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[269]

“Hearts of oak in wooden ships” a fleet of Federal vessels riding out a storm in Hampton roads, December, 1864 Such scenes were oft repeated from the beginning to the close of the war. The vessels that took part in the various expeditions along the shore were accustomed to rendezvous in this harbor before setting out. On August 26, 1861, a squadron under Commodore Silas H. Stringham (afterwards rear-admiral) sailed from Hampton Roads in the first naval expedition of the war. It achieved the first victory for the Federal cause, capturing Forts Hatteras and Clark at Hatteras Inlet on August 29th. Commodore Stringham, a veteran of the old navy, had with him four of the old ships of live oak in which American officers and men had been wont to sail the seas; and the forts at Hatteras Inlet were no match for the 135 guns which the “Minnesota” (flagship), “Wabash,” “Susquehanna,” and “Cumberland” brought to bear upon them, to say nothing of the minor armament of the “Pawnee,” “Harriet Lane,” and “Monticello.” But before another naval expedition could be undertaken, many of the gallant officers had to come down from their staunch old ships to command nondescript vessels purchased for the emergency, whose seaworthiness was a grave question. Yet these brave men never inquired whether their vessels would sink or swim, caring only to reach the post of danger and serve as best they could the flag under which they fought.

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