Fort Fisher

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

Saturday, May 30, 2015

No More East Gulf Blockading Squadron or South Atlantic Blockading Squadrons: Reduction in Ships As Well

MAY 31ST, 1865:  Assistant Secretary Fox ordered a reduction in the East Gulf Blockading Squadron to ten steamers and four tug boats.  The same order redesignated the squadron's name to East Gulf Squadron.

The South Atlantic Blockading Squadron was reduced to 15 steamers and 6 tug boats and redesignated the South Atlantic Squadron.

The West Gulf squadron was reduced to 15 steamers, one monitor, one river ironclad and 6 tugs.

After All, No More Blockading to Be Dome or Confederate Ships to Worry About (Well, Other Than the CSS Shenandoah).  --Old B-Runner

Friday, May 29, 2015

Confederate Cruisers Destroyed U.S. Merchant Marine

MAY 29TH, 1865:  Charles Francis Adams, American Minister to Great Britain, claimed that the cruiser policy England had encouraged during the war had destroyed the United States' thriving merchant marine.

In a letter to the British Foreign Minister, Adams held English policy directly responsible for the 110,000 tons of American shipping burned or sunk then went on to broaden the indictment by adding that "the action of these British built, manned and armed vessels has had the indirect effect of driving from the sea a large portion of the commercial marine of the United States."

Although the American flag disappeared from the sea the merchant ships that had flown it (other than the ones destroyed) did not. More than 800,000 tons of American owned shipping was either transferred to foreign registry or sold to foreign shipowners in order to gain shelter of a neutral flag.

Prior to the Civil War, the United States had become the world's leading maritime carrier by both tonnage of bottoms and value of cargo.  The Civil War cost the nation this number one position.

For Britain, this was a win-win situation.  After all, they supported the Confederacy for the most part.  Then to sweep the U.S. flag from the seas, that was just gravy.  And, then who would become the #1 merchant fleet?

Sounds Like An idea.  --Old B-Runner

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Twice Unlucky Master Captured By CSS Shenandoah

MAY 27TH, 1865:  The CSS Shenandoah captured whaling bark Abigail near Shantarski Island in the northern reaches of the Sea of Okhotsk.

The Abigail's master, Ebenezer Nye, had been captured earlier in the war by the CSS Alabama.  One of his mates turned to him and said:  "You are more fortunate in picking up Confederate cruisers than whales.  I will never again go with you for id there is a cruiser out, you will find her."

The following day, after taking on a stove from the Abigail to warm Waddell's cabin, a large quantity of liquor on board the ship to warm the men, and winter clothing essential to continued operations in northern waters, the whaler was burned.

Wassell then proceeded southward along the Siberian coast and Sakhalin.

Not Again!!  Poor Old Nye.  --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Surrender of the CSS Spray

MAY 27TH, 1865:  Rear Admiral Stribling, commanding the East Gulf Squadron, reported to Secretary Welles the surrender of the CSS Spray.  The Confederate gunboat had been stationed in the St. Marks River guarding the water approaches to Tallahassee, Florida.

The Spray's commander, Lt. Henry H. Lewis surrendered the vessel upon learning that Confederate troops at Tallahassee had surrendered.

--Old B-Runner


Delivery of Confederate Torpedoes to USNA

MAY 27TH, 1865:  The USS Pontiac, Lt.Cmdr. Luce, delivered several relics of Confederate warfare to the United States Naval Academy.  These were sent from Charleston by Rear Admiral Dahlgren and included a torpedo boat similar to the one "that exploded a torpedo under the Ironsides on the night of October 10, 1863, and afterwards menaced our vessels constantly."

He also sent two torpedoes similar to those which had sunk the USS Patapsco and Harvest Moon.  he credited Confederate torpedo warfare as "most troublesome" to Union naval forces.  Secretary Welles reported that "torpedoes have been more destructive of our naval vessels than all other means combined."

Those Mean Old Torps.  --Old B-R'er

The CSS Stonewall Not So Powerful As Thought

MAY 27TH, 1865:  Reporting to secretary Welles that he had visited the CSS Stonewall in Havana, Rear Admiral Stribling wrote:  "I .... do not consider her so formidable a vessel as had been represented.  In a seaway she would be powerless, and unless her speed was greater than that of her opponent her ram could do no harm."

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Surrender of Sabine Pass, Texas and Arrival of Ram Columbia

MAY 25TH, 1865:  Rear Admiral Thatcher reported that this date the defensive works at Sabine Pass, Texas, were evacuated and that the United Sates flag was hoisted at Forts Manahasset and Griffin.  The flags were raised by men from the USS Owasco.

MAY 25TH, 1865:  The USS Vanderbilt arrived at Hampton Roads with the captured Confederate ram Columbia in tow.  She was one of the largest ironclads built by the Confederacy but had never seen service as she grounded when be outfitted at Charleston on 12 January.

The Columbia was captured when Charleston capitulated and was subsequently salvaged February 17-18.

--Old B-Runner

Matthew Maury Goes to Mexico-- Part 2

He wrote:  "In peace as in war I follow the fortunes of my native old state [Virginia].  I read in public prints that she has practically confessed defeat and laid down her arms.  In that act mine were grounded also.  I am here without a command, officially alone, and am bound on matters of private concern abroad.

"Nevertheless, and as I consider further resistance worse than useless, I deem it proper formally so to confess, and to pledge you in the words of honor that, should I find myself before the final inauguration of peace within the jurisdiction of the United States, to consider myself a prisoner of war, bound by the terms and conditions which have been or may be granted to general Lee and his officers.

"Be pleased to send your answer through my son [Colonel R.L. Maury], a prisoner of war on parole in Richmond.  In the meantime, and until I hear to the contrary, I shall act as though my surrender had been formally accepted on the above named terms and conditions."

Covering His Bases.  --Old B-R'er

Matthew Maury Goes to Mexico-- Part 1

MAY 25TH, 1865:  Because of his activities as a Confederate agent abroad and his torpedo activities, that many then considered dastardly, Commander Matthew F. Maury decided that he probably would not be granted amnesty.  Before the war, when he headed the Naval Observatory and was world famous for his pathfinding in oceanography, he had corresponded with many leaders from Europe, including Heads of State.

One of these was Maximilian of Austria.  While in England, he had renewed his correspondence and had dabbled in political intrigue with Emperor Napoleon and Maximilian before the latter proceeded in 1864 on his ill-fated venture as Emperor of Mexico.

Once his ship, the Atrato arrived in Havana, he continued on to Mexico on May 24th.   On this date he drafted a note to the United States Consul at Vera Cruz, Mexico,, enclosing a letter addressed "To the officer in command of the U.S. Naval forces in the Gulf of Mexico".

The Letter Next.  --Old B-Runner


Monday, May 25, 2015

Ordnance Explosion in Mobile

MAY 25TH, 1865:  An ordnance explosion and the resulting fire caused extensive damage in Mobile.  The explosion originated in Marshall's warehouse, which contained surrendered Confederate ammunition.  Rear Admiral Thatcher noted that although the explosion occurred three quarters of a mile from his flagship, fragments of shell fell on it.

Commander Edward Simpson was immediately dispatched with a number of sailors to render all possible aid.  He reported: "I visited the scene of the fire, and with a large force of sailors was enabled to do some service, the presence of the sailors in the neighborhood of the exploding shells tended much to restore a partial feeling of confidence to the firemen and others."

He called particular attention to the bravery of Quartermaster John Cooper who "at the risk of being blown to pieces by exploding shells" entered the fire and carried and carried a wounded man to safety on his back.  For this heroic deed, Cooper was awarded the Medal of Honor for a second time -- his first award was for courageous devotion to duty on board the USS Brooklyn at Mobile Bay in 1864.

The tug USS Cowslip towed three vessels to safety.

--Old B-Runner

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Farragut's Denbigh Finally Destroyed-- Part 2

William Watson, a Confederate blockade runner who shipped on the Rob Roy and other elusive runners, later wrote of the Denbigh:  "I may safely say that one of the most successful, and certainly one of the most profitable, steamers that sailed out of Havana to the Confederate States was a somewhat old, and by no means a fast, steamer, named the Denbigh.

"This vessel ran for a considerable time between Havana and Mobile, but when the latter port was captured by the Federals, she ran to Galveston, to and from which port she made such regular trips that she was called the packet.   She was small in size, and not high above water, and painted in such a way as not to be readily seen at a distance.

"She was light on coal, made but little smoke, and depended more upon strategy than speed. She carried large cargoes of cotton, and it was generally allowed that the little Denbigh was a more profitable boat than any of the larger and swifter crafts."

Nevertheless, in the end she met the same fate as hundreds of her sister runners.

In Short, the Perfect Blockade-Runner.  just Ask David G..  --  Old B-R'er

Farragut's Old Nemesis, the Blockade-Runner Denbigh Is Finally Destroyed-- Oart 1

MAY 24TH, 1865:  The blockade-runner Denbigh, once described by Admiral farragut as "too quick for us", was found aground at daylight at Bird Key Spit, near Galveston.  She had attempted to run into the Texas port once again under cover of darkness.

She was destroyed during the day by gunfire from the USS Cornubia and Princess Royal, and later boarding parties from the USS Kennebec and Seminole set her aflame.

Prior to the capture of Mobile Bay, the Denbigh had plagued Farragut by running regularly from Mobile to Havana. He narrowly missed capturing it on 7 June 1864, and Farragut expressed his feelings in a letter to Rear Admiral Theodorus Bailey:  "We nearly had the Denbigh; she has not  moved from the fort [Morgan] yet, so she must have been hit by some of the shots fired at her, but he is a bold rascal, and well he may be, for if I get him he will see the rest of his days of the war in the Tortugas,"  The Tortugas was a prison.

What a Spoilsport.  --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

In Search of This "Local Character"-- Part 5: Found Huck-A-Poos!!

As we were leaving Tybee Island, we kept our eyes open for Huck-A-Poos.  Huck-A-Poos is where John Potter used to hang out for many years.  This is the guy who created the CSS Georgia photograph hoax and a man described as a local character.

After all, there is only one place to go into or off Tybee Island, and that is US-80.  We have to pass the place at some point.  You'd think so, anyway.

Traffic was light at first, but then started getting heavier as we got close to the end of the island.  We were going slow enough that Liz was able to see a small Huck-A-Poos sign among some trees.  Well, we've come this far so might as well check it out.  I turned around and we drove into a grove of trees with several small business and then saw Huck-A-Poos.

It took awhile, but we found a parking space and walked in.  They have an outside eating area under huge tarps and we could tell right away, we had found a dive bar.  Once inside the small bar, the walls were extremely cluttered, a good sign that you are in a dive bar.  And everything was jumbled together.  No planning here, just put it up as you get it.  No planning ahead.

Found John's Hangout.  --Old B-Runner

Capture and Destruction of CSS Le Compt

MAY 24TH, 1865:  The USS Cornubia captured and destroyed the CSS Le Compt off Galveston.  The Confederate schooner which had been used as a port guard ship, was abandoned by her crew as the Cornubia approached her.

The Le Compt drifted ashore, bilged, and he next day was reported "a total wreck."

--Old B-R'er

Blockade Runner Attempts Savannah?

MAY 23RD, 1865:  The USS Azalea seized the British brig Sarah M. Newhall attempting to put into Savannah with a cargo of West Indies produce.  She had cleared from Inagua, Bahamas, ostensibly for New York.

This didn't make sense as Savannah had essentially been closed to blockade running since the fall of Fort Pulaski in 1862.  Perhaps the captain of the Newhall thought there would no longer be Unions ships here.

Who Knows?  --Old B-Runner


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Maury Arrives in Havana

MAY 22ND, 1865:  Commander Matthew Fontaine Maury arrived at Havana on the SS Atrato and learned of General Johnston's surrender.  Realizing the futility of his intended efforts, he abandoned his plans to proceed with his electric torpedo equipment  to Galveston for the defense of that harbor.

As he wrote later to his wife:  "I left $30,000 to $40,000 worth of torpedoes, telegraphic wire, etc. which I bought for the defense of Richmond.  Bulloch paid for them but they were left in Havana at the breakup, subject to my orders.  I write by mail directing that they be turned over to Bulloch.

"Now they don't belong to him, neither do they to me.  But it is quite a relief to get rid of them by transferring them to a man who I am sure will make the most proper use of them.  I do not want any of the $10,000 to $20,000 which they will bring, though some one will get it who had no more right to it than I have."

Maury's keen sense of honor is borne out by the audit of his accounts delivered to him shortly before he sailed from England.  Bulloch's assistant wrote: "Although the custom here would have sanctioned your receiving a large per centum in the way of commission on contracts., purchases and disbursements made by me, yet you consistently set your face against it and never, to my certain knowledge, received a shilling."

Doing the Right Thing.  --Old B-Runner

Seizing Vessels in North Carolina

MAY 22ND, 1865:  Commander Macomb, commanding the Albemarle Sond, reported U.S. Picket Boat No. 5 had seized steamers Skirwan, Cotton Plant, Fisher and Egypt Mills, as well as a small, unfinished steamer near Halifax, North Carolina on the Roanoke River.

--Old B-R'er+

CSS Shenandoah Cruising

MAY 20TH, 1865   Sailing steadily northward, the CSS Shenandoah sighted the Kuriles "covered with snow."

MAY 21ST, 1865:  The CSS Shenandoah entered the Sea of Okhotsk "and ran along the coast of Kamchatka under sail.  There is a strong current along the Pacific side of these islands setting to the N.E. which clings to the eastern shore of the Arctic Ocean, and how much further northward man knoweth not."

--Old B-Runner


Monday, May 18, 2015

Stephen Mallory Arrested in la Grange, Georgia

MAY 20TH, 1865:  Former Confederate Secretary of the Navy Stephen Mallory was arrested at the home of Benjamin H. Hill in La Grange, Georgia, and charged with "treason and with organizing and setting on foot piratical expeditions."

he was taken to New York and imprisoned at Fort Lafayette, where he remained until paroled in March 1966.  He was the last Confederate cabinet officer to gain his freedom.

Returning to Pensacola, he entered into law practice with Augustus E. Maxwell and wrote newspaper articles attacking reconstruction policies.

He died in November 1873.

A Job Well Done.  --Old B-R'er

Welles Still Concerned About Galveston Blockade-Running

MAY 20TH, 1865:  Secretary Welles indicated the Navy department's continuing concern about blockade running from Galveston in his order to Rear Admiral Thatcher:  "Seven large steamers have arrived abroad from Galveston in nine days.  

As this is the only port in the United States where traffic can be carried on to any extent, it is desirable that the majority of the vessels and the best officer you have should be on duty as senior officer off that port."

Welles' Patience Growing Thin.  --Old B-Runner

The War's Impact on the Naval Academy-- Part 2

The Board's studies and the changes that followed achieved the goals.  In the ensuing years, the Academy would produce some of the nation's great leaders.  These included not only those who led the Navy, adapted it to changing times and directed it in the great task of world leadership that swiftly followed for the United States in the next century.

They also included some of the nation's famous leaders in engineering, industry, education and science.

Within little more than a decade, Albert A. Michelson, Class of 1873, would conduct the first of his notable experiments on the speed of light at Annapolis.  Returning as a young officer from sea duty to teach, he developed the apparatus and conducted the experiments with midshipmen associates.

----Old B-R'er

The War's Impact on the U.S. Naval Academy-- Part 1

MAY 20TH, 1865:  A board appointed by Secretary Welles and headed by Vice Admiral Farragut began a  comprehensive investigation and review of the Naval Academy.  Its normal functioning, like almost everything in the nation, had been greatly disrupted by the war.

The Academy had suffered, especially through the enforced move to Newport, Rhode Island, from Annapolis, Maryland early in the war on board the USS Constitution.  The staff and students had been impacted by the telescoping of academic courses with the need for officers caused by the Navy's huge and fast growth.

The Board had been commissioned to report its findings and make recommendations for improving the school as a training institution for naval officers.

The study and resulting reports covered the material condition and adequacy of the buildings, grounds and training ships; administration and finance; sanitation and medical care; system of appointments and entrance requirements; and the quality of classroom and shipboard instruction.

--Something Good Coming from the War.  --Old B-R'er

Jumping Ahead a Little Bit: It's a Race Thang, You Know

Generally, I like to go back 150 years on a daily basis to that very day, but this weekend I will be in Indianapolis for some race, my fourth time, and not around a computer.

As such, I will go ahead a bit.

By the way, all these back-to-the-days are taken from the Civil War Naval Chronology 1861-1865, a great way to see the naval aspect of the war unfold.

--Old B-Runner

Saturday, May 16, 2015

"A Soldier's Walk Home" Schedule-- Part 3

From the site.

These are the destinations of Philip Brown on his walk across North Carolina retracing the steps of Washington Duke returning home from New Bern at the end of the war.

May 15--  Seven Springs to Goldsboro
May 16--  Goldsboro to Princeton
May 17--  Princeton to Smithfield
May 18--  Smithville to Clayton
May 19--  Clayton to Raleigh
May 20--  Raleigh
May 21--  Raleigh to Morrisville
May 22--  Morrisvile to Durham
May 23--  Durham to Duke Homestead

Hope he doesn't take I-40 through the area as he would never get there in the monumental traffic jams.

--Old B-R'er

Was He That "Duke"?

Not only is there some confusion about whether Washington Duke was in the Confederate Army or Navy, but also, there is the name "Duke."  And then, he was returning home to Durham, NC, and going to the Duke Homestead.  And, after all, there is that National Champion school in Durham.

Might this be one and the same?

Duke, Duke, Duke, Duke of Durham.  --Old B-Runner

Washington Duke's Long Walk Home Re-enacted-- Part 2

The re-eanctment trek will end May 23rd, with Philip Brown's arrival at the Duke Homestead in Durham.

Washington Duke was a sailor in the Confederate Navy, captured by the Union forces, released at the end of the war and taken to New Bern, North Carolina.

Brown is retracing Washington Duke's walk, but is doing it for all warriors returning from all wars.  Shortly after completion of the walk, Brown will start work at the Gettysburg National Military Park.  Not a bad thing to do after this.

Other stops along the way will be Kinston, Seven Springs, Goldsboro, Princeton, Smithfield, Clayton, Raleigh, Morrisville and Durham.

More information at his website, www.asoldierswalkhome.

Again, Not Sure Why It Is Called a Soldier's Walk When Duke Was in the Confederate Navy.  --Old B-R'er

Long Walk Home for Confederate Sailor Washington Duke Being Re-enacted in N.C.-- Part 1

From the May 10, 2015, New Bern (NC) Sun-Journal "Re-enactor to retrace a long walk home from the Civil War" by Charlie Hale.

The walk kicked off Sunday when historian and re-enactor Philip Brown began retracing the path home of Confederate sailor Washington Duke back in 1865.  Duke had been released from Union imprisonment in New Bern and, as most Confederates at the end of the war, had to provide their own transportation back home at the end of the war.  His aim was to make it home to present-day Durham, N.C., 160 miles away.

The new walk is called "A Soldier's Walk Home" for some reason as Duke was a sailor.

The actual walk will begin at 9 a.m. Monday. when Brown will depart from Union Point Park in New Bern and then use less-traveled roads near railroad tracks for the rest of his 160-mile trek.

--Old B-Runner


CSS Shenandoah Battles Typhoons in the Pacific

MAY 17TH, 1865:  After weathering an earlier typhoon, the CSS Shenandoah encountered a second, less violent, blow.  "The weather continued so threatening that it looked impossible for the Shenandoah to get north of the parallel 45, but the last gale, like its predecessor, had worked to the westward, and the ship began to make her northing again," Wassell recorded.

"On the 17th of May we were north of the parallel of 45 and the weather, though cold, looked more settled, and we took a long breath."

Hate Those Storms At Sea.  --Old B-R'er

President Davis and Family Taken from Savannah to Port Royal By Naval Escort

MAY 16TH, 1865:  President Davis, his family and Confederate officials captured with him at Irwinville, Georgia, on the 10th were taken down the Savannah River (perhaps right by our Holiday Inn Express on Bay Street where we stayed several weekends ago) to Port Royal.

They were placed on board the steamer William P. Clyde, Master John L. Kelly, shipmaster.  The steamer was escorted on her passage to Hampton Roads by the USS Tuscorara, Commander William M. Frailey.

--Old B-Runner

Friday, May 15, 2015

Pesky Blockade-Runners Still Using Galveston

MAY 15, 1865:  Secretary Welles wrote Rear Admiral Thatcher of the West Gulf Blockading Squadron that "it appears that blockade running at Galveston is still being carried on with much success."

between 15 April and 1 May, six runners, including the elusive Denbigh, were reported to have put into Havana with cargoes of cotton, all from Galveston.

In other words, you'd best stop this business.

--Old B-Runner

Federal Recognition for the Greenpoint Monitor Museum

From the May 9, 2015, Greenpoint (NY City) Gazette by Tanay Wererkar.

The museum is moving toward recognition and its possible museum.  This is the site where the famous warship USS Monitor was built in a hurry in 1862.

On may 29th, the NOAA will unveil a Monitor Trail marker at land along East Pier which is the proposed site of the Monitor Museum.  The Monitor Trail will have markers at different points associated with the ship.  Other areas include where the parts for the ship were made as well as it where it fought the famous battle of the ironclads in March 1862 against the CSS Virginia.

Greenpoint is where the ship was launched at the end of Quay Street.

We Can Always Use Another Museum, Especially a Navy One.  --Old B-R'er

In Search of This "Local Character"-- Part 4: Tybee Island, But Still No Huck-A-Poos

Sadly, once back on US-80 after touring Fort Pulaski, the traffic jam was as bad as ever.  However, after about a mile, it finally opened up after we reached Tybee Island and made the turn.  A possible place to spend the night as we drove along. This place had some motels and we found the main boardwalk area, but then got lost in a maze of residential streets past the boardwalk area.

It took awhile to get out, especially with cars parked in every conceivable place.  All those cars had to park somewhere. We finally found our way out of the maze, then drove along both streets of the boardwalk-type area.  Good luck finding a place to park there.  Wasn't going to happen.

Plus, keeping an eye out as we had, we never did see John Potter's hangout at Huck-A-Poos.  We finally brought out our GPS and had our British gal, Nancy, look up Huck-A-Poos.  She found it, so we went to 13th Street, but found no Huck-A-Poos.  We drove around the area, but still, no Huck-A-Poos.

We then decided to leave before the traffic got heavy heading back to Savannah (if coming in was bad, leaving would have to be even worse with everyone heading out as it got dark).  But, we kept an eye out for this mythical place.

--Old B-Runner

Thursday, May 14, 2015

In Search of "This Local Character"-- Part 3: Fort Pulaski

Drove over a bridge to the fort and Liz decided to sit this one out at the park by the museum while I put $5 in the donations box and took a full walk around the fort.  This was my first-ever visit to the fort and one I was looking forward to seeing, especially in relation to all that traffic outside it on US-80.

It is a big fort, much bigger than Old Fort Jackson in Savannah and partially engineered by U.S. Army Officer Robert E. Lee before the war.  It was Savannah's main guardian and with its thick brick walls, believe to be impregnable.  However, Union forces landed across a short body of water and erected batteries on nearby Tybee Island and commenced a two-day bombardment which breached Pulaski's walls and caused its surrender.

Union guns featured the new rifled cannons which hurled shells much more accurately and with much more accuracy than previous ones.  This proved beyond a doubt that the age of masonry forts was over.  New fortifications were made of earth such as Fort Fisher.

I walked both the ground level and then the upper ramparts, using some really frightening stairs to go up and down.  If the cannon shells didn't get you, those stairs sure would.

From the ramparts, I could see not bombs bursting in air, but the beginning of movement on US-80.

Waited it Out?  --Old B-Runner

Civil War Big Business to Southeast N.C.-- Part 2

Fort Fisher logged more than 748,000 visitors in calendar year 2014, up from 614,000 in 2013.  Of course, i am never sure how many of these were actually at the fort or visiting the adjacent state park.

Another 4,000 attended the Feb. 14-15 re-enactment at Fort Anderson, up the Cape Fear River from Fort Fisher.  Officials think there would have been considerably more except for the heavy rains that fell those days.  This marked the 150th anniversary of its fall.

Another 2,000 attended the Feb. 7-8 150th anniversary of the Battle of Forks Road at the Cameron Art Museum in Wilmington.  This was the final battle before the fall of this important port city.

the complete impact of all these visitors will not be known for sure until room tax receipts from hotels are counted in the near future.

Civil War Means Bucks to Local Businesses.  --Old B-R'er

The Civil War Means Big Business in Southeastern North Carolina-- Part 1

From the April 2, 2015, WRAL TV by Ben Steelman of the Wilmington Star-News.

"Big crowds at local historic sites for the 150th anniversary of regional Civil War battles have brought a sharp uptick in business to Southeastern North Carolina in 2015."

The weekend of Jan 17-18 which was the observance of the fall of Fort Fisher, there was bumper-to-bumper traffic from Carolina Beach to the fort's site in Kure Beach, a rarity during the off-season.  There is a whole lot of traffic on US-421 which has its southern terminus at the "Rocks" by the fort's Battery Buchanan during the summer months.+

Local restaurants and hotels were booked.  The official tally at the Fort Fisher site put 21,930 visitors for the two days  The same event in 2014 drew 7500.  Officials, however, believe they missed counting some so it probably is more.

--Old B-Runner


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Meanwhile, the CSS Shenandoah Continues Her Cruise

MAY 13TH, 1865:  The CSS Shenandoah, then south of the Kuriles, steadily headed North, her position unknown in the vast distances of the Pacific.  The threat of this single raider, however, created consternation in the North.

The merchants of New London, Connecticut, requested Secretary Welles to protect their whaling vessels in the Arctic and Pacific oceans.  Previously New England ship owners had sought protection by purchasing additional insurance.  When news arrived from England that the Shenandoah was on her way to the Arctic, the leading maritime insurance carrier in New England did a booming business.

In a three day period the Atlantic Mutual Insurance Company collected $350,000 in premiums from shipowners increasing coverage on their vessels.  During the course of one day alone, the company received $118,978 in premiums -- the largest sum written by the company during a 24-hour period until the start of World War I.

The Fear of the Shen.  --Old B-Runer

The End of the CSS Stonewall: The South's Very Last Best Hope

MAY 11-19TH, 1865:  The escape of the Confederate ram CSS Stonewall from Ferrol, Spain, and Lisbon, Portugal had created a lot of excitement and Union consternation at the time, but had not led to a battle.  The ironclad put into Havana on May 11th, after having not come across a Union ship in its voyage.

Upon learning of the Stonewall's arrival, Rear Admiral Cornelius K. Stribling, commanding the East Gulf Blockading Squadron, dispatched a squadron, led by the USS Powhatan and commanded by Commander Reed Werden, to cruise to Havana and engage the Confederate ram when she departed.

However, Captain T.J. Page, the Stonewall's commander, learning of the collapse of the Confederacy, delivered the ship over to the Governor General of Cuba and in turn received $16,000 -- the amount of money Page required to pay off his officers and crew.

Subsequently the ship was turned over to the United States and was ultimately sold to Japan.

--Old B-R'er

In Search of "This Local Character"-- Part 2: Just Sitting in a Jam

On April 26th, we left Savannah for the beaches out on Tybee Island...along with about half the folks in and around Savannah, evidently.  After a really cold and depressing spring, today had temps in the 80s and plenty of sun.  So, why not go out to the beach?  Unfortunately for us, they sure did.  We had a traffic jam most of the way out to Tybee Island.

Was looking for John Potter going to be worth it?

Especially when US-80, the only road to take, went from four lanes to two lanes.  We ground to a halt.  After awhile, it became apparent that I'd best stop for gas and a bathroom break.  The needle was reading below 1/8 a tank, anyway and who knew how much longer we'd be waiting out there on the road.

Not easy to fill the tank thanks to confusing and hard to read prompts on gas pump.  Then, we encountered the first of several unisex bathrooms on Tybee at the station.  I always feel sorry for the gals when they have to wait in a line, but am not crazy about having to stand in line and wait for them.  What do they do in there?  Why does it take so long?  And, this was the first of several unisex bathrooms we encountered on Tybee Island.

Then, back out to the traffic jam and more slow going.  After an hour or so, we got up to Fort Pulaski, site of the first definite demonstration of the new rifled cannons over masonry forts.  I had already planned on going there anyway, so was only too happy to pull off US-80.

And, right into ANOTHER line waiting to pay to go across the bridge to the fort.  I was able to use my new National Park service senior pass to get us in for free, saving us $5 a piece!!  This was my first use as you don't have to pay to go through the Great Smoky National Park.

Might There Be a Chance the Traffic Jam Would Be Gone When We Left Pulaski?  --Old Traffic-Runner

Monday, May 11, 2015

In Search of This "Local Character"-- Part 1: Dive Bars and Huck-a-Poos

When I read the article in the last several posts about the CSS Georgia photo hoax, it was just a short time before my wife and I left to go to Savannah for my nieces's wedding.  Seeing the work on the CSS Georgia and visiting Old Fort Jackson a short distance downriver from the city was definitely on my list of things to do.

Then I read this article and about John Potter hanging out at a place called Huck-a-Poos on Tybee Island.  The name alone would get my interest in going to a place named that.  I looked it up and got the address, right on the main road onto the island, US-80.

After arrival in Savannah, before the wedding, we went to a place described as Savannah's ultimate dive bar, Pinkie Master's, and it sure lived up to its name.  We loved it.  Had it not been for driving through those frightening squares, we might have gone back.

Now, we had another target, a place named Huck-a-Poos.  Might this also be classified as a dive bar?  If John Potter hung out there, there was a good chance it was, especially with that picture on the wall.

In Search of John Potter, Had Us Fooled.  --Old B-R'er


Man Says CSS Georgia Photo a Fake-- Part 3: "A Local Character"

The gilded frame around the photo shown in Potter's picture now has a portrait of his deceased dog, a pug named Puggy Van Dug.

John Potter, now 50 and living in North Carolina, never became a special effects artist.  His brother Jeffrey committed suicide last month and Potter decided it was time to come clean about the photo.

He has led an interesting life and owned an antiques store in Savannah for awhile and was even a maintenance man at the Tybee Island Lighthouse.  described as a "local character," he spent most nights drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon beer at local drinking establishment Huc-a-Poos where there is still a mock police mug shot of him with the words "Tybee Record--  77 PBRs in one night."

I Believe Him.  --Old B-Runner

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Blockade of States East of the Mississippi River Partially Lifted

MAY 10TH, 1865:  The blockade of the states east of the Mississippi was partially raised in accordance with President Johnson's Executive Order of 29 April 1865.

General Order No. 53, which implemented the President's instructions, directed:  The entrance of vessels into ports within the designated territory will not be interrupted or interfered with when the same are provided with a regular United States customhouse clearance, and there is no reasonable ground for suspicion that they have contraband of war on board."

Of course, with all major ports in Union hands except Galveston (and that was west of the Mississippi River, it was unlikely that any blockade-runners were going to dash in.  besides, there would be no one to sell their wares to at this time.  Essentially no more Confederacy.

The War Ending.  --Old B-Runner

Man Says CSS Georgia Photo a Hoax-- Part 2: Brother's an Accomplice

Now, the man who said he found the photo has come forward to say it is a fake.

Thirty years ago, John Potter of Savannah said he had found the photo in an antique frame at a yard sale.  On the back was inscribed the name CSS Georgia.  He couldn't afford the asking price, but took a picture of it and mailed it to a historical group in Savannah.

He now says that as a teenager in Savannah, he and his brother Jeffrey shot a short 8 MM film about the CSS Georgia and built a two-foot long model of it.  He wanted to test his skills to see if he could be a Hollywood special effects artist.

To do so, his younger brother put on a coat and straw hat and went to a marsh with a fishing pole and Potter took a picture of him from the back.  He then took another photo of the model then glued it to the picture of his brother.  he then used dirt and glue to "age" the photo.

Pretty Sneaky Fella.  --Old B-R'er

Man Says CSS Georgia Photo a Hoax-- Part 1: Was It Real?

From the April 13, 2015, Yahoo! News "Man says mysterious Civil War photo was really teenage hoax" by Mitch Weiss and Russ Bynum.

I figured since I wrote about the CSS Georgia on our recent trip to Savannah, I ought to put this article into my blog.

Rumor of a stained and blurry photo of the ironclad CSS Georgia have been around for thirty years  The 1,200 ton, armored with railroad iron never fired a shot in combat and was sunk in December 1864 to prevent its captured when Sherman captured Savannah.  No blueprint of it survives and period illustrations of it varied greatly in details.

Records show that John Potter donated a copy of the photograph to the Georgia Historical Society in March 1986.

Right now, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has embarked on a $14 million project to raise the ship from its wreck site in the Savannah River by Old Fort Jackson.

They were also hoping to track down the original, long-lost, photograph of the ship.

That Is, Until Now.  --Old B-Runner




Friday, May 8, 2015

Blockade-Runner Captured in Florida

MAY 8TH, 1865:  The USS Isonomia captured the blockade running British bark George Douthwaite off the Warrior River, Florida, with cargo of sugar, rum, wool, ginger and mahogany.

--Old B-R'er

Confederate Tombigbee River Squadron Offers to Surrender

MAY 4TH, 1865:  Rear Admiral Thatcher accepted an offer from Commodore Ebenezer Farrand, CSN, to surrender "all Confederate naval forces, officers, men, and public property yet afloat under his command and now blockaded by a portion of our forces in the Tombigbee River [Alabama]."

The formal capitulation took place on the 10th and included the CSS Nashville, Morgan, Baltic and Black Diamond.

--Old B-Runner

Thursday, May 7, 2015

CSS Ajax Enters St. George's, Bermuda

MAY 4TH, 1865:  The CSS Ajax, Lt. Low, entered St. George's, Bermuda, from Nassau.  The Confederate commander had not yet learned that his government had collapsed and that Generals Lee and Johnston had surrendered in April.

He attempted to obtain guns for delivery to Havana, but Governor W.G. Hamley refused to permit it.  He advised Low:  "The Ajax has been a suspected vessel ever since she was launched.  She has the appearance of a gunboat; she has never carried merchant cargo; she changed owners in Nassau; she is now commanded by an officer in the service of the Confederate States; in short, she wants nothing but armament to be in a position to take the seas as a privateer."

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Panama City Salt Raid Re-enactment-- Part 2

A dozen people looked on as the engagement was recreated.  Eighteen Yankees landed by boat and engaged the Confederates.  (It was a small action even back then.)  It was staged by the Bay County Historical Society and the National Civil War Naval Museum in Columbus, Georgia.

Ethan Ranger was one of the re-enactors and was portraying his great-great-great grandfather, James Augustus Clendien, who was the superintendent of the Southeast Alabama Salt Company during the war.  He has been participating in Civil War re-enacting for 25 years and said his interest in the war came from his father telling him about Clendien.

--Old B-Runner

Monday, May 4, 2015

Panama City Salt Raid Re-enactment This Past Weekend-- Pat 1

From the May 3, 2015, Panama City (Fla) News Herald "Weekend Warriors: Civil War Re-enactors gather on Beach Drive to mark 1863 Saint Andrews Bay Salt Raid" by Collin Breaux.

On Saturday afternoon, May 2nd, a thirty minute battle was re-enacted where Confederate soldiers defended St. Andrew's Bay salt works from a force of Union sailors and Marines landed with the intent to destroy.

I wish I'd known about it as I might have tried to go to it other than the thousands of motorcycles between me and Panama City.

--Old B-Runner

Sunday, May 3, 2015

USS Monitor Receives Nearly $100,000 in Grant Money

Having to take a break from the sun down here at Panama City Beach, so will get in some blogs.

From the April 28, 2015, Pilot (Hampton Roads, Va.) Online "Museum gets grant for USS Monitor conservation" by AP.

The Mariners Museum in Newport News has received a federal grant for nearly $100,000 to work on the Monitor.  Congress has designated the museum as the official repository of artifacts of the Monitor.

This is a far cry from January 2014, when the wet lab conserving the ship was closed when there was a federal funding shortfall.  Work on the ship resumed in May 2014 with a $200,000 grant from the NOAA.

--Old B-Runner

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Panama City, Fla., During the War

As I sit out by the Gulf of Mexico here at Panama City Beach, Florida peering at the water about 100 yards away, had this been a little over 150 years ago, I just might have seen a Union blockader sailing or anchored off shore.

There was no Panama City back then, just a small settlement called St. Andrew's, taking its name from the large bays located there.  That is part of today's downtown Panama City.  Panama City Beach didn't come into being until the 1930s.

Before the war, St. Andrew's was a place people came to during the summer to enjoy the cool gulf breezes (and it sure was cool earlier today).  There was a small fishing industry as well.

Once the war came, it became a major center of salt making to provide the people and armies of the Confederacy with the much needed condiment.  This caused attacks by Union blockaders on several occasions.

Plus, later on, after Southern ports fell to the Union, there was some blockade running by smaller ships.

One famous blockade runner was the Florida (not to be confused with the Confederate cruiser of the same name.  It was eventually captured and became the Union Ship USS  Hendrick Hudson.

--Old B-Runner


Friday, May 1, 2015

CSS Savannah: Pride of the Savannah Squadron

The CSS Savannah was a Richmond-class casemate ironclad built in Savannah by H.F. Willink.  It was 150 feet long, 34 feet wide with a crew of 180, mounting two 7-inch rifled cannons and two 6.4-inch rifled cannons.

It was commissioned into Confederate service June 30, 1863 in the squadron commanded by Flag officer William H. Hunter.  Under command of Commander Robert F. Pinckney, it was reputed to be the most efficient vessel in the squadron.

However, it never engaged Union ships and was destroyed as Sherman captured its city that it guarded.

--Old B-Runner