Fort Fisher

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

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A Visit to Fort Fisher-- Part 1

If there is any other event more responsible fir me getting into the Civil War and history in general, it was the time my dad took me to Fort Fisher, North Carolina back when I was seven.  It is the reason for this blog and my others.

He said this was a fort from the Civil War when the North fought the South.  Living in North Carolina and North America as I knew we did, I told him that we were for the North.  He had to explain that North Carolina was a Southern state and that we were for the South.

That sparked an interest in the war and history that obviously is still with me.

I remember when the Fort Fisher Museum consisted of a single small structure located by the monument on Battle Acre and back in the early 1960s when the Confederate torpedo washed up on the shore.  Back then you could walk across the remaining mounds.

My family used to rent cottages in Carolina Beach and as such I got to visit Fort Fisher quite often, but now we have a place on Topsail Island and when we're here, it is a 50 mile drive to the fort and then there is that horrible Wilmington and beach traffic so we rarely get there.

Now that I live in Illinois, I very rarely get a chance to visit it.

But, this past Saturday, Mom and I took a drive to Fort Fisher, stopping along the way at Britt's Donuts in Carolina Beach for our sugar fix and then on to the fort for a talk about controversial Confederate General Braxton Bragg.  The speaker actually defended the general, something that is quite different from the usual negativity he gets.

That's the Reason.  --Old B-Runner

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Something Else to Do in Wilmington Next Month

From the July 23, 2015, Wilmington (NC) Star-News "Friends of Oakdale Cemetery."

The Friends of Oakdale Cemetery will hold a flashlight tour of Oakdale Cemetery 7:30-9:30 p.m. August 15 at 520 N. 15th Street.

The tour will be led by Chris E. Fonvielle Jr., Ed Gibson and superintendent Eric Kozen.  They will speak about the history of Oakdale, Civil War veterans, funerary art and prominent people buried there.

Gen. W.H.C. Whiting, Captain John Newland Maffitt, Rose O'Neal Greenhow and Major James O'Reilly are among the Confederates buried there.

The cost is $15 a person and you must bring a flashlight.

The summer walking tour series continues 10 a.m.-noon September 19 at the cemetery.  The cost for this one is $10 for non-members and free for members.

The tours are canceled in the event of inclement weather.

I'll Be Missing These, However.  --Old B-R'er

Second Saturdays at Fort Fisher

From the 2015 Brunswick Islands & Cape Fear Coast magazine.

Well, there is one of these left for the summer presentations.

JUNE--  June 13.  A program focusing on Artillery at Fort Fisher.

JULY--    July  11.  A focus on the U.S. Navy's blockading fleet and the blockade-runners who attempted to bring needed supplies into the Confederacy.

AUGUST--  August 8.  This program focuses on The Soldier's Gardens at Fort Fisher.  I imagine this would be small gardens planted by soldiers garrisoned there.

Always Something Going On at Fort Fisher.  --Old B-Runner

Monday, July 27, 2015

Big Stage, Big Risk With Fort Fisher Hermit-- Part 2

The play is written by David Anthony Wright "The Hermit of Fort Fisher" explores his story.

Robert Harrill, at the age of 62 in 1955, estranged from his wife and children, moved from Shelby into an old concrete ammunition bunker south of Kure Beach in Fort Fisher.  He continued to live there for years with no amenities and subsisting on what food he could catch, gather or was given.

His mysterious death in 1972 is still believed by many to be an unsolved murder.

The bunker he lived in was left over from World War II when Fort Fisher was once again used by the military, this time for anti-aircraft training.  The bunker can still be seen at the Fort Fisher Aquarium.

--Old Hermit-Runner

Friday, July 24, 2015

Big Stage, Big Risk With the Fort Fisher Hermit-- Part 1

From the July 23, 2015, Wilmington (NC) Star-News by John Staton.

Backers and producers of "The Hermit of Fort Fisher" stage play are taking a huge risk turning it into an outdoor production which is playing from Wednesday to August 2nd at Greenfield Lake Amphitheater.  It has already run inside at Southport and Wilmington and sold well enough to take the risk of the move outside.

Of course, this is about a local character-turned legend named Robert Harrill, the famed "Hermit of Fort Fisher."

His story has inspired books, documentaries and many magazine and newspaper articles.

And the Civil War Navy connection is that he spent his "hermit" years living in an abandoned World War II bunker at Fort Fisher.

--Old B-Runner

Thursday, July 23, 2015

First Cannon Recovered From CSS Georgia

From the July 22, 2015, Guns.com.

U.S, Navy divers working in the muddy waters of the Savannah River pulled up the first os several cannons from the Confederate ironclad CSS Georgia's shipwreck.

Known as the "Lady's ironclad" as it was paid for largely by women's groups donations was under-powered and a primitive warship which never fired a shot in battle before being burned and sunk as Sherman's troops entered Savannah in Dec. 1864.

So far, divers from the Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2 and Explosive ordnance Disposal Technicians have cleared  nearly 100 pieces of unexploded ordnance from the site.

The first barnacle-encrusted cannon was raised from the Georgia last week and turned over to the Naval History and Heritage Command for preservation.

There is a picture of the cannon with the article as well as video of it being raised.  Very heavily coated with marine secretion.

No mention what kind of cannon it is, though.  Likely a Brooke Rifle.

--Old B-Runner

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Confederacy Under Attack

I have been covering this on my other Civil War blog, Saw the Elephant.

A man in Minnesota cause quite the stir when he drove a fire truck with a Confederate flag in a parade in Albert Lea.

South Carolina has a teachable moment with the flag.

Florida Veterans Hall m ceremony draws a Confederate protest at exclusion of Confederate veterans.

Confederate Flag Kills Ten in Chicago...Oh Wait.  This was the headline of an article on the 4th of July killings in Chicago.

Iowa State professors and students support the removal of the Confederate flag in S.C..

Norfolk Naval Shipyard removed Confederate flag.  Flew alongside with American, British and Virginian flags.  All removed and taken to a museum.

North Carolina House of Representatives gave tentative approval to a controversial bill to protect historical monuments and memorials.  Opponents say it will protect those of the Confederacy.

This was actually supposed to be in my Saw the Elephant Blog where I am covering this attack in greater detail.  This will probably be the last time I write about it in this blog as I prefer to do the history from the war.

--Old Secesh


Braxton Bragg to Be Topic at Fort Fisher This Saturday

From the Friends of Fort Fisher Summer Powder Magazine bulletin.

It is the next presentation to be given at Fort Fisher State Historic Site at Spencer Theater as part of its Beat the Heat series.It will be given by the rev. Dennis Levin at 2 p.m. and will be "General Braxton Bragg: A Reappriasement.  Rev. Levin, a retired U.S. Army Lt.Col., will discuss his research into the man, the controversy and his military decisions which made him so controversial.

And, best of all, there is a good possibility that I will be able to be at this presentation.

And, then Britt's Donuts at Carolina Beach afterwards.

--Old B-Runner

Monday, July 20, 2015

More Power to Fort Fisher and Fort Macon

With the U.S. government and many states removing items associated with the Confederacy from the shelves of gift shops at historical Civil War sites, it is nice to note that at least two such places are retaining these items.

Hats off to the Fort fisher and Fort Macon State Historic Sites for not going along with the rest of the tide.

I'll buy my Confederate flags to put on the graves of Confederate Naval officer John Newland Maffitt and Confederate General W.H.C. Whiting at Wilmington's Oakdale Cemetery at Fort Fisher.

Finally.  --Old B-Runner

--

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Disbanding the Potomac Flotilla

JULY 31ST, 1865:  In a General order to the officers and men of the Potomac Flotilla, Commander F.A. Parker, announced the disbanding of the flotilla:  "The war for the preservation of American liberty being at an end, the Potomac Flotilla, which took its rise with it and grew  with its growth until it had become a fleet rather than a flotilla, this day happily ceases to exist."

This squadron had made significant contributions to the Union victory by safeguarding the water approaches to Washington, by denying the use of the Potomac River to the Confederacy, by maintaining control of the Rappahannock River which rendered secure General Grant's supply base at Fredericksburg, and by conducting numerous amphibious operations which secured Virginia's Northern Neck for the Union.

Parker concluded:  "To those of you who are about to return to civil life I would say, render the same cheerful obedience to the civil that you have rendered to the naval law.  Cast your votes as good citizens, regularly and quietly at the polls; so keeping in your hearts 'with malice toward none, with charity for all,' that after each Presidential election, whether it be with you or against you, you may be able to respond heartily to our old navy toast: "The President of the United States: God Bless Him!'"

Thanks a Lot, Guys.  --Old B-Runner

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Bell Appointed to Command East India Squadron-- Part 2

Secretary Welles directed the new squadron commander "to guard with jealous care the honor and interests of your flag and country, defend the citizens of the United States, and protect and facilitate the commerce thereof within the limits of your command."

This squadron was the forerunner of today's Seventh Fleet, which alertly guards the long troubled shoreline of Asia from Siberia to Singapore.

--Old B-R'er

Commodore Bell Appointed to Command U.S. East India Squadron-- Part 1

JULY 31ST, 1865:  Commodore Henry H. bell was appointed by secretary Welles to command the East India Squadron, consisting of Admiral Farragut's former flagship USS Hartford as well as the USS Wachusett, Wyoming, and storeship Relief.

The command extended from the Strait of Sunda to the shores of Japan.

The Wachusett and Wyoming were already in the Pacific at the time having been ordered there by Secretary Welles to search for the Shenandoah.

Thus the East India Squadron was reactivated after being discontinued after the outbreak of the Civil War.

The Squadron had been initially established in 1835 when Commodore Edmond P. Kennedy commanded the sloop USS Peacock and the schooner Boxer on a cruise to Far Eastern waters.

--Old B-Runner

Lee Writes to Maury's Son: Share the Fate of Your State

JULY 30, 1865:  General Lee wrote to Maury's son, Colonel Richard L Maury:  "I received by last packet from Richmond your letter of the 22nd enclosing an extract from a letter of your Father dated June 27 and a project of a decree of the Emperor of Mexico to encourage emigration of the planters of the South to that country.

"I was very glad to learn of the well being of your Father and of his safe arrival in Mexico and had felt assured wherever he might be that he deeply sympathized in the suffering of the people of the South and was ready to do all in his power to relieve them.

"I do not know not know how far their emigration to another land will conduce to their eventual prosperity although their prospects may not now be cheering.  I have entertained the opinion that it would be better for them and the country to remain at their homes and share the fate of their respective States.

"I hope however the efforts of your father will facilitate the wishes and promote the welfare of all who find it necessary or convenient to expatriate themselves but should sincerely regret that either he or his should be embraced by that number."

Lee says to stay with your State and take whatever comes her way.

--Old B-R'er

Southerners Try to Talk Maury Out of Emigtrating to Mexico-- Part 2

"All who love her for what sh has done ought to love her enough to suffer with her and for her sake. If the best people who have made Virginia what she is desert her at this critical moment, it would be like children leaving their mother in distress.  There is no virtue without sacrifice, and if Virginians possess the virtue of patriotism, they ought to bring her now the sacrifice of pride.  Don't emigrate!

"Stand by your country with stern courage; learn the patience to bear without shame and with all the dignity of self-command...I don't think you can now return to Virginia; but in three or four years great changes will take place in opinions, and you and your family won't find a country which would be able to give you anything like her sympathy, or to take Virginia out of your hearts and souls.

"You ought to go back to your dear state as soon as you can do so safely; and if you had followed my advice you would never have left England."

The words of these last two posts ring as true today what with everything having to do with the Confederacy under the amount of attack as we are seeing.

--Old B-Runner

Friday, July 17, 2015

Southerners Try to Talk Maury Out of Emigrating to Mexico-- Part 1

JULY 22, 1865:  Maury's family and many of his friends opposed his colonization plan for Mexico.  Although his family did not want him to return to Virginia to be "hanged or manacled," they also opposed his staying in Mexico because of the instability of Maximilian's rule.

Overseas friends offered stronger, and perhaps seeing clearer from the distance, truer advice.  One wrote: "The people of Virginia have shown themselves to be as brave as any people have ever been; but courage is coupled, in patriotism, with perseverance in suffering until better times come for Virginia.  All who love her for what she has done ought to love her enough to suffer with her and take the risk."

More to Come.  --Old B-R'er

The Whaler Milo Arrives in San Francisco with Shenandoah's Captured Men

JULY 29TH, 1865:  The whaler Milo arrived in San Francisco Bay from the Bering Sea with 200 passengers who had formerly manned ten whalers captured and burned by the CSS Shenandoah.  The Milo had been seized as well on 22 June and bonded by Lt. Waddell for $30,000.

Having departed immediately she was over a fortnight ahead of the Shenandoah, which was beating down the North Pacific toward the Northwestern United States.  Captain David McDougal, Commander of the Mare Island Navy Yard, telegraphed this arrival to Secretary Welles and reported:  "Great apprehension felt by mercantile community of San Francisco in consequence of depredations of Shenandoah."

I reckon they'd be a bit concerned.  Before this no one knew the Shenandoah was still out there.

One Last Confederate Ship Still Operating.  --Old B-Runner

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Army Transport Quinnebaug Sinks

JULY 20TH, 1865:  Lt.Cmdr. William C. West, commanding the naval station at Beaufort, North carolina, took charge of a large scale rescue operation off the entrance to the harbor.  The Army transport Quinnebaug, loaded with troops, struck a reef and sank off Shackleford Banks while putting onto Beaufort.

Participating in the rescue were the USS Anemone, Acting Ensign A.O. Kruge, USS Corwin, Acting Master Robert Platt, and the boats from Benjamin Adams under the charge of the ship's second officer, Charles Frechrall.

West singled out these officers for "rendering invaluable service in saving life" at the scene of the disaster.  he reported the loss of 25 lives which he attributed to :"the panic at the time of the steamer first striking."

--Old B-R'er

European Squadron Reinstituted

JULY 18TH, 1865:  Rear Admiral Louis M. Goldsborough arrived at Flushing, Netherlands, and hoisted his flag on the USS Colorado and assumed command of the reinstituted European Squadron.  The Squadron consisted of the USS Niagara, Sacramento, Kearsarge, Frolic and Guard and was to cruise the North Sea to the Canary Islands, as the Navy resumed is historic role of protecting the nation's interests.

--Old B-Runner

Maury Developing a Liking for Mexico-- Part 2: We Could Help Their Agriculture

JULY 16TH, 1865:  Maury wrote: "I saw corn in all its stages, from the time of its scattering by the hand of the sower, till it was gathered in the arms of the reaper.  But agriculture is in a rude state.

"I saw them ploughing with a stick, and sawing with an axe, hoeing their corn with a shovel, and grinding it with a pebble.  A few of our clever farmers, bringing with them their agricultural apprentices, would give new life and energy to the country.

"By sprinkling the Empire with settlers of this sort, they and their improved implements of husbandry and methods of culture would serve as so many new centres of agricultural life, energy, and improvement."

And, of course, Maury was afraid to return to the United States.  I'm guessing apprentices would refer to slaves.

--Old B-R'er


Divers Facing Challenges in CSS Georgia Salvage-- Part 4

The CSS Georgia was built in 1862 in Savannah.  original plans do not exist, so historians have little more than contradictory contemporary accounts on which to rely.

But era engravings as well as eyewitness descriptions suggest the warship was  160 feet in length, with a beam of 55 feet and a ten-foot draft.  A single smokestack was on top.

A double layer of interlocked railroad iron weighing more than 1,500 pounds was fixed atop 15 inches of solid timber and covered with cement filled with iron filings.  The 24-foot iron walls rested at a 45-degree slope.

The ship was scuttled on Dec. 20, 1864, as General William T. Sherman's Union troops seized Savannah, the city the Georgia was built to defend.  Its watery grave is roughly five miles from Savannah off Old Fort Jackson on the north edge of the Savannah Harbor navigation channel.

--Old B-Runner

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Maury Developing a Liking for Mexico-- Part 1

JULY 16TH, 1865:  The more he saw of Mexico the more Matthew Fontaine Maury became convinced that emigration of Confederates there would prove a blessing.  In all his many large undertakings through life, Maury worked with the welfare of mankind in general in his heart.

Emigration, he thought, would benefit his fellow Confederates who here could lead useful, productive lives, instead of languishing in mouldy dungeons like Mallory and Davis.  Emigration would also benefit Mexico.  The leadership able, educated men of energy and vision could provide might work wonders.

--Old B-R'er

Divers Facing Challenges in CSS Georgia Salvage-- Part 3

A specialized rigging plan and purpose-built handling fixture was developed to safely salvage each artifact.  The pieces are 35-50 feet deep, relatively shallow for a Navy diver, but some are half-buried in the muddy riverbed.  That means that the "bottom work" will require underwater jetting, vacuum and pumping systems.

But the work serves more than a historic purpose.  The wreckage is on the edge of a busy shipping channel that local officials want to expand.

Divers will also contend with strong currents and debris.  Navy Meteorology and Oceanography will identify periods of slack water to maximize efficiency and safety.

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Divers Facing Challenges in CSS Georgia Salvage-- Part 2

Continued from July 11.

A 20-man team led by Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jason Potts, commander of MDSC-23, will remove all unexploded ordnance from the Savannah River bed.  Explosive ordnance disposal divers from Mobile Unit 6 Detachment, Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia, will then place the ordnance (shells) in handling fixtures specially designed for the mission.  The ordnance will then be turned over to Marine Corps EOD technicians.

Potts' team will then salvage the smaller, more manageable artifacts such as the forward and aft armor casements; engine remnants including boilers, shafts and propellers; and four cannons.  It will conclude with the removal of the armor plating.  They expect to finish the salvage work by September.

--Old B-Runner

CSS Shenandoah Planning an Attack on San Francisco

JULY 15-31ST, 1865:  After crossing the hazardous Bering Sea, the CSS Shenandoah made slow headway at first on a daring venture to attack San Francisco.  Lt. Waddell wrote: "Prudence indicated communicating with a vessel recently from San Francisco before attempting the enterprise.

"The Shenandoah moved gently along with light winds or dashed before occasional gales until we reached the meridian of 129 W. when with the north wind that sweeps down the California coast her course was parallel with the land and we kept a sharp lookout, for we were then in waters frequented by the enemy's vessels."

San Francisco Here We Come.  --Old B-R'er

John Newland Maffitt-- Part 4: "Won a Place for Itself in History"

Maffitt also astutely commented on the lasting contributions made by the navy he represented.  "The Confederate Navy, minute though it was, won a place for itself in history.  To the Confederates the credit belongs of testing in battle the invulnerability of ironclads and of revolutionizing the navies of the world.  The Merrimack did that.

"And though we had but a handful of light cruisers, while the ocean swarmed with armed Federal vessels, we defied the Federal Navy and swept Northern commerce from the sea."

For this latter achievement, Maffitt personally merited a large share of the credit.  As captain of the CSS Florida during her 1863 cruise he captured 24 American merchant ships and he commissioned the tender Clarence, Lt. Charles W. Read, whose subsequent exploits accounted for an additional 23 merchantmen.

--Old B-Runner


Monday, July 13, 2015

John Newland Maffitt-- Part 3: "Neglect of the Navy Proved Irremediable and Fatal"

"Before the capture of New Orleans, the South ought to have to have had a navy strong enough to prevent the capture of that city, and hold firmly the Mississippi and its tributaries.

"This would have prevented many disastrous battles; it would have made Sherman's march through the country impossible and Lee would have still been master of his lines...the errors of our government were numerous but her neglect of the navy proved irremediable and fatal."

--Old B-R'er

John Newland Maffitt Returns to the U.S.-- Part 2: "The Grand Mistake of the South Was Neglecting Her Navy"

John Maffitt finally returned to the United States in 1868 and made an unsuccessful attempt to secure restitution of confiscated property valued at $75,000.  With the money he earned while serving in the British  merchant marine, he purchased a 212 acre farm outside of Wilmington, North Carolina where he lived his remaining years.

During these sunset years, Maffitt engaged in some very perceptive reflecting.  On one occasion he summarized the important role played by sea power in the war.  "The Northern navy," he wrote, "contributed materially to the successful issue of the war.

"The grand mistake of the South was neglecting her navy.  All of our Army movements out West were baffled by armed federal steamers which swarmed on western waters, and which our government provided nothing to meet."

Quite the Naval Man.  --Old B-Runner

Blockade Runner Owl and John Maffitt Arrive in Liverpool-- Part 1: "This Is the Last Time We Meet As Sailors of the Confederate States Navy"

Due to an impending trip, I'll be going ahead with the Civil War Naval Chronology (which is where I am getting these day-to-day events) to the end of the month.  The book is way too big to bring along and plus I am never sure if I'll have internet access.

JULY 14TH, 1865:  Blockade runner Owl, Commander John Newland Maffitt, steamed up the Mersey River and came to anchor in Liverpool harbor.  He had brought the  ship from Nassau through a Union Navy that had been alerted by Secretary Welles to exert all efforts to capture him.

The following day, Maffitt had his boatswain pipe all hands aft where he appeared in immaculate uniform and addressed the crew: "This is the last time we meet as sailors  of the Confederate States Navy....  The Confederacy is dead.  Our country is in the hands of the enemy, and we must accept the verdict....  I am grateful to you for your loyalty to me and to the South."

He then paid off the crew, spliced one last mainbrace for the Confederacy and then personally struck the colors to there resounding cheers from the crew.  Maffitt turned the Owl over to Fraser, Trenholm and Company and established residence in Liverpool.  After qualifying for a Master's License, he was employed by a shipping company and commanded the merchant steamer Widgeon trading between Liverpool and South American ports.

--Old B-Runner

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Divers Facing Challenges in CSS Georgia Salvage-- Part 1

From the July 6, 2015, Navy Times by Lance M. Bacon.

The team of Navy divers operating at the wreck of the Confederate ironclad CSS Georgia has dredged up an even bigger challenge than expected.

Mobile Diving and Salvage Company 23 deployed June 22 to Savannah, Georgia, to free the ship from the bottom of the Savannah River.  That was about there weeks later than originally planned, a delay caused when the Explosive Safety Survey conducted by the Army Corps of Engineers found more unexploded ordnance than expected.

Lt. Liza Dougherty, spokeswoman for Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 2 said: "The number of projectiles to be recovered and inerted (defused) has significantly increased from six to 72.  The Naval History and Heritage Command desires to conserve as many of these items as possible due to their rarity and intrinsic historical value."

--Old B-R'er

Dismantling the Mississippi Squadron

JULY 11TH, 1865:  Secretary Welles advised Rear Admiral S.P. Lee, commanding the Mississippi Squadron, that officers against whom no charges were pending could leave the service at once, with honorable discharges and receive a month's leave for each year of service.

--Old B-Runner

Friday, July 10, 2015

Navy Divers Prep to Raise the CSS Georgia-- Part 4

No photos or original plans for the CSS Georgia exist (despite the recent knowledge that the one suspected photo was a hoax).  Contemporary drawings and recollections put it at 160 feet, 55 feet beam, 10 foot draft and a single smokestack..  It had a double layer of interlocked railroad iron.  It weighed more than 1,500 tons and had over 15 inches of solid timber backing the iron and was covered with cement-filled iron filings.

The ship's casemate was at a 45-degree slope.

It was scuttled December 20, 1864 to avoid capture by Sherman's troops.

Its wreckage was inadvertently discovered in 1968 and the Navy retrieved a 64-square-foot section of it November 12, 2013.  Further analysis of that section showed that part of the ship could be retrieved.

I haven't heard anything more about its raising, probably buried under all the flag controversy.  Hope things are progressing, though.

Raising History.  --Old B-R'er

Navy Divers Prep to Raise CSS Georgia-- Part 3: Not Much of a History for It

At one point will certain people in the United States demand the ship be destroyed rather than raised because it represents the Confederacy and you know what it was fighting for.

The CSS Georgia was built in 1862 in Savannah, mostly by Confederate soldiers and with money raised by the Ladies Gunboat Association who raised $115,000.  It was constantly plagued by leaks because it was made of unseasoned wood.  Its engines were too weak to move against the Savannah River's strong current.  Though designed for ten guns, it was only carrying four and two light ones when the Confederates sank it in late 1864 to avoid capture.

Since it couldn't move against the current, it had spent its career anchored by Old Fort  Jackson south of the city and used as essentially a floating battery (which was why guns facing away from the river were removed).

Although, its very presence helped keep the Union fleet from ascending the river to take Savannah.

--Old B-Runner

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Navy Divers Prep to Raise the CSS Georgia-- Part 2

Continued from June 20th.

The pieces of the ironclad CSS Georgia are in 30-50 foot deep water, relatively shallow for Navy divers, but some are buried in the muddy river bed.  Bottom work will be necessary with underwater jetting, vacuuming and pumping.

Some of the sections will need to be segmented as they are too large to be handled.  A variety of hydraulic tools will be used to separate them for later preservation.

The divers will operate in two-man teams, each working underwater for around 90 minutes.  It will be tough work requiring twice as much energy underwater as on land.  They will have 100-pound weights, muddy working conditions and strong currents.  In addition they will be right on the edge iof the shipping channel and there are a lot of really big container ships using the Savannah River.

--Old B-R'er

Some Interesting Ships Listed on the January 1, 1865, North Atlantic Blockading Squadron

ALBEMARLE listed as a hulk in the Sounds of N.C..  This would be the wreck of the CSS Albemarle.

BETA--  destroyed (formerly called Picket Boat No. 2 or Bazely).  This might have been the boat used by Cushing to sink the Albemarle.

BANSHEE, LITTLE ADA, MALVERN, NIPHON and VANCE, A.D.(A.D. Vance) were all former blockade runners.  There might have been others, but these were the ones that came to mind right away.

RHODE ISLAND was the ship that was towing the USS Monitor when it sank.

--Old B-Runner

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

USS Sciota Raised

JULY 7TH, 1865:  Rear Admiral Thatcher reported to Welles that the USS Sciota had been raised, repaired and sent to Pensacola for rearming.  The vessel had been sunk by a torpedo in Mobile Bay while conducting sweeping operations, 14 April 1865.

--Old B-R'er

CSS Shenandoah Still Cruising-- Part 2: A Daring Plan

JULY 5TH, 1865:  During Waddell's last week in the Bering Sea an idea had occurred to him and as the raider proceeded across the North Pacific he developed it into an audacious plan of action. The idea germinated from reading a San Francisco newspaper that he had obtained from the Susan Abigail on 23 June.

From the article he learned that the USS Saginaw, Commander Charles McDougal, was the only Union warship in San Francisco harbor and constituted the city's sole means of defense.  Waddell had been second officer on her before the war and was thoroughly familiar with her capabilities and limitations.

Moreover, its commander was "an old and familiar shipmate" whom Waddell remembered as being "fond of his ease."  Waddell planned to bring the Shenandoah into San Francisco harbor under cover of darkness, ram the Saginaw, and carry her by boarding.

Beginning at daylight, he would begin bombarding the city, after which he would send a negotiating party ashore "to parlay for a sizable ransom.

Bold Plans from a Bold Man.  --Old B-Runner

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Atlantic and Gulf Squadrons Reduced

JULY 7TH, 1865:   Secretary Welles ordered Rear Admiral Radford of the Atlantic Squadron to further reduce his command to a total of ten vessels.  Welles also ordered the further reduction of the Gulf Squadron to a total of 12 vessels.

--Old B-Runner

Monday, July 6, 2015

USS Sacramento Intercepts the Former CSS Rappahannock Off Wales

JULY 6TH, 1865:  The USS Sacramento, Captain Henry Walke,  intercepted the steamer Beatrice, formerly the CSS Rappahannock, off the coast of Wales.  She was enroute for Liverpool, England, from Calais, France, and was disarmed and under English colors.

When intercepted, the former Confederate cruiser was steaming well within the three mile limit which Walke respected by refraining from either attacking or attempting to seize the vessel.  The Sacramento trailed the steamer through territorial waters until her arrival off Liverpool where Walke broke off the chase.

The Rappahannock had been purchased by the Confederacy by Commander Matthew F. Maury in the fall of 1863.  However, she never went to sea as the French government detained the vessel in Calais where she had been taken to avoid seizure in England.

--Old B-R'er

CSS Shenandoah Still Cruising-- Part 1: Good to Be Out in the Pacific Again

JULY 5TH, 1865:  The CSS Shenandoah, Lt. Waddell, steamed out of the hostile Bering Sea via the Amukta Passage in the Aleutian chain and set a southeasterly course across the commerce lanes of the Eastern Pacific.

A captain at sea day and night never rests from all the encompassing responsibilities for the safety of his ship and men.  Escaping from the clutches of the ice Waddell felt deep relief:  "Again in the North Pacific with fine weather and the Aleutian Islands astern, I looked back in thankfulness towards those seas in which we had seen hard and dangerous service, and I felt a sensation of freedom on the vast outstretched water before us, no longer dreading the cry from the masthead of 'ice ahead'.

"We had run from gloomy fogs into a bright, cheerful, sparkling ocean, and as soon as the hot sun thawed the frosty timbers and rigging of the ship and man, we should feel ourselves more than a match for anything we might meet under canvas."

--Old B-Runner

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Command of East Gulf Squadron Turned Over

JULY 5TH, 17865:  Rear Admiral Stribling turned over command of the East Gulf Squadron to Rear Admiral Thatcher of the West Gulf Squadron.  In accordance with Navy department orders dated 9 June 1865, the two squadrons were joined to form the newly designated Gulf squadron.

Stribling then proceeded to Boston on the USS Powhatan and hauled down his flag on the 12th.

Cutting Down.  --Old B-R'er

The Four Fort Fisher Monitors 1-1-65

The four monitors in the Fort Fisher attacks were the Canonicus, Monadnock, Mahopac and Saugus and were all surprisingly listed as 3rd Class warships.  because of their importance I would have thought they would have been at least 2nd Class if not 1st Class.  It was perhaps because of their small number of guns, two apiece except for the double turreted Monadnock.

Canonicus, 3rd class, 2 guns, Off Beaufort, Lt.Cmdr. G.E. Belknap
Monadnock, 3rd Class, 4 guns, Beaufort, NC, Commander E.G. Parrott
Mahopac, 3rd Class, 2 guns, Beaufort, NC, Lt. Cmdr. E.E. Potter
Saugus, 3rd Class, 2 guns, Beaufort, NC, Commander E.R. Colhoun

Evidently, you had to be a lieutenant commander or commander to command one of the monitors.  The USS New Ironsides was also an ironclad, but much larger and more guns and rated as 1st Class.

3rd Class?  What Gives?  --Old B-Runner

Friday, July 3, 2015

Another Look at the January 1, 1865, NABS

Most of the ships were listed as 3rd and 4th class, mounting between one and ten guns.

I'll go through the list of 2nd and 1st Class Ships.  Name, class, guns, where stationed and commander:

Brooklyn, 2nd, 26 guns, off Beaufort, Captain James Alden
Colorado, 1st, 50 guns, off Beaufort, Commodore H.K. Thatcher
Dictator, 1st, 2 guns, Hampton Roads (ironclad), Commodore Jno. Rodgers

Fort Jackson, 2nd, 11 guns, Off Wilmington, Captain B.F. Sands
Juniata, 2nd, 14 guns, Off Beaufort, Captain W.R. Taylor
Minnesota, 1st, 46 guns, Beaufort, Commodore J. Lanman

New Ironsides, 1st, 20 guns, off Beaufort, Commodore W. Radford
Powhatan, 1st, 24 guns, off Beaufort, Commodore J.F. Schenck
Quaker City, 2nd, 7 guns, off Wilmington, Commander W.F. Spicer

Rhode Island, 2nd, 12 guns, Beaufort, Commander S.D. Trenchard
Shenandoah, 2nd, 6 guns, Beaufort, Captain D.B.Ridgely
Susquehanna, 1st, 18 guns, Beaufort, Commodore S.W. Godon

Santiago de Cuba, 2nd, 11 guns, Beaufort, Captain O.S. Glisson
St. Lawrence, 1st, 13 guns, Naval magazine Norfolk, Commander D. Lynch
Ticonderoga, 2nd, 14 guns, Beaufort, Captain C. Steedman

Vanderbilt, 2nd, 16 guns, Beaufort, Captain C.W. Pickering
Wabash, 1st, 44 guns, Beaufort, Captain M. Smith

I Wonder What Happened to the Monitors Involved With the Attack on Fort Fisher?  --Old B-R'er


List of Vessels Attached to the North Atlantic Squadron, January 1, 1865

This was the Navy department's attempt at keeping up with their huge fleet of ships.  Each squadron ghad to comple one of these several times a year.

The report for this day listed 156 ships of all classes.  Of course, this squadron had been beefed up for the impending renewal of its attack on Fort Fisher guarding Wilmington.  The first attack on Christmas Day had ended in failure and many of the ships had returned to Beaufort, N.C. to prepare for the next attack, but there were still a lot of ships on station off Wilmington.

Ships reported at Beaufort or off Beaufort, N.C., as well as those off Wilmington were going to mostly be involved in the upcoming attack on Fort Fisher, Jan. 13-15, 1865.

I went through the list of ships on present duty or station to come up with these places.

Norfolk Va. Repairing--  3
Off Beaufort, N.C.--  11
James River, Va.--  29

Hampton Roads, Va.-- 5
Off Wilmington N.C.--  24
Not Reported--  6

Beaufort NC--  34
Sounds NC--  13
Norfolk, Va.--  11

Craney Island, Va.--
New York Navy Yard--  1
Norfolk Navy Yard, Va.-- 3

Naval Station Norfolk, Va.--1
York River, Va.--  33
Hatteras Inlet, NC-- 1

New Bern, NC--  1

Repairing at Baltimore--  1
Baltimore, Md.- 1
Repairing at Boston--  1

Supply Steamer--  1
Naval Magazine Norfolk, Va.--  1
Boston, Mass.--  1
Savannah, Ga.--  1

Kind of An Interesting Breakdown.  --Old B-Runner


Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Reduction of the North Atlantic Squadron, Jan. 1, 1865 to July 1, 1865

The Civil War Naval Chronology gave the official reports of this squadron six months apart in 1865, Jan. 1st and July 1st.  There had been a remarkable loss of ships between the two lists.

On January 1, 1865, the squadron had 156 ships.  By July 1st, that number was down to just 23.

--Old B-R'er

The Shenandoah Heads South-- Part 2

"When the Shenandoah reached the Island of St. Lawrence there was a fine northwest wind.  Sail was made, and the propeller triced up..  While to the westward of that island, the ship making six knots per hour, a dense fog came on...."

Trying to beat out the ice the ship ran into a large ice floe and damaged her rudder when, with sails aback to avoid sudden collision with thick ice, "she gathered sternboard."  The crew set heavy rope mats around the prow.  "Steam was gently applied and with a large block of ice resting against her cutwater she pushed it along to open a passage, and in this way we worked the Shenandoah for hours until she gained open water."

To avoid being trapped by Federal cruisers, if not the ice, Waddell decided to run for "more open seas."  On 3 July "a black fog closed upon us and shut out from our view the heavens and all things terrestrial."  It clung about them thick and ominous for the next two days as the raider steamed southward depending on dead reckoning.

More Ice and Fog.  --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Shenandoah Heads South, Avoiding the Icebergs, Etc.-- Part 1: Perpetual Sunlight

JULY1-3RD, 1965:  After destroying all those American whalers on 26 and 28 June, Waddell stood south "amid snow and icebergs" looking for more victims.  There he wrote, in the immensity of the ice and floes", threatened with "danger of being shut up in the Arctic Ocean for several months, I was obliged to turn her prow southward and reached East Cape just in time to slip by the Diomedes when a vast field of floe ice was closing the strait....

"The sun was in his highest northern declination, and it was perpetual daylight, when he sank below the northern horizon, a golden fringe marked his course until his pale and cheerless face came again, frosted from icebergs and floes."

--Ol;d Sunny-Runner

Waddell Describes Whalers-- Part 3: "The Odor From a Whaling Ship Is Horribly Offensive"

"The arrangements for boiling the blubber are found on deck between the fore and mainmast, built of masonry and barred against accident in heavy weather.  In the center of the masonry are one or more large cauldrons into which the blubber is placed, and after the oil is extracted, the refuse is used for making fire and produces an intense heat.

"The whalers carry hogs and this refuse is used for fattening them and they eat ravenously.  The hogsheads used for receiving the oil vary in size from two to three hundred gallons.  The greater part of these are shaken up when delivered to the vessels in port and put together upon the ship wanted, consequently their stowage is closer.

""Those hogsheads which have contained flour in bags, hams, cordage, clothing, shipbiscuits, when emptied are filled with oil.  The odor from a whaling ship is horribly offensive, but it is not worse than that of the green hide vessels from South American which can be smelt fifty miles in a favorable wind.

"The bones of the whale are taken on board and placed in the bone room; from these the offensive exhalation is too horrible to relate."

--Old W-R'er

Waddell Describes Whalers-- Part 2: Instant Death

"The projectile used is an elongated explosive shell of 12 inches in length.  The blunderbuss is handled by a powerful and expert whalesman and discharged into te animal when near enough.  The fuse is short, burns quickly, and explodes the shell causing instant death.

"The whale floats to the surface of the water when the men attach a line to the head by sharp hooks, and tow the fish alongside the vessel when they proceed to cut it up.

"As part of the midship section is converted into a blubber room and into which the fish, after being cut up, is thrown.  The boiling process for oil is proceeded with as quickly as possible."

And, They haven't begun Boiling Yet.  --Old Whale-Runner