Fort Fisher

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

Friday, February 27, 2015

Steamer Ruby Seized

FEBRUARY 27TH, 1865:  The USS Proteus seized the steamer Ruby--purportedly en route from Havana to Belize, Honduras, but according to some of the officers and passengers, actually bound for St. Marks, Florida.  It appeared that part of her cargo had been thrown overboard during the chase; the remainder consisted of lead and sundries.

--Old B-R'er

Commodore Tucker Arrives at Fayetteville, ordered to Richmond

FEBRUARY 27TH, 1865:  Commodore Tucker and his 350 sailors from Charleston arrive safely in Fayetteville, North Carolina, where he received orders to have Lt. James H. Rochelle's naval detachment join his and proceed to Richmond with the entire Naval Brigade.

From Richmond, the brigade was sent on to Drewry's Bluff on the James River to garrison the formidable Confederate batteries stationed there.  Tucker commanded the the naval forces ashore while Rear Admiral Semmes commanded the James River Squadron.

These two commands, through the course of the long war, had successfully protected Richmond from attack via the James River.  General Lee desperately needed staunch fighters more than ever before.  With his supply line from Europe cut, hunger, privation, sickness, and desertion steadily shrank his army.

Meanwhile, General Grant's army steadily increased as ships poured in supplies at his City Point base in preparation for the final spring offensive.

--Old B-Runner


Final Sesquicentennial Conference-- Part 3

About some of the speakers:

WILLIAM C. DAVIS: Professor of History at Virginia Tech and Director of Programming for the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies.  Author of over 50 books.  I have a lot of his Civil War books.  Always a good read.

ANDREW DUPPSTADT:  Curator of Education for the North Carolina Division of State Historic Sites.  Teaches at Carolina Coastal Community College.  He used to have a very good blog, but doesn't post anymore.

JESSICA BANDELL:  Research historian with North Carolina Office of Archives and History.  Co-author of forthcoming book "North Carolina Civil War Atlas: The Old North State at War."  Not familiar with her, but I look forward to her book.

CRAIG SYMONDS:  Retired professor USNA.  Biographer of Joseph E. Johnston.  Wrote books "Lincoln and His Admirals" (2008) and "The Civil War at Sea" (2010).  This man knows a whole lot about the war at sea.

--Old B-R'er

Final North Carolina Sesquicentennial Conference Begins Today-- Part 2

Today is the opening of the conference at Fort Anderson and Southport.

Tomorrow is the meeting day at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington.

After an opening presentation by Craig Symonds on the Union blockade, concurrent sessions will be held.


Concurrent Sessions:  (*) the one I would pick.

9:45-11:00:

For His Country and Race: Death and North Carolina's Black Union Regiments--  Jessica A. Bandell.

*The Days of Chickamauga Renewed: Defeat, organizational Culture and the Battle of Bentonville.

Remembering Sacrifice, Claiming Citizenship: A New Heaven and a New Earth,  Legacy of Anti-Confederate Sentiment in North Carolina.

11:15-12:30

*Between War and Peace: Making Meaning and Memories of the Civil War's Close.

Unadulterated Lincolnism: The Confederate Military's Imprisonment of R.J. Graves for Alleged Treason.

12-1:30  Box Lunches.

1:30-2:45

Surviving Confederate Widowhood in the Post-Civil War South

North Carolina Civil War Refugee Crisis.

*Sacrifice of the Confederate Navy: The North Carolina-Built Ironclads--  Andrew Duppstadt.

I Know Where I'd Like to Be.  --Old B-Runner


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Final Conference on North Carolina in the Civil War to Be Held-- Part 1

From the Friends of Fort Fisher.

The third and last Civil War Sesquicentennial conference on North Carolina's role in the Civil War will be held Friday, Feb. 27th and Saturday, Feb. 28th in the Wilmington area.  This year's conference is "What a Cruel Thing Is War: Sacrifice and Legacies of the Civil War."

It kicks off Friday with an afternoon tour of Fort Anderson followed by a presentation by William C. "Jack" Davis and a reception at the North Carolina Maritime Museum at Southport (at Old Ft. Johnston).

Conference sessions will be Saturday at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, highlighted by a talk by naval historian Dr. Craig Symonds.

It is co-hosted by the North Carolina Department of Cultural resources and the University of North Carolina-Wilmington.  Cost is $26.99 for both days or $10.68 for just Friday.

Fridays presentation speaker will be introduced by Chris E. Fonvielle (quite a writer himself, especially on Wilmington during the war).  William C. Davis will talk about "Confederates and Their Cult of Sacrifice."

Chris Fonvielle will also introduce Craig Symonds of the U.S. Naval Academy on Saturday, whose subject will be "They Also Sacrificed: The Tedium and Impact of the Union Naval Blockade."

Sure Wish I Could Be There.  --Old B-Runner


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The End of the CSS Chickamauga

FEBRUARY 25TH, 1865:  The CSS Chickamauga was burned and sunk by her own crew in the Cape Fear River just below Indian Wells, North Carolina.  The position selected by Confederates was above Wilmington on the Northwest Fork of the river leading to Fayetteville.

The scuttling was intended to obstruct  the river and prevent Union forces from establishing water communications between troops occupying Wilmington and General Sherman's army operating in the interior of the state.

The effort proved abortive as the current swept the hulk around parallel to the bank and by 12 March the water link between Wilmington and Fayetteville had been opened.

Every river which would float a ship was an artery of strength from the sea for Sherman in his rapid march north.

Can't Even Sink a Boat Right.  --Old B-Runner

Action at Sea, On the Potomac and in South Carolina

FEBRUARY 25TH, 1865:

The USS Marigold captured the blockade-running British schooner Salvadora with an assorted cargo in the Straits of Florida between Havana and Key West.

In a letter to secretary Welles, Commander F.A. Parker, Commander of the Potomac Flotilla, reported that "three boats, with three blockade runners, have been captured by the Primrose...."

A boat expedition from the USS Chenango captured blockade running sloop Elvira at Bullyard Sound, South Carolina, with cargo of of cotton and tobacco.

--Old B-R'er


Reducing the Union Navy-- Part 2

FEBRUARY 24TH, 1865:   Secretary Welles similarly instructed Rear Admiral Dahlgren to send north vessels under him that were no longer required, especially the least efficient.

"The Department is of  opinion that the fall of Fort Fisher and Charleston will enable it to reduce the expenses of maintenance of the Navy."

Even as the Union would begin to cut back its huge fleet, the effect of Northern sea power was felt more and more acutely in General Lee's army.  With its last access to the sea, Wilmington, now controlled by the North, the shortage of essential supplies--including shoes, artillery, blankets, lead, medicines, and even food for men and horses-- became increasingly more desperate..

By now, much of Lee's famed cavalry, for want of horses, had become infantry.

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Reducing the Union Navy-- Part 2

FEBRUARY 24TH, 1865:  The intention of the Navy Department to reduce the size of the Navy as the end of hostilities approached was indicated in Secretary Welles' instruction to Rear Admiral Thatcher, commanding the West Gulf Blockading squadron to "send North such purchased vessels as appear by surveys to require very extensive repairs...and all those no longer required.

"These will probably be sold or laid up.  You will also send home any stores that are not required.  Further requisition must be carefully examined before approval, and the commanders of squadrons are expected to use every possible exertion and care to reduce the expense of that squadron."

Getting ready for the Peace-Time Navy.  --Old B-Runner

Monday, February 23, 2015

Fall of Both Charleston and Wilmington Within a Week Sounded Death-Knell of the Confederacy

Even though the outcome of the war was clearly in complete Union victory by this late date, the fall of these two important Confederate cities with a week of each other very clearly put any hope of a new nation completely out of the question.

The other dual Confederate disaster would have to be considered the loss at Gettysburg July 3, 1863, and surrender of Vicksburg the following day.  This was the turning point.

But the fall of these two Atlantic ports was clearly the death knell.

No Hope.  All is Lost.  --Old B-Runner

Navy Aiding Sherman's Carolinas Campaign

FEBRUARY 23-25, 1865:  In December the hips of the powerful Federal Navy, now in such numbers that they could attack anywhere along the coast when needed had made it possible for Sherman to march to the sea with confidence, since they gave him any part of the coast he chose as abase.

Now, Dahlgren's warships provided the general with unlimited logistic support, rapid reinforcement and the defensive line of their massed guns to fall back on if he were defeated.  Easy and speeding his progress to the North, the fleet, therefore, helped to bring the war more quickly to an end.

From Savannah to Wilmington the whole Southern seacoast--with its irreplaceable defenses heavy coastal cannon that could not be moved, and superior means of communication--swiftly fell.

Although it was not clear to General Lee at the time--the accelerated speed with which soldiers were able to move inevitably forecast the frustration of his plan to send part of his veterans to join the Confederates in North Carolina in an attempt to crush Sherman while still holding the Petersburg-Richmond line with the remainder.

Just getting Worse and Worse.  --Old B-R'er

Action at Georgetown, S.C.

FEBRUARY 23-25TH, 1865:  Rear Admiral Dahlgren dispatched a squadron from Charleston, commanded by Captain Henry S. Stellwagen in the USS Pawnee, to capture and occupy Georgetown, South Carolina, in order to establish a line of communications with General Sherman's army advancing from Columbia, South Carolina. to Fayetteville, North Carolina.

Fort White, guarding the entrance to Winyah Bay leading to Georgetown, was evacuated upon the approach of the naval squadron and was occupied by a detachment of Marines on the 23rd.

The following day Stellwagen sent Ensign Allen K. Noyes with the USS Catalpa and Mingoe up the PeeDee River to accept the surrender of the evacuated city of Georgetown.  Noyes led a small party ashore and received the surrender from civilian authorities while a group of his seamen climbed to the city hall dome and ran up the Stars and Stripes.

This action was presently challenged by a group of Confederate horsemen..  More sailors were landed.  A skirmish ensued in which the bluejackets drove off the mounted guerrillas.  Subsequently, the city was garrisoned by five companies of Marines who were in turn relieved by the soldiers on March 1.

--Old B-R'er

Fall of Fort Fisher Sealed Wilmington-- Part 3

**  Fort Fisher mounted 24 heavy artillery pieces along its sea face and 22 on the land face.

**  Knowing that the land face was the fort's Achilles Heel, a palisade fence stretched from the ocean to the rive.  In addition, there were "sub-terra torpedoes" in front of the palisade which could be detonated from the fort.

**  A line of trenches in the fort allowed for safe-redeployment during an attack.

**  Fort Fisher was vital to the protection of blockade-runners and the port of Wilmington.

**  "I did everything to foster blockade running," said the fort's commander, Col. William Lamb.

**  Prized fort ordnance were the 150-pdr. Armstrong gun and four Whitworth breech-loading long-range rifled field pieces.  These were all British-made.  The Whitworths were employed in a flying battery which could quickly be deployed north of the fort to cover blockade-runners which had run aground.

**  The Whitworths forced blockaders to sit five miles off the coast instead of the usual 250 yards.

More to Come.  --Old B-Runner

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Capture of Wilmington

FEBRUARY 21-22ND, 1865:  The gunboat fleet of Rear Admiral Porter closed Fort Strong and opened rapid fire "all along the enemy's line" to support the army's assault ashore as it had all throughout the soldiers' march up both banks of the Cape Fear River.

The next day, February 22nd, the defenders evacuated the fort and Porter's ships steamed up to Wilmington, which earlier in the day had been occupied by General Terry's men after General Bragg had ordered the evacuation of the now defenseless city.

On the 22nd, Porter wrote Welles: "I have the honor to inform you that Wilmington has been evacuated and is now in possession of our troops....I had the pleasure of placing the flag on Fort Strong, and at 12 o'clock noon today shall fire a salute of thirty-five guns this being the anniversary of Washington's birthday."

As Admiral Raphael Semmes later wrote:  "...we had lost our last blockade-running port.  Our ports were now all hermetically sealed.  The anaconda had, at last, wound his fatal folds around us."

Getting Sadder and Sadder.  --Old B-Runner

The War Going Badly for Confederacy: "Simply a Waiting for Calamities"

FEBRUARY 22ND, 1865:  In Richmond, Confederate War Department clerk J.B. Jones wrote in his diary:  "To-day is the anniversary of the birth of Washington, and of the inauguration of Davis; but I hear no of no holiday.  Not much is doing, however, in the departments; simply a waiting for calamities, which come with stunning rapidity.

"The next news, I suppose, will be the evacuation of Wilmington!  Then Raleigh may tremble.  Unless there is a speedy turn in the tide of affairs, confusion will reign supreme and universally."

Material suffering and unwavering pressure of Union armies ashore and federal ships afloat destroyed Southern hopes.  In the Union's strength at sea, the Confederacy faced a double disadvantage.  Not only did the fleet provide the North with massed artillery, great mobility, easy concentration, and surprise in attack, but it also provided a safe fortress to which the soldiers ashore could retreat--as had been most recently shown during General Butler's amphibious failure at Fort Fisher as 1864 ended.

--Old B-R'er

The Fall of Fort Fisher Sealed Vital Southern Port (Wilmington)-- Part 2

**  The new commander, Col. William Lamb was a lawyer and newspaper editor from Norfolk, Virginia.  Dashing and energetic, he transformed Fort Fisher into the war's largest single earthwork.

**  The fort resembled an upside-down inverse number seven or letter "L".  It was anchored at the south end by the 60-foot high "Mound Battery."

**  The fort's two plant-sodden sand and dirt walled sections intersected in a right angle at what was called the "Northeast Bastion."

**  The walls were 12 feet high, punctuated by higher 30-foot tall traverses making the walls appear "bumpy" in linear profile."

**  The walls were 20-feet thick.  Thick enough to absorb any shell explosion.  Beneath each traverse was a dugout bombproof.

**  The length of the walls was essentially a half mile on te land side and a mile on the sea side.

Just to Give You An idea of the Magnitude (and All Hand-Dug)--Old B-Runner

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Fall of Fort Fisher Sealed Vital Southern Port-- Part 1

From the Feb. 7, 2015, Napa Valley (Cal.) Review by John Stephen Futini.

If you're just going to read one short account of Fort Fisher, this would be the one.  It is longer than what I'm going to cover so check it out. at the site.  here are some significant items:

**  Named for Col. Charles G. Fisher of the 6th North Carolina who was killed at the Battle of Bull Run on July 21, 1861.

**  It began as a small 100-yard-long fort-let at the end of the Cape Fear Peninsula called Confederate Point (formerly Federal Point before the war).

**  On July 4, 1862, 26-year-old Col. William Lamb of the 2nd North Carolina Artillery took command of the fort.

**  He commanded it for the rest of the war until it fell on Jan. 15, 1865.

More to Come.  --Old B-Runner

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Union Forces Advance Nearer to Wilmington: Torpedoes and "Old Bogey"

FEBRUARY 19-20, 1865:  Following the evacuation of Fort Anderson, Rear Admiral Porter's gunboats steamed seven miles up the Cape Fear River to the Big Island shallows and piling obstructions and engaged Fort Strong's five guns.  Ships' boats swept the river for mines ahead of the fleet's advance.

On the night of the 20th, the Confederates released 200 floating torpedoes, which were avoided with great difficulty and kept the boat crews engaged in sweeping throughout the hours of darkness.

Although many of the gunboats safely swept up the torpedoes with their nets, the USS Osceola received hull damage and lost a paddle wheel box by an explosion.    Another torpedo destroyed a boat from the USS Shawmut, inflicting four casualties.

The next day. Feb. 21st, one of Porter's officers wrote that Porter's "Old Bogey" had taken part in the action saying: "Johnny Reb let off his torpedoes without effect on it, and the old thing sailed across the river and grounded in the flank and rear of the enemy's lines on the eastern bank, whereupon they fell back in the night.  She now occupies the most advanced position of the line, and a Battery Lee had been banging away at her, and probably wondering why she does not answer.

"Last night after a half days fighting, the rebs sent down about 50 torpedoes, but although 'Old Bogey' took no notice of them, they kept the rest of us pretty lively as long as the ebb tide ran."

--Old B-Runner

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

CSS Shenandoah Gets Underway-- Part 2

FEBRUARY 18TH, 1865:  However, the Shenandoah paid a considerable price for its three week stay in Melbourne.

Waddell later wrote in his memoirs:  "The delay of the Shenandoah had operated against us in the South Pacific.  The whaling fleet of that ocean had received warning and had either suspended its fishing in that region or had taken shelter in the neighboring ports."  However, he noted,  "The presence of the Shenandoah in the South Pacific dispersed the whaling fleet of that sea, though no captures were made there."

--Old B-Runner

Fort Anderson Falls and Sugar Loaf Abandoned

FEBRUARY 18TH, 1865:  As bad as things were going at Charleston for Southern hopes, it was now nearing the end at Wilmington.

The big guns of Rear Admiral Porter's fleet in the Cape Fear River silenced the Confederate batteries at Fort Anderson.  Under a relentless hail of fire from the ships and Union troops investing the fort from two sides, the Southerners fell back to Town Creek.

Simultaneously, the Confederates dug in at Sugar Loaf Hill on the east bank of the Cape Fear River across from Fort Anderson, withdrew to Fort Strong, a complex of fortifications some three miles south of Wilmington.

The combined Army-Navy movement was now pushing irresistibly toward the city.

--Old B-Runner

Confederate Naval Detachment from Charleston Heads to N.C.

FEBRUARY 18TH, 1865:  Upon orders to evacuate Charleston, Commodore John R. Tucker scuttled the ironclads Palmetto State, Charleston and Chicora and took charge of the remaining sailors in the area, and set out by train for Wilmington to join the naval detachment that had previously proceeded there under Lt. Rochelle (13 February).

Tucker's detachment got as far as Whiteville, about 50 miles west of Wilmington, where he learned that Union troops had cut the rail line between the two cities and that the evacuation of Wilmington was imminent.

After unsuccessfully trying to obtain rail transportation for his detachment, which he pointed out was "unused to marching," Tucker set off across country on a 125 mile march to Fayetteville, North Carolina.

--Old B-R'er

Monday, February 16, 2015

Other Action Feb. 17-18th, 1865

FEBRUARY 17TH, 1865:  The USS Mahaska seized schooner Delia off Bayport, Florida, with cargo of pig lead and sabers.

FEBRUARY 18TH, 1865:  A boat expedition from the USS Pinola boarded and fired armed schooner Anna Dale in Pass Cavallo, Texas.  The prize had been fitted out as a cruiser by the Confederates.

The long reach of the sea closed its iron grip on the South in events great and small from the Potomac to the Rio Grande and throughout the western waters.

ALSO:  The USS Forest Rose dispersed a number of Confederates who had fired on the ship Mittie Stephens attempting to load cotton at Cole's Creek, Mississippi.

FEBRUARY 19TH, 1865:  The USS Gertrude captured Mexican brig Eco off Galveston, suspected of attempting to run the blockade, carried a cargo of coffee, rice, sugar and jute baling cord.

--Old B-Runner

Union Attack on Bull's Bay, S.C.-- Part 2

As Captain Daniel B. Ridgely later reported to Rear Admiral Dahlgren:  "I am confident that the expedition to Bull's Bay embarrassed the rebels from the great number of men-of-war inside and outside of the bay and the great number of boats provided by the navy to disembark a large land force....  I am of the opinion that the evacuation of Charleston was hastened by the demonstration made by the army and the navy at that point in strong force."

Ridgely also pointed out another example of one of the aspects of Northern control of the sea throughout the war, the fact that the very capability of the Union to move wherever water reached forced the South to spread itself thin in an attempt to meet the federals on all possible fronts.

"The rebels signaled our movements to Charleston day and night, he wrote, adding significantly, "and threw up intrenchments at every point where boats could land."

--Old B-R'er

Union Attack on Bull's Bay, S.C.-- Part 1

FEBRUARY 16-17TH, 1865:  Ships of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, including the USS Pawnee, Sonoma, Ottawa, Winona, Potomska, Wando, J.S. Chambers, and boats and launches from these vessels supported the amphibious Army landing at Bull's Bay, S.C..  This was a diversionary movement in the major thrust to take Charleston and was designed to contain Confederate strength away from General Sherman.

Such diversions had been Sherman's plan from the outset as he took full advantage of the North's control of the sea while his army marched across the land.

A naval landing party from the fleet joined the troops of Brigadier general Edward E. Potter in driving the Confederates from their positions at Bull's Bay and driving them toward Andersonville and Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.

--Old B-Runner

Sunday, February 15, 2015

CSS Shenandoah Gets Underway From Australia-- Part 1

FEBRUARY 18TH, 1865:  The CSS Shenandoah, Lt. Waddell, having completed repairs at Melbourne, Australia, got underway before daybreak and steamed out of Port Philip Bay to resume her career on the high seas.

As soon as the cruiser discharged her pilot and entered international waters, more than 40 stowaways, who had come aboard late the previous night-- appeared on deck.  The Shenandoah's log recorded:  "forty-two men found on board; thirty-six shipped as sailors and six enlisted as marines."

This represented a net gain when balanced against the desertions induced by gold from the American consul.

Of course, Waddell had "no" way of knowing of the "stowaways."

Sneaky Guys.  --Old B-R'er

Semmes Assumes Command of Confederate James River Squadron--

FEBRUARY 18TH, 1865:  Rear Admiral Semmes assumed command of the Confederate James River squadron.  "My fleet," he wrote, "consisted of three iron-clads and five wooden gunboats."

The ironclads, each mounting four guns, were the CSS Virginia No. 2, Richmond and Fredericksburg.  The wooden ships included the CSS Hampton, Nansemond, Roanoke, Beaufort and Torpedo; all mounted two guns except the torpedo which had just one.

Semmes also noted: "The fleet was assisted, in the defence of the river, by several shore batteries, in command of naval officers...."

I wonder what had happened to the CSS Patrick Henry?

--Old B-Runner

The Capture of Charleston-- Part 4: Dahlgren Gets Dig at Porter

The capture of the blockade runners in the previous post underscored Dahlgren's letter to Porter:  "You see by the date [Feb. 18th] that the Navy's occupation has given the pride of rebeldom to the Union flag, and thus the rebellion is shut out from the ocean and foreign sympathy."  This was a bit of bragging as Porter had not yet taken Wilmington which was generally regarded as the closing of the Confederacy.

To secretary Welles, Dahlgren added:  "To me the fall of Charleston seems scarcely less important than that of Richmond.  It is the last seaport by which it can be made sure that a bale of cotton can go abroad.  Hence the rebel loan and credit are at an end."

Learning of the fall of Charleston a wee later in Nassau, Lt. Wilkinson, CSN, the daring Confederate sea captain, agreed:  "This sad intelligence put an end to all our hopes...."

At last the city that had symbolized the South's spirit was in Northern hands.

--Old B-Runner

Evacuation of Charleston-- Part 3: Capture of Blockade-Runners, "Strange We Did Not Smell a Rat"

FEBRUARY 17-18TH, 1865"  The steamers Lady Davis, Mab and Transport were taken after evacuation.  The USS Catskill seized the Confederate blockade-runner Celt, which had run aground trying to get out of Charleston on the night of the 14th.

The Catskill also took the British blockade-runner Deer.  The steamer had been decoyed into Charleston that night by the same ruse--   keeping the Confederate signals lighted--employed at Wilmington the previous month.

The deer ran aground and on being boarded her master told Lt.Cmdr. Edward Barrett"  "Well, we give it up; she is your prize.  Strange we did not smell a rat, as we could not make out your signal at Fort Marshall."

Also in the aftermath of Charleston's fall, the USS Gladiolus captured blockade-runner Syren in the Ashley River which had successfully run in through the blockade the night before.

And, i was always under the notion that blockade-running at Charleston was a done deal by 1864.  Evidently I was wrong.

--Old B-Runner

Charleston Evacuated-- Part 1: Destruction of Confederate Ironclads

FEBRUARY 17-18TH, 1865:  Charleston, South Carolina, was evacuated by Confederate troops after having endured 567 days of continuous attack by land and sea.  The long siege witnessed some of the most heroic fighting of the war, including the sinking of the USS Housatonic by the valiant, hand-powered submarine H.L. Hunley on 17 February 1864 (one year before Charleston's evacuation).

During the night, Forts Moultrie, Sumter, Johnson, Beauregard and Castle Pinckney were abandoned as the Confederates marched northward to join the beleaguered forces of General Lee.

The Southern ironclads Palmetto State, Chicora and Charleston were fired and blown up prior to the withdrawal, but the CSS Columbia, the largest of the ironclads at Charleston, was found aground and abandoned near Fort Moultrie and was eventually salvaged.

--Old B-Runner

Charleston Evacuated-- Part 2: Discovery of "David" Torpedo Boats

Lt.Cmdr. J.S, Barnes later wrote that the occupation forces also captured several "David" torpedo boats, one of which had damaged the USS New Ironsides off Charleston on 5 October 1863.

She was subsequently taken to the Naval Academy, Barnes wrote, "where she is preserved as one of the relics of the war.  These vessels were built of boiler iron, and were of the shape known as 'cigar shape.'  They presented but a very small target above the surface, but were usually clumsy and dangerous craft in a seaway.  Under full steam they could attain a speed of seven knots per hour."

--Old B-R'er

The Movement on Wilmington Commences-- Part 2: The "Old Bogey" Makes Its Appearance

Unable to obtain the monitors he had sent to Charleston, Rear Admiral Porter resorted to subterfuge again as he had earlier in the Mississippi River (Feb. 25, 1863).  he improvised a bogus "monitor" from a scow, timber and canvas.

"Old Bogey", as she was quickly nicknamed by the sailors, was towed ahead of the bombardment line, where "she" succeeded in drawing heavy fire from the defending Southerners.

--Old B-R'er

The Movement On Wilmington Begins in Earnest-- Part 1: The West Bank

FEBRUARY 16-17TH, 1865:  As the combined operation to capture Wilmington got underway, ships of Rear Admiral Porter's fleet helped ferry General Schofield's two divisions from Fort Fisher to Smithville (now Southport), on the west bank of the Cape Fear River.

Fort Anderson, the initial objective, was on the west bank midway between the mouth of the river and Wilmington.

On the morning of the 17th, Major General Jacob D. Cox led 8,000 troops north from Smithville.  In support of the Army advance on the Confederates, the monitor USS Montauk and four gunboats heavily bombarded Fort Anderson and successfully silenced its 12 guns.

--Old B-Runner

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Loss of the USS Merrimac

FEBRUARY 15TH, 1865:  The USS Merrimac was abandoned in a sinking condition at sea off the coast of Florida in the Gulf Stream.  The tiller had broken in a gale, the pumps could not keep up with the incoming water and two boilers had given out.

Having fought for 24 hours to save his ship, Acting Master William Earle finally ordered her abandoned.  The mail steamer Morning Star, which had been standing by the disabled gunboat for several hours, rescued the crew.

--Old B-Runner

Blockade-Running Woes

FEBRUARY 11TH, 1865:  The USS Penobscot captured blockade-running schooner Matilda in the Gulf of Mexico with cargo of rope, bagging and liquors.

FEBRUARY 14TH, 1865:  The blockade-runner Celt ran aground while attempting to run the blockade from Charleston Harbor.

FEBRUARY 15TH, 1865: Steamer Knickerbocker, aground near Smith's Point, Virginia, was boarded by Confederates, set afire and destroyed.  The USS Mercury had thwarted a previous effort to destroy the steamer.

FEBRUARY 16TH, 1865:  The USS Penobscot forced blockade-running schooners Mary Agnes and Louisa ashore at Aransas Pass, Texas.  Two days later they were destroyed by a boat crew from the Penobscot.

--Old B-R'er

Fort Anderson Re-enactment Promises to Be Loud This Weekend-- Part 2

Paul Shivers, re-enacting the role of a Confederate engineer officer, will lead a tour of the fort's northern battery.  He has been working on a detailed GPS survey of the fort.  One reason Fort Anderson is important is that it shows the evolution of Confederate earthwork building techniques from 1861-1865.

There will also be a program on Civil War-era steam engines.

Re-enactor Chris Grimes will give an interpretation program on embalming and coffin-making in the 1800s.  Modern mortuary science was essentially invented during the Civil War as thousands of dead soldiers on both sides were shipped home for burial.

Of special interest will be a program on Civil War "torpedoes" which would be called mines today.  Fort Anderson had both naval and land ones for defense.  Replicas and examples of both will be shown, including a rare example of a "coal torpedo."  As you would expect from the name, it s a torpedo designed to look like a chunk of coal.  When it would be stoked into a fire an explosion would occur.  A coal torpedo was blamed for the 1863 explosion of the USS Chenango which killed 33.

Fort Anderson was built on the west bank of the Cape Fear River and was to guard the channel leading to Wilmington.  After 1862, it also served as a quarantine station to check incoming blockade-runners for yellow fever and other infectious diseases.

The garrison evacuated the fort on February 19, 1865 and Union troops entered Wilmington just 72 hours later.

--Old B-Runner

Friday, February 13, 2015

Fort Anderson Re-enactment Promises to Be Loud This Weekend-- Part 1

From the Feb. 10, 2015, Wilmington (NC) Star-News"Battle re-enactment at Fort Anderson guaranteed to be loud" by Ben Steelman.

They won't have as many re-enactors as were at the 150th anniversary of Fort Fisher last month, but organizers promise it will be a lot louder as there will be at least six artillery pieces on site that will be firing throughout both days.  These re-enactors are gearing up for the huge Battle of Bentonville sesquicentennial next month near Goldsboro, N.C..

In addition, a full-scale battle will be waged both days, with just 150 re-enactors, but they will seem like more as they will be in a very small space.

In addition to the battle and cannons, Chris Fonvielle will lead a tour of the fort's south battery and give lectures on the fort.  He has just revised his book "To Forge Thunderbolts: Fort Anderson" which I discussed here last week

--Old B-R'er

Battle of Forks Road Re-enactment This Weekend

From Feb. 7, 2015 "Battle of Forks Road being commemorated in Wilmington" by AP.

The battle will be re-enacted this weekend.  The Battle of Forks Road took place Feb. 20-21, 1865, but will be commemorated this weekend on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 14-15, at the Cameron Art Museum in Wilmington, on the site of the actual battle.

The battle took place after the fall of Fort Fisher in January and led the way to the Union capture of Wilmington on Feb. 22nd.

The battle included 1,600 black soldiers who helped defeat Confederate Major General Robert F. Hoke's Confederates.  Three of the blacks were awarded the Medal of Honor for their role at the battle.

--Old B-Runner

Two Wilmington Civil War Battles Being Re-enacted This Weekend

This is shaping up to be another big weekend for Civil War and history buffs in the Wilmington, North Carolina, area.  Last month, they had the huge Fort Fisher Re-enactment and this weekend it will be the turn of Fort Anderson and Battle of Forks Road.

I am kind of wondering, however, why they would have both on the same weekend.  Fort Anderson was evacuated on February 19, 1865, so that could be commemorated this weekend.  The Battle of Forks Road took place Feb. 20-21, 1865, so could have easily been held next weekend.

I always hate when they have two things at the same time that I want to do.

Not Fair!  --Old B-R'er

Plans Being Made for Evacuation of Charleston, S.C.

FEBRUARY 13TH, 1865:  General Sherman's on-rushing army approached the Congaree River, S.C..  The soldiers would cross it on the 14th, heading for Columbia.  With the fall of Columbia assured and with the supply route to Augusta, Georgia, already cut, General Hardee sped up his preparations to evacuate Charleston and to take the troops he had brought with him from Savannah to North Carolina where he planned to join Generals Johnston and Beauregard.

Since Charleston would have be abandoned and the Confederate naval squadron there scuttled, Commodore John R. Tucker, detached 300 men and officers from the CSS Chicora, Palmetto State and Charleston, as well as the Navy Yard, and dispatched them, under the command of Lt. James H. Rochelle, to assist in the final defense of Wilmington.

The naval detachment was assigned to Major General Robert F. Hoke's division which held the defensive line across the peninsula between Fort Fisher and Wilmington.

Things getting Mighty Sad for the Confederate Cause.  --Old B-Runner

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Cushing's At It Again On the Cape Fear River

FEBRUARY 12TH, 1865:  In small boats, Lt.Cmdr. Cushing and a patrol party passed the piling obstructions and reconnoitered the Cape Fear River as far a s Wilmington.

--Old B-R'er

Five Blockade-Runners Plan Attempt to Run Into Charleston

FEBRUARY 12TH, 1865:  The blockade runners Carolina, Dream, Chicora, Chameleon and Owl, heavily laden with supplies desperately needed by Lee's army, lay at anchor in Nassau Harbor.  During the day, the five captains, including Lt. John Wilkinson and Commander John Maffitt, held a conference and formulated plans for running the blockade into Charleston.

After putting to sea that night, the five ships separated and stood on different courses for the South Carolina port.  Only the Chicora got through and became the last blockade runner to enter or leave  Charleston prior to its evacuation during the night of February 17-18.

Two and a half months later the Owl, Commander Maffitt, slipped past 16 Federal cruisers and entered the harbor at Galveston.  After off-loading his cargo, Maffitt again evaded the blockaders and safely eached Havana on May 9th, where after coaling his ship he continued to give Union warships the slip on his return voyage to Nassau and ultimately to Liverpool, where he arrived 14 July.

--Old B-Runner

CSS Stonewall to Take On the USS Niagara?

FEBRUARY 12TH, 1865:  Captain T.J. Page, CSS Stonewall, wrote Commander Bulloch from Ferrol, France, of the arrival of the USS Niagara, Commodore T.T. Craven, at Corunna, the preceding day.  "I wish with all my heart we were ready to go out," Page said.

"We must encounter her, and I would only wish that she may not be accompanied by two or more others.

He, however, wasn't too worried about a possible engagement with the Niagara which was a screw-driven frigate mounting twelve 11-inch Dahlgren guns.

Later, he wrote about his ship, saying "the Stonewall is a very formidable vessel, about 175 feet long, brig-rigged, completely clothed in iron plates of 5 inches in thickness.  Under her topgallant forecastle is her casemated Armstrong  300-pounder rifled gun.

"In a turret abaft her mainmast are two 120-pounder rifled guns, and she has two smaller guns mounted in broadside.  If as fast as reputed to be, in smooth water she ought to be more than a match for three ships such as the Niagara.

The Niagara Should Also Be "Behooved."  --Old B-R'er

Welles Warns Gulf Coast Squadrons to Be Aware of the CSS Stonewall

FEBRUARY 11TH, 1865:  Secretary Welles warned Acting Rear Admirals Cornelius K. Stribling, commanding the East Gulf Blockading Squadron, and Henry K. Thatcher, commanding the West Gulf Blockading Squadron, that information had been received that the ram Stonewall, built at Bordeaux, France, had been transferred to the Confederate government.

"Her destination," he wrote, "is doubtless some point on our coast, and it behooves you to be prepared against surprise, as she is represented to be formidable and capable of inflicting serious injury."

You Have been "Behooved."  --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Union Ships Attack Half Moon Battery Above Fort Fisher

FEBRUARY 11TH, 1865:  The USS Keystone State, Aries, Montgomery, Howquah, Emma and Vicksburg engaged Half Moon Battery, situated on the coastal flank of the Confederate defense line (by present-day Carolina Beach) which crossed the Cape Fear Peninsula six miles above Fort Fisher.

This bombardment contained General Hoke's division while General Schofield's troops moved up along the beach and got behind the Confederates.

Deteriorating weather conditions, however, prevented the landing of the pontoons, and Schofield withdrew his troops back to the Fort Fisher lines.

In the meantime, Porter's ships in the Cape Fear River engaged the west bank batteries.

--Old B-Runner

Action in Texas and South Carolina

FEBRUARY 10TH, 1865:  Boat expedition from USS Princess Royal and Antona boarded and destroyed blockade-runner Will-O'-The Wisp, a large iron screw steamer hard aground off Galveston.

FEBRUARY 10-14, 1865:  The monitor USS Lehigh, Lt. Cmdr. Alexander A Semmes, USS Commodore McDonough, Wissahickon, C.P. Williams, Dan Smith and Geranium, supported Brigadier General Alexander Schimmelfennig's troop movements in the Stono and Folly River, South Carolina, area.

The Army had requested the assistance of naval gunfire in its operations preparatory to the final push on Charleston.

--Old B-R'er

Last Confederate Attempt to Control James River-- Part 3

Read directed the rest of the expedition to retrace its steps to about a mile, then he ventured forth alone to confirm the report of the young Confederate.  Late in the afternoon of the 13th, Read, "cool and collected as ever" returned to the campsite where his men were, informed them that the intelligence of the day before had been correct, and that they would have to fall back to Richmond.

Thus, the bold Confederate plan failed.

Moreover, the exposure to the inclement weather took a heavy toll on the men.  Shippey later wrote that "of teh hundred and one men, who composed this expedition, fully seventy-five were in te naval hospital in Richmond, suffering from the effects of their winter march, on the sad day on which we turned our backs upon that city."

--Old B-Runner

Last Confederate Attempt to Gain Control of the James River-- Part 2

FEBRUARY 11TH-12TH, 1865:    On the night of Feb. 11th, Read and his men endured bitter cold as the weather worsened.  On the 12th, sleet slowed and finally stopped the expedition only a few miles from the place they were to ford the Blackwater River and rendezvous with Lt. John Lewis, CSN, who had been reconnoitering the area ahead of the main body of sailors.

Master W. Frank Shippey wrote that while the men sought refuge from the storm in a deserted farmhouse, "a young man in gray uniform came in and informed us that our plan had been betrayed, and that Lewis was at the ford to meet us, according to promise, but was accompanied by a regiment of federals lying in ambuscade and awaiting our arrival, when they were to give us a warm reception.

"Had it not been for the storm and our having to take shelter, we would have marched into the net spread for us...."

--Old B-R'er

A Last Confederate Attempt to Control the James River-- Part 1: Lt. Read to Lead It

FEBRUARY 10-13, 1865:   The Confederate Navy began its last attempt to gain control of the James River and thus force the withdrawal of General Grant's army by cutting its communications at City Point.

The expedition of 100 officers and men was led by the audacious naval lieutenant, Charles W. Read.  He loaded four torpedo boats on wagons and started overland from Drewry's Bluff.

The plan called for marching to a place below City Point on the James River where they would launch the boats, capture any passing tugs and steamers, and outfit them with spars and torpedoes.  The expedition would then ascend the river and sink the Union monitors, leaving the wooden gunboats at the mercy of the Confederate ironclads.

The James River, without which Grant would be denied transport and supplies, would be under Confederate control from Richmond to Hampton Roads.

--Old B-R'er


Fort Anderson and East Bank Defenses Attacked on Cape Fear River

FEBRUARY 10TH, 1865:  The USS Shawmut, Lt.Cmdr. J.G. Walker, engaged Confederate batteries on the east bank of the Cape Fear River while the USS Huron, Lt.Cmdr. Thomas O. Selfridge (Yep, that Thomas O. Selfridge who had come east with Porter), bombarded Fort Anderson on the west bank.

Fleet attacks were building up preliminary to full naval support of General Schofield's advance on Wilmington.

Schofield planned to outflank Confederate General Hoke's defensive line at Sugar Loaf by marching from Fort Fisher up the beach, and with the aid of pontoons to be landed by the navy on the coast side, cross Myrtle Sound to the mainland of the peninsula behind Southern lines.

The navy, in the meanwhile, would keep Hoke's men in their defensive trenches by bombardment from the Cape Fear River and along the sea coast.

--Old B-Runner

Wilmington's Fort Anderson-- Part 3: Capturing the Fort

Continued from Feb. 9th.

Fort Fisher guarded New Inlet (to Cape Fear River) which is now gone.  Fort Anderson guarded the river's main channel between Fort Fisher and Wilmington, but from the other side.

Fort Anderson had a 12-inch Whitworth cannon, one of the most powerful weapons of the war.  It could pierce ironclad armor, but Unfortunately there was a severe shortage of ammunition.  In addition, Fort Anderson had a battery of torpedoes (mines), some triggered by electrical charge.

Like Fort Fisher, this fort was basically a giant "L" with the longer bar guarding its land approaches to the south.

It's Achlles Heel, however, was that west of Orton Pond, its defenses were just light trenches which were rarely guarded.  If attackers detoured several miles west through difficult but doable terrain, the fort could be flanked from the rear.

This is exactly what happened and Fort Anderson's commander, Brigadier General Johnson Hagood traded a few rounds with Porter's fleet then was forced to retreat before his command was captured.

That ever brave William B. Cushing had scouted Fort Anderson in the darkness the night before its capture.

--Old B-R'er

Porter's Operation Plan for Cape Fear River-- Part 2

To the 16 gunboats he had in the Cape Fear River, Porter issued an operation plan for an attack on Fort Anderson that was to coincide with the naval bombardment of General Hoke's flanks and the launching of General Schofield's turning movement on the east side of the river.  (General Hoke was on the east side of the river as well.)

The gunboats were instructed to approach Fort Anderson bows-on to minimize the target presented to Southern gunners (who had the ranges down for the channel), while the monitor USS Montauk would lay down a covering fire from close in.

When the fort's fire slackened, the gunboats would approach and drive the gunners from their positions with grapeshot and canister.  With the enemy's battery this silenced, the fleet would shift to carefully aimed point fire to dismount the guns.

Goodbye Fort Anderson.  --Old B-Runner

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Porter's Operation Plan for Move Up the Cape Fear River-- Part 1

FEBRUARY 10TH, 1865:  Rear Admiral Porter issued an operations plan for the move up the Cape Fear River which revealed the high degree to which the naval gunfire support doctrine had been developed during the Civil War.  He stated:  "The object will be to get the gunboats in the rear of the intrenchments and cover the advance of our troops.  When our troops are coming up, the gunboats run close in and shell the enemy in front of them, so as to enable the troops to turn their flanks, if possible....

"As the army come up, your fire will have to be very rapid, taking care not to fire into our own men....  Put yourself in full communication with the general commanding on shore, and conform in all things to his wishes...."

Yep, Always Bad to Fire Into Your Own Men.  --Old B-R'er

Captain Raphael Semmes Appointed Rear Admiral in Confederate Navy and Assumes Command of the James River Fleet

FEBRUARY 10TH, 1865:  Captain Raphael Semmes was appointed Rear Admiral in the Provisional Navy of the Confederate States of America "for gallant and meritorious conduct, in command of the CSS Alabama."  Secretary Mallory had created the Provisional Navy as a means of instituting selection to higher rank on the basis of ability rather than strict seniority.

Semmes later wrote:  "After I had been in Richmond a few weeks, the President was pleased to nominate me to the Senate as a rear-admiral.  My nomination was unanimously confirmed, and, in a few days afterward, I was appointed to the command of the James River Fleet....

"An old and valued friend, Commodore J.K. Mitchell, had been in command of the James River Fleet, and I displaced him very reluctantly.  He had organized and disciplined the fleet, and had accomplished with it all that was possible, viz., the protection of Richmond by water."

Except for this powerful fleet backing up the forts and the extensive obstructions and torpedoes in the James River, Richmond would have long since fallen.

--Old B-Runner

Monday, February 9, 2015

Action in South Carolina

FEBRUARY 9TH, 1865:  The USS Pawnee, Sonoma and Daffodil engaged Confederate batteries on Togodo Creek, near the North Edisto River, South Carolina.  The Pawnee took ten hits and the other ships two each, but the naval bombardment successfully silence the Southern emplacements.

The action was one of several attacks along the coast that helped clear the way and keep the South's defenses disrupted while General Sherman's Army advanced northward.  With assurance of aid from the sea when needed, Sherman could travel light and fast.

On this date he was marching toward Orangeburg, on the north side of the Edisto River, and would capture it on the 12th.

--Old B-R'er

Wilmington's Fort Anderson-- Part 2

Of course, Chris Fonvielle is the man you want to talk to if you want to know any and everything about Fort Fisher and Wilmington during the Civil War.  I doubt that anyone has more knowledge.

Fort Anderson's role in the war has always been relegated to playing second fiddle to Fort Fisher.  Like Rodney Dangerfield, it can get no respect.

That is even though both forts were similar in that they were huge earthworks.  However, unlike Fort Fisher, Fort Anderson's earthworks are still largely intact.

The fort was built on the site of the abandoned Colonial town of Old Brunswick on the west side of the Cape Fear River.  It was originally named Fort St. Philip as it was by the ruins of the colonial St. Philips Church.

The Tale of Another Fort.  --Old B-Runner

Wilmington's Fort Anderson-- Part 1

Fromthe Feb. 8, 2015, Wilmington (NC) Star-News "Book review: Fort Anderson and the Battle of Wilmington" by Ben Steelman.

The 150th anniversary of the fall of Fort Anderson, defending Wilmington, N.C., on the Cape Fear River, will take place this week, and, just in time for it, Chris E. Fonvielle Jr, associate professor of history at University of North Carolina- Wilmington has a reprint of his 1999 short history of Fort Anderson "To Forge a Thunderbolt" released.  The previous edition has long been out of print.

This new edition will have much added to it, including orders of battle for both sides and the history of Fort Anderson's long-lost garrison flag which has been since found.

--Old B-R'er

Flag Officer Barron, CSN, Ordered to Return to Confederacy

FEBRUARY 8TH, 1865:  Flag Officer Barron received orders from Secretary Mallory to return to the Confederacy.  These orders symbolized the abandonment of long-cherished hopes of obtaining ironclad ships from Europe with which to break the ever-tightening blockade.

Originally selected to be the flag officer in command of turreted ironclads "294" and "295", Barron had arrived in England during October 1863.  The Laird rams, however, had been seized by the British government on 9 October 1863 and Barron thereafter served the Confederacy in Paris.

On 15 February, a week after receiving Mallory's dispatch, Barron replied to the secretary in words that gave clear evidence of the degree to which the shores of the South were sealed by Union squadrons" "I am endeavoring to get ready to leave in the Southampton steamer on March 2, which will take me to Cuba, and from that point I shall see how the land lies and make such arrangements as will most probably insure my earliest arrival in the Confederacy, where I feel every man is needed who can pull a pound.

"The closing of the port of Wilmington does, I fear, render the route through Texas the only one of security, but I shall not determine positively until after my arrival in Havana."

Barron, however, did not return to the South, for on 28 February, he resigned as senior Confederate naval officer on the continent.

--Old B-Runner

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Schofield's 23rd Army Corps Begins Arriving at Fort Fisher

FEBRUARY 8TH, 1865:  The first troops of General Schofield's 23rd Army Corps were landed at Fort Fisher, North Carolina.  By mid-month, the entire Corps had moved by ocean transport from Alexandria and Annapolis to North Carolina.

The protection of the Federal Navy and the mobility of water movement had allowed the redeployment of thousands of troops from Tennessee to the eastern theater for the final struggles of the war.

What Is Bragg to Do?  --Old B-Runner

Action at Galveston Harbor

FEBRUARY 7TH, 1865:  Boat expedition from USS Bienville, assisted by a cutter from the USS Princess Royal, entered Galveston Harbor, Texas, silently at night intending to board and destroy the blockade runner Wren.  Because of "the strong current and wind...' and the near approach of daylight", the daring men were unable to reach the Wren, but did board and take the schooners Pet and Annie Sophia, both laden with cotton.

--Old B-Runner

Naval Cooperation for Sherman on His New March-- Part 2

Sherman and his subordinates utilized water transport and naval support as much as possible during his move northward.  This date, Lt.Col. Alexander C. McClurg, Chief of Staff of the 14th Army Corps, wrote Lt.Cmdr. Luce of the USS Pontiac: "All the transports will, by this afternoon or evening, be unloaded and ordered to return to Savannah.  General Morgan, commanding the rear division, has been ordered to withdraw his pickets on the Georgia shore of the [Savannah] river as soon as the transports have passed the lower landing.

"The general commanding requests that you assist and cover the crossing of these troops.  The general commanding takes this opportunity to express to you and your officers his thanks for your efficient cooperation during your stay and movements at this point."

Two days later, Major general Cuvier Grover added a letter to Luce:  "Understanding that you have in view leaving this station, I will respectfully request that, if it be consistent with your instructions, you would remain here until such time as you can be relieved by some other naval vessel, as I would consider it quite necessary that there should be at least one gunboat here at all times."

--Old B-R'er

Naval Cooperation With Sherman on His New March-- Part 1

FEBRUARY 7TH, 1865:  Well on his way toward Columbia, General Sherman advised Rear Admiral Dahlgren of the possibilities of having to turn back to the coast:  "We are on the railroad at Midway [S.C.], and will break 50 miles from Edisto toward Augusta and then cross toward Columbia.  Weather is bad and the country full of water.

"This cause may force me to turn toward Charleston.  I have ordered Foster to order Hatch up to the Edisto about Jacksonboro and Willstown; also to make the lodgment about Bull's Bay.  Watch Charleston closely.  I think Jeff Davis will direct it to be abandoned, lest he lose the garrison as well as guns.

"We are all well, and the enemy retreats before us.  Send word to New Berne that you have heard from me, and the probabilities are that high waters may force me to the coast before I reach North Carolina, but to keep Wilmington busy."

--Old B-Runner

New Confederate Ram on the Roanoke?-- Part 2

Continuing with Porter's suggestions to Commander Macomb.

""You can sling s good sized anchor to an outrigger spar, and let it go on her deck, and by letting go your own anchor keep her from getting away until other vessels pile in one her.  Five or six steamers getting alongside the ram could certainly take her by boarding.

"If you get on board of her, knock a hole in her smokestack with axes or fire a howitzer through it, and drop shrapnel down into the furnaces....  Set torpedoes in the river at night, so that no one will know where they are.  Obstruct the river above Plymouth, and get what guns are there to command the approaches.

"Get a net or two across the river, with large meshes, so that when the ram comes down the net will clog her propeller....It is strange if we, with all our resources, can not extinguish a rebel ram."

With the South struggling to complete ironclads one by one, the North was able to bring massive strength to bear against each potential threat.  However, if the Confederacy had been able to import machinery and iron freely, she would have completed a number of effective ironclad warships that could have changed the complexion of the war.

The dreaded ironclad never came down the river and was never even anywhere near completion.

Ol' Porter, the Ironclad Expert.  --Old B-Runner


Friday, February 6, 2015

Union Navy Hears of a New Confederate Ram on Roanoke River-- Part 1

FEBRUARY 6TH, 1865:  Rear Admiral Porter, having received intelligence that a new Confederate ram was near completion at a shipyard on the Roanoke River, and would soon enter Albemarle Sound, ordered Commander William H. Macomb, commanding the squadron in the Sound, to make every preparation to destroy her when she came down the Roanoke.

Porter directed Macomb to fit a spar "to the bow of every gunboat and tug, with a torpedo on it, and run at the ram, all together.  No matter how many of your vessels get sunk, one or the other of them will sink the ram if the torpedo is cooly exploded.

"Have your large rowboats fitted with torpedoes also, and...put your large vessels alongside of her, let the launches and small torpedo boats run in and sink her...."

Directions for a Torpedo Attack, Ala Cushing.  --Old B-R'er

A New Confederate Warship for Wilmington?

FEBRUARY 6TH, 1865:  Secretary Mallory wrote General Braxton Bragg in Wilmington that Chief Naval Constructor John L. Porter had advised him that a new Confederate vessel could be completed in 90 days.  Machinery for the ship was available at Columbus, Georgia, but Mallory sought assurance from Bragg that Wilmington could be held long enough for the machinery to be transported and the ship built.

On the 8th, Bragg replied: "This place will be held so long as our means enable us.  There is no indication of any movement against it, and our means of defense are improving."

However, Rear Admiral Porter and General Grant had other plans; Wilmington would be evacuated exactly two weeks later.

Well, Bragg, You Know.  --Old B-R'er

Confederate Torpedo Boat Captured in Virginia

FEBRUARY 6TH, 1865:  A joint Army-Navy expedition up Pagan and Jones Creeks, off James River, Virginia,,, captured a Confederate torpedo boat, a torpedo containing 75 pounds of powder, and Master William A. Hines, CSN.

Hines had led an expedition in late 1864 that destroyed the tug Lizzie Freeman off Pagan Creek on December 5th.

The naval force consisted of eight cutters and two launches conveying 150 troops and was commanded by Lt. George W. Wood of the USS Roanoke.

--Old B-Runner

Wreck of the USS Anna (Annie) Found

FEBRUARY 5TH, 1865:  The USS Hendrick Hudson reported locating the sunken wreck of the USS Anna (Annie), south of Cape Romain, Florida.

The Anna had departed Key West on 30 December and had not been heard from since. Apparently, an accidental explosion had ripped the schooner apart.  No survivors were found.

--Old B-R'er

USS Niagara Watching CSS Stonewall at Ferrol, Spain

FEBRUARY 5TH, 1865:  The USS Niagara, Commodore Thomas T. Craven, learned that "the pirate ram" Stonewall was repairing at Ferrol, Spain.  He departed Dover, England, for Spain the next day but because of foul weather did not reach Coruna, Spain, some nine miles from Ferrol, until 11 February.

He requested assistance in blockading the ironclad from the USS Sacramento, but found that she was at Lisbon repairing and would not be ready for sea for ten days.  Craven himself then put into Ferrol on the 15th and maintained a close watch on the Stonewall.

Two Enemy Ships in the Same Harbor.  --Old B-Runner

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Cushing Raids Into South Carolina

FEBRAUARY 4-6TH, 1865:  A boat expedition under Lt.Cmdr. Cushing, USS Monticello, proceeded up Little River, South Carolina, placing the small town of All Saints Parish under guard and capturing a number of Confederate soldiers.

On the 5th, Cushing destroyed some $15,000 worth of cotton.  The next day he sent two boat crews to Shallotte Inlet, North Carolina, where they surprised a small force of Confederates collecting provisions for the troops at Fort Anderson on the Cape Fear River below Wilmington.

Six of the soldiers were taken prisoner and the stores they had gathered were destroyed.  The Southerners reported that troops previously stationed at Shallotte Inlet had been ordered to Fort Anderson; there the South hoped to stall the Army-Navy movement on Wilmington.

Cushing's At It Again.  --Old B-Runner

Chameleon Unsuccessfully Attempts to Run Into Charleston: "Our Hearts Sank Within Us"

FEBRUARY 5TH, 1865:  The blockade-runner Chameleon, Lt. Wilkinson, attempted to run through the blockade into Charleston Harbor, S.C., with desperately needed supplies for General Lee's Army at Petersburg, but was unsuccessful.

Having run into the Cape Fear river the previous month only to find Fort fisher in Union hands on January 19, the bold Wilkinson had returned to Nassau and learned on January 30th that Charleston was still in Confederate hands.

On February 1st, he departed Nassau and evaded the USS Vanderbilt after a long chase, but found that the blockade of Charleston had been augmented by so many ships from off the Wilmington station that he could not get into the  harbor while the tide was high.

Wilkinson later wrote, "the course of the Chameleon was gain, and for the last time, shaped for Nassau.  As we turned away from the land, our hearts sank within us, that the cause for which so much blood had been shed, so many miseries bravely endured, and so many sacrifices cheerfully made, was about to perish at last!"

--Old B-Rer

Fort Fisher, My Take

The fall of Fort Fisher was really the death knell of the Confederacy, even though the cause was essentially lost starting in July 1863 and picking up speed through 1864 and to this late date.

I have to believe that General Bragg should have done something to save the fort, especially with the landings above the fort.  But, that was just Bragg being Bragg..  Too bad the Confederates didn't just let Whiting continue to command the District.  My thought is that he would have done something more.

And, i have to wonder why Porter was so keen to have the Naval Column attack the fort, despite their lack of training.  It is my thought that he was hoping to have his sailors capture the fort before the Army as that would make him even more famous, perhaps as much as Farragut..

Anyway.  --Old B-R'er

Lights Out for Fort Fisher-- Part 8: Army-Navy Cooperation

In his telegram to secretary Welles announcing the capture of the fort, Porter stated: "General Terry is entitled to the highest praise and gratitude of his country for the manner in which he has conducted his part of the operations....Our cooperation has been most cordial.  The result is victory, which will always be ours when the Army and the Navy go hand in hand."

Terry began his own report: "I should signally fail to do my duty were I to omit to speak in terms of the highest admiration of the part borne by the Navy in our operations.  In all ranks, from Admiral Porter to his seamen, there was the utmost desire not only to do their proper work, but to facilitate in every measure the operations of the land forces."

--Old B-Runner

Lights Out for Fort Fisher-- Part 7: Pounding a Fort

The operation against Fort Fisher also provided dramatic demonstration of a fleet's ability to mass superior firepower at any point of s shore defense position.  Fear of concentrated naval gunfire forced inaction of General Hoke's division stationed between the fort and Wilmington, forestalling any interference with the landing of the federal expeditionary force and enabling General Terry to split the Confederate defense forces.

Colonel Lamb, the fort's gallant commandant, later recorded: "For the first time in the history of sieges the land defenses of the works was destroyed, not by any act of the besieging army, but by the concentrated fire, direct and enfilading, of an immense fleet poured into them without intermission, until torpedo wires were cut, palisades breached so that they actually afforded cover for assailants, and the slopes of the work were rendered practicable for assault."

The second attack became a classic example of complete Army-Navy coordination.

Setting the Stage for D-Day.  --Old B-R'er

More Blockade Runners Captured

FEBRUARY 2ND, 1865:  USS Pinola captured blockade-running British schooner Ben Willis at sea in the Gulf of Mexico with cargo of cotton.

FEBRUARY 3RD, 1865:  USS Matthew Vassar captured blockade-running schooner John Hale off St. Marks, Florida, with cargo including lead, blankets and rope.

--Old B-Runner

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Porter Wants Monitors Returned to Cape Fear River

FEBRUARY 3RD, 1865:  In anticipation of the movement on Wilmington, Porter wrote Dahlgren requesting that the monitors he had dispatched to Charleston after the fall of Fort Fisher (Canonicus, Mahopac and Monadnock) be returned to duty on the Cape Fear River.

Although each squadron commander wanted the sturdy warships to spearhead his own efforts, Dahlgren prevailed in his belief that his problem was greater before the heavily fortified Charleston harbor.  Thus Porter had to plan on the services of only the USS Montauk, the lone monitor he had retained.

Monitors, with their big guns and massive armor, appealed to naval and military commanders for fighting forts more than they did to their crews.  An officer n the USS Canonicus had written earlier: "I will never go to sea in a monitor.  I have suffered more in mind and body since this affair commenced than I will suffer again if I can help it.  No glory, no promotion can ever pay for it."

Not So Great on a Monitor?  --Old B-R'er

Blockade Runner Destroyed in S.C.

FEBRUARY 4TH, 1865:  The USS Wamsutta and USS Potomska sighted an unidentified blockade-runner aground near Breach Inlet, S.C.; on being discovered, the runner's crew fired and abandoned her.

Breach's Inlet is by Sullivan Island, at the mouth of Charleston Harbor.

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Grant Requests Naval Support for Schofield's 23rd Corps Transit to North Carolina

FEBRUARY 3RD, 1865:  From City Point, Virginia, General grant requested the Navy keep two or three vessels patrolling between Cape Henry, Virginia, and the Cape Fear River, N.C., during the transit of General Schofield's 23rd Army Corps.

The Corps was embarking from Annapolis, Maryland, and Alexandria, Virginia, for North Carolina to participate in the attack on Wilmington.

Grant wrote: "It is barely possible for one of the enemy's privateers to be met on that route and do us great injury."

Two steamers were stationed as requested to protect the troop transports.

--Old B-R'er


Wilmington's Half Moon Battery/Battery Gatlin

Back on January 30th, I wrote about the USS Cherokee engaging the Confederate Half Moon Battery on the east bank of the Cape Fear River,

It was called Half Moon Battery by the federals because of its shape, but Battery Gatlin by the Confederates.

It was located on the west side of Myrtle Grove Sound in what today is Carolina Beach.

The battery mounted six guns and was part of Wilmington's Outer Defense system.

the site is marked and parts remain in the Forest-by-the-Sea condo complex.

--Old B-R'er

Grant and Porter Plan the End of the Confederacy Off Wilmington

FEBRUARY 3RD, 1865:  To speed the collapse of the faltering South, another giant thrust gathered from the sea off Wilmington, North Carolina.  During a lull in the planned spring assault on Richmond when the roads improved, General Grant came down to confer with Rear Admiral Porter, his old Vicksburg comrade.

The general had spent several hours on board the flagship USS Malvern on 28 January where plans took shape for the push into North Carolina up the Cape Fear River as Sherman marched inland parallel to the coast.

When Grant returned to Virginia he quickly dispatched general Schofield and his 23rd Corps by sea with an army which, with the big guns of the fleet, would be large enough to push on to Wilmington.

This date, Porter, in the USS Shawmut, was preparing for this campaign, engaged Fort Anderson to test the strength of the Confederate defenses on the west bank of the Cape Fear River.

--Old B-Runner

General Hatch Requests Naval Assistance During Sherman's March

FEBRUARY 3RD, 1865:  Brigadier General John P. Hatch, one of Sherman's subordinates, turned to Dahlgren for naval assistance:  "If you can spare a tug or two launches, to cruise the upper Broad River during the stay of this command near here [Pocotaglio, South Carolina], it would be of service to us.

"Night before last three of our boats were stolen, and I fear some scamps in the vicinity of Boyd's Neck or Bee's Creek are preparing to capture some of our transports."

Those Confederate Scamps.  --Old B-R'er

CSS Macon and CSS Sampson Ordered to Give Up Ammunition at Augusta, Georgia

FEBRUARY 3RD, 1865:  Flag Officer William W. Hunter reported to the Confederate Navy department that he was ordering the CSS Macon and CSS Sampson to turn over their ammunition to the Confederate Army at Augusta.  The shallow upper Savannah River mad eit impossible made it impossible to use the vessels effectively in the defense of the city against the threatened attack by General Sherman's army which was working its way northward from Savannah.

Sherman had spent January in Savannah preparing for his march to North Carolina and insuring that he would have the necessary support from the sea coast.  After preparatory combined operations, in which Rear Admiral Dahlgren lost the USS Dai Ching to gunfire and subjected other gunboats to the threat of the ever-present torpedoes in shallow river and coastal waters, Sherman crossed the Savannah River at Savannah and on February 1, continued his march.

When Savannah had fallen, Hunter had brought the Macon and Sampson upriver with difficulty, determined to fight them as long as possible.  Now, however, he had run out of navigable water.

--Old B-R'er

Freedom Coming: Freedom for All Exhibit at Fort Fisher

From the Feb. 1, 2015, Lumina (Wrightsville Beach, NC) News "Fort Fisher features Freedom for All exhibit."

A photo of an 1861 Springfield rifle and a captured Confederate officer's sword belonging to USCT Private Luke Martin accompanies the article.

A traveling exhibit of informational panels along with these two artifacts will be on display at Fort Fisher until February  12th at the museum.  The exhibit is to mark the observance of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and 13th Amendment to the Constitution abolishing slavery in 1865.

"Freedom Coming: Freedom for All" is part of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources' 150th observance of the end of the Civil War and recognition of Black History Month.

Private Luke Martin enlisted in the 1st North Carolina Colored Infantry in May 1863, as soon as a person of color could legally enlist in the Union Army.  Martin's son, the late Luke P. Martin, Jr., loaned his father's rifle and captured sword to the exhibit.

The exhibit is traveling to state museums, historic sites, libraries and other cultural venues through August 10, 2015.

--Old B-Runner

Monday, February 2, 2015

Ice Problems for Confederate James River Squadron

FEBRUARY 2ND, 1865:  Having failed to pass the obstructions at Trent's Reach in order to attack the Union supply base at City Point, Flag Officer Mitchell confronted another kind of difficulty in maintaining communications with his own capital, Richmond.

In the bitter cold the James River began to freeze over and the ice threatened Wilton Bridge.  This date, Mitchell ordered the CSS Beaufort to break up the ice near the bridge and remain near it "to insure its safety."

Two days later, Mitchell noted that the CSS Torpedo was of special importance because "she is now the only boat in connection with the Beaufort (that is crippled) that we can use to protect the Wilton Bridge from ice and keep open our communications with the city."

--Old B-R'er

Lights Out For Fort Fisher-- Part 6: Aftermath

Fort Fisher had not been taken without considerable losses.  The Union forces--Army and Navy--sustained some 1000 casualties, more than twice what the defenders suffered.  Porter wrote: "Men, it seems, must die that this Union may live, and the Constitution under which we have gained our prosperity must be maintained."

More than 35 sailors and Marines were awarded the Medal of Honor for their heroism in this action that closed the Confederacy's last supply line from Europe.

The second federal assault on Fort Fisher revealed the inherent ability of a fleet-supported amphibious force to capitalize on te superior mobility conferred by command of the sea, forcing defenders to spread their forces thinly in a vain effort to be strong at all threatened points simultaneously.

--Old B-Runner

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Lights Out at Fort Fisher-- Part 5: The Surrender

General Whiting was mortally wounded (well wounded, recovered but caught dysentery in prison and died from that) during the engagement and Colonel lamb was felled with a bullet to the hip (which bothered him the rest of his life).

Major James Reilly, the next highest-ranking officer, assumed command and fought "from traverse to traverse" before finally being forced to retreat from the fort southward to battery Buchana where they surrendered later that night.

"Fort Fisher is ours," Porter wired Welles.

Lights Out for Fort Fisher-- Part 4: Union Army Takes Western Parapets

Continued from January 19th blog entry.

After the naval attack was turned back on January 15, 1865, cries of victory arose from the brave defenders of Fort Fisher, who thought they had beaten back the main attack, but their exultation was short lived.

General Terry's troops had meanwhile attacked and taken the western end of the fort (by the Cape Fear River and held the parapet there.  The Confederates immediately launched a counter-attack, and desperate hand-to-hand fighting followed.

Now the naval shore bombardment intervened decisively.  Porter's fleet was at anchor and had correctly gotten the range and began firing at right angles to the direction of the Union Army's charge eastward and opened with "deadly precision" on the Confederate ranks.

Other ships lifted their fire to neutralize the river bank behind the fort to prevent reinforcements.  Lamb later recorded that "as the tide of the battle seemed to have turned in our favor, the remorseless fleet came to the rescue of the faltering federals."

Things Going from Bad to Worse.  --Old B-Runner