Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Farragut Birthplace Marker Reported Missing

The Metroplus, a Knoxville, Tennessee area media outlet reports that a marker sited at Admiral David G. Farragut's birthplace is missing.

(Picture of marker by Margot Kline of Knoxville, Tennessee, courtesy of

Jack Neely reports:

At the center of a years-long controversy concerning possible private development of the old Lowes Ferry site, also known as Stoney Point, off Northshore just east of Admiral Farragut Park, is a large stone monument denoting the birthplace of David Glasgow Farragut. It's been there for 111 years, until lately, that is. Sponsored by the Daughters of the American Revolution, the marker was installed in 1900 when a flotilla of riverboats bearing national press and dignitaries, chief among them naval hero Admiral George Dewey, steamed to the site from downtown Knoxville....

Since the 1970s, it's been behind a fence, on formally private property. John Fitzgerald owned it then; after his death a few years ago, his widow and heir Lylan proposed to develop the peninsula without necessarily insuring public access to the birthplace and monument, though local officials had been hopeful about working something out, if only a walking trail from the adjacent county park....

We got word Tuesday that the marker itself is missing. The owner's attorney, who told a reporter last year that the owner had no plans to bother the marker, told us he had not been in touch with the owner lately, and had not heard that the marker was gone.

(Read the full story on the MetroPulse site)

Monday, August 29, 2011

The 1861 "Expedition Hurricane" and Port Royal

1861 Hurricane Season
As of today the east coast is free of Hurricane Irene's grasp. The CAT 1 storm cut a swath up the East Coast, causing widespread damage from North Carolina to Vermont.  We sincerely hope everyone was safe during this past weekend's storm. 

Looking through the records, it seems that a similar hurricane to Irene occurred 150 years ago. On the heels of the Port Royal Expedition, Hurricane Eight, better known as the "Expedition Hurricane," severely impacted the timeline for the Union thrust into the vital Confederate stronghold. 

According to the National Hurricane Center, the three day storm was the last of the season.  "Hurricane Eight" began on the southwestern tip of Florida and climbed up the east coast.  Not unlike Irene, the storm made landfall along the Outer Banks of North Carolina as a CAT 1, slowly diminishing speed up the coast before downgrading to a tropical storm by nightfall on 2 November.  At its height, the hurricane reached winds approaching 80 mph.

The storm caused many problems for the United States Navy preparing for the expedition to capture the Confederate center along the Port Royal Sound.  Although the earliest storm warning occurred in late October while the fleet assembled, the most devastating impact came on the 2nd.

Most of the ships involved in the storm were spared, many having to unload precious cargo to stay afloat.  One ship which did not fair well, the transport Governor, lost seven Marines during a fateful rescue by the USS Sabine's crew.  Writing to Blockade commander Samuel F. Du Pont, Southern Division Marine Corps Commander JNO. George Reynolds communicated the harrowing wind, waves, and rescue:

"The sea was running so high, and we being tossed so violently, it was deemed prudent to slack up the hawser and let the Governor fall astern of the frigate with the faint hope of weathering the gale till morning. All our provisions and other stores, indeed every movable article, were thrown overboard, and the water casks started to lighten the vessel. From half past 3 until daybreak the Governor floated in comparative safety, notwithstanding the water was rapidly gaining on her. At daybreak preparations were made for sending boats to our relief although the sea was running high, and it being exceedingly dangerous for a boat to approach the guards of the steamer. In consequence the boats laid off and the men were obliged to jump into the sea, amid were then hauled into the boats. All hands were thus providentially rescued from the wreck with the exception, I am pained to say, of 1 corporal and 6 privates, who were drowned or killed by the crush or contact of the vessels. Those drowned were lost through their disobedience of orders in leaving the ranks, or abandoning their posts."

Despite the loss of ship and life, the fleet of 77 ships went on to capture the sound at the Battle of Port Royal.  Stay tuned in November for more information on that specific sesquicentennial battle.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Ft. Pickens and the Pensacola Navy Yard

In all the excitement this spring with the start of the CW Sesquicentnnial, I forgot to post this significant event in Florida’s CW Navy history. The Pensacola Navy Yard was considered by some to be second only to the Norfolk Navy Yard in importance. Confederate forces occupied the Navy Yard and adjacent Fts. Barrancas and McRee in January 1861, shortly after Florida’s secession. Just prior to that occupation, in a move strikingly similar to Anderson’s movement out to Ft. Sumter, US Army Lt. Adam Slemmer moved his small garrison of 57 men to Ft. Pickens, on Santa Rosa Island at the mouth of Pensacola Bay. The garrison was supported by the gunboat USS Wyandotte and the supply ship USS Supply, along with 30 additional seamen in the Fort.

Slemmer steadfastly refused several requests by Confederate officers to surrender the Fort. In early February 1861, additional reinforcements arrived in the form of the sailing frigate USS Sabine, the steam sloop USS Brooklyn, and the sailing sloop USS St. Louis. Over the next several months, both sides worked to fortify their positions. In April additional Union troops were landed to fortify the fort garrison, and the steam sloop USS Powhatan,under the command of Navy Lt. David Dixon Porter, brought in needed supplies. Through most of the summer of 1861, things were quiet in Pensacola, but the situation would change by the fall of that year. More on that to come. Drop me an email if you would like to see sources used for this post. Photo sources are the Naval History and Heritage Command and the Florida Dept. of State on-line photo archive.

USN Squadron supporting Ft. Pickens. Shown are the USS Sabine and the USS Brooklyn (center foreground), to the left the gunboat USS Wyandotte, and in the background the USS Supply and USS Crusader.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Flags Over Hatteras Conference POSTPONED

Due to the threat of Hurricane Irne, those who were planning on going to the Flags Over Hatteras Sesquicentennial Event and Conference will have to wait a bit longer.  It was recently posted on their website that the conference, monument dedication, ole time auction, and living history demonstrations will be postponed due to the inclement weather.  Please check back on the Flags Over Hatteras website or here on the CWN 150 Blog for more scheduling information.  Stay safe this weekend!

- CWN 150

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Confederate Ironclads on the Mississippi

Just as their Northern counterparts, Confederate naval authorities looked first to the sea. Fortifying essential ports, and converting merchantmen were the primary problems for Confederate Secretary of the Navy Stephen R. Mallory. But by June 1861, Tennessee had passed a resolution calling on Richmond to fund a large-scale building program in the west, and Kentuckians could look across the Ohio River and see the Union’s Timberclads steaming unmolested, with more warships being constructed. The states of the upper south already knew what the U.S. Army and Navy had in store for the Mississippi.

In August 1861, Memphis shipbuilder John T. Shirley offered Secretary Mallory an opportunity to construct the Confederacy’s first ironclads on western waters. Already aware of demand for a naval presence, Mallory consulted with officers and naval architects in order to understand his options and resolved to fully back an ironclad building program. On 23 August, Confederate Tennessee Congressman David M. Currin submitted legislation to allocate funds for the creation of an inland navy, including $160,000 for the construction of two ironclads. The bill appropriated more funds for the naval defense of New Orleans, and Mallory would use these additional allocations to finance the construction of the additional ironclads Mississippi and Louisiana. On 24 August, the bill was passed and Jefferson Davis signed the act into law. The Confederate naval buildup in the west would now unfold.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

"Farragut's Ball" Song Lyrics

Although we are a little over three years away from the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Mobile Bay, it is always a good time to introduce readers to interesting vignettes into the collective memory of the Civil War navies. 

Johnson & Co . Song Publishers.  Image courtesy of Duke University Libaries.
This is an image of original sheet music for "Farragut's Ball," a song parodying the classic Irish bar tune "Lanagan's Ball."  Recently, the song was reproduced and recorded by the folks at the Smithsonian Insitution (Smithsonian Folkways) for their "Civil War Naval Songs" album.  You can read the typed lyrics to this song  at Duke University Libaries, or read the original lyrics to "Lanigan's Ball" HERE.

Monday, August 22, 2011

A Most Unlikely Naval Base: Mound City, Illinois

Before the Civil War, Mound City, IL was an unremarkable port town on the Ohio River. It certainly benefited from river traffic, but never became a major hub of commerce. Speculators had even built several warehouses in anticipation of the town's growth, only to remain empty at the war's outset. Mound City eventually grew, but never in the way investors imagined.

James Eads ushered Mound City into the spotlight when he began building new warships there in the summer of 1861. New building contracts kept rolling in from the Army, and quickly Mound City was transformed into one of the west's most important military centers.

The Marine Ways allowed steamboats to be hauled entirely out of the Ohio River so that carpenters could repair and improve them for wartime duty. In late 1861, a new military hospital (pictured behind the U.S.S. Daisy) was constructed and staffed by army surgeons, volunteers, and South Bend, Indiana's Nursing Sisters of the Holy Cross. With the large hospital came the creation of the Mound City National Cemetery.

1862 saw a new foundry built, and the town was connected to the Illinois Central Railroad. Mound City was now a center for troop transportation as soldiers disembarked by train only to re-embark on steamers headed for the Deep South.

By 1863, the Navy stored all ordnance for the Mississippi Squadron here and a detachment of Marines was entrusted with its protection. Through 1864, the Navy transformed Mound City into its headquarters for all western operations, a distinction the town kept until the close of the war. From 1863-65, if a western warship needed repairing or construction, Mound City was the place to do it.

Civil War at Sea: Technology in the Civil War (Video 2 of 5) Now Available

Hampton Roads Naval Museum and CWN 150 Staff have been working closely with Bob Rositzke of R.H. Rositske & Associates to create a series of educational videos discussing the role of the navies during the Civil War.   We are all pleased to announce the second of five videos, "Technology in the Civil War," is now available for viewing on Youtube.  The video is sponsored by William Erickson and the Surface Navy Association

You can go to Bob Rositzke's Youtube page HERE to view all of his videos.  Stay tuned in the upcoming weeks for more videos (Part 3 of 5: Strategy)!  Please leave your comments below!

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Mosquito Fleets

As the war progressed, the Confederate Navy along the S. Atlantic coast began to take shape using a variety of converted merchant steamers, tugs, schooners and sloops. Often the ships were taken in “as is” condition and one or two pieces of field artillery were mounted on the deck. Bales of cotton stacked on the decks may have been used to provide some protection from small arms fire (hence the name “cottonclad”). These small, makeshift flotillas were dubbed “Mosquito Fleets”, which made up in courage and gumption what they lacked in size and firepower. In October 1861, Capt. William Lynch of the CS Navy, in command of 5 small gunboats, captured a Union tug and landed a small force of Confederate soldiers in an attempt to drive Union forces off Roanoke Island, NC. Lynch later led a force of 8 gunboats against a larger Union expedition in the area in February 1862 (interesting note: one of those CSN gunboats was commanded by Lt. Charles Simms, whom Sarah mentioned in her post “Where were they then?”). In November 1861, a mosquito fleet under the command of Commodore Josiah Tattnall contested DuPont’s assault against Port Royal, SC. Tattnall also led small groups of gunboats in actions against the US Navy along the Georgia Coast, particularly the Savannah River. Note “Tattnall’s Fleet” in the right center background of the illustration. Drop me an email if you would like references/sources for this post.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Hatteras Expedition Assembles

Cape Hatteras and the North Carolina Sounds had become a perfect safe haven for Confederate commerce raiders.  As Northern merchant ships used the Gulf Stream as expressway home from West Indies ports, the local waters were target rich.  Several dozen small merchants fell victim to privateers and small commissioned gunboats.

To put a stop to this, the Union's Blockade Board recommended using filling schooners with stones and sinking them Hatteras' channel.  After consultations with local pilots about the currents in the area, the idea was soon rejected.  Commodore Silas Stringham recommended seizing the Hatteras Inlet as the only real solution.

In mid-August, the expedition began to assemble in Hampton Roads.  The large steam frigates USS Minnesota and Wabash and the all sail sloop-of-war USS Cumberland formed the core of a task force of several warships and transports.  The expedition's assembly caused a buzz in Northern newspapers who were looking for something positive to write about in light of the humiliating sting of Bull Run.

Friday, August 12, 2011

CSS Virginia LEGO Model Finished

If you saw last week's post on an amazing LEGO Monitor ship built by some HRNM Summer Intern Samuel Nelson, we are happy to inform you that both Sam and fellow intern Jordan Hock have recently completed the famed counterpart to the Union ironclad.  CSS Virginia.  Here is a picture of the completed CSS Virginia positioned as she was during the Battle of Hampton Roads.

 As a special "Civil War Navy" section to the upcoming STEM-based program at HRNM (Brick-by-Brick: The LEGO Shipbuilding Program), we will offer step-by-step designs for all you LEGO enthusiasts out there in upcoming weeks.  Stay tuned! 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

CSS Sumter Makes a Break For It

CSS Sumter in New Orleans

It was realized early on by Confederate Secretary of the Navy Stephen Mallory that he would have to have actual commissioned warships on the high seas if the Confederate guerre d'course was going to suceed.  Among the first of these Confederate cruisers was CSS Sumter under the command of Raphel Semmes.  Here is Semmes' account of the cruiser's dramatic breakout out from the Head of Passes and into the Gulf of Mexico on June 30, 1861.

Finally, on Sunday morning, the 30th of June, it having been reported to me that the Brooklyn was absent from her station, I caused steam to be gotten up, got underway, and ran down toward the Pass. As we approached the mouth of the river we discovered the Brooklyn with our glasses, standing back under steam and sail to regain her station, and it was for some time a little doubtful whether we could pass the bar before she came up.

To add to my perplexity, the pilot protested that he knew only the bar of the Southwest Pass, and could not undertake to run me out of
Pass a l’Outre [the eastern branch of the Mississippi River delta]. I continued on, however, hoisting a signal for a pilot at the fore.

As luck would have it, a pilot happened to be present at the pilots’ station a little above the light house, and as we ran by it the gallant fellow pushed aboard in his boat, and in fifteen minutes afterwards he had us outside the bar. We discharged him in great haste and all sail and steam, the
Brooklyn being in pursuit about 4 miles distant. The next few hours were of course very anxious ones for me, as the Brooklyn had the reputation of great speed, and our relative powers were to be tested.

By 3:30, Commander Poor gave up the chase. As he bore up, I sent my men into the rigging, and we gave three hearty cheers for the flag of the Confederate States, thus for the first time thrown to the breeze on the high seas by a ship of war.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Privateering Begins !!

On 17 April 1861 (two days prior to Lincoln’s declaration of a blockade), CSA President Jefferson Davis issued a proclamation authorizing privateering against Union commercial shipping by southern vessel owners (see post by Gordon on 14 April 2011). This authorization was subsequently ratified by the Confederate Congress. Privateering was often the strategy used by an inferior navy against a superior one; and this was in fact the strategy used by the US Navy against the British in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. The Confederate privateers were thus the first naval blow of the Civil War struck against the Union.

Just over a week after Davis’ proclamation, a sidewheel steam towboat emerged from the mouth of the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico as the CS Privateer Calhoun. Commanded by Capt. John Wilson, possessing a Letter of Marque and Reprisal from the CSA government, over the next two weeks this ship captured six Union merchant vessels; three cargo vessels (the bark Ocean Eagle, the freighter Milan, and the schooner Ella) and three whalers (the schooners John Adams and Mermaid and the brig Panama). The Calhoun’s exploits were ended by the arrival of the steam sloop USS Brooklyn off the Mississippi in late May (post by yours truly on 12 June 2011). The prizes captured by the Calhoun were adjudicated in the CS District Court for Louisiana, in New Orleans, for a total of $26,650, which was distributed to the owners, officers and crew of the privateer. As the war progressed, this type of profit became less expected, due to the difficulty of getting prizes back through the blockade, the eventual financial poverty of the Confederacy, and the refusal of European powers to allow prizes to be adjudicated in their courts. The Calhoun was eventually captured by the US Navy blockade in January 1862 and converted into a US gunboat under the same name.

Over on the Atlantic Coast, an active area of privateering developed off the North Carolina coast in the Hatteras Inlet area during July-August 1861. Ships of the NC Navy (the NCS Winslow, Raleigh, and Beaufort) and the “true” privateer CS Gordon would hide in the shallow bays and sounds behind the barrier islands and strike out of the inlet, capturing a number of Union merchant ships. This appears to be one of the factors driving the Union raid against the Inlet in August of 1861 (more to come on that in a couple weeks).

Finally, off the South Carolina coast, a fast sailing brig was converted into the privateer CS Jefferson Davis. Under the command of Capt. Louis M. Coxetter (a former US Navy officer), she terrorized Union shipping. Armed with five ancient English guns, and a crew of 75 well armed with small arms and cutlasses, she captured prize after prize, sending them back to Charleston for adjudication. The “Jeff Davis” ended her career wrecked off St. Augustine after a gale; recent underwater archaeological work in the area appears to have found her remains, and they are currently being explored and recovered. Coxetter earned a reputation for treating the officers and crews of the captured vessels in an exceptionally decent manner, and went on to earn greater glory in the CW as a captain of blockade runners.

NOTE ON SOURCES – I have found that a good source for information on the Confederate Navy is the series of books written by R. Thomas Campbell. Some of these are edited works presenting accounts by CS Navy personalities, others are original compilations discussing the privateers, the Confederate fleets, the commerce raiders, the ironclads, etc. You can find his books at his web site:


Campbell, R. Thomas. Fire & Thunder. Exploits of the Confederate States Navy. Shippensburg: Burd Street Press, 1997.

Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships:

Fowler, William M., Jr. Under Two Flags. The American Navy in the Civil War. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1990.

Simson, Jay W. Naval Strategies of the Civil War. Nashville: Cumberland House, 2001.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Pictoral Envelopes-Early Confidence in the U.S. Navy

Early in the war, the general public in the Northern and Southern states believed that the war would be quick, easy, and painless.  One such example of this early confidence can found in pictorial envelopes.  These images were produced by New York City print shops and often contain some type of cartoon image expressing patriotism or political opinion.  The U.S. Navy and the print shops' confidence in the the U.S. Navy was a popular subject.  All of these images belong to the New York Historical Society. Many  more of them and other rare Civil War images and drawings can be found at