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[172]

The naval force of the Confederacy in Charleston harbor consisted of three ironclads. Their steam-power was totally inadequate for the effective use of the vessels. In fact, when the wind and tide were moving in the same direction, it was impossible for the vessels to advance against them, light though the wind might be. Under such circumstances it was necessary to come to an anchor. On one occasion the ironclads Palmetto State and Chicora ran out of Charleston harbor under favorable circumstances. The Palmetto State assaulted the Mercideta, commanded by Captain Stellwagen, who unconditionally surrendered. But the ironclad being under orders to follow her consort in chase of the enemy, and having no boats to which to transfer her prisoners, the parole of the officers and men was accepted, with their promise to observe the same until its return. The surrender was accepted, and an honest parole was the consideration for not being sunk on the spot. Captain Stellwagen abided but a short time, when, getting up steam, he broke his plighted word and ran off with the captured vessel. The deficiency of speed on the part of the Confederate ironclads frustrated their efforts to relieve the city of Charleston from continued blockade.

The harbor defenses of Savannah were entrusted to Commodore Tatnall, who defended the approach to the city with a small steamer of one gun, an inefficient floating battery and ironclad, which had been constructed from a blockade runner. Several attempts were made to attack the enemy's vessels with the ironclad, but these were frustrated by the delay in opening a passage through the obstructions in the river when tide and opportunity were offered. Her draught was too great for the depth of water, except at high tides, and these were at long intervals. The ironclad was armed with a battery of four guns, two seven-inch and two six-inch. Her force consisted of some twenty-one officers and twenty-four men, when she was fully furnished. Another vessel was under construction and nearly completed, and Commodore Tatnall, notwithstanding his well-known combative instincts, was understood to be unwilling to send the Atlanta alone against the enemy's blockading vessels. Lieutenant Webb, who had been lately placed in command of the Atlanta, took her to Warsaw Sound to deliver battle singly to the two ironclads Weehawken and Nahant, which awaited her approach. The Atlanta got twice aground—the second time, inextricably so. In this situation she was attacked and, though hopelessly, was bravely defended but was finally forced to surrender.

Mobile harbor was thought to be adequately provided for, as torpedoes obstructed the approach, and Forts Morgan and Gaines commanded the

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Josiah Tatnall (2)
Stellwagen (2)
W. A. Webb (1)
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