Chapter 47: operations of South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, under Rear-admiral Dahlgren, during latter end of 1863 and in 1864.
- Fort Sumter bombarded.
-- damages to the Fort and iron-clads.
-- loss of the Weehawken.
-- attack on batteries in Stono River.
-- review of work done by South Atlantic Squadron under Dahlgren.
-- actions in which iron-clads were engaged.
-- destruction of blockade-runners.
-- operations of Confederate torpedo corps.
-- plans to blow up fleet.
-- destruction of the Housatonic.
-- sublime patriotism.
-- originators of torpedo.
-- operations of gun-boats in Florida Rivers.
-- destruction of steamer Harriet A. Weed and transport Maple-Leaf.
-- hazardous cutting-out expeditions.
-- hot receptions from masked batteries.
-- capture of U. S. Steamer water Witch and River-boat Columbine.
-- treatment received by Assistant Surgeon Pierson.
-- prisoners exposed in dangerous places.
-- failure of expedition to cut railroads.
-- Miscellaneous expeditions.
-- blockade of whole Southern coast.
-- extremities of Confederate armies, etc.
-- vessels and officers of South Atlantic blockading Squadron, January, 1864.
On the 26th of October, 1863, General Gillmore
opened fire upon Fort Sumter
from his battery on Morris Island
, his object being to complete the reduction of this work, drive out the garrison, and occupy it with Union troops.
This, as a matter of sentiment, might have been a good move; but, as the Confederates
still commanded Fort Sumter
with the guns of Fort Moultrie
and other batteries, they could have rendered the place untenable, as they did in the time of Colonel Anderson
But the Navy was desirous of performing its share in this useless operation, and the Monitors Lehigh
were ordered to take positions at a distance of from 1,600 to 2,000 yards of the fort, and open fire upon it with their rifled guns.
These vessels were within range of Fort Moultrie
for some time, but suffered little damage, while their rifle projectiles told on the walls of Fort Sumter
with considerable effect.
Large masses of masonry were displaced, heavy timbers thrown into the air, gun-cartridges destroyed, and, in fact, the work reduced to a great heap of ruins; but there it stood as unassailable by land forces as ever, and Dahlgren
was no nearer getting into Charleston
had been when he relinquished the command because of an implied reflection on his ability to decide whether a proper force had been placed at his disposal or not. About eight hundred and fifty shells were fired by the Navy at the ruins of Fort Sumter
, which helped to crumble the works more and more; but that business had better have been left to General Gillmore
with his siege-guns, and the attack of the Monitors
should have been turned upon Moultrie
, where their rifle projectiles would have done good service.
On November 16th more congenial work offered.
telegraphed: “The enemy have opened a heavy fire on Cummings' Point
Will you have some of your vessels move up, so as to prevent an at-tack by boats on the sea-face of the Point
That night the Monitors
moved up at about 10 o'clock, and boats were placed on patrol to prevent any attack of the enemy at the place indicated.
On November 17th the Lehigh
grounded, and the enemy, perceiving her dilemma, opened heavily on her from Fort Moultrie
and adjacent batteries.
Signal was at once made to all the Monitors
to get under-way and cover the Lehigh
, and the Admiral
himself went up in the Passaic
to attend the operations in person.
, Lieutenant-Commander Cornwell
, was already alongside the Lehigh
, and, by getting out hawsers, succeeded in towing her off at high water.
Both vessels were subjected to a brisk fire, but they received no serious damage.
received twenty-two hits, nine of which were on her deck-plates, and she had one officer and six men wounded.
also assisted in getting the Lehigh
off, but there were no casualties in the assisting vessels.
Assistant-Surgeon Wm. Longshaw
was handsomely mentioned on this occasion for going to and fro in a small boat, carrying out hawsers under a heavy fire of shot and shell.
This kind of service always deserves recognition, and especially when, as in this case, it is voluntarily undertaken by an officer who would never have been called upon to perform it in the ordinary course of his profession.
was recommended for promotion in his corps by the Chief
of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery.
On December 6th, Rear-Admiral Dahlgren
had the misfortune to lose the Monitor Weehawken
under the following circumstances, as given in the report of Commander J. M. Duncan
On the morning of the 5th I arrived here, and in the evening took command of her [the Weehawken] and went up on the advanced picket, and remained there until 9:30 of the morning of the 6th; then came down; made fast to buoy No. 2; then came on board this vessel [the flag-ship].
About 1:30 P. M. a signal was made that the Weehawken wanted assistance.
I immediately got in a boat with the pilot of this vessel.
Before we could reach her she went down.
Boats from all the vessels around went to the assistance of the men that were overboard, and succeeded in saving all but four of the engineers and twenty-seven of the men. When I left the vessel everything appeared to be right; the anchor-hold was all dry, no water coming through the hawse-pipe. * * * * Not being on board myself at the time, I am not able to give any account of the sad accident.
Very respectfully, etc.
From statements of officers who were on board the Weehawken
at the time of the disaster.
it appears that the immediate cause of her sinking was that a heavy sea swept over her forecastle, and entering the fore-hatch, filled the anchor-well.
This, under ordinary circumstances, would not have proved fatal to the ship's safety; but she was heavily loaded forward with ammunition, and the slight increase of weight, due to the water in her forward compartment, caused an opening between the overhang and the hull, which made itself manifest by numerous leaks.
As the water accumulated forward, her bow commenced to settle rapidly, and she soon went to the bottom, with a number of her brave officers and men.
This was a serious loss to Rear-Admiral Dahlgren
, who was at that moment urging the Government
to send him more Monitors, in view of the necessity of defending his command against the iron-clads which the Confederates
were building at Charleston
No doubt the Confederates
considered that the sinking of the Weehawken
was due to the shot and shell which they fired at the Lehigh
--as they could not tell one from another.
Nothing of interest occurred in Dahlgren
's command from November 6th up to December 25th, when the Pawnee
, Commander G. B. Balch
, the Marblehead
, Lieuteiiant-Commander R. W. Meade, Jr.
, and the schooner C. P. Williams
, Acting-Master S. N. Freeman
, were attacked by Confederate batteries in Stono River
reports that on December 25th the enemy opened fire on the Marblehead
, at 6 o'clock in the morning, from two batteries of field and siege pieces posted advantageously in the woods.
At the time mentioned, the Marblehead
had steam on the port boiler only.
The gun-boat returned the enemy's fire vigorously, and, slipping his cable, Lieutenant-Commander Meade
took a position nearer the batteries, and after a short encounter caused them to retreat in disorder, leaving two guns and caissons.
No attempt was made by the Marblehead
to retire from this unequal contest, though she was struck over twenty times and much cut up, having three men killed and four wounded. Officers and men stood to their guns with great gallantry, and the precision of their fire was shown by the complete discomfiture of the enemy.
Acting-Ensign Geo. F. Winslow
and the officers of the gun divisions are handsomely mentioned in this report.
During the action, the Pawnee
took an enfilading position in the Keowah River, while the Williams
was ordered to work up towards Legareville
The three vessels kept up such a fire that the enemy fled precipitately.
speaks in the highest terms of Lieutenant-Commander Meade
's coolness and bravery, the management of his vessel, and the remarkable rapidity of his fire.
On the conclusion of the firing, General Gordon
, commanding the troops at the south end of Folly Island
sent an infantry force to bring off the guns left by the Confederates
; which, on reaching the spot where the batteries were posted, found two guns, one soldier in the throes of death, six dead artillery horses, and all the enemy's
intrenching tools, knapsacks, etc. As night was coming on, and it was found impossible to bring off the guns in face of a heavy force of the enemy, not far off, they were disabled and abandoned.
This was a handsomely-executed affair, particularly on the part of the Marblehead
, which bore the brunt of the fire from the enemy's 8-inch guns.
There was some dispute as to the credit due the different vessels, which ought not to have been the case where all did so well.
In addition to Lieutenant Commander Meade
's gallantry in the action, he made a reconnoissance of the ground abandoned by the enemy, and then, by direction of Commander Balch
, headed an expedition to bring off the guns which General Gordon
had failed to take possession of. His force consisted of 3 boats, 3 officers, and 50
men from the Pawnee
; 4 boats, 4 officers and 20 men from the Marblehead
, and 1 officer and 12 men from the C. P. Williams
--total, 8 boats, 8 officers and 82 men, of which 22 were marines, under Sergeant W. Fredlickson
, of the Pawnee
On reaching the earthworks, near a bayou which flows southwesterly of Legareville
, Acting-Ensign Moore
was directed to take the Pawnee
's men and get the nearest gun into her cutter.
The other gun in the most northern work was then raised with great difficulty, lashed to the carriage of a 12-pound howitzer, and hauled with great exertion to the bayou, a distance of a mile, and finally gotten into the Marblehead
The whole affair was a perfect success; the two guns, 8-inch seacoast howitzers, were taken off, the gun-carriages and implements thrown into the river, and all done in the space of two hours.
Though Rear-Admiral Dahlgren
had not, up to this time, forced any of the obstructions in Charleston harbor
, or made his way past the batteries (thus verifying the assertion of Admiral DuPont
, that the force of Monitors was not equal to the occasion), he had shown great pertinacity in sticking to the work assigned him, and had given all the aid in his power to the land-batteries under General Gillmore
The following review of the services of Admiral Dahlgren
when in command of the South Atlantic squadron will give a fair insight into the value of his work:
On the 6th of July, 1863, Rear-Admiral DuPont
delivered to Rear-Admiral Dahlgren
the command of the forces occupying the coast of South Carolina
, and part of Florida
This force, which consisted of 70 vessels of all classes, was scattered along the coast for a distance of 300 miles; there was no concentration, the object being rather to distribute the vessels in such amanner as to enforce an efficient blockade.
took command, the Navy Department was much more liberal towards him than it had been to DuPont
; for he was left to exercise his own judgment, unhampered by orders of any kind.
His instructions were so couched that they merely directed him to assume command, without confining him to any course of action.
They went no further, nor was it necessary that they should do so. There was an enemy in front who had defied the Government
to the utmost; the Department and the President
had already signified their wishes to Admiral DuPont
, and it was clearly the duty of his successor to go to work as soon as possible and compel the enemy to obedience if he could.
But it must be remembered that the Department, in view of the difficulties that had beset the first expedition, had modified its opinion, and was now satisfied that it would be better to have a combined attack of the Army and Navy against the heavy works in Charleston harbor
than to depend on the Monitors
The New Ironsides
was off Charleston
bar, two Monitors were at Edisto
, one at Stono River
, three at Port-Royal
, and one at Ossabaw.
arrangements were immediately made between him and Rear-Admiral Dahlgren
for a descent on Morris Island
, where the former was to establish his batteries.
The naval part of the operations consisted in assembling all the Monitors
, so as to cross the bar at early
daylight, and be ready to cover the landing of the army, with its guns, munitions, etc.; and then to co-operate in whatever way the army might desire to attack the enemy.
On the 9th of July all was in readiness.
In the combined attack which followed, the Catskill
, and Weehawken
were laid in line parallel with the land opposite the southern eminences of Morris Island
, and they poured in such a steady fire upon the Confederate batteries at that point that they made but a feeble show of fight.
At 8 o'clock the troops that had been brought from the Folly River
by the boats of the squadron advanced to the attack; and, under the covering fire of the Monitors
, occupied all the enemy's outer positions, and were only stopped when they came in contact with Fort Wagner
Until the fall of Wagner
, on September 7th, the iron-clads and gun-boats kept up a constant fire on the place, which could only be taken by hard and patient work.
But this work was not crowned with success until after several desperate assaults had been made by the Army, and a heavy bombardment by the Navy.
All assaults were failures, however, and it was proved that the great engineering skill of the Confederates
had produced a work that could only be taken by the slow and laborious operation of a regular siege.
And here Admiral Dahlgren
gives a very good reason why the delay in reaching Charleston
subsequently ensued, viz., that there was a paucity of troops in the first place; that there ought to have been men enough to make the first assault an assured success; that Wagner
might have been carried at the first assault; Gregg
would have yielded in consequence; Sumter
would soon have followed, and the iron-clads, untouched by severe and continued battering, would have been in condition to come quickly in contact with the imperfect interior defences.
forgot, however, that he would still have had the line of obstructions to break, and the batteries at Moultrie
and on Sullivan's Island
to pass, and that the Monitors
would have found the same difficulties in forcing their way through the interior defences as DuPont
met with in his first attack.
The military and naval attacks were as gallant as anything could be, but, though they achieved a great deal, they did not succeed in driving the enemy out of Wagner
before he had time to convert Fort Johnson
from a very imperfect work into a powerful fort.
received similar advantages, and most of the cannon of Sumter
were divided between Johnson
Batteries were established along the south shore of the channel from Fort Johnson
towards the city; and thus an interior defence was completed that rendered access to the upper harbor far more difficult than it was before, because a heavy fire could be concentrated from additional batteries upon vessels attempting to enter.
In fact, the enemy had profited by the experience gained in their outer defences, and had placed their guns so as to obtain a concentrated fire.
When the troops who garrisoned Wagner
were informed that the interior forts were completed, they quietly evacuated that post on the eve of an assault by the Union
troops, and occupied the new positions so adroitly prepared by their able engineers.
In all the siege of this tough work the Navy bore a conspicuous part, having kept up a continuous and heavy fire whenever the opportunity offered.
But the more they battered it, the more apparent it became that the small force of iron-clads off Charleston
was not capable of forcing its way up to the city through obstructions that were now commanded by the newly built defences.
The services of the vessels during the attack on Wagner
were invaluable, as the fire of their guns prevented the access of reinforcements, or their accumulation between Wagner
; and, in fact, without the assistance of the Navy, the Army would not have been able to maintain its position a day without further reinforcements.
The boats of the squadron were engaged on picket duty by night along the sea-shore of Morris Island
, and in the little stream on its inner border.
A detachment of seamen and marines were also engaged, under Commander F. A. Parker
in the attack on the batteries at Fort Sumter
, working four Navy rifled cannon that had been landed for the purpose.
Besides the principal attacks made on Wagner
, there were few days from the first attack on Morris Island
(July 10) to its evacuation (September 7) that some ironclads or gun-boats were not engaged with the enemy's works.
The following table will exhibit the work done by the fleet from July 18th to September 8th:
|Date. 1863. ||Object. ||Vessels engaged. |
|July 18. ||Assault on Wagner ||Montauk, Ironsides, Catskill, Nantucket, Weehawken, Patapsco, Paul Jones, Ottawa, Seneca, Chippewa, Wissahickon. |
|July 22. ||Wagner ||Nantucket, Ottawa. |
|July 24. ||Wagner (to cover advance.) ||Weehawken, Ironsides, Catskill, Montauk, Patapsco. Nantucket, Ottawa, Dai Ching, Paul Jones, Seneca. |
|July 25. ||Wagner ||Ottawa, Dai Ching, Paul Jones. |
|July 28. ||Wagner ||Weehawken, Catskill, Ottawa. |
|July 29. ||Wagner ||Ironsides, Patapsco. |
|July 30. ||Wagner ||Ironsides, Catskill, Patapsco, Ottawa. |
|July 31. ||Batteries on Morris Island ||Ottawa. |
|Aug. 1. ||Wagner ||Montauk, Patapsco, Catskill, Weehawken, Passaic, Nahant, Marblehead. |
|Aug. 2. ||Wagner ||Ottawa. Marblehead. |
|Aug. 4. ||Wagner ||Montauk, Marblehead. |
|Aug. 6. ||Wagner ||Marblehead. |
|Aug. 8. ||Wagner ||Ottawa, Mahaska, Marblehead. |
|Aug. 11. ||Wagner and vicinity ||Patapsco, Catskill. |
|Aug. 13. ||Morris Island ||Dai Ching, Ottawa, Mahaska, Racer, Wissahickon. |
|Aug. 14. ||Morris Island ||Wissahickon, Mahaska, Dan Smith, Ottawa, Dai Ching, Racer. |
|Aug. 15. ||Wagner ||Racer, Dan Smith. |
|Aug. 17. ||Batteries on Morris Island to direct fire from the batteries which opened on Sumter. ||Weehawken, Ironsides, Montauk, Nahant, Catskill, Passaic, Patapsco, Canandaigua Mahaska, Ottawa, Cimmaron, Wissahickon, Dai Ching, Lodona. |
|Aug. 18. ||Wagner, to prevent assault ||Ironsides, Passaic, Weehawken, Wissahickon, Mahaska, Dai Ching, Ottawa, Lodona. |
|Aug. 19. ||Wagner ||Ironsides. |
|Aug. 20. ||Morris Island ||Ironsides, Mahaska, Ottawa, Dai Ching, Lodona. |
|Aug. 21. ||Sumter and Wagner ||Ironsides, Patapsco, Mahaska, Dai Ching. |
|Aug. 22. ||Wagner ||Weehawken, Ironsides, Montauk. |
|Aug. 23. ||Sumter ||Weehawken, Passaic, Montauk, Patapsco, Nahant. |
|Sept. 1. ||Sumter and obstructions ||Weehawken, Montauk, Passaic, Patapsco, Nahant, Lehigh. |
|Sept. 5. ||Between Sumter and Gregg ||Lehigh, Nahant. |
|Sept. 6. ||Wagner and Gregg ||Ironsides, Weehawken, Montauk, Passaic, Patapsco, Nahant, Lehigh. |
|Sept. 7. ||Batteries on Sullivan's Island ||Ironsides, Patapsco, Lehigh, Nahant, Montauk, Weehawken. |
|Sept. 8. ||Batteries on Sullivan's Island ||Ironsides, Nahant, Patapsco, Lehigh, Montauk, Weehawken. |
Service of iron-clads: South Atlantic Blockading Squadron.
Shots fired and hits received by them during operations against Morris Island:
of shots fired. ||Hits. ||Hits Apr. 7, 1863. ||Hits at Ogeechee. ||Total hits. |
|15-in. ||11-in. |
|Catskill ||138 ||425 ||86 ||20 || ||106 |
|Montauk ||301 ||478 ||154 ||14 ||46 ||214 |
|Lehigh ||41 ||28 ||36 || || ||36 |
|Passaic ||119 ||107 ||90 ||35 ||9 ||134 |
|Nahant ||170 ||276 ||69 ||36 || ||105 |
|Patapsco ||178 ||230 ||96 ||47 ||1 ||144 |
|Weehawken ||264 ||633 ||134 ||53 || ||187 |
|Nantucket ||44 ||155 ||53 ||51 || ||104 |
|Ironsides || ||4439 ||164 || || ||164 |
|Totals ||1255 ||6771 ||882 ||256 ||56 ||1194 |
of shots fired. ||Weight of projec.
fired in tons. |
|By Ironsides ||4,439 ||288 1/2 |
by Monitors ||2,332 ||151 1/2 |
by Monitors ||1,255 ||213 1/2 |
| || || |
|Total ||8,026 ||653 1/2 |
That these vessels were subjected to a terrific fire there can be no doubt; and it shows that, though there may have been defects in the building of some of the Monitors
, yet that Ericsson
's system was the most perfect one then invented, and that no ship in European
navies then built could have contended successfully with any one of them for an hour.
During the progress of the engineering work under General Gillmore
, which was of the most laborious kind, the iron-clads and gun-boats played a most conspicuous part, as has been shown in instances already quoted.
It would have been as easy for the enemy to have worked towards the Union
position as for the Federals
to advance towards theirs, had it not been for the fire of the vessels which confined them to the main fort and prevented their extending its lines of defence.
If this had not been the case, the Confederates
could have kept pace with the Federal
troops, and the latter at the end of a month would have been no nearer their object than before.
But the naval commanders were always on the alert to sweep the plain, and prevent the erection of any new works on the side of Wagner
, or any assault on Gillmore
In fact, the fire from the fleet enfiladed the entire width of the narrow island, and not only absolutely interdicted any aggressive operations on the part of the enemy, but kept them constantly occupied in repairing damages to the main work; and, finally, on the day before the last assault was contemplated, Dahlgren
took in his whole force of iron-clads and battered the fort into sand-heaps.
History cannot but award great praise to the brave Confederates who remained at their posts for two months under this terrible fire, and kept a great Army and Navy at bay until their interior defences were so strengthened that they could afford to abandon the outer work.
The operations of the iron-clads at Morris Island
were appropriately closed by a severe contest with Forts Moultrie
and Beauregard, Battery Bee
, and all the batteries on Sullivan's Island
, to relieve the Weehawken
, which vessel had grounded under their guns and was in great danger, the tide having fallen and exposed her unprotected hull.
This last affair showed conclusively that Fort Moultrie
and the batteries mentioned might have been attacked with success, could a strong force of Federal troops with heavy rifled guns have been stationed on Sullivan's Island
, to co-operate, as was done at Morris Island
No doubt the struggle would have been a severe one, but, if as ably carried out as in the first instance, success would assuredly have followed.
It is not always easy for the historian to give the full credit where it is due. He must be governed by the official reports, except in cases where there are glaring inconsistencies.
Hence the tabulated form of reports adopted by Rear-Admiral Dahlgren
has been followed.
This plan is intended to show at a glance what each vessel had done; but, with all the care a commanding officer may take to do justice to his subordinates, discrepancies will creep into official reports at times.
This may imply a want of accuracy on the part of a commander-in-chief, when, in fact, it may have been due to the hurried performance of a multiplicity of duties, or to the indiscretion of a secretary.
But it is the duty
of the historian to correct these discrepancies when they are manifest, where it can be done without raising questions that might end in angry controversies.
There was published in the Army and Navy Journal
, on the 16th of April, 1864, a review of the services of the Monitors
in Southern waters.
Commander Edward Simpson
, in a report dated April 21st, expressed himself as dissatisfied with the amount of credit given his vessel, the Passaic
, in the official reports.
On the 29th of July, 1863, the Passaic
went into action with Fort Wagner
, followed by the Patapsco
and the New Ironsides
The presence of the Passaic
is not mentioned in Rear-Admiral Dahlgren
On the 31st of August, 1863, the most serious engagement in which the iron-clads had yet taken part occurred between Fort Moultrie
on one side, and the Monitors Patapsco
on the other; the detachment being under the command of Commander T. H. Stevens
, on board the Passaic
During the action, the Passaic
grounded about half a mile from Fort Moultrie
, and was severely hammered by the guns of that work before she floated off. This affair was not mentioned in the review, though it was a much more serious one than the engagements with Wagner
and Battery Gregg, on Morris Island
On the Sth of September, one of the most remarkable actions between iron-clads and shore-batteries that ever occurred was fought under command of Commodore S. C. Rowan
, between the batteries on Sullivan's Island
on the one side, and the New Ironsides
, and Weehawken
(aground), on the other.
This action lasted three hours, and terminated in silencing the fire of the batteries on the island.
During this action, the Passaic
was at the head of the line, having received an order from the Commodore
as she was going into action to go well up and engage Battery Bee.
In this affair the vessel was hit in fifty-one new places.
The presence of the Passaic
is not mentioned.
It was very difficult to keep this vessel in effective condition for firing, as her turret had got jammed on the 6th of September, which caused the spindle and pilot house to take up motion with the turret, thus disabling the steering gear, which required the most ingenious expedients to rectify.
After all his efforts to keep his vessel available, and after having endured such a battering from Moultrie
's 10-inch shot, it was disheartening to Lieutenant-Commander Simpson
to find that the presence of his vessel in this action was not mentioned, particularly as she had been more battered than any in the Monitor
, however, did in at measure rectify this mistake, as will appear from the following
Additional List of Actions, in which the iron-clads were engaged with the Confederate batteries in Charleston harbor while reducing Morris Island.
On July 29th, the Passaic engaged Wagner, and on August 31st Moultrie.
On September 8th, the Passaic (in a disabled condition), Patapsco, Weehawken, and Nahant engaged Moultrie.
1863. ||Name. ||Ro'ds fired. ||Hits by Enemy ||Dist'nce Yards. ||Object. ||Remarks. |
|July 18. ||New Ironsides. ||805 ||4 ||1,400 ||Wagner || |
|July 20. ||New Ironsides. ||168 ||13 ||1,300 ||Wagner. || |
|Aug. 23. ||New Ironsides. ||90 ||4 || ||Wagner. ||Ship was underway — distance varied from 1,100 to 1,300 yards. |
|Sept. 2. ||New Ironsides. ||41 || ||1,000 ||Gregg. ||Hits from Gregg and Moultrie.
Ship at anchor. |
|Sept. 2. ||New Ironsides. ||9 || ||1,500 ||Sumter. || |
|Sept. 5. ||New Ironsides. ||488 || ||1,300 ||Wagner. || |
|Sept. 5. ||New Ironsides. ||32 ||1 ||1,800 ||Gregg. ||Hit from Gregg. |
This was scant justice to an officer who had so well maintained the reputation of the Navy at Charleston
, under the hottest fire; but, no doubt, he obtained full credit from his comrades in arms, who, after all, are the ones who appreciate a brother officer's services on such occasions.
One of the points in the efficiency of the iron-clads was the manner in which they had almost closed up the harbor of Charleston
against the blockade-runners.
We say almost
, for, notwithstanding all the watchfulness of the officers on patrol duty, some of these vessels did force their way in, and even succeeded in getting as far as Moultrie
, where they thought themselves secure.
On February 2d, 1864, at daylight, a beautiful blockade-runner, the Presto
, was perceived close under the batteries of Moultrie
, which was the first notice of her presence, she having crept in during the night under the management of some daring captain, who was, no doubt, assisted by rangelights.
He had anchored close to Moultrie
, intending, no doubt, to go up to Charleston
as soon as he could get a pilot to take him through the obstructions.
Dahlgren at once ordered up the nearest Monitor, and directed her commander to open fire upon the intruder with his rifled gun from a distance of about 2,500 yards. Other Monitors were ordered up in succession, for it was desirable to show these blockade-runners that Charleston
was a sealed port to them.
opened on the doomed vessel.
, commanding Morris Island
, also opened from Fort Strong
and Battery Gregg, and the steamer was soon set on fire and destroyed.
It was remarkable that, under the circumstances, any blockade-runner should have attempted such a dare-devil feat; but the greed of gain was overpowering in that class of people, and one successful trip often made them rich for life.
There was no end to the energy of the Confederates
, who, after they had lost the forts on Morris Island
and seen Sumter
battered out of shape by the Army and Navy, determined to show that they were not at all subdued.
They had strengthened the works in the inner harbor above Moultrie
, and made the place more difficult of approach than ever.
held Morris Island
up to Cummings' Point
and commanded Sumter
, which was of no use to any one, with his guns.
, who seemed to think for the present that he had done all he
could to close the port against blockade-runners, informed Rear-Admiral Dahlgren
, on February 5th, 1864, that he was about to throw a force into Florida
, on the west bank of the St. John's River
, and desired his assistance.
In consequence, three gun-boats were sent to the St. John's River
by the commander-in-chief
, who, the same evening, departed himself for that point, leaving the blockade of Charleston
in charge of Commodore Rowan
This was virtually abandoning the attempt to capture Charleston
, that long-cherished object of the Navy Department, and seeking a new and much less important field of operations.
But as this expedition only required the presence of the Navy while the troops were disembarking, Rear-Admiral Dahlgren
soon after returned to Port Royal
, leaving a sufficient force of gun-boats in the St. John's River
to co-operate with the Army if necessary.
The Confederates were not slow to take advantage of the lull which had taken place after the storm of shot and shell that had been poured down upon their devoted heads, and their torpedo corps went to work to fit out another David
(or torpedoboat), after the plan, with improvements, of the one that had attempted to blow up the Ironsides
The first attempt was such a complete failure that the Federal
officers on the outside blockade had grown somewhat careless.
As early as January 14, 1864, the Navy Department had written to Rear-Admiral Dahlgren
, informing him that it had received notice that the Confederates
had on foot a plan to blow up his fleet, and that it considered it of sufficient importance to notify him of it. Dahlgren
, however, did not think that such a plan would be carried out against the vessels blockading outside of the harbor, but only against the iron-clads on the inside; but, at the same time, thought it advisable to give notice to the officers on the outer blockade, so that they might be on their guard.
Notwithstanding these precautions, the Confederates
managed to get one of their torpedo-boats over the bar, and on the night of the 17th of February the fine new ship Housatonic
, while lying at anchor off Charleston
, in a most convenient position to be attacked by torpedo-boats, was destroyed under the following circumstances:
At about 8:45 P. M., the officer of the deck on board the Housatonic
, Acting-Master J. K. Crosby
, discovered something in the water, about one hundred yards away, moving towards the ship.
All the officers in the squadron had been informed of the character of the Davids
, and what they looked like on the water.
had had printed full descriptions of these infernal machines, and directions as to the best manner of avoiding them.
He had attached more importance to torpedoes than persons generally did at that time, and considered that they constituted the most formidable difficulties in the way of getting to Charleston
He felt that the whole line of blockade would probably be attacked with these cheap, convenient and formidable weapons, and that officers should adopt every means to guard against them.
When this machine was first seen by the officer of the deck, it had the appearance of a plank moving along on the water.
It came directly towards the ship, and, within
two minutes of the time it was first sighted, was alongside.
The chain was slipped, the engine backed, and all hands called to quarters.
But it was too late — the torpedo struck the Housatonic
just forward of the main-mast on the starboard side, in a line with the magazine.
The man who steered her knew where the vulnerable spots of the steamer were, and he did his work well.
As the after pivot-gun was pivoted to port, it was found impossible to bring a gun to bear on the daring intruder, while those on board of her were coolly making their arrangements to knock a hole in the ship's bottom, for the David
laid alongside a full minute.
When the explosion took place the ship trembled all over, as if by the shock of an earthquake, and seemed to be lifted out of the water, and then sank stern foremost, heeling to port as she went down.
It must have been a large hole in the bottom that could sink her so rapidly.
There was, of course, great consternation on board at this unlooked — for event, for there is nothing more appalling than to have a torpedo exploded under a ship's bottom.
A hundred pounds of powder on a pole, is enough to blow the bottom through the heaviest iron-clad — how destructive must it have been then to a wooden vessel!
Most of the crew flew up the rigging for safety, and all order was at an end on board the Housatonic
Her captain (Pickering
) was stunned and somewhat bruised by the concussion, and the order of the day was “sauve qui peut
A boat was dispatched to the Canandaigua
, not far off, and that vessel at once responded to the request for help, and succeeded in rescuing all but the following officers and men, who are supposed to have been drowned: Ensign E. C. Hazletine
's Clerk C. O. Muzzey
, Quartermaster John Williams
, Landsman Theodore Parker
, and Fireman John Walsh
Strange to say, the David
was not seen after the explosion, and was supposed to have slipped away in the confusion; but when the Housatonic
was inspected by divers, the torpedo-boat was found sticking in the hole she had made, having been drawn in by the rush of water, and all her crew were found dead in her. It was a reckless adventure these men had engaged in, and one in which they could scarcely have hoped to succeed.
They had tried it once before inside the harbor, against the Ironsides
, with the same boat, or one very similar, and failed, and some of the crew had been blown overboard.
How could they hope to succeed on the outside, where the sea might be rough, when the speed of the David
would not be over five knots an hour, and when they might be driven out to sea?
Reckless as it might be, it was the most sublime patriotism, and showed the length to which men could be urged in behalf of a cause for which they were willing to give their lives and all they held most dear.
Torpedo practice was at that time cried down by humanitarians, but the use of it in war was perfectly legitimate, and had the Federal Government
availed itself of it a little more freely, fewer blockade-runners.
and less munitions of war, provisions and clothing would have reached the Confederate armies.
What was considered un-Christian warfare then, is now resorted to by all nations, only in more destructive shapes.
The torpedo which was so successfully used by the Confederates
was a very primitive arrangement.
It has been so improved and enlarged in destructive ability that it bids fair to become a great factor in keeping the peace throughout the world; and those nations which have built great iron-clad fleets, with which to dominate weaker nations, may well stop to consider whether it is worth while to extend the system, in view of the advances made in the locomotive torpedo, which will likely put the smaller nations more on a par with the stronger ones.
It was to the naval officers of the Southern Confederacy that we were mostly indebted for what we knew about torpedoes.
At the present time we may have improved on the slow-moving David
, which could only make five miles an hour, and brought up the speed of the present torpedo-boats to twenty knots an hour; but we are not at all in advance of the system adopted by the Confederates
, which, if it did not keep the Navy out of their harbors.
yet contributed in a great measure in prolonging the war, and was the cause of the Federal Government
losing a large number of valuable vessels-of-war.
The energy of the Confederates
in regard to their inventions in the torpedo line was most remarkable, and in quite strong contrast to that of the other side.
During the whole war the Federals
never invented anything except a torpedo in a steam launch, called the Wood-Lay
torpedo, which was nearly as dangerous to the crew as to the enemy.
In March, 1864, the gun-boats in Florida
under the command of Commander George B. Balch
, were participating in the expedition up the St. John's River
When the Federal
troops landed, they threw up such heavy intrenchments that it was not likely the Confederates
could make much impression on them.
The Confederates of that region, however, did not propose to allow their native State to be invaded without making a stubborn resistance, and left no means untried to annoy the military positions
whenever there was an opportunity of doing so. But the gun-boats were generally at hand with their heavy guns and bursting shells, and the Southerners were usually discomfited.
landed at Jacksonville
on the 9th of May, and assumed command of the district of Florida; and, in view of the long line of river to be kept open, objected to any reduction of the naval force in the St. John's River
, in which Commander Balch
concurred with him.
The activity of the Confederates
in this quarter, as elsewhere, was very marked; for, though they yielded up all the forts along the coast, they seemed determined to resist any further entrance of Federal troops into the interior of the State
, and they tried to confine the Navy as much as possible to the lower part of the St. John's River
Notwithstanding the vigilance of the naval commanders, the Confederates
succeeded in planting torpedoes in the river in the channel.
On May 10th, the steamer Harriet A. Weed
ran into two of these torpedoes, which exploded at the same moment and completely destroyed the vessel, sinking her in less than one minute's time, with five men killed and ten badly wounded.
The naval force employed in the St. John's River
, under Commander Balch
, was composed of the Pawnee
, off Jacksonville
, and the Ottawa
With such a small force it would have been impossible to prevent the enemy from practicing their system of torpedo warfare, which they had found to be so effective wherever the Federal
gunboats were employed.
On about the last of March, the transport Maple-leaf
offered another success for the Confederates
, and was blown up by a torpedo, fifteen miles above Jacksonville
— this being the highway to Palatka
and above, where Federal troops were being constantly transported.
The duty on the river became very hazardous, for a severe torpedo warfare was carried on in small boats during dark nights by the Confederate
torpedo corps, which first made its appearance on the Mississippi
The above operations in Florida
of the Army and Navy lasted from March 6th to April 16th, when orders were received from the War Department for the troops to be sent North
, in consequence of which the gun-boats were withdrawn; but while employed with the Army, Commander Balch
, Lieutenant-Commander S. Livingston Breese
, of the Ottawa
, and the commanders of the Mahaska
performed good and gallant service.
It must not be supposed that there were not constantly occurring gallant affairs on the Federal
side as well as on that of the Confederates
; for though the latter resorted to every means in their power to damage the Federal
vessels, yet the officers of the Navy were ever on the alert to take advantage of anything that would enable them to circumvent the enemy.
These were small affairs, but they were hazardous, and showed the skill of the Union
officers and men.
On the 23d of March, a steamer, supposed to be loading with cotton, was discovered up the Santee River
, at a point called McClellansville
, and Commodore Rowan
, senior officer
of the blockading squadron, ordered Lieutenant A. W. Weaver
, of the gun-boat Winona
, to fit out an expedition and cut her out. Accordingly, an expedition was started from the Winona
, under the command of Acting-Master E. H. Sheffield
(executive officer), consisting of the gig and second and third cutters.
was in charge of one cutter, Acting-Master
's Mate L. N. Cornthwait
in charge of the other, with Acting-Assistant Surgeon Charles Little
and Assistant-Engineer W. I. Barrington
; the sailors consisted of 21 of the crew.
had orders to proceed up the Santee
, capture the steamer if possible, and bring her out; if not, to burn her. Cuttingout expeditions are always hazardous, and this was no exception to the rule.
It was a dark night with drizzling rain, just such a night as an enemy might be supposed to be taking care of himself in snug quarters.
The boats had to thread their way in the uncertain darkness through marshes, with their numberless small ditches or creeks.
They could not be positive whither they were going, and frequently lost their way. But, at 6 in the morning, the commander of the expedition sighted the steamer
lying at anchor off the bank, when the boats pushed ahead for the anticipated prize.
As the boats got near the vessel, a large number of men were seen to be rushing about the decks, and a boat was lowered; when the boats of the Winona
boarded her, drove the men below, and a sentry was placed at each hatch.
The captain of the prize had been captured by the sailors while attempting to make his way on shore.
There being no indication of a battery on shore, Engineer Barrington
immediately commenced to start the fires.
The chain was hove short, but the vessel was so fastened by stern chains that were shackled around her after-bitts that it was found impossible to slip them, and the party commenced to cut them with cold-chisels, when a masked battery of three rifled guns opened on them and put a stop to their proceedings.
The shot, fired at short range, went in one side and out the other--one penetrating the steam-drum and another the boilers, destroying the tubes, etc.
The artillerists had evidently been prepared for the attack, and perforated the vessel in many places, evidently determined to disable her in case she was boarded.
The fire of the enemy was successful, and, as the vessel was iron and could not be burned, the party were obliged to leave or be cut to pieces.
The result was a retreat after a gallant attack that ought to have been successful, and it detracts nothing from the gallantry of this affair that it was not so.
Operations in Florida
continued on a small scale--Commander Balch
, in the Pawnee
, and two gun-boats being stationed there to assist the Army.
Not much scope existed for brilliant action; but now and then a small expedition to reconnoitre the enemy or capture some river steamer would be fitted out by young officers, who showed great cleverness and gallantry in most of the planned expeditions undertaken, particularly in one by General Gordon
, opposite Palatka
— backed by the Navy; and, though they were of no great import, were always successful.
It is pleasant to see that the Navy service was appreciated by the Army, as will appear by the following letter:
In these small affairs whatever was attempted was well executed, under the efficient preparations made by Captain Balch
, in all cases where the land forces wanted assistance; and the officers under his command, guided by his example, left nothing undone to assist the Army, no matter how unreasonable its demands might sometimes be. Captain Balch
was not a precise officer, but a very gallant one, and his name frequently appears in the dispatches of the commander-in-chief
as always doing well in whatever situation he was placed.
The operations of the Navy were conducted all along the coast of South Carolina
and in Florida
, after the active and exciting raids in the harbor of Charleston
Several vessels were taken by the enemy: the Columbine
, a captured river-boat, was retaken by the Confederates
up the St. John's River
, and the U. S. S. Water Witch
captured by a number of boats in Ossabaw Sound
after a gallant defence; but these were small mishaps, and to be expected in a large base of operations.
The last mentioned might have been avoided by shifting the berth after dark, and keeping the watch at quarters in a place where a boarding expedition of the enemy was to have been expected.
They were quite as fertile in expedients to destroy and capture as were tle Federal forces.
Most of the officers of the Water Witch
were wounded during the first of the attack, and Lieutenant-Commander Austin Pendergrast
, the commanding officer
, was himself cut down with sword in hand, bravely defending his vessel.
It was thought by him that but for the casualties among his officers the enemy would have been repulsed; but they were not, and therein lies the difference.
The Water Witch
was a favorite little steamer, which had performed some remarkably good service, and her loss caused great regret.
Amid all their gallantry, there were too many occasions in which the Confederates
departed from the usages of war, and practiced unnecessary cruelty on their prisoners.
This occurred in the case of the officers and men of the Water Witch
The surgeon supposed that he would be treated according to the usual manner of captured medical officers.
Understanding that there
was an arrangement between the Federals
and Confederates that the medical officers
should be permitted to attend their own wounded, and, after there was no longer any necessity for their services, be allowed to depart, Acting-Assistant Surgeon W. H. Pierson
made a request in writing to Flagofficer W. W. Hunter
, that the Confederate Secretary of the Navy
be applied to for his release, according to the supposed agreement; but he only, after a second application, received for answer the following letter:
In accordance with the above edict, this gentleman was sent to Macon Prison.
His daily ration consisted of one pint of unbolted corn-meal
, a tablespoonful of rice, a little miserable and sometimes maggoty bacon (called, in derision, soap-grease) a very little salt, and a moderate supply of poor molasses.
It was said at that time that the same ration was served out to Confederate soldiers; if that was so, they were in a bad strait, and could not help it. But there is always a courtesy due a prisoner-of-war taken in honest battle, and it is quite evident that this courtesy was not extended to Union officers.
It is but fair to say that, through the Confederate
surgeons, Assistant-Surgeon Pierson
afterwards received better treatment, was finally released through the same influence, and found himself under the old flag again, without any conditions.
We dislike, and have always avoided as much as possible referring to cruelties practiced by the Confederates
in retaliation for supposed injuries received by Southern prisoners — or for the purpose of preventing Federal batteries firing on besieged places.
But the following letter, received in June from the Confederate
commander at Charleston
, must have shocked the sense of humanity and propriety which every gallant officer must feel at having to carry out such an order.
It plainly showed what straits the Confederates
were in when they could resort to such a measure to prevent besiegers from firing on a city which was a fair object of attack according to the strictest rules of war, and when, if the besieged non-combatants were in any danger, it was the duty of the military authorities to have them removed, unless they determined to remain and stand the consequences :
There is much to be said against exercising this kind of warfare; and exposing the lives of prisoners in a place to prevent an enemy from firing upon it, can only be considered a violation of the usages of civilized warfare which would damage any cause.
The shelling of a beleagured city is a right of war, and though the duties of humanity towards women and children should be strictly observed, and they should have full time given them to remove from the scene of danger, yet, if they do not do so, military operations could not be interfered with.
To expose captives to the close confinement of a place under fire, with the hopes of thereby putting a stop to a bombardment, is making an unfair comparison between the captives and non-combatants, for the latter have the power to withdraw from the fire, while the captives cannot.
It had not been the custom to send captives from other parts to Charleston
to be kept in confinement; on the contrary, all prisoners had been sent away from there; and it is evident that the Union
officers were sent there to be sacrificed in case the Union batteries kept up their fire on the city.
The destruction of Charleston
in a military point of view was just as necessary as the destruction of the Confederate
It was a store-house of arms and munitions-of-war from which the forts could draw supplies.
It contained a large arsenal of military stores and ammunition; and while these existed, the General
commanding the Federal
forces was justified in attempting to destroy them.
A siege without a bombardment would have been of no use, as the city was open in the rear, and supplies of all kinds could be brought in from the surrounding country.
This is the only reason which can be given why the military commander
of the Union
forces should have forborne to use his guns upon
It was of no use in bringing about a surrender, for it might have been known from the character of the defences of Charleston
that they would not have surrendered the city until the outside works were taken, and it would have been more profitable to have expended the shot and shell on the surrounding forts.
If General Gillmore
at a distance of over 5,000 yards “had reduced Sumter
to a pulp,” it is quite possible that the Federal Army
and Navy, by keeping up the same kind of fire on the forts, would eventually have reduced them, as they did Wagner
, and enabled the Navy to remove the obstructions, so that the Monitors
could go on up to Charleston
The Confederates had shown an immense amount of energy and courage in holding their own.
This shelling the city gave the Confederates
the opportunity of saying that the fire was kept up from the disappointment the Federal
forces had met with in not bringing about a surrender.
An opportunity should never have been given the enemy to cast a shadow of reflection upon the acts of Federal officers, who could afford to be forbearing in the face of the fact that Charleston
, as a base of supplies through the means of blockade-runners, could never be of any more use to the Confederacy
, and that the larger the force that was kept there to hold the place the more advantageous it was for the Federal
That the situation of the Confederates
was becoming desperate about that time we now know full well, and probably some civilian member of the Confederate Cabinet
suggested this confinement of Federal prisoners in Charleston
; for it cannot be conceived that any of the high-toned officers, who on many occasions showed true chivalric feeling in the capture of Federals, should have instituted a scheme that would surely have reflected on them as honorable soldiers.
On the 20th of June the Rear-Admiral
commanding received a notification from the Navy Department in Washington
“that the Confederates
were preparing for a simultaneous move on the blockade, inside and out, in order to cover the exit of a large quantity of cotton.”
The next day, the Sonoma
, Commander George H. Cooper
, and Nipsic
, Lieutenant-Commander William Gibson
, were sent as outside cruisers to cover the blockade south of Port Royal
, where it was weakest, and where the chief effort was to be made.
A plan was laid between General Foster
and Admiral Dahlgren
to make a diversion by cutting the railroad between Charleston
were to land, each with a force considered adequate for the occasion, while General Birney
was to go into the North Edisto
, and as high as possible, to destroy the railroad.
The Navy was to enter the Stono
to co-operate with General Schimmelfennig
. One or two gun-boats were to ascend the North Edisto
, and co-operate with General Birney
to secure his landing.
On the 2d day of July the Monitors Lehigh
crossed the Stono
bar, while the remaining naval force consisted of the Pawnee
Though the plans were well made, nothing resulted from this expedition.
The different co-operating parties reached some of the points aimed at and attacked the Confederate
troops that were out to receive them, and the gun-boats and Monitors opened on such forts as they were directed
to fire upon; but there was no success in the attack.
The Federal troops failed to capture any of the enemy's batteries; and after one or two days spent in desultory fighting, it was decided that the enemy were in too strong force, that further efforts would not be profitable, and therefore the troops should be withdrawn from John's Island
These operations lasted about six days, during which there was a good deal of hard work and the usual display of gallantry on the part of the Navy, under the guns of which the Army safely re embarked.
speaks handsomely of his staff, and particularly mentions the services of Commander Balch
and Lieutenant-Commanders Semmes
, A. W. Johnson
, R. L. Phythian
, and Acting-Masters Phinney
This was about the last operation of any importance that occurred in the South Atlantic squadron up to October 22, when
the account of its operations for the year ended.
Some minor expeditions were undertaken — in one of which the brig Perry
lost fifteen men in killed, wounded and prisoners — and in another a schooner loaded with cotton was set on fire and burned by a party of brave fellows; but we miss the exciting scenes which occurred in the attacks on the batteries of Charleston
, where the officers and men fought persistently for so many days and nights, demonstrating their capacity to command, and exhibiting a gallantry never exceeded, and a disappointment that cannot be described, at their unsuccessful efforts to win the works of Charleston
The innumerable obstacles thrown in their way by a powerful and active foe, full of resources and full of means, to check the advance into his harbor, were too great for a force entirely too small in the first place for such an undertaking.
The Southern coast was, on the whole, thoroughly blockaded, and Charleston
no longer of any use to the Confederates
; and there was really no further necessity for their holding it, except for the sake of a sentiment connected with the fact that it was the first place to raise the flag of secession, and desired to be the last that would haul it down.
Towards the close of the year 1864, owing to the stringent blockade of the whole Southern coast by the Navy, except at the entrance to Wilmington
, the Confederate States
began to be placed in great distress for the want of food to supply their armies, and at one time there was a prospect of their being starved into submission, even without victories by the Federal
In the early part of May there were on hand but two days rations for Lee
's army at Richmond
, and on the 23d of June only thirteen days rations, showing how the Navy had cut off the foreign supply; and to meet the demand, and keep the Confederate army from disbanding, the Commissary-General
had to offer market rates for wheat then growing in the fields.
A great deal of this distress and exhaustion of supplies was, however, owing to the exhaustion of Virginia
The prevalence of droughts, and the fact that the crops all over the State
had been destroyed by the Federal
armies, rendered it very difficult to subsist so large a number of troops as were located in and around Richmond
The effect of the advance of the Federal
forces was to oblige the Confederates
to call out their reserves, and these had to be fed. Many farmers were detailed for military duty and ordered into the field, at the very time it was most necessary for them to be at home attending to the seeding of wheat.
Yet the blockade was far more ruinous to the Confederate
cause than all other operations put together.
As long as a blockade-runner could get into any of the Southern
ports, bringing bacon and flour, the soldiers could be sustained; and whenever two or three of these supply-vessels were captured by the Federal fleet, it carried dismay to the hearts of those who ruled the destinies of the South
the supply of breadstuff was practically exhausted.
The negro field-hands were absconding for fear of being employed in the army, and were taking refuge in the Union
lines, while Sherman
's march through the South
had cut off all supplies of grain or cattle from that region.
It may be imagined, then, how important it was for the Confederate armies that the blockade-runners should now and then obtain safe entrance into the Southern
harbors with their military supplies.
As late as November, 1864, President Davis
applied to the Commissary-General
to ascertain how many rations there were on hand, to feed not only the army at Richmond
, but the other forces in the field, and was informed that there was a very alarming state of affairs in that Department; that Georgia
were the only States where there was an accumulation, and that the Confederate Army was at that time being subsisted from these States.
The Commissary of Georgia
sent dispatches that he could not send another pound of provisions to Richmond
, under the most urgent call, could only send forward 135,000 pounds of food.
was doing all she could in supplying rations to General Beauregard
could only subsist the troops at Charleston
and the prisoners in the interior of the State
The enemy had visited every section of North Carolina
, and that State was only able to supply the forts at Wilmington
with rations of the most ordinary kind, and not a pound of meat could be shipped to either Wilmington
Fortunately for the Confederates
, the blockade-runner Banshee
succeeded in eluding the blockaders and getting into Wilmington
; and owing to this timely supply of provisions the reserves at the forts were prevented from being starved out. As it was, the commissaries were only able to supply them with thirty days rations.
At that moment there were only 3,400,000 rations of bacon and pork in the whole Confederacy to subsist 300,000 men for 25 days.
In the month of December matters were still worse; there was not meat enough in the Southern Confederacy for the armies it had in the field.
That the meat must be obtained from abroad was plainly seen, and it was also recognized that, in order to obtain
it, it would be necessary to break the blockade by some means then untried or unknown.
Nor was the transportation adequate to the demands of the occasion.
The supply of fresh meat to General Lee
's army was precarious, and, if the army fell back from Richmond
, there was every probability that it would cease to exist altogether.
This condition of affairs was brought about by the vigilance of the Federal Navy
, which worked hard, day and night, to prevent supplies from getting in from the sea; and the only part of the coast where the blockade was sometimes open to the runners was at the port of Wilmington
, where the enemy had been allowed, under an unwise management, to build heavy works at the entrance to Cape Fear River
, under which the blockade-runners could take shelter at night and bid defiance to their pursuers.
This was the only rendezvous the Confederates
had from the entrance of Hatteras Inlet to the capes of Florida
; and so uncertain was this, that there was no knowing how soon the Federal Government
would take proper measures to stop it, even if the advance of Sherman
's army through the South
did not cause the evacuation of Wilmington
The Navy, it is true, did not succeed in capturing Charleston
, but it closed that port against blockade-runners so completely that it was forbidden ground to them.
This was well worth the time, money and fighting expended on this Confederate stronghold, for at the close of the naval campaign of 1864 the Confederates
could only subsist their troops there on the meanest rations.