Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The CSS Georgia Makes a Reappearance

From the Nov. 14, 2013, Atlanta Journal Constitution "Civil War ironclad surfaces in Savannah" by Marcus K. Garner.

A section of the top the CSS Georgia was recovered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Navy divers. The whole ship needs to either be removed or destroyed in the near future because of plans to expand the navigation channel of the Savannah River.

A 64 square foot section of the CSS Georgia's casemate, the part that you see above a Confederate ironclad's waterline, is recovered as a test and will be taken to Texas A&M University where it will be assessed to determine its condition to decide on whether the rest of the wreck is to be recovered.

The ship was sunk at its moorings by Savannah's Fort Jackson to prevent capture by Gen. Sherman's advancing army near the end of the war. An 1869 dredging of the area struck part of the ship. Over the years, the ships has deteriorated. In the 1980s a recovery effort was made on some of the ship's cannons and cannonballs.

At low tide the ship is as much as 42 feet deep in the river. Diving and recovery is especially dangerous because of the near-zero visibility.

Here's Hoping the Whole Thing Can Be Recovered. --Old B-Runner

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Fort Sumter Goes From 44 Guns to 3

From the To the Sound of Guns blog.

Guns were transferred from Fort Sumter following the big ironclad attacks on the fort. At the time of the attacks, the fort mounted 44 guns. At one time, it had shrunk to just one gun in late summer.

By November, it had increased to three guns: two 10-inch Columbiads and a 42-pdr. rifle. These guns were in what was called the "three gun battery" on the east face of the fort. This was the only part of Sumter that still looked like a fort after the terrific pounding it experienced.

This allowed a crossfire across the main channel with Fort Moultrie. Mr. Swain included a picture of the three gun battery. I knew there were more batteries by Fort Moultrie, but nothing at all about the removal of the guns from Fort Sumter.

--Old B-R'er

Confederate Defenses on Sullivan's Island in November 1863, Charleston, SC

From the November 23, 2013 To the Sound of Guns Blog by Craig Swain. Mr. Swain made a great map showing all the Confederate positions on the island and said these batteries benefited from the relocation of guns from Fort Sumter during the summer.

Of interest, I found that BATTERY BEE had five 10-inch Columbiads and one 8-inch Columbiad in March 1863. By November, one of the 10-inch Columbiads was replaced by an XI-inch gun taken from the monitor USS Keokuk which had sunk.

FORT MOULTRIE's armament by November had increased to four 10-inch Columbiads, two 8-inch seacoast howitzers, two 8-inch rifle and banded Columbiads, three 32-pdr. rifles, four 24-pdr smoothbores, and two 10-inch seacoast mortars. Two other 32-pdr smoothbores were at the fort, but not mounted.

Other batteries on Sullivan's Island were, Marion, Brooke, Rutledge, Beauregard, Marshall. Mr. Swain tells the armament of all of these batteries.

--Old B-Runner

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

150 Years Ago-- November 24-29, 1863: Ordnance and Another B-R Gets captured


 The USS Pawnee and Marblehead protected Union troops sinking piles of obstructions in the Stono River above Legareville, SC.


The Confederate Navy faced all sorts of problems during the war and one was getting ordnance. Secretary Mallory wrote this day that ordnance workshops had been established at Charlotte, Richmond, Atlanta and Selma, Alabama.


The USS James Adger seized the British blockade-runner Ella off Masonboro Inlet, NC, with a cargo of salt.


The USS Chipewa escorted two army transports on a recon mission up Skull Creek, SC.


USS Kanawha captured schooner Albert attempting to run out of Mobile with cargo of cotton, rosin, turpentine and tobacco.

**  Major General Banks got a gun crew from the USS Monongahela ashore to man howitzers to support his attack on Pass Cavallo, Texas.

--Old B-Runner

Making Plans to Capture Wilmington-- Part 2

Although Lee did not mention capturing Fort Fisher, Commander W.A. Parker wanted that Army-Navy expedition to capture it. He wrote: "I am of the opinion that 25,000 men and two or three ironclads should be sent to capture this place, if so large a force can be conveniently furnished for the purpose....

"The ironclads...should be employed to divert the attention of the garrison of Fort Fisher during the landing of our troops at Masonboro Inlet, and to prevent the force there from being used to oppose the debarkation....

"Fort Fisher would probably fall after a short resistance, as I have been informed that the heavy guns all point seaward, and there is but slight provision made to resist an attack from the interior."

Of course, the Confederates either already had or were quickly building a line of fortifications across the peninsula to the Cape Fear River.

At the time, however, Union efforts along the Atlantic coast were primarily directed at capturing Charleston and the attack on Wilmington was postponed and the city continued a haven for blockade-runners until the fall of Fort Fisher in early 1865.

Thinkin' 'Bout It.  --Old B-R'er

Making Plans to Capture Wilmington-- Part 1

NOVEMBER 24TH, 1863.

Rear Admiral Lee wrote Secretary Welles regarding a conversation he had with General Benjamin F. Butler while reconnoitering the Sounds of North Carolina: I gave him my views respecting the best method of attacking Wilmington, viz, either march from New Berne and seize the best and nearest fortified inlet on the north of Fort Fisher, thence to cross and blockade the Cape Fear River, or to land below Fort Caswell (the key to the position) and blockade the river from the right bank between Smithville and Brunswick.

Four days later, Commander W.A. Parker supported the admiral's views after making his own observations. He recommended a joint Army-Navy assault to capture Fort Fisher.

More to Come --Old B-Runner

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Blockade Runner Banshee

From Wikipedia.

Built in Liverpool, England, and launched in 1862, built specifically for the blockade-running trade, 210 feet long with a speed of 11.5 knots and 1200 tons. Steel-hulled and its maiden voyage across the Atlantic was a "first" for a steel-hulled ship.

In the next seven months, it made seven round trip runs through the blockade from either Bermuda or the Bahamas to Wilmington, NC. Future New York shipping magnate F.W.J. Hurst was second in command on all of those voyages.

Captured en route to Wilmington on November 21, 1863 by the USS Grand Gulf and Army transport Fulton.

The Navy bought the ship and converted it into a gunboat mounting one 100-pdr gun and two 30-pdr. guns. Commissioned June 1864 and assigned to the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron. Took part in the first attack on Fort Fisher in December 1864 and later assigned to the Potomac Flotilla in mid-January. Decommissioned and sold November 1865.

Began commercial service and renamed the T.L. Smallwoord (or J.L. Smallwoood). Sold to British interests in 1868, renamed and continued service into the 1890s.

--Old B-Runner

Salter Path, NC

In the earlier post of today, I wrote about the USS Grand Gulf and Army transport Fulton capturing the blockade-runner Banshee on November 21, 1863 by Salter Path, NC. I have never heard of Salter Path, but it being in NC, figured it must have something to do with Wilmington.

Salter Path is an unincorporated community in Carteret County, part of NC's Crystal Coast. It is located on Bogue Banks and is part of Indian Beach.

History has it as a frequent refuge of the pirate Blackbeard.

--Old B-R'er

150 Years Ago-- November 21-23, 1863: Capture of Banshee, Those Darn Torpedoes


The USS Grand Gulf and Army transport Fulton capture the blockade-running British steamer Banshee south of Salter Path, NC.

NOVEMBER 22ND: USS Jacob Bell transported troops to St. George's Island, Maryland, and captured some 30 Confederates, some of them blockade runners.

NOVEMBER 23RD: The threat of Confederate torpedoes in rivers and coastal areas became an increasing threat as the war continued. The necessary precautions slowed Northern operations and tied up ships for picket duty that might otherwise have been better utilized.

This date, Secretary Welles wrote Captain Gansevoort on the USS Roanoke, at Newport News: "Since the discovery of the torpedo on James River, near Newport News, the Department has felt some uneasiness with regard to the position of your vessel, as it evidently is the design of the rebels to drift such machines of destruction upon her.... Vigilance is demanded."

Gansevoort replied two days later saying not to worry, that his ship was in deepest water and that "until very lately...a picket boat had been kept underway during all night just above this anchorage to prevent such missiles from approaching the ship." Also, the ship Poppy was assigned to that duty as well as a gunboat anchored above the Roanoke.

Those Dadburn Confed. Torps. --Old B-Runner

November 20, 1863: Farragut Anxious to Get Back to Duty

NOVEMBER 20, 1863:

Rear Admiral Farragut is eager to get back to sea duty in the Gulf after his well-deserved rest. This date he wrote Welles from New York that the USS Brooklyn and Hartford "will not be ready for sea in less than three weeks.... I particularly regret it, because I see that General Banks is in the field and my services may be required."

He had also received a letter from Commodore Bell, commanding in the Gulf in Farragut's absence, saying that he didn't have enough ships to serve on the Texas coast and maintain the blockade elsewhere as well.

He also knew of ironclads building at St. Louis that just drew six feet of water and that they would be perfect for use on the Texas coast and would like them to be sent to the Guld. Welles wrote Porter, commanding on the Mississippi, who said he'd send them.

Ironclads to Texas. --Old B-Runner

150 Years Ago-- November 18, 1863: The Mississippi Still Not Safe


Captain Thomas A. Faries, CSA, commanding a battery near Hog Point, Louisiana, on the Mississippi River, to disrupt Union shipping on the river, wrote of a battle with three Union warships.

He wrote that the USS Choctow "left her position above, and, passing down, delivered a very heavy fire from her bow, side, and stern guns, enfilading for a short time the four rifle guns in the redoubt."

--Old B-R'er

150 Years Ago: Today, Nov. 19, 1863: That Little Old Speech Out At Gettysburg

Of course, 150 years ago, it was time for one Abraham Lincoln, president of one United States (not so united at the time) to deliver one short, but impactful and insightful speech at the dedication of a National Cemetery at Gettysburg where so many had died some four months earlier.

That man surely had a way with words and phrasing. Who'd have thought of calling 87 years ago like that?

Anyway, I will have an interesting retraction by a Pennsylvania newspaper on their review of the speech in my Saw the Elephant Blog later today.

-- Old B-Runner

Monday, November 18, 2013

150 Years Ago Today-- November 18, 1863


Merchant schooner Joseph L. Garrity. 2 days out of Matamoras and bound for New York, is seized by five southern sympathizers under Thomas E. Hogg, later Master in the CSN. They had boarded as passengers. Sailed the ship to British Honduras where he entered her as the blockade runner Eureka and sold its cargo of cotton.

Three of the crew were eventually captured in Liverpool and charged as pirates, but by June 1, 1864, had been acquitted. The Garrity was turned over to the U.S. commercial agent in Belize and later returned to her owners. That's one way to get yourself a blockade-runner and make some dough.

--Old B-Runner.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

150 Years Ago-- November 16-17, 1863: Confederate Losses in the West Hurt Eastern Naval Operations

NOVEMBER 16TH, 1863: 

Union successes in the West were hurting Confederate naval operations in the east. Cmdr. John K. Mitchell, CSN, wrote Mallory that there was a serious shortage of fuels needed for manufacturing. "The occupation of Chattanooga in August has effectually cut off the supply from mines in that region, upon which the public works in Georgia and South Carolina and naval vessels in the waters of those states are dependent."

NOVEMBER 16-17: USS Monongahela escorted Army transports and covered the landing of 1,000 troops on Mustang Island, Aransas Pass, Texas.

NOVEMBER 17TH: Asst. Secretary Fox wrote Rear Admiral S.P. Lee praising the effectiveness of his squadron: "I congratulate you upon the captures off Wilmington. Nine steamers have been lost to the rebels in a short time, all due to the 'fine spirit' of our people engaged in the blockade. It is severe duty and well maintained and Jeff Davis pays us a higher compliment than our own people when he declares that there is but one port in 3500 miles through which they can get supplies."

Blockade Getting Serious. --Old B-R'er

150 Years Ago-- November 15-16,1863: USS Lehigh Has Close Call


The USS Ladona seizes blockade running British schooner Arctic southwest of Frying Pan Shoals, NC, with cargo of salt.


Fort Moultrie opened a heavy bombardment on Union positions at Cumming's Point, Morris Island. Brig. General Gillmore asked for naval help to prevent an attack by boats. Dahlgren had his tugs on patrol duty keep "a good lookout." Monitor USS Lehigh grounded while covering Cumming's Point and the next morning came under heavy fire until pulled off by the USS Nahant.

Five members of the Lehigh received Medals of Honor for heroism while carrying a line from the two ships. The USS Nahant even served during the Spanish-American War protecting New York City.

--Old B-Runner

Friday, November 15, 2013

Wilmington, NC, in October 1863-- Part 14: Great Food, Lousy People

"The Citizens attempt to hide their disaffection by bullying about the injustice done to their State, and sigh after the flesh pots of the Yankees.

"This is a pleasant camp of mine, and fish and crabs and oysters come to the very doors, and the great Sea lashes his crested waves, and peeps over the banks into the quiet Sound right before me, but I would give all I have to be back in Virginia (even in the wilderness around Chancellorsville), where hearts are true, and blood is pure, and men, women & children are resolved to be free or to die.

"And, I'm Sure the Good Folks of North Carolina Would be More Than Happy to See Such a Miserable Man Go Home."

I'm Still Thinking He Struck Out With Mr. Kidder's Daughter. --Old B-Rer

Wilmington, NC, in October 1863-- Part 13: A Mighty Poor Opinion of North Carolineans

" one time, but because they are afraid, and are willing to acknowledge themselves whipped, and are anxious to make terms for themselves to save their property and their worthless necks. If a stranger who knew nothing about the merits of our Cause were to come to the Confederacy,

"he would soon decide who were in the right, for without an exception for the weak-kneed, and the whiners and grumblers as well as the openly treasonous are among the low and base & mean. I am outdone with such people, the soldiers are spiritless and cowed, ready to revolt at the hardships which our troops laugh at, and looking forward to the time when they can be taken prisoners."

A Fairly Low Opinion of the Tarheels. --Old B-Runner

Thursday, November 14, 2013

150 Years Ago:-- November 14, 1863: Problems With Confederate Ships at Charleston

NOVEMBER 14TH: USS Bermuda captures schoooner Mary Campbell which had been seized earlier today by Confederates under the command of Master Duke, CSN. Five months earlier he had seized a Union ship near New Orleans The capture took place off Pensacola.

**  Paymaster John deBree, CSN, reported to Mallory: "Restricted as our main resources are by the blockade and by the limited number of producers in the country, it has...been the main object to feed and clothe the navy without a strict regard to those technicalities...."

**  General Bearegard lamblasts the shortcomings of Confederate ships at Charleston saying: "Our gunboats are defective in six respects: First. They have no speed....Second. They are of too great draft to navigate the harbor.... Third. They are unseaworthy by their shape and construction.... Fourth. They are incapable of resisting the enemy's XV-inch shots at close quarters. Fifth. They are not fight at long range.... Sixth. They are very costly, warm, and unconfortable, and badly ventilated; consequently sickly."

--Old B-Runner

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Wilmington, NC, in October 1864-- Part 12

Continuing with this lengthy letter from Benjamin Blackford from October 5, 1863:

"I think I have the luck of falling in love with pretty girls and only wonder I did not meet some at Fort Fisher. The more I see of N.C. & the N.Cians the less I see to admire, save indeed the young lady mentioned above, and her parents are full blooded Yankees.

The people are unsound. They are contemptable, they howl, and whine and cry for peace on any terms & reconstruction not as a matter of original principle for they are perfect fire...."

Poor Mr. Blackford Must Have Been Turned Down By the Young Lady? --Old B-R'er

Wilmington, NC, in October 1863-- Part 11

I did some research on the Kidder family on whose property Benjamin Blackford was staying and, evidently quite smitten with Mr. Kidder's daughter. I didn't find much as I didn't have his first name.

But I did find that there is a Kidder Street in Wilmington and a mayor of Wrightsville Beach, NC, in 1928 named George Kidder. The Kidder cottage was (or is) located at the northeast corner of Ocean Avenue and Raleigh Street and it survived a huge fire in 1934 that destroyed many Ocean Avenue structures. I do not know if this 1900s cottage was the same one Blackford was staying at in 1863.

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Wilmington in October 1863-- Part 10: Kind of Likes Miss Kidder

"My camp is in a beautiful grove on an almost grassy lawn, and right between the two pleasantest houses here. Indeed my office is in Mr. Kidder's yard and not six paces from the house. Now Mr. Kidder is the wealthiest citizen of W. and his daughter the prettiest girl & the sweetest I have seen out of Virginia.

I wonder if she knew I was writing about her, for, lo, the door opened then and there entered the heaviest of silver waiters and the whitest of napkins, port wine of ancient date, and hot pound cake, fresh from the young lady's fair hands, for I have been an invalid for a day or two."

True Love Grows? --Old B-Runner

Monday, November 11, 2013

150 Years Ago-- November 10-11, 1863: Bombardment of Fort Sumter Drawing to an End


The intense two-week bombardment of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor drew to a close. General Bauregard noted: "Bombardment of Sumter continues gradually to decrease.... Total number of shots [received] since 26th when attack commenced, is 9,306."

**  USS Howquah captured blockade-running steamer Ella off Wilmington.

**  CSS Alabama captured and burned clipper ship Winged Racer off Java.


CSS Alabama captured and destroyed the clipper ship Contest after a long chase off Gaspar with a cargo of Japanese goods bound for New York.

--Old B-Runner

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Marines Celebrate Their 238th Birthday

Marines were involved on both sides during the Civil War.

Marines were to provide covering fire for the naval land column assault on Fort Fisher on Jan. 15, 1865, and CS Marines manned Battery Buchanan at the fort's southern end.

Go, Marines. --Old B-Runner

Saturday, November 9, 2013

150 Years Ago-- November 9, 1863: Capture of the Ella and Annie


USS Niphon captured the blockade runner Ella and Annie off Masonboro Inlet, NC, with cargo of arms and provisions. In an effort to escape, the Ella and Annie rammed the Niphon. When the two ships swung broadside, the runner was taken by boarding.

A bad two days for Wilmington, NC, blockade-running with three of the most successful runners captured: Cornubia, Robert E. Lee and Ella and Annie. The Niphon and James Adger were involved in all captures, either singly or separately. All three blockade-runners went on to become Union warships. I'll be writing about all three of them.

Serious Money Was Made By These Two Blockaders.   --Old B-R'er

150 Years Ago Today-- November 9, 1863: We Need Maps and Charts


Rear Admiral Porter wrote Secretary Welles suggesting that the U.S. Coast Survey make maps of the areas adjacent to the Mississippi River "where navigation is made up of innumerable lakes and bayous not known to any but the most experienced pilots." These were not on modern charts of the time.

Welles recommended to Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase that a survey similar to the one made of the North Carolina coast be made saying it would greatly facilitate operations there and pledged naval assistance.


Admiral Buchanan ordered Acting Midshipman Edward A. swain to Fort Morgan, Mobile Bay, and to take command of the CSS Gunnison and to destroy the USS Colorado or any other blockader they could find. The Gunnison was a torpedo boat.

Maps and Torpedoes. --Old B-Runner

150 Years Ago Today: November 9, 1863-- The Confederate Navy at Savannah


Intelligence on Confederate ships in Georgia reached Union Army and Navy commanders. The CSS SAVANNAH, Cmdr. Robert F. Pinckney, had two 7-inch and two 6-inch Brooke rifled guns and a torpedo mounted on her bow as armament and two other torpedoes in her hold. Her sides were plated with 4 inches of rolled iron and her speed in smooth water was about seven knots.

The CSS ISONDIGA was a wooden steamer reported to have old boilers and "unreliable" machinery.

The frames of two other rams were on the stocks at Savannah, but no iron could be obtained to complete them.

The CSS RESOLUTE was thought to be awaiting to run the blockade and had been converted to a tender. All cotton in Savannah being transferred to Wilmington to run the blockade.

The CSS GEORGIA was a floating battery commanded by Lt. Washington Gwathmey, CSN, was anchored near Fort Jackson and reported to be a failure.

Such intelligence enabled the Union to constantly update the blockade. Obviously, with perhaps the exception of the CSS Savannah, there was no threat at Savannah and the fact that cotton was being moved to Wilmington meant that the port had successfully been closed.

--Old B-R'er

This Date 150 Years Ago: November 9, 1863-- The Robert E. Lee Captured.

Quite a bit of stuff happening 150 years ago today.


The USS James Adger along with the USS Niphon had captured the blockade-runner Cornubia the day before. But today, the ship captured a real plum, the famed blockade-runner Robert E. Lee off Cape Lookout Shoals, North Carolina. The steamer had left Bermuda two days earlier with a cargo including shoes, blankets, rifles, saltpeter and lead.

She had been one of the most famous and successful blockade-runners. Her former Captain, Lt. John Wilkinson, CSN, later wrote: "She had run the blockade twenty-one times while under my command, and had carried between six thousand and seven thousand bales of cotton, worth at that time about two millions of dollars in gold, and had carried into the Confederacy equally valuable cargoes."

One of the Best and Lots of Prize Money These Two Days for the James Adger. --Old B-Runner

Friday, November 8, 2013

The State of Affairs at Wilmington, NC, Oct. 1863-- Part 9: Wilmington Is "Insufferably Dull"

"After finishing my work on the point I came to Wilmington where I spent two or three days pleasantly enough awaiting Gen. Whiting's orders. And they being received I came down here. In Wilmington I met some old friends who were very polite to me Willy Scott of Fredericksburg, Archer, John Payne, Little &c but the town was insufferably dull and I was glad to get away.

Now for Wrightsville Wrightsville is situated 9 miles East of Wilmington on Masonboro Sound, and is the summer resort of the nabobs of Wilmington.

It consists of about 20 old fashioned roomy sea-side cottages occupying about a mile of beach, and buried in the splendid groves of Cypress, pines & live oaks; Our own quarters here have fallen in pleasant places; Gen Whiting was camped with his whole staff down here till about 3 weeks ago, and he kindly permitted me to have his spacious floored tents, dining room, kitchen, stables &c."

Wrightsville Beach 150 Years Ago. --Old B-Runner--

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The State of Affairs At Wilmington, NC-- Part 8: Blockade-Running

"Every day while I was camped down on the point we had some little excitement. The Yankee fleet lay in full sight, and their unsuccessful efforts to prevent the ingress and egress of the long fast white steamers was amusing and gratifying. Sometimes they would treat us to a few shells, and we made quite a collection of the huge unexploded 200 lb monsters.

They succeeded in running ashore a pretty little fast steamer right opposite of our camp and then they gathered round, like big boys stoning a frog, and fired at least a thousand shots through the poor little thing. I assure you there was not a peace on her hull as large as my hat without a shot hole."

Sometimes You Get Through, Sometimes Not. --Old B-Runner

The State of Affairs at Wilmington, NC in October 1863-- Part 7: Running the Blockade

Benjamin Blackford had dinner aboard the blockade-runner Advance under the command of his old friend Thomas M. Crossan and the ship was prepared to run the Cape Fear blockade as early as that night.

He continues: "There were about 15 passengers on board, one or two foreign officers returning home, one or two government agents, and 3 or 4 gaudy Israelites, with substitutes in the army, and the gain of much villainy in their pocket; there was also an artist, an author, and a bearer of dispatches.

It was like coming into a different world to slip from that desolate swamp, into the splendid cabin, and see once more a good dinner, well served, and you may depend I enjoyed it."

Ah, For the Good Old Days. --Old B-R'er

150 Years Ago Today: November 6th to 8th, 1863


CSS Alabama captures and destroyed bark Amanda in the East Inies with cargo of hemp and sugar.


Merchant steamer Allen Coolier with cargo of cotton burned by Confederate guerrillas at Whitworth's Landing, Mississippi, after she left the protection of the USS Eastport. It was still not quite safe for Union shipping on the rivers without U.S. Navy protection.

Cutter from USS Sagamore captured schooner Paul off Bayport, Florida.


USS James Adger and USS Niphon captured steamer Cornibia north of New Inlet, North Carolina.

--Old B-Runner

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The State of Affairs at Wilmington, NC-- Part 6: Dining On the Advance

"Everything in Wilmington shows the effect of this. Confederate money is of less value there than in Richmond by 25 per cent. $12 to 14 a day is the fare at mean (crummy) hotels.

"There are such numbers of Englishmen, officers, and crew of the blockade running ships who fling their gold around everywhere, that our currency stands less chance than anywhere else in the confederacy. The blockade runners try of course to make friends of the officers about Wilmington, and are sure to keep them well supplied with brandy segars and oranges.

"I dined one Sunday on board the Advance, a splendid steamer owned by the State of N.C. and commanded by Capt.(Thomas M.) Crossan of the Navy and old friend of mine; she was lying off Fort Fisher some 25 miles from town, and was all ready to go out that night."

Quite the Famous Blockade-Runner. --Old B-Runner

The State of Affairs at Wilmington, NC-- Part 5: Lots of Runners and Pilots

\Speaking on the pilots.

Still on the October 5, 1863, letter of Benjamin Lewis Blackford to his parents.

"...and inhabited exclusively by amphibious pilots; ignorant, stupid and disloyal. They had always earned an easy living by pilotage, and they are rebels against any Govt which interferes with it.

I never had any idea till I came to Wilmington of the number of steamers engaged in the blockade trade. Fifteen fine steamers came safely into the river, and two or there were run aground during the two weeks I was camped near Fort Fisher."

--Old B-R'er

150 Years Ago Today: November 6, 1863-- Another Ericsson Invention

The Confederates had put up a very extensive and complicated field of obstructions to prevent passage of the channels into Charleston Harbor, something that the North greatly wanted to do. Celebrated USS Monitor inventor John Ericsson had come up with another innovation to do just this.

His anti-obstruction torpedo was placed at the bow of the monitor USS Patapsco on this date. The device was a cast iron shell some 23-feet long and 10-inches in diameter containing 600 pounds of powder and was suspended from a raft attached to the ironclad's bow and held in position by two long booms.

The demonstration went favorably and the shock was barely noticed aboard the Patapsco, though a "really fearful" column of water was thrown some 40 to 50 feet into the air. A problem, however, was that he raft really interfered with the Patapsco's maneuverability.

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The State of Affairs At Wilmington, NC-- Part 4: Battling the Mosquitoes

"Awhile before dark we had to make a fire in the middle of the floor of rotten wood and old rags; after an hours dense fumigation we closed all the doors and windows, and as far as it was possible, in the fierce heat and suffocating atmosphere, we slept. Those mosquitoes could sting through a double blanket without the least trouble.

The great ocean which stretched on before us, and the magnificent surf bathing were the only bright spots in the Camp. The 'Point' was not over four miles broad, entirely destitute of cultivated land ...."

Dealing With the "Disloyal" Pilots. --Old B-R'er

The State of Affairs At Wilmington, NC-- Part 3

"The only redeeming point in the first two weeks operations in N.C. was that the officials both in Wilmington & at Fort Fisher, were as thoughtful as possible, and did with the greatest Energy and promptness Every thing, I asked of them. I was furnished with guards, horses and boats, and had it not been for musquitoes and starvation would have gotten on well enough.

We were camped in a swamp 6 miles above Fort Fisher, and I believe the king of the mosquitoes had selected the same locality for his dinner court. I had never had the faintest idea of the meaning of the word before. To sleep with door or window open (I was camped in a small house) was impossible."

A Real Skeeter Hater. --Old B-Runner

End of the Career of the Blockade Runner Margaret and Jessie

This date 150 years ago, the blockade runner Margaret and Jessie was captured at sea east of Myrtle Beach, SC, after a prolonged chase by Army transport Fulton and USS Nansemnd, Lt. R.H. Lamson.

The chase had started the previous evening by the USS Howquah near Wilmington, NC. The Howquah kept the steamer in sight all through the night. The USS Keystone State joined the chase in the morning and was on hand when the capture was made.

The Margaret and Jessie had run the blockade 15 times, one of the more successful runners. The steamer was then bought by the Navy and renamed the USS Gettysburg.

--Old B-R'er

150 Years Ago: November 5, 1863

NOVEMBER 5, 1863:

Ships of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron continue bombarding Fort Sumter in concert with Army batteries ashore on Morris Island. Dahlgren reports "The only original feature left is the northeast face where Union guns can't reach), the rest is a pile of rubbish."

**  The USS Virginia seized British bark Science and, with the USS Owasco, capture British brigs Volante and Dashing Wave at the mouth of the Rio Grande River. A big payday for the crews with all that prize money.

**  Union General Banks has been asking for more Navy gunboats to assist him in operations along rivers west of the Mississippi River. Rear Admiral Porter writes that more are preparing to go to him and that will give him 22 and even more will be on their way after the Confederates are cleared from the Tennessee River.

**  USS Beauregard seized British blockade runner Volante off Cape Canaveral, Florida.

--Old B-Runner

Monday, November 4, 2013

150 Years Ago: November 3-4, 1863-- Operation in Texas

NOVEMBER 3-4TH, 1863:

 Union naval force consisting of the USS Monongahela, Owasco and Virginia convoyed and supported troops of Gen. Banks at Brazos Santiago, Texas.

The landing began on the 2nd and continued until the next day. On the 4th, Brownsville, Texas, was evacuated by Confederate rtroops and Union foothold on the Mexican border was secured. There had been quite a lot of blockade-running from there.


Rear Adm. Dahlgren closely examined Fort Sumter from his flagship and reported it to be "a mass of ruin" but that it was still capable of harboring Confederates and would be a problem until "expelled by the bayonet."


The USS Virginia seized British schooner Matamoras at the mouth of the Rio Grande River with cargo bound for the Confederate Army. This further shows the importance of the operation from Nov. 3 to 4.

--Old B-Runner

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The State of Affairs At Wilmington, NC-- Part 2

"There was no use grumbling, so we started in 12 hours after the receipt of the orders, and after a doleful journey on troop trains and 24 hours detention in Weldon, we reached Wilmington safely.

Wilmington is a town about the size of Lynchburg, surrounded by low pine & cypress swamps, but still a pretty place, and showing very many handsome public & private buildings.

At Wilmington I received orders to prepare a careful map of the peninsula known as Confederate Point between the Cape Fear River and the ocean. We steamed down the river to Fort Fisher, and were landed on as desolate a sand bank as was ever seen."

Not Happy About His Transfer. --Old B-R'er

The State of Affairs At Wilmington, NC in Oct. 1863-- Part 1

From the 10-5-13 Civil War Day-By-Day, UNC Libraries.

From an October 5, 1863, letter from Benjamin Lewis Blackford about his transfer from Virginia to Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach, NC.

"Camp at Wrightsville-- 9 miles East Wilmington

Oct. 5 1863

My dearest Mother,

This is the third time I have commenced a letter to you. Twice I came to N. Carolina, but each time I have been interrupted. Until the last two or three days (in which I have been sick) I have had no moment to spare; I have been worried and miserable ever since I came into this wretched State.

But I will commence at the beginning, and give you a history. You recalled that I had received orders to begin surveys of the South Side of James R. commencing with Powhatan and Cumberland counties, and my Corps had already started, with a pleasant prospect for the winter, when telegraphic orders required me to 'proceed with all hands to Wilmington'"

Evidently Not a Fan of the Old North State. --Old B-Runner

Friday, November 1, 2013

150 Years Ago: November 2-3, 1863-- Operations at Fort Sumter


Lt. Cmdr. Greenleaf Gilley of the USS Catskill reported on Confederate operations at Fort Sumter to meet any Union attempts to breech the obstructions between Forts Sumter and Moultrie as the furious Union bombardment of Fort Sumter continued.

He reported: "Two boats under sail were seen moving from Sumter towards Sullivan's Island. About 11 p.m. a balloon with two lights attached arose from Sumter and floated toward Fort Johnson.... At midnight a steamer left Sumter and moved toward Fort Johnson.

At sunrise...observed the three rams [CSS Charleson, Chicora and Palmetto State] and the sidewheel steamer anchored in line of battle ahead from Johnson toward Charleston, and each with its torpedo topped up forward of the bows."

Being Vigilant, Very Vigilant. --Old B-Runnee