Fort Fisher

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

Friday, March 31, 2017

Looking For a Few Good Volunteers in North Carolina-- Part 2

Continuing with Park Day 2017 in North Carolina.

The N.C. MARITIME MUSEUM in Southport--  Volunteers will be involved in ground clearing, planting flowers around the entry, planting vegetables and herbs in the interpretive garden.

Participants will receive t-shirts and a hot dog lunch.

BENNETT PLACE in Durham.  Trail maintenance, clearing the Bennett Family Cemetery and fixing the fence around the historic kitchen garden.  Participants will receive tee shirts and light snacks and drinks.

BENTONVILLE BATTLEFIELD--  Four Oaks.  Clearing a new trail and installing interpretive signs.  Bring small hand or garden tools.  T-shirts and lunch.

--Old B-R'er

Thursday, March 30, 2017

March 30, 1862: USS Carondolet Ordered to Run Past Island No. 10

MARCH 20TH, 1862:   Flag Officer Foote ordered Commander Henry Walke, USS Carondolet:  "You will avail yourself of the first fog or rainy night and drift your steamer down past the batteries, on the Tennessee shore, and Island No. 10 ... for the purpose of covering General Pope's army while he crosses that point to the opposite, or to the Tennessee side of the river...

"...that he may move his army up to Island No. 10 and attack the rebels in the rear while we attack them in the front."

Five days later, Walke made his heroic dash past Island No. 10 to join the Army at New Madrid.

--Old B-Runner

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Looking For a Few Good Volunteers at Fort Fisher-- Part 1

From the March 10, 2017, WWAY Wilmington, N.C. "Civil War Park Day Needs Volunteers In The Cape Fear."

On Saturday, April 1, volunteers will be needed at four historic sites in the state, including, in the Cape Fear area,  Fort Fisher and the North Carolina Maritime Museum at Southport.

These sites are looking for history enthusiasts, Boy and Girl Scout Troops, youth groups among others.  Park Day is sponsored in part by the Civil War Trust, a major preservation group.

At Fort Fisher, volunteers will work in debris removal, leaf raking, light painting and scraping.  Basic tools will be provided.  Participants will receive a Park Day t-shirt and lunch put on by the Friends of Fort Fisher.

Work will be between 8:30 and noon.

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

March 29, 1863: Capturing Blockade-Runners

MARCH 29TH, 1862:  The USS R.R. Cuyler, Lt. F. Winslow, captured blockade-running schooner Grace E. Baker off the coast of Cuba.

**  A boat under the command of Acting Master's Mate Henry Eason from the USS Restless, captured schooner Lydia and Mary with a large cargo of rice for Charleston, and destroyed an unnamed schooner in the Santee River, South Carolina.

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Fort Fisher Cannon Gets Face Lift-- Part 2

The work on the cannon was delayed in fall, partly due to Hurricane Matthew which caused the soil around the cannon, which sits at a high distance above ground level on the fort's sand parapet, was too moist for the heavy equipment needed to work on it to be brought in.  Work finally got underway in December.

The firm of T.K.F. Housemovers and Arc tech were hired to raise the gun.  Staff members and volunteers rthen moved in to clean, scrape, sand, caulk and paint the gun.

Standing proud.  --Old B-R'er

March 28, 1862: Reconnaissance of New Orleans Defenses

MARCH 28TH, 1862:  Commander Henry H. Bell reported a reconnaissance in the USS Kennebec of the Mississippi River and Forts Jackson and St. Philip.  He noted that the "two guns from St. Philip reached as far downriver as any from Jackson" and called attention to the obstruction, "consisting of a raft of logs and eight hulks moored abreast" across the river below St. Philip.

Scouting missions of this nature enabled Flag Officer Farragut to make careful and precise plans which ultimately led to successful passage of the forts and capture of New Orleans.

--Old B-Runner

Monday, March 27, 2017

March 27, 1862: The Ellet Rams (The Army Gets Into the Gunboat Ram Business

MARCH 27TH, 1862:  Secretary of War Stanton instructed Engineer Charles Ellet Jr.:  "You will proceed immediately to Pittsburg, Cincinnati, and New Albany and take measures to provide steam rams for defense against ironclad vessels on the Western waters."

The next day he wired Ellet at Pittsburgh:  "General [James K.] Moorhead has gone to Pittsburg to aid you and put you in communication with the committee there.  The rebels have a ram at Memphis.  Lose no time."

Later, Stanton described the Ellet rams to General Halleck:  "They are the most powerful steamboats, with upper cabins removed, and bows filled in with heavy timber.  It is not proposed to wait for putting on iron.  This is the mode in which the Merrimack will be met.  Can you not have something of the kind speedily prepared at St. Louis also?"

Army Ships.  --Old B-R'er

The Proper Care of Gunboats and Building New Ones-- Part 2

March 26, 1862:  Union commanders in the west and elsewhere recognized how much the margin of Union superiority and the power to thrust deep into the Confederacy depended upon the gunboats, and care was exercised not to lose the effectiveness of this mobile force.

Meanwhile, greatly concerned about the threats of Confederate naval ironclads, Secretary of War Stanton wired the President of the Board of Trade at Pittsburgh:  "This Department desires the immediate aid all of all of your association in the following particulars:  1st.  That you will appoint three of its active members most familiar with the steamboat and engine building who would act in concert with this Department and under its direction, and from patriotic motives devote some time and attention for thirty days in purchasing and preparing such means of defense on the Western waters against ironclad boats as the engineers of this Department may devise....

"My object is to bring the energetic, patriotic spirit and enlightened, practical judgement of your city to aid the Government in a matter of great moment, where hours must count and dollars not be squandered."

--Old B-Runner

Friday, March 24, 2017

Fort Fisher Cannon Gets Face Lift-- Part 1

From the January 9, 2017, Wilmington Star-News (NC) "Fort Fisher cannon gets face lift in time for January 14 anniversary" by Ben Steelman.

The 32-pounder cannon on Shepherd's Battery has been restored in time for the 152 anniversary of the Second Battle of Fort Fisher.  The 30-year-old reproduction of a Civil War era coastal artillery piece is a big favorite of visitors to the fort and fired during re-enactments, the boom of it supposedly can be heard all the way in Wilmington.

However, exposure to salt air and the elements over the years necessitated the work.

The Friends of Fort Fisher, to which I belong, raised $25,000 for it and were aided by a $6,000 grant from the Society of the Order of the Southern Cross (a Confederate heritage, a non profit group working to restore all things Civil War).

--Old B-Runner

March 26,1862-- Part 1: Watch Out for Low Water and Confederate Gunboats

MARCH 26TH, 1862:  Flag Officer Foote, off Island No. 10, dispatched a warning to Commander Alexander M. Pennock, his fleet captain at Cairo:  "You will inform the commanders of the gunboats Cairo, Tyler, and Lexington not to be caught up the river with too little water to return to Cairo.  They, of course, before leaving, will consult the generals with whom they are cooperating.

"As it is reported on the authority of different persons from New Orleans that the rebels have thirteen gunboats finished and ready to move up the Mississippi, besides the four or five below New Madrid, and the Manassas, or ram, at Memphis, the boats now up the rivers and at Columbus or Hickman, should be ready to protect Cairo or Columbus in case disaster overtakes us in our flotilla."

Worried About Those Confederates

March 25, 1862: Flag Officer Tattnall to Relieve Buchanan on CSS Virginia

MARCH 25TH 1862:  Confederate Secretary of the Navy Mallory ordered Flag Officer Tattnall to relieve the injured Flag Officer Buchanan and "take command of the naval defenses of the waters of Virginia and hoist your flag on board the Virginia."

--Old B-Runner

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Operations on Western Waters-- Part 2: Defective Fuzes

"The battery just below Eastport, consisting of two guns, then opened upon us.  Their shot fell short.  I stood up just outside of their range and threw three or four 20 [second] shell at that battery, none of which exploded, owing to the very defective fuze (army).

"The rebels did not respond.  I have made no regular attack on their lately constructed batteries, as they are of no importance to us, our base of operations being so much below them.  I have deemed it my duty, however, to annoy them, where I could with little or no risk to our gunboats....

"The Lexington, Lieutenant Commanding Shirk, will cruise down the river from this point.  The Tyler will cruise above."

Were the defective fuzes from the Army?  And here I was thinking fuzes for projectiles were spelled fuses.

--Old B-R'er

March 24, 1862: Operations on the Western Rivers-- Part 1

MARCH 24RD, 1862:  Lieutenant Gwin, USS Tyler, reported the typical ceaseless activity of the gunboats:  "...since my last report, dated March 21, I have been actively employed cruising up and down the river.  The Lexington arrived this morning.

"The Tyler accompanied by the Lexington, proceeded up the river to a point two miles below Eastport, Mississippi, where we discovered the rebels planting a new battery at an elevation above the water of 60 (degrees), consisting of two guns, one apparently in position.

We threw several shells into it, but failed to elicit a reply."

The Tyler and the Lexington were two really busy gunboats.

--Old B-Runner

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

March 22, 1862: CSS Florida Clears Liverpool

MARCH 22ND, 1862:    The CSS Florida, Acting Master John Low, sailing as the British steamer Oreto, cleared Liverpool, England, for Nassau.  It is the first ship built in England for the Confederacy.  The ship's four 7-inch rifled guns were sent separately to Nassau on the steamer Bahama.

Commander Bulloch, CSN, wrote Lt. John N. Maffitt, CSN:  "Another ship will be ready in about two months....  Two small ships can do but little in the way of materially turning the tide of war, but we can do something to illustrate the spirit and energy of our people...."

--Old B-R'er

A Walk Along the Sugar Loaf Line of Defense-- Part 2

The embankments and earthworks were built by the Confederates to stop an expected Union advance on Wilmington, N.C., after the capture of Fort Fisher.  For over thirty days, these defenses and the ones across the Cape Fear River did keep the Northern troops at bay.

The walk will be over most of the length of the defenses and Chris Fonvielle will offer his extensive insights on it.

The tour will leave from the Federal Point Historical Center's parking lot, next to the Carolina Beach Town Hall.

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Chris Fonvielle Leads Walk Along Sugar Loaf Line of Defense-- Part 1

Well, we missed it.  It was conducted on March 18th, but something I would really love to do some time despite the really long distance there from here.

This is put on by the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society and evidently given once a year in March (as I heard when I was there back in January because of fewer biting insects and snakes).  He gives a walk and talk of the Confederate Sugar Loaf Line of Defense that stretched from the Cape Fear River from a large sand dune known as Sugar Loaf to the Atlantic Ocean on the east.

There is a $10 donation.

More.  --Old B-Runner

March 21, 1862: Halleck Urges Caution at Island No. 10

MARCH 21ST, 1862:  Major General Halleck wrote Flag Officer Foote, commenting on the Navy's operation against the Confederate batteries on Island No. 10:  "While I am certain that you have done everything that could be done successfully to reduce these works, I am very glad that you have not unnecessarily exposed your gunboats.

"If you had been disabled, it would have been a most serious loss to us in the future operations of the campaign....  Nothing is lost by a little delay there."

Foote's gunboat and mortar flotilla continued to bombard the works with telling effect.

--Old B-Runner

Sandbags Remain By Fort Fisher-- Part 2

And, I am not talking about Civil War-era sandbags.

Long-left  sandbags are also a problem at North Topsail Beach, further up the North Carolina coast.  And, these are not the small, temporary sandbags we so often see when rivers flood, but rather huge ones.

The coquina by Fort fisher is part of the Fort Fisher Outcrop natural Area and is just north of the Riggings condo complex.  I mentioned in an earlier post that it was the removal of part of the coquina outcrop back in the 1930s to help build US Highway 421 which led ti the massive beach erosion that took so much of Fort Fisher.

The Army Corps of Engineers has a beach nourishment project which will end 1,500 feet north of the Riggings.  However, no part of the coquina outcrop will be buried.

--Old B-R'er

Monday, March 20, 2017

Presentation Tonight on Fort Fisher's Medals of Honor-- Part 2

A full 35% of Medals of Honor given out at Fort Fisher were given to foreign nationals.

Over the course of time, the Medal of Honor has been given to just 19 North Carolinians.

John Mosely, the presenter, is assistant site manager at Fort Fisher.  In the past he has done much research on North Carolina in the American Revolution as well as 18th century medical and dental practices.

He began working at Fort Fisher in 2011 and is currently in charge of the site's educational programs.

Since the summer of 2012 he has led the "Tasting History" walking tour of Carolina Beach, focusing on the history of Federal Point and sampling the fare in local restaurants.

He continues to work on the Fort Fisher Medals of Honor and the role the fort played during World War II.

--Old B-R'er

Presentation Tonight on Fort Fisher Medals of Honor-- Part 1

From the Federal Point Historical Preservation Society.

On Monday, March 20, 2017, today, there will be a presentation on the Medals of Honor Recipients of the Lower Cape Fear" given by John Mosely at the Federal Point History Center at 7:30 p.m..  The Center is located at 1121-A North Park Blvd., adjacent to the Carolina Beach, N.C., Town Hall.

The Medal of Honor was created as a top honor for bravery by the U.S. Congress in the summer of 1861.  During the course of the war, and after it, 1,523 of the medals were awarded to members of the Union Army and Navy.

Between June 1864 and the end of January 1865, 72 of these were given to sailors and Marines at Fort Fisher.  During the war, a total of 17 were awarded to Marines and 6 were given at Fort Fisher.  These all were earned on the beach attack by the Union sailors and Marines on January 15, 1865.

A Lot of MoHs.  --Old B-Runner

Sandbags Remain a Problem By Fort Fisher-- Part 1

From the February 8, 2017, Wilmington (NC) Star-News "Sandbags remain hard problem to solve along N.C. coast" by Adam Wagner.

The North Carolina Coastal resources Commission (CRC) regards The Riggings, a Kure Beach condo complex with 48 units as breaking the law.  State guidelines allow sandbags to remain in place just 2-5 years.  The Riggings have had their sandbags in place since 1985 when the complex was built between Fort Fisher and a coquina rock outcrop.

Sadly, the Riggings is built right on the area over which the Navy-Marine contingent charged across on January 15, 1865.

--Old B-R'er

March 20, 1862: Confederate Defenses on James River

MARCH 20TH, 1862:  Confederate President Davis wrote regarding the defense of the James River approach to Richmond:  "The position of Drewry's Bluff, seven or eight miles below Richmond ... was chosen to obstruct the river against vessels such as the Monitor.  The work is being rapidly completed.

"Either Fort Powhatan or Kennon's Marsh, if found to be the proper positions, will be fortified and obstructed as at Drewry's Bluff, to prevent the ascent of the river by ironclad vessels.

"Blockading the channel where sufficiently narrow by strong lines of obstructions, filling it with submersive batteries [torpedoes], and flanking the obstructions by well-protected batteries of the heaviest guns, seem to offer the best and speediest chances of protection with the means at our disposal against ironclad floating batteries."

The Confederate Navy contributed in large part to these successful defenses that for three years resisted penetration.  Naval crews proved especially effective in setting up and manning the big guns, many of which had come from the captured Navy Yard at Norfolk.

Fear of the Monitor.  --Old B-Runner

Saturday, March 18, 2017

March 19, 1862: Attack On Island No. 10 Continues

MARCH 19TH, 1862:  Flag Officer Foote's forces attacking Island No. 10 continued to meet with strong resistance from Confederate batteries.  "This place, Island No. 10,"  Foote observed, "is harder to conquer than Columbus, as the island shores are lined with forts, each fort commanding the one above it.

"We are gradually approaching....  The mortar shells have done fine execution...."

--Old B-Runner

March 18, 1862: Capture a B-R, Lose a B-R

MARCH 18, 1862:  The USS Florida, James Adger, Sumpter, Flambeau and Onward captured the British blockade runner Emily St. Pierre off Charleston, S.C..  The master and steward, left on board, overpowered prize master Josiah Stone off Cape Hatteras, recaptured the vessel, and sailed for Liverpool, England.

--Old B-Runner

Friday, March 17, 2017

March 17, 1862: Action At Island No. 10 Continues

MARCH 17TH, 1862:  The USS Benton, with Flag officer Foote aboard, was lashed between the USS Cincinnati and St. Louis to attack Island No. 10 and Confederate batteries on the Tennessee shore at a range of 2,000 yards.

"The upper fort," Foote reported, "was badly cut up by the Benton and the other boats with her.  We dismounted one of their guns...."

In the attack, Confederate gunners scored hits on the Benton and damaged the engine of the Cincinnati.  A rifled gun burst on board the St. Louis and killed and wounded a number of officers and men.

--Old B-Runner

Union General Thomas West Sherman

From Wikipedia.

On the 15th, I mentioned this Union general's name in connection with Port Royal, S.C., and with the last name Sherman, I wanted to find out more about him.


Served in the Seminole Wars, Mexican War and Civil War.  Graduated from the USMA in 1836 and then immediately served in the Seminole War.

Appointed to command the ground forces of the Port Royal Expedition in 1861.  Later transferred to the Western Theater and at the Siege of Corinth.  Commanded defenses of New Orleans and badly wounded in the attack on Port Hudson May 27, 1863.

The wound necessitated the amputation of his right leg.  It was thought he would die from it, but recovered and was on administrative duty the rest of the war.

--Old B-Runner

Thursday, March 16, 2017

March 16, 1862: Operations on the Tennessee River

MARCH 16TH, 1862:  Lt. Gwin reported on the operations of the wooden gunboats on the Tennessee River into Mississippi and Alabama where they kept constantly active:  "I reported to General Grant at Fort Foote on the 7th instant and remained at Danville Bridge, 25 miles above, awaiting the fleet of transports until Monday morning, by direction of General Grant, when, General Smith arriving with a large portion of his command, forty transports, I convoyed them to Savannah, arriving there without molestation on the 11th.

"The same evening, with General Smith and staff on board, made a reconnaissance of the river as high as Pittsburg.  The rebels had not renewed their attempts to fortify at that point, owing to the vigilant watch that had been kept on them in my absence by Lieutenant Commanding Shirk."

--Old B-R'er

March 16, 1862: Bombardment of Island No. 10 Commences

MARCH 16TH, 1862:  Union gunboats and mortar boats under Flag Officer Foote commenced bombardment of strongly fortified and strategically located Island No. 10 in the Mississippi River.

After the loss of Forts Henry and Donelson, and, as General Grant continued to wisely use the mobile force afloat at his disposal, the Confederates fell back to Island No. 10, concentrated artillery and troops, and prepared for for an all-out defense of this bastion which dominated the Mississippi River.

--Old B-Runner

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

New York Times Reports Intelligence from Port Royal, S.C., Part 2

"Formal possession of Beaufort will be taken on Thursday, and the Charleston papers intimate that Gen. SHERMAN would have some difficulty in doing so.  They state that Gen. LEE was making extensive preparations to defend it, though the nature of the preparations is not made very clear.

"A battery had been erected at Port Royal Ferry, upon which were mounted guns taken out of the privateers Lady Davis and Huntress, and here, it is stated, a stand will be made.  The Charleston Mercury is disposed to condemn the preparations which have been made, as inadequate to the emergency."

The General Sherman referred to was Thomas West Sherman, not the W.T. Sherman who became so famous.  The General Lee was the famous Robert E. Lee who had not yet assumed command of the Army of Northern Virginia.

--Old B-Runner

March 15, 1862: Foote Takes Position to Attack Island No. 10

MARCH 15TH, 1862:  Flag Officer Foote's flotilla moved from Hickman, Kentucky, downriver to a position above Island No. 10.  Foote reported,  "The rain and dense fog prevented our getting the vessels in position [to commence the bombardment]...."

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

March 14, 1862: New Bern, N.C. Occupied-- Part 2

The American flag was raised over Forts Dixie, Ellis, Thompson and Lane on 14 March, the "formidable" obstructions in the river -- including torpedoes -- were passed by the gunboats, and the troops were transported across the Trent River to occupy the city.

In addition to convoy, close gunfire support, and transport operations, the Navy captured two steamers, stores, munitions, cotton and supplied a howitzer battery ashore under Lt. Roderick S. McCook, USN.

Wherever water reached, combined operations struck heavy blows that were costly to the Confederacy.


March 14, 1862: New Bern, N.C. Occupied-- Part 1

MARCH 14TH, 1862:  A joint amphibious assault under Commander Rowan and Brigadier General Burnside captured Confederate batteries on the Neuse River and occupied New Bern, North Carolina, described by Rowan as "an immense depot of army fixtures and manufactures, of shot and shell...."

Commander Rowan, with 13 war vessels and transports carrying 12,000 troops, departed his anchorage at Hatteras Inlet on 12 March, arriving in sight of New Bern that evening.  Landing the troops, including Marines, the following day under the protecting guns of his vessels, Rowan continued close support of the Army advance throughout the day.

--Old B-Runner

Monday, March 13, 2017

The New York Times Reports Intelligence From Port Royal, November 16, 1861-- Part 1

This was after the Union capture of Port Royal Sound.

From the November 16, 1861, New York Times.

"We have late and important intelligence from Port Royal by an arrival at this port and from Charleston papers of the 12th inst., received in Baltimore by way of Old Point.  The transport steamer Coatzacoalcos arrived here yesterday morning, having left Port Royal the afternoon of Wednesday.

"Our troops at that time, had all landed, and their stores and ordnance were being rapidly discharged.  There was a rumor that our pickets near the Savannah Ferry had been attacked by the rebels, and reinforcements were sent on the day the Coatzacoalcos left."

--Old B-Runner

March 13, 1862: New Madrid, Missouri, Evacuated

MARCH 13TH, 1862:  Major General John P. McCown, CSA, ordered the evacuation of Confederate troops from Mew Madrid, under cover of Flag Officer Hollins' gunboat squadron consisting of the CSS Livingston, Polk and Pontchartrain.

--Old B-Runner

March 12, 1862: Jacksonville, Florida, Occupied

MARCH 12TH, 1862:  Landing party under Lt. Thomas H. Stevens of the USS Ottawa occupied Jacksonville, Florida, without opposition.  This was all part of the Confederacy giving up all points along the coast that they felt could not be defended against the Union Navy.

**  USS Gem of the Sea, Lt. Baxter, captured British blockade runner Fair Play off Georgetown, South Carolina.

**  Gunboats USS Tyler, Lt. Gwin, and USS Lexington, Lt. Shirk, engaged a Confederate battery at Chickasaw, Alabama, while reconnoitering the Tennessee River.

--Old B-Runner

Friday, March 10, 2017

March 11, 1862: St. Augustine, Florida, Is Captured

MARCH 11TH, 1862:  Landing party from the USS Wabash, Commander C.R.P. Rodgers, occupied St. Augustine, Florida, which had been evacuated by Confederate troops in the face of naval threat.

This was all part of Lee's instructions to Confederate forces in Florida to evacuate any places they didn't think they could defend.

**  Two Confederate gunboats under construction at the head of Pensacola Bay were burned by Confederate military authorities to prevent their falling into Northern hands in the event of an anticipated move against Pensacola by Union naval forces.

--Old B-Runner

March 10, 1862: Farragut Passes Over the Mississippi River Bar

MARCH 10TH, 1862:  Amidst the Herculean labors of lightening and dragging heavy ships through the mud of the "19 foot bar" that turned out to be 15 feet, and organizing the squadron, Flag Officer Farragut reported:  :"I am up to my eyes in business.  The Brooklyn is on the bar, and I am getting her off.  I have just had Bell up at the head of the passes.

"My blockading shall be done inside as much as possible.  I keep the gunboats up there all the time....  Success is the only thing listened to in this war, and I know that I must sink or swim by that rule.

"Two of my best friends have done me a great injury by telling the Department that the Colorado can be gotten over the bar into the river, and so I was compelled to try it, and take precious time to do it.  If I had been left to myself, I would have been in before this."

Wonder Who Those Two Friends Were?  --Old B-Runner

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Battle Between the Monitor and Virginia-- Part 2 "Now Comes the Reign of Iron"

The broad impact of the Monitor-Virginia battle on naval thinking was summarized by Captain Levin M. Powell, of the USS Potomac writing a letter from Vera Cruz:  "The news of the fight between the Monitor and Merrimac[k] has created the most profound sensation amongst the professional men in the allied fleet here.

"They recognize the fact, as much by silence as words, that the face of naval warfare looks the other way now -- and the superb frigates and ships of the line ... supposed capable a month ago, to destroy anything afloat in half an hour ... are very much diminished in their proportions, and the confidence once reposed in them fully shaken in the presence of these astounding facts."

And as Captain Dahlgren phrased it:  "Now comes the reign of iron -- and cased sloops are to take the place of wooden ships."

--Old B-R'er

March 9, 1862: The Battle Between the Monitor and Virginia-- Part 1

MARCH 9TH, 1862:  An engagement lasting four hours took place between the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia, mostly at close range.  Although neither side could claim a clear victory, this historic first combat between ironclads ushered in a new era of war at sea.

The blockade remained intact, but the Virginia remained as a powerful defender of the Norfolk area and a barrier to the use of the rivers for the movement of Union forces.

Severe damage inflicted on the wooden-hulled USS Minnesota by the Virginia during an interlude in the fight with the Monitor underscored the plight of a wooden ship confronted by an ironclad.

--Old B-Runner

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

March 8, 1862: The USS Monitor Arrives At Night

MARCH 8TH, 1862:  The USS Monitor, Lt. Worden, arrived in Hampton Roads at night.  The stage was set for the dramatic battle with the CSS Virginia the following day.

"Upon the untried endurances of the new Monitor and her timely arrival," observed Captain Dahlgren, "did depend the tide of events..."

--Old B-Runner

The CSS Virginia Attacks the Union Fleet: "Wholly Unlike Any Ship That Ever Floated"

The day was the Virginia's but it was not without loss.

Part of her ram was wrenched off and left imbedded in the side of the stricken Cumberland, and Buchanan received a wound in the thigh which necessitated his turning over command to Lt. Catesby ap R, Jones.

Secretary of the Navy Mallory wrote President Davis of the action:  "The conduct of the Officers and men of the squadron ... reflects unfading honor upon themselves and the Navy.  The report will be read with deep interest, and its details will not fail to rouse the ardor and nerve the arms of our gallant seamen."

It will be remembered that the Virginia was a novelty in naval architecture, wholly unlike any ship that ever floated; that her heaviest guns were equal novelties in ordnance; that her motive power and obedience to her helm were untried, and her officers and crew strangers, comparatively, to the ship and to each other; and yet, under all these disadvantages, the dashing courage and consummate professional ability of Flag Officer Buchanan and his associates achieved the most remarkable victory which naval annals record."

This great victory, coming on the heals of the disasters of the last six weeks both on the Atlantic and especially in the west, couldn't have come at a better time.


Quite An Impressive First Day.  --Old B-R'er

March 8, 1862: The CSS Virginia Attacks the Union Fleet at Hampton Roads, Virginia-- Part 1

MARCH 8TH, 1862:  The ironclad CSS Virginia, Captain Franklin Buchanan, destroyed the wooden blockading ships USS Congress and USS Cumberland in Hampton Roads.  The Virginia, without trials or under way-training, headed directly at the Union squadron.

She opened the engagement when less than a mile distant from the Cumberland and the firing became general from blockaders and shore batteries.  The Virginia rammed the Cumberland below the waterline and she sank rapidly, "gallantly fighting her guns," Buchanan reported in tribute to her brave crew, "as long as they were above water."

Buchanan next turned his ship's attention to the USS Congress, hard aground, and set her afire with hot shot and incendiary shell.

--Old B-Runner

Mighty Important Sea Battle 155 Years Ago- Day One: CSS Virginia Attacks

March 8, 1862, The CSS Virginia (ex USS Merrimack) attacked the Union Fleet at Hampton Roads, Virginia, and destroyed two Union ships, the Congress and Cumberland.

This proved the power of ironclads over wooden ships.

Then, there was the next day and another major page in naval architecture.

It's Iron Over Wood.  --Old B-Runner

New York Times Reports Capture of Privateer Neva in San Francisco

From the November 16, 1861, New York Times.

"A dispatch from San Francisco fated the 14th inst., states that the privateer schooner Neva, from China, had been seized there by Captain Pease of the revenue utter Mary."

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Captain William Cooke Pease USRM: One of the Founders of the Modern Coast Guard

From the Martha's Vineyard Museum.


He commanded the Revenue Cutter William R, macy in the capture of the Confederate privateer Neva.

Joined the U.S. Revenue Marine Service in 1839 and quickly rose in rank.  Held stations in San Francisco, the California coast and the Northwest Territory of Washington.  In the process, he commanded several revenue cutters, one of which was the William L. Marcy.

He also designed and built new cutters for the Great Lakes and refitted many aging vessels along the West Coast.  He and his crew were commended for a dramatic ship rescue off the Carolina coast in 1854.

Captain Pease died of typhoid in December 1865, age 46 aboard his cutter off Charleston, S.C..  His body was brought back to Edgartown by a cutter.

He is regarded as a founder of the modern Coast Guard.

Important Man in U.S. Coast Guard History.  --Old B-Runner

Monday, March 6, 2017

March 6, 1862: USS Monitor Leaves New York Harbor

MARCH 6TH, 1862:  Lt. Worden reported that the USS Monitor had passed over the bar in New York Harbor with the USS Currituck and Sachem in company.  "In order to reach Hampton Roads as speedily as possible, "Worden wrote Secretary of Navy Welles, "while the fine weather lasts, I have been taken in tow by the tug [Seth Low]."

Heading for a Significant Fight.  --Old B-R'er

Revenue Cutter W.L. Marcy

From Friends in Peace and War: The Russian Navy's Landmark Voyage.

At the beginning of the Civil War, the only armed government vessel available to protect San Francisco was the revenue cutter W.L. Marcy, under command of Captain William Cooke Pease.  It was a 94-foot topsail schooner that arrived in San Francisco in 1857.

In April 1861, after Fort Sumter was fired upon, the Secretary of the Treasury (the revenue cutters were a part of the Dept. of the Treasury) Salmon P. Chase ordered the Marcy to be fit for sea "for the purpose of overhauling vessels supposed to be contraband of war, or owned by members of the Confederate states."

The Marcy then sailed up the Bay of Martinez to Mare Island for extensive repairs and new armament.

It was noted that this extensive overhaul cost more than the ship had originally cost to build.

--Old B-Runner

Island No. 10-- Part 2: Problems With Mississippi Current

Flag Officer Foote continued two days later:  "The Benton is underway and barely stems the strong current of the Ohio, which is five knots per hour in this rise rise of water, but hope, by putting her between two ironclad steamers to-morrow, she will stem the current and work comparatively well....

"I hope on Wednesday [12 March] to take down seven ironclad gunboats and ten mortar boats to attack Island No. 10 and New Madrid..

"As the current in the Mississippi is in some places 7 knots per hour, the ironclad boats can hardly return here, therefore we must go well prepared, which detains us longer than even you imagine necessary from your navy-yard and smoothwater standpoint....  We are doing our best, but our difficulties and trials are legion."

We can get 'Em there, But Not Back

March 5, 1862: Foote Can't Move On Island No. 10-- Part 1

MARCH 5TH, 1862:  Flag Officer Foote observed that the gunboats could not immediately attack the Confederate defenses at Island No. 10 downriver from Columbus.  "The gunboats have been so much cut up in the late engagements at Forts Henry and Donelson in the pilot houses, hulls, and disabled machinery, that I could not induce the pilots to go in them again in a fight until they are repaired.

"I regret this, as we ought to move in the quickest possible time, but I have declined doing it, being utterly unprepared, although General Halleck says go, and not wait for repairs; but that can not be done without creating a stampede amongst the pilots and most of the newly made officers, to say nothing of the disasters which much follow if the rebels fight as they have done of late."

--Old B-Runner

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Capture of Columbus, Kentucky-- Part 2: A Brilliant Strategy

The powerful fort, thought by many to be impregnable, had fallen without a struggle.

Brigadier General Cullom wrote:  "Columbus, the Gibraltar of the West, is ours and Kentucky is free, thanks to the brilliant strategy of the campaign, by which the enemy's center was pierced at Forts Henry and Donelson, his wings isolated from each other and turned, compelling thus the evacuation of the strongholds at Bowling Green first and now Columbus."

--Old B-R'er

March 4, 1862: Capture of Columbus, Kentucky-- Part 1

MARCH 4TH, 1862:  Union forces covered by Flag Officer Foote's gunboat flotilla, now driving down the Mississippi River, occupied strongly fortified Columbus, Kentucky, which the Confederates had been compelled to evacuate.

Foote reported that the reconnaissance by the USS Cincinnati and Louisville two days earlier had hastened the evacuation, the "rebels leaving quite a number of guns and carriages, ammunition, and a large quantity of shot and shell, a considerable number of anchors, and the remnant of chain lately stretched across the river, with a large number of torpedoes."

--Old B-Runner

Friday, March 3, 2017

March 3, 1862-- Part 3: Entire Georgia Coast Under Control of Union Navy

This operation at Fernandina placed the entire Georgia coast actually in possession or under the control of the Union Navy.

Du Pont wrote Senator Grimes three days later that: "The victory was bloodless, but most complete in results."

Du Pont also noted that:  "The most curious feature of the operations was the chase of a train of cars by a gunboat for a mile and a half -- two soldiers were killed, the passengers rushed out in the woods...."

The expedition was a prime example of sea-land mobility of what General Robert E. Lee meant when he said:  "Against ordinary numbers we are pretty strong, but against the hosts our enemies seem able to bring everywhere, there is no calculating."

--Old B-R'er

March 3, 1862-- Part 2: Capture of Military Supplies and Cooperation Between Services

Commander Drayton on board the Ottawa took a moving train under fire with military stores.  Launches under Commander C.R.P. Rodgers captured the steamer Darlington with a cargo of military stores.

Du Pont had only the highest praise for his association with Brigadier General Wright, commanding the brigade of troops on the expedition:  "Our plans of action have been matured by mutual consultation, and have been carried into execution by mutual help."

--Old B-Runner

March 3, 1862-- Part 1: Capture of Cumberland Island and St. Mary's

MARCH 3RD, 1862:  Flag Officer Du Pont, commanding the joint amphibious expedition to Fernandina, Florida, reported to Secretary of Navy Welles that he was "in full possession of Cumberland Island and Sound, of Fernandina and Amelia Island, and the river and town of St. Mary's."

Confederate defenders were in the process of withdrawing heavy guns inland and offered only token resistance.

Fort Clinch on Amelia Island was occupied by an armed boat crew from the USS Ottawa.  It had been seized by Confederates at the beginning of the war and had thus become the first formely-held U.S. fort to be retaken.

--Old B-R'er

March 1, 1862-- Part 2: Stay On the Boats

Flag Officer Foote added to yesterday's post, however,:  "But I must give the general order that no commander will land men to make an attack ashore.  Our gunboats are to be used as forts, and they have have no more men than are necessary to man the guns, and as the Army must do the shore work, and as the enemy wants nothing more than to entice our men on shore and overpower them with superior numbers, the commanders must not operate on shore, but confine themselves to their vessels."

Foote Already Didn't Have Enough Sailors For His Ships and Didn't Want to Lose Any Doing the Army's Job.  --Old B-Runner

Thursday, March 2, 2017

March 1, 1862: Amphibious Operation At Shiloh (Pittsburg Landing), Tennessee

MARCH 1ST, 1862:  The USS Tyler, Lt. Gwib, and USS KLexington, Lt. Shirk, , engaged Confederate forces preparing to strongly fortify Shiloh (Pittsburg Landing), Tennessee.  Under cover of the gunboats' cannons, a landing party of sailors and Army sharpshooters was put ashore from armed boats to determine Confederate strength in the area.  Flag Officer Foote commended Gwin for his successful "amphibious" attack where several sailors met their deaths along with their Army comrades.

Of course, this place would become much better known across the country just over a month later.

--Old B-Runner

February 28, 1862: :The CSS Nashville Runs Into Beaufort, N.C.

FEBRUARY 28TH, 1862:  The CSS Nashville, Lieutenant Pegram, ran the blockade into Beaufort, North Carolina.

It was the first Confederate ship to fly the flag in England and had captured one Union merchant ship.

--Old B-Runner

February 27, 1862: Monitor and Virginia Delayed

FEBRUARY 27TH, 1862:  Delayed one day by a lack of ammunition for her guns, the USS Monitor, Lt. Worden,  departed from New York Navy Yard for sea, but was compelled to turn back to the Yard because of steering failure.

This same day at Norfolk, Flag officer Forrest, CSN, commanding the Navy Yard, reported that want of gun powder, too, was delaying the readiness of the CSS Virginia to begin operations against the Union blockading fleet.

--Old B-Runner

February 26, 1862: The Appalling State of Naval Affairs At New Orleans

FEBRUARY 26TH, 1862:  The New Orleans "Committee of Safety" reported to President Davis regarding the  "most deplorable condition" of the finances of the Navy department there, stating that  it was preventing the enlistment of men and that the "outstanding indebtedness ... can not be less than $600,000 or $800,000" owing to foundries and machine shops, draymen and other suppliers, and that for months "a sign has been hanging over the paymaster's office of that department, 'No funds.'"

The Committee stated that "unless the proper remedy is at once applied, workmen can no longer be had."

--Old B-Runner