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Chapter 13:

The State of Tennessee furnished 31,000 white men to the Federal government during the war between the States. Among them were David G. Farragut and Samuel Carter.

Admiral Farragut commanded the largest and most powerful force that had ever been controlled by any American naval officer, and the results of the operations of that force in the waters of the Mississippi were more fatal to the Confederacy than any of the military campaigns. The achievements of his fleet enabled General Grant to cross the Mississippi with safety, and to get in the rear of Vicksburg. The fall of that essential position was thus assured, and the Confederacy cut in twain. At the date of it, Texas had become the chief source of supply for cattle, horses and other essentials. The control of the Mississippi river by the Federal naval forces was a fatal blow to the Confederacy, and reduced the war from the position of a contest having many probabilities of success to a purely defensive struggle for safety. (Capt. James D. Bulloch.)

Rear-Admiral Carter, then a lieutenant-commander, U. S. N., was withdrawn from the navy early in 1861, and commissioned as a brigadier-general of volunteers, charged with the organization of the men of Tennessee who were loyal to the Federal union into regiments, and prepare them for the field. His heart, like Farragut's, was in the work. He brought to it professional training, good character, high social standing, and large family influence. He gave respectability to the cause he espoused at the beginning of the war, and very soon perfected [255] organizations which commanded the sympathy and support of the great body of the people of east Tennessee, and secured that division of the State (in the heart of the Confederate States) to the Federal government. Farragut and Carter, both natives of east Tennessee, were important factors in making Confederate success impossible.

Tennesseeans in the United States navy who resigned to accept service in the Confederate States navy were: George W. Gift, J. W. Dunnington, Jesse Taylor, W. P. A. Campbell, Thomas Kennedy Porter, A. D. Wharton, George A. Howard and W. W. Carnes.

Lieutenant Gift is famous for having commanded, with Lieutenant Grimball, the 8-inch columbiads on the Confederate ram Arkansas. The Arkansas was built by Capt. John T. Shirley at Memphis, Tenn. At the fall of New Orleans she was towed up the Yazoo.

On the 15th of July, 1862, the ram started out from Haynes' Bluff, under the command of Capt. I. W. Brown, with a crew of 200 officers and men, for Mobile bay, with orders to raise the blockade of that port. Lieutenant Gift, in his history of the exploits of the Arkansas, states that ‘Sunrise found us in the Yazoo river with more than twenty ships barring our way, and in for one of the most desperate fights any one ship ever sustained since ships were first made.’ Lieutenant Gift fought the port gun, with John Wilson, of Baltimore, as his lieutenant. Grimball fought the starboard gun, and had for his lieutenant Midshipman Dabney M. Scales, now a prominent lawyer and ex-State senator from Memphis. Lieut. A. D. Wharton came next on the starboard side, each lieutenant with two guns. Soon three Federal gunboats were seen steaming toward the Arkansas, the ironclad Carondelet, of twelve guns, the Tyler, and the Queen of the West. The Arkansas was steered direct for the Tyler, and Gift fired the first shot with an 8-inch shell, which struck her fair and square, killing a pilot and bursting in the engineroom. [256] The Tyler reported 17 killed and 14 wounded. The Queen of the West coming up, Scales gave her a shell, followed quickly by another from Wharton, and she was just able to retire from the conflict. In a short time the Tyler, badly crippled, took flight and joined her disabled consort. The Carondelet was struck four times by Gift. Lieutenant Reed gave her two shots from the stern guns, when she hauled down her colors; at the same time Wharton opened on the starboard broadside, which brought out white flags at her ports. The Carondelet sank. But the Arkansas had no time to secure a prize, and pursued the fleeing vessels, now in the Mississippi river.

Immediately Farragut and Davis prepared to receive the Arkansas with more than a dozen war vessels. No more gallant action on land or sea was ever witnessed than that of Captain Brown. In addition to Farragut's fleet, batteries of field artillery were in position, and several thousand soldiers prepared to fire into the ports of his vessel. The Arkansas was an untried and an unfinished vessel, with engines that proved to be totally unreliable. The first attack was made by the Federal gunboat No. 6. She fired her 11-inch pivot gun loaded with grape. Gift returned the fire with a shell that went through and through the No. 6, and then a port broadside took her disabled out of the action. The Arkansas now became the target for a hundred guns. Generals Breckinridge and Van Dorn, and thousands of Confederate soldiers, stood as silent witnesses of the uneven contest, unable to render the slightest assistance.

It was a brave fight; nothing comparable to it at Manila or Santiago de Cuba. Gift fired a five-second shell at the Lancaster, as that vessel moved across the path of the Arkansas, which struck the mud-drum, emptying the hot steam and water into the engine-room, and killing a large number of the crew and sharpshooters. But there was no rest for the Arkansas; the shot struck [257] upon her sides as fast as sledge-hammer blows. Captain Brown was twice knocked down and wounded in the head, but he heroically resumed his place. Some one called out that the colors had been shot away, and in an instant, said Gift, Midshipman Dabney M. Scales, a glorious fellow, scrambled up the ladder and, fearlessly treading the terrible path of death, swept by a hurricane of shot and shell, raised the colors again. A shell penetrated the Arkansas and exploded with terrible effect, and when the smoke cleared away, it was found that but one man out of seventeen of Gift's bow-gun crew had escaped death or wounds. In another instant an 11-inch shot crushed through above the port, bringing with it a shower of iron and wooden splinters, which struck down every man at Gift's broadside gun, smashed his own arm, and passing across the deck, killed 8 and wounded 7 of Scales' men. The Arkansas reached Vicksburg, disabled and weakened by heavy losses. The detachment of the land forces serving temporarily on the Arkansas joined its proper command.

At night Farragut's sea-going fleet and Davis' ironclads passed down the river. They came by singly, and each was punished as they crossed the line of fire of the Arkansas. An 11-inch shot from Farragut's flagship penetrated her side just above the water line, killing 2 and wounding 6 others.

On the morning of the 22d of July, the ironclad Essex appeared, followed by the Queen of the West, and undertook to run into the Arkansas, both trying to ram her, but were driven off and disabled, and a mortar boat blown up. The crew of the Arkansas was now reduced to seventeen. With this small force, the repulse of these two vessels will always be considered her best achievement.

When General Breckinridge entered upon his campaign against Baton Rouge, the co-operation of the Arkansas was expected, but her engines gave way in full view of the point of attack, and becoming unmanageable on account [258] of a break in a vital part of her machinery, to avoid capture she was destroyed by fire. Captain Brown was made a commodore, and Stevens, the executive officer, Reed, Gift, Wharton and Scales won great distinction.

The battle of Mobile Bay was fought August 5, 1864. The enemy's fleet, under Admiral Farragut, consisted of 14 steamers and 4 monitors, carrying 199 guns and 2,700 men. The Confederate naval commander, Admiral Franklin Buchanan, had the wooden gunboats Morgan and Gaines, each carrying 6 guns, the Selma of 4 guns, and the ram Tennessee of 6 guns, in all 22 guns and 470 men. In this unequal contest, there could be no question as to the result. The engagement lasted an hour, and serious injury was inflicted on many vessels of the Federal fleet. Frequently during the contest the Tennessee was surrounded by the enemy, and all her guns were in action at the same moment. The noble Confederate admiral was wounded and carried below, and soon the Tennessee was surrendered. The other ships were well fought, and surrendered after they were disabled and overpowered. The Gaines, in a sinking condition, was run on shore near Fort Morgan. The gallant Lieut. A. D. Wharton, of Tennessee, was with Admiral Buchanan on the ram Tennessee, and rendered valuable and conspicuous service.

When Fort Pillow was evacuated by the Confederate forces, the gunboat Pontchartrain, commanded by Lieut. John W. Dunnington, which constituted a part of the fleet commanded by Capt. Geo. N. Hollins, provided for the defense of the Mississippi river, was run up White river. At an earlier date, Lieutenant Dunnington had participated in the operations against Pope's army at Point Pleasant, Mo., and was active in resisting the crossing of the river. At the surrender of the Confederate forces near Tiptonville, the Ponchartrain was ordered to Fort Pillow. On the 16th of June, 1862, Lieutenant Dunnington arrived at St. Charles on White river, with [259] the men necessary to work the 32-pounder cannon, which he had previously placed in battery. He was hardly in position before the approach of the Federal gunboats was announced. After dark, Capt. Joseph Fry, commanding the naval forces, undertook to blockade the river against the enemy's advance, and with his own crew, he sunk the gunboat Maurepos in the main current, remaining on deck until the gundeck was submerged. At 8:30 the next morning the Federal fleet advanced up the river. When abreast of Captain Fry's rifled guns, the gunboats opened with all of their guns, but failed to silence Fry's battery. They then moved up the river until they were in point blank range of one of Dunnington's guns. The boat in advance, the Mound City, moved up for position and placed herself between his two guns. At 10:30, Dunnington's upper gun fired a shot at the Mound City, passing through the boilers, steam chest or pipes, filling the vessel with steam, and causing all that were not killed to jump into the river. More than 50 were killed and as many disabled. The vessel drifted across the stream into the bank. The rifled guns opened on the lower gunboat and sent it disabled down the river.

The naval contingent had no support, and after the Mound City was disabled, and the retreat of the gunboats St. Louis, Conestoga and Lexington, Colonel Fitch, with the Twenty-sixth Indiana infantry, took the batteries in rear and forced the Confederates to retreat. This was conducted in safety by Lieutenant Dunnington. Captain Fry was seriously wounded and captured. He survived wounds and a cruel imprisonment, and was captured in Cuban waters on the 1st of November, 1873, by a Spanish man-of-war, the Toreador, and on the 7th, after a mock trial, in company with fifty-three other American citizens, was murdered in the plaza of Santiago de Cuba. When captured, Captain Fry was in command of the steamer Virginius, with an alleged filibustering expedition. [260]

Dunnington, one of the noblest of men, survived the war for more than ten years.

Wharton has dedicated his life to public education, and is one of the foremost in that field.

Lieut. Jesse Taylor became captain of heavy artillery; his splendid service at Fort Henry has been already chronicled.

Lieut. W. P. A. Campbell was constantly employed on the coast and harbor defenses, and was an efficient and gallant officer. About the year 1870 he was made a major of engineers in the army of Ismail Pasha, the Khedive of Egypt. He was a useful officer, constantly employed, and trusted by those in authority. He was finally sent to the Soudan, with a detachment of troops, and there died a victim of malarial fever.

Geo. A. Howard resigned from the naval academy just before graduation; was made adjutant of the Seventh Tennessee infantry, and was distinguished in the principal battles fought by the army of Northern Virginia. More than once he commanded the regiment in action. He has filled conspicuous places of honor and trust at home and at the Federal capital, and is a leading citizen of Tennessee.

W. W. Carnes resigned from the naval academy before graduation; became captain of artillery in Cheatham's division, and was conspicuous wherever that famous command was engaged. He is now a prominent citizen of Memphis, and is the incumbent of an important civil office, to which he was chosen by the people.

Lieut. Thomas Kennedy Porter resigned from the United States navy in 1861, and was appointed to the same rank in the Confederate navy, but accepted the command of a company of field artillery tendered him by the governor of Tennessee. He commanded Porter's battery at the battle of Fort Donelson, and was severely wounded and disabled for a year. Returning to the army, he was promoted, and commanded the artillery of Buckner's corps [261] at Chickamauga. He then resigned from the army, took service in the navy, and was for several months executive officer of the ironclad North Carolina, a steamer provided for coast and harbor defense. He was then ordered to Bermuda, where he joined the cruiser Florida as her executive officer. The Florida continued her career as a commerce destroyer until the 4th of October, 1864, when she arrived at Bahia, Brazil, to procure coal and provisions, and for repairs, after a cruise of 61 days. At 3:00 a. m. of the 7th of October, the United States manof-war Wachusett, Captain Collins, ran into the Florida, intending to sink her, and very serious injury was inflicted upon the ship. At the same time the Wachusett fired about 200 shots from her small-arms, and two from her great guns, and then demanded her surrender. At the request of the Brazilian naval commander, the Florida had anchored inshore of his squadron, steam had gone down and fires were hauled. Commander Morris, with several officers and 70 of the crew of the Florida, was on shore on liberty. In this condition of affairs the cruiser was surrendered. The officers were paroled and with two-thirds of the men transferred to the Wachusett. The men were outraged by being put in double irons. One poor fellow, Henry Norman, was ironed to a stanchion with his hands behind him for having a key to a pair of the Florida's irons in his pocket. Another was put in a sweat-box for eighteen nights, because, said Captain Collins, ‘He was seen talking, and when his master-at-arms came up, he stopped.’ Eighteen of the crew were put ashore penniless, on the Island of St. Thomas, after Collins had promised to restore their money which had been taken from them. No restoration was made.

On the arrival of the Wachusett at Fortress Monroe, the officers and men were sent to Point Lookout prison, whence the officers were sent to the Old Capitol prison at Washington, and a few days later joined the men at Fort Warren, Boston. At Fortress Monroe, Lieutenant Porter, [262] hearing that the money-chest of the Florida had been opened, called on Collins to restore several hundred dollars, private funds, belonging to the ward-room mess. This was refused.

At Fortress Monroe an offer was made to the men, through Lieutenant Beardsley, U. S. N., to release them from prison, upon condition that they would subscribe to an oath of allegiance. Only one man out of 53 deserted his flag, and that desertion occurred the day of the capture.

At Fort Warren the men were all put in one room, and the eleven officers in another with 32 other prisoners. The rooms were casemates, 50 feet long and 18 feet wide. At 8:00 a. m. the prisoners were marched around to the cook-house and given a loaf of bread each. After 12 they were marched around again and received their dinner, consisting of 8 ounces of cooked meat with a half pint of thin soup, three days of the week, and two potatoes, some beans or hominy the other days.

On the 24th of December, the officers of the Florida were locked up in a casemate and kept in close confinement day and night, upon the report of a prison spy that a plan for capturing the fort was under discussion. This continued until the 19th of January, when the prisoners were relieved from close confinement, and notified that they would be released on condition that they would sign a parole to leave the United States in ten days. Lieutenant Porter informed the secretary of the navy that they would give the parole, but asked for the return of the $13,000 taken from the Florida, saying that it was necessary to have that, unless the United States would send the officers and men to Europe. No attention was paid to this request, and finding that the Federal authorities would do nothing, an arrangement was made with an English passenger ship for their transportation to Europe by giving a draft to be paid at Liverpool. (Report of Lieutenant Porter.) [263]

Upon the demand of Brazil, the act of Collins, commander of the Wachusett, was disavowed, and on the 20th of December, Mr. Seward informed the minister of Brazil that the prisoners would be set at liberty. He said the act ‘was an unauthorized, unlawful and indefensible exercise of the naval force of the United States within a foreign country.’ Professor Soley, of the United States navy, discussing the conduct of Collins, has said: ‘The capture of the Florida was as gross and deliberate a violation of the rights of neutrals as was ever committed in any age or country. It is idle to attempt to apologize for it or to explain it; the circumstances were such that the question does not admit of discussion.’ (‘The Blockade and the Cruisers,’ Soley, p. 189.)

If it had been within his province, he could have added that in the judgment of contemporaneous history, Collins' act was a cowardly one, and his treatment of the prisoners was brutal, not more so, however, than that by the authorities at Fort Warren and Washington.

H. M. Doak, Esq., of Nashville, in an interview with a reporter of a city paper in 1896, said: ‘I knew Capt. T. K. Porter at Wilmington, N. C., where he was executive officer of the gunboat North Carolina, a heavy ironclad. He was a graduate of the naval academy, and had resigned to cast his fortunes with his native State and his people. He had served as captain of a battery of artillery in the army of the West, where his battery was known as “Porter's battery.” I saw it in action, and heard it thunder at Fort Donelson. His fame as a skillful artillery officer and brave commander will never be forgotten by the soldiers of the West. His battery had such fame as attached to the Washington artillery, or to Cheatham's or Hardee's commands in infantry. Physically, he was one of the noblest-looking of men. As an officer, everything about his ship was in perfect order, its discipline superb, and yet his command as gentle as it was [264] firm and rigid. Affable and kind, the soul of lofty honor, calm, true and fearless, he was loved and respected by all. He left Wilmington to report as executive officer of Maffitt's ship, the Florida. Shortly after he came to the Florida, that famous cruiser was captured in one of the South American ports by a flagrant violation of the neutrality laws. He was confined in Fort Warren, Mass., and lost his life after the war, while in command of a merchant steamer on the Pacific. I have never known a more superb gentleman, never a man who seemed to me so entirely to discharge a gentleman's duty—to be a gentleman at all times and under all circumstances. I say this to you for print, for the memory of such men should be continually recalled, and many an old soldier will remember “Porter's battery” and remember its true and noble commander, and be better for thinking once more of his old comrade, whom to have known intimately, as I did, was to have loved him, and to have been the better for such acquaintance.’

H. M. Doak and John F. Wheless joined the Confederate navy, the first after Shiloh. Doak was for a long time on the ironclad Wilmington, where his services were as conspicuous as they had been as adjutant of the famous Nineteenth Tennessee infantry at Fishing creek and Shiloh. Since 1865 he has been a leader and director of public opinion in Tennessee; for years the leading journalist of the State, and is now in possession of an honorable office connected with the courts of the country. Captain Wheless served for a year as captain of the First Tennessee, and then on the staff of Lieutenant-General Polk; after Chickamauga he was made a paymaster in the Confederate navy. After 1865 he entered upon a successful business career, and died in late years, too soon for his friends and for the State.

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