Civil War Naval History
1-4 A boat expedition from U.S.S. Midnight, Acting Master John C. Wells, landed and destroyed salt works "of 13,615 boiling capacity" at St. Andrews Bay, Florida. The making of salt from sea water became a major industry in Florida during the Civil War as salt was a critical commodity in the Confederate war effort. Large quantities were needed for preserving meat, fish, butter, and other perishable foods, as well as for curing hides. Federal warships continuously destroyed salt works along the coasts of Florida. The expedition led by Wells was the finale in the Union Navy's effective restriction of this vital Confederate industry.
2 Having failed to pass the obstructions at Trent's Reach in order to attack the Union supply base at City Point, Flag Officer Mitchell confronted another kind of difficulty in maintaining communications with his own capital, Richmond. In the bitter cold the James River began to freeze over and the ice threatened Wilton Bridge. This date, Mitchell ordered C.S.S. Beaufort, Lieutenant Joseph W. Alexander, to break up the ice near the bridge and remain near it "to insure its safety." Two days later, Mitchell noted that C.S.S. Torpedo was of special importance because "she is now the only boat in connection with the Beaufort (that is crippled) that we can use to protect the Wilton Bridge from ice and to keep open our communication with the city."
U.S.S. Pinola, Lieutenant Commander Henry Erben, captured blockade running British schooner Ben Willis at sea in the Gulf of Mexico with cargo of cotton.
3 Flag Officer William W. Hunter reported to the Confederate Navy Department that he was ordering C.S.S. Macon, Lieutenant Joel S. Kennard, and C.S.S. Sampson, Lieutenant William W. Carnes to turn over their ammunition to the Confederate Army at Augusta, Georgia. The shallow upper Savannah River made it impossible to use the vessels effectively in the defense of the city against the threatened attack by General Sherman's army which was working northward from Savannah. Sherman had spent January in Savannah preparing for the march to North Carolina and ensuring that he would have the necessary support from the sea coast. After preparatory combined opera-tions, in which Rear Admiral Dahlgren lost U.S.S. Dai Ching to gunfire and subjected other gun-boats" to the threat of the ever-present torpedoes in shallow river and coastal waters, Sherman crossed the Savannah River and on 1 February continued his march. When Savannah fell, Hunter had brought Macon and Sampson upriver with difficulty, determined to fight them as long as possible. Now, however, he had run out of navigable water.
To speed the collapse of the faltering South, another giant thrust gathered from the sea off Wil-mington. During the lull before the planned spring assault on Richmond when the road condi-tions improved, General Grant came down to confer with Rear Admiral Porter, his old Vicksburg shipmate. The General had spent several hours on board the flagship ,Malvern on 28 January where plans took shape for the push into North Carolina up the Cape Fear River as Sherman marched inland parallel to the coast. When Grant returned to Virginia he quickly dispatched General Schofield by sea with an army which, with the big guns of the fleet, would be large enough to push on to Wilmington. This date, Porter, in U.S.S. Shawmut preparing for the campaign, engaged Fort Anderson to test the strength of the Confederate defenses on the west bank of the Cape Fear which guarded the approach to Wilmington.
From City Point, Virginia, General Grant requested the Navy to keep two or three vessels patrol-ling between Cape Henry and the Cape Fear River during the transit of General Schofield's Twenty-Third Army Corps. The Corps was embarking from Annapolis, Maryland, and Alexandria, Virginia, for North Carolina to participate in the attack on Wilmington. "It is barely possible," Grant wrote, "for one of the enemy's privateers to be met on that route and do us great injury." Two steamers were stationed as requested to protect the troop transports.
In anticipation of the movement on Wilmington, Porter wrote Dahlgren requesting that the moni-tors lie had dispatched to Charleston after the fall of Fort Fisher be returned for duty on the Cape Fear River. Although each squadron commander wanted the sturdy warships to spearhead his own efforts, Dahlgren prevailed in his belief that his problem was the greater before the heavily fortified Charleston harbor. Thus Porter had to plan on the services of only U.S.S. Montauk, the lone monitor he had retained.
Monitors, with their big guns and massive armor, appealed more to naval and military commanders for fighting forts than they did to many of their crews. An officer on board U.S.S. Canonicus had written earlier: "I will never again go to sea in a monitor. I have suffered more in mind and body since this affair commenced than I will suffer again if I can help it. No glory, no promotion can ever pay for it."
Brigadier General John P. Hatch, one of General Sherman's subordinates, turned to Dahlgren for naval assistance: "If you can spare a tug or two launches, to cruise in upper Broad River during the stay of this command near here [Pocotaligo, South Carolina], it would be of service to us. Night before last three of our boats were stolen, and I fear some scamps in the vicinity of Boyd's Neck or Bee's Creek are preparing to attempt to capture sonic of our transports.
U.S.S. Matthew Vassar, Acting Master George F. Hill, captured blockade running schooner John Hale off St. Marks, Florida, with cargo including lead, blankets, and rope.
4 U.S.S. Wamsutta, Acting Master Charles W. Lee, and U.S.S. Potomska Acting Master F. M. Montell, sighted an unidentified blockade runner aground near Breach Inlet, South Carolina," on being discovered, the runner's crew fired and abandoned her.
4-6 A boat expedition under Lieutenant Commander Cushing, U.S.S. Monticello, proceeded up Little River, South Carolina, placing the small town of All Saints Parish under guard and capturing a number of Confederate soldiers. On the 5th Cushing destroyed some $15,000 worth of cotton.
The next day he sent two boat crews under Acting Master Charles A. Pettit to Shallotte Inlet, North Carolina, where they surprised a small force of Confederates collecting provisions for the troops at Fort Anderson below Wilmington. Six of the soldiers were taken prisoner and the stores they had gathered were destroyed. The Southerners reported that troops previously sta-tioned at Shallotte Inlet had been ordered to Fort Anderson; there the South hoped to stall the Army-Navy movement on Wilmington.
5 Blockade runner Chameleon, Lieutenant Wilkinson, attempted to run through the blockade of Charleston to deliver desperately needed supplies for General Lee's troops but was unsuccessful. Having run into the Cape Fear River the previous month only to find Fort Fisher in Union hands (see 19 January), the bold Wilkinson had returned to Nassau and learned on 30 January that Charleston was still held by the South. He departed on 1 February, evaded U.S.S. Vanderbilt after a lengthy chase, but found that the blockade of Charleston had been augmented by so many ships from the Wilmington station that he could not get into the harbor while the tide was high. "As this was the last night during that moon, when the bar could be crossed during the dark hours," Wilkinson later wrote, "the course of the Chameleon was again, and for the last time, shaped for Nassau. As we turned away from the land, our hearts sank within us, while the conviction forced itself upon us, that the cause for which so much blood had been shed, so many miseries bravely endured, and so many sacrifices cheerfully made, was about to perish at last!"
U.S.S. Niagara, Commodore Thomas T. Craven, learned that "the pirate ram" Stonewall was repairing at Ferrol, Spain. He departed Dover, England, for Spain next day but because of foul weather did not reach Coruna, Spain, some nine miles from Ferrol, until 11 February. He requested assistance in blockading the ironclad from U.S.S. Sacramento but found that she was at Lisbon repairing and would not be ready for sea for ten days. Craven himself put into Ferrol on the 15th and maintained a close watch on Stonewall.
U.S.S. Hendrick Hudson, Acting Lieutenant Charles H. Rockwell, reported locating the sunken wreck of U.S.S. Anna, Acting Ensign Henry W. Wells, south of Cape Roman, Florida. Anna had departed Key West on 30 December and had not been heard from since. Apparently, an acci-dental explosion had ripped the schooner apart. Rockwell found no survivors.
6 Secretary Mallory wrote General Braxton Bragg in Wilmington that Chief Naval Constructor John L. Porter had advised him that a new Confederate vessel could be completed within 90 days. Machinery for the ship was available in Columbus, Georgia, but Mallory sought assurance from the General that Wilmington would be held long enough for machinery to be transported and the ship built so that it could get into action. On the 8th Bragg replied: "This place will be held so long as our means enable us. There is no indication of any movement against it, and our means of defense are improving." However, Rear Admiral Porter and General Grant had other plans; Wilmington would be evacuated exactly two weeks later.
A joint Army-Navy expedition up Pagan and Jones Creeks, off James River, Virginia, captured a Confederate torpedo boat, a torpedo containing some 75 pounds of powder, and Master William A. Hines, CSN. Hines had led an expedition late in 1864 that destroyed the tug Lizzie Freeman off Pagan Creek (see 5 December 1864). The naval force, consisting of eight cutters and two launches conveying 150 troops, was commanded by Lieutenant George W. Wood of U.S.S. Roanoke.
Rear Admiral Porter, having received intelligence that a new Confederate ram was near completion at a shipyard on the Roanoke River and would soon enter Albemarle Sound, ordered Commander William H. Macomb, commanding the squadron in the Sound, to make every preparation to destroy her when she came down to Roanoke. Porter directed Macomb to fit a spar "to the bow of every gunboat and tug, with a torpedo on it, and run at the ram, all together. No matter how many of your vessels get sunk, one or the other of them will sink the ram if the torpedo is coolly exploded. Have your large rowboats fitted with torpedoes also, and . . . put your large vessels alongside of bet, let the launches and small torpedo boats run in and sink her. You can sling a good sized anchor to an outrigger spar, and let it go on her deck, and by letting go your own anchor keep her from getting away until other vessels pile in on her. Five or six steamers getting alongside of a ram could certainly take her by boarding. If you can get on board of her, knock a hole in her smokestack with axes, or fire a howitzer through it, and drop shrapnel down into the furnaces. . . . Set torpedoes in the river at night, so that no one will know where they are. Obstruct the river above Plymouth, and get what guns are there to command the approaches. Get a net or two across the river, with large meshes, so that when the tam comes down the net will clog her propeller. . . . It is strange if we, with all our resources, can not extinguish a rebel tam." With the South struggling to complete ironclads one by one, the North was able to bring massive strength to bear against each potential threat. However, if the Confederacy had been able to import machinery and iron freely, she would have completed a number of effective ironclad warships that could have changed the whole complexion of the war.
7 Well on his way toward Columbia, General Sherman advised Rear Admiral Dahlgren of the possibilities of having to turn back to the coast: "We ate on the railroad at Midway [S.C.], and will break 50 miles from Edisto toward Augusta and then cross toward Columbia. Weather is bad and country full of water. This cause may force me to turn against Charleston. I have ordered Foster to move Hatch up to the Edisto about Jacksonboro and Willstown; also to make the lodgment about Bull's Bay. Watch Charleston closely. I think Jeff Davis will direct it to be abandoned, lest he lose its garrison as well as guns. We are all well, and the enemy retreats before us. Send word to New Berne that you have heard from me, and the probabilities are that high waters may force me to the coast before I reach North Carolina, but to keep Wilmington busy."
Sherman and his subordinates utilized water transport and naval support as much as possible during his move northward. This date, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander C. McClurg, Chief of Staff of the Fourteenth Army Corps, wrote Lieutenant Commander Luce of U.S.S. Pontiac: "All the transports will, by this afternoon or evening, be unloaded and ordered to return to Savannah. General Morgan, commanding the rear division, has been ordered to withdraw his pickets on the Georgia shore of the [Savannah] river as soon as the transports have passed the lower landing. The general commanding requests that you assist and cover the crossing of these troops. The general commanding takes this opportunity to express to you and your officers his thanks for your efficient cooperation during your stay and movements at this point." Two days later, Major General Cuvier Grover added in a letter to Luce: "Understanding that you have in view leaving this station, I would respectfully request that, if it be consistent with your instructions, you would remain here until some such time as you can be relieved by some other naval vessel, as I consider it quite necessary that there should he at least one gunboat here at all times."
Boat expedition under Acting Ensign George H. French from U.S.S. Bienville, assisted by a cutter from U.S.S. Princess Royal, entered Galveston harbor silently at night intending to board arid destroy blockade runner Wren. Because of "the strong current and wind. . . ., and the neat approach of daylight", French and his daring men were unable to teach Wren but did board and take schooners Pet and Annie Sophia, both laden with cotton.
8 Flag Officer Barton received orders from Secretary Mallory to return to the Confederacy, These orders symbolized the abandonment of the long cherished hopes of obtaining ironclad ships from Europe with which to break the ever-tightening blockade. Originally selected to be the flag officer in command of the turreted ironclads "294" and "295", Barton had arrived in England during October 1863. The Laird rams, however, had been seized by the British govern-ment on 9 October 1863 and Barton thereafter served the Confederacy in Paris. On 15 February, a week after receiving Mallory's dispatch, Barton replied to the Secretary in words that gave clear evidence of the degree to which the shores of the South were sealed by the Union squadrons: "I am endeavoring to get ready to leave in the Southampton steamer of March 2, which will take me to Cuba, and from that point I shall see how the land lies and make such arrangements as will most probably insure my earliest arrival in the Confederacy, where I feel every man is needed who can pull a pound. The closing of the port of Wilmington does, I fear, render the route through Texas the only one of security, but I shall not determine positively until after my arrival in Havana." Barron, however, did not return to the South, for on 28 February he resigned as senior Confederate naval officer on the continent.
The first troops of General Schofield's Twenty-Third Army Corps were landed at Fort Fisher. By mid-month the entire Corps had moved by ocean-transport from Alexandria and Annapolis to North Carolina. The protection of the Federal Navy and the mobility of water movement had allowed the redeployment of thousands of troops from Tennessee to the eastern theater for the final great struggles of the war.
9 U.S.S. Pawnee, Commander George B. Balch, U.S.S. Sonoma, Lieutenant Commander Thomas S. Fillebrown, and U.S.S. Daffodil, Acting Master William H. Mallard, engaged Confederate bat-teries on Togodo Creek, neat the North Edisto River, South Carolina. Pawnee took ten hits and the other ships two each, but the naval bombardment successfully silenced the Southern emplace-ments. The action was one of several attacks along the coast that helped to clear the way and keep the South's defenses disrupted while General Sherman's army advanced northward. With assurance of aid from the sea when needed, Sherman could travel light and fast. On this date he was matching toward Orangeburg, on the north side of the Edisto River, and would capture it on the 12th.
10 Captain Raphael Semmes was appointed Rear Admiral in the Provisional Navy of the Con-federate States of America "for gallant and meritorious conduct, in command of the steam-sloop Alabama." Secretary Mallory had created the Provisional Navy as a means of instituting selec-tion to higher rank on the basis of ability rather than strict seniority. Semmes later wrote: "After I had been in Richmond a few weeks, the President was pleased to nominate me to the Senate as a teat-admiral. My nomination was unanimously confirmed, and, in a few days afterward, I was appointed to the command of the James River Fleet. . . An old and valued friend, Commodore J. K. Mitchell, had been in command of the James River Fleet, and I displaced him very reluctantly. He had organized and disciplined the fleet, and had accomplished with it all that was possible, viz., the protection of Richmond by water." Except for this powerful fleet backing up the forts and the extensive obstructions in the River, Richmond would have long since fallen.
The Confederate Navy began its last attempt to gain control of the James River and thus force the withdrawal of General Grant's army by cutting its communications at City Point. The expedition of 100 officers and men was led by the audacious naval lieutenant, Charles W. Read. He loaded four torpedo boats on wagons and started overland from Drewry's Bluff. The plan called for marching to a place below City Point on the James River where the party would launch the boats, capture any passing tugs or steamers, and outfit these prizes with spats and torpedoes. The expedition would then ascend the river and attack and sink the Union monitors, leaving the Union gunboats at the mercy of the Confederate ironclads. The James, without which Grant would be denied transport and supplies, would be under Confederate control from Richmond to Hampton Roads.
On the night of the 11th Read and his men endured bitter cold as the weather worsened. On the 12th sleet slowed and finally stopped the expedition only a few miles from the place they were to ford the Blackwater River and rendezvous with Lieutenant John Lewis, CSN, who had been reconnoitering the area ahead of the main body of sailors. Master W. Frank Shippey wrote that while the men sought refuge from the storm in a deserted farmhouse, "a young man in gray uniform came in and informed us that our plan had been betrayed, and that Lewis was at the ford to meet us, according to promise, but accompanied by a regiment of Federals lying in am-buscade and awaiting our arrival, when they were to give us a warm reception. Had it not been for the storm and out having to take shelter, we would have marched into the net spread for us . . . . "
Read directed the rest of the expedition to retrace their steps for about a mile; then he ventured forth alone to confirm the report of the young Confederate. Late in the afternoon of the 13th Read, "cool and collected as ever," returned to the campsite where his men were, informed them that the intelligence of the day before had been correct, and that they would have to fall back to Richmond. Thus, the bold Confederate thrust failed. Moreover, the constant exposure to the inclement weather took a heavy toll of the men. Shippey later wrote that "of the hundred and one men who composed this expedition, fully seventy-five were in the naval hospital in Richmond, suffering from the effects of their winter march, on the sad day on which we turned our backs upon that city."
U.S.S. Shawmut, Lieutenant Commander J.G. Walker, engaged Confederate batteries on the east bank of the Cape Fear River while U.S.S. Huron, Lieutenant Commander Thomas O. Selfridge, bombarded Fort Anderson. Fleet attacks were building up preliminary to full naval support of General Schofield's advance on Wilmington. Schofield planned to outflank General Hoke's defense force by marching from Fort Fisher up the outer bank and, with the aid of pontoons to be landed by the Navy on the coast side, cross Myrtle Sound to the mainland of the peninsula behind the Confederate lines. From the Cape Fear River and the sea coast the Navy was to contain the defenders in their trenches by shore bombardment.
Rear Admiral Porter issued an operations plan for the move up the Cape Fear River which revealed the high degree to which naval gunfire support doctrine had been developed during the Civil War: "The object will be to get the gunboats in the rear of their intrenchments and cover the advance of our troops. When our troops are coming up, the gunboats run close in and shell the enemy in front of them, so as to enable the troops to turn their flanks, if possible. . . . As the army come up, your fire will have to be very rapid, taking care not to fire into our own men. . . . Put yourself in full communication with the general commanding on shore, and conform in all things to his wishes. . . ."
To the 16 gunboats in the Cape Fear River Porter issued an operation plan for an attack on Fort Anderson that was to coincide with the naval bombardment of General Hoke's flanks and the launching of Schofield's turning movement. The gunboats were directed to make a bows-on approach, to minimize the target presented Southern gunners, while the monitor U.S.S. Montauk would lay down a covering fire from close in. When the fort's fire should slacken, the light-hulled gunboats were to close and drive the gunners from their positions with grapeshot and canister. With the enemy's battery thus silenced, the fleet would shift to carefully aimed point fire to dismount the guns. So swiftly had the build up of force been effected by sea that only two weeks after the meeting between Porter and General Grant on board U.S.S. Malvern, which shaped the Union strategy, an irresistible juggernaut was already being forged.
Boat expedition from U.S.S. Princess Royal and Antona led by Lieutenant Charles E. McKay boarded and destroyed blockade runner Will-O'-The Wisp, a large iron screw steamer hard aground off Galveston.
10-14 The monitor U.S.S. Lehigh, Lieutenant Commander Alexander A. Semmes, and smaller wooden vessels including U.S.S. Commodore McDonough, Wissahickon, C. P. Williams, Dan Smith, and Geranium, supported Brigadier General Alexander Schimmelfennig's troop movements in the Stono and Folly River, South Carolina, area. The Army had requested the assistance of naval gunfire in the operations preparatory to the final push on Charleston.
11 U.S.S. Keystone State, Aries, Montgomery, Howquah, Emma, and Vicksburg engaged Half Moon Battery, situated on the coastal flank of the Confederate defense line which crossed the Cape Fear Peninsula six miles above Fort Fisher. This bombardment contained General Hoke's division while General Schofield's troops moved up the beach and behind their rear (see 10 February). Deteriorating weather, however, prevented the landing of the pontoons, and Schofield withdrew his troops to the Fort Fisher lines. Porter's gunboats also engaged the west bank batteries.
Secretary Welles warned Acting Rear Admirals Cornelius K. Stribling, commanding the East Gulf Blockading Squadron, and Henry K. Thatcher, commanding the West Gulf Blockading Squadron, that information had been received that the ram Stonewall, built at Bordeaux, France. had been transferred to the Confederate government. "Her destination," he wrote, "is doubtless some point on our coast, and it behooves you to be prepared against surprise , as she is represented to be formidable and capable of inflicting serious injury."
U.S.S. Penobscot, Lieutenant Commander A.E.K. Benham, captured blockade running British schooner Matilda in the Gulf of Mexico with cargo of rope, bagging, and liquors.
12 The blockade runners Carolina, Dream, Chicora, Chameleon, and Owl, heavily laden with supplies desperately needed by General Lee's army lay at anchor in Nassau harbor. During the day the five captains, including Lieutenant John Wilkinson and Commander John Maffitt, held a conference and formulated plans for running the blockade into Charleston. After putting to sea that night, the five ships separated and stood on different courses for the South Carolina port. Only Chicora, Master John Rains, Shipmaster, got through and became the last blockade runner to enter and leave Charleston prior to its evacuation during the night of 17 18 February. Two and a half months later Owl, Commander Maffitt, slipped past 16 Federal cruisers and entered the harbor at Galveston. After off-loading his cargo, Maffitt again evaded the blockaders and safely reached Havana on 9 May, where after coaling his ship he continued to give Union warships the slip on his return voyage to Nassau and ultimately to Liverpool (see 14 July).
Captain T. J. Page, C.S.S. Stonewall, wrote Commander Bulloch from Ferrol of the arrival of U.S.S. Niagara, Commodore T. T. Craven, at Corunna the preceding day. "I wish with all my heart we were ready now to go out," Page said. "We must encounter her, and I would only wish that she may not be accompanied by two or more others." Craven was equally apprehensive about a possible engagement. "The Stonewall," he wrote at month's end, "is a very formidable vessel, about 175 feet long, brig-rigged, and completely clothed in iron plates of 5 inches in thick-ness. Under her topgallant forecastle is her casemated Armstrong 30 pounder rifled gun. In a turret abaft her mainmast are two 12 pounder rifled guns, and she has two smaller guns mounted in broadside. If as fast as reputed to be, in smooth water she ought to be more than a match for three such ships as the Niagara. . . ."
In small boats, Lieutenant Commander Cushing and a patrol party passed the piling obstructions and reconnoitered the Cape Fear River as far as Wilmington.
13 General Sherman's on-rushing army approached the Congaree River, South Carolina. The soldiers would cross it on the 14th, heading for Columbia. With the fall of Columbia assured and with the supply route to Augusta, Georgia, already cut, General Hardee speeded up his prepara-tions to evacuate Charleston and to take the troops he brought from Savannah to North Carolina where he planned to join Generals Joseph E. Johnson and Beauregard. Since Charleston would have to be abandoned and the Confederate naval squadron there scuttled, Commodore John R. Tucker, detached 300 men and officers from C.S.S. Chicora, Palmetto State, and Charleston, as well as the Navy Yard, and dispatched them, under the command of Lieutenant James H. Rochelle, to assist in the final defense of Wilmington. This naval detachment was assigned to Major General Robert F. Hoke's division which held the defensive line across the peninsula between Fort Fisher and Wilmington.
14 The blockade runner Celt ran aground while attempting to run the blockade from Charleston harbor.
15 U.S.S. Merrimac, Acting Master William Earle, was abandoned in a sinking condition at sea off the coast of Florida In the Gulf Stream. The tiller had broken in a gale, the pumps could not keep the ship free of water, and two boilers had given out. Having fought for 24 hours to save his ship, Earle finally ordered her abandoned. The mail steamer Morning Star, which had been standing by the disabled gunboat for several hours, rescued the crew.
Steamer Knickerbocker, aground near Smith's Point, Virginia, was boarded by Confederates, set afire, and destroyed. U.S.S. Mercury, Acting Ensign Thomas Nelson, had thwarted a previous attempt to destroy the steamer.
16 U.S.S. Penobscot, Lieutenant Commander A.E.K. Benham, forced blockade running schooners Mary Agnes and Louisa ashore at Aransas Pass, Texas. Two days later the runners were destroyed by a boat crew from Penobscot.
16-17 As the combined operation to capture Willington vigorously got underway, ships of Rear Admiral Porter's fleet helped to ferry General Schofield's two divisions from Fort Fisher to Smith-ville, on the west bank of the Cape Fear River. Fort Anderson, the initial objective for the two commanders, lay on the west bank mid-way between the mouth of the river and Wilmington. On the morning of the 17th, Major General Jacob D. Cox led 8,000 troops north from Smithville. In support of the army advance on the Confederate defenses, the monitor Montauk, Lieutenant Com-mander Edward E. Stone, and four gunboats heavily bombarded Fort Anderson and successfully silenced its twelve guns. Unable to obtain other monitors for the attack (see 3 February), Porter resorted to subterfuge and, as he had on the Mississippi River (see 25 February 1863), improvised a bogus monitor from a scow, timber, and canvas. Old Bogey", as she was quickly nicknamed by the sailors, had been towed to the head of the bombardment line, where she succeeded in draw-ing heavy fire from the defending Southerners.
Ships of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, including U.S.S. Pawnee, Sonoma, Ottawa, Winona, Potomska, Wando, J.S. Chambers, and boats and launches from these vessels supported the amphibious Army landing at Bull's Bay, South Carolina. This was a diversionary movement in the major thrust to take Charleston and was designed to contain Confederate strength away from General Sherman's route. Such diversions had been part of Sherman's plan from the outset as he took full advantage of Northern control of the sea. A naval landing party from the fleet joined the troops of Brigadier General Edward E. Potter in driving the Confederates from their positions and pushing on toward Andersonville and Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.
As Captain Daniel B. Ridgely later reported to Rear Admiral Dahlgren: "I am confident that the expedition to Bull's Bay embarrassed the rebels from the great number of men-of-war inside and outside of the bay and the great number of boats provided by the navy to disembark a large land force. . . . I am of the opinion that the evacuation of Charleston was hastened by the demonstration made by the army and the navy at that point in strong force." Ridgely also pointed out another example of one of the aspects of Northern control of the sea throughout the war, the fact that the very capability of the Union to move wherever water reached forced the South to spread itself thin in an attempt to meet the Federals on all possible fronts. "The rebels signaled our movements to Charleston day and night," he wrote, adding significantly, "and threw up intrenchments at every point where boats could land."
17 U.S.S. Mahaska, Lieutenant Commander William Gibson, seized schooner Delia off Bayport, Florida, with cargo of pig lead and sabers.
17-18 Charleston, South Carolina, was evacuated by Confederate troops after having endured 567 days of continuous attack by land and sea. The long siege witnessed some of the most heroic fighting of the war, including the sinking of U.S.S. Housatonic by the valiant, hand-powered submarine H. L. Hunley (see 17 February 1864).
During the night, Forts Moultrie, Sumter, Johnson, Beauregard, and Castle Pinckney were abandoned as the Confederates marched northward to join the beleaguered forces of General Lee. The Southern ironclads Palmetto State, Chicora, and Charleston were fired and blown up prior to the withdrawal, but C.S.S. Columbia, the largest of the ironclads at Charleston, was found aground and abandoned near Fort Moultrie and was eventually salvaged.
Lieutenant Commander J. S. Barnes later wrote that the occupation forces also captured several "David" torpedo boats, one of which had damaged U.S.S. New Ironsides off Charleston on 5 October 1863. She was subsequently taken to the Naval Academy, Barnes wrote, "where she is preserved as one of the relics of the war. These vessels were built of boiler iron, and were of the shape known as "cigar shape." They presented but a very small target above the surface, but were usually clumsy and dangerous craft in a seaway. Under full steam they could attain a speed of seven knots per hour."
The steamers Lady Davis, Mab, and Transport were taken after the evacuation. U.S.S. Catskill, Lieutenant Commander Edward Barrett, seized blockade runner Celt, which had run aground trying to get out of Charleston on the night of the 14th; Catskill also took the British blockade runner Deer. The steamer had been decoyed into Charleston that night by the same ruse keeping the Confederate signals lighted-employed at Wilmington. Deer ran aground and on being boarded her master told Barrett: "Well, we give it up; she is your prize. Strange we did not smell a rat, as we could not make out your signal on Fort Marshall." Also in the aftermath of the fall of Charleston, U.S.S. Gladiolus, Acting Ensign Napoleon Boughton, captured blockade runner Syren in the Ashley River where she had successfully run in through the blockade the night before.
The capture of these blockade runners underscored Dahlgren's letter to Rear Admiral Porter: "You see by the date of this [18 February] that the Navy's occupation has given this pride of rebeldom to the Union flag, and thus the rebellion is shut out from the ocean and foreign sympathy." To Secretary Welles, Dahlgren added: "To me the fall of Charleston seems scarcely less important than that of Richmond. It is the last seaport by which it can be made sure that a bale of cotton can go abroad. Hence the rebel loan and credit are at an end." Learning of the fall of Charleston a week later in Nassau, Lieutenant Wilkinson, the daring Confederate sea captain, agreed: "This sad intelligence put an end to all our hopes. . . . At last the city that had symbolized the South's spirit was in Union hands.
18 Upon orders to evacuate Charleston, Commodore John R. Tucker scuttled the ironclads Palmetto State, Charleston and Chicora, took charge of the remaining sailors in the area, and set out by train for Wilmington to join the naval detachment that had previously proceeded there under Lieutenant Rochelle (see 13 February). Tucker's detachment got as far as Whiteville, about 50 miles west of Wilmington, where he learned that Union troops had cut the rail line be-tween the two cities and that the evacuation of Wilmington was imminent. After unsuccess-fully trying to obtain rail transportation for his detachment, which he pointed out was "unused to marching," Tucker set out across country on a 125 mile march to Fayetteville, North Carolina.
The big guns of Rear Admiral Porter's fleet in the Cape Fear River silenced the Confederate batteries at Fort Anderson. Under a relentless hail of fire from the ships and with Union troops investing the fort from two sides, the Southerners evacuated their defensive position and fell back to Town Creek. Simultaneously, the Confederates dug in at Sugar Loaf Hill on the east bank of the river, adjacent to Fort Anderson, withdrew to Fort Strong, a complex of fortifications comprising several batteries some three miles south of Wilmington. The combined Army-Navy movement was now pushing irresistibly toward the city.
Rear Admiral Semmes assumed command of the Confederate James River Squadron. "My fleet," he wrote, "consisted of three iron-clads and five wooden gunboats. The ironclads, each mounting four guns, were C.S.S. Virginia No. 2, Richmond, and Fredericksburg. The wooden ships included C.S.S. Hampton, Nansemond, Roanoke, Beaufort, and Torpedo; all mounted two guns except Torpedo which was armed with one. Semmes noted: "The fleet was assisted, in the defence of the river, by several shore batteries, in command of naval officers. . . ."
C.S.S. Shenandoah, Lieutenant Waddell, having completed repairs at Melbourne, Australia, got underway before daybreak and steamed out of Port Philip Bay to resume her career on the high seas. As soon as the cruiser discharged her pilot and entered international waters, more than 40 stowaways who had come on board late the previous night appeared on deck. Shenandoah's log recorded: "Forty-two men found on board; thirty-six shipped as sailors and six enlisted as marines." This represented a net gain when balanced against the desertions induced by gold from the American consul. However, Shenandoah paid a considerable price for the three week stay in Melbourne. Waddell later wrote in his memoirs: "The delay of the Shenandoah had operated against us in the South Pacific. The whaling fleet of that ocean had received warning and had either suspended its fishing in that region or had taken shelter in the neighboring ports. The presence of the Shenandoah in the South Pacific," however, he added, "dispersed the whaling fleet of that sea, though no captures were made there."
A boat expedition under Acting Ensign James W. Brown from U.S.S. Pinola hoarded and fired armed schooner Anna Dale in Pass Cavallo, Texas. The prize had been fitted out as a cruiser by the Confederates. The long reach of the sea closed its iron grip on the South in events great and small from the Potomac to the Rio Grande and throughout the western waters.
U.S.S. Forest Rose, Acting Lieutenant Abraham N. Gould, dispersed a number of Confederates who had fired on the ship Mittie Stephens attempting to load cotton at Cole's Creek, Mississippi.
19 The Confederate steamer A. H. Schultz, used as a flag-of-truce vessel to carry exchange prisoners between Richmond and the Varina vicinity on the James River and as a transport by the Southern forces below the Confederate capital, was destroyed by a torpedo near Chaffin's Bluff on the James River. Ironically, she met the fate intended for a Union ship. The torpedo was one laid by Lieutenant Beverly Kennon of the Torpedo Service that had drifted from its original position. When torpedoed, Schultz was returning to Richmond after delivering more than 400 Federal prisoners; because of an administrative error, there were no Confederate prisoners ready to be taken on board at Varina. Thus, the loss of life was considerably minimized. Had the steamer struck the torpedo going downriver or picked up the Southern soldiers to be exchanged as expected, the casualties might well have been frightful.
U.S.S. Gertrude, Acting Lieutenant Benjamin C. Dean, captured Mexican brig Eco off Galveston. Eco, suspected of attempting to run the blockade, carried a cargo of coffee, rice, sugar, and jute baling cord.
19-20 Following the evacuation of Fort Anderson, Rear Admiral Porter's gunboats steamed seven miles up the Cape Fear River to the Big Island shallows and the piling obstructions and engaged Fort Strong's five guns. Ship's boats swept the river for mines ahead of the fleet's advance. On the night of the 20th, the Confederates released 200 floating torpedoes, which were -avoided with great difficulty and kept the boat crews engaged in sweeping throughout the hours of darkness. Although many of the gunboats safely swept up torpedoes with their nets, U.S.S. Osceola, Commander]. M. B. Clita, received hull damage and lost a paddle wheel box by an explosion. Another torpedo destroyed a boat from U.S.S. Shawmut, inflicting four casualties. The next day, 21 February, one of Porter's officers wrote that "Old Bogey", the make-shift monitor fashioned by the Admiral to deceive the defenders (see 16-17 February), had taken part in the action: "Johnny Reb let off his torpedoes without effect on it, and the old thing sailed across the river and grounded in the flank and rear of the enemy's lines on the eastern bank, whereupon they fell back in the night. She now occupies the most advanced position of the line, and Battery Lee has been banging away at her, and probably wondering why she does not answer. Last night after half a days fighting, the rebs sent down about 50 [sic] torpedoes; but although "Old Bogey" took no notice of them, they kept the rest of us pretty lively as long as the ebb tide ran".
21-22 The gunboat fleet of Rear Admiral Porter closed Fort Strong and opened rapid fire "all along the enemy's line" to support the Army attack ashore as it had throughout the soldiers" steady march up both banks of the Cape Fear River. The next day, 22 February, the defenders evacuated the fort and Porter's ships steamed up to Wilmington, which earlier in the day had been occupied by General Terry's men after General Bragg had ordered the evacuation of the now defenseless city. The same day the Admiral wrote Secretary Welles: "I have the honor to inform you that Wilmington has been evacuated and is in possession of our troops. . . . I had the pleasure of placing the flag on Fort Strong, and at 12 o'clock noon today shall fire a salute of thirty-five guns this being the anniversary of Washington's birthday." As Raphael Semmes later wrote: ". . . . we had lost our last blockade-running port. Our ports were now all hermetically sealed The anaconda had, at last, wound his fatal folds around us."
22 In Richmond, Confederate War Department clerk J.B. Jones wrote in his diary: "To-day is the anniversary of the birth of Washington, and of the inauguration of Davis; but I heir of no holiday. Not much is doing, however, in the departments; simply a waiting for calamities, which come with stunning rapidity. The next news, I suppose, will be the evacuation of Wilmington! Then Raleigh may tremble. Unless there is a speedy turn in the tide of affairs, confusion will reign supreme and universally." Material suffering and the unwavering pressure of Union armies ashore and Federal ships afloat destroyed Southern hopes. In the Union's strength at sea the Confederacy faced a doubled disadvantage. Not only did the fleet provide the North with massed artillery, great mobility, easy concentration, and surprise in attack, but it also provided a safe fortress to which the soldiers ashore could retreat as had been most recently shown during General Butler's amphibious failure at Fort Fisher as 1864 ended.
23-25 Rear Admiral Dahlgren dispatched a squadron from Charleston, commanded by Captain Henry S. Stellwagen in the U.S.S. Pawnee, to capture and occupy Georgetown, South Carolina, in order to establish a line of communications with General Sherman's army advancing from Columbia, South Carolina, to Fayetteville, North Carolina. Fort White, guarding the entrance to Winyah Bay leading to Georgetown, was evacuated upon the approach of the naval squadron and was occupied by a detachment of Marines on the 23rd. The following day Stellwagen sent Ensign Allen K. Noyes with the U.S.S. Catalpa and Mingoe up the Peedee River to accept the surrender of the evacuated city of Georgetown. Noyes led a small party ashore and received the surrender of the city from civil authorities while a group of his seamen climbed to the city hall dome and ran up the Stars and Stripes. This action was presently challenged by a group of Confederate horsemen. More sailors were landed. A skirmish ensued in which the bluejackets drove off the mounted guerrillas. Subsequently, the city was garrisoned by five companies of Marines who were in turn relieved by the soldiers on 1 March.
In December the ships of the powerful Federal Navy, now in such numbers that they could attack anywhere along the coast when needed, had made it possible for Sherman "to march to the sea" with confidence, since they gave him any part of the coast he chose as a base. Now Dahlgren's warships provided the general with unlimited logistic support, rapid reinforcement, and the defensive line of their massed guns to fall back on if he was defeated. Easing and speed-ing his progress to the North, the fleet therefore helped to bring the cruel war more quickly to an end. From Savannah to Wilmington the whole Southern sea coast with its irreplaceable defenses, heavy coastal cannon that could not be moved, and superior means of communication-swiftly fell. Although it was not clear to General Lee at the time, the accelerated speed with which the solders were able to move inevitably forecast the frustration of his plan to send part of his veterans to join the Confederate Army in North Carolina in an attempt to crush Sherman while still holding the Petersburg-Richmond lines with the remainder.
24 The intention of the Navy Department to reduce the size of the operating forces as the end of hostilities neared was indicated in Secretary Welles" instruction to Rear Admiral Thatcher, commanding the West Gulf Squadron, to "send North such purchased vessels as appear by surveys to require very extensive repairs . . . and all those no longer required. These will probably be sold or laid up. You will also send home any stores that are not required. Further requisi-tion must be carefully examined before approval, and the commanders of squadrons are expected to use every possible exertion and care to reduce the expenses of their squadrons."
Secretary Welles similarly directed Rear Admiral Dahlgren to send north vessels under his com-mand that were no longer required, especially the least efficient. "The Department is of opinion that the fall of Fort Fisher and Charleston will enable it to reduce the expenses of the maintenance of the Navy." Even as the Union could begin to cut back its huge fleet, the effect of Northern sea power was felt more and more acutely in General Lee's army. With its last access to the sea, Wilmington, now controlled by the North, the shortage of essential supplies including shoes, artillery, blankets, lead, medicines, and even food for men and horses-became increasingly desperate. By now, much of Lee's famed cavalry, for want of horses, had become infantry.
25 U.S.S. Marigold, Acting Master Courtland P. Williams, captured blockade running British schoo-ner Salvadora with an assorted cargo in the Straits of Florida between Havana and Key West.
In a letter to Secretary Welles, Commander F. A. Parker, Commander of the Potomac Flotilla, reported that "within the past week three boats, with three blockade runners, have been cap-tured by the Primrose, commanded by Acting Ensign Owen."
C.S.S. Chickamauga was burned and sunk by her own crew in the Cape Fear River just below Indian Wells, North Carolina. The position selected by the Confederates was above Wilmington on the Northwest Fork of the river leading to Fayetteville. The scuttling was intended to obstruct the river and prevent the Union from establishing water communications between the troops occupy-ing Wilmington and General Sherman's army operating in the interior of the state. The effort proved abortive as the current swept the hulk around parallel to the bank and by 12 March the water link between Wilmington and Fayetteville had been opened (see 12 March). Every river that would float a ship was an artery of strength from the sea for Sherman in his rapid march north.
A boat expedition from U.S.S. Chenango, Lieutenant Commander George U. Morris, captured blockade running sloop Elvira at Bullyard Sound, South Carolina, with cargo of cotton and tobacco.
27 Commodore Tucker and his 350 Confederate sailors from Charleston arrived safely in Fayetteville, North Carolina, where he received orders to have Lieutenant James H. Rochelle's naval detach-ment join his and to proceed to Richmond with the entire Naval Brigade. From Richmond the brigade was sent on to Drewry's Bluff on the James River to garrison the formidable Confederate batteries positioned there. Tucker commanded the naval forces ashore while Rear Admiral Raphael Semmes commanded the James River Squadron. These two commands, through the course of the long war, had successfully protected Richmond from attack via the James River. General Lee desperately needed staunch fighters more than ever before. With his supply line from Europe cut, hunger, privation, sickness, and desertion steadily shrank his army. Meanwhile, General Grant's army increased as ships poured in supplies to his City Point base in prepa-ration for the spring offensive.
U.S.S. Proteus, Commander R. W. Shufeldt, seized the steamer Ruby-purportedly en route from Havana to Belize, Honduras, but, according to some of the officers and passengers, actually bound for St. Marks, Florida. It appeared that part of her cargo had been thrown overboard during the chase; the remainder consisted of lead and sundries.
28 Rear Admiral Dahlgren issued instructions to Captain Stellwagen, U.S.S. Pawnee, on operations in the vicinity of Georgetown, South Carolina, coordinated with General Sherman's march north: "I leave here for Charleston, and you remain the senior officer. The only object in occupying the place, as I do, is to facilitate communication with General Sherman, if he desires it here, or by the Santee. When the Chenango and Sonoma arrive, station one in each river by the town to assist the force ashore; one vessel should be near the fort and one at the light-house to look for communication with me. Keep up information from the Santee by a courier over the Santee road or by water. I leave you three tugs, the Sweet Brier, Catalpa and Clover, with a dispatch boat. Let parties be pushed out by land and water, to feel the rebel positions, and drive back his scouts and pickets."
Armed boats under Acting Ensign Charles N. Hall from U.S.S. Honeysuckle forced the blockade running British schooner Sort aground on a reef near the mouth of Crystal River, Florida, where she was abandoned. Sort was the same schooner captured in December 1864 by U.S.S. O. H. Lee.
U.S.S. Arina, Lieutenant Commander George Brown, was destroyed by fire in the Mississippi River below New Orleans. In his report, the unlucky Brown, who had also lost U.S.S. Indianola (see 24 February 1863), noted: "Not a soul attempted to leave the vessel until I gave the order for them to do so, and the marines were of much service in preventing the boats from being over-loaded."
Lieutenant George W. Gift, CSN, on sick leave at his wife's home in Georgia, reflected on the fate of the South: "It is all too disheartening! The press brings accounts of new defeat for us. The Water Witch has been captured and destroyed. Mobile has fallen, so that all the ports in the Confederacy are lost! That goes for the Navy. . ."