Sunday, May 9, 2021

John Julius Guthrie, Jr.-- Part 1: Son of John J. Guthrie and Brother of B.W. Guthrie, CSN

From "Civil War Biographies from Western Waters" by Myron J. Smith, Jr..


(1844, Portsmouth, Virginia-  December 3, 1903, Norfolk County, Virginia.)

Confederate States Navy

Son of John Julius Guthrie and brother of Benjamin Wilburne  Guthrie.

This D.C. resident (District of Columbia?) was appointed an acting US Navy  midshipman in the fall of  1859, and was sent  to the USNA the following summer.

Following the opening of he Civil War in April 1861, Guthrie resigned from the Federal service and was appointed a  Confederate States Navy master's mate on September 26, 1861.

--Old B-Runner

Friday, May 7, 2021

John J. Guthrie's Resignation and Dismissal from U.S. Navy

From Naval History and Heritage Command "Officers List."  Those who resigned from U.S. Navy in 1861.  

Name and Rank:  JOHN J. GUTHRIE, Lieutenant

Date of Tender of Resignation:  ? July 1861

Date of Letter of Dismissal:  July 15, 1861

Some of the lieutenant names that I recognized for  their Confederate service:

George J. Sinclair

Isaac N. Brown

James J. Waddell

John Wilkinson

--Old B-R'er

Benjamin W. Guthrie and John Julius Guthrie, Jr.

From Find-A-Grave.


BIRTH:  1841, Washington, North Carolina

DEATH:  21 May 1895,  (aged 53-54), New York City, NY.

BURIAL:  CEDAR GROVE CEMETERY, Portsmouth, Virginia Plot 4 297



BIRTH:  1844, Portsmouth, Virginia

DEATH:  3 December 1903 ( aged 58-59), Portsmouth City, Virginia

BURIAL:  CEDAR GROVE CEMETERY, Portsmouth City, Virginia  PLOT 4 297

--Old B-Runner

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Benjamin W. Guthrie-- Part 2: Service on the Mississippi River and Wilmington and Charleston Squadrons.

At New Orleans. B.W. joined his relatives aboard the CSS Red Rover, which, in March 1862, towed the floating battery New Orleans  to Island No. 10.  There, he managed to escape frim he New Orleans before it was captured in early April.

He then returned east and served with the Wilmington, North Carolina Squadron and later the Charleston Squadron in South Carolina.

Following the conflict, Benjamin Guthrie moved to New York City  where he worked as a manufacturer's representative for a wallpaper concern.

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Benjamin Wilburne Guthrie, John J. Guthrie's Son-- Part 1

At one point earlier in my research on John J. Guthrie, I was wondering if this Confederate Navy officer was the son of John.  He was.

From "Civil War Biographies on Western Waters" by Myron J. Smith.


Born (ca 1841) in Washington, North Carolina  Died New York City May 21, 1895.


The son of John Julius Guthrie and brother of John Julius Guthrie, Jr.. 

Benjamin moved to Portsmouth, Virginia, with his family  before he was five.  Following the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, he enlisted in Company K. of the 9th Virginia Infantry on August 31, 1861.

After he was offered  an appointment  as a CSN master on February 24 and the opportunity to serve with his father and brother in western waters, he transferred from the infantry three days later.

--Old B-Runner

Monday, May 3, 2021

John J. Guthrie-- Part 4: After the War

At the conclusion of the war, Guthrie moved to Portsmouth, Virginia,  where, later in the year, he became  the first Confederate States Navy  officer who had resigned from the U.S. Navy, to be pardoned by President Andrew Johnson and had his "disabilities" restored by act of Congress.  (I'm not exactly sure what the "disabilities" here means.)

President U.S. Grant appointed Guthrie paymaster and superintendent of the Life Saving Service's lifesaving stations between  Cape Henry and Cape Hatteras.

He died a hero when he was drowned while attempting  to rescue crewmen from  the steamer USS Huron, which had run aground off Nag's Head, North Carolina.

By a strange twist of fate, the wreck and his death occurred near the spot where  Guthrie's maternal grandfather, Captain William MacDaniel, had perished  years before.

--Old B-Runner

Saturday, May 1, 2021

John J. Guthrie-- Part 3: CSS Chattahoochee, Blockade Runner Advance and CSS Albemarle

The previous commander of the CSS Arkansas, William McBlair? and John Guthrie were detached from the Arkansas and ordered to the east.

Following his removal from the CSS Arkansas project at Yazoo City (Greenwood, Ms.)  Guthrie served at the Richmond and Wilmington naval stations.

On February 4, 1863, he was posted to Chattahoochee, Florida, and commanded the CSS Chattahoochee.  Following the boiler explosion aboard on May 27, 1863, he commanded the initial voyage of the North Carolina state-owned  blockade runner A.D. Vance (also known as the Advance) in February 1864.

Guthrie was then sent  to superintend the Halifax, North Carolina, Navy Yard, where he assisted with the material requirements of then famed ironclad CSS Albemarle.

After the loss of the Albemarle to William Cushing's famed "torpedo," he returned to blockade running.  On March  23, 1865, he was appointed military aide to North Carolina governor Zebulon  B. Vance.

--Old B-R'er

John Julius Guthrie Biography-- Part 2: Early Service in Confederate Navy, New Orleans to Island No. 10 and CSS Arkansas

Upon returning to the United States, Guthrie  found out that his home state had joined the Confederacy and now he had to chose which side to serve.  Despite  a plea from a good friend, Captain Andrew H. Foote, he resigned his Federal commission  and was appointed a CSN lieutenant  on July 13, 1861.

Posted to New Orleans, on November 7, he was given command of the steamer CSS Red Rover (which was captured and turned into the Union hospital ship USS Red Rover).  On December 11, he also assumed command of the floating battery New Orleans, formerly the Pelican drydock.

Early in March 1862, he took both vessels up to Island No. 10, but once there was detached from them and sent to Memphis to assist in the outfitting of the new Confederate ironclad ram CSS Arkansas.  To prevent her capture, the Arkansas was moved up the Yazoo River to Greenwood, Mississippi, but then very little more work was done on her until early May when the dynamic Lt. Isaac Newton Brown was ordered to make her ready for battle.

John Guthrie and the ship's commander, William McBlair were transferred elsewhere.

--Old B-Runner

Thursday, April 29, 2021

John Julius Guthrie Biography-- Part 1: A Varied Early Career

From "Civil War Biographies from the Western Waters" by Myron J. Smith, Jr..


(1814, Washington, N.C.-- November  24, 1877, Nags Head, N.C.; CSN)

Appointed  a USMA cadet in 1833, but preferring the life of a sailor, Guthrie resigned from West Point and was appointed a midshipman on February 26, 1834.  He achieved the rank of lieutenant by the 1850s.

Active at sea, the Mexican War veteran participated in the Allied attack on the Chinese barrier forts at Canton (Second Opium War) in November 1856, where he hauled down the Chinese flag, which he presented to the state of North Carolina in 1858.  (I wasn't able to find out if that Chinese flag was still in North Carolina.)

While on patrol off the Congo River in Africa in 1861, he led a boarding party from the USS Saratoga in the capture of the slaver Nightingale, with 900 slaves aboard.

--Old B-Runner

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Another Fort Fisher/Wilmington Connection in the Book: Rose O'Nel Greenhow

yesterday, I wrote about Union Ensign Robley Evans' turning down a request to amputate his legs which I took from the magazine/book "The Civil War on the Front Lines."

In the section titled "Women at War: Spies, Scouts, Soldiers, and heroic Homemakers" there was a paragraph on one Rose O'Neal Greenhow.

"Few women espionage agents could surpass the successes of Rose O'Neal Greenhow, a well-connected Washington, D.C., socialite.  Greenhow not only organized a spy network that significantly contributed to the Confederate victory at First Bull Run, but served five months in Washington's Old Capitol Prison for her role, along with her young daughter.

After Greenhow was released, she returned to the South nut drowned returning from a mission to Great Britain in 1864, when the blockade runner carrying her ran aground on The North Carolina coast.

The blockade runner was the Condor and it ran aground off Fort Fisher.  She is buried in Wilmington.

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Robley Evans, USN, Sees a Surgeon After Fort Fisher: 'I Mean to Begin Shooting'

From Life Explores "The Civil War in the Front Lines:  From Fort Sumter to Appomattox."  One of hose magazine/books you see so often these days in the magazine section of stores.

In 1865, 18-year-old Robley Evans, a Northern seaman, was shot through both knees at the Battle of Fort Fisher while making a ground assault with a brigade of naval volunteers.

Days later, the young ensign found himself in a federal military hospital facing a drunken surgeon who insisted Evans undergo a double amputation of his legs.

After being told he had no choice, the young sailor reached under his pillow and produced a loaded Colt revolver, :I told him that there were six loads in it," Evans recalled, " and that if he or anyone else entered my door with anything that looked like a case of instruments, I mean to begin shooting."

Evans kept his legs and later recovered.  His case was unique.

Most soldiers who faced amputation died soon afterward.  The state of medical care during the war was enough to make wounded men like Evans resort to desperate measures.

--Old B-Runner

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Who'd Have Figured a Rebel Captured Last Slave Ship-- Part 6: John J. Guidry Gave His Life Trying to Save Crew of USS Huron.

 Returning to Gosport, John J. Guidry accepted a commission as a captain in the Confederate Navy and served until the end of the war.

But, his career was still not at end when the war ended and the Confederacy surrendered.  He was appointed  by President Grant to be general superintendent of the life-saving stations along the North Carolina and Virginia coasts in 1875.

For the next two years, he became a pioneer in  in building the life-saving  stations into one of the finest in the world.

Almost as if by destiny had a hand in it,  the USS Huron became stranded  off Kitty Hawk on November  25, 1877.  Fighting to save the lives of his former enemies, and before that, his former shipmates,  Captain John Julius Guidry drowned in the effort to save them.

No doubt history has a place for this swashbuckling young naval officer who was Matthew Fontaine Maury's assistant, historian of Brazil, a "rebel" naval officer who captured the last slave ship for the Union, and was a hero  in the fight to save the USS Huron.

--Old B-Runner

Saturday, April 24, 2021

A Rebel Captured Last Slave Ship, John J. Guthrie-- Part 5: 'I Shall Do What Which My Conscience Enjoins Me'

So, John Guthrie probably had promotion and command in mind as he came across the Atlantic Ocean.  But...,

However, little did the victorious sailors (no doubt anticipating prize money) and their executive officer, Guthrie, know that their was to be the last slave ship captured by the U.S. Navy.  Upon reaching New York on August 25, 1861, they learned that on their voyage home, that fighting between the North and South had begun.  The Civil War was on.

It was a sad moment as they said goodbye to former shipmates and prepared for the next phase of life, often as enemies.

John J. Guthrie faced a tough decision.  He was visited by a senior officer of the U.S. Navy, who said, "Guthrie, I hope you will remain in the service."

According to family tradition, he replied, "I shall do what which my conscience enjoins me, as I understand my duty."

His friend replied, "I know you will," and departed, knowing that Guthrie would head back to Portsmouth.

--Old B-Runner

Friday, April 23, 2021

A Rebel Captured Last Slave Ship, John J. Guthrie-- Part 4: Another Exploit in China

Second Opium War in China

After American ships were fired upon during passage on the Canton River  by Chinese forces in the river's Barrier Forts, the USS Levant, accompanied by the USS Plymouth, were ordered to return fire.  

During the first night of the engagement, John Guthrie led a reconnaissance mission to evaluate  the strength of  the strongholds.  Under heavy fire the next morning, Guthrie directed a party of sailors and marines ashore  to storm the forts. 

After a fierce battle , Guthrie's men forced the Chinese ton retreat, personally hauling down their flag.

No doubt, memories of his exploits on the Canton River in China and now his most recent exploit on the Congo River in Africa (capturing the slaver Nightingale)  gave him good reason to believe he would get a promotion and perhaps command of the USS Saratoga when he got back.

--Old B-Runner

Thursday, April 22, 2021

A Rebel Captured the Last Slave Ship for the Union-- Part 3: Service in the Far East and the Mexican War

Visiting Portsmouth and Gosport, Virginia, for the first time,  he was ordered to serve on the sloop of war John Adams.  He next served on the frigate USS Columbia on her voyage to China and after three years passed his his naval officer's examination.    Returning to Portsmouth, Guidry took some time in 1840 for a courtship and married a local girl from one of the city's prominent families, Louisa S. Spratley.  The couple settled in what is today Swimming Point.

After service in the Mexican War on blockade duty, Guthrie was sent in 1852 to the frigate USS Brandywine on the Brazil Station.  There he learned how to speak Spanish and translate a history of his host nation.  (Well, this should be Portuguese).  Unfortunately, that translation was lost at sea while in route to its publishers.

Guthrie next received orders to report to  Captain Matthew  Fontaine Maury, who was establishing the  U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C..

Guthrie's second tour to China was aboard the USS  Levant, proved very eventful.  He arrived in time for the Anglo-French War in the Far East as the two European powers fought for control over the tea and spice in the Orient.  This is also called the Second Opium War.

--Old B-R'er