Chapter 35: operations of the North Atlantic Squadron, 1863.
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
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.
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.
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
The Monitor lost in a gale.|
The first two boat-loads safely reached the Rhode Island
amid the storm and darkness, and again returned on their mission of mercy to rescue the remaining persons, the vessel being most difficult to find in the gale.
In the meantime the captain and the remnant of his crew retired to the turret and there held on, though several of the men were washed overboard and lost.
Fortunately the vessel was on soundings, and the captain gave the order to let go an anchor in hopes it would bring the Monitor
's head to wind, and that the chain would hold her there long enough to get the crew out. At this moment the water was over the ash-pans and increasing rapidly, and the engine-room had to be abandoned.
Fortunately the Monitor
came head to wind, when the cable brought her up. By this time the vessel was filling rapidly, the deck was on a line with the water, and all the men left on the turret were ordered by
the captain to gain the deck and endeavor to reach the two boats that were again approaching.
At that time there were twenty-five or thirty men left on board.
The boats had to approach the Monitor
She was as dangerous as a reef of rocks just above the water over which the sea was breaking furiously.
Several men were washed overboard in their attempt to reach the boats, and only one of them was picked up. With great difficulty one of the boats succeeded in getting into a position where a number of the crew could get into her, but there were several persons still on the turret who would not come down, either being unmanned, or not supposing the vessel would sink so soon.
These went down in her.
The captain had done all a good officer could do to save his vessel and his crew.
He had stood at his post like a hero, helping the men into the boats, and now finding that he could be of no more use he jumped into the already deeply laden boat and shoved off, the heavy, sluggish motion of the Monitor
giving evidence that she would soon go down.
The boats had scarcely reached the Rhode Island
when the gallant little craft that had done so much to save the honor of the nation, and had by her one battle destroyed the prestige of the best fighting ships in Europe
, sank to the bottom, the wild winds howling a requiem over her resting-place!
While regrets remain that not all her crew were saved (many of whom had served in the fight with the Merrimac
), it is wonderful, considering the dangerous condition of the Monitor
, that so many were rescued.
In mustering the crew of the Monitor
, on the deck of the Rhode Island
, two officers and twelve men were found to be missing.
All honor to their memories!
Two great battles had they fought in a short time, one with the Confederate
monster, the other with the wrath of the ocean, and in both cases had they shown that indomitable courage and skill which are among the highest attributes of the American
There was no instance during the war where greater courage, skill and coolness were exhibited than on this ever — to be-remembered occasion, and it is due to the officers and men of the ill-fated Monitor
that this small tribute should be paid them for standing so manfully by the historic vessel which had added some of the greenest laurels to the fame of the American Navy
The position of the vessel on that dark and tempestuous night was enough to appall the stoutest heart, but neither officers nor men quailed before the danger which seemed to cut off all hope of rescue.
Lieutenant S. Dana Greene
and Acting-Master L. N. Stodder
stood by Commander Bankhead
to the last, and Acting-Master
's Mate Peter Williams
, and Richard Anjier
, Quartermaster, showed conduct entitling them to all praise.
The quartermaster remained at his post until the vessel was sinking, and when ordered by the captain to get into the boat, said, “No, sir, not until you do so.”
This may seem to be a long and tedious description of an event the like of which happens so often in peace or war, and frequently without grave comment; but the Monitor
was an historic vessel whose name and fame should be handed down to posterity, and as the memorable event of her great battle is known to almost every school-boy, it is but fitting that the story of her tragical end should be told also.
One of the boats of the Rhode Island
, which had been successful in taking off a load from the Monitor
was driven off by the storm and supposed to be lost.
Search was made for her all the following day, but without success, and she was given up. But, fortunately, after many perils, she was picked up by the schooner Colby
, of Buckport, Maine, and restored to the steamer Rhode Island
The poor fellows in this boat suffered great hardships, and their adventures would form by themselves an interesting chapter of incidents.
, so prominent under the command of Rear-Admiral Goldsborough
, continued to hold his reputation under Rear-Admiral Lee
He was a terror to the marauding troops of the enemy, who made a note of all his movements.
On December 9th, 1862.
he left Plymouth
to operate on the Chowan River
, leaving the Southfield
, Acting-Volunteer-Lieutenant C. F. W. Behm
, to protect the place.
He had not much more than started when the enemy appeared and commenced a heavy musketry fire from the shore.
immediately beat to quarters and trained his guns so as to command the Plymouth
shore The river-bank was lined with people flying before the Confederates
, who were firing alike on friend and foe, and it was difficult for the Southfield
to open fire, for fear of harming those citizens who had proved themselves friendly and favorable to the Union
The steamer immediately got underway and stood up the river where her guns could be brought to bear upon the enemy, who now opened upon her with their artillery, and succeeded in putting a shell through her steam-chest and filling the gangways and hold so full of hot steam that the powder-passers could not get to the magazines.
Of course, the Southfield
could no longer use her guns, and the boats had to be lowered to tow
her down the river.
In the meantime the enemy committed all the mischief possible and then decamped.
hove in sight a short time after, and taking the Southfield
in tow returned to Plymouth
, where his presence restored confidence and quiet.
Thus the Confederate
marauding parties continued, on every favorable opportunity, to molest the citizens in the sounds of North Carolina
, determined that no loyal feeling should exist among them, or, if it did, that the citizens should pay the penalty for their allegiance to the North
The mistake of the Navy Department at that moment was that it did not keep a larger force of vessels in the sounds to gain tie confidence of the inhabitants and secure them against the raids of the Confederate
One of the most energetic of the military commanders
in this neighborhood was General J. G. Foster
, who was always on the alert to circumvent the enemy in his movements.
The war in North Carolina
was not prosecuted on a scale that could accomplish any decisive results.
The military force in that region was only sufficient to keep down the Confederate
raids, which were made with forces consisting of five or six hundred men. These seldom accomplished anything beyond oppressing the inhabitants of towns along the rivers where Federal troops were stationed, covered by the gun-boats.
Notwithstanding the apparent insignificance of these small bands, if they could have united they would have driven the Federal
troops out of the country.
The difficulty of the Confederates
was that the naval vessels were always at hand, and they had received so many proofs of the effectiveness of their “batteries” that they seldom attacked the military posts except in the absence of the gun-boats.
was fully alive to the value of the naval branch of the forces, and availed himself on all occasions of its services.
In December, 1862, he planned an attack upon tie Confederate fortifications of Kinston
and the railroad at or near Goldsborough
, and asked the co-operation of the naval flotilla, at that time commanded by Commander A. Murray
The following gun-boats were assigned to this expedition: Delaware
, Acting-Volunteer-Lieutenant A. P. Foster
, Acting-Volunteer-Lieutenant T. C. Woodward
, Acting-Master G. W. Graves
, Acting-Master F. S. Wells
, and the Army transports, Ocean Wave
, Major Uliam
, E. A. McDonald
, U. S. N.; Port Royal
, Acting-Master G. B. Thompson
, U. S. N.; Wilson
. Captain Rodgers
, and North State
, Captain Berry
This flotilla left Newbern
on the evening of the 12th of December.
, Port Royal
, Ocean Wave
were in the advance, under Colonel Manchester
of the Marine Artillery
, with orders to push ahead and reconnoitre, and in case of an attack, or the discovery of the enemy's batteries, to fall back on the heavier vessels.
, in charge of the military expedition, anchored his steamers for the night and made preparations to ascend the Neuse River
At daylight next morning he got underway and with great difficulty forced his way up to within two miles of Kinston
, meeting with but slight opposition from the guerilla bands which infested that neighborhood, and only losing one man.
About two miles from Kinston
the officers of the vessels, on turning a bend, suddenly found themselves faced by a 10-gun battery, while they were penned within the river with a space of only a hundred feet in which to move their boats.
The Port Royal
, Ocean Wave
were ordered to back out, and the Allison
was interposed between them and the battery, which now opened a rapid fire.
It took some minutes to back the vessels down the river, it was so narrow.
replied to the enemy's fire with her Parrott gun, the first fire being within canister range.
Three shells were exploded within the enemy's batteries with good effect and the Confederates
It was sunset when the firing commenced, and darkness came on so rapidly that the vessels could hardly see their way, the enemy's shell exploding around them all the
received three shell in her upper works.
The vessels dropped behind the bend of the river and there anchored in double line, hay, beef, bread, etc., being packed along the sides; the guns put in battery ready for service, and bags of oats spread over the decks.
In this manner the commander of the expedition waited until daylight, in expectation of an attack from the enemy, who could move about unseen and ascertain where the flotilla was stationed.
Several attempts were made at early morn to reconnoitre the position, but the enemy were driven off by the fire of the Federal
The active force had to return down the river, owing to the falling water, and half the night was spent in hauling over the steamers that had grounded in the mud. After proceeding about five miles, Colonel Manchester
heard of a force concentrating about a mile below, with the intention of disputing his passage.
The North State
was sent ahead to ascertain the enemy's position, while the other vessels followed prepared to shell them out. A mile further on, the flotilla was attacked by sharpshooters, who kept up a galling fire during the next five miles.
At a place called Old Dam the enemy had assembled in force, with the intention of obstructing the river, and both banks seemed to be well manned with sharpshooters.
The position of the Confederates
was well chosen, as they were enabled to rake the vessels with artillery as they turned the river-bend.
The steamers now underwent a running fire from unseen foes, to which they answered as best they could with grape and canister, and with such good effect that the last gun-boat could find nothing to fire at. The distance of the gun-boats was from one to two hundred feet from the Confederates
and their guns did serious injury to them.
The vessels were much shattered by shot and falling trees, but by good luck and good management they worked their way out of the net in which they had injudiciously become entangled.
Yet these were the services in which both Army and Navy were called upon frequently to embark, where, in nine out of ten times, the loss and capture of the expedition might have been counted upon.
Fortunately, in this expedition, only two men were killed and six wounded.
says, in his report: “This expedition was partially strategic and was very successful.
The attack on the batteries and the falling-back of the light boats, the shelling of the woods, and the feint to land a force on the north bank, had the desired effect.” [!]
What the desired effect was, history does not say, and it seems to the writer that this was simply an expedition where men's lives were sacrificed without any apparent good.
The Army was frittering away its forces in these small attempts to score a point, while the true course to pursue would have been to concentrate all the troops, drive the enemy out of the State of North Carolina
, tear up the railroads leading to Richmond
, and destroy all the means of subsisting an army in the State
Though it may have been said that the Federals
held North Carolina
, yet it was by a most precarious tenure; and this section, which should in the beginning have been completely conquered, remained simply a skirmishing-ground for the contending forces throughout the war.
On January 5th the indefatigable Lieutenant Cushing
started on an expedition to capture some Wilmington
pilots, and having heard that there was a pilot station at “Little River
,” thirty miles below Fort Caswell
he made sail for that point, and reached it on the morning of January 5th, 1863.
He crossed the bar at 8 o'clock at night with twenty-five men, in three cutters, and proceeded up the river.
He was in hopes of finding pilots above and also some schooners.
About a mile from the mouth of the river the expedition received a volley of musketry from a bluff on the left.
beached his boats the moment he was fired upon, without returning the fire, and formed his men about 200 yards from the point of attack, and gave the order: “Forward — double-quick — charge
The fearless fellow never stopped to consider whether he was charging fifty men or a thousand.
It seemed immaterial to him, when his blood was up, how many of the enemy faced him; and his men, inspired by his intrepid example, followed him without hesitation.
There was a wood in front of the charging party, through which they passed, and on getting into the clearing Cushing
found himself before a fort plainly to be seen by the light of the camp-fires, which were burning freely.
Knowing that the enemy were ignorant of his numbers, he charged with the bayonet, giving three cheers, and as he went over one side of the works the enemy went out of the other.
The fort was an earthwork surrounded by a ditch ten feet wide and five deep, with a block-house inside pierced for musketry, No guns were mounted on the work.
If there had been, the daring and impetuosity of the attack would have captured them.
The enemy left in such haste that all their clothes, ammunition, stores, and the larger portion of their arms were left in the hands of the sailors, and all that could not be brought away was destroyed.
Notwithstanding that there was a possibility of the enemy returning with increased numbers, Cushing
pushed on up the river, where he met another party of Confederates, and a skirmish took place in which the sailors used up all their ammunition and had to return to their boats, with only the loss of one man.
This was not an important affair, but it is selected as showing the indomitable courage of a young officer who received a share of honor during the war that seldom falls to the lot of one holding so subordinate a position; his performances in the face of the enemy had already attracted the notice of his commander; and, finally, the Government
, having confidence in his valor and judgment, intrusted him with duties of a hazardous character, which he always performed with credit to himself.
Not to be outdone by Cushing
, that gallant and efficient officer, Lieutenant-Commander Flusser
, started on the 29th of January for Jamesville, hearing that a regiment of Confederates were fortifying that place, it being one of the best points on the river for annoying the gun-boats; and was too important a position and too near Plymouth
to allow the enemy to hold it.
On the 30th, Flusser
took on board his vessel (the Commodore Perry
) fifty soldiers of the 27th Massachusetts, under Captain Sanford
, landed them at Hertford
with about ninety sailors, marched into the country eight or ten miles, destroyed two bridges over the Purquimenous River, and returned that same night to Plymouth
Thus was cut off one of the means by which the enemy had supplied themselves with goods from Norfolk
, by the south side of the Chowan River
, enabling the Navy to guard that ford with a gun-boat; for a large amount of contraband traffic had been carried on from the Albemarle Sound
and its rivers by means of small boats which kept along the shore and could slip into the small creeks if a gun-boat hove in sight.
These little expeditions, though not very damaging to the Confederates
, showed the spirit of the naval officers and their determination to give the enemy no rest.
On the 14th of March, 1863, the Confederates
made an attack on Fort Anderson
, a work built by the Union
troops opposite Newbern
, and occupied by a regiment of volunteers.
The enemy bombarded the works with field-pieces, and kept up the fire all night.
In the morning they made a spirited attack in force, with masked batteries on the right.
The gun-boat Hunchback
and an armed schooner were brought up to strengthen the Federal
position; when Lieutenant-Commander McCann
, bringing his batteries to bear, and keeping up a well-directed fire, with the aid of the schooner, silenced the enemy's guns.
There was an intermission of an hour on the enemy's part, who made a demand for the surrender of the fort; but this was evidently to give them time to bring up more guns.
(The fort had no guns mounted.) Perceiving that their demand received no attention, they brought up fourteen more guns and renewed the attack, the Hunchback
and armed schooner throwing in their shells until the enemy drew off. Before doing so, they were attacked by the gun-boats Hetzel
, which vessels, being in a disabled condition, had to be towed into action by tugs.
The firing of the Federal
vessels was excellent, and so well aimed were their guns that the enemy was unable to use his artillery with much effect.
was only struck twice, but the schooner was placed in a sinking condition.
Had it not been for the prompt assistance rendered to Fort Anderson
by the gun boats, it would certainly have fallen into the enemy's hands.
From the fact that the Army undertook to hold several places with skeleton regiments and few or no guns, it required the utmost watchfulness on the part of the Navy to prevent disastrous results.
This affair was a surprise on the part of the Confederates
, for which the Union
troops were not at all prepared, and they thanked their stars that so watchful a friend as the Navy was at hand to succor them in their hour of need.
The Army were not unmindful of the service rendered by the Navy on this occasion, and their feeling of gratitude is well expressed by Colonel J. C. Belknap
, as follows:
The steamer Hetzel
havoc among the enemy on this occasion by the accuracy of her fire.
One of her shells struck a Parrott gun and destroyed it; bursting, it killed a number of the enemy, scattering their bones and fragments of their clothing over the ground.
The army on the Newbern
side of the river had to be lookers — on during this fight, and could give no assistance to their comrades, consequently it was altogether a naval affair; but no one doubted what the result would be when they saw the rapidity and accuracy of the naval fire.
In this action the revenue-cutter Agassiz
also took part at close quarters, embarrassing the enemy in his retreat.
As the enemy retreated, the gun-boats Lockwood
hung upon his rear for ten miles up the river, inflicting severe punishment; all these gun-boats, be it understood, being flimsy vessels, that could not encounter a moderate gale of wind at sea without danger of foundering.
This was one of the most gallant affairs that had occurred in the North Atlantic squadron since Rear-Admiral Lee
took command, and was an instance of how necessary was the aid which the Navy stood always ready to afford the other branch of the service.
Moreover, it was not an assistance that was sought by the Army, but one which the Navy anticipated by being on hand at the right moment.
In April the Confederates
seemed to be making more zealous efforts to obtain a firm footing in North Carolina
, and the naval officer in command of the Sounds
urged the commander of the North Atlantic squadron to increase his flotilla, suggesting-that, if the Army also was not re-enforced, that the Union
forces would be driven out of the State
The policy of keeping small detachments of troops at the different towns on the rivers, with the gun-boats to look after them, had no permanent effect towards bringing the State
under subjection, for the roving bands of Confederates were ever on the alert to gain some advantage over the Union
forces, which may be said to have been kept penned up under the protection of the gun boats.
About the same time the enemy seemed to be making a move upon Williamsburg, Va.
, and on the morning of April 11th they attacked that place, and commenced concentrating a heavy force on Fort Magruder, which was not far from Williamsburg
Gun-boats were immediately required by the Army to move up and down between Yorktown
and Queen's Creek
, and also to lie near Jamestown Island
Every effort was made to comply with the demands made upon the Navy, and on an announcement being made to Rear-Admiral Lee
by General Peck
that the enemy were advancing in an attempt to surround the Federal
forces at Suffolk
, the Admiral
dispatched the following vessels under the command of Lieutenant R. H. Lamson
, with instructions to occupy the Nansemond River
and the bar, at the mouth of the western branch, and to render all possible assistance to the Army:
(river steamer), with a 30-pounder Parrott
, 3 howitzers, and a detachment from the Minnesota
(tug), 20-pounder Parrott
and a 24-pound howitzer.
(tug), one 12 and one 24-pound howitzer.
(light ferry-boat),with a battery of howitzers.
The Commodore Barney
, Lieutenant W. B. Cushing
, was also detached from other duty and sent to Jamestown Island
The above list of vessels will show to what shifts the Navy was put to meet the calls made upon it by the Army.
Gun-boats were called for everywhere, and these demands were more than the naval commander could comply with.
On the 11th, Major-General Keyes
telegraphed that the Federal
troops in the neighborhood of Williamsburg
were being driven by a large force of Confederates down towards the mouth of Queen's Creek
, and that, if a large
force of gun-boats was not sent to Yorktown
, even Yorktown
itself might fall.
The Commodore Morris
(the only available vessel) was sent immediately to the York River
to co-operate with the Crusader
, then there.
Any one can imagine the embarrassment the commander-in-chief labored under to satisfy all these demands, first in the Sounds
then on the Nansemond
, or York
After all, most of these gun-boats were merely improvised for the occasion, and the Army transports, armed with field-artillery, would have answered the same purpose.
But the soldiers were not used to managing steamers up the narrow streams or handling guns behind the frail bulwarks of wooden gun-boats.
Only sailors could do that kind of work, and the Army were only too glad to have them do it.
During the demonstrations made by the enemy on this occasion there was much hard service performed, frequent attacks from and repulses of the enemy.
Some clever young officers were employed in this service, among them Lieutenant Lamson
and the indomitable Cushing
—— both brave, energetic men — Lamson
with the capacity of one older and more experienced, and Cushing
with dash and vigor never exceeded.
especially distinguished himself by planning, and with the co-operation of troops under Brigadier-General Getty
, effecting the capture of five guns and 130 men on Hill's Point
This position commanded the communication between the Upper
and Lower Nansemond
, and the Confederates
had, from it, greatly harassed the flotilla.
captured a 24-pound howitzer and the sword of the Confederate
again, on this occasion, exhibited those high qualities which he was known to possess in so remarkable a degree, being in a fight of some kind from the time the expedition came in sight of the enemy until the latter retreated.
The enemy's forces were under the command of General Longstreet
, a brave and able officer, who with 10,000 men on the left bank of the river and a large force on the right bank, including strong field and siege batteries, was attempting to combine his forces and surround General Peck
It was Cushing
who prevented the Confederates
from crossing the river, and kept up the communication with the Union
The enemy were given no rest by the flotilla.
They were frequently driven from their riflepits, but continually returned to them with indomitable courage whenever the fire of the gun-boats slackened for a moment.
was operating with his vessel, he also kept pickets on shore to prevent a surprise, and a party of these men captured the engineer-in-chief
on the staff of the Confederate General French
, who had come down near the gun-boats with the intention of locating batteries.
and General Getty
both relied very much on the aid of the Navy in repulsing the Confederate
attack on Suffolk
, and they were largely indebted to the officers and men of the vessels for the hearty co-operation which they afforded, either by scattering the enemy with their guns or carrying the batteries on shore by assault.
This latter work was done on several occasions in the most handsome manner, the assaulting party being always led by Lieutenant Lamson
. General Getty
, that brave old soldier, who never failed to acknowledge merit when it came under his notice, was profuse in his acknowledgments of Lieutenant Lamson
's conduct in the management of the flotilla.
It would require too long an account to tell the whole story of this expedition, where fighting was carried on from the 12th of April to the 23d, where the sailors took their share of the fighting on shore, and where the gun-boats, under the incessant fire of the enemy, were nearly knocked to pieces.
But General Getty
shall speak for himself.
On April 20th he writes as follows:
Also the following letters:
The operations to which these brief letters alluded were those which took place between April 12th and April 23d, in which Lieutenant Lamson
, commander of a small flotilla, co-operated with Generals Peck
for the protection of Suffolk, Virginia
During this time the fighting was hard and incessant, and but for the aid of the naval force Suffolk
would, without doubt, have fallen into the hands of General Longstreet
, who, with a large army, attempted unsuccessfully to cross the river and surround the Union
That little fleet of gun-boats was under a constant fire for days without once flinching from the post of duty.
Often grounding while under a heavy pelting from the enemy's field-pieces (which seemed to know no fatigue), they were almost cut to pieces.
The commander expressed it, in his modest way, when he on one occasion said: “The enemy soon obtained our range, and his artillery told with fearful effect on the timbers and machinery of these lightly-built vessels.”
But his reports all end with a cheering account of having silenced the enemy's batteries, and scattered the sharpshooters.
One who knows anything about such matters can imagine what targets these quasi
gun-boats must have been to Longstreet
's well-trained gunners, and how hardly pummelled these veterans must have been, when they were obliged to retreat again and again before the well-directed fire of these “paper-clad” vessels.
The Confederate artillery was no sooner silenced in one position than it opened from another upon the vessels, which had not the option of choosing their position in these narrow rivers.
At times they would lie in the mud, bow on to the enemy, who was too intelligent not to take advantage of their apparently helpless condition.
But, with a brave energy that never flagged, Lamson
would hoist his guns to the upper or hurricane deck, without considering whether the deck would bear their weight, and open fire upon the enemy until they were driven off.
The guns so mounted were often struck by the expert artillerymen of the enemy, and the decks were plowed up by their shot and shell; but the gun-boats never gave in, and only changed their positions for the purpose of bringing more guns to bear.
The Confederates would yell with delight when they could get one of the larger vessels, like the Mount Vernon
, fast in the mud, where they could bring all their artillery and sharpshooters to bear on her; but the Stepping Stones
, or some other spirited little craft, would get alongside, and tow her into deeper water, and receive without flinching the shot and shell intended for her helpless companion.
might well say that the officers and men did their duty.
From such a liberal old soldier, as he was, this was but faint praise.
It may be that the Army commanders considered brevity to be a virtue when dealing with such matters, for, as a rule, the Army was not eulogistic of the Navy at any time during the war. We should not attach much importance to the mere brevity of these dispatches, for sometimes much may be expressed in a very few words; but the “Records of the war” show to-day that, on almost all occasions where the Army and Navy co-operated, the reports of army operations were very voluminous, and even concerning points which could not have been held except by the guns of the Navy, the Army came in for the largest share of praise.
An affair which occurred on the 14th of April in the Nansemond River
, where Lieutenant Lamson
in the Mount Washington
, and Acting-Master T. A. Harris
in the Stepping Stones
, fought the enemy's batteries for six hours under the most adverse circumstances, was one of the most gallant affairs of the war.
The reports of these actions are long and voluminous, and only a condensation of them can be given in this history.
But they can all be found in the Report of the Secretary of the Navy
for 1863, where may be seen the most faithful and interesting account of these events that has yet been written; in fact, a better story of the doings of the Navy throughout the war is given in these official reports than any historian can ever compile.
They were written by the men who did the work; and who can so well describe, not only the acts that were done, but the motives that inspired them?
Now and then a paragraph forcibly strikes our attention, and, though it lengthens this work beyond bounds, we cannot leave it out. On the 14th, when the Mount Washington
was fighting her way out of the mud, and was getting out hawsers to bring her broadside to bear, Lamson
* * * The hawser slipped, and the channel being so narrow, she was obliged to run down some distance before she could turn, when the enemy's artillery was again turned on the Mount Washington. Captain Harris soon ran up to me again, and I was towed out of the enemy's range.
The Barney still remained engaging the enemy, and continued to fire till their artillery ceased and withdrew.
Towards the close of the action the Mount Washington's flag-staff was shot away even with
the upper deck, when Mr. Birtwistle and seaman Thielberg assisted me to haul it up out of the water by the ensign halliards, raise it, and lash it alongside the stump.
I cannot find words to express my admiration of the courageous conduct of my officers and men, who fought the guns for six hours, aground in a disabled vessel, under such a fire of artillery and musketry, and who did not flinch even from working a gun on the open hurricane deck, or from going out in boats to carry hawsers.
I wish through you to express my thanks to Captain Haynes, of the Mount Washington, and his executive officer, Mr. Griffith, who nobly refused to leave the vessel when his crew were sent away, and who rendered the most valuable assistance during the action.
Master's-Mate Birtwistle, of the Minnesota, behaved in the most gallant manner, and I respectfully recommend him to you as a most brave and efficient officer.
There was much heroic conduct displayed on this occasion:
A seaman, Joachim Sylvia, was instantly killed and knocked overboard by a shell from the enemy, when Samuel Woods, captain of the gun, jumped overboard to rescue the body, but, before he reached it, it sank to rise no more.
This gallant seaman then swam back to the vessel, went again to his gun, and fought it to the close of the action, in a manner that attracted the attention of every one.
How many noble acts of this kind occur in war without any notice being taken of them!
The smaller glories are swallowed up by the greater and apparently more brilliant events, while, if the aggregate minor affairs were summed up, they would show an amount of gallantry far outweighing that of some of the grandest sea-fights.
We would gladly chronicle all these little events, but our space will not permit it. It is seldom that the sailors, who are so much exposed, have their names handed down in history, and it is a mistake commanders of vessels commit in failing to notice the gallant tars who, in all the wars which the United States
has had with foreign nations, have performed acts of heroism that could not be excelled by the bravest officers.
shows a praiseworthy example by commending the deeds of his gallant sailors as well as those of his officers.
, Robert Jourdan
and John Sullivan
, seamen; Robert Woods, boatswain's-mate; Quartermaster De Lunn
; Third-Assistant Engineer
, John Healey
; William Jackson
and James Lody
(both colored), are all handsomely spoken of. They, no doubt, received medals (the highest reward a sailor can aspire to), but let their names go down in history as part of the gallant band who so nobly sustained the reputation of the Navy on April 14th, 1863, the anniversary of the day when Sumter
, battered and torn, had to lower her flag to those who gave the first stab to our free institutions.
Another one of the events of this expedition, which General Getty
alludes to, occurred on April 19th, when Lieutenant Lamson
received on board the Stepping Stones
a portion of the 89th New York Volunteers, under Lieutenant-Colonel England
, and the 8th Connecticut, under Colonel Ward
, the whole consisting of 300 men. Lieutenant Lamson
had four 12-pound howitzers ready for landing, manned by sailors.
Near 6 o'clock A. M., at a preconcerted signal from the steam-whistle, a heavy fire was opened from all the gun-boats on the Confederate batteries, and from General Getty
's two batteries on Colham's Point, opposite, under Captains Morris
, U. S. A.
When all was in position, Lamson
steamed slowly down the river, as if about to run the batteries (which he had done several times before), until he got nearly abreast of the enemy's works, when he signalled to the gun-boats and Federal batteries to cease firing, and putting his helm hard-a-starboard, ran into the bank immediately under the upper end of the enemy's works, and so close to them that the Confederates
could not bring a gun to bear.
The screens that had been used to hide the troops were triced up, gang-planks were launched, and with a cheer from all the boats and Union batteries the 89th New York rushed ashore, followed by the naval howitzer-battery and the 8th Connecticut.
The Confederate works consisted of two lines, with an impassable ravine between them.
The Federal troops carried the first line at once, but while the 89th New York were running around the head of the ravine, the enemy swung round some of their guns, and poured a charge of grape into the assaulting party, which was immediately answered by a discharge of canister from the naval battery, that had been judiciously planted on the crest of the ravine, overlooking the inner line of defences.
The brave 89th were into the works by this time, and the Confederates
did not fire another shot.
The victory was a complete one.
The Federals captured 161 prisoners and 5 pieces of artillery (12 and 24 pound field-guns, captured by the Confederates
at Harper's Ferry
or from Western Virginia
), with a large amount of ammunition.
Not a Confederate escaped.
Owing to the decisive charge made upon the enemy and the fortunate position occupied by the naval battery, the loss to the Federal
side was small; but never was there a better commanded affair, and Lamson
gives due credit to those of his officers and men who were engaged in it.
Though the work of the Navy in this affair is lightly spoken of by the Army authorities, the Secretary of the Navy
saw in it something worth noticing, and he
issued the following communication, which in part repaid Lieutenant Lamson
for the hard work he had performed throughout the campaign:
also came in for a share of commendation for his success on the Nansemond
, and Secretary Welles
was no less enthusiastic in his praise than in the case of Lieutenant Lamson
These were very complimentary words, and should have made these officers proud of the distinction that had been shown them — distinctions superior even to those received by officers who had commanded fleets and performed services that had a most decisive bearing on the war. Without doubt, these young officers deserved all that was said of them, and their performances in after service show that the recommendation were not misplaced.
The result of this expedition was the repulse of the enemy and the security of the Federal
forces in the intrenched works at Suffolk
But this was not war on a grand scale, such as should have been inaugurated by the Federal Government
at that time.
when its troops were almost numberless, and great armies were posted from Washington
These little skirmishes and reconnaissances had no material effect upon the war. It was a great waste of men on shore and a great destruction of gun-boats afloat.
It was quite evident to those who could judge, that, under such a system as the Government
was pursuing, the war must languish for want of one efficient leader, who could arrange and direct the great armies which were scattered from one end of the States to the other, without apparently working for one common object.
These comparatively small demonstrations had no actual value beyond making the troops familiar with the duties of soldiers in the field, and the establishment of positions at places like Suffolk
(which they could not hold without a force of improvised gun-boats carrying the heaviest guns) gave evidence that the art of war had not progressed much, in 1863, when such small operations were held in such high estimation.
There was a great waste of military force, and in most cases waste of time, frequently without any effect (one way or the other), beyond demonstrating the zeal, energy and courage of the two arms of the service.
If one good-sized army had been stationed upon the Peninsula
, its lines gradually closing in the direction of Richmond
, with its centre resting upon the principal river, as it advanced, and covered by a large flotilla of well-constructed gun-boats, all the rivers in that part of Virginia
would have been so completely under the Federal
control that the Confederates
would have had no opportunity to keep up their incessant raids, which seemed to keep the Army and Navy in a continual state of excitement.
In some cases the Army had hardly got possession of some point and made themselves warm in it, when the strategy of war turned it over to the hands of the Confederates
, who would erect batteries after their
mode of defence, and then abandon it in as summary a manner as the Federals
had done before them.
Tie same course seems to have been taken in Virginia
as was tried in North Carolina
--small bodies of men detailed to hold prominent positions, with a few ill-built and worse-equipped gun-boats to protect them.
There was no want of activity, courage and zeal on the part of the officers of the North Atlantic squadron, but there was so small a field of operations, with the exception
of such as has been mentioned, that the officers and men had not the same opportunity for distinction as was enjoyed on other stations; though in war the true secret is to make
It is What seldom comes to any one.
It must be sought for, and though it is a shy spirit, not easily wooed and won, yet it puts itself in the way of those who are determined to pursue and overtake it in spite of all obstacles.
The proof of this was demonstrated in the case of Lieutenants Lamson
, two daring young fellows, who lost no opportunity of bringing their names before the Navy Department, and who were as well known in the Navy as the most successful commanders of fleets.
A great many of the vessels of the North Atlantic squadron were employed in the blockade of the coast from the mouth of the Chesapeake
to below Cape Fear
The Cape Fear River
had (since the complete blockade of Charleston
) become the principal ground for blockade-runners, that river having two entrances, by either of which blockade-runners could enter, protected by Fort Caswell
on the south side of Cape Fear
, and by strong earth-works (which finally grew to be Fort Fisher
) on the north side.
Many reports are made of the capture or destruction of blockade-runners, and in chasing up these vessels great activity was displayed.
On the 6th of May, Lieutenant-Commander Braine
reports a boat expedition from the steamer Monticello
and the mortar schooner Matthew Vassar
(Acting-Master L. A. Brown
), mentioning the destruction of one of the vessels in Morrell's Inlet, an English schooner called the Golden Liner
, of Halifax
, with a large cargo, and also the burning of two large store-houses.
Destruction of this kind of property always caused serious loss to the enemy, and it could not be replaced.
On May 26th, Rear-Admiral Lee
reports the operations in the sounds of North Carolina
It appears that the Confederates
had invested Washington
, on the Pamlico River
, which investment lasted eighteen days, and after a fruitless effort to take the place (which would have been of no use to them if they had succeeded), the enemy retired on the 15th of April.
Washington, N. C.
, had been pretty extensively fortified by the Confederates
while they held it, but they had been driven away from it by the Federal
On the morning of March 31st the enemy appeared in force, and took possession of their old works (seven miles below the town), which had been built to cut off the water communication.
The Commodore Hull
(two light-built and vulnerable gun-boats) were at the time stationed at Washington
, and, on the appearance of the Confederates
, opened fire upon them with their great guns.
At 5:45, the enemy took position at Rodman's Point, and opened fire with artillery upon the Commodore Hull
, which vessel had been stationed at that point to prevent their occupying it. The fire was returned with vigor, and, after a smart action of one hour and a half, the Commodore Hull
, in changing her position, got aground, where she remained until eight P. M. exposed to a continuous and accurate fire.
Her commander (Acting-Master Saltonstall
) defended her most gallantly until all his ammunition was expended.
The vessel was much cut up, but received no vital injury.
Meantime the Ceres
, Acting-Volunteer-Lieutenant J. Macdearmid
, Acting-Volunteer-Lieutenant G. W. Graves
; the sloop Granite
, Acting-Master E. Boomer
, and, finally, the Hunchback
, Lieutenant-Commander McCann
, were dispatched by Commander Davenport
to the relief of the besieged forces at Washington
, but they were stopped below Hill's Point
by the re-establishment of the enemy's batteries there, and by the removal of the buoys at the old obstructions.
This prevented the steamers from going ahead, for fear of being grounded on the old wrecks, in which case they would easily have been destroyed.
It was not possible to send out boats and place other buoys on account of the enemy's sharpshooters and flying artillery, which would have destroyed the boats.
Under the circumstances there was no remedy, and the above-mentioned steamers had to remain outside; but during the siege communications were opened at great risks between the vessels above and below the batteries, thus conveying ammunition and dispatches.
On the 3d of April, the flotilla below Hill's Point
was reinforced by the Southfield
, from Plymouth
In the meantime the Commodore Hull
, and an armed transport called the Eagle
, under charge of Second-Assistant Engineer J. L. Lay
and Assistant Paymaster W. W. Williams
, of the Louisiana
, as volunteers, were almost continually engaged with the enemy's batteries opposite Washington
, until the morning of the 4th, when the Ceres
made a gallant dash past the forts, with a full supply of ammunition, and joined the besieged force above.
On the 6th, a small naval battery of two light guns was established on shore, commanding the channel from above, to repel any attempt on the part of the enemy to attack the gun-boats from that quarter by water.
On the 7th inst. 112, on the 8th 107, and on the 9th 55 shot and shell were fired by the enemy at the gun-boats without inflicting any serious damage.
On the 10th, Acting-Ensign J. B. De Camarra
succeeded in getting a schooner through from the lower fleet, loaded with naval ammunition.
On the 12th, the gun-boats silenced and destroyed by their fire a battery which the enemy had erected with sand-bags and cotton-bales, abreast of the town, and which for seven days previously had maintained an active and dangerous fire on them.
On the 13th, the Confederate boats filled with infantry, as pickets on the river below the forts, were driven ashore by Acting-Volunteer-Lieutenant Macdearmid
, with a howitzer on a small schooner.
On the same night the army transport Escort
gallantly ran the blockade, with reinforcements for the Federal
troops at Washington
, having safely passed Hill's Point
under cover of the gun-boats below.
On the 14th and 15th, the enemy kept up a vigorous fire with their artillery, which was returned by the gun-boats.
An opportunity occurred about the time mentioned for the Army and Navy to score a strong point on the Confederates
There were a number of troops in transports below Hill's Point
waiting the opportunity to reinforce the troops above, either by running the batteries or turning them by land marches.
Under cover of the gun-boats the troops could easily have carried the enemy's works at Hill's Point
, but it was not attempted.
The Confederate batteries were behind strong natural banks of earth-works, perforated at points with embrasures.
The gun-boats had attacked them several times without any apparent effect.
The position was deemed too strong to carry by assault with a limited number of troops, so the gun-boats and transports had to lie at anchor before it and make no sign, until troops could be marched overland from Newbern
On the morning of the 15th, the steamer Escort
arrived with General Foster
on board, who seemed to think the situation so serious that his presence was demanded.
The day after his arrival the enemy suddenly disappeared, and the siege was raised.
The commander of the North Atlantic squadron seemed to be well satisfied with the conduct of those under his command, and reported that the credit of the Navy had been well maintained throughout.
, at Washington
, and Lieutenant-Commander McCann
, below on the river, conducted affairs with prudence and zeal.
The former held a position of great responsibility and severe trial, and he met the various emergencies with promptness and decision.
He had the direction of naval matters, and would have been held responsible if the town had fallen into the enemy's hands.
On the 3d inst., the enemy had established their batteries abreast of the town, one of them a rifled 12-pounder, distant 600 yards. The batteries succeeded in firing only five shots before they were silenced by the Federal
shell, which fairly demolished the works.
During the siege (if it may be so called) there was an incessant peal of artillery, and the enemy seemed determined to carry the place, no matter what the cost might be to them; but, whether aground on the river-bed or lying in the stream, the fire of the gun-boats was incessant and well directed — so well directed, indeed, that the enemy frequently seemed to be firing at random.
is spoken of in the highest terms for his coolness and valor.
This is not the first time that his name has appeared in this narrative, and it will not likely be the last.
was promoted by the Department for the steady gallantry with which he fought his disabled vessel for nearly a day against great odds, and for his good conduct during the siege.
and Acting-Master Welles
were commended for faithful and efficient service, and were promoted in consequence.
Acting-Ensign De Camarra
's Mates E. MacKeever
, A. H. Hicks
and Edward S. Austin
were commended for their good conduct and bravery in battle.
Acting-Master F. Josselyn
, Acting-Ensigns J. O. Johnson
and J. B. De Camarra
's Mates A. F. Haraden
and Henry W. Wells
Acting-Second-Assistant Engineers H. Rafferty
and John E. Harper
, and Paymaster
's Steward John C. Cross
, were recommended to especial notice for their bravery in battle.
These commendations were probably only known to the parties who secured them; and, as their names have not been handed down in history, it may be some compensation to them at this late day to know that they are remembered.
were recommended for promotion.
That the Navy performed excellent service in defending the garrison at Washington, N. C.
, there can be little doubt.
The naval force appeared promptly on the scene of action, and was so well handled that it saved the garrison from capture; yet all this zeal, gallantry and efficiency is merely mentioned by General Spinola
I cannot close this report without bearing testimony to the gallant conduct of the Navy while
acting in conjunction with my command, particularly Captain Macdearmid, of the gun-boat Ceres.
The conduct of the lieutenant-commanders of the gun-boats engaged was all that could have been expected of them; they manifested great bravery, coupled with a willingness to do all in their power to relieve the garrison.
These are not the hearty expressions that should come from the pen of a gallant soldier, who should have felt and expressed a warmer gratitude for the services rendered to his army; but this seems to have been the style of noticing the work of the Navy throughout the war. Very few cases occurred where the Army could help the Navy; but, when such was the case, the latter acknowledged the obligation in a most eulogistic manner.
This affair on the Pamlico River
was very much like that on the upper Nansemond
—— there were too few troops for the occasion.
These scattered garrisons, in badly-built and poorly-armed earth-works, offered great temptations to the Confederate
roving bands, who, through their spies, watched the Federal
movements closely, and when the military commanders grew less watchful, or the gun-boats were out of the way, pounced upon them, expecting an easy victory.
The enemy would often fight with a pertinacity bordering on desperation, and, after firing away all their ammunition, would retire as suddenly as they appeared.
What the Federals
needed in order to break up these raids was a large force of cavalry, moving from one part of the State
to the other with such rapidity and energetic action that the Confederates
could make no headway against them.
This course would have placed the Army in a more independent position, and they would not have become impressed with the idea that “every soldier ought to carry a gun-boat in his pocket.”
On May 27th, Lieutenant Flusser
reports an expedition under Acting-Volunteer-Lieutenant Charles A. French
, who went in the steamer Whitehead
to cruise in the eastern end of Albemarle Sound
, and break up the contraband trade, a great deal of which was carried on in that vicinity.
reports the capture of a large two-masted boat, containing 500 barrels of tobacco.
In Alligator River
he captured or destroyed several boats engaged in illicit trade, and also along the shore a large quantity of pork, bacon, leather, tobacco bags, lard and tallow ready for shipment to the enemy.
Many grist mills, grinding corn for the enemy, were burned by the officers of the Valley City
At this time the Confederate
commissaries were out in great force gathering stores for the Army near Suffolk
, and it was desirable to destroy as much provisions as possible — even though the non-combatants suffered considerably.
Such is the law of war — no distinction can be drawn in such cases, and on this occasion the duty was performed very thoroughly.
On May 31st, 1863, General Dix
concluded to evacuate West Point
, at the head of York River
, and on that day the Federal Army
marched out, covered by the gun-boats Commodore Morris
, Commodore Jones
, under the command of Lieutenant-Commander Gillis
The operation was effected without the slightest accident, and without any demonstration on the part of the enemy.
Everything belonging to the United States Government was safely removed, the gun-boats taking on board the forage, provisions and ammunition, and landing them safely at Yorktown
In the latter part of May, Lieutenant-Commander James H. Gillis
participated in an expedition with Brigadier-General Kilpatrick
in Matthews County.
The object of the expedition was to mount all the dismounted men in Kilpatrick
took on board the Commodore Morris
100 men from the 4th Delaware Volunteers, under Major La Mott
, and with the Winnissimmet
in company proceeded to North River
, where he arrived at half-past 5 P. M. Here were captured 300 horses, 150 head of cattle and a large number of sheep.
At the same time the troops destroyed all the property that could be of any use to the Confederates
A large amount of property was destroyed in these raids.
It was impossible to discriminate, and, in consequence, a great many innocent people suffered.
One of the mail-boats (the Swan
) was fired upon by a party of Confederate raiders, on York River
, below West Point
, the result of which was the burning by the gun-boat Morse
of twelve houses, in front or behind which the enemy had placed their batteries.
The object evidently was to have these houses burned, in order to embitter the inhabitants against the Union
The justification given for firing the buildings was that an unarmed mail-boat, which was in the habit of carrying women and children as passengers, had been fired upon by the Confederates
It was rather a severe punishment to inflict on an unoffending people, because the Confederates
would not stay to be captured, and it certainly was not the best method of gaining the confidence of the citizens, whom the Army and Navy claimed to protect.
The amenities of war were entirely forgotten on this occasion, and such wantonness could only insure retaliation on the first favorable opportunity.
On the morning of June 4th, an expedition of 400 soldiers embarked at Yorktown
on board the United States
steamers Commodore Morris
), Commodore Jones
), the army gun-boat “Smith Briggs
” and the transport Winnissimmet
These vessels proceeded to Walkertown
, about twenty miles above West Point
, on the Mattapony River
Here the troops were landed and marched to Aylett
's, where the object of the expedition was successfully accomplished: a large foundry, with all its machinery, grist mills, and a quantity of grain were destroyed, and a number of horses captured.
The affair was carried through without any accident, the gun-boats keeping the river open, though several attempts were made by the enemy to annoy them at different points.
This expedition was fitted out (as appears from a general order
of General Keyes
) with the purpose of “striking an effective blow at the enemy,” but the results were only as above stated.
These events do not appear very striking on paper, but in a campaign which did not offer a very large scope for military and naval operations, they hold a place worthy of being mentioned, as exhibiting the zeal, bravery and enterprise of the Federal
officers, who showed a determination to annoy and cripple the enemy in every possible way.
But still this was not war, in the true sense of the word — it was simply raiding — when we had quite a respectable force that should have been gaining victories over the enemy, who did not seem unwilling to meet the encounters of the Federal
troops, and who held their own positions and checked the advance beyond the upper Nansemond
whenever it was attempted.
The records of the times, in speaking of the military movements on the Peninsula
, have constant accounts of the Federal
's getting possession of West Point
and then evacuating it, to fall back on Yorktown
, which latter place seems to have been kept for a harbor of safety, or a resort from whence the Army could, by aid of the gun-boats, make a dash, carry off some heads of beef and horses, and return with little or no loss.
But at that moment it was the only field of adventure which offered itself to the North Atlantic squadron, and the Navy was glad of the opportunity to share with the Army the dangers (if there were any) of these expeditions.
We are aware that the doings of the North Atlantic squadron afford dry reading, in comparison with the more brilliant achievements enacting elsewhere; but it is a part of the history of the war, in which the Navy bore its part, if not with any important success, yet with patience, zeal and gallantry, under circumstances which were ofttimes more trying than was the case in other squadrons, where a wider field of action was offered.
It may seem to the reader that we have dwelt longer than necessary on what might be considered unimportant events, but the small matters are the links in the chain of history, which, if omitted, would leave the story incomplete.
Officers themselves have attached so much importance to some of these events, and have made such minute reports of them, that they possess more intrinsic value than appears upon their face.
A good many of the later reports are taken up with accounts of small expeditions in the sounds of North Carolina
, the gun-boats being evidently constantly employed attacking small bodies of the enemy in narrow and crooked streams, destroying granaries, and detecting Confederate sympathizers.
But with all our desire to do justice to the praiseworthy efforts of the officers and men of the North Atlantic squadron, and to mention all those who in any way distinguished themselves or scored a good point on the enemy, we feel obliged to omit many accounts of expeditions which would take up the place of more important matters having a greater bearing on the war. Therefore, we will confine ourselves to such expeditions as accomplished important results.
Our pages are limited, and we desire to make them as bright as possible.
On the 31st of July, 1863, the steamer Kate
, belonging to the Confederates
, while going into Wilmington
, was driven on Smith's Island
Beach by the gun-boat Penobscot
, but was eventually floated off by the enemy, and towed under the batteries at New Inlet
Early in the morning of the 1st of August, the blockading vessels, James Adger
, Mount Vernon
, approached, and the Mount Vernon
, discovering the condition of the Confederate steamer, reported it to Captain Case
, of the Iroquois
This officer immediately organized an expedition to cut the vessel out from under the guns of Fort Fisher
(which had not at that time assumed such formidable proportions as it did later on).
The Confederates were at this time towing the Kate
in towards New Inlet
, and Commander Patterson
, in the James Adger
, was ordered to assist the Mount Vernon
in cutting her out, and prevent her reaching the protection of the batteries.
At seven o'clock, the Mount Vernon
opened fire upon the steamer, when her commander (Acting-Volunteer-Lieutenant James Trathen
) received orders from Captain Case
to “drag the Kate
Two boats were called away from the Mount Vernon
and sent to board the Kate
, while the vessel herself went alongside, and
sent another party on board at the same time.
A hawser was made fast to the prize, and she was towed out.
The Confederate batteries at New Inlet
opened with great vigor, and a masked battery of Whitworth guns on Smith's Island
kept up a furious fire.
The enemy did not seem to be particular in his aim, as an 80--pounder Armstrong rifle-shot passed through the port-side of the Kate
, and out through the starboard bulwarks, just as the Mount Vernon
and her boats boarded her. Several shots from heavy Armstrong guns and Whitworth 12-pounders struck the Mount Vernon
. One Whitworth
projectile passed through the engine-room, instantly killing Edwin H. Peck
, first-class fireman.
This shot lodged in the engineer's tool-chest, demolishing the contents.
An Armstrong rifle-shot cut away all the shrouds of the port fore-rigging.
A Whitworth shot cut away the fore-topmast rigging, and another the fore-gaff.
A shot from the mound battery carried away the stock of the port-anchor.
Many shot passed over the vessel and all around her, and the firing from the enemy's work was lively enough to make the affair very exciting.
But the commander of the Mount Vernon
did not abandon his prize; he towed her out, and delivered her to the Iroquois
, which vessel took her to Beaufort
This cutting-out was gallantly done, and the parties concerned deserve great credit.
speaks handsomely of the manner in which Lieutenant Trathen
boarded the Kate
and towed her off shore.
It was not only the coolness and bravery with which this affair was conducted, but also the professional skill with which the Mount Vernon
was managed by her commander that gives it special merit.
There were lively times when a blockade-runner was sighted.
Starting a hare with a pack of hounds would not create a greater excitement than when a long, lean, English-built steamer, with a speed of sixteen knots an hour, suddenly found herself almost in the grip of the blockaders, which, being usually on the alert, would give her a hard chase, if they did not capture her outright.
To look at the beautiful lines of one of these small steamers (which often carried cargoes worth half a million) as she skimmed over the water, it would seem impossible that our improvised cruisers could overtake her. These vessels, built in England
with all the science known to English ship-builders, were sent fearlessly upon our coast, with a certainty that nothing we had could overtake them.
Yet how mistaken the British
builders were with regard to Yankee watchfulness and naval pluck!
Every mail would carry the news to England
of their fastest vessels having been picked up by Federal cruisers — though they may have made several successful runs ere they came to grief.
It is said that if one blockade-runner out of three could make a successful passage, it would more than cover the cost of all.
On August 18th, one of these clippers, the Hebe
, attempted to run into Wilmington
by the New Inlet channel
There were several blockaders on the alert, and among them the Niphon
--which vessel, being in-shore of the Hebe
, attempted to head her off. But, instead of surrendering when he saw that his vessel was cut off, the commander of the Hebe
beached her, and escaped in his boats, with his crew and passengers.
It was then blowing a gale from the northeast, with a heavy sea on, and the waves broke over the doomed vessel.
Lieutenant W. B. Cushing
commanded one of the vessels present on this occasion (the Shokokon
), and from the two vessels a boarding-party was formed which started through the breakers to destroy the Hebe
There were always companies of Confederate artillery moving up and down the coast to prevent vessels driven on shore from being destroyed by blockaders.
The boarding-party had no sooner landed and boarded the steamer, with the intent to fire her, than they were opened upon by Confederate artillery, well posted behind the sand-hills, and these kept up a warm fire, not only on the boarders, but on the two gun-boats, which the latter were unable to return with any certainty, owing to the heavy sea running.
The result was that the Niphon
lost two boats, which were swamped in the breakers, and fifteen persons by capture, four of whom were officers.
One ensign (E. H. Dewey
) and three men were saved by the boats of the two gun-boats.
On this occasion, though there was a good deal of gallantry displayed, there was bad luck for the blockaders, and the enemy succeeded in getting a large part of the damaged cargo on shore.
Later in the month the Federal
vessels came in for a share of the cargo, and destroyed the steamer, but not until the enemy had shown a strong determination to hold on to all of the Hebe
that they could.
On the 23d of August, Commander T. H. Patterson
, in the James Adger
, was directed to proceed to the Hebe
, and try to destroy her. When within 500 yards of her, he opened fire upon the vessel's hull and upon the enemy's artillery, which was located behind the sand-hills on the beach, about 100 yards from the Hebe
fire was kept up until the steamer was pretty well cut to pieces.
(A boat had been sent in before the firing commenced to see if it were practicable to get the vessel afloat, but it was opened upon by the enemy with musketry and a Whitworth gun, and all hopes of saving her were abandoned.) The enemy also concentrated the fire of their field-pieces on the James Adger
, striking her three times in the hull, one shot passing through the air-jacket of the donkey-engine, and another cutting the rim of the starboard-wheel.
Notwithstanding the fire of the enemy, the boats of the blockading vessels brought off some Whitworth guns that had been abandoned; and the Hebe
, being now practically of no use, was left upon the beach to be broken up by the winds and waves.
A great deal of ammunition was expended upon this vessel--163 shot and shells from the James Adger
, and 145 from the flag-ship Minnesota
On the 22d of August, 1863, quite a gallant affair took place, when Lieutenant Cushing
cut out and destroyed the blockade-running schooner Alexander Cooper
On the 12th, Cushing
made a reconnaissance, in the boats of the Shokokon
, of “New Topsail Inlet
,” and was driven off by the fire of four Confederate field-pieces stationed near the entrance of the inlet.
But before he was driven back he discovered a schooner at anchor at a wharf about six miles up the sound.
This schooner he determined to destroy.
On the evening of the 22d the Shokokon
anchored close to the sea-beach, about five miles from the inlet, and sent on shore two boats' crews — who shouldered the dinghy, and carried it across the neck of land that divided the sea from the sound (this was half a mile in width, covered with a dense thicket). This crossing placed the landing party some miles in the rear of the artillery force guarding the entrance.
The dinghy being launched on the inside waters, six men, under the executive officer, Acting Ensign J. S. Cony
, started, with orders to capture or destroy anything that might be of use to the enemy.
A 12-pound howitzer was stationed at the point towards which the expedition was bound, and the smoke-stack of the Shokokon
having been seen over the trees, Captain Adams
(the Confederate officer in charge of the post) went over to see that a bright look-out was kept.
While the Confederates
at the schooner's mast-heads were straining their eyes in looking to the southward, the boat was approaching them from another direction, and the Federals
succeeded in landing fifty yards from the wharf without being discovered.
The master-at arms (Robert Clifford
) creeping into the Confederate
camp, counted their men; when, having returned to his shipmates, a charge was ordered, and the seven men bore down upon the enemy with three cheers.
In a moment the Confederates
(who out-numbered our sailors three to one) were routed, leaving in Ensign Cony
's hands ten prisoners (including Captain Adams
and Lieutenant Latham
), one 12-pound howitzer, eighteen horses, one schooner and some extensive salt-works.
then threw out two pickets, detailed two men to guard the prisoners, and, with the remaining two, fired the schooner and salt-works, which were entirely consumed.
The object of the expedition having been accomplished, the men returned to their vessel, taking with them three prisoners, all that the boat would hold.
The Confederate officers and men were all dressed alike, and Mr. Cony
could not tell them apart, so he was at a loss to know which to retain.
He settled the matter by picking out the three best-looking, who all turned out to be privates!
This performance almost sounds like romance, but Cushing
's officers were all animated with his spirit, and were always ready to undertake anything, no matter how hazardous.
As many risks were run, and as many dangers faced, as fell to Decatur
's lot when he cut out the Philadelphia
in Tripoli harbor.
The later operations of the North Atlantic squadron, in 1863, were merely attempts to co-operate with the Army up the shoal rivers within the limits of the command, keeping down the Confederate
raiders, and intercepting dispatches between Virginia
, in which every light-draft vessel was continually employed.
It was not a very brilliant service, but it was a useful one.
Without it the Confederates
would have seriously harassed the important Army posts, and driven in the smaller ones.
They dreaded those frail vessels, with their heavy guns and fearless seamen, and a gun-boat was often worth more to the Army than two or three stout regiments.
The last act chronicled in the records of the North Atlantic squadron for this year is the destruction of the blockade-runner Venus
on October 21st.
was from Nassau
, bound to Wilmington
, and, while attempting to run the blockade, was chased by the steamer Nansemond
, Lieutenant Lamson
, and overtaken.
As the chase did not comply with his orders to heave-to, Lieutenant Lamson
opened fire upon her. One shot struck her foremast, another exploded in her ward-room, a third passed through the funnel and killed one man, and a fourth,
striking an iron plate near the water line, caused her to leak so badly that it was necessary to run her on shore, where (as it was found impossible to save her) she was set fire to and burned, her boilers blown up, and her machinery destroyed.
was a splendid vessel of 1,000 tons burden, and, had she not been destroyed, would have made a useful addition to the gun-boat fleet.
During all this time, be it remembered, many vessels of this squadron were engaged in that dreary blockade duty, which, though somewhat wanting in incidents of a desperate character, was continually adding history to the Navy by successful captures of arms and munitions of war, and creating great astonishment abroad at the ability of the Federals
to keep up such an effective blockade, contrary to the predictions of able statesmen and experienced admirals.
This duty was relieved somewhat of its monotony, as it paid well in prize-money, which amply compensated officers and sailors for any hardships they had to undergo in winter storms or summer heats.