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.

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