Civil War Naval History
1 U.S.S. Tyler, Lieutenant Gwin, and U.S.S. Lexington, Lieutenant Shirk, engaged Confederate forces preparing to strongly fortify Shiloh (Pittsburg Landing), Tennessee. Under cover of the gunboats' cannon, a landing party of sailors and Army sharpshooters was put ashore from armed boats to determine Confederate strength in the area. Flag Officer Foote commended Gwin for his successful "amphibious" attack where several sailors met their death along with their Army comrades. At the same time he added: "But I must give a general order that no commander will land men to make an attack on shore. Our gunboats are to be used as forts, and as they have no more men than are necessary to man the guns, and as the Army must do the shore work, and as the enemy want nothing better than to entice our men on shore and overpower them with superior numbers, the commanders must not operate on shore, but confine themselves to their vessels."
Flag Officer Foote again requested funds to keep the captured Eastport. He telegraphed: "I have applied to the Secretary of the Navy to have the rebel gunboat, Eastport, lately captured in the Tennessee River, fitted up as a gunboat, with her machinery in and lumber. She can be fitted out for about $20,000, and in three weeks. We want such a fast and powerful boat. Do telegraph about her, as we now have carpenters and cargo ahead on her and she is just what we want. I should run about in her and save time and do good service, Our other ironclad boats are too slow. The Eastport was a steamer on the river, and she, being a good boat, would please the West. No reply yet from the Secretary and time is precious." Had the Confederates been able to complete this fine ship, over 100 feet longer than the armored gunboats, before the rise of the rivers enabled the Federal forces to move with such devastating effect, she could well have disrupted the whole series of Union victories and postponed the collapse of Confederate defenses.
U.S.S. Mount Vernon, Commander Glisson, captured blockade running British schooner British Queen off Wilmington with cargo including salt and coffee.
3 Flag Officer Du Pont, commanding joint amphibious expedition to Fernandina, Florida, reported to Secretary of the Navy Welles that he was "in full possession of Cumberland Island and Sound, of Fernandina and Amelia Island, and the river and town of St. Mary's." Confederate defenders were in the process of withdrawing heavy guns inland from the area and offered only token resistance to Du Pont's force. Fort Clinch on Amelia Island, occupied by an armed boat crew from U.S.S. Ottawa, had been seized by Confederates at the beginning of the war and was the first fort to be retaken by the Union. Commander Drayton on board Ottawa took a moving train under fire near Fernandina, while launches under Commander C. R. P. Rodgers captured steamer Darlington with a cargo of military stores. Du Pont had only the highest praise for his association with Brigadier General Wright, commanding the brigade of troops on the expedition: "Our plans of action have been matured by mutual consultation, and have been carried into execution by mutual help." The Fernandina operation placed the entire Georgia coast actually in the possession or under the control of the Union Navy. Du Pont wrote Senator Grimes three days late? that: "The victory was bloodless, but most complete in results." Du Pont also noted that: ''The most curious feature of the operations was the chase of a train of cars by a gunboat for one mile and a half-two soldiers were killed, the passengers rushed out in the woods The expedition was a prime example of sea-land mobility and of what General Robert E. Lee meant when he said: "Against ordinary numbers we are pretty strong, but against the hosts our enemies seem able to bring everywhere, there is no calculating."
4 Union forces covered by Flag Officer Foote's gunboat flotilla, now driving down the Mississippi, occupied strongly fortified Columbus, Kentucky, which the Confederates had been compelled to evacuate. Foote reported that the reconnaissance by U.S.S. Cincinnati and Louisville two days earlier had hastened the evacuation, the rebels leaving quite a number of guns and carriages, ammunition, and large quantity of shot and shell, a considerable number of anchors, and the remnant of chain lately stretched across the river, with a large number of torpedoes.'' The powerful fort, thought by many to be impregnable, had fallen without a struggle. Brigadier General Cullum wrote: "Columbus, the Gibraltar of the West, is ours and Kentucky is free, thanks to the brilliant strategy of the campaign, by which the enemy's center was pierced at Forts Henry and Donelson, his wings isolated from each other and turned, compelling thus the evacuation of his strongholds at Bowling Green first and now Columbus."
Confederate Secretary of the Navy Mallory summarized his Navy's needs to President Davis: fifty light-draft and powerful steam propellers, plated with 5- inch hard iron, armed and equipped for service in our own waters, four iron or steel-clad single deck, ten gun frigates of about 2,000 tons, and ten clipper propellers with superior marine engines, both classes of ships designed for deep- sea cruising, 3,000 tons of first-class boiler-plate iron, and 1,000 tons of rod, bolt, and bar iron are means which this Department could immediately employ. We could use with equal advantage 3,000 instructed seamen, and 4,000 ordinary seamen and landsmen, and 2,000 first rate mechanics.''
Commander Daniel B. Ridgely, U.S.S. Santiago de Cuba, reported the capture of sloop O.K. off Cedar Keys, Florida, in February. Proceeding to St. Mark's, Florida, O.K. foundered in heavy seas.
5 Flag Officer Foote observed that the gunboats could not immediately attack the Confederate defenses at Island No. 10, down the river from Columbus. "The gunboats have been so much cutup in the late engagements at Forts Henry and Donelson in the pilot houses, hulls, and disabled machinery, that I could not induce the pilots to go in them again in a fight until they are repaired. I regret this, as we ought to move in the quickest possible time, but I have declined doing it, being utterly unprepared, although General Halleck says go, and not wait for repairs; but that can not be done without creating a stampede amongst the pilots and most of the newly made officers, to say nothing of the disasters which must follow if the rebels fight as they have done of late." Two days later he added other information: "The Benton is underway and barely stems the strong current of the Ohio, which is 5 knots per hour in this rise of water, but hope, by putting her between two ironclad steamers to-morrow, she will stem the current and work comparatively well . . . I hope on Wednesday [12 March] to take down seven ironclad gunboats and ten mortar boats to attack Island No. 10 and New Madrid. As the current in the Mississippi is in some places 7 knots per hour, the ironclad boats can hardly return here, therefore we must go well prepared, which detains us longer than even you would imagine necessary from your navy-yard and smooth-water standpoint . . . We are doing our best, but our difficulties and trials are legion."
Flag Officer Farragut issued a general order to the fleet in which he stressed gunnery and damage control training. ''I expect every vessel's crew to be well exercised at their guns . . . They must he equally well trained for stopping shot holes and extinguishing fire. Hot and cold shot will no doubt be freely dealt us, and there must be stout hearts and quick hands to extinguish the one and stop the holes of the other."
U.S.S. Water Witch, Lieutenant Hughes, captured schooner William Mallory off St. Andrew's Bay, Florida.
6 Lieutenant Worden reported U.S.S. Monitor had passed over the bar in New York harbor with U.S.S. Currituck and Sachem in company. "In order to reach Hampton Roads as speedily as possible,'' Worden wrote Secretary of the Navy Welles, ''whilst the fine weather lasts, I have been taken in tow by the tug [Seth Low]."
Commander Semmes, C.S.S. Sumter, wrote J. M. Mason, Confederate Commissioner in London, it is quite manifest that there is a combination of all the neutral nations against us in this war and that in consequence we shall be able to accomplish little or nothing outside of our own waters. The fact is, we have got to fight this war out by ourselves, unaided, and that, too, in our own terms . . . The foreign intervention so much hoped for by the Confederacy was in large measure forestalled by the impressive series of Union naval successes and the effectiveness of the blockade.
U.S.S. Pursuit, Acting Lieutenant David Cate, captured schooner Anna Belle off Apalachicola, Florida.
8 Ironclad C.S.S. Virginia, Captain Buchanan, destroyed wooden blockading ships U.S.S. Cumberland and U.S.S. Congress in Hampton Roads. Virginia, without trials or under way-training, headed directly for the Union squadron. She opened the engagement when less than a mile distant from Cumberland and the firing became general from blockaders and shore batteries. Virginia rammed Cumberland below the waterline and she sank rapidly, "gallantly fighting her guns," Buchanan reported in tribute to a brave foe, "as long as they were above water. Buchanan next turned Virginia's fury on Congress, hard aground, and set her ablaze with hot shot and incendiary shell. The day was Virginia's but it was not without loss. Part of her ram was wrenched off and left imbedded in the side of stricken Cumberland, and Buchanan received a wound in the thigh which necessitated his turning over command to Lieutenant Catesby ap R. Jones. Secretary of the Navy Mallory wrote to President Davis of the action: "The conduct of the Officers and men of the squadron . . . reflects unfading honor upon themselves and upon the Navy. The report will be read with deep interest, and its details will not fail to rouse the ardor and nerve the arms of our gallant seamen. It will be remembered that the Virginia was a novelty in naval architecture, wholly unlike any ship that ever floated; that her heaviest guns were equal novelties in ordnance; that her motive power and obedience to her helm were untried, and her officers and crew strangers, comparatively, to the ship and to each other; and yet, under all these disadvantages, the dashing courage and consummate professional ability of Flag Officer Buchanan and his associates achieved the most remarkable victory which naval annals record.''
U.S.S. Monitor, Lieutenant Worden, arrived in Hampton Roads at night. The stage was set for the dramatic battle with C.S.S. Virginia the following day. ' Upon the untried endurances of the new Monitor and her timely arrival,'' observed Captain Dahlgren, ''did depend the tide of events. . . "
Flag Officer Foote's doctor reported on the busy commander's injury received at Fort Donelson where, as always, he was in the forefront: ''Very little, if any, improvement has taken place in consequence of neglect of the main [requirements] of a cure, viz, absolute rest and horizontal position of the whole extremity."
U.S.S. Bohio, Acting Master W. D. Gregory, captured schooner Henry Travers off Southwest Pass, mouth of the Mississippi River.
9 Engagement lasting four hours took Place between U.S.S. Monitor, Lieutenant Worden, and C.S.S. Virginia, Lieutenant Jones, mostly at close range in Hampton Roads. Although neither side could claim clear victory, this historic first combat between ironclads ushered in a new era of war at sea. The blockade continued intact, but Virginia remained as a powerful defender of the Norfolk area and a barrier to the use of the rivers for the movement of Union forces. Severe damage inflicted on wooden-hulled U.S.S. Minnesota by Virginia during an interlude in the fight with Monitor underscored the plight of a wooden ship confronted by an ironclad. The broad impact of the Monitor-Virginia battle on naval thinking was summarized by Captain Levin M. Powell of U.S.S. Potomac writing later from Vera Cruz: ''The news of the fight between the Monitor and the Merrimack has created the most profound sensation amongst the professional men in the allied fleet here. They recognize the fact, as much by silence as words, that the face of naval warfare looks the other way now and the superb frigates and ships of the line. . . supposed capable a month ago, to destroy anything afloat in half an hour . . . are very much diminished in their proportions, and the confidence once reposed in them fully shaken in the presence of these astounding facts." And as Captain Dahlgren phrased it: ''Now comes the reign of iron and cased sloops are to take the place of wooden ships."
Naval force under Commander Godon, consisting of U.S.S. Mohican, Pocahontas, and Potomska, took possession of St. Simon's and Jekyl Islands and landed at Brunswick, Georgia. All locations were found to be abandoned in keeping with the general Confederate withdrawal from the seacoast and coastal islands.
U.S.S. Pinola, Lieutenant Crosby, arrived at Ship Island, Mississippi, with prize schooner Cora, captured in the Gulf of Mexico.
Landing party from U.S.S. Anacostia and Yankee of the Potomac Flotilla, Lieutenant Wyman, destroyed abandoned Confederate batteries at Cockpit Point and Evansport, Virginia, and found C.S.S. Page blown up.
10 Amidst the Herculean labors of lightening and dragging heavy ships through the mud of the "19 ft. bar" that turned out to be 15 feet, and organizing the squadron, Flag Officer Farragut reported: I am up to my eyes in business. The Brooklyn is on the bar, and I am getting her off. I have just had Bell up at the head of the passes. My blockading shall be done inside as much as possible. I keep the gunboats up there all the time . . . Success is the only thing listened to in his war, and I know that I must sink or swim by that rule. Two of my best friends have done me a great injury by telling the Department that the Colorado can be gotten over the bar into the river, and so I was compelled to try it, and take precious time to do it. If I had been left to myself, I would have been in before this."
Tug U.S.S. Whitehall, Acting Master William J. Baulsir, was accidentally destroyed by fire off Fort Monroe.
11 Landing party from U.S.S. Wabash, Commander C. R. P. Rodgers, occupied St. Augustine, Florida, which had been evacuated by Confederate troops in the face of the naval threat.
Two Confederate gunboats under construction at the head of Pensacola Bay were burned by Confederate military authorities to prevent their falling into Northern hands in the event of the anticipated move against Pensacola by Union naval forces.
12 Landing party under Lieutenant Thomas H. Stevens of U.S.S. Ottawa occupied Jacksonville, Florida, without opposition.
U.S.S. Gem of the Sea, Lieutenant Baxter, captured British blockade runner Fair Play off Georgetown, South Carolina.
Gunboats U.S.S. Tyler, Lieutenant Gwin, and U.S.S. Lexington, Lieutenant Shirk, engaged a Confederate battery at Chickasaw, Alabama, while reconnoitering the Tennessee River.
13 Major General John P. McCown, CSA, ordered the evacuation of Confederate troops from New Madrid, Missouri, under cover of Flag Officer Hollins' gunboat squadron consisting of C.S.S. Livingston, Polk, and Pontchartrain.
Flag Officer Foote advised Major General Halleck of the problems presented the partly armored ironclads by an attack downstream, much different difficulties than those encountered going up rivers in Tennessee: ''Your instructions to attack Island No. 10 are received, and I shall move for that purpose tomorrow morning. I have made the following telegram to the Navy Department, which you will perceive will lead me to be cautious, and not bring the boats within short range of the enemy's batteries. Generally, in all our attacks down the river, I will bear in mind the effect on this place and the other rivers, which a serious disaster to the gunboats would involve. General Strong is telegraphing Paducah for transports, as there are none at Cairo. The ironclad boats can not be held when anchored by stern in this current on account of the recess between the fantails forming the stern yawing them about, and as the sterns of the boats are not plated, and have but two 32-pounders astern, you will see our difficulty of fighting downstream effectually. Neither is there power enough in any of them to back upstream. We must, therefore, tie up to shore the best way we can and help the mortar boats. I have long since expressed to General Meigs my apprehensions about these boats' defects. Don't have my gunboats for rivers built with wheels amidships. The driftwood would choke the wheel, even if it had a powerful engine. I felt it my duty to state these difficulties, which could not be obviated, when I came here, as the vessels were modeled and partly built.''
Commander D. D. Porter reported the arrival of the morter flotilla at Ship Island, and five days later took them over the bar and into the Mississippi in preparation for the prolonged bombardment of Forts Jackson and St. Philip.
14 Joint amphibious attack under Commander Rowan and Brigadier General Burnside captured Confederate batteries on the Neuse River and occupied New Bern, North Carolina, described by Ruwan as "an immense depot of army fixtures and manufactures, of shot and shell Commander Rowan, with 13 war vessels and transports carrying 12,000 troops, departed his anchorage at Hatteras Inlet on 12 March, arriving in sight of New Bern that evening. Landing the troops, including Marines, the following day under the protecting guns of his vessels, Rowan continued close support of the Army advance throughout the day. The American flag was raised over Forts Dixie, Ellis, Thompson, and Lane on 14 Match, the formidable" obstructions in the river including torpedoes were passed by the gunboats, and troops were transported across Trent River to occupy the city. In addition to convoy, close gunfire support, and transport operations, the Navy captured two steamers, stores, munitions, and cotton, and supplied a howitzer battery ashore under Lieutenant Roderick S. McCook, USN. Wherever water reached, combined operations struck heavy blows that were costly to the Confederacy.
Flag Officer Foote departed Cairo with seven gunboats U.S.S. Louisville was soon forced to return for repairs) and ten mortar boats to undertake the bombardment of Island No. 10, which stood astride the sweep of Union forces down the Mississippi. Foote wired Major General Halleck: " . . . I consider it unsafe to move without troops to occupy No. 10 if we [naval forces] capture it . . . should we pass No. 10 after its capture, the rebels on the Tennessee side would return and man their batteries and thus shut up the river in our rear."
15 Flag Officer Foote's flotilla moved from Hickman, Kentucky, down river to a position above Island No. 10. Foote reported, "The rain and dense fog prevented our getting the vessels in position [to commence the bombardment] .
16 Union gunboats and mortar boats under Flag Officer Foote commenced bombardment of strongly fortified and strategically located Island No. 10 in the Mississippi River. After the loss of Forts Henry and Donelson, and as General Grant continued to wisely use the mobile force afloat at his disposal, the Confederates fell back on Island No. 10, concentrated artillery and troops, and prepared for an all-out defense of this bastion which dominated the river. Meanwhile, Lieutenant Gwin reported the operations of the wooden gunboats on the Tennessee River into Mississippi and Alabama where they kept constantly active: ''I reported to General Grant at Fort Foote on the 7th instant and remained at Danville Bridge, 25 miles above, awaiting the fleet of transports until Monday morning, by direction of General Grant, when, General Smith arriving with a large portion of his command, forty transports, I convoyed them to Savannah, arriving there without molestation on the 11th. The same evening, with General Smith and staff on board, made a reconnaissance of the river as high as Pittsburg. The rebels had not renewed their attempts to fortify at that point, owing to the vigilant watch that had been kept on them in my absence by Lieutenant Commanding Shirk.''
U.S.S. Owasco, Lieutenant John Guest, captured schooners Eugenia and President in the Gulf of Mexico with cargoes of cotton.
17 First elements of the Army of the Potomac under General McClellan departed Alexandria, Virginia, for movement by water to Fort Monroe and the Navy- supported Peninsular Campaign aimed at capturing Richmond. His strategy was based on the mobility, flexibility, and massed gunfire support afforded by the Union Navy's control of the Chesapeake; indeed, he was to be saved from annihilation by heavy naval guns.
U.S.S. Benton, with Flag Officer Foote on board, was lashed between U.S.S. Cincinnati and St. Louis to attack Island No. 10 and Confederate batteries on the Tennessee shore at a range of 2,000 yards. "The upper fort," Foote reported, "was badly cut up by the Benton and the other boats with her. We dismounted one of their guns . . . In the attack, Confederate gunners scored hits on Benton and damaged the engine of Cincinnati. A rifled gun burst on board St. Louis and killed or wounded a number of officers and men.
C.S.S. Nashville, Lieutenant Pegram, ran the blockade out of Beaufort, North Carolina, through the gunfire of U.S.S. Cambridge, Commander W. A. Parker, and U.S.S. Gemsbok, Lieutenant Cavendy. News of the escape of Nashville caused concern to run high in Washington. Assistant Secretary of the Navy Fox wrote Flag Officer L. M. Goldsborough: "It is a terrible blow to our naval prestige
. . . you can have no idea of the feeling here. It is a Bull Run of the Navy.''
18 U.S.S. Florida, James Adger, Sumpter, Flambeau, and Onward captured British blockade runner Emily St. Pierre off Charleston. The master and steward, left on board, overpowered prize master Josiah Stone off Cape Hatteras, recaptured the vessel, and sailed to Liverpool, England.
19 Flag Officer Foote's forces attacking Island No. 10 continued to meet with strong resistance from Confederate batteries. "This place, Island No. 10,'' Foote observed, ''is harder to conquer than Columbus, as the island shores are lined with forts, each fort commanding the one above it. We are gradually approaching . . . The mortar shells have done fine execution
Flag Officer Farragut described the noose of seapower: ''I sent over to Biloxi yesterday, and robbed the post-office of a few papers. They speak volumes of discontent. It is no use -the cord is pulling tighter, and I hope I shall he able to tie it. God alone decides the contest; but we must put our shoulders to the wheel."
20 Confederate President Davis wrote- regarding the defense of the James River approach to Richmond: "The position of Drewry's Bluff, seven or eight miles below Richmond was chosen to obstruct the river against such vessels as the Monitor. The work is being rapidly completely. Either Fort Powhatan or Kennon's Marsh, if found to be the proper positions, will be fortified and obstructed as at Drewry's Bluff, to prevent the ascent of the river by ironclad vessels. Blockading the channel where sufficiently narrow by strong lines of obstructions, filling it with submersive batteries [torpedoes], and flanking the obstructions by well protected batteries of the heaviest guns, seem to offer the best and speediest chances of protection with the means at our disposal against ironclad floating batteries.'' The Confederate Navy contributed in large part to these successful defenses that for three years resisted penetration. Naval crews proved especially effective in setting up and manning the big guns, many of which had come from the captured Navy Yard at Norfolk.
21 Major General Halleck wrote Flag Officer Foote, commenting on the Navy's operations against the Confederate batteries guarding Island No. 10: ''While I am certain that you have done everything that could be done successfully to reduce these works, I am very glad that you have not unnecessarily exposed your gunboats. If they had been disabled, it would have been a most serious loss to us in the future operations of the campaign . . . Nothing is lost by a little delay there." Foote's gunboat and mortar boat flotilla continued to bombard the works with telling effect.
22 C.S.S. Florida, Acting Master John Low, sailing as British steamer Oreto, cleared Liverpool, England, for Nassau. The first ship built in England for the Confederacy, Florida's four 7-inch rifled guns were sent separately to Nassau in steamer Bahama. Commander Bulloch, CSN, wrote Lieu-tenant John N. Maffitt, CSN: "Another ship will be- ready in about two months . . . Two small ships can do but little in the way of materially turning the tide of war, but we can do something to illustrate the spirit and energy of our people
General Lovell wrote Secretary of War Benjamin that he bad six steamers of the River Defense Fleet to protect New Orleans. Lovell added: ''The people of New Orleans thought it strange that all the vessels of the Navy should be sent up the river and were disposed to find fault with sending in addition fourteen steamers leaving this city without a single vessel for protection against the enemy Confederate officials in Richmond were convinced than the greatest threat to New Orleans would come from upriver rather than from Flag Officer Farragut's force below Forts Jackson and St. Philip.
Boat crew from U.S.S. Penguin, Acting Lieutenant T. A. Budd, and U.S.S. Henry Andrew', Acting Master Mather, was attacked while reconnoitering Mosquito Inlet, Florida. Budd, Mather, and three others were killed.
24 Lieutenant Gwin, U.S.S. Tyler, reported the typically ceaseless activity of the gunboats: ''. since my last report, dated March 21, 1 have been actively employed cruising up and down the river. The Lexington arrived this morning. The 'Tyler, accompanied by the Lexington, proceeded up the river to a point 2 miles below Eastport, Mississippi, where we discovered the rebels were planting a new battery at an elevation above water of 60 (degrees), consisting of two guns, one apparently in position. We threw several shell into it, but failed to elicit a reply. The battery just below Eastport, consisting of two guns, then opened upon us. Their shot fell short. I stood up just outside of their range and threw three or four 20 [second] shell at that battery, none of which exploded, owing to the very defective fuze (army). The rebels did not respond. I have made no regular attack on their lately constructed batteries, as they are of no importance to us, our base of operations being so much below them. I have deemed it my duty, however, to annoy them, where I could with little or no risk to our gunboats . . . The Lexington, Lieutenant Commanding Shirk, will cruise down the river from this point. The Tyler will cruise above."
U.S.S. Pensacola, towing a chartered schooner into which she had discharged guns and stores at Ship Island, arrived at the mouth of the Mississippi. She grounded and failed on four attempts to cross the bar even though water conditions were favorable and small steamships were towing her through the mud on one occasion parting a hawser that killed two men and injured others.
25 C.S.S. Pamlico, Lieutenant William G. Dozier, and C.S.S. Oregon, Acting Master Abraham L. Myers, engaged U.S.S. New London, Lieutenant Read, at Pass Christian, Mississippi. The rifled gun on board Pamlico jammed during the nearly two hour engagement, and the Confederate vessels broke off the action, neither side having been damaged in the test of the strength of Flag Officer Farragut's gathering forces. Transports with General Butler and troops arrived at Ship Island which, until Pensacola was retaken, became the principal base for operations west of Key West. Flag Officer Farragut wrote: "I am now packed and ready for my departure to the mouth of the Mississippi River . . I spent last evening very pleasantly with General Butler. He does not appear to have any very difficult plan of operations, but simply to follow in my wake and hold what I can take. God grant that may be all that we attempt . . victory. If I die in the attempt, it will only be what every officer has to expect. He who dies in doing his duty to his country, and at peace with his God, has played out the drama of life to the best advantage."
Confederate Secretary of the Navy Mallory ordered Flag Officer Tattnall to relieve the injured Flag Officer Buchanan and "take command of the naval defenses on the waters of Virginia and hoist your flag on board the Virginia."
Reports of Confederate ironclads on the river disturbed Union commanders far and wide. Major General Halleck wired Flag Officer Foote: ''It is stated by men just arrived from New Orleans that the rebels are constructing one or more ironclad river boats to send against your flotilla. Moreover, it is said that they are to be cased with railroad iron like the Merrimack. If this is so I think a single boat might destroy your entire flotilla, pass our batteries and sweep the Western rivers. Could any of your gunboats be clad in the same way so as to resist the apprehended danger? If not, how long would it require to build a new one for that purpose? I have telegraphed to the Secretary of War for authority to have any suitable boat altered or prepared; or if there be none suitable, to build a new one. As no time is to be lost, if any one of the gunboats now in service will bear this change it should be taken in preference to building a new one. I shall await your answer. Could not the Essex be so altered?" Flag Officer Foote sent Lieutenant Joseph P. Sanford, his ordnance officer, to confer with the General on the subject and replied: ''There is no vessel now in the flotilla that can be armored as you suggest. This [Benton] is the only one which could bear the additional weight of iron required and she already is so deep and wanting in steam power that it would make her utterly useless with the additional weight of iron. I suggest that a strong boat be fitted up in St. Louis and armored in fact, two vessels-in the shortest possible manner, with a view of protecting the river at Cairo, or Columbus would do better, if it was fortified with heavy guns sweeping the river below. These boats will require at least a month to be fitted up. As to the place, etc., Lieutenant Sanford will consult with you. Commander Porter of the Essex, is also in St. Louis, who is fitting out the Essex, and who will remain there for the present. He will attend to the new boats and get them ready in the shortest possible time.''
Gunboat U.S.S. Cairo, Lieutenant Bryant, seized guns and equipment abandoned by Confederate troops evacuating Fort Zollicoffer, six miles below Nashville.
Gunboat U.S.S. Cayuga, Lieutenant Harrison, captured schooner Jessie J. Cox, en route from Mobile to Havana with cargo of cotton and turpentine.
26 Flag Officer Foote, off Island No. 10, dispatched a warning to Commander Alexander M. Pennock, his fleet captain at Cairo: "You will inform the commanders of the gunboats Cairo, Tyler, and Lexington not to be caught up the river with too little water to return to Cairo. They, of course, before leaving, will consult the generals with whom they are cooperating. As it is reported on the authority of different persons from New Orleans that the rebels have thirteen gunboats finished and ready to move up the Mississippi, besides the four or five below New Madrid, and the Manassas or ram, at Memphis, the boats now up the rivers and at Columbus or Hickman, should be ready to protect Cairo or Columbus in case disaster overtakes us in our flotilla." Union commanders
in the west and elsewhere recognized how much the margin of Union superiority and the power to thrust deep into the Confederacy depended upon the gunboats, and care was exercised not to lose the effectiveness of this mobile force. Meanwhile, greatly concerned about threats of Confederate naval ironclads, Secretary of War Stanton wired the President of the Board of Trade at Pittsburg: "This Department desires the immediate aid of your association in the following particulars 1st. That you would appoint three of its active members most familiar with steamboat and engine building who would act in concert with this Department and under its direction, and from patriotic motives devote some time and attention for thirty days in purchasing and preparing such means of defense on the Western waters against ironclad boats as the engineers of this Department may devise . . My object is to bring the energetic, patriotic spirit and enlightened, practical judgment of your city to aid the Government in a matter of great moment, where hours must count and dollars not be squandered."
Two armed boats from U.S.S. Delaware, Lieutenant Stephen P. Quackenbush, captured schooners Albemarle and Lion at the head of Panzego Creek, North Carolina.
27 Secretary of 'vat Stanton instructed Engineer Charles Ellet, Jr., '' You will please proceed immediately to Pittsburg, Cincinnati, and New Albany and take measures to provide steam rams for defense against ironclad vessels on the "'Western waters.'' The next day he wired Ellet at Pittsburg: "General [James K.] Moorhead has gone to Pittsburg to aid you and put you in communication with the committee there. The rebels have a ram at Memphis. Lose no time.'' Later Stanton described the Ellet rams to General Halleck: ''They are the most powerful steamboats, with upper cabins removed, and bows filled in with heavy timber. It is not proposed to wait for putting on iron. This is the mode in which the Merrimack will be met. Can you not have something of the kind speedily prepared at St. Louis also?''
Armed boat expedition from U.S.S. Restless Acting Lieutenant Conroy, captured schooner Julia Worden off South Carolina, with cargo of rice for Charleston, and burned sloop Mart Louisa and schooner George Washington.
Flag Officer Du Pont reported to Secretary of the Navy Welles that Confederate batteries on Skiddaway and Green Islands, Georgia, had been withdrawn and placed nearer Savannah, giving Union forces complete control of Wassaw and Ossabaw Sounds and the mouths of the Vernon and Wilmington Rivers, important approaches to the city.
28 Commander Henry H. Bell reported a reconnaissance in U.S.S. Kennebee of the Mississippi River and Forts Jackson and St. Philip. He noted that the "two guns from St. Philip reached as far down the river as any from Jackson" and called attention to the obstruction, "consisting of a raft of logs and eight hulks moored abreast," across the river below St. Philip. Scouting missions of this nature enabled Flag Officer Farragut to make the careful and precise plans which ultimately led to the successful passage of the forts and the capture of New Orleans.
Lieutenant Stevens reported his return to Jacksonville with a launch and cutter from U.S.S. Wabash and steamers U.S.S. Darlington and Ellen after raising yacht America which had been found sunk by the Confederates earlier in the month far up St. John's River, Florida. Stevens reported that it was "generally believed she was bought by the rebels for the purpose of carrying Slidell and Mason to England."
29 U.S.S. R. R. Cuyler, Lieutenant F. Winslow, captured blockade running schooner Grace E. Baker off the coast of Cuba.
Boat under command of Acting Master's Mate Henry Eason from U.S.S. Restless, captured schooner Lydia and Mary with large cargo of rice for Charleston, and destroyed an unnamed schooner in Santee River, South Carolina.
30 Flag Officer Foote ordered Commander Henry Walke, U.S.S. Carondelet.' "You will avail yourself of the first fog or rainy night and drift your steamer down past the batteries, on the Tennessee shore, and Island No. 10 . . . for the purpose of covering General Pope's army while he crosses that point to the opposite, or to the Tennessee side of the river, that he may move his army up to Island No. 10 and attack the rebels in the rear while we attack them in front." Five days later Walke made his heroic dash past Island No. 10 to join the Army at New Madrid.