Fort Fisher

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

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

February 25, 1862: Nashville Captured: "The Gunboats Are the Devil"

FEBRUARY 25TH, 1862:  The USS Cairo, Lt. Nathaniel Bryant, arrived at Nashville, convoying seven steam transports with troops under Brigadier General William Nelson, one of two ex-naval officers assigned to duty with the Army.

Troops were landed and occupied the Tennessee capital, an important base on the Cumberland River, without opposition.

With the fall of Forts Henry and Donelson the Confederates retreated precipitously, abandoning strong positions, valuable ordnance and supplies.  Moreover, at Nashville and elsewhere on the river they lost badly needed manufacturing facilities.

Flag Officer Foote quoted a Nashville paper as stating:  "We had nothing to fear from a land attack, but the gunboats are the devil."

--Old B-Runner

February 25, 1862: The USS Monitor Commissioned

FEBRUARY 25TH, 1862:  The USS Monitor commissioned in New York, Lieutenant John L. Worden commanding.  Captain Dahlgren described the Monitor as "a mere speck, like a hat on the surface."

--Old B-Runner

Monday, February 27, 2017

February 24, 1862: Instructions to Buchanan-- Part 2

"It is one also that may be rendered destructive at night against the enemy at anchor.  Even without guns the ship would, it is believed, be formidable as a ram.  Could you pass Old Point and make a dashing cruise in the Potomac as far as Washington, its effect upon the public mind would be important to our cause.

"The condition of our country, and the painful reverses we have just suffered, demand our utmost exertions; and convinced as I am that the opportunity and the means of striking a decisive blow for our navy are now, for the first time, presented, I congratulate you upon it, and know that your judgement and gallantry will meet all just expectations.

"Action, prompt and successful just now, would be of serious importance to our cause."

Strike Now While the Iron Is Hot.  --Old B-R'er

Saturday, February 25, 2017

February 24, 1862: Buchanan Takes Command of James River Naval Forces-- Part 1

FEBRUARY 24TH, 1862:  Captain Buchanan, CSN, ordered to command the James River, Virginia, naval defenses, and to fly his flag on board the CSS Virginia; the squadron consisted of the CSS Virginia, and the small gunboats CSS Patrick Henry, Jamestown, Teaser, Raleigh and Beaufort.

In his orders to Buchanan, Seretary of the Navy Mallory added:  "The Virginia is a novelty in naval construction, is untried, and her powers unknown; and hence the department will not give specific orders as to her attack on the enemy.

"Her powers as a ram are regarded as very formidable, and it is hoped you will be able to test them.  Like the bayonet charge of infantry, this mode of attack, while the most destructive, will commend itself to you in the present scarcity of ammunition.

Use the CSS Virginia At Your Discretion.  --Old B-Runner


February 23, 1862: Operations On the Mississippi and Tennessee Rivers

FEBRUARY 23RD, 1862:  Flag officer Foote, with Brigadier General Cullum, reconnoitered the Mississippi River down to Columbus, Kentucky, the anchor of the powerful Confederate defenses.  He reported proceeding "with four ironclad boats, two mortar boats and three transports containing 1,000 men."

Lt. Gwin, in the USS Tyler, conducted a reconnaissance of the Tennessee River to Eastport, Mississippi.  At Clifton, Tennessee, he seized 1,100 sacks and barrels of flour and some 6,000 bushels of wheat.

--Old B-Runner


Friday, February 24, 2017

February 22, 1862: Fort Pulaski Isolated and Farragut Takes Soundings

FEBRUARY 22ND, 1862:  Union naval vessels entered the Savannah River through Wall's Cut, isolating Fort Pulaski.

**  Flag officer Farragut ordered Coast Survey team to sound the Mississippi River passes and to mark the safest channel.

--Old B-Runner

February 21, 1862 Instructions to Farragut-- Part 2: Go For New Orleans!!

Key West, preserved for the Union by the actions of naval commanders, would play a key role in the Gulf, as it has throughout the history of the United States as a naval base, rendezvous and training center for operations east, west and south.

Welles instructed Farragut to "proceed up the Mississippi River and reduce the defenses which guard the approaches to New Orleans, when you will appear off that city and take possession of it under the guns of your squadron, and hoist the American flag therein, keeping possession until troops can be sent to you....

"There are other operations of minor importance which will commend themselves to your judgement and skill, but which must not be allowed to interfere with the great object in view -- the certain capture of the city of New Orleans."

New orleans Tantamount.  --Old B-R'er


Thursday, February 23, 2017

February 21, 1862: Farragut Formally Takes Command of West Gulf Blockading Squadron-- Part 1

FEBRUARY 21ST, 1862:  Flag Officer Farragut formally relieved Flag Officer McKean as Commander of the West Gulf Blockading Squadron.  As his other ships arrived, he assembled them at the Southeast Pass and sent those whose draft permitted over the bar to conduct the blockade "in the river."

Secretary of Navy Welles had sent Farragut supplementary confidential instructions, spelling out what had been discussed in conference:  "When the Hartford is in all respects ready for sea, you will proceed to the Gulf of Mexico with all possible dispatch....

"There will be attached to your squadron a fleet of bomb-vessels and armed steamers, enough to manage them," under Commander D.D. Porter.

--Old B-Runner

February 20, 1862: Action in the Gulf

**  Armed boat expedition from the USS New London, Lt. A. Read, captured 12 small sloops and schooners at Cat Island, Mississippi, suspected of being used as pilot vessels by blockade runners.

**  The USS Portsmouth, Commander Swartwout, captured sloop Pioneer off Boca Chica, Texas, with cargo of tobacco.

--Old B-R'er

February 20, 1862: Confederate Obstructions in North Carolina

Flag Officer Goldsborough wrote Assistant Secretary of Navy Fox:  "At Washington, and also at Newberne [North Carolina] the obstructions in the river are very formidable, and admirably placed.  They consist of a double row of piles thoroughly well driven by steam, and sunken vessels.

"The rows are at right angles to the shore and parallel with each other.  One stretches all the way from the right bank nearly over to the left, and the other all the way from the left bank nearly over to the right, and there is a battery of considerable force on either bank between them; so that attacking vessels must first go bows on to one, and then after passing it, be raked aft by one and forward by the other at the same time."

The Confederates sought to reduce the Union navy's effectiveness by well-placed obstructions, making passage od shore batteries difficult and costly.

I Wouldn't Try Runnin' 'Em.  --Old B-Runner


February 20, 1862: Union Move on Columbus, Kentucky

Brigadier General George W, Cullum, General Halleck's Chief of Staff at Cairo, Illinois, relayed an urgent message from General McClellan regarding the gunboats to Lt. S.L. Phelps:  General McClellan gives most emphatic order to have gun and mortar boats here ready by Monday morning.

"Must move on Columbus with at least four serviceable gunboats and mortar boats.  Only two gunboats at all serviceable here, and but one mortar boat, three being ashore."

--Old B-R'er

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

February 20, 1862: Monitor Ordered to Hampton Roads, Virginia

"Major General John E. Wool at Fort Monroe, on hearing a report that Newport News was to be attacked by the CSS Virginia, wrote Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton:  "We want a larger naval force than we have at present."

Meanwhile, the same day, Secretary of Navy Welles was writing Lt. Worden:  "Proceed with the USS Monitor, under your command, to Hampton Roads, Virginia..."

The Die Is Cast.  --Old B-R'er

February 20, 1862: Oprartions Against New Orleans About to Commence

FEBRUARY 20TH, 1862:   Flag Officer Farragut arrived at Ship Island to begin what Secretary of the Navy Welles termed "the most important operation of the war" -- the assault on New Orleans. In his instruction of February 10 to the Flag officer, Welles observed:  "If successful, you open the way to the sea for the great West, never again to be closed.

"The rebellion will be riven in the center, and the flag to which you have been so faithful will recover its supremacy in every State."

For some weeks prior to Farragut's arrival, Union forces had been gathering at the Ship Island staging area.  As early as 30 December, General Bragg, CSA, had written from Mobile:  "The enemy's vessels, some twenty, are below, landing supplies and large bodies of troops on Ship island."

With an inadequate naval force, however, the Confederates were unable to contest the steady build-up of Northern strength.

--Old B-Runner




Monday, February 20, 2017

February 19, 1862: Robert E. Lee Issues Orders on Defense of Florida

FEBRUARY 19TH, 1862:  General Robert E. Lee, harassed by the Confederate inability to cope with the guns of the Union fleet, wrote Brigadier General Trapier regarding the defenses of Florida:  "In looking at the whole defense of Florida, it becomes important to ascertain what points can probably be held and what points had better be relinquished.

"The force that the enemy can bring against any position where he can concentrate his floating batteries renders it prudent and proper to withdraw from the islands to the main-land and be prepared to contest his advance into the interior.

"Where an island offers the best point of defense, and is so connected with the main that its communications cannot be cut off, it may be retained.  Otherwise it should be abandoned."

Watch Out For Their Gunboats.  --Old B-Runner

The Battle At Elizabeth City, N.C.: A Big Act of Bravery

One example of the "dash" Ammen referred to in the previous post, was called to Flag Officer Goldsborough's attention by Commander Rowan.  "I would respectfully call your attention to one incident of the engagement which reflects much credit upon a quarter gunner of the Valley City and for which Congress has provided rewards in the shape of medals.

"A shot passed through her magazine and exploded in a locker beyond containing fireworks.  The commander, Lieutenant Commander Chaplain, went there to aid in suppressing the fire, where he found John Davis, quarter gunner, seated with commendable coolness on an open barrel of powder as the only means to keep the fire out."

For demonstrating such courage, "while at the same time passing powder to provide te division on the upper deck while under fierce enemy fire," Davis was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by General Order 11, 3 April 1863.

Not Sitting This One Out.  --Old B-R'er

February 10, 1862: Huge Union Success at Elizabeth City, N.C.

FEBRUARY 10TH, 1862:  Following the capture of Roanoke Island, a naval flotilla, including embarked Marines, under Commander Rowan in the USS Delaware, pursuing Flag Officer Lynch's retiring Confederate naval force up the Pasquotank River, engaged the gunboats and batteries at Elizabeth City, North Carolina.

The CSS Ellis was captured and the CSS Seabird was sunk; the CSS Black Warrior, Fanny and Forrest were set on fire to avoid capture; the fort and batteries at Cobb's Point were destroyed.

Of Commander Rowan's success, Admiral Daniel Ammen later wrote:  "Nothing more brilliant in naval "dash" occured during the entire Civil War than appears in this attack."

--Old B-Runner

February 19, 1862: Trial Run of the Monitor

FEBRUARY 19TH, 1862:  The trial run of the two-gun ironclad USS Monitor in New York Harbor.  Chief Engineer Alban C. Stimers, USN, reported on the various difficulties that were presented during the trial run and concluded that her speed would be approximately six knots, "though Captain Ericsson  feels confident of 8."

--And, Away We Go.  --Old B-Runner

Sunday, February 19, 2017

February 19, 1862: Action At Winton, N.C.

FEBRUARY 19TH, 1862:  The USS Delaware, Commander Rowan, and USS Commodore Perry, Lt. Flusser, on a reconnaissance of the Chowan River, engaged Confederate troops at Winton, North Carolina.  The following day, Rowan's force covered the landing of Union troops who entered the town, destroying military stores and Confederate troop quarters before re-embarking.

**  The USS Brooklyn,  Captain T.T. Craven, and USS South Carolina, Lt. Hopkins, captured the steamer Magnolia in the Gulf of Mexico with large cargo of cotton.

--Old B-Runner

February 19, 1862: Foote Captures Another Fort and a City

FEBRUARY 19TH, 1862:  Confederates evacuated Clarksville, Tennessee.  Colonel W.H. Allen, CSA, reported to General Floyd:  "Gunboats are coming; they are just below point; can see steamer here.  Will try and see how many troops they have before I leave.

Lieutenant Brady set bridge on fire, but it is burning very slowly and will probably go out before it falls."

Asking in a postscript that any orders for him to be sent "promptly,"  Allen noted that "I will have to go in a hurry when I go."

Union forces under Flag officer Foote occupied Fort defiance and took possession of the town. Foote urged an immediate move on Nashville and notified Army headquarters in Cairo:  "The Cumberland is in a good stage of water and General Grant and I believe we can take Nashville."

--Old B-Runner

--

Saturday, February 18, 2017

February 18, 1862: Action in Florida

FEBRUARY 18TH, 1862:  The USS Ethan Allen, Acting Lt. Eaton, entered Clearwater Harbor, Florida, and captured the schooner Spitfire and sloops Atlanta and Caroline.

--Old B-Runner

February 17, 1862: CSS Virginia Commissioned, Foote Moves On Clarksville

FEBRUARY 17TH, 1862:  The ironclad CSS Virginia (ex USS Merrimack) commissioned.  Captain Franklin Buchanan commanding.

**  Flag Officer Foote informed Secretary of Navy Welles:  "I leave immediately with the view of proceeding to Clarksville with eight mortar boats and two ironclad boats, with the Conestoga, wooden boat, as the river is rapidly falling.

"The other ironclad boats are badly cut up and require extensive repairs.  I have sent one of the boats already since my return and ordered a second to follow me, which, with eight mortars, hope to carry Clarksville."

--Old B-R'er

Friday, February 17, 2017

February 16, 1862: Sweeping Up the Cumberland River

FEBRUARY 16TH, 1862:  Gunboats of Flag Officer Foote's force destroyed the "Tennessee Iron Works" above Dover on the Cumberland River.

General McClellan wired Flag officer Foote from Washington:  "Sorry you are wounded.  How seriously?  Your conduct was magnificent.  With what force do you return?  I send nearly 600 sailors to you to-morrow."

--Old B-Runner


February 16, 1862: Fort Donelson Surrenders

FEBRUARY 16TH, 1862:  Fort Donelson surrendered to General Grant on February 16.  Major General Lew Wallis, speaking of the renewed gunboat support on 15 February, summed up the substantial role of the gunboats in the victory:  "I recollect yet the positive pleasure the sounds [naval gunfire] gave me...the obstinacy and courage of the Commodore...."

Was the attack "of assistance to us?  I don't think there is room to question it.  It distracted the enemy's attention, and I fully believe it was the gunboats ... that operated to prevent a general movement of the rebels up the river or across it.  , the night before the surrender."

Coming quickly after the fall of Fort Henry, the capture of Fort Donelson by a combined operation had a heavy impact on both sides.  News of the fall of Fort Donelson created great excitement in New Orleans where the press placed much blame on Secretary of Navy Mallory because "we are so wretchedly helpless on the water."

With their positions in Kentucky now untenable, the Confederates had to withdraw, assuring thatstate to the Union.  On the Mississippi, Confederate forces fell back on Island No. 10.  Nashville could not be held, and the Union armies were poised to sweep down into the heart of theSouth.

--Old B-Runner

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

February 15, 1862: Battle of Fort Donelson Continues, Confederate Ships Attack Union Forces Near Savannah

FEBRUARY 15TH, 1862:  The Battle of Fort Donelson, Tennessee, continues.

**  Four Confederate gunboats under Commodore Tattnall attacked Union batteries at Venus Point, on the Savannah River, Georgia, but were forced back to Savannah.  Tattnall was attempting to effect the passage of the steamer Ida from Fort Pulaski to Savannah.


--Old B-R'er

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

February 14, 1862: Obstructions and the USS Galena

FEBRUARY 14TH, 1862:  An armed boat from the USS Restless, Acting Lt. Edward Conroy, captured and destroyed sloop Edisto and schooners Wandoo, Elizabeth and Theodore Stoney off Bull's Bay, South Carolina.  All the ships carried heavy cargoes of rice for Charleston.

**  Confederate ships sank obstructions in the Cape Fear River near Fort Caswell, North Carolina, in an effort to block the channel.

**  The USS Galena, an experimental sea-going ironclad, was launched at Mystic, Connecticut.

--Old B-Runner


February 14, 1862: Attack on Fort Donelson Begins

FEBRUARY 14, 1862:  Gunboats USS St. Louis, Carondelet, Louisville, Pittsburg, Tyler and Conestoga under Flag Officer Foote joined with General Grant in attacking Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River.  Donelson, on high ground, could subject the gunboats to a plunging fire and was a more difficult objective than Fort Henry.

Foote did not consider the gunboats properly prepared for the assault on Donelson so soon after the heavy action at Fort Henry; nevertheless, at the "urgent request" pf both Grant and General Halleck to reduce the fortifications, Foote moved against the Confederate works.

Bitter fire at close range opened on both sides.  The flagship, St. Louis, was shit fifty-nine times and lost steering control, as did the Louisville.  Both disabled vessels drifted down stream and the gunboat attack was broken off.

Flag Officer Foote suffered injuries which forced him to give up command three months later.

--Old B-Runner

Monday, February 13, 2017

February 13-15, 1862: Those "Infernal Machines"

FEBRUARY 13-15, 1862:  The USS Pembina, Lt. John P. Bankhead, discovered a  battery of "tin-can" torpedoes (mines) while engaged in sounding the Savannah River above the mouth of Wright's River.  The mines, only visible at low tide, were connected by wires and moored individually to the bottom.

The following day, Bankhead returned and effected the removal of one of the 'infernal machines" for purposes of examination.  On the 15th, Bankhead "deemed it more prudent to endeavor to sink the remaining ones than to attempt to remove them," and sank the mines by rifle fire.

Torpedoes were planted in large numbers in the harbors and rivers of the Confederacy, constituting a major hazard which Union commanders had to consider and reckon with in planning operations.

Don't Go in the Water.  Old B-R'er


Sunday, February 12, 2017

February 11, 1862: Foote Underway to Fort Donelson

FEBRUARY 11TH, 1862:  Flag officer Foote, foreseeing the realities of the situation into which he was being pulled by the tide of events, wrote Secretary of the Navy Welles:  "I leave [Cairo] again to-night with the Louisville, Pittsburg, and St. Louis for the Cumberland River, to cooperate with the army in the attack on Fort Donelson....

"I shall do all in my power to render the gunboats effective in the fight, although they are not properly manned....  If we could wait ten days, and I had men, I would go with eight mortar boats and six armored boats and conquer."

Despite the serious difficulties they faced, Foote and his gunboat fleet made what General Grant was to term admiringly "a gallant attack."

--Old B-Runner

Saturday, February 11, 2017

February 10, 1862: The Merrimack Needs a Crew

FEBRUARY 10TH, 1862:  Captain Buchanan reported that the Merrimack (CSS Virginia) had not yet received her crew, "not withstanding all my efforts to procure them from the Army."  The shortage of trained seamen restricted the Confederacy's efforts to build naval strength.

The Union navy also had a problem getting seamen as evidenced by Foote's efforts on the western waters.

--Old B-Runner

Friday, February 10, 2017

February 10, 1862: The Situation at Saint Simon's and Jekyl Islands

FEBRUARY 10TH, 1862:  General Robert E. Lee wrote Confederate Secretary of War Benjamin:  "From the reports of General Mercer as to the inability of the batteries of Saint Simon's and Jekyl Islands to withstand the attack of the enemy's fleet, the isolated condition of those islands, and the impossibility of reenforcing him with guns and men, I have given him authority,  should he retain that opinion upon a calm review of the whole subject, to act according to his discretion; and, if deemed advisable by him, to withdraw to the mainland, and take there a defensible position for the protection of the country...."

--Old B-R'er

February 10, 1862: Porter Gets His Mortar Flotilla

FEBRUARY 10TH, 1862:  Secretary of the Navy Welles forwarded to Commander D.D. Porter the names of 22 sailing vessels and 7 steamers which would comprise the Mortar Flotilla.  This potent force, to which would be added the USS Owasco," as soon as she can be got ready," later conducted an intensive bombardment of Forts Jackson and St. Philip, preparatory to to Flag Officer Farragut's drive past these heavily fortified works on the way to New Orleans.

--Old B-R'er

February 10, 1862: Send In the Gunboats!!

FEBRUARY 10TH, 1862:  Flag Officer Foote, amidst repairing battle damages and working feverishly to get other gunboats ready, received repeated requests from Major General Halleck to "send gunboats up the Cumberland.  Two will answer if he can't send more.  They must precede the transports.  I am straining every nerve to send troops to take  Dover and Clarksville.  Troops are on their way.  All we want is gunboats to precede the transports."

Making Sure the Navy Does Not Capture Fort Donelson Alone.  --Old B-Runner

Thursday, February 9, 2017

February 8, 1862: Foote's Armored Gunboats Spreading Panic

The success of Flag officer Foote's armored gunboats spread panic and exaggerated their capabilities in Confederate as well as Union minds.  General Johnston wrote in a letter to the War Department:  "The slight resistance at Fort Henry indicates that the best open earthworks are not reliable to meet successfully a vigorous attack of ironclad gunboats."

He concluded that Fort Donelson would also fall and this would open the way to Nashville.

"The occurence of the misfortune of losing the fort will cut off the communication of the force here under General Hardee from the south bank of the Cumberland.  To avoid the disastrous consequences of such an event, I ordered General Hardee yesterday to make, as promptly as it could be done, preparations to fall back to Nashville and cross the river.

"The movements of the enemy on my right flank would have made a retrograde in that direction to confront the enemy indispensable in a short time.  But the probability of having a ferriage of this army corps across the Cumberland intercepted by the gunboats of the enemy admits of no delay in making the movement.

"Generals Beauregard and Hardee are, equally with myself, impressed with the necessity of withdrawing our force from this line at once."

All Is Lost.  All Is Lost.  --Old B-R'er

February 8, 1862: The Carondelet is a Real Pain

FEBRUARY 8TH, 1862:  A Confederate gunner captured at Fort Henry made the following statement attesting to the extreme effectiveness of the USS Carondelet's gunfire during the attack:  "The center boat, or the boat with the red stripes around the top of her smokestacks, was the boat which caused the greatest execution.

"It was one of her guns which threw a ball against the muzzle of one of our guns, disabling it for the remainder of the contest.  The Carondelet (as I subsequently found her name to be) at each shot committed more damage than any other boat.  She was the object of our hatred, and many a gun from the fort was leveled at her alone.

"To her I give more credit than any other boat in capturing one of our strongest places."

Mean Little Boat.  --Old B-Runner

Union Captures Roanoke Island-- Part 3

The joint amphibious victory at Roanoke Island, and follow-up operations in the North Carolina Sounds, cut off Norfolk, Virginia, from its main supply lines, secured the North Carolina coast, and was, as Admiral David D. Porter later noted, "a great loss to the enemy and one he deeply mourned."

The evacuation of Norfolk three months later, caused in part by the loss of Roanoke Island, was a far greater loss.  The abandonment of the great industrial navy yard and the destruction of the CSS Virginia were serious reverses that had far-reaching effects on the Confederacy's ability to resist at sea.

--Old B-Runner

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

February 8, 1862: Union Captures Roanoke Island-- Part 2

Late in the afternoon, 7 February, under cover of naval gunfire, General Burnside's troops were landed at 9:00 a.m.  On  8 February, the attack was resumed, and by 4:00 p.m. the obstructions which had been sunk by the Confederates were cleared sufficiently to permit the passage of the Union fleet into Albemarle Sound.

At this point the American flag was raised over Fort Bartow.

The CSS Curlew, disabled during the attack, was destroyed to prevent her capture, and the remainder of the small gunboat fleet under Flag officer Lynch, able to offer only a token, long-range resistance to the Union squadron, withdrew up the Pasquotank River.

--Old B-R'er

February 7-8, 1862: Union Captures Roanoke Island-- Part 1

FEBRUARY 7TH-8TH, 1862:  Coming just two days after the captured of Fort Henry, the Confederates suffered a second major defeat.  A joint Army-Navy expedition under Flag Officer L.M. Goldsborough and Brigadier General Burnside captured Roanoke Island, North Carolina.

The Union force departed its anchorage at Hatteras Inlet on 5 February, but was delayed one day en route by foul weather.  Naval bombardment of Confederate defenses, especially Fort Bartow at Pork Point -- began the morning of 7 February, continuing until dark when the action was broken off.

Confederate Flag officer Lynch, commanding Southern naval forces at Roanoke Island, paid tribute to the accuracy of the Union naval fire when he reported:  "The soldiers in the battery [Fort Bartow] sustained their position under a terrific fire....  At times the entire battery would be enveloped in the sand and dust thrown up by shot and shell....  The earthwork...was very much cut up...."

--Old B-Runner

February 7, 1862: A Huge Explosion on the Tennessee River

FEBRUARY 7TH, 1862: The USS Conestoga, Lt. S.L. Phelps, forced Confederates on the Tennessee River to abandon and burn steamers Samuel Orr, Appleton Belle and Lynn Boyd to prevent their falling into Union hands.  The Samuel Orr was loaded with torpedoes, "which," Phelps observed, "very soon exploded; the second one was freighted with powder, cannon, shot, grape balls, etc.

"Fearing an explosion from the fired boats (there were two together), I had stopped at a distance of 1,000 yards, but even there our skylights were broken by the concussion; the light upperdeck was raised bodily, the doors forced open, and locks and fastenings everywhere broken.

"The whole river for a half mile around about was completely beaten up by falling fragments and the shower of shot, grape, balls, etc."

Reckon He Should Have Been Watching From 2,000 yards.  --Old B-Runner

February 7, 8, 1862: More Confederate Ships Lost on the Tennessee River

FEBRUARY 7TH, 1862:  The USS Bohio, Acting Master William D. Gregory, captured schooner Eugenie Smith, en route from Havana to Matamoras.

FEBRUARY 8TH, 1862:  Captain Buchanan ordered the CSS Patrick Henry, Commander Tucker, and CSS Jamestown, Lieutenant Joseph N. Barney, to be kept in constant state of readiness "to cooperate with the Merrimack when that ship is ready for service."

**  The USS Conestoga, Lt. S.L. Phelps, seized steamers Sallie Wood and Muscle at Chickasaw, Alabama.  The Confederates destroyed three other vessels to prevent their capture, bringing the total loss of ships since the fall of Fort Henry to nine.

Lt. Phelps Doing a Number on Confederate Ships in the Tennessee River.  --Old B-Runner

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Battle of Fort Fisher 152nd Anniversary Commemoration

From the January 15, 2017, Wilmington (NC) Star-News "Battle of Fort Fisher."

Re-enactors gathered Saturday to mark the 152nd anniversary of the Second Battle of Fort Fisher.

Four photos show:

**  Nathan Thomas stands in front of the 32-pounder cannon at the Fort Fisher State Historic Site.

Nice picture of the newly refurbished cannon at Shepherd's Battery on the far west end of the fort's land face.

**  Hundreds of people came out Saturday to Fort Fisher to watch re-enactors discuss camp life and demonstrate Civil War weapons.

**  Re-enactors fire a cannon at the Fort Fisher State Historic Site during the living history program.

**  Freeman James, Matthew Moore and Kevin Gore gather by the campfire Saturday.  re-enactors discussed camp life with visitors.

Wish I Had Been There--  Old B-Runner

There Was a Fort Foote Though

Even though Brigadier general John A. McClernand "named" Ford Henry as Fort Foote, which never happened, there eventually was a real Fort Foote named after him.  This one was built in 1863 to guard Washington, D.C..

It was built on Rozier's Bluff, overlooking the Potomac River and had the biggest guns in all of the capital's defenses.

After the war it was used as a prison and testing site for gunnery.

Some of its earthworks remain, as do two of the cannons.

--Old B-R'er

February 7, 1862: Fort Henry Becomes "Fort Foote"

FEBRUARY 7TH, 1862:  Brigadier General John A. McClernand wrote Flag Officer Foote that he was giving the name Fort Foote to captured Fort Henry.  he congratulated the Flag officer:  "As an acknowledgement of the consummate skill with which you brought your gunboats into action yesterday, and of the address and bravery displayed by yourself and your command, I have taken the liberty of giving the late Fort Henry the new and more appropriate name of Fort Foote.

"Please pardon the liberty I have taken without first securing your concurrence, as I am hardly disposed to do, considering the liberty which you took in capturing the fort yesterday without my cooperation."

Two days after the fort's capture, Fort Henry was completely flooded and couldn't have been defended anyway.

Somewhat of a Back-Handed Compliment If You Ask Me.  --Old B-Runner

February 6, 1862: CSS Louisiana Launched

FEBRUARY 6TH, 1862:  The USS Sciota, Lt. Edward Donaldson, captured the sloop Margaret off Isle au Breton, attempting to run the blockade with a cargo of cotton.

**  The CSS Louisiana was launched at Jefferson City, Louisiana. Delay followed delay in completing the machinery for this large ironclad which would have greatly helped in the defense of New Orleans.

--Old B-Runner

Monday, February 6, 2017

Capture of Fort Henry-- Part 4: A Serious Loss for the Confederacy

Though the Confederates in the fort had fought well, Confederate General Albert S. Johnston noted the results of the action:  "The capture of that Fort [Henry] by the enemy gives them the control of the navigation of the Tennessee River, and their gunboats are now ascending the river to Florence....  Should Fort Donelson be taken, it will open  the route to the enemy to Nashville, giving them the means of breaking the bridges and destroying the ferry-boats on the river as far as navigable."

In Other Words, a Serious Loss.  --Old B-R'er

Capture of Fort Henry-- Part 3: Foote Honored for Fort Henry Capture

The significant possibilities opening for the Union and the disaster awaiting for the South had resulted in the considerable part not only from Foote's indomitable drive to get ships ready and make them effective but, but also from his his bold leadership in action.

He indeed deserved Secretary of the Navy Welles' congratulations:  "The labor you have performed and the services you have rendered in creating the armed flotilla of gunboats on the Western waters, and in bringing together for effective operation the force which has already earned such renown, can never be overestimated.

"The Department has observed with no ordinary solicitude the armament that has so suddenly been called into existence, and which, under your well-directed management, has been so gloriously effective."

Well-Earned Recognition for Foote.  --Old B-Runner

Capture of Fort Henry-- Part 2: Sweeping the Tennessee River

In continuing operations the three days following the capture of Fort Henry, the USS Tyler, Conestoga and Lexington, under Lt. S.L. Phelps, swept the Tennessee for Confederate transports, seized the unfinished steamer Eastport and destroyed a railroad bridge spanning the Tennessee River.

Leaving the Carondlet on station as guardship, Foote  proceeded the evening of the 6th with the three other ironclads, all damaged, to Cairo to direct preparation for the assault on Fort Donelson.  He saw the vast possibilities in breaching the Confederate defenses in the center of its western line.

from far up in Kentucky, south and west to the Mississippi at Columbus, all hung in the balance.  Fort Donelson would open the second door to the flood of Union power to sweep into the South.  With the center broken, collapse of the line would follow.

--Old B-R'er

February 6, 1862-- Part 1: Fort Henry Captured

FEBRUARY 6TH, 1862:  Naval forces under Flag Officer Foote, comprising the partially ironclad gunboats USS Essex, Carondelet, Cincinnati, St. Louis and the wooden gunboats USS Tyler, Conestoga and Lexington, captured strategic Fort Henry on the Tennessee River.

Originally planned as a joint expedition under Foote and General Grant, heavy rains the two days before the attack delayed the troop movements, and the gunboats attacked alone.  Accurate gunfire from the gunboats pounded the fort and forced Brigadier General Tilgham, CSA, with all but four of his guns useless, to strike his flag and surrender to Foote

Sunday, February 5, 2017

February 5, 1862: Blockade Runner Captured

FEBRUARY 5TH, 1862:  The USS Keystone State, Commander William E. le Roy, captured British blockade runner Mars with a cargo of salt off Fernandina, Florida.

--Old B-Runner

Saturday, February 4, 2017

February 4, 1862: Grant Beats Foote to Top of the Ladder

FEBRUARY 4TH, 1862:  Torpedoes, planted in the river but torn loose by the flooding waters, floated by.  Foote had some fished out for inspection.

He and Grant went aft to watch the disassembling of one.  According to a reminiscence, suddenly a strange hiss came from it and the deck cleared very rapidly.

Grant beat Foote up to the top of the ladder.  When Foote asked Grant about his hurry, grant replied that "the Army did not believe in letting the Navy get ahead of it."

--Old B-R'er


February 4, 1862: Troops Disembark below Fort Henry, Shots Exchanged

FEBRUARY 4TH, 1862:  Brigadier General Lloyd Tilgham, gallant defender of Fort Henry, informed General John B. Floyd:  "Gunboats and transports in Tennessee River.  Enemy landing in force five miles below Fort Henry."

After initiating the debarkation of troops below Fort Henry, Flag Officer Foote, in the USS Cincinnati, with General Grant on board, took the four ironclad gunboats that he had been able to man up the Tennessee for reconnoitering, and exchanged shots with the fort.

--Old B-Runner


February 3, 1862: The CSS Nashville Leaves England

FEBRUARY 3RD, 1862:  The CSS Nashville, Lt. Robert B. Pegram, departed Southampton, England.  The HMS Shannon stood by to enforce the Admiralty ruling that the USS Tuscarora could not leave the port for twenty-four hours after the sailing of the Nashville.

--Old B-Runner

Friday, February 3, 2017

February 3, 1862: Foote Moves Against Fort Henry-- Part 3

General Halleck wired Foote from St. Louis:  General Grant is authorized to furnish men for temporary gunboat duty by detail.  Men will be sent from here as soon as collected.  Arrange with General Grant for temporary crews, so that there may be no delay.:"

The following day, Commander Kilty, left in charge of naval matters at Cairo by Foote, advised Halleck that permanent details were needed, not temporary ones.

Grant advised Halleck:  "Will be off up the Tennessee at 6 o'clock.  Command, 23 regiments in all."  Grant's troops embarked on transports at Cairo and Paducah; Foote's gunboats took the lead..  Behind this spearhead and battering ram, the dismemberment of the Confederacy began.

--Old B-R'er


February 3, 1862: Foote On His Way to Fort Henry-- Part 2

FEBRUARY 3RD, 1862:  Brigadier General C.F. Smith had well expressed this earlier:  "The Conestoga, gunboat, admirably commanded by Lieutenant Phelps of the Navy, is my only security in this quarter.  he is constantly moving his vessel up and down the Tennessee and Cumberland."

That same day, Foote wrote to Secretary of the Navy Welles that he would have had more ships against the fort fort  but for want of men.

"The volunteers from the Army to go in the gunboats exceed the number of men required, but the derangement of companies and regiments" had permitted few to transfer afloat.

I take this to mean that there were plenty of soldiers who volunteered, but that they were not allowed to go by their officers to keep company and regimental manpower up to numbers.

--Old B-R'er

February 3, 1862: Foote On His Way to Fort Henry-- Part 1

FEBRUARY 3RD, 1862:  Having left his headquarters at Cairo, Illinois,  on 2 February en route to Fort Henry, Flag Officer Foote ordered the USS Essex and St. Louis to proceed from Paducah to Pine Bluff, 65 miles up the Tennessee River, "for the purpose of protecting the landing of the troops on their arrival at that point."

The Army commanders had recognized for some time that the mobility and firepower of the gunboats was vital in support of land forces operating along the rivers.

--Old B-Runner


February 2, 1862: Foote to Sailors-- Part 2: Every Man Does His Duty

"The Commander in Chief has every confidence in the spirit and valor of officers and men under his command, and his only solicitude arises lest the firing should be too rapid for precision, and that coolness and order, so essential to complete success, should not be observed, and hence he has in this general order expressed his views, which must be observed by all under his command."

He directed Lt. S.L. Phelps, upon the surrender of Fort Henry, to proceed with "Conestoga, Tyler, and Lexington up the river to where the railroad bridge crosses, and, if the army shall not already have got possession, he will destroy so much of the track as will entirely prevent its use by the rebels.

"He will then proceed as far up the river as the stage of water will admit and capture the enemy's gunboats and other vessels which might prove available to the enemy."

--Old B-R'er

February 2, 1862: Foote to His Sailors-- Part 1: Aim Well, Don't Waste Ammunition

FEBRUARY 2ND, 1862:  In his battle plan and orders to his gunboats, Flag Officer Foote emphasized the need for coolness and precision of fire:  "Let it be also distinctly impressed upon the mind of every man firing a gun that, while the first shot may be either of too much elevation or too little...

"...there is no excuse for a second wild fire, as the first will indicate the inaccuracy of the aim of the gun, which must be elevated or depressed, or trained, as circumstances require.  Let it be reiterated that random firing is not only a mere waste of ammunition, but, what is far worse, it encourages the enemy when he sees shot and shell falling harmlessly about and beyond him...."

Don't Waste Ammo.  --Old B-Runner

February 1, 1862: Runners Captured

FEBRUARY 1, 1862:  The USS Portsmouth, Commander Swartwout, captured blockade running steamer Labuan at the mouth of the Rio Grande River with cargo of cotton.

**  The USS Montgomery, Lt. Jouett, captured the schooner Isabel in the Gulf of Mexico.

--Old B-R'er

Thursday, February 2, 2017

February 2, 1862: Farragut Leaves for the Gulf

FEBRUARY 2, 1962:  The USS Hartford, Flag Officer Farragut, departed Hampton Roads for Ship Island, Mississippi, where Farragut took command of the Western Gulf Blockading Squadron preparatory to the assault on New Orleans.

--Old B-R'er

January 31, 1862-- Part 2: "Runners" for Men?

Meanwhile, Foote telegraphed the Bureau of Ordnance, requesting powder and primers.  He added:  "I am apprehensive  that the Army will not permit the men, as colonels and captains do not readily give their assent.  I am shipping men by 'runners at Chicago and elsewhere.'

"I can move with four armed [armored] and three other gunboats at any moment, and am only waiting for men (with the exception of the Benton) to be ready with all the gunboats."

The Army could not be blamed, as Foote well understood, for reluctance to weaken its units.  They, too, had been given jobs to do and had to present trained, effective units in the hour of need.

--Old B-R'er

January 31, 1862-- Part 1: Lincoln and the Mortar Boats

JANUARY 31ST, 1862:  Lt. Henry A. Wise wrote Flag Officer Foote regarding a conversation with President Lincoln on the western operations. The Commander in Chief was interested in the mortar boats because he wanted Foote to have enough gunpowder "to rain the rebels out."

Wise stated:  "He is an evidently practical man, understands precisely what he wants, and is not turned aside by anyone when he has work before him.  He knows and appreciates your past and present arduous services, and is firmly resolved to afford you every aid in the work at hand.

"The additional smooth howitzers you asked for were ordered two days ago."

--Old B-Runner

January 30, 1862: Reconnaissance to Fort Henry

JANUARY 30, 1862:  The USS Conestoga, Lt. S.L. Phelps, and USS Lexington, Lt. Shirk, reconnoitered the Tennessee River, making final preparations for the attack on Fort Henry.

Phelps, who performed yeoman service on the western waters reported:  "In the right channel, and near the foot of the island, are numerous buoys, evidently marking the location of some kind of explosive machine or obstruction; these I think we can rake out with our boats."

--Old B-Runner

January 28, 29, 1862: Capturing Blockade Runners

JANUARY 28TH, 1862:  Boat crews under Acting Master William L. Martine from the USS De Soto boarded and captured blockade runner Major Barbour at Isle Derniere, Louisiana, with cargo including gun powder, niter, sulphur, percussion caps and lead.

JANUARY 29TH, 1862:   Storeship USS Supply, Commander George M. Colvocoreses, captured schooner Stephen Hart south of Sarasota, Florida, with cargo of arms and munitions.

Keeping Weapons Away From the Confederates.  --Old B-Runner

January 30, 1862: Tennessee River Operations Begin, Mason and Slidell Arrive

JANUARY 30, 1862:  Major General Halleck ordered the combined operation to move up the Tennessee River, warned General Grant that the roads were quagmires, and directed that the movement of troops, munitions and supplies be convoyed by gunboats.

**  The USS Kingfisher, Acting Lt. Joseph P. Couthouy, captured blockade runner Teresita, bound from Havana to Matamoras.

**  Confederate Commissioners Mason and Slidell arrived at Southampton, England.

--Old B-R'er

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

February 1, 1862: Foote Leaving for Attack on Fort Henry

FEBRUARY 1, 1862:  Flag Officer Foote telegraphed Washington from Cairo:  "I leave early to-morrow with four armored gunboats on an expedition cooperating with the Army.

Senior officer will telegraph you during my absence.  Nothing new about the mortars.  Twenty-nine men shipped from regiments yesterday and three to-day.

Look Out Fort Henry.  --Old B-Runner

January 28, 1862: Goldsborough's Ready at Roanoke Island, Where's the Army?

JANUARY 28TH, 1862:  "On the 28th..." Flag Officer L.M. Goldsborough reported to Secretary of the Navy Welles, "all the vessels composing the naval branch of our combined expedition, intended by my arrangements to participate in the reduction of Roanoke Island and operate elsewhere in its vicinity, were over the bulkhead at Hatteras Inlet and in readiness for service, but ... it was not until the 5th [of February} ... that those composing the army branch of it were similarly situated."

Goldsborough, however, used the time lapse to good advantage:  "During our detention at the inlet," he wrote, "we resorted to every means in our power to get accurate information of the enemy's position and preparation...."

--Old B-R'er

155 Years Ago, January 28, 1862-- Part 2: Army-Navy Cooperation on Western Waters

JANUARY 28TH, 1862:  Flag Officer Foote and General Grant worked closely and cooperated fully with each other throughout the the planning and preparations for the attacks on Fort Henry and Donelson.

Though inclement weather was to prevent Grant and his troops from taking part in the action at Fort Henry, the understandings and mutual respect formed here were to serve the Union cause brilliantly in other joint operations on the western waters as well as in Grant's later campaigns in the east.

--Old B-Runner

155 Years Ago, January 28, 1862-- Part 1: Movement Against Fort Henry

JANUARY 28TH, 1862:  Flag Officer Foote wrote Major General Halleck:  "General Grant and myself are of the opinion that Fort Henry on the Tennessee River, can be carried with four gunboats and troops and be permanently occupied."

Halleck replied the next day that he was waiting only for a report on the condition of the road from Smithland to the fort, and would then give the order for the attack.

Seeking to push forward, Foote hurried an answer the same day, noting"  Lieutenant Phelps has been with me [at Cairo] for a day or two, and in consultation with general Grant we have come to the conclusion that, as the Tennessee will soon fall (water depth lowered), the movement up that river  is desirable early next week (Monday). or, in fact, as soon as possible."

--Old B-Runner

January 28, 1862: Fear of the Merrimack

JANUARY 28TH, 1862:  Captain John Marston wrote Secretary of Navy Welles that "as long as the Merrimack is held as a rod over us, I would by no means recommend that she [the ship USS Congress] should leave this place."

Marston wrote in reply to a letter from the Secretary four days earlier in which he suggested that the Congress should go to Boston.  Varying rumors as to the readiness of the CSS Virginia (ex-Merrimack) kept Union forces at Hampton Roads in a constant state of vigilance.

--Old B-Runner

I'm Not Sure Who or What Foote's "Runners" Were

In my February 2nd post, Andrew Foote mentioned that he was "shipping men by 'runners' at Chicago and elsewhere'."

I take it that he meant he was getting sailors from Chicago and other places, but what role the "runners" had is unclear.  Perhaps they were recruiters or perhaps they were involved in shanghaiing sailors.

I haven't been able to find anything else about them.

--Old B-Runner