previous next

Doc. 51. expedition to Ocracoke Inlet.

Report of Commander Rowan.

United States steamer Pawnee, Hatteras Inlet, September 18, 1861.
sir: On Saturday, the 14th inst., I gave a pass to one of the people on Hatteras Island to go to Ocracoke Inlet, for the purpose of bringing his family from Portsmouth. I directed this person to examine the forts on Beacon Island and Portsmouth Island, and bring me a true report of the condition of things, the number of guns mounted, if any, and the number dismounted; whether any troops were there, and whether the gun-carriages had all been burned or not, and to report the result to me on his return. On Sunday morning, the 15th inst., the boat came alongside, with the man and his wife and children, in a destitute state. We gave them food, and the surgeon prescribed and furnished medicine for the sick of the family.

The man reported that there were twenty guns in Fort Beacon, and four eight-inch shell guns at Portsmouth; that the guns were spiked and the carriages burned on the 1st instant, as already reported to you. He also stated that a steamer came to Beacon Island before he left Portsmouth, for the purpose of carrying off the guns. I immediately determined to use all the means at my command to prevent the removal of the guns, and forthwith got the steamer Fanny alongside to prepare her for this service, and had the launch armed and equipped. I sent a request to Col. Hawkins to give me as many of the Naval Brigade as could be spared, which he cheerfully complied with. When the Fanny was brought alongside, her iron rudder-perch was found so much injured that it would be impossible to send her without repairs, so the forge was gotten up, and the clink of hammers soon succeeded the voices of the crew in their responses to our usual Sunday morning service. I despatched the information to Capt. Chauncy, in the offing, who promptly informed me that he would send in four boats and all his marines. I sent him word that I would have great pleasure in cooperating with him as senior officer, and would send him the Tempest to tow his boats over Ocracoke bar.

At daylight on Monday morning the Fanny was towed alongside and, her rudder temporarily fitted, the Naval Brigade were taken on board, with four days provisions and water, and the launch similarly provided for. The expedition, being carefully organized, and provided with sledge hammers to break off the trunnions, and thirty-two pound shot and twenty-seven pound cartridges, to be used in firing one gun against the trunnion of another, left this ship at half-past 7 o'clock, the launch commanded by Lieut. Eastman and the expedition under command of Lieut. Maxwell, the executive officer of this ship. I despatched the tug Tempest to Capt. Chauncy, she drawing too much water to enter the sound.

At ten o'clock the Susquehanna and tug started for the inlet. On the evening of the same day the tug and Susquehanna returned and anchored off Fort Clark. The tug came in next morning, and the pilot informed me that the force from the Susquehanna did not enter Ocracoke in consequence of the surf. On the afternoon of the 17th instant I felt much anxiety for our expedition. The Susquehanna remained at anchor in the offing, and our force was left to take care of itself.

Early this morning the lookout at the mast-head gave us the gratifying intelligence that our expedition was in sight, and it reached the ship about eleven o'clock. Lieutenants Maxwell and Eastman performed the service with ability and energy, and bore my thanks. The destruction of the fort is complete, and twenty-two guns disabled. These are all the guns that were there, with the exception of two taken off in the steamboat Albemarle on Sunday. The destruction of the guns was with me a necessity. I had no means of transporting them or of defending them in their position. I therefore hope my course will meet your approval. I enclose a copy of Lieutenant Maxwell's report, giving all the details of this important service, which was performed without an accident of any kind.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

S. C. Rowan, Commander. Flag-officer S. H. Stringham, Commanding Atlantic Squadron.

Lieutenant Maxwell's report.

United States steamer Pawnee, Hatteras Inlet, Sept. 18.
sir: I have to report that, in compliance with your orders of the 16th, I started for Ocracoke on that day, in the steamer Fanny, towing the Pawnee's launch. Lieutenant Eastman had charge of the latter, with twenty-two men and six marines from the ship, and the twelve-pound howitzer, and I had on board six men and sixty-one soldiers of the Naval Brigade, under Lieutenants Tillotson and Roe. We arrived within two miles of the fort on Beacon Island at 11 o'clock A. M., when the Fanny grounded. I sent Lieutenant Eastman in the launch to sound for the channel. While he was so occupied, a sail-boat with two men put off from Portsmouth to cross the sound. A shot from the Fanny brought them alongside, and they piloted us to within an hundred yards of the fort. It is called Fort Ocracoke, and is situated [141] on the seaward face of Beacon Island. It was entirely deserted. It is octagonal in shape, contains four shell rooms, about twenty-five feet square, and in the centre a large bomb-proof one hundred feet square, with the magazine within it. Directly above the magazine, on each side, were four large tanks containing water. The fort had been constructed with great care, of sand in barrels covered with earth and turf. The inner flaming of the bomb-proof was built of heavy pine timbers. There were platforms for twenty guns, which had been partially destroyed by fire. The gun carriages had been all burned. There were eighteen guns in the fort — namely, four eight-inch navy shell guns, and fourteen long thirty-two pounders. The steamer Albemarle left on Sunday afternoon, carrying off two guns. I found one hundred and fifty barrels also, many of them filled with water. There being no water in the fort, they had brought it from Washington and Newberry.

I landed the men at half-past 1 o'clock, and commenced breaking off the trunnions of the guns. While a portion of our men and the Naval Brigade were so employed, I sent Lieutenant Eastman in the launch to Portsmouth, where he found three eight-inch navy shell guns lying on the beach, and one mounted on a carriage. They had all been spiked. There was no battery erected there, although we were informed that one would have been built but for our coming. There had been a camp at Portsmouth, called Camp Washington, but a portion of the troops were sent to Fort Hatteras when it was attacked, on August 28, and the remainder retired to the mainland. Portsmouth, which formerly contained four hundred and fifty inhabitants, was nearly deserted, but the people are expected to return. Those remaining seemed to be Union men, and expressed satisfaction at our coming. Lieutenant Eastman assured them that they would not be molested by the Government, and that they might return to their usual occupations.

There are no intrenchments nor guns at Ocracoke. The fishermen and pilots, who fled after our attack, have generally returned. I tried to destroy the guns by breaking the trunnions off with sledges, and by dropping solid shot upon them from an elevation, but with little success. I then fired solid shot from a sixty-four-pounder at them, and in this manner disabled them. Lieutenant Eastman disabled the guns at Portsmouth by knocking off the cascables, and leaving them in the salt water on the beach.

After destroying the guns, I collected all the lumber, barrels and wheelbarrows, and placed them in and about the bomb-proof, set fire to the pile and entirely destroyed it. A light ship, which had been used as a storeship, and which was run upon the shore some distance from the fort, with the intention of subsequently towing her off and arming, I also set fire to.

At half-past 6 o'clock this morning I started on our return. We met with no detention, and arrived safely with all hands at half-past 11 o'clock. I am happy to report that the conduct of our men and the Naval Brigade was excellent. Lieutenant Eastman and Lieutenant Tillotson and Lieutenant Roe of the Naval Brigade, rendered me most efficient assistance.

I am, respectfully, your obedient servant,

James Y. Maxwell, Lieutenant United States Navy. Commander S. C. Rowan, United States steamer Pawnee.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Eastman (8)
James Y. Maxwell (5)
S. C. Rowan (3)
Tillotson (2)
John Roe (2)
Chauncy (2)
Silas H. Stringham (1)
Newberry (1)
Charles Hawkins (1)
Doc (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
September 18th, 1861 AD (1)
September 18th (1)
August 28th (1)
17th (1)
15th (1)
14th (1)
1st (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: