Saturday, May 30, 2020

Action At New Topsail Inlet, N.C. (and a Medal of Honor)

From Into the Breach blog site  August 22:  Today in Military History.

I wrote about this in September 2013.

August 22, 1863:  The crew of the Union steamer USS Shokokon spots the Confederate schooner Alexander Cooper in New Topsail Inlet on the North Carolina Coast (near present-day Camp Lejeune).  A crew of sailors board a boat which they use to reach the rear of the Confederate camp guarding the ship, where the Master-at-arms, Robert T. Clifford, sneaks ashore and counts the enemy.

Although outnumbered three-to-one, Clifford leads a charge against the Rebels, who are routed and leave behind their ship and supplies.

For his actions, Clifford is awarded the Medal of Honor.

My mom used to own a condo near New Topsail Inlet, N.C.

--Old B-Runner

Thursday, May 28, 2020

USS Peterhoff

From the May 24, 2020, Wilmington (NC) Star-News "Photos:  Past vessels along the Cape Fear River."

The captions were what appeared in the newspaper at the time.

Picture 44 of 83

USS Peterhoff  (Underwater map of the ship's remains).

The USS PETERHOFF was a Union blockading ship and the most likely ship for the next Heritage Dive Site.

John Morris, head of the North Carolina Underwater Archaeology Branch at Fort Fisher will be speaking June 30, 2018, from 3 pm to 4 pm at the Wrightsville Beach (N.C.) Museum.

Morris will be speaking about American Civil War  vessels lost in the area including a collection of artifacts from the blockade runner Modern Greece that participants can handle and inspect.

North Carolina is home to more Civil War shipwrecks than any other states.

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Edward Simpson's Career After the Civil War

In 1881, he took command of League Island Navy Yard and in 1884 was appointed President of the Gun Foundry Board.  After that, he left the States again and traveled to Europe for advisory services.

Upon his return, he was promoted to rear admiral and next became President of the Advisory Board, which position he gave up in 1885 for President of the Board of Inspection.  He was regarded as an authority on all matters of ordnance and was author of three books on the subject now used at the Naval Academy.

Throughout his long career he had acted in an advisory capacity on issues dealing with ordnance.  One of his last offices was that of advisory boards which designed the light cruisers USS Boston, Raleigh and Atlanta.  Two of these participated in the Spanish-American War and two of them were in World War I.

At the time of his retirement , he had served in the U.S. Navy for forty-six years.  In 1920, the Navy commissioned the USS Simpson (DD-221).

He died on December 1, 1888, in Washington, D.C., and is buried at Cypress Hills Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.

Quite the Career.  --Old B-Runner

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Edward Simpson's Career in the Civil War and Afterwards

Now at the USNA, Simpson was an instructor of naval gunnery and infantry tactics.  Prior to the Civil War, he was promoted to master, then to lieutenant.  In 1862, he was promoted to lieutenant-commander and in 1863, commanded the ironclad monitor USS Passaic in the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron.

As commander, he took part in the attacks on Fort Wagner in July and August 1863 and Fort Sumter in August and September 1863.

At some point, he was removed as the Passaic's commander and became the USS Isonomia's first commander.  Now, that ship was in no way the equal of the Passaic, so at some point I'd have to believe that something bad happened to Simpson's career.

Even so, he was promoted to commander in 1865 and captain in 1870.  The next two years were spent in Europe on special duty.  In 1877, he was detailed to the Brooklyn Navy Yard as captain, and in 1878, having been promoted to commodore he was commanding officer at the New London Naval Station.

--Old B-Runner

Thursday, May 21, 2020

May 21, 1865: CSS Shenandoah in the Sea of Okhotsk

MAY 21ST, 1865:  The CSS Shenandoah entered the Sea of Okhotsk "and ran along the coast of Kamchatka under sail.  There is a strong current along the Pacific side of these islands, setting to the M.E. which clings to the eastern shore on the Arctic  Ocean, and how much further north man knoweth not."

--Old B-R'er

Edward Simpson's Ships-- Part 4: USS Vixen in the Mexican War

After the successful completion of the Yucatan Campaign, the Vixen returned to blockade duty and later participated in the capture of Laguna on 20 September.  She also took part in the capture of Tampico on 14 November then covered U.S. troop landings at Vera Cruz on 9 March 1847.

After Mexican envoys rejected peace offers, the American squadron attacked the city on the 23rd.  Two days later, the USS Spitfire and Vixen made a daring  and visually spectacular close range attack on Vera Cruz's shore defenses.

Vera Cruz finally surrendered unconditionally on the 28th.

This stunning victory enabled General Winfield Scott's army to march overland by the shortest distance and capture Mexico City which was the decisive event in the war.

HOME SQUADRON (1848-1854)

The Vixen then conducted cleanup operations for the remainder of the war.

After the ratification of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo on 30 May 1848, she joined the Home Squadron and underwent repairs at the Washington Navy Yard in 1850.  Temporarily decommissioned at Pensacola, Florida, in 1853 by several outbreaks of yellow fever and she underwent further repairs at Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1854.

The Vixen was sold in 1855.

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Edward Simpson's Ships, USS Vixen-- Part 3: Capture of Tabasco

In the Gulf of Mexico, the Vixen performed many patrol and reconnaissance assignments and helped secure the Mexican coasts for the landing and move inland of the United States Army.

Under the command of Joshua R. Sands, the Vixen first saw action on 16 October 1846 when she assisted in an unsuccessful attempt to take Alvarado, Mexico, the most important Mexican city east of Vera Cruz.  During the attack, the Vixen towed the schooners Bonita and reefer, but  together with the rest of the fleet, was unable to cross the bar and the attack was called off.

Next, the squadron moved south and attempted to cut the Yucatan Peninsula off from the rest of Mexico.  Success hinged on the capture of  of the coastal port of Frontera at the mouth of the Tabasco River which would cause the surrender of the city of Tabasco upriver.

The Vixen and the rest of the squadron maneuvered into position off Frontera on 23 October.  Commodore Matthew C. Perry of the Vixen and with the schooners Bonita and USRC Forward in tow, dashed across the bar and captured the Mexican ships protecting the port.  (The USRC Forward also took a part in the Civil war.)

Then, the Vixen and Perry ascended the river on the 24th and 25th with the other vessels of the squadron and forced the surrender of Tabasco after a three shot bombardment by the Vixen.

--Old B-Runner

Monday, May 18, 2020

Edward Simpson's Ships-- Part 2: The USS Vixen During the Mexican War

After graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy, Edward Simpson served on the USS Vixen during the Mexican War.

From Wikipedia.

This was the third ship in the U.S. Navy by this name.  The first two were in the War of 1812 so I will write about them in my Not So Forgotten:  War of 1812 blog.

Of interest, the Vixen was originally built for the Mexican government by the firm of Brown & Bell of New York City before the U.S. Navy purchased it in 1846 and it was then used against the country it was originally built to protect.

It was 118 feet long, 22.6 foot beam paddle wheel steam ship mounting one 8-inch shell gun and two 32-pdr. carronades with a crew of 55.

Immediately after purchase, the Vixen deployed in the Gulf of Mexico, joining Commodore David Conner's blockade squadron.

--Old B-Runner

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Simpson's Ships-- Part 1: USS Decatur and Congress

In the last post I  wrote about  Simpson's service aboard these ships up to the Mexican War.

The first two were involved with the Civil War.

The USS Decatur was a wooden sloop of war sailing ship launched in 1839 at the New York Navy Yard.  It was 117 feet long, had a 32 foot beam and crew of 150 officers and men.  It participated in the Mexican War.

Afterwards it was in the African Squadron, Home Squadron and the Pacific Squadron.

The ship was decommissioned at Mare Island in San Francisco Bay in 1859 and then remained in ordinary until March 1863, when she was fitted as a defensive floating battery and stationed off San Francisco to guard against Confederate raiders.  Plus, there was talk of a clandestine expedition of Confederates and their sympathizers from Canada.


The second ship, the frigate USS Congress commissioned in 1842 and was 179 feet long with a 48-foot beam and mounted 53 cannons.  It took part in the Mexican War, but saw short service in the Civil War as it was sunk in 1862 by the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia.

--Old B-R'er

Edward Simpson, USN-- Part 6: Quite Busy During the Mexican War

His first service in the Navy was as a midshipman aboard the sloop of war USS Decatur on patrol along the coast of Brazil in 1840.  The next assignment was on board the frigate USS Congress  in the Mediterranean and Brazil squadrons.  Both of these ships saw service during the Civil War.

After a year on the station, he attended the new U.S. Naval Academy as a member of its first graduating class.

His Class of 1846, had 47 graduates and he was promoted to the rank of passed midshipman.  His next service  was aboard the USS Vixen during the Mexican War.  He was present at the attacks on the Mexican forts of Alvarado under Commodore Conner, and at two attacks on Tabasco under Commodore Perry, at the capture of Tampico.

Next, was the siege of Vera Cruz.

After the war, he returned to the Brazil Squadron and a short time later returned to the naval academy, this time as an instructor.

--Old B-Runner

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Edward Simpson, USN-- Part 5: Burial and Family

From Find A Grave.

BIRTH:  3 March 1824 in New York, NY

DEATH:  1 December 1888 in Washington, D.C.

BURIAL:  Cypress Hills Cemetery in  Brooklyn, N.Y.

His father, Edmund Simpson (1784-1848), was born in England and was an actor and for many years manager of the Park Theatre.  His mother, Julia Elizabeth Jones Simpson, died 11 Feb. 1870, at the home of her son, Edward Simpson, USN, in Washington, D.C. and is buried at Cypress Hills Cemetery.

His wife was Mary Ann Ridgley Simpson:  Born 1826 in Maryland, Died 15 Jan 1862 in Newport Rhode Island.  Buried Cedar Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia, Pa..

--Old B-Runner

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Edward Simpson, USN-- Part 4: Naval Career Promotions and Honors

Midshipman:  11 February 1840

Passed Midshipman:  11 July 1846

Master:  10 July 1854

Lieutenant:  18 April 1855

Lieutenant Commander:  16 July 1862

Commander:  3 March 1865

Captain:  15 August 1870

Commodore:  26 April 1876

Rear Admiral:  9 February 1884

Retired List:  3 March 1886

The destroyer USS Simpson (DD-221), commissioned  on November 3, 1920, was named for him.  It fought in World War II.

--Old B-R'er

Edward Simpson, USN-- Part 3: Postwar Service

I'd never heard of Edward Simpson before this.

After the war, Simpson alternated duty ashore and afloat with tours of ordnance work.  He also was on a mission to Europe in 1870-1872.    Command of the Navy's Naval Torpedo Station was in 1873-1875.

By 1880, he was officer in charge of Naval Station New London, Connecticut.  In 1883, he  was appointed president of a board  to select a site for a government gun factory and made another study trip to Europe.

Promoted to Rear Admiral on February 9, 1884, he served  as President of the Naval Advisory Board and President  of the Board of Inspection  and Survey until his retirement  on March 3, 1886.

Rear Admiral Simpson died  in Washington, D.C., on December 1, 1888, and is buried at Cypress Hills Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Edward Simpson, USN-- Part 2: Civil War Service

After graduation from the Academy on July 9, 1846, he reported to the USS Vixen and participated in numerous bombardments during the Mexican War.  During the next fifteen years,  he served afloat in the Brazil Squadron and the China Squadron and was involved with the U.S. Coast Survey.

Afterwards he served ashore for two tours of duty at the U.S. Naval Academy, first as gunnery instructor and then in 1860 as the head of the Department of Ordnance and Gunnery.


In May 1861, he moved with the USNA to Newport, Rhode Island,  where it stayed for the remainder of the war.  In 1862, he became the Commandant of Midshipmen.

In June 1863, he took command of the monitor USS Passaic and participated in the bombardments of Charleston, S.C., from July to November 1863.  Then from July to December 1864, he commanded the USS Isonomia in the East Gulf Blockading Squadron.  (I am of the thought that something must have happened because going from command of a monitor to a ship such as the Isonomia would seem to be a demotion.  Lt. L.D.D.Voorhees was in command of the Isonomia when it captured the blockade runner George Douthwaite on May 8, 1865, which is how I ended up doing research on the USS Isonomia and Edward Simpson.)

From February to June 1865 he was Fleet Captain of the West Coast Blockading Squadron and of the forces attacking Mobile, Alabama.

--Old B-R'er

Edward Simpson, USN-- Part 1

The USS Isonomia's first officer was Lt.Cmdr. Edward Simpson.

From Wikipedia.


(March 3, 1824 to December 1, 1888)

Officer in U.S. Navy during Mexican War and Civil War.  Attained rank of rear admiral.  Was commanding officer of several warships and had various shore assignments.

He was born in New York City.

Appointed midshipman in the U.S. Navy shortly before his sixteenth birthday in 1840 and served afloat until 1845 when he became a member of the first class of midshipmen at the new United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

--Old B-Runner

Monday, May 11, 2020

USS Isonomia -- Part 2: Operations Off Florida

The Isonomia sailed to Beaufort, North Carolina, on August 19, 1864, and arrived there on  August 23.  She joined the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron and served off New Inlet (Fort Fisher), until ordered to Key West on 8 September with special instructions to cruise in the vicinity of Nassau and the Bahama Banks.

At Key West she was found to be unready for sea service and stationed off West Pass, Florida, where she operated until November when she returned to Key West  to prepare for cruising in Bahama waters.

At the end of January 1865, the Isonomia was returned to duty along the west coast of Florida where she continued until the end of the war.    She captured the British bark George Douthwaite attempting to slip into the Warrior River with a cargo of rum, sugar wool, ginger and mahogany from Jamaica.

Again, I have not been able to find any information on a Warrior River along the west coast of Florida.)

On 9 June 1865, she towed the USS Somerset to New York  where she was decommissioned  28 June 1865 and sold at public auction to Tabor Co.on 12 July 1865.  She subsequently became a merchant ship named the City of Providence and was later sold to foreign interests in 1867.

Still Sounded Like a Real ZSleeper.  --Old B-Runner

Saturday, May 9, 2020

USS Isonomia-- Part 1

From Wikipedia.

Since I have never heard of this ship, further research is necessary.

It was originally built for the merchant service with the name SS Shamrock.  It was purchased in New York City from Charles S. Leary on 16 July 1864.  Commissioned at the New York Navy Yard on 16 August 1864, with Lt.-Cmdr. Edward Simpson in command.

593 tons
212 feet long
30 foot beam
9 foot depth
12 knots speed
85 officers and men complement

one 3-pdr. rifle
two 24-pdr. howitzers

--Old B-Runner

Friday, May 8, 2020

May 8, 1865: Capture of a Blockade Runner in Florida

MAY 8TH, 1865:  The USS Isonomia, Lieutenant L.D.D. Voorhees, captured blockade running British bark George Douthwaits off the Warrior River, Florida, with cargo of sugar, rum, wool, ginger and mahogany.

I am unable to find a Warrior River in Florida.

Sure Sounds Like a Sleeper To Me.  --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Booth's Escape from D.C. to Maryland

From Wikipedia "Assassination of Abraham Lincoln."

Within a half hour of fleeing Ford's Theatre, John Wilkes Booth crossed the Navy Yard Bridge into Maryland.  An army sentry questioned him about his late-night travel;  Booth said he was going home to the nearby town of Charles.

Even though it was illegal for civilians to cross the bridge after 9 p.m., the guard let him cross.

David Herold made it to the same bridge  less than an hour later and rendezvoused with Booth.

After retrieving weapons and supplies they had previously stashed at Surrattsville, they  went to the home of Samuel A. Mudd, a local  doctor, who splinted  the leg Booth had  broken when jumping from the presidential box at Ford's Theatre.  He later made a pair of crutches for Booth.

And, who was the sentry at the bridge who let Booth and Herold cross?

Why, it was Sgt. Silas T. Cobb.

More On Him Later.  --Old B-Runner

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

What Happened to the Conspirator Bodies?

A tennis court at Fort McNair marks where the four Lincoln conspirators were hanged July 7, 1865.

All four bodies remained buried at the Arsenal Penitentiary for four years, until after Johnson's presidency ended.  Their bodies were then turned over to their families.

Mary Elizabeth Jenkins Surratt's body was kept by the federal government for four years before being released to her daughter Anna and then was buried in Washington, D.C.'s

George A. Atzerodt's body was claimed by his brother and had it buried in an unmarked grave in Glenwood Cemetery, Washington, D.C..   There is some question whether he is buried here.

Lewis Paine   Very interesting story.

David E. Herold--  Buried at Congressional Cemetery, Washington, D.C. at family plot.  No marker placed.  But now there is one.

--Old B-Runner

Monday, May 4, 2020

Booth's Body Transferred Back to Washington for Autopsy-- Part 2

As word spread of the assassin's body being on board the USS Montauk, the scene aboard the ship and nearby river bank  took on a circus-like atmosphere as hundreds of  curiosity seekers jostled for a glimpse of Booth's remains.

Aboard the Montauk, an inquest was held, and the corpse, already in the initial stages of decomposition, was carefully examined.  Friends and acquaintances of Booth were summoned to identify the body.   Dr. John Frederick May, a surgeon who had removed a cyst from Booth's neck in 1863, quickly recognized and identified the unusual scar left by the operation.

The federal government was determined to keep Booth's remains out of reach of both those  who wished to desecrate them and those who wished to sanctify him as a martyr.

That night, under cover of darkness, the body was taken by rowboat  to nearby Greenleaf's Point, where it was wrapped in an army blanket, placed in a wooden gun box and secretly buried in the basement of the Washington Arsenal.  It remained there until 1869, when the Booth family was finally granted permission to rebury John Wilkes in an unmarked grave in the shadow of  his father's impressive obelisk in Baltimore's Green Mount Cemetery.

--Old B-Runner

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Booth's Body Transferred Back to Washington for Autopsy-- Part 1

From American Battlefield Trust "Stalking John Wilkes Booth."

David Herold surrendered at the Garrett barn in Virginia, but John Wilkes Booth refused.  Union Sgt. Boswton Corbett shot Booth in the neck and paralyzed him from the waist down, but he retained consciousness.  Booth was then  dragged out of the barn to the porch of the Garrett home where he lingered before dying at around 7 a.m..

Among his last words were, "Tell my mother I died for my country."

His body was then placed in a wagon and taken to Belle Plain, Virginia,   There, it was placed on the steam tug John S. Ide and carried up the Potomac River, under the Naval Yard Bridge to the Washington Navy Yard, where his body was transferred to the deck of the monitor USS Montauk.

The Byline site's "The Capture, Death and Burial of John Wilkes Booth" by Ray Stannard Baker said that the John S. Ide was the same boat on which Lt. Edward P. Doherty and 25 members of the 16th New York Cavalry, including Sergeant Boston Corbett as second in command had left Washington  a little after 3 o'clock Monday, April 24 and gone to Belle Plain Landing to search for Booth, having intelligence that he was in the area.

--Old B-Runner

Friday, May 1, 2020

Major John Johnson's (CSA) Corrections to His Book: A Naval Connection

For much of April I have been writing about the Confederate Defenders of Charleston monument and Major John Johnson  who was the Confederate engineer in charge of rebuilding Fort Sumter after the horrendous Union bombardments 1863-1865.  This was in my Saw the Elephant: Civil War blog.  This information could also have been in this blog.

Major Johnson wrote a book about the defense of Charleston from 1863-1865, titled "The Defense of Charleston Harbor, Including Fort Sumter and Adjacent Islands"  in 1890.  It is regarded, even today, as one of the best, least biased, works on that period of time.

In today's post to that blog, I wrote about corrections he had made to the book when the second printing took place, and these were much of a naval character.


**  The sinking of the Confederate transport Marion

**   "Fish" torpedo boats

**  Attack on USS Pawnee and Marblehead

**  Range of Union guns at Fort Pulaski

Go to the My Blogs section to the right of this and click on Saw the Elephant.

--Old B-Runner

April 30, 1865: What Happened to the Other Conspirators?

Michael O'Laughlin and Samuel B. Arnoldm boyhood friends of Booth and conspirators in his earlier plan to abduct Lincoln and in his later plans to assassinate top government officials, were sentenced to life in prison.

Another accomplice, Edward Spangler, stagehand at the Ford Theater was sentenced to six years in prison.

The remaining two of the eight who had been incarcerated on the monitors --  Ernest Hartman Richter, a cousin of Atzerodt, and Joao Celestini, a Portuguese sea captain -- were released without being brought to trial.

--Old B-Runner