Tuesday, April 30, 2013

CSS Georgia (Cruiser)-- Part 1

From Wikipedia.

Back on my April 23rd Naval Happenings entry, I mentioned the CSS Georgia capturing a ship at sea.  Previous to that, the only CSS Georgia I'd ever heard of was the ironclad whose engines were so weak, it was tied up at Fort Jackson, guarding Savannah and spent the whole war there as a floating ironclad battery.

It definitely could never have gone out to sea and captured that ship.  And the fact that it was at sea meant most likely that the ship was a cruiser.  It was.

The CSS Georgia was a screw steamer commissioned April 9, 1863 and captured by the USS Niagara August 15, 1864.  It was 212 feet long, weighed 600 tons and was armed with 5 cannons.

It had been launched in 1862 as the fast merchant ship Japan and was secretly purchased by the Confederate Navy at Dumbarton, Scotland in March 1863.  On April 1st, it departed Greenock, supposedly heading for Singapore (to fool Union spies) but actually to rendezvous with the steamer Alar off the French coast where it took on its guns April 9th, the Confederate flag hoisted and commissioned as the CSS Georgia.

Its commander was William Lewis Maury and he had orders to raid Union shipping on the high seas.  I was unable to find out anything about William Maury, but think he very likely was related to Confederate commissioner William Fontaine Maury.

More to Come.  --Old B-Runner

Monday, April 29, 2013

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: April 29th-30th, 1863


Admiral Porter's gunboats engaged Confederate fortifications at Grand Gulf in a five and a half hour battle.  They managed to silence the lower batteries but not the upper ones.  Porter admitted his ships were cut up by Confederate fire, but, "We are now in a position to make a landing where the general [Grant] pleases."


Union Army-Navy feign an attack on Confederate batteries at Haynes' Bluff on the Yazoo River to prevent Confederates there from sending support to Grand Gulf.  On the 30th, the USS Choctaw was hit 53 times.


Grant ferries troops across the Mississippi at Bruinsburg to start his campaign of isolating Vicksburg from reinforcements.

The Noose Tightens on Vicksburg.  --Old B-Runner

Saturday, April 27, 2013

USS Lily, Tug, Sinks April 28, 1863

The U.S. Navy lost two ships in the west over two days back 150 years ago.  neither one was due to to action with Confederates.  The USS Preble caught fire and blew up due to carelessness of a sailor and the tug USS Lily was swept by current into the ram of the USS Choctaw.

I had never heard of either, so time to look them up.   Again, there is not a lot of information on either ship, even less on the Lily.

Thanks Wikipedia.

The USS Lily was a steam tugboat acquired by the government by purchase May 5, 1862 and used by the Quartermaster Corps on western rivers and then transferred to the Navy in September of that year.  Then, it was assigned to Admiral Porter's Mississippi Squadron.  According to Gulf Wrecks, it weighed 50 tons and was built as the Jessie Benton and usually referred to as the Jessie until the Navy acquired it and renamed it the Lily.

It was sunk in the Yazoo River, near Vicksburg as actions there were ramping up for attack.

It is believed that the Lily was raised at some point thereafter.

Old B-Runner

USS Preble Sinks Today, 150 Years Ago

In Naval happenings, I wrote about the USS Preble catching fire off Pensacola, Florida, today, 150 years ago and sinking.  I'd never heard of the ship's role in the Civil War and wasn't able to find out a lot about it, just Wiki.

Sixteen gun sloop-of-war built at Portsmouth Navy Yard, Kittery, Maine and launched in 1839 and commissioned 1840.  Named after Commodore Edward Preble (1761-1807).  It was 117-feet long, 32-foot beam and mounted sixteen 32-pounders.

Served in the Mediterranean and African Squadron as well as the Mexican War.  Made trip to Hong Kong and played a part in the opening of Japan to outside trade.

Became a practice ship for midshipmen at the Naval Academy until place in ordinary in 1856.

Recommissioned in the Civil War, served in the Gulf Blockading Squadron.  Guardship at Pensacola, Florida, until April 27, 1863, when it caught fire due to a careless crewman.  It was abandoned and exploded.

In 1963, Navy divers discovered the wreck and recovered many artifacts.

Old B-R'er

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: April 26th to 28th,1863-- Getting Ready for Grand Gulf


USS Lexington joined the ram fleet under Brigadier General Alfred W. Ellet to engage and disperse Confederate cavalry at the mouth of the Duck River, Tennessee.  There we go again, Navy ships under Army control along with the Ellet family.

CSS Alabama captured and burned the ship Dorcas Prince east of Natal, Brazil, with cargo of coal.  Surprising Semmes wouldn't have turned it into a tender.  Steamers were always needing coal.

USS De Soto captures another ship in Gulf of Mexico.  (See April 24th)


Admiral Porter issues general order for attack on Grand Gulf.  Confederates have four places where guns are placed and he wants all four engaged at same time.  The ironclad gunboats go in first, firing bow guns at first battery.

Boat crews from USS Monticello and Matthew Vassar boarded and destroyed British blockade-runner Golden Liner in Murrell's Inlet, SC.

USS Preble accidentally destroyed by fire while at anchor off Pensacola, Florida.


US tug Lily, attempting to cross the bow of the USS Choctaw at anchor in the Yazoo River, was swept by current into Choctaw's ram and sunk.

Old B-Runner

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Mississippi Marine Brigade and Mississippi River Squadron

From Wikipedia

A few weeks ago, I was writing about the ship Queen of the West, commanded by Charles Rivers Ellet and mentioned that it had been in the Mississippi River Squadron and under Army command at one time.

This has always been a confusing item to me, so did the old Wiki thing.


Initially was part of the Army though commanded by Naval officers and originally known as the Western Gunboat Flotilla.  Still confused here.  Ellet was an Army officer.


Was a Union Army unit raised as part of the US Ram Fleet.  They acted as Marines and would be transported on the rams from place to place.  Their main duty was to fight Confederate guerrillas operating along Western rivers.

Commanded by members of the Ellet family and were part of the regular Army.

Organized in early 1863 with 350 men and officers.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Naval War in Real Time: Allocating the Cannons

APRIL 24, 1863, 150 Years Ago.

The Confederacy had to continually allocate and spread its limited number of troops and guns to fight off Union attacks from the sea.  This was shown in the exchange of letters between General Beauregard at Charleston and Secretary of War J.A. Seddon. 

This date, Beauregard wrote requesting Whitwort guns (long-range and extremely accurate), "one to place on Morris island, to cover at long range the bar and enable us to get guns off the Keokuk, also to keep the enemy from replacing buoys and surveying [the] bar, the other to place on Sullivan's Island to cover vessels running the blockade [which] frequently run ashore."

The next day, Seddon replied, "I regret to be unable to spare the guns for the object mentioned. The claims of Wilmington and the Mississippi are now paramount."

Well, If You Don't Ask...  You Won't Get.  --Old B-R'er

Some More on the CSS Wilmington

There was a great thread in the Civil War Talk Naval Page about this ship under "Aye Candy: CSS Wilmington."  This is where I got the picture of how it probably would have looked had it been launched.  As it was, it was fairly close to completion when the city fell in February 1865.

It was built to replace the two essentially failed ironclads at the port: The CSS North Carolina and CSS Raleigh.

Of interest was that it was not built to be fitted with a ram and would rely entirely on firepower to do its damage, like the Union monitors.  And, with its construction, it more closely resembled a monitor than previous casemated Confederate ironclads like the CSS Virginia.  However, it did not have a revolving turret, but used pivot guns instead.

The ship was not to have much freeboard  above the water and had a very low profile, even lower than the Union monitors.  Evidently, Confederate engineers were learning from the monitors.

The twin casemates were very low and had extremely steep sides, better for shell deflection.  Plus, these ships used less iron which made them lighter for use in rivers, plus easier to propel.

I Sure Would Have Liked to have Seen This Ship in Action.  --Old B-Runner

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Naval War in Real Time: A Big Day at Wilmington!!!

APRIL 23, 1863

Three blockade-runners: Merrimac, Charleston and Margaret and Jessie successfully run the blockade into Wilmington, NC.

Brigadier general William H.C. Whiting wrote: "The Merrimac brings me three splendid Blakeley guns, 8-inch rifled 13-pounders."

There Will be a Party Tonight.  --Old B-R'er

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: April 23rd to April 25th, 1863-- Semmes Does a Little Bragging


CSS Florida captured bark Henrietta at sea and burned her.


A real big day for the USS De Soto, maybe a record?  The ship captures four blockade-runners bound from Mobile to Havana with cargoes of cotton.  Those sailors must have been looking forward to a big payday in prize court.

CSS Alabama captured and burned the whaler Nye off the coast of Brazil.  Semmes writes that this is the 16th whaler he's captured, giving him more than Commodore David Porter destroyed in the Pacific in the frigate Essex during the War of 1812.

CSS Florida captured and destroyed the ship Oneida bound from Shanghai to New York with a cargo of tea.


The CSS Georgia under Lt. W.L. Maury captured the ship Dictator off the Cape Verde Islands and burned it the next day.

A couple questions here.  I have never heard of this CSS Georgia and was this Maury related to the famous Confederate William Fontaine Maury?  The fact that the Georgia  was a Confederate ship capturing another ship elsewhere on the ocean (I'll have to check and see if the Cape Verde Islands are by Africa) makes me think it must have been a cruiser.  I guess I'll have to look them up.

Old B-Runner

Monday, April 22, 2013

How Much Do You Know About the Navy in the Civil War?

Very much like the War of 1812, the naval aspect of the Civil War is largely unknown to most people.  However, this is the part I find the most interesting, a big reason why I do this blog. 

At home, I have almost three shelves of Civil War Navy books along with a lot of other bits and pieces of information.

Actually, it was the Battle of Fort Fisher in North Carolina that started my interest in the Civil War, and with its huge naval aspect, not too surprising that I would be interested in it.  Plus, growing up during the Centennial, the ironclad CSS Neuse was raised from the Neuse Rver, which also got me interested in ironclads.

Guess I didn't have much of a chance.

Old B-Runner

Friday, April 19, 2013

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: April 21st to 22nd, 1863


Mallory wrote Commander Bullock:  "The recent repulse of the enemy before Charleston will show the world that we have not been idle with regard to ordnance and that the enemy's ironclads suffered severely."

Rear Admiral Dahlgren wrote in his private journal that Welles was not satisfied with Du Pont's efforts at Charleston and thought he gave up too soon.  Dahlgren defended Du Pont's actions. 

From what I read, Du Pont would have lost more ironclads had he continued the engagement.

Porter reconnoitered the Confederate defenses at Grand Gulf and found they were rapidly strengthening.

Confederate batteries at Vicksburg opened fire on Union Army steamers attempting a night time passage past the city.  One was sunk, one disabled, one badly damaged, but rest got through.

Farragut's fleet passed Port Hudson. He lost the USS Mississippi in the effort.  The smoke from the battle was so thick he had to send the pilots up the masts to see.

APRIL 22nd

The USS Mount Vernon captured the schooner St. George off New Inlet, NC, with cargo of salt and rum.

Farragut writes Fox about his ideas on the naval uniform of officers and wants them to stop changing the uniform every few weeks.

So, A Little House-Keeping.  --Old B-R'er

CSS Oreto?-- Part 2

The CSS Florida met up with the Lapwing (CSS Oreto) off the coast of Brazil on April 14, 1863, and again on May 3rd.  On April 20th, the Lapwing captured the American ship Kate Dyer and bonded it as it was carrying a neutral cargo.

The Lapwing was found to be leaking badly and unfit for cruising, so its guns were transferred back to teh Florida.  Lt. Averett was also brought back to the Florida and Acting Master R.S. Floyd, CSN, replaced him.

He was directed to anchhor by Rocas, 80 miles west of Fernando de Noronha, where the Florida would again recoal.

Floyd waited 30 days and ran out of food.  On June 20th, he burned the Lapwing and wnet ashore in the ship's boats and reported to the Confederate agent at Barbados Island.

The Story of a Little-Known Ship.  --Old B-Runner

CSS Oreto?-- Part 1

In the last post, I mentioned that on April 20th, the CSS Oreto captured a ship.  Wasn't that the name given to the CSS Alabama before entering Confederate service?  Anyway, I wasn't sure about it.  Looked it up and there sure wasn't much about a CSS Oreto.  Eventually found one thread.  Turns out I had already mentioned it back on my March 28th blog entry.

It was a ship captured by the CSS Florida under Lt. John Newland Maffitt.  It was carrying coal, something Maffitt always needed, so he kept the ship and used it as a tender for his coal needs.

Here is what the Dictionary of American Fighting Ships had to say about the CSS Oreto (Lapwing).

The Lapwing was a bark sailing from Boston to Batavia, Java with a cargo of coal, tobacco and provisions.  It was captured by the CSS Florida March 28, 1863.  Maffitt transferred two howitzers, two officers and eighteen men under the command of Lt. S.W. Averett and ordered to rendezvous with the Florida at 30 degrees West Longitude along the equator or at the island of Fernando de Noronha.  There, the Florida would recoal.  The ship was now considered to be the tender CSS Oreto, but usually referred to as the Lapwing.

Old B-R'er

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: April 19th to 20th-- "Daddy Farragut"


A good day for the Charleston blockade as two blockade-runners captured carrying cotton while trying to slip out of the harbor.


A joint Army-Navy attack captured a key Confederate position on the Nansemond River.  Later that night, Confederates evacuate another key battery on the river and the attack on Suffolk, Virginia, was essentially over although there would be occasional skirmishes for the next two weeks.

Two of the Navy's rising stars, Lt. Cushing and Capt. Lamson, were cited for gallantry and meritorious service in the action.

Union ships reconnoiter down the Mississippi River from New Carthage to the Confederate stronghold at Grand Gulf in preparation for the Union attack.  Confederates are seen rapidly fortifying the place.  Porter wants to attack right away, but needs troops.

Union ships capture Fort Burton at Butte a la Rose, Louisiana.  Third Assistant Engineer George W. Baird noted in his diary:  "The fight was short, sharp and decisive.  It was done after the style of Daddy Farragut: we rush in....We rushed right up to it and the four black vessels all firing made a savage appearance."

Admiral Porter examined the hulk of the USS Indianola, captured by the Confederates and later blown up and sunk below Vicksburg after the fake ironclad floated down past Vicksburg.  Its hull and machinery seemed in good shape.  Much of the iron casemate had been destroyed.  Two guns were recovered and he thinks it could be raised and put into service again.

The CSS Oreto captured and bonded the Kate Dyer at sea, headed for Antwerp, Belgium.

A Lot Happening on the 20th.  --Old B-Runner

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Siege and Surrender of Island No. 10

March 15 to April 8, 1862

After the fall of forts Henry and Donelson and evacuation of Columbus, Kentucky,  General Beauregard fortified Island No. 10 in the Mississippi River about 60 miles south of Columbus in an attempt to keep Foote's gunboats from joining Farragut's coming up from the south.

Union general Pope arrived outside of New Madrid, Missouri, on March 3rd and after reconnoitering and examining information, determined that because of 50 heavy guns and Confederate gunboats, New Madrid could only be taken by siege.  That same day, Confederates abandoned New Madrid and their commander was relieved of duty.

Looking at Island No/ 10, Pope decided that a canal would have to be dug to take it and it was finished by April 4th.  On April 7th, four Union regiments moved across the Mississippi to cut off the Confederate retreat.  Island No. 10 surrendered and 3,500 troops captured and 500 escaped.

The fall of the island opened the way to Fort Pillow.

Pope's success along the Mississippi led to his being chosen to command the Army of the Potomac and the disaster that later came at the Second Battle of Bull Run.

Old B-R'er

The Battle of New Bern (NC)

From the March 15, 2012 Spokane (Wash.) Examiner by Joe Newby.

On March 11, 1862, Union General Burnside and 12,000 men began a movement up the Neuse River to Slocum's Creek which they reached the next day and landed on the south bank.

Three brigades of infantry with six boat howitzers and two rifled Wizard cannons then began a march on New Bern.

The Confederate opposition consisted of 4,500 untrained, ill-equipped soldiers commanded by General Lawrence O'Bryan Branch, a politician with little military experience.

On March 14th, the Union forces began their attack and were successful, capturing nine forts and 41 heavy guns.  The 26th North Carolina distinguished itself, holding off the superior Union force for a length of time.

New Bern became a federal base for the rest of the war despite several Confederate attempts to retake it.

Another Confederate City, Gone.  --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Queen of the West-- Part 5: Capture

The new pilot ran the Queen of the West aground by Confederate Fort DeRussey.  The bombardment was intense and Charles Rivers Ellet and his crew were forced to abandon the ship and float downstream on cotton bales.

Confederates repaired the ship and ten days later, the CSS Queen of the West helped capture the USS Indianola.  On April 11, 1863, it engaged Union gunboats on the Atchafalaya River and a shell from the USSCalhoun set the Queen of the West's cotton (used for protection) on fire.  It then drifted downstream for several hours before running aground and then blowing up.

Charles Rivers Ellet later commanded the ram Switzerland, then infantry from the Marine Brigade before dying of disease October 29, 1863.

The Story of a Boat.  --Old B-Runner

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Queen of the West-- Part 4: River Actions Below Vicksburg

The Queen of the West ran past the Confederate stronghold of Vicksburg and destroyed the CSS City of Vicksburg in the process.  That put pressure on the Confederates at Port Hudson, south of Vicksburg and they destroyed three vessels to prevent their capture.

On February 12th, the Queen of the West steamed up the Atchafalaya River, a tributary of the Red River and destroyed wagons, supplies and burned houses in retaliation for the wounding of a Union officer.

On February 13th, the Union ironclad Indianola ran past Vicksburg to protect the Queen of the West.  The two ships then steamed fifteen miles upriver to the mouth of the Black River (a Red River tributary and on the 14th captured the steamer Era No. 5 with a cargo of corn.  Here, Ellet heard there were other Confederate ships farther upriver.

His pilot had fallen ill and he got a replacement who was probably a Southern sympathizer.

Bad Things In Store for the Queen.  --  Old B-R'er

The Queen of the West-- Part 3

The Queen of the West also traded shots with the Confederate ironclad CSS Arkansas.  On October, Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles reorganized the Western Flotilla, naming it the Mississippi Squadron under the command of David Dixon Porter.

In November, the ram fleet was transferred to the Navy from the Army by Lincoln (which would explain why a colonel would be commanding a warship).  But the rams more or less continued to operate independently of the Navy control.

Early in 1863, Porter formed the Mississippi Marine Brigade intended to fight Confederate guerrillas who were a major problem.  It  consisted of 350 men under Army command, artillery and cavalry.  They were ferried by the rams which were under Navy command.  But the officers remained Army. 

Charles Ellet's brother, Alfred was appointed brigadier general and placed in command of the brigade.  Charles Rivers Ellet, his nephew, was placed in command of the Queen of the West.

Old B-Runner

Monday, April 15, 2013

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: April 15th to 18th-- Running Past Vicksburg


CSS Alabama  captured whalers Kate Cory and Lafayette off Brazil

USS Monticello captured the schooner Odd Fellow near Little River, NC, with cargo of turpentine and rosin.

APRIL 16-17

Porter's gunboats, shepherding Army transports, ran past Vicksburg to New Carthage.  Each ship also towed a coal barge.  There was some damage, but all repaired in a half hour.


CSS Florida, Lt. Maffitt, captured and destroyed ship Commonwealth off coast of Brazil (so there were two Confederate commerce raiders off Brazil at this time.


Boat expedition to reconnoiter Sabine City, Texas, surprised at the lighthouse and driven off.

Old B-Runner

The Queen of the West: Charles Ellet Jr.'s Rams-- Part 2

Charles Ellet, Jr. (Charles Rivers Ellet's father) was an early proponent of the ancient ram as a weapon, but didn't get any support until the CSS Virginia rammed and sank the USS Cumberland.  Secretary of War Edwin Stanton met with him and made him a colonel, authorizing him to purchase and outfit steam vessels for use in military (Army) rams.

Ellet bought seven of the fastest vessels he could find on the Ohio River and enlisted twelve family members, including his son, Charles Rivers (good middle name as it turned out).

The Queen of the West was built in Cincinnati in 1854 and weighed 406 tons and was 181 feet long.  I was retrofitted with solid oak bulkheads and other protection was added.  Four guns were mounted, but the ship's main weapon was to be its reinforced ram at its bow.  To further make the ship look menacing, it was painted all black.

In its first action, in June 1862, the Queen of the West and the Monarch jumped ahead of the Union fleet and destroyed all but one of the eight Confederate ships at Memphis.  But, Charles Ellet was mortally wounded and died two weeks later.

Watch Out for Those Rams.  --Old B-R'er

Queen of the West: Charles Rivers Ellet-- Part 1

From the February 13, 2013 New York Times Opinionator by Rick Beard.

Charles Rivers Ellet was one of the Union's youngest colonels at age 19.  A Feb. 2, 1863 report of Rear Admiral D.D. Porter said "the kind of man I like to command" a "gallant and daring officer" who will undertake anything I wish him to without asking questions.  But, he added, "The only trouble I have is to hold him in and keep him out of trouble."  He essentially was the army's counterpart to the Navy's William Cushing on the Atlantic coast.

That same day he had ordered Ellet to take the Queen of the West past Vicksburg and to reconnoiter the lower Red River and destroy any Confederate ships he encountered.

The young colonel had been a medical student when the war broke out and the fleet of Union rams, including the Queen of the West, were launched by his father, Charles Ellet, Jr., who, before the war had designed wire cable suspension bridges including the one over the Schuylkill River  and the one in Wheeling, Virginia  (now West Virginia), over the Ohio River and a 770-foot footbridge  at Niagara Falls.  He had also built canals and railroads.  Quite the engineer.

Quite the Family.  --Old B-Runner

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Starr's Light Artillery Leaves Fort Fisher-- Part 2

The unit served as both heavy artillery at the fort, but also light artillery when they manned the Whitworth guns that were moved up and down the shore to cover blockade-runners which had run aground.  These guns were very accurate and had a very long range.

They had an effective engagement with the guns by Fort Caswell (so they must have been transferred there for at least awhile.

"And wherever they go I venture to say they will leave a telling mark on the enemy if they get an opportunity.  They are good and true men and they have good officers.  All men have their faults, but I have had to deal personally with no officer in this army who takes as much interest in his men as Capt. Starr.

He does not consider a private soldier as quite a 'dirty dog,' which I am sorry to say many officers in the army do, but he is himself a gentleman and treats others as such."

Old B-Runner

Friday, April 12, 2013

Starr's Light Artillery Leaves Fort Fisher-- Part 1

From the November 25, 2012, Fayetteville (NC) Observer "November 1962 Developments."

This is where a reporter goes back through newspapers from back then and writes about interesting things he's found.

From a letter dated October 28, 1862, from Fort Fisher.

"Captain J.B. Starr's Light Artillery Company left last Wednesday for Kinston, by order of General French. 'They are there to be furnished with a good battery and well equipped in every respect.'"  This was about the time of Foster's Raid, in which a battle took place at Kinston.

While at Fort Fisher, they had helped build a curtain embankment 3/4 mile long (to protect the fort from a rear attack which was not likely, but just in case) and another one 200 yards long and assisted in building 3 or 4 batteries and mounting all the guns of the fort.

They had also done scouting, picket and garrison duty and acted as infantry.

More to Come.  --Old B-R'er

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: April12th to 14th,1863-- "Being Shut Up in an Iron Box is Horrible!!"


Porter writes Welles about  proposed move to below Vicksburg.  They plan to take Grand Gulf and use it as a base after Porter passes Vicksburg.

He also wrote about the shortage of men in his Mississippi Squadron which he has been getting soldiers from the Army.  Grant has sent him 800 men.  He is also using contrabands in place of some of the discharged men.  Has a big need for "experienced men" and petty officers.


Two days of heavy fighting around Suffolk, Va. closed.  There was considerable damage to Union ships, but the Navy prevented Confederates from crossing the river and surrounding the Union garrison.  Union ships commanded by Cushing.

The USS Estrella, Arizona, Calhoun engaged and destroyed the CSS Queen of the West.  The CSS Diana and Hart were destroyed April 18th to prevent capture.

Commander Charles Spotswood wrote from the CSS Georgia on the Savannah Station that he would like a transfer: "...anything that floats will suit me....for being shut up in an Iron Box (for she is not a vessel) is horrible, and with no steam power to move her, in fact she is made fast here to a pile pier....  She is not a fit command for a Sargent of Marines...."

The CSS Missouri was launched at Shreveport, Louisiana.  It mounted six guns but never saw action, remaining above the obstructions in the Red River until the end of the war.

Old B-Runner

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Beauregard's Worried About Another Attack on Charleston, Operations in Virginia


Confederate General Beauregard wrote Lt. Webb, CSN, urging him to attack the Union's seven ironclads while they were still anchored inside the bar "with at least two of your spar-torpedo row-boats....  I believe it will be as easy to surprise them...on the first calm night."

As the boats approach the ironclads and are hailed, they should answer, "Boats on secret expedition" or "Contraband" (referring to runaway slaves.

However, on the 12th, the ironclads withdrew outside the bar, foiling the Confederate attack.

Union Army officers at Suffolk, Va., believed there were a large number of Confederates threatening them and requested Union Admiral S.P. Lee for additional ships to protect them.  Lee replied that he already had three ships there, but sent the USS Commodore Barney, under Lt. William B. Cushing to help them.

Southerners also threatened positions along the York River and Yorktown requested gunboats.  Lee ordered another gunboat there.

Secretary Welles instructed Du Pont to "retain a large force off Charleston even should you find it impossible to carry the place."  Keeping that large fleet there will worry Confederates and perhaps keep them from North or West "to aid rebels with whom our forces will soon be in conflict...."

Old B-Runner

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: April 10, 1863: More Pesky Union Boat Expeditions


An expedition led by Lt. Cmdr. Selfridge of the USS Conestoga cut across Beulah Bend, Mississippi, and destroyed Confederate guerrilla stations which had been harassing Union shipping on the Mississippi River.  (And, he didn't sink his boat, though I am not sure if he destroyed them from the Conestoga or landed on shore.)

Boat crew from the USS New London reconnoitered the Sabine City, Texas, area and captured a small sloop.

Landing party from the USS Kingfisher captured Confederate pickets on Edisto Island, South Carolina.

Old B-R'er

Jefferson Davis Does Some Bragging (and, Not That Bragg)

On April 10, 1863, President Jefferson Davis said: "We began this struggle without a single gun afloat, while the resources of the enemy enabled them to gather fleets which, according to their official list published in August last, consisted of 427 vessels, measuring 340,036 tons, and carrying 3,268 guns.

Yet, we have captured, sunk, or destroyed a number of these vessels, including two large frigates and one sloop of war, while four of their captured steam boats are now in our possession, adding to the strength of our little Navy, which is rapidly gaining in numbers and efficiency."

Of course, the "Not That Bragg" referred to Davis favorite, Braxton Bragg.

Necessity Was the Mother of Invention With the Confederate Navy.  --Old B-Runner

Fort Fisher Rundown-- Part 4: Casualties In the Attacks



NAVY:  20 killed. 63 wounded  Total 83
ARMY:  1 killed, 11 wounded, 1 captured or missing  Total 13


8 killed, 74 wounded, 307 captured or missing  Total 389



NAVY:  88 killed, 271 wounded, 34 missing or captured  Total 393
ARMY:  209 killed, 815 wounded, 35 captured or missing  Total 1,059


500 killed, 1,400 wounded, captured or missing 1,900  Total 4800

Some Heavy Fighting.  --Old B-Runner

Fort Fisher Rundown-- Part 3: Guns to the Right

Yesterday, I listed the artillery along the land face of the fort, primarily there to protect from a land attack coming from the north of Fort Fisher, North Carolina.  This was roughly a half mile long.

Then, there was the mile long series of batteries and fortifications along the Atlantic Ocean, stretching from the Northeast Bastion where the land face joined it, south to the huge Mound Battery (an apt name).  Farther down the shore was Battery Buchanan, built specifically to provide cover for the blockade runners in New Inlet itself.

Here is the list of the batteries and guns, starting at Battery Buchanan to the Northeast Bastion, the so-called Water Batteries:

Buchanan: two 11-inch Brooke Smoothbore, two 10-inch Columbiads
Mound Battery:  one 10-inch Columbiad
Hedrick:  two 10-inch Columbiads
Lenoir:  one 7-inch Brooke Rifle, one 6 3/8 Rifle 32
Roland:  two 10-inch Columbiads
Purdie:  one 8-inch 150-pdr. Armstrong Rifle
Bolles (the first battery constructed at what became Fort Fisher):  two 6 3/8-inch Rifles
Columbiad:  five 8-inch Columbiads, one 7-inch Brooke Rifle
Cumberland: one 10-inch Columbiad
Meade: three 10-inch Columbiads, one 6 3/8-inch Rifle 32

Thatsa' Lot of Guns.  --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Fort Fisher Rundown-- Part 2: Guns to the Left

From March 26th Fort Wiki Fort Fisher.


two 10-inch Columbiads
four 8-inch Columbiads
one 7-inch Brooke
three 6 1/2-inch Rifles 32
seven 6 3/8-inch guns 32
one 5 7/8-inch gun
two 5 1/2-inch Coehorn Mortars
one 4 1/2inch Parrott
2 light 12-pdrs at the Sally Port

Old B-Runner

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Spanish Submarine Inventor: Narcis Monturioli i Estarriol

From Wikipedia.

Like I said in the last post, I had never heard of this man and his submarine. 

Narcis Monturiol i Estarriol (1819-1885) was a Spanish inventor and the first man to develop and air independent and combustion-driven submarine.  He solved the fundamental problem of underwater navigation with the first fully operational submarine.

The Ictineo I was 23 feet long, powered by humans and developed to help harvest coral.  He invented it in 1859 and made fifty dives in it before it was accidentall destroyed January 1862 when a cargo vessel ran over it.  This must have been the submarine that Confederate agent Quinterro wrote about from Mexico.

The Ictineo II was launched on October 1864, still powered by humans.  Monturiol continued experimenting and came up with a chemical combination which put out heat and oxygen.  He planned to have the heat power a small steam engine on the boat.

On October 1867, he ran the ship by steam on the water's surface and in December, he ran it submerged.

It worked, but lack of money doomed his submarine.

So, Another Sub-Marine Vessel.  --Old B-R'er

Spanish Submarine to the Rescue?

From the Civil War Naval Chronology.


John A. Quinterro, Confederate Commissioner in Monterrey, Mexico, wrote Sec. of War Benjamin: "Narcisco Monturio [of Barcelona, Spain]...has invented a vessel for submarine navigation.  She is called the 'Ictineo' (fishlike vessel).  As a man-of-war she can prevent not only bombardment of the ports, but also landing of the enemy.  If...the necessary number of vessels [are] built, no Federal squadron would dare to approach out coasts....

The 'Ictineos' have guns which fire underwater and also rams and torpedoes.  They can navigate in a depth of twenty-five fathoms....The inventor creates an artificial atmosphere...and carries with him all the elements of existence."

Confederates were always looking for anything that might stop the North's stranglehold due to its overwhelming naval superiority.

I had never heard of a Spanish submarine.

Wiki Here I Come.  --Old B-Runner

Monday, April 8, 2013

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: April 8, 1863: An Amazing Escapade


Edward C. Gabaudan arrived on Farragut's flagship, the USS Richmond, after safely floating past Confederate defenses at Port Hudson in a small boat covered with tree limbs and twigs.  At one boat, he drifted so close to shore that he could distinctly hear sentries talking.  At one point, Confederates in a small boat started rowing over to him, but fortunately stopped.

USS Gem of the Sea seized British blockade-running schooner Maggie Fulton off Indian River Inlet, Florida.  Its commander claimed he was sure no ship had run in or out of the place since March 6th as his blockade was so sharp.

Old B-Runner

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Ironclad Attack On Charleston 150 Years Ago Today-- Part 3

With darkness approaching and his ironclads badly damaged, Du Pont broke off the action.  He  reported that he broke off because of darkness, but fully intended to renew the attack the next day until he received the ship reports:  "...I was fully convinced that a renewal of the attack could not result in the capture of Charleston, but would, in all probability, end in the destruction of a portion of the ironclad  fleet and might leave several of them sunk within reach of the enemy.  I therefore determined not to renew the attack."

The Confederates had beaten back a serious attack and gained a stunning victory.  And they had defeated the Union's vaunted ironclads.

Du Pont was thankful that the result was " a failure instead of a disaster."  He wrote General Hunter, "I am now satisfied that the place cannot be taken by a purely naval attack."

A Union Failure.  --Old B-Runner

Ironclad Attack On Charleston 150 Years Ago Today-- Part 2

Next in line, the Passaic had her XI-inch gun  disabled for several hours and the turret was temporarily unable to turn.  All the plates on the upper turret were broken and the pilot house badly dented while receiving 35 hits.  The Montauk was hit 14 times.  The Patapsco lost headway and became a sitting target and took 47 hits.

The flagship, the New Ironsides, had become unmanageable in the heavy current and the Catskill passed her and to withing 600 yards of Sumter.  Now in a crossfire, the Catskill was struck 20 times, one of which broke the deck plates causing her to take on water.

The New Ironsides barely escaped disaster as the ship was directly over a, 2,000 pound electric torpedo that failed to go off.

Following the Catskill was the Nantucket which took 51 hits, one jamming the turret.  The Nahant was hit 36 times with three disabling the turret and another shot messed up the steering gear.

The Keokuk had to run past the disabled Nahant and ran to within 600 yards of Fort Sumter where she remained for 30 minutes and was riddled with 90 shots, many of which pierced her at or below the waterline.  This forced her out of action and anchored out of range.  Thanks to calm seas, her crew was able to keep her afloat, but the next day, April 8th, a breeze came up and the ship sank.

Taking a Pounding.  --Old B-R'er

Ironclad Attack on Charleston 150 Years Ago Today-- Part 1

From Civil War Naval Chronology.

Rear Admiral Du Pont and his nine ironclads engage the Confederate fortifications in Charleston Harbor.  Because of tide considerations, the ships didn't get underway until noon with the Weehawken in front pushing a raft to clear torpedoes.  It was nearly 3:00 when they came within range of Fort Moultrie and Sumter.

The Weehawken opened fire of Sumter first, followed by the other monitors.  The Confederates had not only obstructed the channels, but had also marked them with range indicators for their gunners which greatly increased their accuracy.

A torpedo exploded near the Weehawken and "lifted the vessel a little."  Essentially undamaged, the Weehawken continued until it encountered the strong line of obstructions between Moultrie and Sumter.  The commander of the Weehawken didn't want to get entangled in them and swung his bow seaward to prevent being swept up against them.

In forty minutes, the Weehawken had been struck 53 times and was taking water in through a shot hole in its deck.

Heating Up.  --Old B-Runner

Saturday, April 6, 2013

How to Deal With Those Pesky Confederate Torpedoes

From the Civil War Naval Chronology.

From this date 1863.

Asst. Secretary of the Navy Fox wrote Commodore Rowan about a method to counter Confederate torpedoes at Mobile:  "It strikes me that a small grapnel might be thrown several hundred yards ahead and hauled in so as to break connections of their torpedoes.  A small charge of powder. a wooden sabot, a grapnel and chain fast on a line, fired from a XV-inch gun, are all the elements. 

I advise you to prepare these arrangements, for you certainly will find torpedoes near Fort Morgan."

Words well-spoken, as there were indeed torpedoes by Fort Morgan, the ones Admiral Farragut so damned in 1864.

The big ironclad battle at Charleston took place 150 years ago tomorrow.  This being one of the bugger naval battles, I will go ahead and write about it tomorrow, even though I usually take Sundays off.

Pesky Torpedoes All Over the Place.  --Old B-Runner

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Mysterious Ironclad at Tarboro Gets Destroyed

In today's Naval Hapening 150 years ago, on April 6th, Flag Officer Lynch, CSN, listed ironclads building in NC as of this date: North Carolina, Raleigh, Neuse, Albemarle and an unnamed one at Tarboro.  I was aware of the first four, but not the one at Tarboro, so did some research.

This first mention was from The Civil War Naval Chronology.

From the Learn NC site--   Union raid under Gen. Edward Potter reached Tarboro July 20th (1863) and destroyed a Confederate ironclad under construction as well as various military and civilian property.

From web.cortland site--  There was an improvised shipyard across the river from Tarboro where the Confederate Navy was building an ironclad gunboat similar to the CSS Virginia.

Potter's Raid on Tarboro captured and burned the steamboats General Hill and Governor Moreland and burned the partially built framework of an ironclad.  This ended Confederate efforts to build an ironclad to  protect the Tar-Pamlico region.

From the NC PurpleHeart site--  At Lt. Gilbert Elliott's boatyard, Potter's men destroyed what would have been an ironclad gunboat and also a smaller gunboat.

At a later time, there was an unsuccessful attack on Elliott's ironclad at Scotland Neck. the CSS Albemarle.

I have to wonder what the Tarboro's name would be"  Perhaps the Tar or Pamlico, considering the names given to the two other non-Wilmington ironclads.

Here Comes the CSS Pamlico?  --Old B-Runner

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: April 6th, 1863-- Confederate Ships in NC


Captain William F. Lynch, CSN, wrote Senator George Davis on NC from Wilmington regarding the status of ships being built in North Carolina.  "One ironclad, the North Carolina, building here, is very nearly ready for her crew....The other, the Raleigh, is now ready for her iron shield, and can in eight weeks be prepared for service, as far as the material is concerned.

At Whitehall, upon the Neuse, we have a gunboat [Neuse] in nearly the same state of forwardness as the Raleigh; at Tarboro we have one with the frame up, the keel of one [Albemarle] is laid near Scotland Neck...."

I was unaware of any gunboat/ironclad being built at Tarboro.  I'll have to do some research.

Old B-R'er

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: April 5th to 6th, 1863-- Last Preps for Charleston Attack


With ironclads and enough steamers to take them in tow if any were knocked out of action,  Du Pont departed North Edisto for Charleston, arriving off that port in the afternoon.  As a last preparation, the Stono bar was buoyed to fix a safe channel.  Two monitors remained inside the bar to protect those buoys.


The USS Pawnee reported the Stono Bar had been buoyed.  Du Pont croseed the bar in his flagship, the USS New Ironsides, intending to attack this day.  He had with him the monitors Passaic, Weehawken, Montauk, Patapsco, Catskill, Nantucket, Nahant and Keokuk.

After reaching anchorage inside the bar, Du Pont found the weather so hazy that they couldn't see ranges and the pilots declined to go farther.

Old B-Runner

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: April 4th; Final Preps for Charleston Attack

Rear Admiral Du Pont issued his order of battle and attack on Charleston, SC.  "...the squadron will pass up the main ship channel without returning the fire of the batteries on Morris Island....  The ships will open fire on Fort Sumter within easy range...and engage its left or northeast face at a distance from 600 to 800 yards firing low....After the reduction of Fort Sumter it is probable that the next point of attack will be the batteries on Morris Island."

President Lincoln on harbor defense.  He wanted "a steam ram, built so as to sacrifice nearly all capacity for carrying to those of speed and strength....her business would be to guard a particular harbour, as a Bull-dog guards his master's door."

CSS Alabama captured the ship Louise Hatch off the coast of Brazil with a cargo of coal.  Semmes took it with him to afford a ready supply of coal.  Good thing as an expected supply ship didn't show up.  Semmes burned the ship April 17th.

Old B-Runner

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: April 2nd: Smaller Operations


An armed boat expedition of sailors and Marines from the USS Fort Henry, reconnoitered Bayport, Florida.  Arrived April 3rd.  One launch did not operate well and the Confederates had ample time to prepare for the attack, or, as leader Acting Lt. McCauley wrote "gave the rebels leisure to make all preparations for our reception."  Two Confederate sloops and two small schooners ran into a bayou and grounded to escape destruction.  The sloop Helen, carrying corn, was captured and destroyed.

Union sailors engaged a battery and forced its evacuation and burned a schooner with cargo of cotton before withdrawing.

In the next week, the expedition reconnoitered the Chassahowitzka, Crystal, Homosassa, Withlacooche, Waccasssassa and Suwannee rivers as small boats carried Union sea power to areas larger ships couldn't go.


A Union expedition destroyed Palmyra, Tennessee, in retaliation for Confederate guerrillas firing on a Union convoy April 2nd which crippled the USS St. Clair and damaging two Union Army transports.

Getting Back at Them.  --Old B-R'er

Naval Happenings 150 Years Ago: April 1st to April 2nd,1863-- Preparations for Charleston Attack


Preparations for the naval attack on Charleston, SC, enter their final week.  Du Pont sent ironclads  Passaic, Montaul, Patapsco and Keokuk to the North Edisto River.  Gunboat Sebago to Calibogue Sound to cover western approach to naval base at Hilton Head Island.

Du Pont was to take personal command of the Charleston assault.  He left April 2nd on the USS James Adger to that point.

The USS Tuscumbia with Porter, Grant and Sherman on board, reconnoitered the Yazoo River to determine practicality of landing a force at Haynes' Bluff.  They decided not.


Fox wrote Porter that Lincoln was "rather disgusted with the flanking expeditions [at Yazoo Pass and Steele's Bayou] and predicted their failure from the first."  In other words, get a move on.

Lincoln informed Welles that he wanted Farragut's force strengthened and Welles wrote Du Pont to send all of his ironclads but two to Farragut after the Charleston attack.

Old B-Runner

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

150th Anniversary of the St. Andrew Skirmish

March 20, 1863

Throughout the war, continuous raids along the coast of the Confederacy were made.  Most of them were very small and this was one of them.  St. Andrew was the original name of Panama City, Florida, and we spend several weeks in Panama City Beach every winter.  We have been by the marker for this site on several occasions, right along the waterfront.

Confederate infantry surprised an 11-man landing party from the USS Roebuck and ordered them to surrender.  They refused and several Union sailors were killed and wounded while fleeing to their launch boat.

Six dead and three wounded.  Four of the dead were buried at Harrison Island and a fifth was buried by the Confederates.  No casualties were reported by the Confederates, who later became Co. A  of the 11th Florida Infantry.

The remains of the sailors were later removed to the National Cemetery at Fort Barrancas by Pensacola, Florida.

Old B-Runner