Wednesday, July 31, 2019

USS Prairie Bird-- Part 2: A Busy Warship

At the end of the month, the Prairie Bird took up position above the White River to protect a coal depot.  In Mid March, she shifted to Greenville, in April it was operations at the mouth of the White River. and in May a return to Memphis.

Remaining in the Arkansas-White River area into the following spring, she reconnoitered the Sunflower River as far as Lake George and Silver Creek with the USS Petrel in March 1864.  In April she steamed with the Petrel and Freestone up the Yazoo River to fire on and pass Yazoo City, Mississippi, in support of Union Army attempts to take the city.

On the 22nd, the Prairie Bird received engine damage rescuing survivors from the Petrel, then returned to Vicksburg for repairs.

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

USS Prairie Bird-- Part 1: Acquired by U.S. Navy

From Wikipedia.

This is the Union gunboat that came to the rescue of the passengers of the Army transport R.M. Runyan in the Mississippi Rover on July 23, 1864.

Acquired by U.S. Navy 19 December 1862.  Commissioned January 1863.  171 tons,  159.10 feet, 29.3 foot beam.  eight 24-pdr. guns.   Classified as a tinclad.

Served on the Mississippi River and its tributaries.  Was built as the civilian ship Mary Miller and renamed the USS Prairie Bird, commissioned January 1863 with Acting Master J.C. Moore in command.

In mid-February 1863, she assisted the USS Juliet, grounded 20 miles below Island No. 10 and then to Memphis where she escorted a provision ship to the Yazoo River.  There, the Prairie Bird joined the Mississippi Squadron.

--Old B-Runner

Monday, July 29, 2019

Army Transport B.M. Runyan-- Part 3: Sank in the Mississippi River

"About fifty lives were lost.  Half of this number belonged to the cavalry regiment, and the remainder, excepting two, were refugees and negroes.  But two cabins, a young man named CHAPMAN, of Alton, and a boy, are believed to have been lost.

"Gunboat No. 11 came up twenty minutes after the disaster, and recovered about 40 persons.  Others swam to shore.  (Was gunboat No. 11 the Prairie Bird?)

"There were also aboard the Runyon, 11 mules, 62 horses, 15 wagons, the camp equipage of the regiment -- all of which with the boat are a total loss.

"The James White brought up most of the rescued, except the cavalry, who were brought up by the marine brigade boat Lena to Memphis."

Some really different reports between the Times and the Navy Chronology.

--Old B-Runner

Saturday, July 27, 2019

This Weekend At the Fort: Fort Fisher's "Beat the Heat" Lecture, Wilmington Hospitals During the Civil War

Today's Fort Fisher "Beat the Heat" Lecture will be "Tending to the Soldiers:  Wilmington's Civil War Hospitals."  It will be presented by noted historian and author Wade Sokolowski.

During the war, soldiers on garrison duty around Wilmington and those wounded on far-off battlefields arrived in Wilmington for treatment.  There were many hospitals in Wilmington for that purpose.

The presentation is  free and open to the public. and is presented by the Friends of Fort Fisher and the towns of Kure Beach and Carolina Beach, North Carolina.

It takes place at the Fort Fisher State Historic Site
1610 Fort Fisher Boulevard South
Kure Beach, N.C.

Starts promptly at 2 p.n. in the Spencer Theater.

Oh Well, Too Far for Me.  --Old B-Runner

Friday, July 26, 2019

Army Transport B.M. Runyan-- Part 2: A Problem With Date of Sinking and the Name

From the July 27, 1864, New York Times  "FROM THE MISSISSIPPI.; Sinking of the Steamer B.M. Runyon-- Fifty Lives Lost."

Cairo, Illinois,   Monday, July 25, 1864.

The steamer  James White from New Orleans arrived with the news of the sinking.

"She reports that the steamer B.M. Runyon (Civil War Naval Chronology, CWNC, had it spelled Runyan), from Natches, struck a snag off Griffith's Landing, fifteen miles below Greenville, Mississippi, on the 21st instant (CWNC has it sinking on July 23, 1864) and sank to the hurricane roof in about five minutes.

"She had near 600 people on board, including 440 of the Tenth Missouri Cavalry, 50 refugees, some furloughed soldiers and quite a number of cabin passengers."

--Old B-Runner                                                                

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Army Transport B.M. Runyan-- Part 1

From Civil War Talk Forum.

In the last post I mentioned this ship sinking in the Mississippi River after hitting a snag on July 23, 1864.  Some more information on this boat.

On August 30, 2010, Blessmag wrote the forum requesting information on the existence of photographs or drawings of the B.M. Runyan and Luminary.  Both served in the Mississippi River and  the Runyan carried troops from Alton, Illinois,  to Columbus, Kentucky, in 1862.

5fish replied:

Loss of the B.M. Runyan--  Happened on July 21, 1863

One report says 70 lives were lost.  Another says 150.    In either case, most of the dead were soldiers whose enlistments were up and were on their way to Cincinnati to be mustered out of the U.S. Army.

Frederick  Way, Jr.'s "Way's Packet  Directory 1845-1994" reports that  that the Runyan's cabin broke free of the hull and floated downstream before it grounded on a sandbar.

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

July 23, 1864: Sinking of Army Transport B. M. Runyan in Mississippi River

JULY 23RD, 1864:  Army transport B.M. Runyan, with some 500 military and civilian passengers on board, sank in the Mississippi River near Skipwith's Landing, Mississippi, after hitting a snag.

The USS Prairie Bird, Acting Master Thomas Burns, rescued 350 survivors and salvaged part of the cargo.

Rescue and humanitarian operations have been a continuing naval mission throughout the history of the U.S. Navy.

--Old B-Runner

Monday, July 22, 2019

Fort Fisher Painting Featured in Summer Civil War Monitor magazine

From the Summer 2019 issue of The Civil War Monitor  "Salvo:  Facts, Figures & Items of Interest."

And, the painting is featured on a two-page spread and you get to see how big of a fortification Fort Fisher was and the huge size of the Union fleet attacking it.  You see the three single turret monitors and the double turret one in close and the lines of Union ships, including the biggies like the Minnesota and Wabash.  I had to look hard and finally found the New Ironsides in the big ship line second from the right.

"In this lithograph by T.F. Laycock, a fleet of U.S. vessels under the command of Rear Admiral David D. Porter bombards Fort Fisher on the North Carolina shore in mid-January 1865.  A subsequent land attack by Union troops forced the fort's surrender, opening the way for the capture of the port city of Wilmington.  For more on Wilmington, turn the page."

Then there is a four page spread on what to see and do in Wilmington including can't miss sites, best kept secret, best family activity, best Civil War spot, best eats, best sleep and best book.

Obviously, I will be writing about this article this next week.  Liz and I were just at nearby Carolina Beach, home of Britt's Donuts, on Monday and Tuesday, July 15 and 16.

If you hurry up you can still purchase a copy at your local news stand.

Carolina Beach, My Favorite Beach.  --Old B-Runner

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Joined Up With the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society Again

This past Tuesday I paid my membership dues for three years ($20 a year)with this outstanding organization in Carolina Beach, North Carolina.  I have belonged to it for six years now and sure wish I lived closer so I could take more advantage of their programs and do some work as well.

They are located on the present-day Carolina Beach Town Hall and offices which used to be the Blockade Runner Museum (which I so enjoyed and actually almost became an assistant curator there back in the 1980s).   The structure the society's museum is in was also part of the Blockade Runner's grounds and was reputed to either be a real slave auction structure or a recreation of one.  It has since been enclosed for the organization.

Federal Point is the original name of the long peninsula formed by the Cape Fear River and Atlantic Ocean.  Fort Fisher was at the southern extremity of it.  During the Civil War, it was renamed Confederate Point.  Now it (between Carolina Beach and Kure Beach) is referred to as Pleasure Island.  When Snow's Cut was constructed to connect the Cape Fear River and Myrtle Sound as part of the Intercoastal Waterway, the peninsula became, in effect, an island.

When the organization was formed , there was thought of calling itself Pleasure Island Historic Preservation Society,  but that was deemed to be not serious enough for a history group, so the origainal name was taken.

Good Move.  --Old B-Runner

Friday, July 19, 2019

This Weekend at the Fort, Fort Fisher July 19-20: Federal Point Lighthouses

JUNIOR RESERVES (CHILDREN)  Friday, July 19  10 am to 2 pm

"Archaeology:  Digging Through the Past"  A kid-friendly family event designed to introduce young participants to basic archaeology techniques.

BEAT THE HEAT LECTURE  Saturday, July 20   2 pm

Fort Fisher interpreter Becky Sawyer will present  "Federal Point Lighthouses."

By the late 1700s, it was important to have the a navigation lighted beacon (lighthouse) at the tip of Federal Point, the peninsula Fort Fisher is located on.  During the Civil War, the lighthouse was destroyed and the lighthouse keeper's house was used as Fort Fisher's headquarters.

These programs ar put on by the Friends of Fort Fisher and the towns of Kure Beach and Carolina Beach.

--Old B-Runner

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

This Weekend At the Fort: Fort Fisher, July 12-13: Attention Cannoneers and

JUNIOR RESERVES  Friday July 12 10 am to 2 pm.

Kid-friendly family activity using the site's 12-pdr. Napoleon cannon, costumed interpreters will be on hand to explain artillery drill.  Participants will get the chance to fire water balloons at blockading  ships to keep New Inlet open.

BEAT THE HEAT LECTURE   Saturday, July 13   2 pm.

Noted Civil War author Chris Fonvielle will present "Running the Blockade:  The Technology and the Men of the Lifeline of the Confederacy."  Between 1861 and 1965, thousands of tons of  materials were brought into the port of Wilmington, which Fort Fisher guarded.

Ship design and stories of the men will be discussed.

These events are put on by the Friends of Fort Fisher and the towns of Kure Beach and Carolina Beach.

Running the Blockade, Hey That's My Blog!!!   --Old B-Runner

July 9,1864-- Plans to Destroy the CSS Albemarle-- Part 2: That Cushing Fellow Again

William Barker Cushing, who had already proven his audacity and ability on earlier expeditions into the Cape Fear River (29 February and 23-24 June 1864) immediately began plans for the new adventure, destined to be one of the most dramatic and dangerous of the war.

He wrote Rear Admiral S.P. Lee:  "Deeming the capture or destruction of the rebel ram Albemarle feasible, I beg leave to state that I am acquainted with the waters held by her, and am willing to undertake the task."

The admiral saw in Cushing as officer with the spirit and skill to accomplish the difficult mission, and noted in closing his letter to Welles:  "He is entirely willing to make an attempt to destroy the ram, and I have great confidence in his gallantry."

Got Something Wild and Crazy and Daring to Do?  Send W.B. Cushing.  --Old B-Runner

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

July 9, 1864: Plans to Destroy the CSS Albemarle-- Part 1

JULY 9TH, 1864:  In a confidential letter to Secretary Welles, Rear Admiral Lee disclosed the plans then being considered for an expedition to destroy the Confederate ram CSS Albemarle:  "I concur in Captain Smith's opinion that it would be inexpedient to fight the ram with our long double-enders in the narrow river [the Roanoke River].

"I proposed to Lieutenant Cushing a torpedo attack, either by means of the india-rubber boat heretofore applied for, which could be transported across the swamp across from Plymouth, or a light-draft, rifle-proof, swift steam barge, fitted with a torpedo."

--Old B-Runner

Monday, July 8, 2019

Sailing Master / Master-- Part 2: Making Sense of a Confusing Mess

Master, originally sailing master,  was a historic warrant officer rank of the United States Navy, above that of midshipman , after 1819 passed midshipman, after 1862 ensign and below lieutenant.

Some masters were appointed to command ships, with the rank of master  commandant.  In 1837,  sailing master was renamed master, master commandment was renamed commander, and some masters were commissioned as officers, formally "master in line of promotion" to distinguish them from warrant masters who could not be promoted.

After 1855, passed midshipmen who were graduates of the U.S. Naval Academy filled the position of master.  Both the commissioned officer rank of master and warrant rank of master were maintained until both were merged into the current rank of lieutenant , junior grade on 3 March 1883.

In 1862, masters wore a gold bar for rank insignia, which became a silver bar in 1877.  In 1881, they started wearing  sleeve  stripes of 1/2  inch and 1/4 inch wide strip of gold lace, still used for the rank of lieutenant, junior grade.

OK, So You Know.  --Old B-Runner

Sunday, July 7, 2019

The Rank of Sailing Master / Master-- Part 1

I have been writing about Stephen Champlin in my Not So Forgotten: War of 1812 blog.  He was appointed sailing master at the beginning of the War of 1812.  In that blog and in this one, I have come across this term often.  So, exactly what was a sailing master, or master as I have also seen it named?

The master, or sailing master, was a Naval rank of a person trained in the navigation of a sailing vessel

When the U.S Navy was formed in 1794,  the master was listed as a warrant officer who ranked between midshipmen and lieutenants.  The rank became a commissioned officer from 1837 until it was replaced with the current rank of lieutenant junior grade.

--Old B-Runner

Friday, July 5, 2019

This Weekend At the Fort July 5-6: Fort Fisher's Junior Reserves and State Military Memorials

Every weekend during the summer, Fort Fisher has two events, one on Friday for the kids, called Junior Reserves and a lecture on Saturday.

This weekend:

FRIDAY, JULY 5  10 am to 2 pm

"A Soldier's Life"  A  kid-friendly family activity that examines the life of a Civil War soldier.  Participants will learn about garrison life, camp life, military drills and handling a replica musket.


John Winecoff of  the North Carolina Military History Society, has spent years documenting military memorials in all 100 counties of the state.

Both events are free and funded by the Friends of Fort Fisher and the towns of Kure and Carolina Beach.

Check It Out.  --Old B-Runner

Happy July 2-- Part 5: The War of 1812 Cinched It

The next year, on July 2, 1777, not a single member of Congress remembered the anniversary of the independence resolution until a day too late.  Celebrations were then scheduled for a day later, on July 4, 1777.  "They were really setting a haphazard, unintentional precedent," says Caitlin Fitz.

While various  preachers and individual towns hosted Fourth of July celebrations throughout the remainder of the 18th century, the holiday became more widespread after the United States stood its ground against the British in the War of 1812.

"The declaration's practical purposes were served," Fitz said.  "The United States' independence had been declared and secured by 1815."

Parts 6 and 7 are in today's Saw the Elephant:  Civil War blog.

--Old B-R'er

Happy July 2-- Part 4: Toward a More Transparent, Democratic Government

"There's no question there wouldn't be a July 4, a printing of the document, if the resolution had not been passed on July 2," University of Chicago historian Steven Pincus said.  "But July 4 transformed what was a political decision by a relatively small group of delegates sitting in Philadelphia into a public document that was not only known throughout North America but  throughout the world."

The public release of the Declaration of Independence marked an early step by the  United States toward a more transparent, democratic government.

"The idea (behind) the declaration of Independence was a government by the people, for the people, Pincus said.  "The printing of the declaration of Independence was very much a public statement to the American people about what their kind of government was going to be."

Old B-Runner

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Happy July 2-- Part 3: It Was A Printing Thing

This article was started in my today's Saw the Elephant: Civil War blog with parts 1 and 2.

This is why we celebrate the Declaration of Independence on July 4 and not July 2 as John Adams thought it would.

On July 2, 1776, Congress, after succumbing to a demand by South Carolinian delegates to cut an anti-slavery passage out of the drafted Declaration of Independence, unanimously voted on Virginian Richard Lee's resolution that, "These united colonies are, and of right, ought to be free and Independent States; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown; and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to dissolved."

Over the next two days, final edits were made to the Declaration of Independence, the document that would announce Congress' decision to the world.  On July 4, the declaration was finally sent to the printing press.  hence the masthead at the top of the declaration, first printed by John Dunlap, "In Congress, July 4, 1776.  A Declaration by the representatives of the United States of America."

So, That's How It came to Be July 4th.  --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

CSS Alabama vs. USS Kearsarge-- Part 7: Honors for Winslow and the Kearsarge

For Union Captain John Winslow and the Kearsarge, the victory was well deserved and rewarding.  Throughout the North news of the Alabama's end was greeted with jubilation and relief.

Secretary Welles wrote the Captain:  I congratulate you for your good fortune in meeting the Alabama which had so long avoided the fastest ships of the service ... for the ability displayed in the contest you have the thanks of the Department...

"The battle was so brief, the victory so decisive, and the comparative results so striking that the country will be reminded of the brilliant actions of our infant Navy, which have been repeated and illustrated in this engagement... Our countrymen have reason to be satisfied that in this, as in every naval action of this unhappy war, neither the ships, the guns, nor the crews have deteriorated, but that they maintain the ability and continue the renown which have ever adorned our naval annals."

Winslow received a vote of thanks from Congress, and was promoted to commodore with his commission dated 19 June 1864, his victory day.

And to think eighty years later the waters off Cherbourg, France were the scene of another great American/Allied victory with the Normandy Invasion and D-Day.

--Old B-R'er

CSS Alabama vs. USS Kearsarge-- Part 6: Captured 67 Union Merchant Ships

From June 28, 2019.

The spectacular career of the Confederate raider Alabama was over.  Before her last battle Semmes  reminded his men:  "You have destroyed, and driven for protection under neutral flags, one-half of the enemy's commerce, which at the beginning of the war, covered every sea."

The Alabama had captured and burned at sea 55 Union merchantmen valued at over four and one half million dollars, and had bonded ten others to the value of 562 thousand dollars.

Another prize, the Conrad, was commissioned the CSS Tuscaloosa and herself struck at Northern shipping.

Flag Officer Barron lamented:  "It is true that we have lost our ship; the ubiquitous gallant Alabama is no more, but we have lost no honor."

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

July 2, 1864: USS Keystone State Captures the Rouen

JULY 18TH, 1864:  The USS Keystone State, Commander Crosby, captured blockade running British steamer Rouen at sea off Wilmington.  The steamer had thrown her cargo of cotton overboard during the four hour chase and was not brought to until the Keystone State had fired 22 shots at her, "all of then falling quite near and some directly over her."

--Old B-Runner

Monday, July 1, 2019

N.C. Events, July 1864: Blockade Runners Captured and Expeditions

JULY 2--  Capture of steamer Rouen.

JULY 9--  Capture of steamer Little Ada.

JULY 18-31--  Expedition from New Bern to Manning's Neck.

JULY 27 to August 4--  Expedition from Norfolk, Virginia, into North Carolina.

JULY 28-29--  Joint expedition in Chowan River.

--Old B-R'er

N.C. Events June, 1864: Skirmishes and Violence in the Western Part of the State

JUNE 28--  Skirmish at Kinston.

JUNE 28--  Skirmish near Murphy

JUNE 28--  Capture of Camp Vance (WEST)

JUNE--  Unionist marauders target Flat Rock (in Henderson County), and the 64th North Carolina (headquartered at the Farmer Hotel) is assigned to protect the area.  (WEST)

JUNE--  Marauders, after being treated to a meal and hospitality, kill Andrew Johnstone (a rice planter from South Carolina) at 1840  Beaumont estate.  Johnstone's young son fights back, killing two and injuring a third.  This incident illustrates the wholesale violence in the region.  (WEST)

--Old B-Runner