Fort Fisher

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

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Confederate Raiding Party Captures the St. Mary's in Chesapeake Bay, Md.

MARCH 31ST, 1865:  The St. Mary's, 1 115-ton schooner out of St. Mary's, Maryland, loaded with an assorted cargo valued at $20,000, was boarded and captured off Patuxent River in Chesapeake Bay by a Confederate raiding party led by Master John C. Braine, CSN.

The disguised Southerners were in a yawl and had come alongside the schooner on the pretext that their craft was sinking.  Braine too the St. Mary's to sea where they captured the New York bound schooner J.B. Spafford.  The latter prize was released after the raiders had placed the St. Mary's crew on board her and had taken the crew members' personal effects.

The Confederates indicated to their captives that their intention was to take the St. Mary's to St. Marks, Florida, but they put into Nassau in April.

ALSO THIS DATE:  The USS Iuka, captured British blockade running schooner Comus off the coast of Florida with a cargo of cotton.

----Old B-Runner

Monday, March 30, 2015

Read takes Command of Ram CSS William H. Webb in Red River

MARCH 30TH, 1865:  Lt. Charles Read took command of the ram CSS William H. Webb in the Red River, Louisiana.  Read reported to secretary Mallory that he found the ship "without a single gun on board, little or no crew, no fuel, and no small arms, save a few cutlasses,:

Characteristically, the enterprising officer obtained a 30 pound Parrott rifle from general Kirby Smith and readied the Webb for a bold dash out of the Red River, intending to go down the Mississippi River 300 miles, past New Orleans and out to sea.

What You Going to Do With Lt. read?  --Old B-R'er

Ironclad USS Osage Sunk By Torpedo

MARCH 29TH, 1865:  The USS Osage, Lt.Cmdr. William H. Gamble, upped anchor and got underway inside the bar at Blakely River, Alabama.   Gamble was doing this quickly as he was trying to avoid a collision with the ironclad USS Winnebago, which was drifting alongside in a strong breeze.

Suddenly a torpedo exploded under the monitor's bow, and, Gamble reported, "the vessel immediately commenced sinking."

The Osage lost four men and had eight wounded in the explosion.  She was the third ship to be sunk in the Blakely River during March and the second in two days as torpedo warfare cost the North dearly even though its ships controlled the waters near Mobile.

--Old B-Runner

Grant Begins Final Assault on Lee at Petersburg

MARCH 29TH, 1865:  In a downpour, General Grant launched his wideswinging move to the southwest of Petersburg to roll up Lee's flank.  Ever concerned about his lifeline on the James River, he wrote Rear Admiral Porter:  "In view of the possibility of the enemy coming to City point, or by crossing the Appomattox at Broadway Landing, getting to Bermuda Hundred during the absence of the greater part of the army, I would respectfully request that you direct one or two gunboats to lay in the Appomattox, near the pontoon bridge, and two in the James River, near the mouth of Bailey's Creek, the first stream below City Point emptying into the James."

Porter complied with double measure, sending not one or two but several ships to grant's assistance.

--Old B-Runner

Naval Operations in North Carolina Sounds-- Part 2

Commander Macomb received Porter's orders via the swift steamer USS Bat on 30 March, and, the following day, replied from Roanoke Island:  "I immediately had an interview with the general and arranged that Captain Rhind would attend to everything relating to the Navy in the Neuse.

"I am on my way to Plymouth to carry out your orders as regards sending vessels to Winton, on the Chowan and holding the same.  The Shokokon and Commodore Hull are on their way up from New berne.  As soon as possible after my arrival at Plymouth I shall proceed up the Chowan, dragging ahead for torpedoes."

Control of the sea and rivers continued to be as invaluable to the North on operations at the end of the war as it had from the start.

--Old B-R'er

Naval Operations in North Carolina Sounds-- Part 1

MARCH 28TH, 1865:  Following the Presidential conference on board the River Queen, Rear Admiral Porter ordered Commander Macomb, commanding the North Carolina Sounds, "to cooperate with General Sherman to the fullest extent: during the operations soon to be opened in the area.  "They will want all your tugs, particularly, to tow vessels or canal boats up to Kinston [N.C.]....

"It will be absolutely necessary to supply General Sherman by way of Kinston."  Porter continued: "There will be a movement made from Winton after awhile.  It is necessary for us to get possession of everything up the Chowan River, so that Sherman can obtain his forage up to there....

"I trust Captain Rhind to remove the obstructions at New Berne and to tow up rapidly all the provisions, and General Sherman can supply his army for daily use by railroad, and you can get up the stuff required for the march."

--Old B-Runner

Lincoln, Grant, Sherman and Porter Meet-- Part 2

After the conference, Sherman returned to New Bern, N.C., on board the USS Bat, a swifter ship than the steamer on which he had arrived at City Point.  Porter had ordered Lt.Cmdr. Barnes:  "You will wait the pleasure of Major-General W.T. Sherman...and when ready will convey him, with staff, either to New Berne, Beaufort, or such place as he may indicate.  return here as soon as possible."

Sherman's troops were at Goldsboro at this time, a little more than 125 miles in a direct line south of Petersburg.

--Old B-R'er

Lincoln, Grant, Sherman and Porter Discuss End of War on the Steamer River Queen-- Part 1

MARCH 28TH, 1865:  Rear Admiral Porter visited President Lincoln with generals Grant and Sherman on board the steamer River Queen, the President's headquarters during his stay at City Point, Virginia.  The four men informally discussed the war during the famous conference, and Lincoln stressed his desire to bring the war to a close as quickly as possible with as little bloodshed as possible.

He added that he was inclined to follow a lenient policy with regard to the course to be pursued at the conclusion of the war regarding treatment of Confederate military and civilians.

--Old B-Runner

Saturday, March 28, 2015

USS Milwaukee Sunk by Torpedo in Blakely River

MARCH 28TH, 1865:  The twin-turreted monitor USS Milwaukee, Lt.Cmdr. James H. Gillis, struck a torpedo in the Blakely River, Alabama, while dropping downstream after shelling a Southern transport which was attempting to supply Spanish Fort.  Just as Gillis  returned to the area that had been swept for torpedoes and "supposed the danger from torpedoes was past," he "felt a shock and saw at once that a torpedo had exploded on the port side of the vessel...."

The Milwaukee's stern went under within three minutes but the forward compartments did not fill for almost an hour, enabling the sailors to save most of their possessions.

Although the ship sank, no lives were lost.

--Old B-R'er

Sylvanus Godon Takes Command of Brazil Squadron

MARCH 28TH, 1865:  Secretary Welles advised Commodore Sylvanus W. Godon that he had been appointed as acting Rear Admiral and was to command the Brazil Squadron.  Welles' letter was a significant comment on the progress of the war afloat:  "It is proposed to reestablish the Brazil Squadron, as circumstances now admit of the withdrawal of many of the vessels that have been engaged in the blockade and in active naval operations and sending them on foreign service...."

--Old B-Runner

USS Niagara Fired Upon by Portugal Fort in Lisbon

MARCH 28, 1865:  The USS Niagara, Commodore T.T. Craven, was fired upon by one of the forts in the harbor of Lisbon, Portugal.  In a report to James E. Harvey, U.S. Minister resident in Lisbon, Craven stated:  "With view of shifting her berth further up the river, so as to be nearer the usual landing stairs, at about 3:15 p.m. the Niagara was got underway and was about being turned head upstream when three shots were fired in rapid succession directly at her from Castle Belem."

Portugal later apologized for the incident.

--Old B-R'er

Operations Against Mobile Commence

MARCH 27-28TH, 1865:  Combined Army-Navy operations, the latter commanded by Rear Admiral Thatcher, aimed at capturing the city of Mobile commenced.  The objective was Spanish Fort, located near the mouth of the Blakely River and was key to the city's defenses.

Six tinclads and supporting gunboats steamed up the Blakely River to cut the fort's communications with Mobile while the army began to move against the fort's outworks.  The river had been thickly sown with torpedoes which necessitated sweeping operations ahead of the advancing tinclads.  These efforts, directed by Commander Peirce Crosby of the USS Metacomet, netted 150 torpedoes.

Nevertheless, a number of the Confederate weapons eluded the Union-- with telling results.  In the next five days, three Northern warships would be sunk in the Blakely.

--Old B-Runner

Friday, March 27, 2015

CSS Stonewall to Sail to Nassau

MARCH 27TH, 1865:  The CSS Stonewall, Captain T.J. Jones, wrote to Commander Bulloch in England that he would sail from Lisbon, Portugal to Teneriffe and then to Nassau where his subsequent movements "must depend upon the intelligence I may receive...."  Of course, referring to the rapidly diminishing chances of the Confederacy.

That evening, the USS Niagara and Sacramento entered Lisbon, after having followed the Stonewall from Coruna, Spain.

The Stonewall, however, was able to put to sea the next day without interference because international law required the two Union ships to remain in port for 24 hours after the Stonewall had departed.  Of course, I kind of doubt that the two Union ships would have chased and engaged the Stonewall after having declined an engagement earlier in the week.

--Old B-Rer

Searching for the CSS Shenandoah

MARCH 27TH, 1865:  Secretary Welles ordered the USS Wyoming, Commander John P. Bankhead, then in Baltimore, to sail in search of the CSS Shenandoah.  So delayed were communications between the Pacific and Washington, D.C., that although the Wyoming was ordered to cruise from Melbourne, Australia, to China, the Shenandoah had already departed from Australia more than five weeks before and was now nearing Ascension Island.

The Wyoming would join the USS Wachusett and Iroquois on independent service in and effort to track down the elusive commerce raider.

--Old B-Runner

Expedition Up the Waccamaw River, S.C.-- Part 2: Saved From Raiding Deserters

"I found the Mingoe ashore near her destination, towed her off and caused her to drop to a point where she could anchor.  The shore expedition had gone on, and I took the remainder of the boats in tow as far as practicable, then causing them to row.  After incredible labor and difficulty, succeeded in getting to Conwayboro at nightfall, just after the marching division.

"No enemies were encountered, but it was reported many small parties fled in various directions on our approach by river and land.

""The people of the town were glad to see us; even those having relatives in the army professed their joy at being saved from the raiding deserters.  They assure us that the penetration of our parties into such distances, supposed to be inaccessible to our vessels, has spread a saluatory dread, and that our large force on the Catalpa, 4 large launches, and 10 boats, with about 300 men in all, at the highest point, presented such a formidable display, with 7 howitzers, that they thought they would be completely prevented [from] returning to that neighborhood."

--Old B-R'er

Expedition Up the Waccamaw River, S.C.-- Part 1

MARCH 27TH, 1865:  Captain Stellwagen, the senior naval officer at Georgetown, South Carolina, reported to Rear Admiral Dahlgren "the return of another expedition of four days' duration up the Waccamaw River some 50 miles to Conwayboro."

Detailing the nature of the ceaseless naval expeditions in coastal and inland waters that facilitated the land campaign, Stellwagen continued:  "Having heard the threats of a visit in force had been made by the guerrillas against the plantations and settlements, in view of which great alarm was felt on the whole route by blacks and whites, I dispatched the Mingoe, having in tow some ten armed boats, to proceed as high as Buck's Mills, and leaving it discretionary with Lieutenant-Commanders G.U. Morris and William H. Dana to proceed the remaining distance by boats or land.

"The arrival of the steam launch and two large row launches from the Santee [River] enabled me to follow with them, and the steam tug Catalpa determined to ascend as far as the water would permit."

--Old B-Runner

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Action in Louisiana

MARCH 26-27TH, 1865:  A detachment of sailors led by Acting Ensign Peyton H. Randolph of the USS Benton joined troops under the command of Brigadier General B.G. Farar in a combined expedition to Trinity, Louisiana,  where they captured a small number of Confederate soldiers as well as horses, arms and stores.

--Old B-Runner

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Lee Makes Last Attempt to Break Grant's Lines-- Part 2

Lee's attack was his last bold gamble for great stakes.  Never one to submit tamely to even the most formidable odds, he sought in the surprise attack to cripple Grant's army so that the overwhelming spring attack the Federals were building up could not be launched.

Lee hoped that he could speed to North Carolina with part of the veterans, join General Johnston and crush Sherman while still holding his Richmond-Petersburg line.  Had the attack gone as well in its latter stages as it did in the first onslaught, he would have been within range of City Point, only some ten miles away.

The wholesale destruction of the host of supply ships, mountains of stores, and vast arsenal would have ended Grant's plan for seizing Richmond that spring.

--Old B-R'er

Lee Makes Last Attempt to Break Grant's Lines-- Part 1

MARCH 25TH, 1865:  General Grant wired Rear Admiral Porter that General Lee's soldiers had broken through the right of his lines and that he thought they would strike toward the central James River supply base at City Point a few miles from the breakthrough.

"I would suggest putting one or two gunboats on the Appomattox up as high as the pontoon bridge, he told the Admiral.  Porter immediately ordered gunboats up the Appomattox River to guard the bridge "at all times."

Simultaneously, the USS Wilderness was ordered up the Chickahominy River to communicate with General Sheridan, carry intelligence about any Confederate activity along the river, and bring back dispatches from Sheridan for Grant.

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

USS Republic Engages Wheeler's Cavalry on the Cape Fear River

MARCH 24TH, 1865:  The USS Republic was dispatched up the Cape Fear River from Wilmington to check reports that detachments of General Wheeler's cavalry were operating in the area.  About six miles up the river a cavalry squad was driven away with gunfire.

They then landed a reconnoitering party.  It was learned that the mounted Confederates had broken into small squads and were plundering the countryside.

They also made contact with a rear guard detachment of General Sherman's army en route to Fayetteville.

--Old B-R'er

Lincoln Visits With Gen. Grant and an Army-Navy Problem With Horses and Boats

MARCH 24TH, 1865:  President Lincoln visited General Grant at City Point, Virginia, arriving at this all-important water-supported supply base at 9 p.m. on board the steamer River Queen.  Accompanied by Mrs. Lincoln and his son Tad, he was escorted up the James River by the USS Bat, Lt.Cmdr.  John S. Barnes.

Two days later Barnes accompanied Lincoln and Grant on a review of part of the Army of the James.  General Horace Porter, serving on the general's staff, later recalled:  "Captain Barnes, who commanded the vessel which had escorted the President's steamer, was to be part of the party, and I loaned him my horse.

"This was a favor which was usually accorded with some reluctance to naval officers when they came ashore; for these men of the ocean at times tried to board the animal on the starboard side, and often rolled in the saddle as if there was a heavy sea on; and if the horse, in his anxiety to rid himself of the sea-monster, tried to scrape his rider off by rubbing against a tree, the officer attributed the unseaman-like conduct of the animal entirely to the fact that his steering-gear had become unshipped....

"Navy officers were about as reluctant to lend their boats to to army people, for fear they would knock holes in te bottom when jumping in, break the oars in catching crabs, and stave in the bows through an excess of modesty which manifested itself in a reluctance to give the command 'Way enough!' in time when approaching a wharf."

Wondering How Lr. Cmdr. Barnes Did On That Horse?  --Old B-Runner

The CSS Stonewall Attempts to Engage the USS Niagara and Sacramento-- Part 2

MARCH 24TH, 1865:  However, as Craven explained to secretary Welles:  "At this time the odds were in her favor were too great and too certain, in my humble judgement, to admit of the slightest hope of being able to to inflict upon her even the most trifling injury, whereas, if we would have gone out, the Niagara would most likely have been easily and promptly destroyed.

"So thoroughly a one-sided combat I did not consider myself called upon to engage in."

Craven was subsequently courtmartialed and found remiss in his duties for failing to engage the Stonewall.  Serving as President of the court was Vice Admiral Farragut and sitting as a member was Commodore John A. Winslow who had sunk the Confederate raider Alabama.

The court sentenced Craven to two years suspension on leave pay.  Welles refusesd to approve what he regarded as a "paid vacation" for an officer who had been found guilty and instead restored Craven to duty.

Quite An Interesting Story.  Perhaps a Book Is Needed.  --Old B-R'er

CSS Stonewall Puts to Sea and Attempts to Engage USS Niagara and Sacramento-- Part 1

MARCH 24TH. 1865:  The heavily armed Confederate ironclad Stonewall, Captain T.J. Page puts to sea from Ferrol, Spain, after two previous attempts had failed because of foul weather.  Page cleared the harbor at mid-morning and attempted to bring on an engagement with the wooden frigate USS Niagara and sloop-of-war USS Sacramento, under Commodore T. T. Craven.

The Sacramento was commanded by Captain Henry Walke, who had gained fame as captain of the Eads ironclad gunboat USS Carondolet in the Mississippi Campaign.  Craven had kept his ships at anchor at nearby Coruna, Spain,  and refused to accept the Stonewall's challenge.

Page wrote to Commander Bulloch in Liverpool:  "To suppose that these two heavily-armed men-of-war were afraid of the Stonewall is to me incredible...."

--Old B-Runner

Monday, March 23, 2015

USS Constellation "Oldest Warship Afloat" Still Providing Service

MARCH 23RD, 1865:  The USS Constellation, approaching its 68th birthday of her launching and already the United States' oldest warship afloat, as she still is today, continued to serve a useful purpose in the new era of steam and iron.

This date Commodore Radford reported from Norfolk to Rear Admiral Porter:  "I have ordered the men transferred from the Wabash to this ship [USS Dumbarton] for the James River Flotilla on board the Constellation."

My question:  What about the USS Constitution?

What About It.  --Old B-R'er

Directions for the North Carolina Sounds

MARCH 23RD, 1865:  From the James River, Rear Admiral Porter directed Commander Macomb, commanding in the North Carolina  Sounds: "It  seems to be the policy now to break up all trade, especially that which may benefit the rebels, and you will dispose your vessels about the sounds to capture all contraband of war going into the enemy's lines.

"You will stop all supplies of clothing that can by any possibility benefit a soldier; seize all vessels afloat that carry provisions to any place not held by our troops and send them into court for adjudication.  Recognize no permits where there is a prospect of stores of any kind going into rebel hands....

"For any capture, send in prize lists and make full reports.  You will see by the law (examine it carefully) that an officer is authorized to send all property 'not abandoned' into court, especially property afloat."

Let Nothing Move.  --Old B-Runner

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Lincoln and His Generals Have Conference

MARCH 22ND, 1865:  Assistant secretary Fox directed Commodore Montgomery, Commandant of the Washington Navy Yard, to have the USS Bat ready to convoy the steamer River Queen, bound for City Point at noon the next day:  "The President will be in the River Queen, bound for City Point."

Lincoln was headed for a conference with his top commanders.

In a hard battle (19-22 March), General Sherman had just defeated a slashing attack by General Johnston at Bentonville, midway between his two river contacts with the sea at Fayetteville and Goldsboro.

At Goldsboro Sherman was joined by General Schofield's Army, which had been brought to Wilmington by ships.

Confident of the security of his position, Sherman could leave his soldiers for a few days and take the steamer Russia to City Point and the meeting with Lincoln, Grant and Porter.

--Old B-Runner

Destitute Folks at Biloxi and Action in the Fish River

MARCH 21ST, 1865:  Lt.Cmdr. Arthur R. Yates, commanding the USS J.P. Jackson, in Mississippi Sound, reported to Rear Admiral Thatcher that he had issued food from his ship's stores to relieve the destitute and starving condition of the people in Biloxi, cut off from Mobile from which provisions had been formerly received.

Yates demonstrated the humanitarian heritage of the Navy.

ALSO THIS DATE:  The heavy guns of Union gunboats supported the landing of troops of general Canby's command at Dannelly's Mills on the Fish River, Alabama.    This was a diversionary action intended to prevent the movement of additional Confederate troops to Mobile during the week prior to the opening of the Federal attack against that city.

--Old B-R'er

CSS Stonewall Attempts to Put Out to Sea

MARCH 21ST, 1865:  The CSS Stonewall having been detained in Ferrol, Spain, for several days because of foul weather, attempted to put to sea.  However, the seas outside were still too heavy and the ironclad put back into port.

Two days alter another attempt to get to sea met with similar results.  They off-loaded some 40 tons of coal to make her more seaworthy.

--Old B-Runner

Friday, March 20, 2015

Successful Raising of the CSS Albemarle

MARCH 20TH, 1865:  Commander Macomb, USS Shamrock, reported the successful raising of the Confederate ram Albemarle.  The formidable ironclad had been sunk the previous autumn during the daring attack by Lt. William Cushing in an improvised torpedo boat on October 27, 1864.

A major blow to Confederate hopes in the sounds of North carolina.

--Old B-R'er

CSS Neuse Center Grand Opening in Kinston-- Part 4

Scharf was wrong, though.  Actually the CSS Neuse was still in the Neuse River at its end and the Confederates at Kinstin were under Bragg.  The Federals were led by General  Jacob D. Cox in 1865 at Kinston.

The General Foster that Scharf mentioned did lead an attack against Kinston in 1862 (and also attacked the Neuse while under construction at Seven Springs, N.C., near Goldsboro).  Confederate General Hardee wasn't too far away at the time of the Neuse's destruction.  He fought Union General Henry Slocum at the Battle of Averasboro.

North Carolina Sites director Andrew Duppstadt will present "Final Days of the Neuse" presentation at 11 a.m.

Wade Sokolosky will then talk about the Battle of Wyse Fork (Second Battle of Kinston) at 1 p.m..

Historian Dennis Harper will then lead a tour of that battlefield at 2 p.m..

Like I Said Before, I Sure Would Have Liked to Have Been There.  --Old B-Runner

Thursday, March 19, 2015

USS Massachusetts Strikes Torpedo in Charleston Harbor

MARCH 19TH, 1865:  The USS Massachusetts struck a torpedo in Charleston Harbor; "fortunately it did not explode."  The incident took place two days after the Coast Survey steamer Bibb had been damaged by a torpedo in the harbor and occurred within 50 yards of the wreck of the monitor USS Patapsco, which had been sunk by a torpedo two months earlier on January 15th.

The danger to those attempting to clear torpedoes from the waters previously controlled by the South was constant, as was the risk to ships that were simply operating in the waters.

Not an Easy Duty.  --Old B-R'er

CSS Neuse Center in Kinston Grand Opening-- Part 3

J. Thomas Scharf was from Baltimore and served in the Confederate Navy before writing its history.  The mamoth book, some 912 pages was published in 1886.  In it, he relied on the memories of fellow Confederate sailors, the scant records that survived the war and his own personal collection.

In his book, he notes that the CSS Neuse's last commander, Richard H. Bacot, was, in 1886 an engineer on the Missouri River.

Scharf wrote that: "The companion boat of the Albemarle that was building on the Neuse River, was destroyed by a raid of the Federal forces under Gen. Foster; and later, the ram Neuse, in the Cape Fear River, was destroyed by the Confederates on the retreat of Gen. Hardee, after the battle of Kinston.

There is  a lot of misinformation here.  The Neuse was damaged by Foster's troops in 1862 and it was never in the Cape Fear River which goes nowhere near Kinston.

But, considering his sources, problems like this are bound to happen.

More to Come.  --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

CSS Neuse Center in Kinston Grand Opening-- Part 2

Continued from March 13th blog entry.  The center's grand opening was March 7, 2015.

Re-enactors were there and living history demonstrations, both military and civilian, as well as exhibits were on hand.

Sadly, there is not a lot of history about the ship when compared with its sister cornfield ironclad, the CSS Albemarle.

J. Thomas Scharf wrote the book "History of the Confederate States Navy: From Its Organization to the Surrender of Its last vessel.  Its Stupendous Struggle with the Great Navy of the United States, the Engagements Fought in the Rivers and Harbors of the South, and Upon the High Seas: Blockade-Running, First Use of Iron-clads and Torpedoes, and Privateer History."

He made brief mention of the Neuse.

Now, there is a book title for you!!

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Coast Survey Steamer Bibb Strikes Torpedo in Charleston Harbor

MARCH 17TH, 1865:  The Coast Survey steamer Bibb, commanded by Charles O. Boutelle, struck a submerged torpedo in Charleston Harbor.  "Fortunately for us," Boutelle reported, ""the blow was upon the side.  To this fact and te great strength of the vessel may be ascribed our escape from serious injury."

Nonetheless, as Rear Admiral Dahlgren noted a few days later, the Bibb "was much jarred" by the impact and required considerable repairs.

--Old B-R'er

Action in the Gulf and Albemarle Sound

MARCH 17TH, 1865:  The USS Quaker City captured blockade running schooner George Burkhart in the Gulf of Mexico with cargo of cotton bound from Lavaca, Texas, for Matamoras, Mexico.

The USS Wyalusing, while engaged in clearing and opening  the tributaries of Albemarle Sound, removed 60 nets and captured a Confederate schooner in the Scuppernong and Alligator rivers.

--Old B-Runner

Naval Expedition on the Rappahannock River in Virginia

MARCH 16-18TH, 1865:  A naval expedition, led by Lt.Cmdr. Thomas H. Eastman, consisting of the USS don, Stepping Stones, heliotrope and Resolute, proceeded up the Rappahannock River and its tributary Mattox Creek, to the vicinity of Montrose, Virginia,, where it destroyed a supply base that had been supporting Confederate guerrillas on the peninsula between the Rappahannock and Potomac rivers.

Eastman led a landing party of 70 Marines and sailors up the right fork of Mattox Creek where he found and destroyed four boats.  The landing party, led by Acting Ensign William H, Summers, that cleared the left fork encountered heavy musket fire but successfully destroyed three schooners.

Houses in the vicinity were also searched and contraband destroyed.  Acting Ensign John J. Brice, who,led the 40-man search party, "found himself opposed by about 50 cavalry  he formed his men to receive their attack.  While doing this, 8 or 10 cavalry came down on his left flank, which he drove off.  The main portion, on seeing this, retired to the woods."

--Old B-R'er

Blockade-Runners Captured

MARCH 16TH, 1865:  The USS Pursuit captured British schooner Mary attempting to run the blockade into Indian River on the east coast of Florida.  Her cargo consisted of shoes, percussion caps and rum.

The USS Quaker City captured small blockade running sloop Telemico in the Gulf of Mexico with cargo of cotton and peanuts.

--Old B-Runner

Monday, March 16, 2015

Federals Plan Move on Mobile

MARCH 16TH, 1865:  Major General Canby requested Rear Admiral Thatcher to provide naval gunfire and transport support to the landing and movement of Federal troops against Mobile.  The response again demonstrated the close coordination with ground operations which was so effective throughout the war.

Thatcher replied: "I shall be most happy and ready to give you all of the assistance in my power.  Six tinclads are all the light-draft vessels at my disposal.  They will be ready at any moment."

--Old B-R'er

Bragg Has Evacuated Kinston?-- Part 2

MARCH 13TH, 1865:  Confederate General Johnston had been recalled to duty and been sent to North Carolina to oppose General Sherman's advance.  Troops withdrawn from Kinston were part of his consolidation of any forces he could gather, including those from Savannah, Charleston and Wilmington.  It was hoped he could pull them all together in time to make a stand against Sherman's much larger numbers.

The withdrawal from Kinston was immediately occupied by Union forces on March 14th and in the meanwhile, the Confederates had destroyed the ironclad CSS Neuse.

--Old B-Runner

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Georgia Confederate Salt Works Destroyed

MARCH 15TH, 1865:  Acting Lt. Robert P. Swanson, USS Lodona, reported to Rear Admiral Dahlgren that he had destroyed and extensive salt work on Broro Neck. McIntosh County, Georgia.

Destroyed were 12 boilers, 10 buildings, 100 bushels of salt, a large quantity of timber and a number of barrels and staves.

Still Going for the Salt.  --Old B-Runner

Confederates Transfer Ships West?

MARCH 15TH, 1865:  Rear Admiral Lee, commanding the Mississippi Squadron, warned of receipt from "highest military sources" of the information "that the rebel Navy is reported to have been relieved from duty on the Atlantic  coast and sent to operate on the Western rivers."

He added: "The design of the enemy is believed to be to interfere with the naval vessels and the transports on those rivers, or to cover the transfer of rebel troops from the west side of the Mississippi."

What Ships?  --Old B-Runner

Schooner Seized in Chesapeake Bay

MARCH 14TH, 1865:  The USS Wyandank, Acting Lt. Sylvanus Nickerson, seized the schooner Champanero off Inigoes Creek in Chesapeake Bay.  The federal Customs office at Port of St. Mary's had cleared the schooner and endorsed the accuracy of its manifest.

Nickerson alertly examined the cargo and found more than half of it not manifested, including a large quantity of powder.  He also discovered that the customs official that had signed the clearance had $4,000 worth of liquor and other readily salable merchandise in board.

Something's Fishy on the Chesapeake.  --Old B-R'er

Grant Want Navy Help in Virginia

MARCH 14TH, 1865:  Having dispatched a large number of troops to White House, Virginia, General Grant requested the Navy to send additional gunboats into the York and Pamunkey rivers "to keep open free navigation between White House and the mouth of York River."

Commodore Radford replied at once: "Will send vessels required immediately."  The USS Shawmut and Commodore Morris were detailed for the duty which, like control of the waters of the James, assured the Army of rapid communication and logistic support.

--Old B-Runner

Friday, March 13, 2015

Bragg Has Evacuated Kinston-- Part 1

MARCH 13TH, 1865:  Commander Rhind, Senior  Naval Officer at New Bern, reported to Commander Macomb, commanding in the North Carolina Sounds, that the expedition up the Neuse River had returned the previous evening.  "A deserter from a North Carolina regiment came on board the [Army steamer] Ella May yesterday morning.

"He states  that the whole rebel force under Bragg (estimated by him at 40,000) had evacuated Kinston, moving toward Goldsboro, but that Hoke's division returned when he left.

"The ironclad [Neuse] is afloat and ready for service; has two guns, draws 9 feet.  No pontoon was found in the Neuse.  If you can send me a torpedo launch at once he may have the opportunity of destroying the ironclad.  The bridge (railroad) at Kinston has been destroyed by the enemy."

Sounds like Rhind is thinking of a repeat of the Cushing attack on the CSS Albemarle.

--Old B-Runner

Action Up the Rappahannock River

MARCH 13TH, 1865:  Lt.Cmdr. Hooker led a naval expedition up the Rappahannock River, Virginia, to assist an army detachment engaged in mopping up operations on the peninsula formed by the the Rappahannock and Potomac rivers.  The expedition consisted of the USS Commodore Reed, Morse, Delaware and the Army gunboat Mosswood.

At Tappahannock, a landing party from the Delaware destroyed eight boats including a large flatboat used as a ferry.  The bridge connecting Tappahannock with the evacuated Fort Lowrey was then destroyed by the well-directed gunfire from the Delaware and Morse.

During these operations, the expedition exchanged fire for two hours with two rifled field pieces concealed in a wooded area.  They also opened on Confederate cavalry units in the vicinity and, Hooker reported, "emptied some of their saddles.".

--Old B-R'er

CSS Neuse Center in Kinston, N.C. Grand Opening-- Part 1

From the March 2, 2015, New Bern (NC) Sun Journal "Neuse Center grand opening set for Saturday in Kinston" by Wes Wolfe.

That would be last Saturday.  Well, always a day late, you know.  Another thing I would have definitely like to have been there for, but, alas, too far away.

A replica cannon in the reconstructed casemate of the Confederate ironclad CSS Neuse will be seen (and I think it was made up here in Illinois) will be seen as well as never-before shown artifacts from the ship.  This will be at the CSS Neuse Interpretive Center grand opening Saturday, March 7th..

This date falls right by the 150th Battle of Wyse Fork and the week closest to the scuttling of the Confederate ship.  The Confederate loss at Wyse Fork enabled Union reinforcements marching from New Bern to force their way west into the interior of North Carolina to join uop with Union General Sherman's forces.  It is sometimes called the Second Battle of Kinston.

More to Come.  --Old B-Runner

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Overland Naval Unit Delivers Army Dispatches to Fayetteville

MARCH 12TH, 1865:  At the request of Brigadier General Schofield, Acting Master H. Walton Grinnell, leading a detachment of four sailors, succeeded in delivering important Army dispatches to General Sherman near Fayetteville.  Grinnell and his men began their trip on the 4th in a dugout from Wilmington.

About 12 miles up the Cape Fear River, after passing through Confederate pickets undetected, the men left the boat and commenced a tedious and difficult march toward Fayetteville.

Near Whiteville, Grinnell impressed horses and led a daring dash through Confederate lines.  Shortly thereafter he made contact with the rear scouts of General Sherman's forces, successfully completing what Grinnell termed "this rather novel naval scout."

Naval support, no matter what form it took, was essential to Sherman's movements.

Also on MARCH 12, 1865:   The USS Quaker City captured the British blockade-running schooner R.H. Vermilyea in the Gulf of Mexico with a cargo of  coffee, clothes, rum, tobacco and shoes.

I Wonder If Uncle Billy Thanked Them?  --Old B-Runner

USS Althea Sunk By Torpedo Near Mobile

MARCH 12TH, 1865:  The USS Althea Acting Ensign Frederic A.G. Bacon,  was sunk by a torpedo in the Blakely River, Alabama, near Mobile.  The small 72-ton tug had performed duties as a coaling and supply vessel since joining the West Gulf Blockading Squadron in August 1864.

She was returning from an unsuccessful attempt to drag the river's channel when she "ran afoul of a torpedo."  The Althea went down "immediately" in 10 to 12 feet of water.  Two crew men were killed and three, including Bacon, were injured.

The Althea had the dubious distinction of being the first of seven vessels to be sunk by torpedoes near Mobile in a five week period.  The Confederate weapons took an increasing toll of Union ships as they swept for mines and pressed home the attack in shallow waters.

The Althea was later raised and recommissioned in November 1865.

--Old B-R'er

The SS General Lyon Disaster

I have been writing about the wreck of the Army Transport SS General Lyon in my Saw the Elephant: Civil War Blog.  I came across the name in connection with an Illinois soldier by the name of James O'Roarke from Rochelle, Illinois, who was a member of the 92nd Illinois Infantry Regiment and was returning northward from Andersonville Prison.

  The Gen. Lyon was also carrying 205 members of the recently discharged 56th Illinois Regiment.  Of that number, only five survived.  It is estimated that at least 500 perished when the ship sank on March 31, 1865.

And, the ship had a Fort Fisher and Wilmington connection.  It had carried Union troops during both attacks on Fort Fisher and had been busily ferrying troops between Wilmington and Fortress Monroe and New York during February and March.

This was a huge disaster, and sadly, one that is not too well known.

--Old B-Runner

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

U.S. Navy Ships Rendezvous With Sherman at Fayetteville, N.C.

MARCH 11-12TH, 1865:  Lt.Cmdr. George W. Young, senior officer present off Wilmington, led a naval force consisting of  the USS Eolus and boat crews from the USS Maratanza, Lenapee and Nyack up the Cape Fear River to Fayetteville where they rendezvoused with General Sherman's army.

The expedition had been undertaken at the request of Major General Terry, who, Young reported,  had said on the morning of the 11th 'that he was about an expedition up the North West Branch [of the Cape Fear River]  for the purpose of clearing the way to Fayetteville, and wished to have one of the gunboats, as a support, to follow."

The expedition was halted for the night at devil's Bend because of "the circuitous nature of the river", but resumed the next morning and arrived at Fayetteville on the evening of the 12th.

In addition to opening communication between Union forces on the coast, the naval units arrived in time to protect the general's flank while he crossed the river.

Another Objective Accomplished.  --Old B-R'er

Steamer Ajax Puts Into Nassau

MARCH 11TH, 1865:  The steamer Ajax put into Nassau.  Lt. Low, who had been listed as a "passenger" now assumed command of the vessel  Governor Rawson W. Rawson of Bermuda carefully examined her and concluded that "nothing [was] found on her....  She now appears to be intended for a tug.

"It is suspected that she was intended as a tender to the Confederate Iron-clad vessel [Stonewall], said to now be in a Spanish Port, watched by two Federal cruisers."

On 25 March transferred her registry and she became the CSS Ajax.  By early April the Ajax was ready to sail to Bermuda.

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Clearing the Cape Fear River to Fayetteville

MARCH 10TH, 1865:  Lt.Cmdr. Young reported to Porter progress in clearing the Cape Fear River for the support of Sherman's army now near Fayetteville.  Only small ships or steam launches could provide upriver service.  "The gate obstructions are all clear, so that three or four vessels can pass abreast.

"The obstructions on the line of the two sunken steamers, where the buoy flags were planted, it will be necessary to take great pains to raise carefully.  We have succeeded in destroying some four torpedoes which were found lodged in the logs of the obstructions."

One of Young's gunboats had noted that upriver "the stream is very narrow and tortuous, with a strong current.  Finding that I could not make the turns without using hawsers, and then fouling paddle boxes and smokestack in the branches of large trees, I concluded to return.

"The people, white and black, whom I questioned, state that the Chickamauga is sunk across the stream at Indian Wells, with a chain just below..  Her two guns are on a bluff on the western bank of the river."

Operating conditions in these shallow rivers, often enveloped in forests and swamps, had many similarities with those encountered in South Vietnam by the U.S. Navy.

--Old B-R'er

New Bern, N.C. As a Union Base

MARCH 10TH, 1865:  The federals had long held New Bern, North Carolina, 80 air miles from Wilmington (but there times that by water), near where the Neuse River abruptly narrows from from a main arm of Pamlico Sound.  The city was the gateway for another supply route to the sea for General Sherman as he marched north to join Grant.

This date, at the request of the Army, a small naval force got underway up the river to cut a pontoon bridge the Confederates were reportedly building below Kinston.

--Old B-Runner

Monday, March 9, 2015

Drinkin' Winde-Spr-De-Do-- Part 3: A Skunky Verdict

They uncorked it, smelled it and tasted it.  It was described as having a heady sulfur bouquet with distinct notes of saltwater and gasoline.

The liquid was a cloudy gray and it tasted like a mixture of crab water, gasoline, saltwater and vinegar with hints of citrus and alcohol.

It might have been a Spanish fortified wine.  If not wine, then perhaps a spirit or medicine.

Glad I Didn't Spend Money to Taste.  --Old B-R'er

Drinkin' Wine Spo-De-Do-- Part 2: Sinking and Wine Recovery

They don't know whether it is a good or bad wine.  It was recovered from the iron-hulled sidewheel blockade-runner Mary Celestia which left Bermuda and struck a reef and sank in six minutes.  No one knows if it was an accident or on purpose.

Philippe Rouja, cultural anthropologist and custodian of historic shipwrecks for Bermuda and his brother Jean-Pierre Rouja were diving on shipwrecks in 2011.  A winter storm had swept the wreck and that is when they found the wine in a secret boatswain's locker in the bow of the ship.

Later dives turned up more bottles of wine, sealed bottles of perfume, women's shoes, hairbrushes and pearl shell buttons.

Does Wine Age Under the Sea?  --Old B-Runner

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Drinkin' Wine Spo-De-Do- Part 1: 150 Year Old Blockade-Runner Wine to Be Sampled

From the March 6, 2015, Yahoo! News Reuters "Wine from Civil War-era shipwreck to be uncorked in South Carolina" by Harriet McLeod.

An intact bottle of wine was recovered four years ago from a blockade-runner that sank off the coast of Bermuda in 1864 was to be uncorked and sipped Friday (yesterday) during a food festival in Charleston, South Carolina.

How it tastes and its story will be revealed at the Charleston Wine + Food event "From Deep Below: A Wine Event 150 Years in the Making."

About 50 people bought tickets to hear first-hand what is inside one of the bottles and will watch a panel of wine experts taste it.

What, Paid and No Drinkee?  --Old B-Runner

Recon on the Black River in South Carolina

MARCH 7-8, 1865:  The USS Chenango, Lt. Morris, conducted a reconnaissance mission up the Black River from Georgetown, South Carolina, for a distance of some 45 miles.  Morris reported that: "Upon reaching the vicinity of Brown's Ferry [a company of Confederate cavalry] opened upon us from behind a levee or bluff with rifles.  We immediately responded with broadside guns and riflemen stationed in the tops."

--Old B-R'er

Porter Testifies Before Congress, Leaves for Final Assault

MARCH 7TH, 1865:  Rear Admiral Porter testified before Congress.  He had arrived in Washington the day after the Inaugural, having left his flagship in North Carolina on the 3rd.

He scorched the congressional walls with some scathing seagoing comments about Generals Banks and Butler.  He then left the city for City point to direct the operations of the James River Squadron in coordination with General Grant's final assault on Lee's lines.

--Old B-Runner

Operations on Rappahannock River-- Part 2: Raid on Hamilton's Crossing

MARCH 7TH, 1865:  Lt.Cmdr. Hooker, commanding the naval squadron mentioned two posts ago, joined with the Army unit in conducting a raid at Hamilton's Crossing on the Rappahannock River six miles below Fredericksburg.

Hooker reported that the expedition succeeded in "burning and destroying a railroad bridge, the depot, and a portion of the track...; also the telegraph line was cut and telegraphic apparatus brought away.  A train of twenty-eight cars, eighteen of them being principally loaded with tobacco, and an army train were also captured and burned.

"A considerable number of mules were captured and some thirty or forty prisoners taken.  A mail containing a quantity of valuable information was secured."

All in all, a very successful expedition, further hurting the South in its death throes as a nation.

--Old B-Runner

USS Jonquil Damaged By Torpedo at Charleston

MARCH 6TH, 1865:  Even with the city and harbor in Union hands, the Confederates still had ways of damaging Union ships.  On this date, the USS Jonquil was damaged by a torpedo while clearing the Ashley River, near Charleston, of obstructions and frame torpedoes.

The Jonquil had secured three torpedoes while dragging the Ashley River that day.

Acting Ensign Charles H. Hanson reported: "I hooked on to the log which had the fourth one on, but the log came up with the end, not having the torpedo on.  I hoisted it on the bows of the steamer and started for shore.  On shoaling the water,the torpedo being down struck the bottom and exploded directly under and about amidships of the steamer.

"Its force was so great as to raise the boilers 5 inches from their bed and knocked nine men overboard and completely flooded the vessel."

Hanson added that the explosion took place in ten feet of water and "had it been any shoaler the vessel would have been entirely destroyed."

The Jonquil's hull, however, was "not materially damaged" and she resumed dragging operations the next day.

But I Imagine A Lot More Carefully.  --Old B-R'er

Operation on Rappahannock River in Virginia-- Part 1: Watch Out for Those Torpedoes

MARCH 6TH, 1865:  Commodore F.A. Parker ordered Lt.Cmdr. Edward Hooker to take the USS Commodore Read, Yankee, Delaware and Heliotrope up the Rappahannock River to cooperate with an Army detachment in conducting a raid near Fredericksburg, Virginia.

Parker cautioned:  " will be particularly careful in looking out for torpedoes; having all narrow channels and shoal places swept by small boats kept in advance of the flotilla.  At points where torpedoes may be exploded from shore, you will land flanking parties, and you are to shell as usual all heights..."

In case of masked batteries on them.

--Old B-Runner

Thursday, March 5, 2015

USS Don Landing Party Skirmishes With Mosby's Men

MARCH 5, 1865:  A landing party from the USS Don destroyed a large boat in Passpatancy Creek, Maryland, after a brief skirmish with a group of Colonel Mosby's raiders.

Commander F.A. Parker, commanding the Potomac Flotilla, reported that the boat was " a remarkably fine one, painted lead color, and capable of holding fifty men.  It had been recently bought from Fredericksburg, and its rowlocks carefully muffled for night service.  Five boxes of tobacco were found near the boat, which I have distributed to the captors."

I wonder what Mosby was up to?

Have a Cigar.  --Old B-Runner

Spring Flooding on James River-- Part 2

MARCH 5, 1865:  The next morning, March 5th, Glisson replied to the secretary: "Your telegram was received this morning at fifteen minutes after midnight; blowing a gale of wind at the time.  The USS Aries sailed at daylight this morning.  The monitors are expected every moment from Cape Fear, and I shall send them up the river immediately."

One of the monitors from the southern stations, the USS Sangamon, arrived in Hampton Roads that afternoon and sped up the James--a quick response to Grant's request.  Within several days three additional monitors joined the Union James River squadron.

--Old B-R'er

Spring Flooding on James River Opens Way For Possible Confederate Ironclad Attack: Send in the Monotors!

MARCH 4-5TH, 1865:  Spring floods on the James river made it possible for the heavy draft Confederate ironclads to strike at City Point, as they had attemptedto do in January.  This also might mean the Union ironclads could push upriver against Richmond.

On 3 March, Secretary Welles had asked Captain Oliver S. Glisson, senior naval officer at Hampton Roads, if the ironclads Montauk and Monadnock had reported to him.  "When they arrive," he directed impatiently, "send them up the James River immediately."

On the evening of the 4th General Grant, hoping to take advantage of the rising water, wired Assistant Secretary Fox: "The James River is very high, and will continue so as long as the weather of the past week lasts.  It would be well to have at once all the ironclads that it is intended should come here [City Point]."

Within half an hour of the arrival of Grant's message at the Navy department, Secretary Welles ordered Glisson: "Send off a steamer to Cape Fear River to bring the Montauk, ironclad, to James River immediately, and let the same steamer go with great dispatch to Charleston to bring up two ironclads from there; all for the James River."

The monitors definitely were no longer needed at Charleston or Wilmington.

--Old B-Runner

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Loss of U.S. Transport Thorn in the Cape Fear River

MARCH 4, 1865:  The U.S. transport Thorn struck a torpedo below Fort Anderson in the Cape Fear River.  Brigadier General Gabriel J. Rains, Superintendent of the Confederate Torpedo Corps and a pioneer in the development of torpedoes, reported:  "The vessel sunk, as usual in such cases, in two minutes, but in this the crew escaped, but barely with their lives."

The loss of the 400 ton Army steamer within two weeks of the damage to the USS Osceola and destruction of the launch from the USS Shawmut by torpedoes (20-22 February, 1865) underscored the fact that although the Union controlled the waters below Wilmington it did not have complete freedom of movement.

The presence--or even the suspected presence--of Confederate torpedoes forced the Navy to move more slowly than would otherwise have been possible.

--Old B-R'er

Action on the Tennessee River

MARCH 4TH, 1865:  Lt. Moreay Forrest in the USS General Burnside, accompanied by the USS General Thomas, led a Tennessee River expedition which followed the course of the river across the state of Alabama.

At Mussel Shoals the naval force attacked and dispersed the encampment of Confederate General Philip D. Roddey and captured horses, military equipment and cotton.  Forrest then proceeded to Lamb's Ferry where he destroyed Confederate communication and transportation facilities.

He also destroyed numerous barges, boats and scows he encountered along the course of the river.  Finally, he got as far as the Elk River, deep in the state of Tennessee, where he "found a rich and populous country" in which "a great deal of loyal sentiment was displayed."

--Old B-Runner

Gen. Canby Requests Mortar Boats for Operations Against Mobile

MARCH 4, 1865:  Major General E.R.S. Canby requested mortar boats from Rear Admiral S.P. Lee's Mississippi Squadron to participate in impending joint operations against the city of Mobile.

Admiral Lee made the mortar boats available from the Mound City, Illinois, Naval Station.

--Old B-R'er

Movement Against St. Marks Fort, Florida

MARCH 3-4TH, 1865:  A naval squadron consisting of twelve steamers and four schooners commanded by Commander R.W. Shufeldt joined Army troops under Brigadier General John Newton in a joint operation directed against St, Marks Fort below Tallahassee, Florida.

Although the expedition was not successful, in part because the shallow water prevented the naval guns from approaching the fort, the ships did succeed in crossing the bar and blockading the mouth of the St. Marks River, thus effectively preventing access to the harbor.

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Union Navy Still Active in the Cape Fear River

MARCH 3RD, 1865:  General Sherman's large army, marching parallel to the coast from Columbia in order to keep sea support near at hand, steadily approached Fayetteville, North Carolina.

The Navy continued to clear the Cape Fear River of torpedoes and obstructions so as to provide Sherman with a base at Wilmington for sea supply comparable to what he had at Savannah.  As the river was cleared light draft gunboats bumped up the river to be ready to open communication.

This date, Lt.Cmdr. Ralph Chandler, USS Lenapee, reported to Lt. Cmdr. George W. Young, Senior Naval Officer at Wilmington: "In obedience to your order of the 1st instant, I got underway with this vessel on the 2nd instant and proceeded up the North West Branch to a point where the Cape Fear River forms a junction with the Black River.

"The bends of the river I found too short to attempt to get the vessel higher without carrying away the wheelhouse and otherwise damaging the ship.  I remained there until 1 o'clock p.m. to-day.

:During the night some negroes came down, and, on questioning them, they informed me that they had been told that General Sherman's forces were at a town called Robeson, 20 miles from Fayetteville."

--Old B-Runner

Two More Blockade-Runners Captured

MARCH 3RD, 1865:  The USS Glide captured the schooner Malta in Vermilion Bayou, Louisiana, with a cargo of cotton.

The USS Honeysuckle sighted the sloop Phantom as she attempted to enter the Suwannee River on the west coast of Florida.  An armed boat from the ship overhauled and captured the blockade runner and her cargo of bar iron and liquors.

--Old B-R'er

Former Blockade-Runners Used for Dispatch Ships: USS Bat

MARCH 2ND, 1865:  Because of difficulties in communications, small, fast warships (often captured blockade-runners) were in great demand for courier service.  This date, Assistant Secretary of the Navy Fox wrote President Lincoln from Norfolk: "General Grant would like to see you and I shall be in Washington to-morrow morning with this vessel, the Bat, in which you can leave this afternoon.

"She is a regular armed man-of-war, and the fastest vessel on the ruver.  I think it would be best for you to use her."

The Bat was a long, low sidewheeler which Commander Bulloch, CSN, had built in England.  She fell victim in October 1864 to the concentrated blockaders off Wilmington as she made her first run with supplies for the Confederate Government.

Bought by the Navy from the Boston prize Court for $150,000, she was commissioned in mid-December 1864 and was in great demand because of her high speed.

Former blockade-runners were also very useful in chasing down current blockade-runners/

--Old B-Runner

Capture of a Confederate Torpedo Boat on Tennessee River

MARCH 2ND, 2013:  On this date the Chattanooga Gazette carried an account of the capture on the Tennessee River of a Confederate torpedo boat, accessory equipment and a nine man party.  The expedition had been organized in Richmond in early January and had gone by rail to Bristol, Tennessee, where a boat was obtained and launched on the Holston River.

Its mission was destroy Union commerce and key bridges on the Tennessee River.  The expedition was captured near Kingston, Tennessee, by a local group of armed citizens.

--Old B-R'er

Rob Roy Destroyed, Amazon Surrenders

MARCH 2ND, 1865:  In an effort to avoid capture by an armed boat from the USS Fox, the crew of the blockade runner Rob Roy, from Belize, Honduras, ran ashore  and set fire to her at Deadman's Bay, Florida.  The cargo removed from the burning wreck consisted of cavalry sabers and farming and mechanical implements.

The steamer Amazon, "quite recently used as a rebel transport," surrendered to the USS Pontiac on the Savannah River.  The Amazon was carrying a cargo of cotton when she surrendered.

--Old B-Runner

Capture of Confederate Ports Aiding the Union Navy

MARCH 1ST, 1865:  The capture of ports on the Confederate coast injured the South and aided the North in many ways throughout the war.  One was the availability of the Union Navy of nearby "advance bases" for operations and repairs.

On this date, Commander William H. Macomb, writing Rear Admiral Porter from the North Carolina Sounds, reported the arrival of the USS Shokokon at Plymouth:  "She arrived yesterday and I sent her to New Berne to have her decks shored up and breeching bolts fitted for her IX-inch guns."

--Old B-Runner

Changes in Confederate Naval Policy

MARCH 1ST, 1865:  Because of the loss of Charleston and Wilmington, secretary Mallory directed Commander Bulloch, the regular agent of the Confederate Navy in England, to dispose of the deep draft steamers Enterprise and Adventure and to substitute for them two light draft vessels for use in the small inlets along the east coast of Florida.

He wrote: "We can not ship cotton at present, but with lightdraft vessels we could at once place cotton abroad.  Moreover, we need them to get in our supplies now at the islands, and the want of which is seriously felt."

Mallory added: We are upon the eve of events fraught with the fate of the Confederacy, and without power to foresee the result....The coming campaign will be in active operation within fifty days and we can not close our eyes to the dangers which threaten us from which only our united and willing hearts and arms and providence of God can shield us.  We look for no aid from any other source."

--Old B-Runner

USS Harvest Moon Strikes a Torpedo and Sinks in South Carolina

MARCH 1ST, 1865:  Rear Admiral Dahlgren, upon receiving the report that his naval forces had occupied Georgetown, South Carolina, decided to proceed there and have a personal "look at things."  He inspected the formidable, but evacuated Fort White and his four companies of Marines holding the city.

This date, Dahlgren's flagship Harvest Moon was steaming down Georgetown Bay enroute to Charleston; the admiral was awaiting his breakfast in his cabin.  "Suddenly, without warning," he later wrote in his diary, "came a crashing sound, a heavy shock, the partition between the cabin and wardroom was shattered and driven toward me, while all loose articles in the cabin flew in different directions....

"A torpedo had been struck by the poor Harvest Moon, and she was sinking."

The flagship sank in in five minutes, but fortunately, only one man was lost.  The Admiral missed his breakfast, but got oof with only the uniform he was wearing.

Watch Out for Those Dadburn Torpedoes.  --Old B-R'er

Thanking Mr. Lancaster For the Rescue of Semmes from the Alabama Sinking

MARCH 1ST, 1865:  President Jefferson Davis sent a Resolution adopted by the Confederate Congress to Mr. John Lancaster of England, thanking him for his gallant and humane conduct in the rescue of Captain Rafael Semmes and 41 of his officers and men after the sinking of the CSS Alabama by the USS Kearsarge on 19 June 1864.

It was particularly gratifying to the Confederacy that Lancaster's yacht Deerhound had then sailed for England with the rescued Confederates rather than turning them over to the Kearsarge as would be customary under international law.

The incident became even more galling for the Union Navy after Semmes and his officers were socially lionized during their stay in England.

Semmes Gets Away.  --Old B-R'er

Nearing the End of the Confederacy-- Part 2: Richmond Papers Paint a Good Picture of Victory

MARCH 1ST, 1865:  The Southern spirit, on the other hand, remained unshaken by what was regarded in the North as portents of defeat.  Well, at least the Richmond newspapers.

The Richmond Daily Examiner editorialized on March 1: "We cannot help thinking that 'our friends, the enemy,' are a little premature in assuming the South to be at their feet.  Their are Southern armies of magnitude in the field, and Richmond, the capitol, is more impregnable at this hour than it has been at any period of the war."

A week later, the Richmond Daily Dispatch expressed its confidence in the Confederate cause by comparing the South's position in the spring of 1865 with that of American patriots in 1781.  "In the American Revolution," wrote the editor, "three-fourths of the battles were gained by the British [and they] held all of the major seaports and cities.

"They marched through South Carolina, precisely as Sherman is doing now....  They had the most powerful empire in the world at their back; had the aid of armed tories in every county; they excited blacks to insurrection; a let loose the scalping knife of the Indian....

"What is there in our condition as gloomy, as terrible, as protracted, as the long and dreary wilderness through which they marched to freedom and independence."

But, Still.  --Old B-R'er

Nearing the End of the Confederacy-- Part 1

MARCH 1ST, 1865:  As the month of March opened, General Grant was preparing for a massive spring attack against General Lee's defending lines near Richmond.  Throughout the North, optimism ran high and the feeling prevailed that the offensive would be the final thrust and that Grant would take Richmond.

It was widely believed that the Confederacy was on the threshold of defeat.

Since the beginning of the new year, Charleston and Wilmington had fallen, sealing off the South from the sustaining flow of supplies from Europe.  Moreover, General Sherman's army had devastated the heart of the Confederacy with his march through Georgia and South Carolina; by the end of February Sherman was preparing to enter North Carolina.

The Union confidence was further fed by the widespread knowledge that General Lee and Confederate officials were openly grappling with the problems of desertions.  During the winter these had become considerable as men became concerned about their families in Union occupied areas..

Finally, Lee further revealed his hard pressed position by appealing to the civilian population to search their houses for any spare guns, cutlasses, equestrian gear and tools.

Things Looking Mighty Bad for the South As the War Neared Its End.  --Old B-Runner

Lt. Gift Reflects on Fate of the South

FEBRUARY 28TH, 1865:  Lt. George W. Gift, CSN, on sick leave at his wife's home in Georgia, reflected on the fate of the South:  "It is all too disheartening!  The press brings accounts of new defeat for us.  The Water Witch has been captured and destroyed.  Mobile has fallen, so that all the ports in the Confederacy are lost!  That goes for the Navy...."

ALSO ON FEBRUARY 28TH, 1865:  Armed boats from the USS Honeysuckle forced the blockade running British schooner Sort aground on a reef near the mouth of Crystal River, Florida, where she was abandoned.  The Sort had previously been captured in December 1864 by the USS O.H. Lee.

--Old B-R'er

Loss of the USS Arizona: Brown Loses Another Ship

FEBRUARY 28TH, 1865:  The USS Arizona, Lt. Cmdr. George Brown, was destroyed by fire in the Mississippi River below New Orleans.  In his report, the unlucky Brown, who had also lost the USS Indianola on 24 February 1863, noted:  "Not a soul attempted to leave the vessel until I gave the order for them to do so, and the marines were of much service in preventing the boats from being overloaded."

Looks Like Brown Is Trying to Break Thomas O. Selfridge's Record.--Old B-Runner

Monday, March 2, 2015

Occupying Georgetown, South Carolina

FEBRUARY 28TH, 1965:  Rear Admiral Dahlgren issued instructions to Captain Stellwagen, USS Pawnee, on operations in vicinity of Georgetown, S.C., coordinated with General Sherman's march north:  "I leave here for Charleston, and you remain the senior officer.  The only object in occupying the place, as I do, is to facilitate communication with General Sherman, if he desires it here, or by the Santee.

"When the Chenango and Sonomo arrive, station one in each river by the town to assist the force ashore; one vessel should be near the fort and one at the light-house to look for communication with me.

"Keep up information from the Santee by courier over the Santee road or by water.  I leave you three tugs, the Sweet Brier, Catalpa and Clover with a dispatch boat.  Let parties be pushed out by land and water, to feel the rebel positions, and drive back his scouts and pickets."

--Old B-Runner