, and 23 on station off the Cape Fear River send in their operations charts for corrections and onload "every shell that can be carried" for shore bombardment.

Porter responded immediately to grant: "...thank God we are not to leave here with so easy a victory at hand...."  He assured Grant that he would "work day and night to be ready."

At Fort Fisher, mindful of General Lee's message that the work must be held at all costs or that the Army of Northern Virginia could not be supplied, Col. William Lamb and his garrison readied themselves for the further expected attacks by the huge fleet which remained off the Cape Fear River entrances.

Getting Near Time.  --Old B-Runner

Loss of the USS San Jacinto

JANUARY 1ST, 1865:  The USS San Jacinto, Captain Richard W. Meade, ran on a reef at Green Turtle Cay, Abaco, in the Bahamas.  She was found to be seriously bilged and was abandoned without loss of life.

Meade was able to salvage the armament, ammunition, rigging, cables and much of the ship's copper.

At an earlier period of the war, the USS San Jacinto had gained fame when her commanding officer, Captain Charles Wilkes, stopped the British ship Trent and removed Confederate commissioners James Mason and John Slidell.

--Old B-R'er

Attempt to Open the Dutch Gap Canal on the James River

JANUARY 1ST, 1865:  On the James River, Commander  William A. Parker, commanding the double-turreted monitor USS Onondaga, reported that 12,000 pounds of gunpowder had been detonated in an effort to remove the end barriers of the canal excavation at Dutch Gap, Virginia.

He reported: "The earth was thrown up into the air about 40 to 50 feet and immediately fell back into its original place.  This earth will have to be removed to render the canal passable for vessels.

The canal was the brainchild of Major General Benjamin Butler who had begun the canal in 1864 with the view of passing Confederate obstructions above Trent's Reach.  If the passage had been effected, General Butler's Army of the James could have bypassed key positions in Richmond's southern defense system and moved on the city in a diversionary threat aimed at reducing Lee's resistance to Grant at Petersburg.

Butler and Some More Gunpowder.  --Old B-R'er

A New Year of War Opens-- Part 3:Fifth Division of North Atlantic Blockading Squadron

JANUARY 1ST, 1865:  To counter Mitchell's James River squadron and protect Grant's waterborne supply line, the Fifth Division of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron lay on the James River at the sunken hulk line at trench's Reach and the pontoon crossings of the James and Appomattox rivers.  They also protected supply vessels against sharpshooters and hidden batteries on shore.

Normally the Fifth Division consisted of five monitors and 25 gunboats.  However, this January, four of the monitors and a number of the gunboats were away from the James with the fleet being assembled by Rear Admiral Porter for the second attack on Fort Fisher.

Hence, the Confederate James River Squadron above City Point had an unprecedented opportunity for offensive operations on which it sought to capitalize before the month ended.

--Old B-Runner

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A New Year of War Opens-- Part 2: Confederate James River Squadron

JANUARY 1ST, 1865:  In Richmond, the prospect of naval attack was so threatening that the government assembled for the city's defense the strongest Confederate naval force ever placed under one command.  The James River squadron, commanded by Flag Officer John K. Mitchell, consisted of three ironclads, seven gunboats and two torpedo boats.

In addition to its defensive functions, Mitchell's squadron also constituted a potentially formidable threat to te security of the vital City Point base.

The James River squadron operated behind a protective minefield at Chaffin's Bluff, some 35 miles upriver from City Point.

--Old B-R'er

A New Year of War Opens-- Part 1

JANUARY 1ST, 1865:  As the new year opened, Confederate General Robert E. Lee clung doggedly to his position defending Richmond, conscious that world opinion had come to regard the fate of the Confederacy as inseparable from that of its capital city.

Equally determined that Richmond should fall, General Grant, with great superiority in numbers, pressed against Petersburg, key to Richmond's southern defense line.  Grant also sought to break through to the westward, encircling Lee and Richmond, and cutting the Weldon, Southside (Lunchburg) and Danville railroads, by which the city and soldiers were supplied.

That Grant was at Petersburg and less than 20 miles from Richmond was wholly due to Federal Navy control of the James and Potomac Rivers.  His waterborne line of supply extended up the James River to City Point, only seven miles from Petersburg.  From this principal base at City Point, Grant coordinated the joint movements of the Army of the Potomac and the Army of the James.

--Old B-Runner