Chapter 35: operations of the North Atlantic Squadron, 1863.
- Successful expedition off Yorktown and up Neuse River. -- loss of Monitor. -- gallant rescue of greater portion of Monitor's crew by the Rhode Island. -- serious loss to the government. -- operations of Lieutenant Flusser on the Chowan River. -- attack on Plymouth, N. C. -- the Southfield disabled. -- achievements of General J. G. Foster. -- Army and Navy co-operate in expedition against Goldsborough, N. C. -- Lieutenant Cushing's expedition against Wilmington pilots. -- Cushing captures a Fort and puts enemy to flight. -- other adventures. -- Lieutenant Flusser's expedition to Hertford, N. C. -- Confederates attack Fort Anderson. -- assistance rendered by gun-boats. -- enemy withdraws. -- letter of Col. Belknap. -- great havoc committed by steamer Hetzel. -- vessels dispatched to occupy Nansemond River. -- gunboats in demand. -- Lieutenant Lamson distinguishes himself at Hill's Point. -- Cushing prevents Longstreet and forces from crossing River. -- repulse of Confederates at Suffolk. -- General Getty acknowledges merit. -- the mount Washington fights her way out of mud. -- the Barney engages enemy. -- bravery of officers and men. -- noble acts. -- Lieutenant Lamson runs his vessels under enemy's guns. -- capture of Confederate artillery. -- commendation of Lamson and Cushing by Secretary Welles. -- capture and destruction of blockade-runners. -- operations in sounds of North Carolina. -- Confederates invest Washington, N. C., but compelled to retire. -- gun-boats engage and silence many batteries on Pamlico River. -- names of officers and men who received commendations. -- General spinola's testimony in regard to gallant conduct of Navy. -- Lieutenant French's expedition. -- important captures. -- General Dix evacuates West Point, covered by gun-boats. -- expeditions up North, York, and Mattapony Rivers. -- cutting out of Confederate steamer Kate from under guns of Fort Fisher. -- acts of bravery displayed. -- attempt to destroy steamer Hebe. -- Lieutenant Cushing “cuts” out and destroys blockade-runner Alexander Cooper. -- destruction of the Venus. -- Miscellaneous.
When Acting-Rear-Admiral S. P. Lee succeeded Rear-Admiral Goldsborough in the command of the North Atlantic squadron there was not much left to be done except keeping up a strict blockade of the coast and keeping the Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds under subjection. All the naval force of the enemy between Norfolk and Howlet batteries had either been destroyed or made its escape to Richmond, enabling the Navy Department to decrease the large force kept in and about Hampton Roads. From September 1st up to January there was but little of moment to report in the North Atlantic squadron, beyond the operations in the sounds of North Carolina and the naval expedition under Commander Foxhall A. Parker, off Yorktown, which proved successful, the Navy being of much service to the Army contingent under General Negley; also a successful military expedition up the Neuse River under General Foster, in which the Navy participated, with much credit to its commander, Commander Alexander Murray. On December 31st, 1862, the Government  met with a serious loss by the sinking at sea of the famous little Monitor, which had set the huge Merrimac at defiance and driven her back to Norfolk. This was not only the great actual loss of a fighting vessel, but in addition there were associations connected with this little craft which made her name dear to every Union-loving man, and it was hoped by all those who had faith in her that she might be long permitted to float the flag of the Union at her staff and become a terror to its enemies. But it seems that she was only permitted to perform the great service for which she was built, an event that made her name as famous as that of the old “Constitution,” and then she sank from sight in the depth of ocean, leaving behind her not as much of her hull as would serve to make a small memento of the past. The Monitor left Hampton Roads in tow of the U. S. steamer Rhode Island, on the 29th of December, 1862, at 2.30 P. M., with a light southwest wind, and clear, pleasant weather, with a prospect of its continuance. At 5 A. M., the next morning, a swell set in from the southward with an increase of wind from the southwest, the sea breaking over the pilot-house forward and striking the base of the turret, but not with sufficient force to break over it. But it was found that the packing of oakum under and around the base of the turret had worked out, as the Monitor pitched and rolled, and water made its way into the vessel, though for some time the bilge pumps kept her free. The wind hauled to the south, increasing all the time, the vessel towing badly and yawing about very much. By 8 P. M., the wind began to blow heavily, causing the Monitor to plunge deeply, the sea washing over and into the turret, and at times into the hawse-pipes. Commander J. P. Bankhead, of the Monitor, signalled several times to the Rhode Island to stop towing, in order to see whether that would prevent the influx of water into his vessel, but she only fell off into the trough of the sea and made matters worse, the water coming on board so rapidly that it became necessary to start the centrifugal pumps. It was quite evident to many on board that the last days of the Monitor had come unless the wind should abate and the sea go down, which did not seem at all likely; but the enthusiasm of the commander, officers and men kept them at their posts until it became necessary to signal to the Rhode Island for assistance, which was promptly given. The officers and men of the Rhode Island (Commander Stephen D. Trenchard) did not hesitate to jump into their boats in that tempestuous weather and go to the relief of their comrades. The Commander of the Monitor, in order to keep his vessel afloat as long as possible, cut the large cable by which she was towed and ran down to the Rhode Island, which enabled him to use all the pumps. Two boats reached the Monitor from the Rhode Island, and the Commander ordered Lieutenant S. Dana Green (who had been first-lieutenant during the fight with the Merrimac) to put as many of the crew in then as they would safely carry. This was a very dangerous operation, and it brought into play that cool courage which is more admirable than that shown in battle. A heavy sea was breaking entirely over the deck and there was great danger of the boats being crushed by the overhang, if not pierced by the sharp prow which was first high above the waves, then completely submerged by the crushing billows. The Rhode Island herself was in great danger, as she was lying close by and liable at any moment to be struck by the Monitor's bow.
|The Monitor lost in a gale.|