Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Calling All Bloggers!

Do you have an interest in writing or blogging? Enjoy doing research on the Civil War? We are currently looking for any and all interested in becoming a part of the Civil War Navy Sesquicentennial blog. Become a part of the Naval History and Heritage Command's official source for Civil War naval history!
If you are interested in becoming a blogger or other opportunities with the Civil War Navy Sesquicentennial, please send the following information and a 250-500 word "blog" writing sample to matthew.t.eng@navy.mil:
  • Name:
  • Email:
  • Phone Number:
  • School Affiliation (If applicable):
  • Grade Level (If applicable):
  • Why are you interested in the Civil War Navy 150 Blog?
  • What are your favorite subject areas in Civil War naval history?

Friday, August 27, 2010

"Daar kom die Alibama"

Rarely do scholars note the impact the Civil War had on other countries, especially non-European ones. The South African folksong “Daar kom die Alibama” is a great example of the influence of international Civil War naval operations.

Daar kom die Alibama,
Die Alibama, die kom oor die see,
Daar kom die Alibama,
Die Alibama, die kom oor die see...
Nooi, nooi die rietkooi nooi,
Die rietkooi is gemaak,
Die rietkooi is vir my gemaak,
Om daarop te slaap...
O Alibama, die Alibama,
O Alibama, die kom oor die see,
O Alibama, die Alibama,
O Alibama, die kom oor die see...
There comes the Alabama,
The Alabama, it comes o'er the sea,
There comes the Alabama,
The Alabama, it comes o'er the sea...
Lass, lass, the reed bed calls,
The reed bed it is made,
The reed bed it is made for me,
To sleep upon...
Oh Alabama, the Alabama,
Oh Alabama, it comes o'er the sea,
Oh Alabama, the Alabama,
Oh Alabama, it comes o'er the sea...

This song speaks of the CSS Alabama’s expeditionary raid around the Cape of Good Hope in 1863. During the raid, the CSS Alabama and the CSS Tuscaloosa captured approximately five ships. Despite not incurring as many prizes in South Africa as it did in other areas of the world, the CSS Alabama left a definite mark on Cape Town’s history and culture.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

New York Infantry Unit's Shamless Recruitment Poster

This seems like a poster appealing to sailors serving in the U.S. Navy, with the patriotic images of USS Constitution and the sailor standing with the U.S. flag.  However, upon closer inspection, one sees that it is actually attempting to poach American sailors away from the Navy and have them enlist in the 5th Regiment of the New York's "Excelsior Brigade."  The small print even uses the sales pitch "Sailors who prefer active service and fresh beef to midnight watches and salt junk are invited to join." 

Saturday, August 21, 2010

HRNM Announces Civil War Navy Special Edition of Daybook

The Hampton Roads Naval Museum is pleased to announce that they are currently creating a Civil War Navy Special Edition of the Daybook next month.

The Daybook is the Hampton Roads Naval Museum's quarterly journal of local naval history. In each issue, this publication discusses the people, ships, and events that have made Hampton Roads the U.S. Navy's most important port.

The Daybook is available in print as a benefit of becoming a member of the Hampton Roads Naval Historical Foundation. Go to http://www.hrnhf.org/ or call 757-445-9932 to learn about the Foundation, how to join, and the numerous other benefits of getting involved.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Spotlight on Civil Engineers during the Civil War

Charles Ellet, Jr.
Charles Ellet, Jr. gained early fame as a civil engineer and designer of suspension bridges in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. The Navy Department initially mocked the frail engineer for his design of an unarmed steam vessel used for breaking blockades in the 1850s. Determined, Ellet went so far as to submit plans to Imperial Russia during the Crimean War. Seeing the success of the CSS Virginia's ramming blows at Hampton Roads, Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton grew convinced and offered Ellet a commission as an Army Colonel and money to construct the United States Ram Fleet for operations on the Mississippi River in coordination with the Western Gunboat Flotilla. Each steam-powered ram was braced with iron bars along the bow, creating a powerful and centralized force utilizing the weight of the vessel and flow of the fast-moving Mississippi River. His design quickly proved adequate at the June 1862 Battle of Memphis, where Ellet's Ram Fleet decimated the Confederate River Defense Fleet. Fortune did not smile for Ellet, however, as he died two weeks later from a leg wound received during the melee.

James Eads

Indiana native James Eads made a name for himself in St. Louis, Missouri as a civil engineer, boat builder, and salvager. At the beginning of the war, the government contracted him to quickly construct seven shallow-draft gunboats for riverine warfare. These ships, with flat-bottoms, wide-beams, and 2.5 inch armor plating, became known as the City class ironclads. City class ships were a revolution in design, as the casemates constructed by naval constructor Samuel Pook helped earn their nickname "Pook's Turtles." These ships became some of the more famous Union ships during the war, including the St. Louis, Carondelet, and Cairo, which was sunk by a naval mine during the first attempt to take Vicksburg, Mississippi in 1862. Eads would earn greater fame after the war for his construction of the Mississippi River bridge, also known as the Eads Bridge, in St. Louis. Eads held more than fifty patents at the time of his death in 1887.

For more information on Charles Ellet, Jr., please go here.

For more information on James Eads, please go here.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

John Newland Maffitt-Former U.S. Naval Officer, Confederate Commerce Raider, Always the Southern Gentleman

Private and government owned commerce raiders in the 18th century and 19th century often went out of their way to treat their victims with the greatest respect. War may have been Hell, but that did not mean that the civilians caught in the middle, out in the middle of the ocean, had to suffer. Practically speaking, captains of commerce raiders had reputations to keep. As antiquated as communications were, word would get around the Seven Seas about a captain who mistreated captives. If caught, he would suffer severe consequences.

John Newland Maffitt, the commanding officer of CSS Florida, prided himself on always being a gentlemen in truest Southern sense of the word. On February 12, 1863, Florida intercepted the giant clipper ship Jacob Bell. Per protocol, Maffitt sent a boarding team over to inspect the ship and determine what to do with the vessel. His journal picks up the story from here:

“February 12-At 4 p.m., made a prize of the ship Jacob Bell, of New York. Her tonnage was about 1,300, and she is esteemed one of the most splendid vessels out of New York that trades with China.
A message came that the captain had ladies on board, and that his wife was on the eve of confinement [ed. note: she was about to have a baby]. Sent Dr. Garretson on board to investigate, and that the ladies must leave the ship, as I was determined to burn [Jacob Bell.] The ladies came aboard, and with tons of baggage. I surrendered the cabin. The party consisted of Mrs. Frisbee (captain’s wife), Mrs. Williams, whose husband is a custom-house officer at Swatow, China; a lad, Louis Frisbee, and another, son of a missionary from Rhode Island, now stationed at Swatow. The passengers and crew amounted to forty-three persons. The Jacob Bell had a cargo of choice tea, camphor, chowchow [ed. note: Chinese pickles, not the dog breed], etc. value at $2,000,000 or more.

Took such articles as we required, and on the 13th set her on fire.

Mrs. Frisbee was a very quiet, hind hearted lady; Mrs. Williams, I fancy, something of a tartar; she and Captain Frisbee were not on terms. They remained in possession of my cabin for five days, when I put the entire party on board the Danish brig Morning Star, bound to St. Thomas. If they speak unkindly, such a thing as gratitude is a stranger to their abolition hearts.”