Fort Fisher

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

Friday, June 30, 2017

June 30, 1862-- Part 1: McClellan Withdrawing From the James River

JUNE 30TH, 1862:  Major General George B. McClellan, compelled to withdraw down the James River after his failer Peninsula Campaign to capture Richmond and dependent on the Navy for gunfire support and transportation, reported:  "I returned from Malvern to Haxall's, and ... went on board of Captain Rogers' gunboat USS Galena to confer with him in reference to the condition of our supply vessels and the state of things on the river.

"It was his opinion that it would be necessary for the army to fall back to a position below City Point, as the channel there was so near the southern shore that it would not be possible to bring up the transports should the enemy occupy it.

"Harrison's Landing was, in his opinion, the nearest suitable point.... Concurring in his opinion, I selected Harrison's Bar as the new position of the army."

--Old B-Runner

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Some More On the CSS Spray-- Part 5: Built in Indiana, Used in Gulf of Mexico

From the 290 Foundation.

In June, the CSS Spray captured a U.S. schooner somewhere east of the St. Marks River under the command of Lt. McGary, CSN.

The Spray was built at New Albany, Indiana, and purchased by Daniel Ladd of Newport, Florida, for $15,000 and used in Gulf of Mexico coastal waters before the war.  There wasn't a problem moving goods in the area shortly after the war began, but that changed when the USS Mohawk arrived off the St. Marks River.

Shortly before it arrived, the sloop CSS George B. Sloat had been captured in the St. Marks River.  The Mohawk's crew used two small boats to move the Sloat into the river channel and sank it as an obstruction.

--Old B-Runner

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Some More On the CSS Spray-- Part 4: In Constant Use

According to the Liitle Town Mast, the CSS Spray was captained by Lt. McGary, CSN.

The ship was described as a new ship with modern steam engines that was in constant use during the war transporting troops to Lighthouse Point on the St. Marks River.

It was eight tons and drew a 6.5 foot draft.

It was the only Confederate vessel to be used exclusively in Florida waters during the war.


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

June 27, 1862: Blockade Runner Modern Greece Chased Ashore in N.C.

JUNE 27TH, 1862:  The USS Bohio, Acting master W.D. Gregory, captured sloop Wave, bound from Mobile to Mississippi City with cargo of flour.

**  USS Bienville, Commander Mullany, captured schooner Morning Star off Wilmington, North Carolina.

**  USS Cambridge, Commander W.A. Parker, chased blockade runner Modern Greece ashore off Fort Fisher, guarding Wilmington, where she was subsequently destroyed with a cargo of gunpowder, rifled cannons and other arms.

The discovery of the wreck in the 1960s kicked off a new age in Underwater Archaeology.

--Old B-Runner

Monday, June 26, 2017

CSS Spray-- Part 3: It's Fate Unknown

In February 1864, Union troops in two naval expeditions of 14 ships landed at St. Marks to capture Fort Ward, Port Leon and burn the CSS Spary.  They failed.

On March 6, 1865, the Spray was involved in the Battle of Natural Bridge in Florida.

The fate of the CSS Spray is not known.  Reports have it being sunk by Confederates in the St. Marks River  According to the David Ladd family, who originally owned her, it survived into the 20th century.

Commanders of the ship:

Lt. Charles Hays, CSN
Lt. henry L. Lewis, CSN.  Born in Virginia.  had been a lieutenant in the U.S. navy before the war and also commanded the CSS Rappahannock 1862-1863

--Old B-Runner

Friday, June 23, 2017

Fort Fisher's 2017 Beat the Heat Lectures Continue-- Part 3: Of Bragg and WASPS

The next two lectures will be:

JUNE 24--  TOPIC--    Braxton Bragg: A Reassessment"  Bragg is probably one of the most hated of all Confederate commanders and received much criticism for the fall of Fort Fisher.

SPEAKER--  Dr. Dennis Levin, retired U.S. Army historian.  I've heard him speak before.  He gives another side of the story.  Make up your own mind after hearing this talk.

JULY 1--  TOPIC--  "The WASP Program of Camp Davis."  These women were often the pilots who towed targets for the anti-aircraft crews who trained at Fort Fisher during World War II.

SPEAKER--  Krystal Lee, Beaufort County educator.

Sure Wished I Lived Closer.  --Old B-R'er

Fort Fisher's 2017 Beat the Heat Lectures Continue-- Part 2: Of Photographs and Blockade Runners

The Beat the Heat Summer lecture Series presentations begin at 2 p.m. Saturdays at the E. Gehrig Spencer Theater at the Fort Fisher State Historic Site.

Lectures given so far:

JUNE 10--  TOPIC:   "Timothy O'Sullivan and Photographing Fort Fisher"  Shortly after the capture of Fort Fisher, one of Matthew Brady's photographers, Timothy O-Sullivan, came to Fort Fisher and took a lot of photos of the fort as it looked like then.  Sure glad he did.

SPEAKERS-- were photographer Harry Taylor and Dr. Chris Fonvielle, Jr., Associate Professor history at UNCW.  Author of many books on the Cape Fear Area during the war.

JUNE 17--  TOPIC:   "The Blockade Runners"  Wilmington and the Cape Fear were definitely hot spots for this undertaking.

SPEAKER: John Morris, Director of the North Carolina Underwater Archaeology Unit.  Two recent stories are about the locating of the blockade runner Agnes E, Fry and the recent dedication of the Condor Historic Dive Site off Fort Fisher.  Mr. Morris was very instrumental in both.

--Old B-Runner

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Fort Fisher's 2017 Beat the Heat! Summer Lecture Series-- Part 1

From the Summer Powder Magazine publication by the Friends of Fort Fisher.

This is a great way to beat the heat during those hot and really crowded days out on Pleasure Island, North Carolina, just south of Wilmington.

Due to its popularity, more dates have been added for 2017.

New speakers include:

Andrew Duppstadt of the N.C. Division of Historic Sites
Bert Dunkerly of the National Park Service
Dr. Dennis Levin, former U.S. Army historian
John Falkenberry director of the North Carolina United Services Organization.

Presentations run every Saturday from June 10 to August 19 and will be held at the E. Gehrig Spencer Theater at 2 p.m..

It is sponsored by the Friends of Fort Fisher.

--Old B-Runner

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

CSS Spray-- Part 2: Union Forces After It

Daniel Ladd, a Newport, Florida, cotton and general mercantile businessman purchased the Spray for $15,100.  The ship operated for him as far south as Cedar Key, Fl., up the Appalachicola River to Columbus, Ga., up the Suwannee River and west to New Orleans.  It transported cotton, naval stores, hides, tobacco and beeswax.

It operated in St. Marks area as a Confederate gunboat 1863-1864.  (But it was there in 1862 as well.)  The ship really had the federal forces after it.  On September 12, 1863, the captain of the USS Stars and Stripes reported an unsuccessful attack on her in the St, Marks River.

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

CSS Spray-- Part 1: Steam-Powered, Sidewheel Tug

From Wikipedia.

In last week's post, I mentioned there was a picture of Fort Williams, the USS Mohawk, the lighthouse and the CSS Spray that appeared in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper on February 11, 1862.

I'd never heard of the CSS Spray so did some more research in good ol' Wikipedia.

The CSS  Spray was a steam-powered side paddle wheel tugboat built in New Albany, Indiana and used as a gunboat for the Confederate States Navy in the St, Marks, Newport, Florida, area during the war.

It was built in 1850 and mounted two or three light cannons.

--Old B-Runner

Monday, June 19, 2017

So, the Question Remains About Fort Williams in Florida

We had the USS Somerset and Tahoma reporting that on June 15, 1862, they exchanged shots with the garrison of Fort Williams protecting the mouth of the St. Marks River in Florida, driving the Confederates away and then landing and destroying the works.

I have seen other sources saying that the fort had already been abandoned as I covered in the last several posts.

Which one is right?

I kind of have to believe that the fort had been abandoned, but a small group of soldiers left there to keep an eye on the Federal ships and this essentially was the engagement.

I'll have to see if I can find the official reports in the ORN.

--Old B-Runner

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Fort Williams, Florida-- Part 2: Defense Moved to San Marcos de Apaliche

The defense of the St, Marks River now lay with the old San Marcos de Apaliche, six miles upriver from the Gulf of Mexico.

The design of the old Spanish fort was altered and the remaining old  walls were used to back up heavy earthworks.  Fort Williams was then somewhat dismantled and what remained of it was later burned by the Union Navy. iin the attack by the USS Tahoma and Somerset June 15, 1862.  However, the reports of these two ships made it sound like there was an engaement, which, if this is to be believed, would not have happened if the fort had been abandoned already.

There is no trace remaining of Fort Williams today.  The lighthouse survived the war and still stands

--Old B-R'er

Fort Williams, Florida-- Part 1: Determined To Be Too Isolated

From the Civil War Florida site by Dale Cox.

A wartime sketch of the St, Marks lighthouse and Fort Williams appeared in the Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper on February 11, 1862.  It showed the USS Mohawk and the CSS gunboat Spray behind the fort.

The fort was named for Colonel J.J. Williams, a well-known planter from Leon County and was built to protect the mouth of the St. Marks River.  It was an earthen fortification backed by timber and several pieces of heavy artillery were placed in it.  It was sited on Lighthouse Point, just west of the lighthouse.

It was determined that the fort was isolated and could not easily be supported in an attack and the Confederates evacuated it in 1862.  The defense of the St, Marks River was moved to the Spanish Fort San Marcos de Apalache which was in ruins, but a Marine Hospital was already on the site and could be used as barracks.

--Old B-Runner

Friday, June 16, 2017

New Confederate Marker Unveiled At Fort Fisher

From the May 2, 2017 91.3 WHQR News by Vince Winkel.

Confederate  Memorial Day in a state holiday in North Carolina and observed on May 10.  Six other Southern states also observe it.  A new interpretive marker was dedicated by the Confederate Monument on Battle Acre.

During the Saturday ceremony the Christian hymn "How Firm a Foundation" was sung.  This was Robert E. Lee's favorite hymn and sung at his funeral.

Dozens off descendants of Confederate soldiers were at Battle Acre for the ceremony.

The Confederate monument was built by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and dedicated June 2, 1932.

Sadly, however, in these days of all this Confederate statue desecration, how long will it be before one of those folks will have their feelings offended and demand it be taken down?

--Old B-Runner

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Confederate Fort At St. Marks Lighthouse

From the Civil War Florida website by Dale Cox.

I'd never heard of a fort by the lighthouse on the St, Marks River in Florida.  I wasn't even sure where the river was.  It flows into the Gulf of Mexico near the eastern edge of the Florida Panhandle.

The Confederate battery/fort that the Union ships destroyed in the last post was rectangular in shape named Fort Williams and so constructed as to defend the mouth of the St. Marks River.

It was already complete by June 1861 when the USS Mohawk arrived to enforce Lincoln's blockade.  Confederates occupied it until the summer of 1862 when it was abandoned in favor of a new fortification built upriver on the ruins of the old Spanish fort of San Marcos de Apaliche.

The fort was burned by Union sailors from the USS Tahoma and USS Somerset.

The listing in the Civil War Naval Chronology that I used for the last post made it sound like there was an actual battle that took place at Fort Williams, but this makes it seem like it was nothing more than the occupying of abandoned works.

--Old B-R'er

June 15, 1862: Action At St. Marks River, Florida

JUNE 15TH, 1862:    The USS Tahoma, Lt. John C. Howell, and USS Somerset, Lt. English, crossed the bar of St. Marks River, Florida, and shelled the Confederate fort near the lighthouse for forty minutes.

The Confederate artillery company stationed there withdrew and the sailors landed and destroyed the battery and the buildings used as barracks.

**  The USS Corwin, Lt. T.S. Phelps, captured schooner Starlight at Potopotank, Virginia.

--Old B-Runner

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Rose O'Neal Greenhow Diorama At Carolina Beach Town Hall

If you visit the Carolina Beach, North Carolina, Townhall on US-421 (right next to the Federal Point Historical Museum) you can see a diorama of the death of Rose O'Neal Greenhow, as her longboat from the blockade runner Condor overturned in heavy surf and she drowned.  There are several other Civil War Cape Fear dioramas as well.

The Greenhow diorama and the other ones were originally in the Blockade Runner Museum which closed in the 1980s and were stored until a few years ago at the Cape Fear Museum in Wilmington.

I used to spend a lot of time at the Blockade Runner Museum and it is good to see the dioramas again.  The Cape Fear Museum also has the diorama of Fort Fisher and the Wilmington riverfront during the war which are on display..

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Fort Fisher Target Practice On the Wreck of the Blockade Runner Condor in 1864

Last night I was reading in the book "Hurricane of Fire" that in early December 1864 (the Condor ran aground October 1, 1864) that Fort Fisher's commander, Col. William Lamb,  had target practice on the wreck.  He fired his Big Gun, the 150-pounder Armstrong gun.

The first shot hit the Condor's forward funnel, second one its aft funnel and the third hit the hull.

Of course, the gun was fired in combat later that month during the 1st Battle of Fort Fisher.

Perhaps the Armstrong shells are still somewhere in the wreck?

Using the "Big Gun."  --Old B-R'er

Condor Heritage Dive Site Opening in Kure Beach-- Part 2

The blockade runner Condor was attempting to run into the Cape Fear River with her cargo and Confederate spy Rose O'Neal Greenhow when it ran aground off Fort Fisher and was wrecked on October 1, 1864.

The ship was 218 feet long and the wreck is 25 feet down about 700 yards off the beach in front of the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher.  It has been fully mapped and divers can find its full lower hull, engines, paddle wheels and boilers.

Buoys will mark the site along with mooring lines for boats and kayaks.  Divers will be able to dive the wreck from June to November.

Interested persons can learn the ship's history and see artifacts at the Fort Fisher Museum.  There is a replica of the Condor's engine room in one of the tanks at the Fort Fisher Aquarium.

I Don't Know.  Some Big Ol' Sharks Out There.  --Old B-Runner

Monday, June 12, 2017

Condor Heritage Dive Site Opening in Kure Beach-- Part 1

From the June 5, 2017, WECT NBC News,(Wilmington, N.C.)  "Heritage Dive Site opening in Kure Beach."

The dedication to take place Friday June 16.

The blockade runner Condor is one of the best preserved shipwrecks and it offers scuba divers and snorkelers a great experience to explore.

Said North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources Secretary Susi H. Hamilton:  "The project is the result of some amazing teamwork between the Underwater Archaeological Branch, historic site, maritime museum and aquarium staff, along with some truly outstanding community partners such as the North Carolina Sea Grant and the Friends of Fort Fisher."

--Old B-Runner

Saturday, June 10, 2017

June 11, 1862: Two Blockade Runner Captures in the Gulf of Mexico

JUNE 11TH, 1862:  The USS Susquehanna, Commander Robert B. Hitchcock, captured blockade runner Princeton in the Gulf of Mexico.

**  The USS Bainbridge, Commander Brasher, captured schooner Baigorry with cargo of cotton in the Gulf of mexico.

--Old B-R'er

June 9, 1862: Welles Pushing for a Navy Second-To-None

JUNE 9TH, 1862:  Secretary of the Navy Welles wrote Senator John P. Hale, Chairman of the Senate Naval Committee, and expressed his belief that the only security against any foreign war was having a Navy second to none:  "The fact that a radical change has commenced in the construction and armament of ships, which change in effect dispenses with the navies, that have hitherto existed, is obvious, and it is a question for Congress to decide whether the Government will promptly take the initiative step to place our country in the front rank of maritime powers...."

"Other nations, whose wooden ships-of-war far exceed our own in number, cannot afford to lay them aside, but are compelled to plate them with iron at very heavy cost.

"They are not aware of the disadvantage of this proceeding, but it is a present necessity.   It must be borne in mind, however, that those governments which are striving for naval supremacy are sparing no expense to strengthen themselves by building iron vessels, and already their dock-yards are undergoing the necessary preparation for this change in naval architecture."

In other words, other nations are stuck with a whole lot of wooden warships, which have been found to be inferior to the new ironclads.  We have a chance to become the most  powerful naval country in the world.  Let's go with it.

--Old B-Runner

Friday, June 9, 2017

Beat the Heat With "Picturing Fort Fisher" on June 10

From the Friends of Fort Fisher.

At 2 p.m., Saturday, June 10, 2017, Dr. Chris Fonvielle, Jr., will have a presentation "Picturing Fort Fisher: The 1865 Timothy O'Sullivan Photographs" at the Fort Fisher Museum's Spencer Auditorium in Kure Beach, North Carolina.

Dr. Fonvielle is a Cape Fear Civil War historian and author of several books on the war, including one on the O'Sullivan photographs.

He will also be available to sign copies of his books.

This is part of a summer-long series of talks during Fort Fisher's "Beat the Heat" lecture series.

Sure Wish I Could Be There.--Old B-R'er

See How Civil War Photographs Were Made at Fort Fisher June 10

In connection with the Beat the Heat lecture on the Fort Fisher photographs of Timothy O'Sullivan, taken shortly after the fort's capture, old-time photographer Harry Taylor will also be at the fort Saturday making wet plate images.

"Being a Civil War photographer was not for the weak or faint of heart."  They had to transport bulky and heavy equipment as well as extremely dangerous chemicals used in the developing process.

His presentation will be at 11 a.m..

Old B-Runner

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Official Dedication of Condor Heritage Dive Site June 16, 2017

From the Friends of Fort Fisher.

The North Carolina Secretary of Natural and Cultural Resources, Susi H. Hamilton, and the friends of Fort Fisher invite everyone to the dedication of North Carolina's first Heritage Dive Site.  It is of the sunken Civil War blockade runner Condor.

Along with Secretary Hamilton, North Carolina Underwater Archaeology Branch Director John W. Morris and Dr. Gordon P. Watts of the Institute for International Maritime Resarch will also be there.

The dedication will take place at Fort Fisher's Battle Acre at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, June 16, 2017.

--Old B-Runner

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

New Blockade Runner Dive Site in North Carolina

I came across an article about the new dive site on the wreck of the blockade runner Condor off Fort Fisher.  It lies about 700 yards off the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher.

Famous Confederate spy Rose O'Neal Greenhow was on board this ship when it went aground and her escape boat overturned in the rough seas and she drowned.

Old B'Runner

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

June 6, 1862: Battle of Memphis

JUNE 6TH, 1862:  The USS Benton, Louisville, Carondolet, St. Louis and Cairo, under Captain Davis, and rams Queen of the West and Monarch under Col. Charles Ellett, Jr., engaged the Confederate River Defense Fleet: CSS Earl Van Dorn, General Beauregard, General M. F. Thompson, Colonel Lowell, General Bragg, General Sumter, General Sterling Price and Little Rebel under Captain Montgomery in the Battle of Memphis.

In the ensuing close action the Queen of the West was rammed and Colonel Ellett mortally wounded.  The Confederate River defense Fleet was destroyed; all ships, excepting the Van Dorn, were either captured, sunk or grounded on the river bank to avoid sinking.

Memphis surrendered to Captain Davis, and the pressure of relentless naval power had placed another important segment of the Mississippi River firmly under Union control.

Wasn't Much of a Battle.    --Old B-Runner

Monday, June 5, 2017

June 5, 1862: Action On the Mississippi River and Florida

JUNE 5TH, 1862:  The tug assigned to the USS Benton, Captain Davis, captured the steamer Sovereign near Island No. 37 in the Mississippi River.

**  The Confederate steamer Havana was set afire in Deadman's Bay, Florida, to prevent her capture by the USS Ezilda, tender to the USS Somerset, Lt. English.

--Old B-Runner

Friday, June 2, 2017

June 4, 1862: Fort Pillow Evacuated By Confederates

JUNE 4TH, 1862:  Confederates evacuated Fort Pillow, Tennessee, on the Mississippi River during the night of 4-5 June after sustaining a prolonged bombardment by Union gunboats and mortar ships.

On 5 June, the Union fleet under Captain Davis and transports moved down the river to within two miles of Memphis.

--Old B-Runner

June 3, 1862: USS Gem of the Sea and Montgomery Capture Blockade Runners

JUNE 3, 1862:  The USS Gem of the Sea, Lt. Baxter, captured blockade runner Mary Stewart at the entrance of the Santee River, South Carolina.

**  The USS Montgomery, Lt. C. Hunter, captured blockade running British schooner Will-O'-The-Wisp transferring powder and percussion caps to a lighter near the mouth of the Rio Grande River in Texas.

--Old B-Runner

June 2-3, 1862: Naval Support of James Island Landings

JUNE 2-3, 1862:  The USS Unadilla, Lt. Collins, USS Pembina, E.B. Hale, Ellen and Henry Andrew provided close gunfire support for Army landings and operations on James Island, South Carolina (by Charleston).

--Old B-Runner

June 2, 1862: Action in Florida and Captures in Louisiana

JUNE 2ND, 1862:  A boat from the USS New London, Lt. A. Read, captured yachts Comet and Algerine near New Basin, Louisiana.

**  Eleven men in two boats under Acting Master Samuel Curtis from the USS Kingfisher, while on an expedition up the Aucilla River, Florida, to obtain fresh water, were surprised by Confederate attackers; two were killed and nine were captured.

--Old B-Runner

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The United States Colored Troops at Fort Fisher-- Part 2: Siege of Petersburg

The regiment took part in the campaigning in Virginia from the Rapidan River to the James River in 1864.  then, they were at the Siege of Petersburg and the engagements at Weldon Railroad, Poplar Grove Church, Boynton Plank Road and Hatcher's Run.

In December, they were with General Butler at Bermuda 100.

At the Second Battle of Fort Fisher they had one killed and four wounded.

--Old B-Runner