Civil War Naval History
1 As the month of March opened, General Grant was preparing for a massive spring attack against General Lee's lines defending Richmond. Throughout the North optimism ran high and the feeling prevailed that the offensive would be the final thrust and that Grant would take Richmond. It was widely believed that the Confederacy was on the threshold of defeat. Since the beginning of the new year Charleston and Wilmington had fallen, sealing off the South from the sustaining flow of supplies from Europe. Moreover, General Sherman's army had devastated the heart of the Confederacy in its march through Georgia and South Carolina; by the end of Feb-ruary Sherman was preparing to enter North Carolina. The Union's confidence was further fed by the wide spread knowledge that General Lee and Confederate officials were openly grappling with the problem of desertions. During the winter these had become considerable as men became concerned about their families in areas invaded by the Union armies. Finally, Lee further revealed his hardpressed position by appealing to the civilian population to search their households for any spare guns, cutlasses, equestrian gear and tools.
The Southern spirit, on the other hand, remained unshaken by what was regarded in the North as portents of defeat. The Richmond Daily Examiner editorialized on March 1: "We cannot help thinking that 'our friends, the enemy,' are a little premature in assuming the South to be at their feet. There are Southern armies of magnitude in the field, and Richmond, the capitol, is more impregnable at this hour than it has been at any period of the war."
A week later the Richmond Daily Dispatch expressed its confidence in the Confederate cause by comparing the South's position in the spring of 1865 with that of the American patriots in 1781. "In the American Revolution," wrote the editor, "three-fourths of the battles were gained by the British [and they] held all the major seaports and cities. They marched through South Carolina, precisely as Sherman is doing now. . . . They had the most powerful empire in the world at their back; had the aid of armed tories in every county; they excited the blacks to insurrection; and let loose the scalping knife of the Indian. . . . What is there in our condition as gloomy, as terrible, as protracted, as the long and dreary wilderness through which they marched to freedom and independence?"
President Jefferson Davis sent a Resolution adopted by the Confederate Congress to Mr. John Lancaster of England thanking him for his gallant and humane conduct in the rescue of Captain Raphael Semmes and 41 of his officers and men after the sinking of C.S.S. Alabama by U.S.S. Kearsarge (see 19 June 1864). It was particularly gratifying to the Confederacy that Lancaster's yacht Deerhound had sailed for England with the rescued Confederates rather than turning them over to Kearsarge as would have been customary under international law. This incident became even more galling for the Union Navy after Semmes and his officers were socially lionized during their stay in England.
Rear Admiral Dahlgren, upon receiving the report that his naval forces had occupied Georgetown, South Carolina, decided to proceed there and have a personal "look at things." Me inspected the formidable but evacuated Fort White and the four companies of marines which held George-town. This date, Dahlgren's flagship Harvest Moon was steaming down Georgetown Bay enroute Charleston; the Admiral was awaiting breakfast in his cabin. "Suddenly, without warning," Dahlgren wrote in his diary, "came a crashing sound, a heavy shock, the partition between the cabin and wardroom was shattered and driven in toward me, while all loose articles in the cabin flew in different directions. . . . A torpedo had been struck by the poor old Harvest Moon, and she was sinking." The flagship sank in five minutes, but fortunately only one man was lost. The Admiral got off with only the uniform he was wearing.
Because of the loss of Charleston and Wilmington, Secretary Mallory directed Commander Bulloch, the regular agent of the Confederate Navy in England, to dispose of the deep draft steamers Enter-prise and Adventure and to substitute for them two light draft vessels for use in the small inlets along the East coast of Florida. He wrote: "We can not ship cotton at present, but with light-draft vessels we could at once place cotton abroad. Moreover, we need them to get in our supplies now at the islands, and the want of which is seriously felt.'' Mallory added: ''We are upon the eve of events fraught with the fate of the Confederacy, and without power to foresee the re-sult. . . . The coming campaign will be in active operation within fifty days and we can not close our eyes to the dangers which threaten us and from which only our united and willing hearts and arms and the providence of God can shield us. We look for no aid from any other source.
The capture of ports on the Confederate coast injured the South and aided the North in many ways throughout the war. One was the availability to the Union Navy of nearby "advance bases" for operations and repairs. This date, Commander William H. Macomb, writing Rear Admiral Porter from the North Carolina Sounds, reported the arrival of U.S.S. Shokokon, Acting Lieutenant Francis Josselyn, at Plymouth. "She arrived yesterday," he wrote, "and I sent her to New Berne to have her decks shored up and breeching bolts fitted for her IX-inch guns."
2 In an effort to avoid capture by an armed boat from U.S.S. Fox, the crew of the blockade runner Rob Roy, from Belize, Honduras, ran her ashore and fired her in Deadman's Bay, Florida. The cargo removed from the blazing wreck consisted of cavalry sabers and farming and mechanical implements.
The steamer Amazon, "quite recently used as a rebel transport," surrendered to U.S.S. Pontiac, Lieutenant Commander Luce, on the Savannah River. Amazon was carrying a cargo of cotton when she was given up by David R. Dillon, her owner.
On this date the Chattanooga Gazette carried an account of the capture on the Tennessee River of a Confederate torpedo boat, accessory equipment, and a nine man party. The expedition had been organized in Richmond in early January and had gone by rail to Bristol, Tennessee, where a boat was obtained and launched in the Holston River. Its mission was to destroy Union commerce and key bridges on the Tennessee River. The expedition was captured near Kingston, Tennessee, by a local group of armed civilians. With little means the South sought desperately to strike at the Union stranglehold.
Because of difficulties in communications, small fast warships (often captured blockade runners) were in great demand for courier Service. This date Assistant Secretary Fox wrote President Lincoln from Norfolk: "General Grant would like to see you and I shall be in Washington to-morrow morning with this vessel, the Bat, in which you can leave in the afternoon. She is a regular armed man-of-war, and the fastest vessel on the river. I think it would be best for you to use her."
Bat was a long, low sidewheeler which Commander Bulloch, CSN, had built in England. She fell victim in October 1864 to the concentrated blockaders off Wilmington as she made her first run with supplies for the Confederate Government. Bought by the Navy from the Boston Prize Court for $150,000, she was commissioned in mid-December 1864 and was in great demand because of her high speed.
3 General Sherman's large army, marching parallel to the coast from Columbia in order to keep sea support near at hand, steadily approached Fayetteville, N.C. The Navy continued to clear Cape Fear River of torpedoes and obstructions so as to provide him with a base at Wilmington for sea supply comparable to Savannah. As the river was cleared light draft gunboats bumped up the river to be ready to open communications. This date Lieutenant Commander Ralph Chandler, U.S.S. Lenapee, reported to Lieutenant Commander George W. Young, Senior Naval Officer at Wilmington: "In obedience to your order of the 1st instant, I got underway with this vessel on the 2d instant and proceeded up the North West Branch to a point where the Cape Fear River forms a junction with the Black River. The bends in the river I found too short to attempt to get the vessel higher without carrying away the wheelhouses and otherwise damaging the ship. I remained there until 1 o'clock p.m. to-day. During the night some negroes came down, and, on questioning them, they informed me that they had been told that General Sherman's forces were at a town called Robeson, 20 miles from Fayetteville."
U.S.S. Glide, Acting Master L.S. Fickett, captured schooner Malta in Vermilion Bayou, Louisiana, with cargo of cotton on board.
U.S.S. Honeysuckle, Acting Master James J. Russell, sighted the sloop Phantom as she attempted to enter the Suwannee River on the west coast of Florida. An armed boat from the ship overhauled and captured the blockade runner and her cargo of bar iron and liquors.
3-4 A naval squadron consisting of twelve steamers and four schooners commanded by Commander R.W. Shufeldt joined with Army troops under Brigadier General John Newton in a joint expedition directed against St. Marks Fort below Tallahassee, Florida. Although the expedition was not successful, in part because shallow water prevented the naval guns from approaching the Fort, the ships did succeed in crossing the bar and blockading the mouth of the St. Marks River, thus effectively preventing access to the harbor.
4 Major General E. R. S. Canby requested mortar boats from Rear Admiral S. P. Lee's Mississippi Squadron to participate in impending joint operations against the city of Mobile. Admiral Lee made the mortar boats available from Mound City naval station.
U.S. transport Thorn struck a torpedo below Fort Anderson in the Cape Fear River. Brigadier General Gabriel J. Rains, Superintendent of the Confederate Torpedo Corps and a pioneer in the development of torpedoes, reported: "The vessel sunk, as usual in such cases, in two minutes, but in this the crew escaped, but barely with their lives." The loss of the 400 ton Army steamer within two weeks of the damage to U.S.S. Osceola and destruction of a launch from U.S.S. Shawmut by torpedoes (see 222 February 1865) underscored the fact that although the Union controlled the waters below Wilmington it did not have complete freedom of movement. The presence-or even the suspected presence-of Confederate torpedoes forced the Navy to move more slowly than would otherwise have been possible.
Lieutenant Moreau Forrest, in his flagship U.S.S. General Burnside and accompained by U.S.S. General Thomas, Master Gilbert Morton, led a Tennessee River expedition which followed the course of that river across the state of Alabama. At Mussel Shoals the naval force attacked and dispersed the encampment of Confederate General Philip D. Roddey and captured horses, military equip-ment and cotton. Forrest then proceeded to Lamb's Ferry where he destroyed Confederate com-munications and transportation facilities. He also destroyed numerous barges, boats and scows encountered along the course of the river. Finally, Forrest penetrated the Elk River, deep into the state of Tennessee, where he "found a rich and populous country" in which "a great deal of loyal sentiment was displayed".
4-5 Spring floods in the James River made it possible for the heavy draft Confederate ironclads to strike at City Point, as they had attempted to do in January, or for the Union monitors to drive upstream. On 3 March Secretary Welles had asked Captain Oliver S. Glisson, senior naval officer at Hampton Roads, if ironclads Montauk and Monadnock had reported to him. "When they arrive," he directed impatiently, "send them up James River immediately." On the evening of the 4th General Grant, hoping to take advantage of the rising water, wired Assistant Secretary Fox: "The James River is very high, and will continue so as long as the weather of the past week lasts. It would be well to have at once all the ironclads that it is intended should come here [City Point]." Within half an hour of the arrival of Grant's message at the Navy Department, Secretary Welles ordered Glisson: "Send off a steamer to Cape Fear River to bring the Montauk, ironclad, to James River immediately, and let the same steamer go with great dispatch to Charles-ton to bring up two ironclads from there; all for James River."
The next morning, 5 March, Glisson replied to the Secretary: "Your telegram was received this morning at fifteen minutes after midnight; blowing a gale of wind at the time. U.S.S. Aries sailed at daylight this morning. The monitors are expected every moment from Cape Fear, and I shall send them up the river immediately."
One of the monitors from the southern stations, U.S.S. Sangamon, arrived in Hampton Roads that afternoon and sped up the James- a quick response to Grant's request. Within several days three additional monitors joined the squadron in the James River.
5 Landing party from U.S.S. Don under Acting Ensign McConnell destroyed a large boat in Pass-patansy Creek, Maryland, after a brief skirmish with a group of Colonel Mosby's raiders. Com-mander F.A. Parker, commanding the Potomac Flotilla, reported that the boat was "a remarkably fine one, painted lead color, and capable of holding fifty men. It had been recently brought from Fredericksburg, and its rowlocks carefully muffled for night service. Five boxes of tobacco were found near the boat, which I have distributed to the captors."
6 Commodore F. A. Parker ordered Lieutenant Commander Edward Hooker to take U.S.S. Commodore Read, Yankee, Delaware, and Heliotrope up the Rappahannock River to cooperate with an Army detachment in conducting a raid near Fredericksburg, Virginia. Parker cautioned: ". . . you will be particularly careful in looking out for torpedoes; having all narrow channels and shoal places carefully swept by the small boats kept in advance of the flotilla. At points where tor-pedoes may be exploded from the shore, you will land flanking parties, and you are to shell as usual all heights.
U.S.S. Jonquil, Acting Ensign Charles H. Hanson, was damaged by a torpedo while clearing the Ashley River, near Charleston, of obstructions and frame torpedoes. Jonquil had secured three torpedoes while dragging the Ashley that day. Hanson reported: "I hooked on to the log which had the fourth one on, but the log came up with the end, not having the torpedo on. I hoisted it to the bows of the steamer and started for shore. On shoaling the water, the torpedo being down struck the bottom and exploded directly under and about amidships of the steamer. Its force was so great as to raise the boilers 5 inches from their bed and knocked nine men overboard and completely flooded the vessel." Hanson added that the explosion took place in ten feet of water and "had it been any shoaler the vessel would have been entirely destroyed." Jonquil's hull, however, was not materially damaged" and she resumed dragging operations again the next day.
7 Lieutenant Commander Hooker, commanding a naval squadron consisting of U.S.S. Commodore Read, Yankee, Delaware, and Heliotrope, joined with an Army unit in conducting a raid at Hamilton's Crossing on the Rappahannock River six miles below Fredericksburg. Hooker reported that the expedition succeeded in "burning and destroying the railroad bridge, the depot, and a portion of the track....; also the telegraph line was cut and the telegraphic apparatus brought away. A train of twenty-eight cars, eighteen of them being principally loaded with tobacco, and an army wagon train were also captured and burned. A considerable number of mules were captured and some thirty or forty prisoners taken. A mail containing a quantity of valuable information was secured." Throughout the war, rivers were avenues of strength for the North, highways of destruction to the South, which enabled warships and joint expeditions to thrust deep into the Confederacy.
Rear Admiral Porter testified before Congress. He had arrived in Washington the day after the Inaugural, having left his flagship off North Carolina on the 3rd. He scorched the congressional walls with some seagoing comments on Generals Banks and Butler. He then left town for City Point to direct the operations of the James River Squadron in coordination with Grant's final assault on Lee's lines.
7-8 U.S.S. Chenango, Lieutenant Morris, conducted a reconnaissance mission up the Black River from Georgetown, South Carolina, for a distance of some 45 miles. Morris reported that: "Upon reaching the vicinity of Brown's Ferry [a company of Confederate cavalry] opened upon us from behind a levee or bluff with rifles. We immediately responded with broadside guns and riflemen stationed in the tops.
10 Lieutenant Commander Young reported to Porter progress in clearing Cape Fear River for support of Sherman's army now near Fayetteville. Only small ships or steam launches could provide upriver service. "The gate obstructions are all clear, so that three or four vessels can pass abreast. The obstructions on the line of the two sunken steamers, where the buoy flags were planted, it will be necessary to take great pains to raise carefully. We have succeeded in destroying some four torpedoes which were found lodged in the logs of the obstructions."
One of Young's gunboats had noted that upriver "the stream is very narrow and tortuous, with a strong current. Finding that I could not make the turns without using hawsers, and then fouling paddle boxes and smokestack in the branches of large trees, I concluded to return. The people, white and black, whom I questioned, State that the Chickamauga is sunk across the stream at Indian Wells, with a chain just below. Her two guns are on a bluff on the western bank of the river." Operating conditions on these low, shallow rivers, often backed by swamp and forest, had many similarities with those encountered 100 years later in South Vietnam by the U.S. Navy Advisory group.
The Federals had long held New Bern, 80 air miles northeast of Wilmington (but some three times that by water), near where the Neuse River abruptly narrows from a main arm of Pamlico Sound. The city was the gateway for another supply route from the sea on General Sherman's route North to unite with Grant. This date, at the request of the Army, a small naval force got underway up the river to cut a pontoon bridge the Confederates were reported building below Kinston.
11 The steamer Ajax put into Nassau. Lieutenant Low, who had been on board as a "passenger assumed command, and on 25 March transferred her registry. Governor Rawson W. Rawson of Bermuda carefully examined the ship and concluded that "nothing [was] found on her. . . ." She now appears to be intended for a tug. It is suspected that she was intended as a tender to the Confederate Iron-clad vessel [Stonewall], said to be now in a Spanish Port, watched by two Federal cruisers." By early April Ajax was ready to sail for Bermuda.
11-12 Lieutenant Commander George W. Young, senior officer present off Wilmington, led a naval force consisting of U.S.S. Eolus and boat crews from U.S.S. Maratanza, Lenapee, and Nyack up the Cape Fear River to Fayetteville, where the expedition rendezvoused with General Sherman's army. The naval movement had been undertaken at the request of Major General Terry, who, Young reported, had said on the morning of the 11th "that he was about starting an expedition up the North West Branch [of the Cape Fear River] for the purpose of clearing the way to Fayetteville, and wished to have one of the gunboats, as a support, to follow." The expedition was halted for the night at Devil's Bend because of "the circuitous nature of the river", but resumed the next morning and arrived at Fayetteville on the evening of the 12th. In addition to opening communications between Sherman and the Union forces on the coast the naval units arrived in time to protect the General's flank while he crossed the river.
12 At the request of Brigadier General Schofield, Acting Master H. Walton Grinnell, leading a de-tachment of four sailors, succeeded in delivering important Army dispatches to General Sherman near Fayetteville. Grinnell and his men began their trip on the 4th in a dugout from Wilmington. About 12 miles up the Cape Fear River, after passing through the Confederate pickets undetected, the men left the boat and commenced a tedious and difficult march towards Fayetteville. Near Whiteville, Grinnell impressed horses and led a daring dash through the Confederate lines. Shortly thereafter, the group made contact with the rear scouts of Sherman's forces, successfully completing what Grinnell termed "this rather novel naval scout." Naval support, no matter what form it took, was essential to General Sherman's movements.
U.S.S. Althea, Acting Ensign Frederic A. G. Bacon, was sunk by a torpedo in the Blakely River, Alabama. The small 72-ton tug had performed duties as a coaling and supply vessel since joining the West Gulf Blockading Squadron in August 1864. She was returning from an unsuccessful attempt to drag the river's channel when she "ran afoul of a torpedo". Althea went down "im-mediately" in 10 to 12 feet of water. Two crewmen were killed and three, including Bacon, were injured. Althea had the dubious distinction of being the first of seven vessels to be sunk by torpedoes near Mobile in a five week period. The Confederate weapons took an increasing toll of Union ships as they swept for mines and pressed home the attack in shallow waters. Althea was later raised and recommissioned in November 1865.
U.S.S. Quaker City, Commander William F. Spicer, captured blockade running British schooner R.H. Vermilyea in the Gulf of Mexico with cargo of coffee, clothes, rum, tobacco, and shoes.
13 Commander Rhind, Senior Naval Officer at New Bern, reported to Commander Macomb, command-ing in the North Carolina sounds, that the expedition up the Neuse River had returned the previous evening. "A deserter from a North Carolina regiment came on board the [Army steamer] Ella May yesterday morning. He states that the whole rebel force under Bragg (estimated by him at 40,000) had evacuated Kinston, moving toward Goldsboro, but that Hoke's division returned when he left. The ironclad [Neuse] is afloat and ready for service; has two guns, draws 9 feet. No pontoon was found in the Neuse. If you can send me a torpedo launch at once he may have an opportunity of destroying the ironclad. The bridge (railroad) at Kinston has been destroyed by the enemy.
General Johnston, recalled to duty, had been sent to North Carolina to oppose General Sherman. Troops withdrawn from Kinston were part of his consolidation of divided armies seeking to gain a force of respectable size to fight effectively against Sherman's large army. The withdrawal, however, left a vacuum which the Federals promptly filled. They occupied Kinston on the 14th; meanwhile the Confederates had destroyed the ram Neuse to prevent her capture.
Lieutenant Commander hooker led a naval expedition, consisting of the U.S.S. Commodore Read, Morse, Delaware, and Army gunboat Mosswood, up the Rappahannock River to assist an Army detachment engaged in mopping-up operations on the peninsula formed by the Rappahannock and Potomac Rivers. At Rappahannock, a landing party from Delaware, Acting Master Joshua H. Eldridge, destroyed eight boats including a large flatboat used as a ferry. The bridge connecting Rappahannock with evacuated Fort Lowry was then destroyed by the well directed gunfire from Delaware and Morse, Acting Master George NV. Hyde. During these operations the squadron exchanged fire for two hours with two rifled field pieces concealed in a wooded area. The vessels also opened on Confederate cavalry units in the vicinity and, Hooker reported, "emptied some of their saddles."
14 Having dispatched a large number of troops to White House, Virginia, General Grant requested the Navy to send additional gunboats into the York and Pamunkey Rivers "to keep open free navigation between White House and the mouth of York River." Commodore Radford replied at once: "Will send vessels required immediately." U.S.S. Shawmut and Commodore Morris were detailed for this duty which, like control of the waters of the James, assured the Army of rapid communications and logistic support.
U.S.S. Wyandank, Acting Lieutenant Sylvanus Nickerson, seized schooner Champanero off Inigoes Creek in Chesapeake Bay. The Federal Customs Office at Port of St. Mary's had cleared the schooner and endorsed the accuracy of its manifest. Nickerson alertly examined the cargo and found more than one half of it not manifested, including a large quantity of powder. He also discovered that the customs official who had signed the clearance had $4,000 worth of liquor and other readily salable merchandise on board.
15 Rear Admiral S. P. Lee, commanding the Mississippi Squadron, warned of the receipt from "the highest military sources" of the information" that the rebel Navy is reported to have been relieved from duty on the Atlantic coast and sent to operate on the Western rivers." He added: "The design of the enemy is believed to be to interfere with the naval vessels and the transports on these rivers, or to cover the transfer of rebel troops from the west side of the Mississippi.''
Acting Lieutenant Robert P. Swann, U.S.S. Lodona, reported to Rear Admiral Dahlgren that he had destroyed an extensive salt work on Broro Neck, McIntosh County, Georgia. Destroyed were 12 boilers, 10 buildings, 100 bushels of salt, a large quantity of timber and a number of new barrels and staves.
16 Major General Canby requested Rear Admiral Thatcher to provide naval gunfire and transport support to the landing and movement of Federal troops against Mobile. The response again demonstrated the close coordination with ground operations which was so effective throughout the conflict; Thatcher replied: ''I shall be most happy and ready to give you all the assistance in my power. Six tinclads are all the light-draft vessels at my disposal. They will be ready at any moment.
U.S.S. Pursuit, Acting Lieutenant William R. Browne, captured British schooner Mary attempting to run the blockade into Indian River on the East Coast of Florida. Her cargo consisted of shoes, percussion caps, and rum.
U.S.S. Quaker City, Commander Spicer, captured small blockade running sloop Telemico in the Gulf of Mexico with cargo of cotton and peanuts.
16-18 A naval expedition, led by Lieutenant Commander Thomas H. Eastman, consisting of the U.S.S Don, Stepping Stones, Heliotrope and Resolute, proceeded up the Rappahannock River and its tribu-tary, Mattox Creek, to the vicinity of Montrose, Virginia, where it destroyed a supply base that had been supporting Confederate guerrillas on the peninsula between the Rappahannock and Potomac Rivers. Eastman led a landing force of 70 Marines and sailors up the right fork of Mattox Creek where he found and destroyed four boats. The landing party, led by Acting Ensign William H. Summers, that cleared the left fork encountered heavy musket fire but successfully destroyed three schooners. Houses in the vicinity were also searched and contraband destroyed. Acting Ensign John J. Brice, who led the 40 man search party," found himself opposed by about 50 cavalry. He formed his men to receive their attack. While doing this, 8 or 10 cavalry came down on his left flank, which he drove off. The main portion, on seeing this, retired to the woods"
17 Coast Survey steamer Bibb, commanded by Charles O. Boutelle, struck a submerged torpedo in Charleston harbor, "Fortunately for us,'' Boutelle reported, ''the blow was upon the side. To this fact and the great strength of the vessel may be ascribed our escape from serious injury.'' Nevertheless, as Rear Admiral Dahlgren noted a few days later, Bibb ''was much jarred'' by the impact and required considerable repairs.
U.S.S. Quaker City, Commander Spicer, captured blockade running schooner George Burkhart in the Gulf of Mexico with cargo of cotton, bound from Lavaca, Texas for Matamoras, Mexico.
U.S.S. Wyalusing,, Lieutenant Commander Earl English, while engaged in clearing and opening the tributaries of Albemarle Sound, removed 60 nets and captured a Confederate schooner in Scuppernong and Alligator Rivers.
19 U.S.S. Massachusetts, Acting Lieutenant William H. West, struck a torpedo in Charleston harbor; ''fortunately,'' West reported, ''it did not explode.'' The incident took place only two days after Coast Survey steamer Bibb had been damaged by a torpedo in the harbor and occurred within 50 yards of the wreck of U.S.S. Patapsco, which had been sunk by a torpedo two months before (see 15 January 1865). The danger to those attempting to clear torpedoes from the waters previously controlled by the South was constant, as was the risk to ships that were simply operating in these waters.
20 Commander Macomb, U.S.S. Shamrock, reported the successful raising of the Confederate ram Albemarle. The formidable ironclad had been sunk the previous autumn in a daring attack led by Lieutenant William B. Cushing in an improvised torpedo boat (see 27 October 1864).
21 C.S.S. Stonewall, Captain T. J. Page, having been detained in Ferrol, Spain, for several days because of foul weather, attempted to put to sea. However, the seas outside were still too heavy and the ironclad put back into port. Two days later another attempt to get to sea was made with similar results. Page off-loaded some 40 tons of coal to make her more seaworthy.
Lieutenant Commander Arthur R. Yates, commanding U.S.S. J.P. Jackson, in Mississippi Sound, reported to Rear Admiral Thatcher that he had issued food from his ship's stores to relieve the destitute and starving condition of people in Biloxi, cut off from Mobile from which provisions had been formerly received. Yates illustrated the humanitarian heritage of the Navy.
The heavy guns of Union gunboats supported the landing of troops of General Canby's command at Dannelly's Mills on the Fish River, Alabama. This was a diversionary operation intended to prevent the movement of additional Confederate troops to Mobile during the week prior to the opening of the Federal attack against that city.
22 Assistant Secretary Fox directed Commodore Montgomery, Commandant of the Washington Navy Yard, to have U.S.S. Bat ready to convoy steamer River Queen at noon the next day: "The Presi-dent will be in the River Queen, bound to City Point." Lincoln was headed for a conference with his top commanders. In a hard fought battle (19-22 March), General Sherman had just defeated a slashing attack by General Johnston at Bentonville, mid-way between his two river contacts with the sea at Fayetteville and Goldsboro. At Goldsboro Sherman was joined by General Schofield's army, which had been brought to Wilmington by ships. Confident of the security of his position, Sherman could leave his soldiers for a few days and take steamer Russia to City Point and the meeting with Lincoln, Grant, and Porter.
23 From the James River Rear Admiral Porter directed Commander Macomb, commanding in the North Carolina Sounds: "It seems to be the policy now to break up all trade, especially that which may benefit the rebels, and you will dispose your vessels about the sounds to capture all contraband of war going into the enemy's lines. You will stop all supplies of clothing that can by any possibility benefit a soldier; sieze all vessels afloat that carry provisions to any place not held by our troops and send them into court for adjudication. Recognize no permits where there is a prospect of stores of any kind going into rebel hands. . . . For any capture, send in prize lists and make full reports. You will see by the law (examine it carefully) that an officer is authorized to send all property 'not abandoned' into court, especially property afloat."
U.S.S. Constellation, approaching the 68th birthday of her launching and already the United States' oldest warship afloat, as she still is today, continued to serve a useful purpose in the new era of steam and iron. This date Commodore Radford reported from Norfolk to Rear Admiral Potter: "I have ordered the men transferred from the Wabash to this ship [U.S.S. Dumbarton] for the James River Flotilla on board the Constellation."
24 The heavily armed Confederate ironclad Stonewall, Captain T. J. Page, put to sea from Ferrol, Spain, after two previous attempts had been frustrated by foul weather. Page cleared the harbor at mid-morning and attempted to bring on an engagement with wooden frigate, U.S.S. Niagara and sloop-of-war Sacramento, under Commodore T. T. Craven. Sacramento was commanded by Captain Henry Walke, who had gained fame as captain of the Eads gunboat U.S.S. Carondelet in the Mississippi River campaigns. Craven kept his ships at anchor in nearby Coruna, Spain, and re-fused to accept Stonewall's challenge. Page wrote Commander Bulloch in Liverpool: "To suppose that these two heavily armed men-of-war were afraid of the Stonewall is to me incredible. . . ." However, as Craven explained to Secretary Welles: ''At this time the odds in her favor were too great and too certain, in my humble judgment, to admit of the slightest hope of being able to inflict upon her even the most trifling injury, whereas, if we had gone out, the Niagara would most undoubtedly have been easily and promptly destroyed. So thoroughly a one-sided combat! did not consider myself called upon to engage in." Craven was subsequently courtmartialed and found remiss in his duties for failing to engage Stonewall. Serving as President of this court was Vice Admiral Farragut and sitting as a member was Commodore John A. Winslow who had sunk the Confederate raider Alabama. The court sentenced Craven to two years suspension on leave pay. Secretary Welles refused to approve what he regarded as a "paid vacation" for an officer who had been found guilty and instead he restored Craven to duty.
President Lincoln visited General Grant at City Point, Virginia, arriving at this all important water-supported supply base at 9 p.m. on board the steamer River Queen. Accompanied by Mrs. Lincoln and his son Tad, he was escorted up the James River by U.S.S. Bat, Lieutenant Commander John S. Barnes. Two days later Barnes accompanied Grant and the President on a review of part of the Army of the James. General Horace Porter, serving on Grant's staff, later recalled: "Captain Barnes, who commanded the vessel which had escorted the President's steamer, was to be one of the party, and I loaned him my horse. This was a favor which was usually accorded with some reluctance to naval officers when they came ashore; for these men of the ocean at times tried to board the animal on the starboard side, and often rolled in the saddle as if there was a heavy sea on; and if the horse, in his anxiety to rid himself of a sea-monster, tried to scrape his rider off by rubbing against a tree, the officer attributed the unseaman-like conduct of the animal entirely to the fact that his steering-gear had become unshipped. . . . Navy officers were about as reluctant to lend their boats to army people, for fear they would knock holes in the bottom when jumping in, break the oars in catching crabs, and stave in the bows through an excess of modesty which manifested itself in a reluctance to give the command 'Way enough!' in time when ap-proaching a wharf."
U.S.S. Republic, Acting Ensign John W. Bennett, was dispatched up the Cape Fear River from Wilmington to check reports that detachments of General Wheeler's cavalry were operating in the area. About six miles up the river a cavalry squad was driven away with gunfire. Bennett then landed a reconnoitering party. It was learned that the mounted Confederates had broken into small squads and were plundering the country The reconnaissance party also made contact with a rear guard detachment of General Sherman's army en route to Fayetteville.
U.S.S. Quaker City, Commander Spicer, captured blockade runner Cora with cargo of lumber off Brazos Santiago, Texas.
25 General Grant wired Rear Admiral Porter that General Lee's soldiers had broken through the right of the Union's line and that he thought they would strike toward the essential James River supply base at City Point a few miles from the breakthrough. "I would suggest putting one or two gunboats on the Appomattox up as high as the pontoon bridge," he told the Admiral. Porter immediately ordered gunboats up the Appomattox River to guard the pontoon bridge "at all times. Simultaneously, U.S.S. Wilderness, Acting Master Henry Arey, was ordered up the Chickahominy River to communicate with General Sheridan, carry intelligence about any Con-federate activity along the river, and bring back dispatches from Sheridan for Grant.
Lee's attack was his last bold gamble for great stakes. Never one to submit tamely to even the most formidable odds, he sought in the surprise assault to cripple Grant's army so that the overwhelming spring attack the Federals were building up could not be launched. Lee hoped that then he could speed to North Carolina with part of his veterans, join General Johnston and crush Sherman while still holding the Richmond-Petersburg front. Had the attack gone as well in its later stages as it did in the first onslaught, he would have been within range of City Point, only some ten miles away. The wholesale destruction of the host of supply ships, mountains of stores, and vast arsenal would have ended Grant's plant for seizing Richmond that spring.
26-27 A detachment of sailors led by Acting Ensign Peyton H. Randolph of U.S.S. Benton joined troops under the command of Brigadier General B.G. Farrar in a combined expedition to Trinity, Louisi-ana, where they captured a small number of Confederate soldiers as well as horses, arms and stores.
27 Captain Stellwagen, the senior naval officer at Georgetown, South Carolina, reported to Rear Admiral Dahlgren "the return of another expedition of four days' duration up the Waccamaw River some 50 miles, to Conwayboro." Detailing the nature of one of the ceaseless naval expe-ditions in coastal and inland waters that facilitated the land campaign, Stellwagen continued: "Having heard that threats of a visit in force had been made by the guerrillas against the planta-tions and settlements, in view of which great alarm was felt on the whole route by blacks and whites, I dispatched the Mingoe, having in tow some ten armed boats, to proceed as high as Buck's Mills, and leaving it discretionary with Lieutenant-Commanders G. U. Morris and William H. Dana to proceed the remaining distance by boats or land. The arrival of the steam launch and two large row launches from the Santee [River] enabled me to follow with them, and the steam tug Catalpa determined to ascend as far as the water would permit. I found the Mingoe ashore near her destination, towed her off, and caused her to drop to a point where she could anchor. The shore expedition had gone on, and I took the remainder of boats in tow as far as practicable, then causing them to row. After incredible labor and difficulty, succeeded in getting to Conway-boro at nightfall, just after the marching division. No enemies were encountered, but it was reported many small parties fled in various directions on our approach by river and land.
''The people of the town were glad to see us; even those having relatives in the army professed their joy at being saved from the raiding deserters. They assure us that the penetration of our parties into such distances, supposed to be inaccessible to our vessels, has spread a saluatory dread, and that our large force of Catalpa, 4 large launches, and 10 boats, with about 300 men in all, at the highest point, presented such a formidable display, with 7 howitzers, that they thought they would be completely prevented [from] returning to that neighborhood."
Secretary Welles ordered U.S.S: Wyoming, Commander John P. Bankhead, then at Baltimore, to sail in search of C.S.S. Shenandoah. So delayed were communications between the Pacific and Wash-ington that although Wyoming was ordered to cruise from Melbourne, Australia, to China, Shenandoah had departed Australia more than five weeks before and was now nearing Ascension Island. Wyoming would join U.S.S. Wachusett and Iroquois on independent service in an effort to track down the elusive commerce raider.
Captain T. J. Page, C.S.S. Stonewall, wrote Commander Bulloch in England that he would sail from Lisbon, Portugal, to Teneriffe and then to Nassau where his subsequent movements "must depend upon the intelligence I may receive. . . ." That evening, U.S.S. Niagara and Sacramento, which had followed Stonewall from Coruna, Spain, entered Lisbon. The Confederate ram, how-ever, was able to put to sea the next day without interference because international law required the two Union ships to remain in port for 24 hours after Stonewall had departed.
27-28 Combined Army-Navy operations, the latter commanded by Rear Admiral Thatcher, aimed at capturing the city of Mobile commenced. The objective was Spanish Fort, located near the mouth of the Blakely River and was the key to the city's defenses. Six tinclads and supporting gun-boats steamed up the Blakely River to cut the fort's communications with Mobile while the army began to move against the fort's outworks. The river had been thickly sown with torpedoes which necessitated sweeping operations ahead of the advancing ironclads. These efforts, directed by Commander Peirce Crosby of U.S.S. Metacomet, netted 150 torpedoes. Nevertheless, a number of the Confederate weapons eluded the Union with telling results. In the next five days three Northern warships would be sunk in the Blakely.
28 Rear Admiral Porter visited President Lincoln with Generals Grant and Sherman on board steamer River Queen, the President's headquarters during his stay at City Point. The four men informally discussed the war during the famous conference, and Lincoln stressed his desire to bring the war to a close as quickly as possible with as little bloodshed as possible. He added that he was in-clined to follow a lenient policy with regard to the course to be pursued at the conclusion of the war. After the conference Sherman returned to New Bern, North Carolina, on board U.S.S. Bat, a swifter ship than the steamer on which he had arrived at City Point. Porter had ordered Lieutenant Commander Barnes: "You will wait the pleasure of Major-General W. T. Sherman, and when ready will convey him, with staff, either to New Berne, Beaufort, or such place as he may indicate. Return here as soon as possible." Sherman's troops at Goldsboro were little more than 125 miles in a direct line from the front south of Petersburg.
Following the Presidential conference on board River Queen, Rear Admiral Porter ordered Com-mander Macomb, commanding in the North Carolina Sounds, "to cooperate with General Sherman to the fullest extent" during operations soon to be opened in the area. "They will want all your tugs, particularly, to tow vessels or canal boats up to Kinston, [North Carolina].
It will be absolutely necessary to supply General Sherman by the way of Kinston." Porter continued: ''There will be a movement made from Winton after a while. It is necessary for us to get possession of everything up the Chowan River, so that Sherman can obtain his forage up there. . . I trust to Captain Rhind to remove the obstructions at New Berne and to tow up rapidly all the provisions, and General Sherman can supply his army for daily use by the railroad, and you can get up the stuff required for the march."
Commander Macomb received the Admiral's orders via the swift steamer U.S.S. Bat on 30 March, and the following day replied from Roanoke Island: ''I immediately had an interview with the general and arranged that Captain Rhind would attend to everything relating to the Navy in the Neuse. I am on my way to Plymouth to carry out your orders as regards sending vessels to Winton, on the Chowan, and holding the same. The Shokokon and Commodore Hull are on their way up from New Berne. As soon as possible after my arrival at Plymouth I shall proceed up the Chowan, dragging ahead for torpedoes." Control of the sea and rivers continued to be as invaluable to the North in operations at the end of the war as it had from the start.
U.S.S. Milwaukee, Lieutenant Commander James H. Gillis, struck a torpedo in the Blakely River, Alabama, while dropping downstream after shelling a Southern transport which was attempting to supply Spanish Fort. Just as Gillis returned to the area that had been swept for torpedoes and supposed the danger from torpedoes was past," he" felt a shock and saw at once that a torpedo had exploded on the port side of the vessel. . . ." Milwaukee's stern went under within three minutes but the forward compartments did not fill for almost an hour, enabling the sailors to save most of their belongings. Although the twin turreted monitor sank, no lives were lost.
U.S.S. Niagara, Commodore T. T. Craven, was fired upon by one of the forts in the harbor of Lisbon, Portugal. In a report to James E. Harvey, U.S. Minister Resident in Lisbon, Craven stated: ''With view of shifting her berth farther up the river, so as to be nearer the usual landing stairs, at about 3:15 p.m. the Niagara was got underway and was about being turned head upstream when three shots were fired in rapid succession directly at her from Castle Belem.'' Portugal later apologized for the incident.
Secretary Welles advised Commodore Sylvanus W. Godon that he had been appointed an acting Rear Admiral and was to command the Brazil Squadron. Welles' letter was a significant commentary on the progress of the war afloat: ''It is proposed to reestablish the Brazil Squadron, as circumstances now admit of the withdrawal of many of the vessels that have been engaged in the blockade and in active naval operations and sending them on foreign service . . . ."
29 In a downpour, General Grant launched his wideswinging move to the southwest of Petersburg to roll up Lee's flank. Ever concerned about his lifeline on the James River, he wrote Rear Admiral Porter: "In view of the possibility of the enemy attempting to come to City Point, or by crossing the Appomattox at Broadway Landing, getting to Bermuda Hundred during the absence of the greater part of the army, I would respectfully request that you direct one or two gunboats to lay in the Appomattox, near the pontoon bridge, and two in the James River, near the mouth of Bailey's Creek, the first stream below City Point emptying into the James." Porter complied with double measure, sending not one or two but several ships to Grant's assistance.
U.S.S. Osage, Lieutenant Commander William M. Gamble, upped anchor and got underway inside the bar at the Blakely River, Alabama. Gamble was trying to avoid colliding with U.S.S. Winnebago, which was drifting alongside in a strong breeze Suddenly a torpedo exploded under the monitor's bow, and, Gamble reported, "the vessel immediately commenced sinking." Osage lost four men and had eight wounded in the explosion. She was the third ship to be sunk in the Blakely during March and the second in two days as torpedo warfare cost the North dearly even though its ships controlled waters near Mobile.
30 Lieutenant Charles W. Read took command of the ram C.S.S. William H. Webb in the Red River, Louisiana. Read reported to Secretary Mallory that he found the ship "without a single gun on board, little or no crew, no fuel, and no small arms, save a few cutlasses." Characteristically, the enterprising officer obtained a 30 Pound Parrott rifle from General Kirby Smith and readied Webb for her bold dash out of the Red River, intended to take her down the Mississippi some 300 miles, past New Orleans, and out to sea.
31 St. Mary's, a 115 ton schooner out of St. Mary's, Maryland, loaded with an assorted cargo valued at $20,000, was boarded and captured off the Patuxent River in Chesapeake Bay by a Confederate raiding Party led by Master John C. Braine, CSN. The disguised Southerners were in a yawl and had come alongside the schooner on the pretext that their craft was sinking. Braine took St. Mary's to sea where they captured a New York bound schooner J. B. Spafford. The latter prize was released after the raiders had placed St. Mary's crew on board her and had taken the crew members' personal effects. The Confederates indicated to their captives that their intention was to take St. Mary's to St. Marks, Florida, but they put into Nassau in April.
U.S.S. Iuka. Lieutenant William C. Rogers, captured blockade running British schooner Comus off the coast of Florida with cargo of cotton.