The Atlantic squadrons.
The first step in the establishment of the Atlantic
blockade was the proclamation issued by Commodore Pendergrast
, still in command of the Home Squadron at Hampton Roads
The only effective blockade then existing was maintained by the Cumberland
, and such other vessels as had been hastily collected, in the neighborhood of Fortress Monroe
In carrying out the plan, it was decided to put the whole force on the Atlantic coast
under one command, and Commodore Stringham
was accordingly appointed flag-officer commanding the Atlantic Blockading Squadron.
, which had been laid up in ordinary at Boston
, was assigned to him as flagship, and on the 13th of May he arrived at Hampton Roads
, and entered upon his command.
The instructions sent to Stringham
on May 1 will serve to show exactly the views of the Department in its first efforts to establish the blockade.
They were as follows:
The President, by Proclamation of April 19, 1861, ordered a blockade of the ports within the States of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas; and by a supplemental Proclamation of the 27th of April, 1861, he extends the blockade so as to include the ports of Virginia and North Carolina.
In pursuance of the laws of the United States, and of the Law of Nations, in such cases provided, it becomes necessary that a competent force be posted so as to prevent the entrance and exit of vessels from the ports aforesaid.
With this view you will establish and enforce a blockade at each and all of the ports in the States enumerated east of Key West, and a sufficient disposable force will be placed under the command of yourself that you may carry these orders into effect.
On you will devolve the duty of blockading all the ports east of Key West.
You will duly notify neutrals of the declaration of blockade, and give to it all the publicity in your power.
The blockade must be strict and absolute and only public armed vessels of foreign powers should be permitted to enter the ports which are placed in a state of blockade.
To neutral or foreign vessels, that are already in the ports, you will allow a reasonable number of days to leave them.
The country relies upon your command, with the squadron of the Gulf, to make this blockade effectual, so as to close all of the ports of the States above named, protect our commerce from the depredations of privateers, and contribute, by your activity and vigilance, to the speedy suppression of the insurrectionary movements and the adjustment of the present unhappy difficulties.
It will not be improper to state to you that a lawful maritime blockade requires the actual presence of an adequate force stationed at the entrance of the port, sufficiently near to prevent communication. .. You will permit no neutral or foreign vessel proceeding toward the entrance of a blockaded port to be captured or detained if she shall not have previously received from one of the blockading squadron a special notification of the existence of the blockade.
This notification must be inserted in writing on the muster-roll of the neutral vessel, by the cruiser which meets her; and it should contain the announcement, together with statements of the day and the latitude in which it was made.
The United States have at all times maintained these principles on the subject of blockade, and you will take care not to attempt the application of penalties for a breach of blockade except in cases where your right is justified by these rules.
The following additional instructions were issued May 4:
The Department would in every instance allow at least fifteen days for vessels to depart with or without cargo after the blockade is set with a sufficient force.
Notice should be given, by such extended publicity as you can command, at each and every port as soon as the blockade is established.
Commodore Pendergrast will inform you of the condition of affairs and orders received.
He will also assist with the Cumberland in enforcing the blockade for the present.
I need not enjoin vigilance and promptness to prevent privateering and depredations.
There are several vessels in the waters of the Chesapeake to aid you, and others which are being equipped will soon arrive out and report.
The names, officers, crews, and armaments of these vessels are not yet reported in full to the Department, in consequence of the haste and activity necessary to get them afloat at the earliest moment.
Some of the vessels can, it is believed, aid in blockading the Mississippi and Mobile.
But much must be committed to your judgment and discretion.
Commodore Mervine will shortly proceed to the Gulf with the [steamer] Mississippi and other vessels will be speedily despatched to reinforce the blockading squadron, and close Galveston and other ports.
No time was therefore lost in making a beginning.
But for the first three months it was only a beginning; and at some points it cannot be said to have gone so far as that.
, under Captain McKean
, had arrived at Boston
, April 24, and was sent to New York for necessary repairs.
These were hurriedly completed and she proceeded to Charleston
to set on foot the blockade at that point.
She arrived at her post on May 11.
After lying off the bar four days, and warning several vessels off the whole Southern coast,
for which, as already mentioned, the Government
afterward paid heavy damages, she was directed to proceed to sea to intercept certain shiploads of arms and munitions of war, which were known to be on their way from Europe
to New Orleans or Mobile
touched at Havana
, and later joined the Gulf
The Harriet Lane
was off Charleston
on the 19th, and cruised for some days near that part of the coast; but the blockade in reality was raised, for the port remained open until May 28, when the Minnesota
On the same day the blockade of Savannah
was established by the Union
, a steamer which had been chartered at Philadelphia
five days after the President
's first proclamation was issued.
At the beginning of July, the Atlantic Squadron comprised twenty-two vessels, but most of them were stationed in Hampton Roads
or were cruising at a distance from the coast.
The line of operations of the Atlantic Blockading Squadron began originally at Washington
, and extending down the Potomac River
and the Chesapeake
, passed out to sea between the Capes, following the coast to Key West
The boundary was afterward fixed at Cape Canaveral
Upon this line there were three principal points of blockade, Wilmington
, and Savannah
They became centres of blockade in the beginning, because of their commercial importance; and the first two remained so until the end, because they offered peculiar advantages to blockade-runners, and were capable of defence almost to the last against attacks by sea.
The different stretches of coast that lay between and outside the blockade centres had peculiar features of their own. Between Washington
and Hampton Roads
lay the military frontier.
The blockade in the Potomac River
was therefore largely devoted to the restriction of communication between the two shores, and to keeping open the water-approaches of the capital; and the work of the Potomac
flotilla was of a kind by itself.
Below the Potomac
lay the mouths of the Virginia rivers
, near the upper waters of which were the great battlefields of the war; and the naval operations carried on in this neighborhood were always subsidiary to the movements of the army.
flotilla was organized in May, 1861, under the command of Commander James H. Ward
, and formed at first
a part of the Atlantic Blockading Squadron.
On May 31 Ward
attacked the Confederate batteries at Acquia Creek
, in the steamer Freeborn
, assisted by the other vessels of the flotilla, the Anacostia
The shore batteries were silenced, and the enemy retreated to their works on the heights.
This was the first naval engagement of the war. On the next day, the Pawnee
, under Commander Rowan
, was sent down from Washington
, and the attack was renewed, the Pawnee
joining in the bombardment with her heavy battery.
On June 27, Ward
made a landing at Matthias Point with a small party of men. He was accompanied by Lieutenant Chaplin
of the Pawnee
His object seems to have been to clear away the woods on the point, which afforded shelter to the enemy; but he underestimated the force opposed to him, and he had hardly landed, when a body of troops, numbering four or five hundred, came over the brow of the hill to attack him. Ordering the men to lie off in their boats, Ward
returned to the Freeborn
, and opened fire on the advancing column.
landed his handful of men a second time, and threw up a breastwork; but about this time Ward
was killed while sighting his bow-gun, and the fire from the vessel ceased.
In consequence of this accident, signal was made to Chaplin
to return; but the enemy had now advanced within two hundred yards, and opened a galling fire upon the party.
collected his men and sent them to the boats, waiting himself until the last.
When he came to the beach, only one man remained with him, and the boat had drifted out. But Chaplin
, who was a man of uncommon character, was unwilling to bring it back under the enemy's fire; and as the man who was with him could not swim, Chaplin
took him on his shoulders, musket and all, and swam out with him to the boat.
's death, Commander Craven
succeeded to the command of the flotilla.
Occasional brushes with the enemy took place, schooners were cut out or burned, and the river was kept open until the end of October, when the heavy batteries thrown up on the Virginia
shore made it impassable.
Early in 1862 the Confederates
withdrew from their positions along the river.
The work of the flotilla in the Potomac
during the remainder of the war, under its successive commanders, Wyman
, and Parker
, was chiefly confined to the suppression of the small attempts at illicit traffic which are always found along a frontier of belligerent operations.
In the other Virginian rivers the flotilla at the same time took part in active operations, in connection with the movements of the army and the protection of transports and supplies.
Outside the Chesapeake
the real blockade service began.
A little to the south of the Capes is found the double coast which extends as far as Wilmington
The peculiar conformation of the coast consists of a long narrow belt of sand, jutting out in three prominent headlands, Cape Hatteras
, Cape Lookout
, and Cape Fear
The sand-belt is broken at intervals by shallow inlets.
Within it lie the two Sounds, extensive sheets of water, upon whose tributary rivers are a number of more or less important towns.
the coast sweeps in, describing a long curve, at the southern extremity of which, in a deep recess, lies Georgetown
At this point the shore begins to assume the insular character which is so well defined below Charleston
From here to Fernandina
it forms a series of low swampy islands, separated by narrow rivers and arms of the sea, making an intricate network of water-courses.
At intervals the groups of islands are broken by large estuaries at the mouths of rivers.
There are five of these between Charleston
, North Edisto
, South Edisto
, St. Helena, and Port Royal
Below Tybee Roads, the entrance to Savannah
, the same formation continues, with six important sounds— Wassaw
, Ossabaw, St. Catherine, Sapelo, Doboy, and Altamaha
is the only town of importance in this region, with an entrance at St. Simon's Sound
From St. Simon
's the line of islands and sounds continues, including St. Andrew's, Cumberland Sound
, St. John
's, and St. Augustine
Below this point, the coast of Florida
consists of narrow reaches of sand enclosing long lagoons, only broken by small and infrequent passes.
In the whole extent of the South Atlantic Squadron there were twenty or more of these small inlets, in each of which it was necessary to keep a vessel, if the blockade was to be rigidly maintained.
During the summer of 1861 great efforts were made by the Confederates
to show that the blockade was inefficient.
It was commonly spoken of in their newspapers as ‘the paper blockade,’ and steps were taken by foreign governments, and especially by that of Great Britain
, to ascertain its true character.
The Gladiator, an English cruiser, commanded by Captain Hickley
, whose name is an all-sufficient guarantee of the accuracy of his reports, made two cruises of observation off the Atlantic coast
, at the beginning and at the end of July.
On his first cruise, after a careful search, he could find nothing in the shape of a blockader between Cape Henry
and Cape Fear
The force in Hampton Roads
was composed of the Minnesota
, and Susquehanna
, the sailing-frigate Santee
, the Cumberland
, and the steamers Anacostia
, and Quaker City
On his second cruise, the eastern entrance of Wilmington
was still open, as were the inlets to the northward; but four vessels, the frigate Roanoke
, the small steamer Albatross
, and two sailingves-sels, the St. Lawrence
and the Savannah
, were cruising off
did not round Cape Fear
on his second cruise; had he done so, he would have found one vessel off the mouth of Cape Fear River
This was the steamer Daylight
, which arrived on the 20th of July, and immediately notified the commanding officer
of Fort Caswell
of the establishment of the blockade.
Notwithstanding the very inadequate force on the station, the vessels of the squadron acted upon the assumption of the existence of an efficient blockade.
On July 16, the British brig Herald
, two days out from Wilmington
, was captured by the St. Lawrence
, on the edge of the Gulf
Stream, two hundred miles from land.
This was so clearly a case of capture under a ‘paper blockade,’ that the Herald
was afterward released.
Three days earlier, Pendergrast
, then in command of a projected ‘West India
Squadron,’ was lying at Charleston
, and published anew his proclamation of April 30, announcing an efficient blockade of Virginia
and North Carolina
, and repeating the warning that he had a sufficient naval force ‘here’ (that is, at Charleston
) for the purpose of carrying out the proclamation.
Proclamations, however, even though they may be of questionable validity, are not entirely without effect.
reported that trade on the coast of North Carolina
was stagnant; and, as has been already said, regular commerce was for the time being actually stopped by the original proclamation of the President
In the months of June, July, and August forty-two vessels entered and cleared at Wilmington
, but nearly all were small coasters.
The arrivals at Charleston
, from June 1 to December 1, numbered one hundred and fifty vessels of the same description.
Most of these entered at some of the numerous side channels to be found in the network of inlets in the neighborhood of the port.
Indeed, vessels made the inshore passage from Charleston
interruption as late as the end of July, 1861, and perhaps later.
were at this time-off Charleston
, and the Jamestown
and Flag off Savannah
These vessels, though hardly fitted for the work, nevertheless made the blockade legally efficient at the main entrances of these two ports.
But the intermediate points, on the coast of South Carolina
, and the whole inland passage, as far south as Fernandina
, were entirely without a blockade of any kind.
The increase of the blockading forces, and the gradual extension of the blockade, led to a division of the duties of the station.
The North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, including the coast of Virginia
and North Carolina
, was assigned to Flag-Officer Goldsborough
, who assumed command on September 23. Flag-Officer Dupont
was appointed to the South Atlantic Squadron, from the northern boundary of South Carolina
to Cape Florida
, and hoisted his flag in the Wabash
on October 29.
remained in command just a year.
He was relieved September 5, 1862, by Acting Rear-Admiral Lee
, who retained the squadron for two years. The later blockade of Wilmington
was brought to a remarkable state of efficiency, through the untiring efforts and zeal of the officers of the squadron.
In the last year of the war, when the expedition against Fort Fisher
was decided on, the command of the North
Atlantic Station was offered to Farragut
, and, upon his declining it, Porter
entered upon his duties October 12, 1864, and Lee
was transferred to the Mississippi
The first step in the conversion of the blockade of the North Atlantic
coast into a military occupation was the capture of the forts at Hatteras Inlet, by Stringham
, with a small body of troops under General Butler
, August 29, 1861.
This was followed, in February, 1862, by the expedition of
against Roanoke Island
, and the active operations conducted subsequently by Rowan
in the Sounds
The most important points in the interior waters of North Carolina
were then occupied, and the small commerce in the Sounds
came to an end. After a while Beaufort
became the centre of occupation, though the headquarters of the squadron and the station of the flagship continued for a long time to be at Hampton Roads
On the 20th of July the steamer Daylight
took her station off the mouth of Cape Fear River
With this diminutive force began the famous blockade of Wilmington
—the port which later in the war became the scene of the most brilliant successes of the blockade-runners and the most strenuous efforts of the blockaders.
The town is situated on Cape Fear River
, about twenty-eight miles from its mouth.
There are two entrances to the river, one from the eastward, called New Inlet
, the other from the southward at the river mouth.
The entrances are not more than six miles apart in a straight line; but between the two lies Smith's Island
, a long strip of sand and shoal, with the headland of Cape Fear
projecting far out at the southern extremity.
Continuing the line of Cape Fear
, the dangerous Frying Pan Shoals extend out ten miles farther, making the distance by water between the two entrances little short of forty miles.
Each of the channels was protected by strong works, and each required a separate blockading force.
, a small town on the Cape Fear River
about equidistant from the two entrances, was the point of departure of the blockade-runners.
Dropping down from Wilmington
to this place, they could here await their opportunity and take their choice between the main channel and New Inlet
, whichever seemed at the moment most favorable.
Neither presented any serious difficulties to the navigator, though vessels entering from
the south were occasionally caught on ‘the Lump,’ a round shoal in the channel.
To the north of New Inlet
, on Federal
Point, was Fort Fisher
. Fort Caswell
overlooked, in the same way, the mouth of the river.
Each of the blockading squadrons, obliged to keep out of range of the forts, was
stationed in a semicircle, ten miles or more in length, with its extremities near the shore.
The forts kept a sharp lookout, and if a stray blockader ventured in too far, he was quickly apprised of it by a shell, and made to keep his distance.
The blockade-runners, sighting the land toward evening, would wait outside until it was dark, and then, making a dash at full speed through the fleet, would be under the guns of the fort in a twinkling, and safe from capture.
Such a port, so protected, it was almost impossible to close, and fast vessels could slip in past the most vigilant force.
Accordingly it was at Wilmington
that blockade-running maintained itself longest and most actively, after it had nearly ceased elsewhere.
In 1863-64, it was at its height; but toward the end of the latter year it began gradually to decline.
Even after the first attack on Fort Fisher
, a few vessels succeeded in passing in and out with impunity; and the practice only came to an end when the fort succumbed.
The improvement in the efficiency of the Wilmington
blockade was partly due to the increase in the number of vessels, and partly to a better understanding of the exigencies of the service.
In August, 1862, one of the blockade-running captains reports that the vessels of the inshore squadron carried lights at their peaks all night; and the same captain states a year later that a portion of the fleet remained at anchor during the night.
On the other hand, Admiral Lee
, describing the blockade of the same port in October, 1864, says that the smaller vessels were kept as near the bar and batteries as the state of the weather, the light, and their draft would allow.
These were pressed in by a line of larger vessels, and these again by the divisional officer, moving along the line.
Vessels of the outer line which discovered blockade-runners were allowed to chase, but those on the inner line were required
to keep their station.
All the vessels were kept under way all night.
In the summer of 1864, the headquarters of the squadron were removed from Hampton Roads
In the fall the blockading force at the two entrances numbered fifty steamers, some of them the fastest in the service.
Nowhere was the work of the blockade more arduous and difficult than at Wilmington
The squadron captured or destroyed sixty-five steam blockade-runners during the war; and yet they continued to effect an entrance.
The result only shows that the absolute locking — up of a well fortified port, whose trade offers powerful inducements to commercial enterprise, is an actual impossibility.
It was during his service on this station, while in command of the Monticello
, that cushing performed two of those daredevil exploits which gave him a name and a fame apart in the history of the war. The first of these took place in February, 1864, while the Monticello
was blockading the mouth of Cape Fear River
On the night of the 28th, Cushing
fitted out two boats, and taking with him Acting-Ensign Jones
's Mate Howarth
, and twenty men, he proceeded past the fort and up the river to Smithville
His object was to land at the town, capture the commanding officer
, and board any vessels he might find in the harbor.
It was an enterprise hardly worth the risk, for the danger was great, and the capture of a dozen commanding officers at such posts as Smithville
would not compensate for the loss of one cushing.
Still, cushing's coolness and audacity would counterbalance almost any risk, and he had no idea of being lost on this occasion.
The party reached the town, and landed in front of the hotel.
Concealing his men under the bank, cushing proceeded to capture some negroes, from whom he obtained the information he wanted; then, taking with him the two officers
and a seaman, he walked to General Herbert
On the opposite side of the street were the barracks, in which the garrison was quartered, numbering about 1,000 men. Unfortunately, the General
was out, having gone to Wilmington
entered the house with his party and captured an engineer officer.
was also in the house, but went off in haste to the woods, and neglected to call out the garrison.
returned quietly with his prisoner to the boat, passing within a few yards of the sentry on the wharf.
A few minutes after he had embarked the alarm was given, and signal was made to Fort Caswell
that boats were in the harbor; but the party had passed the fort before it could open fire.
The second expedition was made in the following June.
had received permission from Admiral Lee
to attempt the destruction of the Confederate ram Raleigh
, supposed to be lying in the river.
On the night of the 23d of June, he left his ship, the Monticello
, in the first cutter, with Jones
, the same officers that had accompanied him on his previous expedition, and fifteen men. Pulling up the river, the party passed the forts and the town of Smithville
Meantime the moon had come out, and when about fifteen miles from the mouth of the river, they were discovered by sentries on the bank.
Making a feint of going back, Cushing
doubled as soon as he reached the shadow of the opposite bank, and continued on his course.
Toward morning, when within seven miles of Wilmington
, he landed and hid the boat in a swamp.
The boat's crew remained all day in concealment, watching the river.
At night, as they were preparing to move, two boats were captured, containing a fishing party returning to Wilmington
, who were pressed into service as guides.
During the remainder of the second night, Cushing
occupied in making a thorough examination of the obstructions three miles below the town.
At daybreak he moved up one of the creeks, until he found a road.
Leaving a few of his men with the boat, he landed, and followed the road until he came upon the main road between Wilmington
and Fort Fisher
Presently, by lying in wait, he captured a mounted courier with the mail from the fort, which contained much valuable information.
The courier from the town came along two hours later, but, catching sight of a blue-jacket, made off with all speed.
galloped after him on the captured horse, but the second courier was better mounted than the first, and made his escape.
had now been away from the boat for some hours, and his men had had nothing to eat. He therefore set about in a characteristic way to obtain provisions.
After capturing other prisoners, he learned that a store was to be found two miles off; and mounting Howarth
on the captured horse with the courier's coat and hat, he sent him to market.
, who was a man of easy manner and a fine assurance, engaged freely in conversation with the people whom he met on the road, and passed without suspicion.
Presently he returned with a supply of provisions.
After dinner, the party amused themselves by cutting the telegraph wires, and at dark they rejoined the boat.
The third and last night in the river had now begun, and Cushing
prepared to return.
Embarking with the prisoners, he went to examine the condition of the Raleigh
She was found to have been destroyed, and was now a total wreck.
Proceeding down the river, Cushing
set his prisoners adrift in boats, without oars or sails, so that they might not report his presence too early.
The moon had now risen, and as he reached the mouth of the river, he was discovered by a guard-boat.
Just as he was preparing to attack her, three
others came out from the shadow, and at the same instant five more appeared from the other side.
The cutter was nearly surrounded, and Cushing
, turning in the only direction left open, found a schooner filled with troops ahead of him. It seemed now that the game was up; but Cushing
's never-failing pluck stood by him. He made a dash in the direction of the western bar, and the enemy endeavored to intercept him; but as the side of his boat that was toward them was in shadow, they lost sight of him for a time.
Taking advantage of a favorable moment, Cushing
turned suddenly and headed at full speed for New Inlet
His coolness communicated itself to the men; the strokes of the oars kept perfect time, and the boat, after a vigorous pull, shot ahead into the breakers.
Here the enemy did not venture to follow; and the cutter was brought back after her three days absence, without any casualty whatever.
Only one serious attempt was made by the Confederates
to raise the blockade and put an end to the occupation of the Sounds
of North Carolina
This took place in 1864, when the ram Albemarle
made her appearance at Plymouth
This vessel was built at Edward's Ferry, on the Roanoke River
Attention had been called to her formidable character as early as June, 1863, by Lieutenant-Commander Flusser
, commanding the naval forces at Plymouth
, an officer whose bravery and ability had won recognition both in and out of the service.
His vessels could not reach the Ferry
, on account of the shallowness of the water and the batteries that lined the bluffs; and urgent representations had been made to the Admiral
in command, to the Department, and finally to the Secretary of War
, at Flusser
But no action had been taken, and the work of construction went on without interruption.
By April, 1864, the ram was completed, and preparations were made for a combined movement against the Federal
forces at Plymouth
On the 17th and 18th, vigorous attacks were made upon the forts by the Confederates
, supported by artillery.
At this time, the force under Flusser
consisted of the Miami
, one of the smaller double-enders, the Southfield
, and two tugs used as picket-boats.
carried a rifled 100-pounder, and five or six Ix-inch guns each; and during the action on shore, by throwing shells at the enemy, they helped to repel the assaults on the forts.
On the evening of the second day, the two vessels were lashed together, in expectation of the ram's approach, the Miami
's vessel, being on the starboard side.
At midnight, the picket-boat announced that the Albemarle
was descending the river.
She came down slowly, under cover of the trees on the river bank, and as she approached the vessels, she ran out obliquely.
Passing the Miami
's bow, she made straight for the Southfield
Her ports were closed, she did not fire a shot; but she struck the Southfield
fairly on the starboard bow, forcing her ran into the fireroom.
As the ram was drawn out, the Southfield
filled and sank.
Meantime both vessels had opened fire on the assailant with their heavy guns.
The guns had been left loaded with shell since the afternoon firing, although the Albemarle
was expected; and as the projectiles struck the ram's iron side, they burst into fragments which rebounded over the Miami
Three or four of the pieces struck Flusser
, who was instantly killed.
Half a dozen others were wounded; but the ram received no injury.
The hawsers that lashed the vessels parted, and the crew of the sinking steamer jumped to the Miami
The latter then retreated, and with the two tugs, dropped down to the mouth of the river.
followed for a short distance, and shots were exchanged, but without effect on either side.
Next day Plymouth
It now became a matter of importance to reinforce the blockading vessels in the Sounds
, as the ram might at any moment come out of the river and repossess all the waters of North Carolina
. Three of the larger double-enders, the Sassacus
, and Wyalusing
, were sent down, and the force was placed under the command of Captain Melancton Smith1
. The squadron was posted off the mouth of the Roanoke
, and careful preparations were made for the expected attack.
On the 5th of May the Albemarle
came down, accompanied by a steamer carrying troops, and a captured army-transport loaded with provisions and coal, prepared for an extended cruise in the Sounds
The squadron got under way, and met her about ten miles from the mouth of the river.
At a little before five in the afternoon she opened the engagement, by firing two shots at the Mattabesett
, the leading vessel The
latter, followed by the Sassacus
, passed up alongside the Albemarle
, delivering their broadsides at a distance of one hundred and fifty yards. Turning, they came back on the opposite side, and the smaller vessels took their place.
The ram was thus placed between two fires.
, which had drawn off a little from the line, now turned, and, gathering headway, struck the enemy fairly with her stem, just abaft the beam.
Though the double-enders were not adapted for ramming, it had been decided to try this, as well as every other expedient, in the hope of inflicting some injury.
The ram careened a little, but did not sink; and as the Sassacus
remained alongside, the Albemarle
's port opened, and a 100-pound Brooke rifle-shot was discharged through one of the boilers of the doubleender.
The escaping steam filled the vessel, scalding many of the crew, and she drifted off, firing until out of range.
The other vessels continued the action until dark, but without disabling the enemy.
At night, the ram returned to the river, her armor somewhat battered, but her machinery apparently intact.
Though not destroyed, she had been severely hammered; the store-vessel she had brought with her was captured; and her projected conquest of the Sounds
came to naught.
The next time she ventured down the river, a shell from the Whitehead
caused her to turn back; and she seemed to have no inclination for a second conflict.
An effort was now made to destroy the ram by placing torpedoes in the river, but without success.
One of these attempts was planned and carried out by enlisted men, and deserves to be noticed, if only as showing the pluck and devotion of the seamen of the navy during the war. The men who took part in the expedition were John W. Loyd
, coxswain, Allen Crawford
and John Laverty
, firemen, and Charles Baldwin
and Benjamin Loyd
All were volunteers from the Wyalusing
On the afternoon of the 25th of May, the party ascended the Middle River
, a small branch of the Roanoke
, in a boat, taking with them two torpedoes.
These were carried on a stretcher across the swamps to the main river.
, the coxswain, and Baldwin
swam the liver with a line, and hauled the torpedoes to the Plymouth
side, above the town.
They were then connected by a bridle, and floated down the river, guided by Baldwin
It was his intention to place them across the bow of the Albemarle
, and Crawford
, from the swamps on the opposite side, was to explode them at a signal.
All went well until the torpedoes were within a few yards of the ram, when the line fouled a schooner.
At the same moment, Baldwin
was discovered by a sentry, and shots were fired,
followed by a volley of musketry.
As success was no longer possible, the line was cut, and the five men made their escape, reaching the vessel with difficulty, some of them after several days of wandering in the swamps.
The Department now determined to take energetic measures to destroy the Albemarle
, and selected Cushing
, whose latest performances at Wilmington
had made him famous, to carry out its design.
Two steam-launches or picket-boats were fitted out at New York under the direction of Admiral Gregory
, and rigged with spar-torpedoes designed by Chief-Engineer Wood
Both the launches were to be used in the expedition, but one of them was lost in crossing Chesapeake Bay
, on the way down from New York.
was not the man to be deterred by an accident, and he proceeded to carry out his purpose with the remaining boat.
Late in October Cushing
appeared with his launch in Albemarle Sound
The senior officer
at this time was Commander Macomb
, whose vessel, the Shamrock
, was lying with the rest of the division in the Sound
, some miles from the Roanoke
One or two of the small steamers were stationed as a picket at the mouth of the river, and midway between them and the squadron lay one of the double-enders, as an outpost.
After a day or two spent in preparations, during which several additional officers and men joined the launch, she was taken up the Sound
by the Otsego
Remaining alongside until everything was ready, she started up the river, on the night of the 26th of October; but after proceeding a short distance she grounded, and the time lost in getting her off made it too late to carry out the purpose of the expedition.
So the party returned to the Otsego
at this time was lying at the wharf at Plymouth
, on the right bank of the river, eight miles from its mouth.
The stream averaged two hundred yards in width,
arid was lined on both sides by Confederate pickets.
A mile below the town was the wreck of the Southfield
, surrounded by schooners.
It was known that the enemy kept a careful watch at this point, and that a gun was in position to command the bend of the river.
The launch started for the second time at midnight on the 27th.
The party consisted of Cushing
; three Acting-Master
's Mates, Howarth
, and Woodman
; Paymaster Swan
; two engineer officers
; and eight men. The Shamrock
's second cutter, with two officers and eleven men, was taken in tow, ready to cast off and to board the Southfield
if the party was discovered in passing.
The torpedo was placed at the end of a spar, at the starboard bow of the launch.
The bow was decked over and carried a 12-pound howitzer.
The engines were covered with tarpaulins, to shut off the light and sound, and at low speed the noise of the machinery could scarcely be heard.
The night was dark and stormy, with now and then a heavy fall of rain.
Most of the officers stood or sat in the forward part of the launch.
, and Woodman
stood abaft the deck.
was on the right, holding the torpedo lines; Howarth
, his companion in the enterprises at Wilmington
, was next him; and Woodman
, who knew the river well, was on the left by the wheel.
On the deck by the howitzer stood Gay
; and Swan
was on the right behind Cushing
The engineers and the firemen were at their post by the engine, and the rest were stationed on the bow, near the wheel, and in the stern.
The last were to clear the tiller ropes, in case they should foul<*>
Running cautiously under the trees on the right bank, the launch proceeded on her way up the enemy's river.
It was Cushing
's intention, if he could get ashore unobserved, to land below the ram, board her from the wharf, and bring
her down the river.
To carry out this plan, it was necessary that the attack should be a surprise; but, failing in this, he was prepared to attack with the torpedo.
In either case, he meant to give the enemy as little warning as he could.
After the first mile or two, perfect silence was maintained, and the little craft sped noiselessly on its course.
Arriving at the Southfield
, it passed her within twenty yards, but the guards either were asleep or failed to notice the two boats as they moved along in the darkness.
Rounding the bend of the river, the launch came to an open reach upon which lay the town of Plymouth
. Here a fire had been kindled on the bank, which reflected a faint light over the water from the houses.
Creeping along silently and stealthily, the launch approached the landing below the wharf.
Just then a dog barked, and a sentry, aroused, discovered the boat and hailed her. Receiving no answer, he hailed again and fired.
Up to this moment not a word had been uttered.
But in an instant the situation was changed.
The time for surprises was past; and Cushing
, giving up without a second thought his cherished project, at once threw off all concealment, and in a loud voice called out, ‘Ahead fast!’
In the same breath he ordered the cutter to cast loose, capture the Southfield
's pickets, and go down the river.
Pushing on two hundred yards further, he saw for the first time the dim outlines of the Albemarle
, on the port bow, and close aboard.
The light of the fire showed a line of logs in the water, within which, at a distance of thirty feet, lay the vessel.
The launch was too near the logs to rise over them at the sharp angle her course was then making, and Gushing
saw that he must sheer off and turn before he could strike them fairly and with sufficient headway.
The alarm on board the Albemarle
had now become general;
rattles were sprung, the bell was rung violently; and a shower of rifle-bullets was poured in upon the launch.
received a slight wound, and Cushing
had three bullets in his clothing, but no one was disabled.
Passing close to the enemy, the launch took a wide sweep out to the middle of the river; then turning, it headed at full speed for the ram. As he approached, Cushing
, with the rollicking bravado and audacity that marked all his doings, shouted at the top of his voice, ‘Leave the ram!
We are going to blow you up!’
with more exclamations of the same kind, in which the others joined.
, who went into action with the zest of a schoolboy at football, and the nerve and well-balanced judgment of a veteran, the whole affair was half sport, even while the bullets were flying around him, and while he could hear the snapping of the primers, as the guns of the ram were brought to bear.
Luckily they missed fire.
As he came near, Cushing
ordered the howitzer to be trained and fired; and he directed every movement himself, which was promptly carried out by those in the bow. He says of this incident in his report: ‘The enemy's fire was very severe, but a dose of canister, at short range, served to moderate their zeal and disturb their aim.’
In a moment the launch struck the boom of logs, abreast of the ram's quarter port, and pressed over them.
As it approached the side of the ram, the torpedo-spar was lowered; and going ahead slowly until the torpedo was well under the Albemarle
's bottom, Cushing
detached it with a vigorous pull.
Waiting until he could feel the torpedo rising slowly and touching the vessel, he pulled the trigger-line and exploded it. At the same second, as it seemed to those in the boat, the Albemarle
's gun was fired, while the launch was within a dozen feet of the muzzle.
it seemed that the shot went crashing through his boat, though in fact
she was not touched.
A column of water, thrown up by the explosion of the torpedo, fell in the launch, and the latter, being entangled in the logs, could not be extricated.
When he saw that he could not bring the boat off, Cushing
, after refusing to surrender, ordered the crew to save themselves, and taking off his coat and shoes, jumped into the river.
Others followed his example; but all returned except three, Woodman
, and two of the crew, Higgins
made his escape, but the other two were drowned.
swam to the middle of the stream.
Half a mile below he met Woodman
in the water, completely exhausted.
helped him to go on for a little distance, but he was by this time too weak to get his companion ashore.
Reaching the bank with difficulty, he waited till daylight, when he crawled cut of the water and stole into the swamp, not far from the fort.
On his way he fell in with a negro, whom he sent to gain information as to the result of the night's work.
As soon as he learned that the Albemarle
was sunk, he moved on until he came to a creek, where he captured a skiff, and in this he made his way the next night to the picket-boat at the mouth of the river.
The rest of the party, unable either to resist or to escape, surrendered, and were taken ashore by a boat from the Albemarle
The ram heeled over and sank at her moorings and so remained until Plymouth
was finally recaptured.
The South Atlantic Blockading Squadron had but two commanders, Dupont
The transfer was made July 6, 1863.
's command opened with the victory of Port Royal
, which gave the squadron the best and most commodious harbor on the Atlantic coast
After the first success, the activity of Admiral Dupont
, seconded by the ability and energy of his captains—a body of officers remark-
able for their high professional qualities—secured the control of the vast network of lagoons and inlets extending on the one hand to Charleston
, and on the other to Fernandina
The blockade was made thoroughly efficient in the sounds; and the capture of Fort Pulaski
in the following summer, in which a detachment from the fleet assisted, made the Savannah River
nearly inaccessible to the blockade-runners.
then became the centre of occupation, and the headquarters of the fleet.
The principal centre of blockade in the South Atlantic
An attempt was made early in the war to close the entrance by placing obstructions in the channel.
A number of vessels, most of them old whalers, were bought for the purpose by the Navy Department at a cost of $160,--000.
They were loaded with stone and sunk in rows on the bar, under the direction of Captain Davis
The plan proved a failure, not through any want of skill in carrying it out, but from the operation of natural causes.
The vessels soon buried themselves in the sand, or were gradually moved out of position by the action of the water, and blockade-runners passed in as freely as if no obstructions existed.
The experiment was tried at other points with the same result, and the attempt was finally given up.
The bar at Charleston
extends several miles out to sea, and the main ship channel, running nearly north and south, follows the trend of Morris Island
at a distance of a mile from the shore.
During the first half of the war the batteries on Morris Island
kept the fleet outside the bar, and the blockade was maintained at a great disadvantage.
Moreover, several inlets to the north and south afforded access to Charleston
for vessels of light draft.
These were only closed after Dupont
had taken command.
In the summer
of 1863 the army, supported by the ironclads, gradually
drove the Confederates
out of their works on the Island
, and the monitors took their station inside, somewhat to the southward of Cumming's Point
Blockade-runners were then driven to the use of the Beach channel
, at the northern side of the harbor.
This channel skirted the shore of Sullivan's Island
, and opened into the harbor through a narrow passage close to Fort Moultrie
Its outer end lay abreast of Breach Inlet
, near which was Fort Marshall; and from this point to Fort Beauregard
, and thence to Fort Moultrie
, heavy batteries lined the beach.
It became usual to send a vessel at night to this entrance, which, weighing early, got away from the Breach Inlet
batteries before daybreak.
Occasionally it happened that blockade-runners, which had come in during the night, would be seen in the morning hard and fast aground at the inner entrance.
No attempt could be made to seize them, lying as they did directly under the guns of Moultrie
; but they could be destroyed by the fire of the monitors, and a collection of wrecks was gradually accumulated at this point.
Toward the close of the war the blockade of Charleston
, like that of Wilmington
, increased in stringency.
describes it as being perfectly close, until a few very fast steamers of trifling draft were built in England
expressly for the purpose of evading it, and these did not pass with impunity.
So keen did the watch afterward become that a vessel on the way out, whose presence was only known by seeing her two masts cut off the light on Sumter
, was captured by the observer's signalling the cruisers outside.
But even then the port could not be absolutely closed.
The ‘very fast steamers of trifling draft’ were so difficult to catch that up to the last moment they were occasionally going in and out; and three or four of them were at the wharves of Charleston
when the city was taken.
The Savannah River
was easily blockaded after the capture of Fort Pulaski
Its channel, narrow and difficult at the best, was well-nigh impassable when stripped of buoys and lights; and the fort, lying opposite the narrowest point, prevented access in the daytime.
The principal side entrance to the city of Savannah
, through Wassaw Sound
, was effectually closed when the Sounds
were occupied after the battle of Port Royal
The Confederates were not at any time sufficiently strong to raise the blockade on the South Atlantic
The raids that were made with this object—sudden dashes into the midst of the blockading fleet—though well organized and conducted, failed to accomplish any more important result than disabling one or two vessels, and increasing the watchfulness of the blockaders.
One of the boldest of these attempts was made in the winter of 1863, off Charleston
On the morning of January 31, before daylight, two ironclad rams, the Chicora
and the Palmetto State
, came out of the harbor, crossed the bar, and, under cover of a thick haze, approached the vessels stationed outside.
It happened that at this time two of the largest vessels of the blockading fleet, the Powhatan
, had been sent to Port Royal
for coal and repairs.
Of those that remained, numbering ten or more steamers, the Housatonic
was the only war-vessel of considerable size.
The others were chiefly purchased vessels and gunboats.
It was one of the many disadvantages of the exposed station outside the bar that it necessitated the distribution of the ships over a wide area, and at this time they were spread out in a line five or six miles in length.
was the first vessel attacked.
It could not be said that she was off her guard, for, only an hour before, she had slipped her cable and overhauled a troop-ship, which
was running for the channel by mistake.
She had returned to her anchorage, when one of the rams suddenly appeared out of the mist, close aboard.
The ram lay so low in the water, just under the starboard quarter, that the Mercedita
's guns could not be trained upon her; and before the steamer could move away, a rifle-shell from the ram, passing through her condenser and steam-drum, and exploding on the port side, for a time disabled her. Stellwagen
, the commander of the Mercedita
, in response to a demand from the ram, surrendered, and sent Abbot
, his first lieutenant, on board, who gave his parole for the officers and crew.
The ram now abandoned the Mercedita
, and joined her consort, which had already engaged Commander Leroy
in the Keystone State
had discovered his assailant in time to get under way and exchange shots.
The enemy, uninjured by his fire, succeeded in exploding a shell in his fore-hold, and Leroy
kept off until the flames were extinguished.
Returning, he attempted, under a full head of steam, to run down his antagonist; but the latter had now been joined by her companion, and the Keystone State
was received with a fire that effectually checked her. Two shells burst on her quarter-deck; others struck the sides, near or below the water-line; and finally one passed through the port steam-drum and lodged in the starboard.
Her engines were now useless, her motive power was gone, the water began to pour in through the shot-holes, and the fore-hold was again on fire.
Thereupon she lowered her colors; but as the enemy continued his fire, and did not take possession, they were again hoisted and the engagement renewed.
By this time, nearly the whole squadron was under way; and, at the critical moment, three of the small steamers came up, and the rams retreated after a protracted but desultory conflict.
As they went off, shots were exchanged with
the squadron, but little damage was done on either side, and the rams gained a safe refuge under the guns of Fort Sumter
The attack had been judiciously planned and boldly executed, as far as it went; though it might have been more successful if it had been maintained persistently after the first onset.
Among the vessels of the blockading squadron there was a want of systematic co-operation.
The first shot was fired at five o'clock; and the rams had not retreated out of range until half-past 7. During this period of two hours and a half, the brunt of the battle was borne by the Mercedita
and the Keystone State
The other vessels supposed that a number of blockade-runners had come in together, and no arrangement seems to have been made for prompt communication and support.
came in for a share of the attack, but after passing one of the rams and discovering its strength in an exchange of shots, she steamed out of range to the eastward.
was also engaged, but as she did not get under way until half-past 6, her part in the action was not important.
In fact, neither of these vessels was any more fitted than a ship of pasteboard to cope with the ironclads; and their light batteries made no impression on the enemy.
The Quaker City
was more actively engaged, but with little more effect than to divert the attention of the rams, and prevent the Keystone State
from being blown out of the water.
, lying at some distance from the scene of conflict, had got under way shortly after the Augusta
, and during the last hour of the engagement
, she did much firing, but little execution, further than to knock away the pilot-house and flagstaff of one of the retreating assailants.
After the engagement
was over, a question arose as to what was the status of the Mercedita
went on board the ram, he gave his parole, as already mentioned,
in the name of the captain, for the officers and crew.
The agreement was verbal, and Abbot
's report stated that he had given his word that the officers and crew would not ‘take up arms against the Confederate States
unless regularly exchanged.’
It does not appear that Abbot
had authority to make this engagement, but no steps were taken by the captain to repudiate it. Possibly there was no opportunity to take any steps.
In his report, Stellwagen
simply says: ‘He proceeded aboard, and according to their demand, gave his parole on behalf of himself and all the officers and crew.’
In regard to this proceeding, it may be remarked that it is a well recognized principle that prisoners cannot be forced to give their parole; and it is manifestly improper to give a parole voluntarily, during the progress of an engagement.
It enables the assailant to neutralize portions of the force in detail, without being diverted from his operations by the necessity of guarding prisoners; and it precludes recapture, or rather, it takes away any advantage that may be derived from recapture.
At six o'clock, according to Stellwagen
's account, which was one hour after the engagement began, and an hour and a half before it was over, the injuries to the Mercedita
were partially repaired, and she ‘got things in order to start, a little steam on; hove [up] anchor.’
It is not clear whether she then went off, but it is at least certain that she changed her position.
After the battle she proceeded without assistance to Port Royal
This removal of the Mercedita
was afterward the foundation of a charge made by the Confederates
that the officers of the vessel had violated their parole, by taking the Mercedita
out of their hands.
The proceeding was, in fact, a questionable one, as it is merely quibbling to draw a distinction between ‘taking up arms,’ and navigating a ship-of-war out of reach of an enemy.
It can only be
excused on the supposition that the enemy were unable to take possession owing to the presence of a superior force; and it shows forcibly the predicament in which an officer may place himself by giving a parole which virtually places his ship hors de combat
during the progress of an action.
In consequence of the attack of the rams, the authorities of Charleston
seized the opportunity to declare that the. blockade was raised.
A proclamation was published the same afternoon, signed by Beauregard
, the Commanding General
and Senior Naval Officer, declaring that the naval forces attacked the blockading squadron, and ‘sunk, dispersed, or drove off or out of sight, the entire blockading fleet.’
The proclamation was accompanied in the newspapers by the statement that two vessels were sunk, four burnt, and the rest driven away; and the assertion was said to be sustained by the testimony of several of the foreign consuls, who had gone out in the afternoon in a tug, and had seen nothing of the blockaders.
It was also asserted that the consuls had held a meeting in the evening, and had come unanimously to the opinion that the blockade was legally raised.
The asseverations of the Charleston
newspapers were extensively quoted abroad, and grossly exaggerated as they were, raised a serious doubt as to the continued efficiency of the blockade.
It is an established rule that the absence of a blockading fleet, caused by stress of weather, if the blockade is immediately resumed, constitutes only a tempoary interruption; but the dispersion of a squadron by a hostile attack puts a stop to the blockade in toto
and a renewal of the operation requires a new proclamation, or rather, requires knowledge of the re-establishment of the blockade as a ground for condemnation.
If the assertion that the blockade was raised had been true, every blockade-runner in
would have been able to make directly for Charleston
, and if captured without having received warning would have escaped condemnation on the ground of want of knowledge.
As a matter of fact, the report so industriously spread was essentially false, though it had enough color of truth to give it a ready acceptance, in the absence of proof to the contrary, especially when backed by official testimony.
Out of ten vessels on the station, two had been disabled by the attack, and had proceeded to Port Royal
. Two other vessels were sent the same morning to Port Royal
, the Augusta
, with despatches for the Admiral
, and the Memphis
to tow the Keystone State
Both were sent back immediately by Dupont
In the afternoon, firing was heard in Stono Inlet
, and the Flag
was sent thither.
Of the other five vessels, the Stettin
, and Unadilla
were not engaged at all, and neither they, nor the Housatonic and Quaker City
left the usual line of blockade during the day. If the consuls did not see these five vessels, whose logs show that they were in plain sight all day, and several times in communication, it was because they did not look at them.
The report, however, had served its purpose, and it was commonly believed that the blockade of Charleston
was raised, although a written declaration of five captains of the squadron was published, containing a complete refutation.
The attack had a good effect in showing the necessity of strengthening the force before Charleston
, which had hitherto only been adequate to cope with blockade-runners.
The Powhatan was sent to Charleston
the same evening, and the New Ironsides and Canandaigua
joined a day or two later.
The blockade was thereafter continued with redoubled vigilance, and with a new sense of the necessity of perfect cooperation.
The disposition of the vessels of the South Atlantic Squadron, as given by Admiral Dupont
on February 15, 1863, shows what a radical change had taken place under his command in the character and efficiency of the blockade.
The arrangement of the squadron was as follows:
, the double-enders Sebago
Off Bull's Bay
, the steamer Lodona
, the New Ironsides; the side-wheel steamer Powhatan
; sloops-of-war Canandaigua
; steamers Flag
, Quaker City
, James Adger
, and Memphis
; schooners G. W. Blunt
In Stono Inlet
, the steamers Pawnee
, and Commodore McDonough
In North Edisto
, the steamer South Carolina
In St. Helena, the bark Kingfisher
, the monitor Passaic
, and steamer Marblehead
In Ossabaw, the monitor Montauk
, gunboats Seneca
, and steamer Dawn
Guarding St. Catherine's
, and St. Simon's Sounds
, the steamers Paul Jones
, and Madgie
; barks Braziliera
; and mortar-schooner Norfolk Packet
In St. Andrew's, the bark Midnight
, the steamer Mohawk
In St. John's River
, the steamers Nonsuch
At Port Royal
, the headquarters of the station, were the frigate Wabash
, the flagship, the storeship Vermont
, five tugs, and two despatch-vessels; and temporarily in port, undergoing repairs or taking in provisions, the monitors Weehawken
, and the steamers Keystone State
, and Ottawa
The experience of eighteen months had wrought a change indeed in the methods of the coast blockade, since there were on a single station more
vessels than the navy had had in commission at the outbreak of the war.
The next attempt of the Confederates
to raise the blockade on the South
Atlantic station resulted disastrously to its projectors.
This was the brief cruise of the Atlanta
, formerly the Fingal
, in Wassaw Sound
, in June, 1863.
was an iron steamer of English origin, which had run the blockade of Savannah
in November, 1861.
She had been taken by the Confederate Government, re-named the Atlanta
, and altered and strengthened for service as a man-of-war.
In making the alterations, she had been cut down so as to leave the deck about two feet above the water when loaded.
From this deck rose a casemate, with a flat roof and inclined sides.
Within the casemate were four Brooke
rifles, two VI 1/10-inch in the midship ports, and two Vii–inch on pivots at the bow and stern, so contrived that they could be fired either laterally or fore-and-aft.
The armor protecting this powerful battery was four inches thick, made of English railroad iron
, rolled into two-inch plates.
The deck was of enormous strength, and its edges projected six feet from the side of the vessel, the projection being filled in and protected with a heavy covering of wood and iron.
's bow ended in a ram, over which projected a torpedo spar.
She was in every way one of the most powerful vessels which the Confederates
had got afloat; and great things were expected of her.
Intimations had reached Admiral Dupont
that the Atlanta
and other ironclads at Savannah
were on the point of leaving Wilmington River
and entering Wassaw Sound
for the purpose of raising the blockade at that place, and in the inlets to the southward.
It was to be another raid on the blockades, like that of the 31st of January; but the vessel to be employed was much more powerful.
, however, was
careful to be well informed, and the experience of the previous winter had not been lost.
The double-ender Cimmerone was at this time maintaining the blockade alone, and two monitors were despatched to Wassaw
, the Weehawken
, under Captain John Rodgers
, and the Nahant
, under Commander Downes
had already won an enviable fame, and was known throughout the squadron as a vessel that was always ready for any service and always handled with masterly skill.
Early on the morning of the 17th of June, the ironclad was discovered coming down the river.
She was accompanied by two steamers, filled with spectators who had come out in the confident expectation of witnessing the speedy destruction of the Federal fleet.
It was to be a spectacle, a party of pleasure, like that which tempted the people of Boston
, just fifty years before, to sail down the harbor, on the day when Lawrence
went out to encounter the Shannon
; and like that memorable excursion, it was doomed to end in disappointment.
As soon as the Atlanta
came in sight, Rodgers
beat to quarters and cleared the ship for action.
Ten minutes later he slipped his cable, and steamed slowly around the point at the entrance of the liver.
, having no pilot, followed in his wake.
Just before five o'clock, the Atlanta
, then lying across the channel and awaiting the attack, fired the first shot, which passed astern of the Weehawken
For twenty minutes more, the monitors advanced steadily until within three hundred yards of the enemy.
Then the Weehawken
With the deliberateness which characterized him in the most trying moments, Rodgers
delivered the fire of his two heavy guns, the Xi-inch and the Xv-inch.
He fired five shots, of which four hit the Atlanta
The first, a Xv-inch
cored shot, struck the inclined side of the vessel, in the line of the ports; and though fired at an angle of fifty degrees with her keel, penetrated the armor, and, ripping out the wooden backing, the two inner layers of which were of brittle Georgia
pine, covered the deck with splinters.
From the effects of this shot, forty or more men were prostrated, several of whom received ugly wounds from the fragments of wood and iron.
The second shot, from the Xi-inch gun, struck the edge of the overhang, and started the plating.
The third carried off the roof of the pilot-house, wounded the two pilots, and stunned the men at the wheel.
The fourth shattered a port-shutter, driving the fragments in through the port.
Upon this the Atlanta
hauled down her colors, and hoisted a white flag.
It was just fifteen minutes after the Weehawken
had commenced firing.
was not disabled, nor had there been any great number of serious casualties among the crew; but they had had enough.
The possibilities of a Xv-inch gun, fired at a range of two hundred yards, were matters that they had no wish to investigate further.
drily remarked in commenting upon the action, the first shot took away their disposition to fight, and the third their ability to get away.
The battle was so short and decisive that the Nahant
had no opportunity to take part in it. When the Weehawken
ranged up to her prize, the latter was found to be aground; but she was backed off a few hours later with little difficulty, and steamed without assistance to Port Royal
The engagement of the Weehawken
and the Atlanta
was one of the extraordinary events of the war, and illustrates, perhaps better than any other, the revolution which fifty years of scientific progress had wrought in naval warfare.
The action of the Chesapeake
, which took
place in June, 1813, off Boston
, had enough points of resemblance to make the two engagements a fair subject of comparison.
Both were exceptional victories, for so complete a victory in fifteen minutes, the time covered in each of the two fights, will probably always be exceptional.
Nor does the resemblance stop here.
In both actions the victorious captain is one of the marked men of his service—bold but prudent, attentive to details, minutely careful in preparation, skilful in action.
Each is a splendid type of his kind in the age to which he belongs.
As Broke was the model captain of his day, so Rodgers
is of his. The Shannon
was always ready for any kind of service, her discipline exact, her crew willing, her gunnery precise.
shows her surpassing excellence in the same qualities; for no man knew better than Rodgers
how to get good work and ready service from his men. But the captain of 1813 is an able executive, a skilful seaman, a capable gunnery officer; while the captain of 1863 is all this, and a man of science in addition.
On the losing side, the parallel is equally striking.
There is in both engagements the same negligence of preparation, shown in the case of the Atlanta
by the extreme disorder of the vessel, and in that of the Chesapeake
by the disorganization of the crew.
There is tie same ineffective gun-practice, the same speedy demoralization.
Both captains are brave men; but both go into action with the same easy confidence, in each case fully shared, perhaps largely created, by the people around them, who go off in pleasure-boats to witness the fight, as if it were to be merely an exhibition of fireworks.
But here the parallel ceases.
There is little in common between the stately frigates—the Chesapeake
, bearing down before the wind under all sail, or the Shannon
, with her lofty spars, and her maintopsail against the mast, and the two rafts whose armored citadels protect everything but the
decks and the funnel.
As little do the batteries of carronades and long eighteens resemble the Brooke
rifles of the Atlanta
or the huge Dahlgren
smooth-bores of the monitor.
The mode of fighting corresponds to the character of the ships and the weapons.
The Chesapeake ranges up alongside her antagonist, and the two vessels deliver their broadsides almost in contact.
An accident brings them foul: and straightway the crew of the Shannon
, their captain at the head, rush on board the enemy with pike, cutlass, and pistol.
After a bloody struggle, a hand-to-hand pell-mell fight, the crew of the Chesapeake
is overpowered and surrenders.
Fifty years later, the vessels do not approach nearer than two hundred yards, and four shots, deliberately aimed, settle the whole affair.
There is little bloodshed; no one is touched on board the Weehawken
, and the injured among the prisoners comprise about a tenth part of the defeated crew.