Friday, October 31, 2014

Sinking of the CSS Albemarle-- Part 7

The Albemarle, a gaping hole in her port quarter, began to sink rapidly.  Lt. Warley, commanding the Albemarle, reported: "The water gained on us so fast that all exertions were fruitless, and the vessel went down in a few moments, merely leaving her shield and smokestack out."

Cushing found his own boat sinking but, refusing to surrender in the midst of the enemy, ordered his men to save themselves and started to swim for shore.  Although he had exploded the torpedo virtually staring down the muzzle of Albemarle's gun, he was miraculously unharmed.  (And considering all of his exploits, this was one very lucky man.

Making for shore, he tried to save the gallant John Woodman, who was unable to swim any longer, but Woodman sank.  Cushing finally pulled himself  half onto the bank and lay exhausted until morning.  Finding himself near a Confederate picket station, he managed to seize a skiff and rowed the eight miles downstream to Albemarle Sound.  There, he was picked up by the USS Valley City.

One Brave Expedition.  --Old B-Runner

Thursday, October 30, 2014

CSS Chickamauga and CSS Olustee Put Out to Sea from Wilmington

I have more to write about concerning Lt. Cushing and his sinking of the CSS Albemarle, but to catch up on other things going on as far as navies were concerned.

OCTOBER 28TH, 1864:  The CSS Chickamauga, Lt. John Wilkinson, CSN, sortied from Wilmington, N.C., eluded blockaders off the bar, and put to sea as a commerce raider

The USS Calypso and Eolus captured the blockade-running British steamer Lady Sterling off Wilmington with cargo of cotton and tobacco.

OCTOBER 29TH, 1864: The CSS Olustee, formerly the CSS Tallahassee, Lt. William H. Ward, eluded blockaders off Wilmington.  Ward returned to Wilmington November 7th after a brief but successful cruise, having destroyed bark Empress Theresa, schooners A.J. Bird, E.F. Lewis and Vapor, ship Arcole and brig T.D. Wagner during the first three days of November.

The War Goes On.  --Old B-Runner

The Sinking of the CSS Albemarle-- Part 6: The End of the Ironclad

It would have been interesting to know what Cushing's men's "comical answer" was.

According to the recollections of Acting Ensign Thomas Gay, later captured, Cushing shouted: "Leave the ram, or I'll blow you to pieces!"  No response was heard and Cushing ran through the hail of fire at full speed, his boat lurching over the log barrier.

"The torpedo boom was lowered and by a vigorous pull I succeeded in in diving the torpedo under the overhang and exploding it at the same time that the Albemarle's gun was fired.  A shot seemed to go chasing through my boat, and a dense mass of water rushed in from the torpedo, filling the launch and completely disabling her."

The overhang mentioned was where the iron sides of the Albemarle hung over the wooden hull.  Exactly where you would want to set off a torpedo.

--Old B-R'er

The Sinking of the CSS Albemarle-- Part 5

Lt. Cushing still hoped to board the Albemarle and "take her alive", but as he steamed up to the ram, an alert picket saw the dim form of his launch and challenged.  Cushing instantly changed his plan:  "...just as I was steering in close to the wharf a hail came sharp and quick from the ironclad, in an instant repeated.

"I at once directed the cutter to cast off and go down and capture the guard left in our rear [on the Southfield], and ordering all steam, went at the dark mountain of iron in front of us.  A heavy fire at once opened upon us, not only from the ship, but from men stationed on the shore, but this did not disable us and we neared them rapidly."

A large fire now blazed up on the shore, and Cushing discovered a large boom of protective logs surrounding the Confederate ship.  Amid the mounting fire, he cooly turned the boat around in order to run at the obstructions at full speed.

"As I turned the whole back of my coat was torn out by buck shot and the sole of my shoe was carried away.  The fire was very severe.  In the lull of the firing the Captain hailed us, again demanding what boat it was.  All my men gave a comical answer and mine was a dose of cannister which I sent amongst them from the howitzer, buzzing and singing against the iron ribs and into the mass of men standing fire-lit upon the shore."

--Old B-Runner

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Sinking of the CSS Albemarle-- Part 4

Towed behind the torpedo boat was a cutter from the USS Shamrock whose duty, as Cushing described it, "...was to dash aboard the Southfield at the first hail and prevent any rocket from being ignited."  The Southfield had been captured by the Confederates in an earlier attack by the Albemarle (19 April 1864) and had been sunk in the Roanoke River a mile below where the Ram was docked.  The Confederates were using it as a lookout post.

With the steam launch's engine noise muffled by a heavy tarpaulin, the expedition moved out to cover the eight miles between Albemarle Sound and Plymouth, keeping close to the bank and anticipating discovery at any moment.

Cushing's renowned good luck, however, held, and he succeeded in passing within twenty feet of the Southfield without being challenged.

--Old B-R'er

The Sinking of the CSS Albemarle-- Part 3

Cushing's imaginative attack seemed at first doomed to failure.  He departed the night of 26 October, but grounded at the mouth of the Roanoke River, and spend most of the hours of darkness freeing his craft.  The attempt to sink the Albemarle was put off until 27 October.

That night was dark and foul.  Cushing was accompanied by fourteen men, an additional seven having been recruited from the other ships.  Among them was his old companion, Acting Master's Mate William L. Howorth, and that veteran of several reconnaissance expeditions up the Roanoke River, Acting Master's Mate John Woodman.

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

CSS Albemarle Sunk 150 Years Ago-- Part 2

Lt. William Cushing finally decided on two thirty-foot steam picket launches, each fitted with a fourteen-foot spar and a torpedo, and mounting a twelve-pounder howitzer in the bow.  Moving south from New York by the inland water route, one of the picket boats was lost to the Confederates on Oct. 8, 1864, in Virginia, but te other one arrived in the sounds of North Carolina on 24 October.

As Cushing later reported: "Here,I, for the first time, disclosed to my officers and men our object and told them that they were at liberty to go or not as they pleased. These, seven in number, all volunteered."

--Old B-Runner

Monday, October 27, 2014

CSS Albemarle Sunk Today, 150 Years Ago-- Part 1

OCTOBER 27TH, 1864:  A boat expedition commanded by Lt. William Barker Cushing sank the CSS Albemarle at Plymouth, on the Roanoke River, North Carolina.  Cushing reported to Rear Admiral Porter on 30 October: "I have the honor to report that the rebel ironclad Albemarle is at the bottom of the Roanoke River."

In July the redoubtable Cushing, only 21 years old, had been sent to Washington by Rear Admiral Lee to discuss with the Navy Department his plans for sinking the Confederate ram.  he proposed at the time two plans, one involving a boarding party to travel overland and attack with india rubber boats, and the other calling for two steam launches to approach the ram at its moorings on the Roanoke River.

Both plans envisaged the capture of the ram, since Cushing wanted to destroy her only if necessary.  Secretary Welles assented to the plan, and gave the daring Cushing permission to proceed to New York to procure the necessary boats.

A Major Blow to the Confederacy.  --Old B-R'er

Continuing Contraband Actions on the Potomac River

OCTOBER 26, 1864:  The USS Adolph Hugel, Acting Master Sylvanus Nickerson, captured schooner Coquette with cargo including tobacco and wheat at Wade's Bay on the eastern shore of the Potomac River.  Two days later sloop James Landry was also seized by the Hugel for violation of the blockade regulations.

Nickerson took sloop Zion as prize on November 2, as the Potomac Flotilla alertly continued its ceaseless efforts to stifle even the smallest trickle of goods flowing from Southern sympathizers in Union dominated areas to the beleaguered Confederate forces in Virginia.

--Old B-Runner

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Virginia Expedition and New Pacific Squadron Commander

OCTOBER 25TH, 1864:  Expedition from the USS Don landed at Fleet's Point in the Great Wicomico River, Virginia, and burned houses, barns and outbuildings that had been used as shelter by the home guards of Northumberland County while firing on vessels of the Potomac Flotilla.

Four boats were also burned and five captured.

Rear Admiral George F. Pearson assumed command of the Pacific Squadron relieving Rear Admiral C,H. Bell.

--Old B-Runner

Lee Assesses the Situation on the James River

OCTOBER 24TH, 1864:  In light of the increased difficulty in manning his ships and mounting danger from Union torpedoes in the James River, Flag Officer Mitchell considered withdrawal of his squadron upriver closer to Richmond..

In response to the Flag Officer's request for his views on the subject, General Lee wrote: "If the enemy succeeds in throwing a force to the south bank [of the James River] in rear of general Pickett's lines, it will necessitate not only the withdrawal of General P.'s forces, but also the abandonment of Petersburg and its railroad connections, throwing the whole army back to the defenses of Richmond....

"I fully appreciate the importance of preserving our fleet, and deprecate any unnecessary exposure of it.  But you will perceive the magnitude of the service which is thought you can render, and determine whether it is sufficient to justify the risk....

"As I said before, I can forsee no no state of circumstances in which the fleet can render more important aid in the defense of Richmond at present than by guarding the river below Chaffin's Bluff."

--Old B-R'er

Blockade Runners Destroyed and Captured

OCTOBER 23RD, 1864:  Blockade runner Flamingo, aground off Sullivan's Island, South Carolina, was destroyed by shell fire from Forts Strong and Putnam, Battery Chatfield and ships of Rear Admiral Dahlgren's South Atlantic Blockading Fleet.

OCTOBER 24TH, 1864:  The USS Nita captured schooner Unknown off Clearwater Harbor, Florida, after her crew had escaped.

The USS Rosalie captured an unidentified blockade-running sloop off Little Marco, Florida, with a cargo of salt and shoes.

Things getting Rougher for Blockade-Runners.  --Old B-Runner

Friday, October 24, 2014

Mallory Defends Use of Tallahassee and Chickamauga As Commerce Raiders at Wilmington

In answer to the objections of Major General Whiting and Governor Vance of North Carolina in September 1864, Secretary Mallory wrote to President Davis defending the use of the CSS Tallahassee and Chickamauga as commerce raiders rather than holding them for the defense of Wilmington:

"Though the Tallahassee captured thirty-one vessels her service is not limited to the value of these ships and cargoes and the number of prisoners; but it must be estimated in connection with other results-- the consequent insecurity of the United States coastwise commerce, the detention and delay of vessels in port, and the augmentation of the rates of marine insurance, by which millions were added to the expenses of commerce and navigation, the compulsory withdrawal of a portion of the blockading force from Wilmington in pursuit of her.

"A cruise by the Chickamauga and Tallahassee against northern coasts and commerce would at once withdraw a fleet of fast steamers from the blockading force of Wilmington in pursuit of them, and this result alone would render such a cruise expedient."

--Old B-Runner

Another Union Recon Up the Roanoke River in N.C.

OCTOBER 22-24:  Acting Ensign Sommers of the USS Tacony, led a reconnaissance party up the Roanoke River, North Carolina.  While returning, the party was fired at by Confederates and forced to seek cover in a swamp.

After constructing make-shift rafts to support the wounded, Sommers succeeded in reaching the mouth of the river, where he was picked up by Union forces.  Four other members of his party, missing in the swamp for four days, were rescued by Union scouts on 29 October.

Wonder What They Were Doing Up the River?  --Old B-R'er

150 Years Ago: Action on the James River and Capture of Blockade-Runners

OCTOBER 22ND, 1864:  Union shore batteries on the north bank of the James River at Signal Hill opened fire suddenly on the ships of the Confederate James River Squadron, anchored in the river at that point.  Wooden gunboat CSS Drewry sustained moderate damage, and after engaging the batteries for about an hour, the Southern vessels retired under the guns of Fort Darling on Chaffin's Bluff.

British blockade-runner steamer Flora, after being chased by the USS Wamsutta, Geranium and Mingoe off Charleston, S.C., was run aground and destroyed the next day by fire from the monitors and the batteries on Morris Island.

The USS Eolus capture Confederate blockade running steamer Hope near Wilmington with a cargo of machinery.

--Old B-Runner

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Rules of Engagement for CSS Albemarle-- Part 2: Not Much Confidence in in Cushing, Though

"You will see that every vessel is provided with proper grapnels, to hold on by while going alongside, and a boarding party will be appointed to lash the vessels together.  Even if half your vessels are sunk you must pursue this course."

Porter added: "I have directed Lieutenant Cushing to go down in a steam launch, and if possible destroy this ram with torpedoes.  I have no great confidence in his success, but you will afford him all the assistance in your power, and keep boats ready to pick him up in case of failure."

And, We All Know What Happened Five Days Later.  --Old B-R'er

Rules of Engagement for CSS Albemarle: Get In Close

OCTOBER 22ND, 1864:  Even though he was busy drawing up plans for his upcoming attack on Fort Fisher in the Wilmington Campaign in two short months, Rear Admiral David Porter still had to concern himself with a reappearance of the Confederate ram CSS Albemarle in the Roanoke River as that was part of his command.

In a confidential letter to Commander Macomb, commanding naval forces in the Albemarle Sound, Porter set down instructions for engaging the Albemarle should it attack again: "There is but one chance for wooden vessels in attacking an ironclad.  You will, in case she comes out, make a dash at her with every vessel you have, and 'lay her on board', using canister to fire to fire into her ports, while the ram strikes her steering apparatus and disables her."

The CSS Albemarle Still a Problem.  --Old B-Runner

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Blockade Runners Captured

OCTOBER 19TH, 1864:  The USS Mobile captured the schooner Emily off San Luis Pass, Texas, with a cargo of 150 bales of cotton.

OCTOBER 19-20TH, 1864:  Boat expedition from the USS Stars and Stripes, ascends the Ocklockonee River in western Florida and destroyed an extensive Confederate fishery on Marsh's Island, capturing a detachment of soldiers assigned to guard the works.

In small and large operations, assault from the sea destroyed the South's resources.

OCTOBER 21ST, 1864:  The USS Fort Jackson, Captain Sands, captured blockade running British schooner Wando at sea east of Cape Romain, S.C., with cargo of cotton.

USS Sea Bird captured blockade running British schooner Lucy off Anclote Keys, Florida, with assorted cargo.

--Old B-R'er

Voting On Blockade Duty

OCTOBER 19TH, 1864:  Even in the midst of blockade duty afloat, Union sailors were able to vote in the presidential election.

Rear Admiral Dahlgren ordered Acting Master John K. Crosby, USS Harvest Moon to "proceed with the USS Harvest Moon under your command to the Savannah River, Wassaw, Ossabaw, Sapelo, and Doboy [Sounds], and communicate with the vessels there, in order to collect the 'sailors' votes already distributed for that purpose.  A number of ballots will be given to you, in order to enable the men to vote."

Lincoln or McClellan?  --Old B-Runner

Monday, October 20, 2014

CSS Shenandoah Ready to Raid

OCTOBER 19TH, 1864:  The Sea King, the sleek, fast ship Commander Bulloch had obtained for the Confederate cause in England, rendezvoused with tender Laurel north of the island of Las Desertas in the Madeiras.

The Sea King was sold to the Confederate States and renamed the CSS Shenandoah, after which guns, powder, supplies, and crew members from the Laurel were loaded.

Lt. James I. Waddell, CSN, who had sailed from England in the Laurel, assumed command of the cruiser and remarked:  "Each of us asked himself instinctively, what great adventures shall we meet in her?  What will be her ultimate fate?"

The Shenandoah, one of Bulloch's greatest successes, was destined to become one of the most effective commerce raiders of the war and the last warship to sail under the Confederate flag.

--Old B-Runner

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Union Gunboats Ordered to Watch for Hood's Crossing of the Tennessee River

OCTOBER 18TH, 1814:  Major General Thomas, commanding Union forces in Tennessee, wired Major General Sherman concerning his plans for opposing Confederate General Hood's thrust into his state:  "It have arranged with Lieutenat [Commander] Greet, commanding the gunboat fleet on lower Tennessee, to patrol the river as far up as Eastport [Mississippi].

"Lieutenant Glassford, commanding between Bridgeport and Decatur [Alabama] patrols that portion on the river daily, and cooperates with me very cordially."

As Hood approached Tuscumbia and his rendezvous with general Forrest's cavalry, Union commanders became increasingly concerned with measures to keep the Confederates from crossing the Tennessee River in Alabama, and relied heavily on the gunboats of the Mississippi Squadron for this duty as well as for intelligence.

During this climatic campaign between Thomas and Hood, the close cooperation and support of naval forces played a key role.

--Old B-Runner

Friday, October 17, 2014

Confederate Wilmington Defenses: Green's Millpond-- Part 2

The National Cemetery at 20th and Market streets was officially established in 1867, although U.S. military personnel were buried there shortly after Wilmington was captured in late February 1865.

A large Confederate encampment, called Camp Whiting, was located near Green's Millpond close to today's 18th and Market streets.  It was operational by November 1863 and named after Gen. W.H.C. Whiting, commander of the Department of the Cape Fear which included Wilmington.

Just prior to the Second Battle of Fort Fisher in January 1865, Confederate Robert F. Hoke's division from the Army of Northern Virginia was stationed there.

--Old B-R'er

Confederate Wilmington Defenses: Green's Millpond-- Part 1

From the March 1, 2010, Wilmington (N.C.) Star-News "My Reporter: What is the story behind a Confederate encampment by Burnt Mill Creek during the Civil War?"

Answer given by Wilmington during the Civil War expert, UNCW history professor Chris Fonvielle.

Today's Burnt Mill Creek was originally called Green's Millpond during the Civil War.  The real Burnt Mill Creek runs along the west and north borders of Oakdale Cemetery.

Confederate engineers built strong earthen defenses along the west bank of Green's Millpond to defend against a Union attack from the east by way of Market Street.

--Old B-Runner

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Two of the Union Fort Fisher Medals of Honor

From the Documents of the Assembly of the State of New York, Vol. 31.

DENNIS CONLON:  Seaman on the USS Agawam; one of the crew of the powder boat Louisiana which exploded December 23, 1864.  Volunteered for this duty.

WILLIAM C. CONNOR:  Boatswain's Mate on USS Howquah.  At the destruction of the blockade-runner Lynx, September 25, 1864 at night "performed his duty faithfully under the most trying circumstances, standing firmly at his post in the midst of a cross-fire from the Confederate shore batteries and our own vessels.

--Old B-Runner

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Woodman At It Again in North Carolina

OCTOBER 15TH, 1864:  Acting Master's Mate John Woodman completed his third daring and successful reconnaissance of the Confederate position at Plymouth, North Carolina, reporting that the CSS Albemarle moored at the wharf as before, and the apparent abandonment of efforts to raise the captured steamer USS Southfield.

This information enabled Lt. William Cushing to sink the Albemarle later in the month.

Another Brave Union Officer.  --Old B-R'er

Georgia Operation

OCTOBER 13-15TH, 1864:  A boat expedition from the USS Braziliera and USS Mary Sanford freed a number of slaves from a plantation on White Oak Creek, Georgia, and engaged a company of Confederate cavalry at Yellow Bluff.

The Union gunboats succeeded in driving off the Confederates..

This is the first time I remember seeing slaves being freed during a naval operation.

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Farragut Advises His Son

OCTOBER 13TH, 1864:  Rear Admiral Farragut, a leader with a keen understanding of men as well as great skill and courage, wrote to his son, Loyall, from Mobile Bay regarding the young man's studies:  "...remember also that one of the requisite studies for an officer is man.  Where your analytical geometry will serve you once, a knowledge of men will serve you daily.

"As a commander, to get the right men in the right place is one of the questions of success or defeat."

Of interest, as great a naval hero as Farragut was, his son, Loyall (family name of Farragut's wife) was attending West Point at the time.

Like Father, Not Like Son.  --Old B-R'er

Cushing Doesn't Much Care for Torpedo Launch

As I already wrote about, Cushing lost one of the two steam picket boats he was going to use against the CSS Albemarle on his way from New York to North Carolina on October 8, 1864.

In a postwar journal he wrote about his dissatisfaction with the torpedoes he was to use:  "The torpedo was, O believe, the invention of Engineer Jay of the navy and was introduced by Chief Engineer  Wood.  It has many defects and  I would not again attempt its use."

--Old B-Runner

Monday, October 13, 2014

New Gulf Commander

OCTOBER 12TH, 1864:  Rear Admiral Cornelius K. Stribling relieved Captain Greene as commander of the East Gulf Blockading Squadron.  Captain Greene had assumed temporary command upon the departure of Rear Admiral Bailey in August 1864.

ALSO:  USS Chocura, Lt. Commander Richard W. Meade, Jr., captured blockade-running British schooner Louisa off Aransas Pass, Texas, wit cargo including iron and tools.

--Old B-Runner

Operation on the Tennessee River-- Part 2

Finding no evidence of Confederates, the Federal troops began to land.  Suddenly masked batteries on both sides of the river opened a severe crossfire, immediately disabling transports Aurora and Kenton and causing widespread confusion among the troops.

Key West and Undine, both steamers of about 200 tons, hotly engaged the batteries.  Seeing the two disabled transports drifting downstream out of control, the Undine followed them while the Key West stayed at Eastport to cover the City of Pekin as troops re-embarked and to escort her downstream in withdrawal.

--Old B-R'er

Operation on the Tennessee River in Mississippi-- Part 1

SEPTEMBER 10, 1864:  The USS Key West and Undine and transports City of Pekin, Kenton and Aurora, were surprised by Confederate shore batteries off Wastport, Mississippi, on the Tennessee River, and after a severe engagement, were forced to retire downriver.

The combined operation at Eastport was designed to secure the river at this point against the crossing of General Forrest's cavalry and provide an outpost against the threatened advance of Confederate General Hood from the east.

Departing Clifton, Tennessee, on 9 October with the gunboats in the van, the force steamed up the river and cautiously approached Eastport.

--Old B-Runner

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Porter Assumes Command of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron

OCTOBER 12TH, 1864:  Rear Admiral David Dixon Porter assumed command of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, relieving Acting Rear Admiral Lee.

In one of his early general orders, Porter said: "It will be almost useless to enjoin on all officers the importance of their being vigilant at all times.  We have an active enemy to deal with, and every officer and man must be alert...."

Porter's efforts would soon turn to the most effective means of enforcing the blockade-- the capture of Wilmington, the main port of entry remaining for the Confederates.

--Old B-R'er

Blockade-Runner Bat Captured Near Wilmington

OCTOBER 10TH, 1864:  The USS Montgomery captured blockade-running British steamer Bat near Wilmington with cargo of coal and machinery, inbound.

With the closure of so many other points of entry into the Confederacy, the Union could reinforce its blockaders off Wilmington, N.C., causing an increase in captures and runners destroyed.

--Old B-Runner

Friday, October 10, 2014

Fort Fisher Burning Again

From the October 3, 2014, WECT Wilmington, N.C..

Fort Fisher was on fire again this past week for the second time in two years.  This time it is not because of Union bombardment.  The North Carolina Forest Service and Fort Fisher State Historic Site are cooperating for an October 6-10 burn along the land-facing earthworks west of US-421.

The purpose is to eradicate yaupon, an aggressive shrub choking out native plants that aid in erosion control.

This is the second "burn."

Local, state and federal agencies will oversee it with regards to weather and safety conditions.  Tours of the fort have been temporarily suspended and the area around the burn will be roped off.

Burning Again.  --Old B-Runner

Action in Mobile Bay

OCTOBER 9TH, 1864:  A Confederate battery near Freeman's Wharf, Mobile Bay, opened fire on the side-wheeler USS Sebago which was guarding the approaches to Mobile.  "There was no evidence of earthworks when these guns were fired," Fitzhugh reported; "they were so masked as to make them difficult to be seen."

The Sebago returned fire for an hour sustaining five casualties.

Even though Mobile Bay was under control of the Union Navy now, fighting continued until the end of the war.

--Old B-R'er

Please, No More Union Deserters

OCTOBER 8, 1864:  Flag Officer Mitchell wrote Secretary Mallory regarding the enlistment of Union deserters for duty with the James River squadron: "I beg that no more deserters from the enemy be sent to the squadron in the future, for they are apt not only to desert themselves, but induce others to do so who might otherwise continue loyal.

"The fidelity of no man can be relied upon who has ever proved a traitor to any flag he has engaged to serve under.  They form a dangerous element on board a ship."

The difficulty of procuring qualified and competent officers and men to man the ships of the James River Squadron was to continue until the end of the war.

----Old B-Runner

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Cushing's Steam Picket Boat No. 2 Captured in Virginia

OCTOBER 8TH, 1864:  Steam Picket Boat No. 2, Acting Ensign Andrew Stockholm, was captured by Confederate troops in Wicomico Bay, Virginia.  The boat was one of two purchased by Lt. Cushing in New York for the expedition against the CSS Albemarle, and was en route in company with Picket Boat No. 1 to Fortress Monroe.

Mechanical troubles forced No. 2 ashore for repairs, and while these were in progress, No. 1 continued ahead.  Stockholm and his men were attacked by a body of guerrillas.  he reported: "I immediately returned their fire and fought them until I had expended my last cartridge; previous to which I had slipped my cable, and in trying to get out of the enemy's reach, grounded on a sand bar."

Stockholm succeeded in burning the boat and destroying the supplies before he and his men were captured.

William Cushing Was Livid About the Loss.  --Old B-R'er

Another Raider Goes Out to Sea

OCTOBER 8, 1864:  Steamer Sea King sailed from London under merchant captain G.H. Corbet to rendezvous with the SS Laurel at Madeira.  The Sea King carried a number of Confederate officers, including Lt. William C. Whittle; Laurel put to sea later the same day carrying Lt. James I Waddell, who, when the rendezvous was effected, would take command of the Sea King and commission her the CSS Shenandoah.

The Laurel also carried the armaments and supplies that would sustain the Shenandoah on her long voyage as a Confederate raider.

Commander Bulloch later reported the Shenandoah's "safe departure" and "that the entire expedition is far away at sea, beyond the reach of interference by the United States authority in Europe....."

Roll Shenandoah.  --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

And, Speaking of New Inlet: "The Rocks"

After the war, New Inlet was determined to be detrimental to navigation on the Cape Fear River and it was determined to close it by means of a dam across it.  That dam, completed in the 1880s is still there and called "The Rocks."

I have been writing about "The Rocks" and the closing of New Inlet in my RoadDog's RoadLog blog the last several days.

Of interest, the engineer who designed the dam and constructed it, Henry Bacon, Sr. is the father of Henry Bacon, Jr. who was the architect of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C..

--Old B-R'er

USS Aster Destroyed Off New Inlet

SEPTEMBER 7, 1864:  The USS Aster chased the blockade-runner Annie ashore at New Inlet, North Carolina, under the guns of Fort Fisher, but the 285-ton wooden steamer ran aground herself and was destroyed to prevent capture.

The USS Niphon rescued the crew of the Aster and, under a hail of fire from the fort, towed out the USS Berberry, which had become disabled trying to pull the Annie off the shoal.

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

150 Years Ago Today: The USS Wachusett Seizes the CSS Florida-- Part 2: "For the Public Good"

Commander Napoleon Collins' actions, though cheered in the North, especially among maritime merchants and shipowners, because of all the "depredations" the ship committed against Northern commerce.  However, it was definitely a violation of international law and the Union knew it.  Secretary of State Seward promptly disavowed the seizure.

The Florida was taken to Hampton Roads, arriving there on 12 November.  She was ordered returned to the Brazilian government, but before she could be readied for the trip, she "mysteriously" sank.

Commander Collins was courtmartialed and ordered dismissed from the naval service.  At the trial the dauntless commander admitted his actions had violated international law, offering in his defense only the following statement: "I respectfully request that it may be entered on the records of the court as my defense that the capture of the Florida was for the public good."

Secretary Welles concurred, especially in view of the damage the Florida had done, and restored Collins to his command.  The furor over the capture, however, did not die down.  At length, to further satisfy Brazil, a 21-gun salute as an "amende honorable" was fired by the USS Nipsic in Bahia Harbor, 23 July 1866.

One Way to Get Rid of a Thorn.  --Old B-R'er

150 Years Ago: USS Wachusett Seizes the CSS Florida-- Part 1

SEPTEMBER 7TH, 1864:  The USS Wachusett, Commander Napoleon Collins, captured the CSS Florida, Lt. Morris, in Bahia Harbor, Brazil, and towed her out to sea.  Collins, who had been scouring te sea lanes for the Florida for many months, saw her enter Bahia on 4 October and anchored close in the next morning.  Collins offered to meet Morris outside the harbor in a ship duel, but the Confederate commander wisely declined.

The Brazilian authorities, recognizing the explosiveness of the situation, exacted promises from both Morris and the U.S. consul, Thomas Wilson, that no attacks would be made in Brazilian waters.

Collins, however, was not about to let the Florida escape him again and made plans to attack her shortly after midnight on the 7th.  At 3 a.m. he slipped his cable, steamed past the Brazilian gunboat anchored between his ship and the Florida, and rammed the famous Confederate raider in her starboard quarter.

After a brief exchange of cannon fire, Lt. Porter, commanding the Florida in Morris' absence, surrendered the ship.  By this time, the harbor was alive, and as the Wachusett towed her long sought-after prize to sea, the Brazilian fort opened fire on her.

Another raider Done Gone.  --Old B-Runner


Monday, October 6, 2014

Whiting Requests Men, Guns and Ships at Wilmington

OCTOBER 6TH, 1864:  Concerned about the state of Wilmington's defenses, Major General Whiting wrote Secretary Mallory on 6 October:  "It is men and guns that are wanted as well as the ships, not only to man  the naval batteries now being substituted for the North Carolina and the Raleigh [beached on May 7, 1864], which were to defend the inner bars, but to guard or picket the entrance and river, a duty devolving upon the Navy, and for which there are neither forts nor vessels here."

An additional ironclad, the CSS Wilmington, was laid down but was never finished because of lack of armor and the end of the war.

--Old B-Runner

150 Years Ago: Destruction of Another Blockade-Runner at Charleston

OCTOBER 6TH, 1864:  The USS Wamsutta reported the blockade-runner Constance hard aground and sunk near Long Island in Charleston Harbor while trying to enter the port.

Acting Master Charles W. Lee reported:  " she is completely submerged in about 3 fathoms of water I could ascertain nothing about her except that she is a Clyde-built vessel of the class of the Mary Bowers, and was evidently bound in."

--Old B-R'er

Boat Expedition Destroys Salt Works in Florida

OCTOBER 5-6, 1864:  A boat expedition commanded by Acting Ensign Henry Eaton, USS Restless, destroyed large salt works on St. Andrew's Bay (Panama City), Florida, along with 150 buildings used to house the compound and employees.

Salt works providing as they did both foodstuff and an invaluable preservative, were a constant target for fast-hitting Union boat expeditions aimed at destroying the source of intended supplies for Confederate armies.
--Old B-Runner

Saturday, October 4, 2014

150 Years Ago: CSS Florida, N.C. Lighthouse and USS Mobile

OCTOBER 4TH, 1864:

The CSS Florida arrived at Bahia, Brazil, for provision and coal.  Within three days the Florida's brilliant career as a commerce raider would be at an end.

Confederates destroyed the lighthouse at the entrance from Albemarle to Croatan Sound, North Carolina.  Commander William H. Macomb, USS Shamrock, reported: "It was blownup and afterwards set on fire so as to make the destruction complete.

OCTOBER 5TH, 1864:  The USS Mobile seized the blockade-running British schooner Annie Virdon south of Velasco, Texas, with a cargo of cotton.

--Old B-Runner:

Friday, October 3, 2014

Follow Up on Semmes Returning Home-- Part 1

From the Navy Department Library: The Captain's Last Eleven Years.

It took Rafael Semmes several months after the loss of his ship, the CSS Alabama, to arrange for his return to the Confederacy from England.  Friends and Southern sympathizers enabled him to settle his affairs regarding the Alabama and spend some time touring the continent (where he visited the famous Battle of Waterloo site).

He sailed on the steamer Tasmanian, leaving October 3, 1864, for Havana, via St. Thomas. He decided not to try to run through the blockade off the Confederate coast because of the increased effectiveness of of it.  Plus, he knew the Union would have an extra special effort to capture him, whom they regarded as a pirate.

He remarked, "The very mention of my name had as yet the same such effect upon the Yankee Government as the shaking of a red flag before the blood-shot eyes of an infuriated bull."

They Wanted Him Badly.  --Old B-R'er

Semmes Heading Back to the Confederacy

OCTOBER 3RD, 1864:  Captain Rafael Semmes, former commander of the famous raider CSS Alabama, embarked from England in the steamer Tasmanian, bound for Havana, from where he hoped to return to the Confederacy and report to President Davis for further assignment.

The gallant Captain later recalled: "I considered my career upon the high seas closed by the loss of my ship, and had so informed Commodore Barron, who was our Chief of Bureau in Paris."

With his most celebrated deeds behind him, Semmes still played a part in the final naval efforts of the Confederacy.

--Old B-Runner

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Wilmington's Bellevue Cemetery

Bellevue Cemetery is considered Wilmington, North Carolina's other historic cemetery and is located at North 17th Street and Princess Place.

Oakdale Cemetery is considered the first historic cemetery.

--Old B-R'er

New Hanover County's Last Confederate, Michael Thomas Davis

I mentioned this in my September 23rd World War II blog (since he was a Civil War veteran still alive when the United States entered World War II) and also in my September 24th Civil War blog (since he was in the Confederate Army), I will also mention him here in my Civil War Navy blog since he lived and is buried in Wilmington and this contains any and everything on Wilmington.

MICHAEL THOMAS DAVIS  (1846-1942) was the last-living Civil War Confederate in New Hanover County, N.C., where Wilmington is located.  He was born in Onslow County, N.C., and enlisted in 1863 at age 17.  He served in Captain Humphry's Company C,  Col. Simon Benjamin Taylor's 35th N.C.Regiment of General Ransom's Brigade.

At the Battle of the Crater at Petersburg, Virginia, he lost his right arm and is buried in Bellevue Cemetery in Wilmington.  There was a picture of him in the May 31, 1939 Wilmington paper.

--Old B-Runner

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

USS Niphon Destroys Another Blockade-Runner Off Wilmington: Confederate Spy Rose O'Neal Greenhow Dies

OCTOBER 1st, 1864:  The USS Niphon, Acting Master Kemble, ran British blockade-runner Condor aground off New Inlet, North Carolina.  Niphon was prevented from destroying the steamer by intense fire from Fort Fisher.

Among the passengers on board was Mrs. Rose O'Neal Greenhow, one of the most famous Confederate spies of the war.  Mrs. Greenhow, fearful of being captured on the grounded steamer with her important dispatches, set out by boat for the shore, but the craft overturned in the heavy surf.

The crew managed to get ashore, but the woman, weighted down by $2,000 in British gold in a pouch around her neck, drowned.  She was buried at Wilmington.

A Very Famous Passenger.  --Old B-R'er

Confederates Capture the Steamer Ike Davis Off Texas

OCTOBER 1, 1864:  Major General John G. Walker, CSA, reported to the Confederate States War Department that ten sailors and Marines under Captain W.F. Brown, CSMC, and Lt. Marcus J. Beebee, CSN, had disguised themselves a passengers and boarded the steamer Ike Davis and had captured her off Brazos, Texas.

After overpowering the crew and imprisoning them below, they took the ship into Matagordo Bay, Texas.

Confederates had also done a like daring takeover of the steamer Roanoke just two days earlier off the Cuban coast.  (See the September 29th entry).

--Old B-Runner