Monday, July 29, 2013

Assault on New Smyrna, Florida, July 1863

As the war progressed, and the U.S. Navy blockade along the SE Atlantic Coast tightened around many of the main ports of entry in northeast Florida (Fernandina, Jacksonville and St. Augustine), blockade runners began to make use of more remote entry points in Florida to the south along the coast. Mosquito Inlet (now Ponce de Leon Inlet), along the Florida coast north of Cape Canaveral, became an important entrance point for runners. The inlet and Mosquito Lagoon were deep enough to accommodate larger steamers and schooners. The community of New Smyrna was located south of the Inlet along the Mosquito Lagoon. Runners would enter the inlet and dock at New Smyrna, or hide along the mangrove shoreline of the lagoon and offload their cargo. Wagons would transport the cargo overland to the St. Johns River, where it would be loaded on river steamers for transport to other offload points fortransfer to railroad stations and further distribution. George Buker indicates that this was known as “running the inner blockade.” Mosquito Inlet was the dividing point between the operating sectors of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron (to the north) and the East Gulf Blockading Squadron (to the south), so ships of both squadrons participated in actions in this region.

The Mosquito Inlet continued to be a thorn in the side of the Union blockaders. On 28 July 1863 a squadron of U.S. Navy gunboats, under the command of Lt. Commander Earl English, arrived off New Smyrna; USS Sagamore (Unadilla-Class gunboat), Para (mortar schooner), Beauregard (schooner), and Oleander (steamer). The Oleander took Beauregard in tow and they hove to inside the inlet and commenced shelling the town from offshore. English dispatched a large landing party of bluejackets and marines in ships boats into the harbor. They captured one sloop loaded with cotton, a schooner without cargo, and caused the Confederates to set fire to other sloops in the harbor, some loaded with cotton. The southerners also burned the large quantities of cotton stockpiled on shore. The landing party then went ashore, headed into the town, and destroyed and burned numerous structures (shops and homes).

Steamer at a dock near New Smyrna, Florida, after the war. This gives an idea of what a blockade runner offloading supplies may have looked like. Source:  Florida State Archives.


Friday, July 26, 2013

Patrolling the Ohio River and Intercepting Morgan's Raid

Throughout the war, both the Union and Confederate armies conducted raids deep into enemy territory in the hopes that they would draw units away from the front lines.  Confederate Brigadier General John Hunt Morgan conducted one of these raids began in late June 1863.  Morgan's superiors gave Morgan freedom to go anywhere he wanted in Kentucky.  He was, however, not permitted to cross the Ohio River.
Morgan ignored the order and invaded Indiana and Ohio. Even with the Vicksburg and Gettysburg campaign underway, the 1,000 mile raid was a national sensation followed closely by newspapers North and South.
Brig. General John Morgan-A
Kentucky-native, he ignored
his original orders and began
one of the most sensational
raids of the war in late
June 1863.
While state authorities in Indiana and Ohio organized emergency defense units, the Navy's river forces organized.  The responsibility for operations on the Ohio River fell to Lieutenant Commander LeRoy Fitch.  Up until now, the Ohio River was a quiet sector.  Upon hearing word of Morgan's path of destruction through Yankee territory, David Dixon Porter knew Morgan would have to cross back across the Ohio at some point.  He ordered Fitch to ready his ships.

Fitch's squadron consisted of several "tinclad" steamers.  Originally prewar wooden paddle steamers, the Navy converted these vessels into warships by placing 1/2-inch of iron plating along the broadsides and weapons on board. Before the war was over, the Navy commissioned sixty-three tinclads.  In a move that would be common by the early 20th century, the Navy gave each tinclad a name and unique hull number

Lieutenant Commander LeRoy Fitch, commanding
officer of the Ohio River flotilla.
Unsure exactly where Morgan might try to cross, Fitch spread his squadron out over several hundred miles on the Ohio between Louisville and the West Virginia border. 

He placed USS Springfield and Victory at Louisville and Silver Lake and Fairplay further upstream towards Cannenlton, Indiana.  Five other vessels, Reindeer, Naumkeag, Magnoila, Allegheny Belle, and Moose [Fitch's flagship], moved upstream towards West Virginia.  Fitch's intelligence believed Morgan's main force was proceeding east.  Fitch's problem was that there were at least six to eight fords that Morgan could cross the Ohio.  Thus he had to keep one gunboat near each possible crossing.   

One of Fitch's gunboats-Tinclad Number 35, USS Reindeer
The first contact with Morgan's forces by a Fitch gunboat occurred when Acting Ensign Joseph Watson, commanding Springfield, claimed to come under fire at New Albany, Indiana on July 9.  Channelling George McClellan, Watson reported that his ship was attacked by at least 10,000 men and three batteries of artillery.  Morgan began his raid with about 2,5000 men and two light artillery guns.

July 19 brought more serious action. Fitch and Moose found Morgan's forces trying to cross the Ohio at Sandy Creek Shoals.  Amidst a heavy fog, Fitch ordered Moose to flank speed.  Concerned that Morgan would try to place his two 20-pounder Parrot Rifles in a position to fire at his ship, Fitch had Moose's forward guns open fire as soon as the fog allowed.  Morgan's raiders retreated up the banks, with Moose's broadside guns firing at them.  As they retreated, the two Parrot Rifles were left behind.  The next morning, Allegheny Belle joined Moose. 

A bit farther upstream at Buffington Island, Morgan's raiders made a second attempt to cross the Ohio.  Under pressure from Union cavalry forces and militiamen, the raiders were becoming somewhat desperate to escape. But Moose and Allegheny Belle intercepted them and opened fire with shrapnel shells. 
Seeing that Union ground and river forces had them trapped, 750 of Morgan's men surrendered.  Never able to find a secure way across the Ohio, Union ground forces captured Morgan himself along with 300 of his men a week later.   
Two of more Fitch's "tinclads"-
USS Silver Lake ( Tinclad Number 23)(above)
 and USS Fairplay (Tinclad Number 17) (below).

The raid was the longest distance of its kind during the war.  There are several historic sites and markers along the Ohio River open to the public.  The Ohio Civil War Trails Commission is currently working on a 557-mile trail route. The tinclads for the remainder of the war continued to be active along the Mississippi and Ohio River systems as Confederate partisan groups continued to be active.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Ambush on the Waccasassa River, Florida

On 20 July 1863, a launch was dispatched at dawn from the USS Fort Henry, lying off the Cedar Keys. The boat was under the command of Chief Boatswain’s Mate Gillespie. Ordinarily, an officer would be in command of the boat, but two of Lt. Commander McCauley’s officers were down with illness, a third was taking a prize to Key West and a fourth was needed on the gunboat. The mission of this boat expedition was to pull south towards Bayport and locate and intercept any blockade runners. Gillespie was specifically ordered not to proceed up Crystal River due to the suspected presence of rebel militia. As they cruised south past the mouth of the Waccasassa River, just south of Cedar Keys, the bluejackets spotted bales of cotton floating out of the river into the bay. With visions of prize money clouding their judgment, they proceeded up the Waccasassa, hoping to capture more. As they pulled through an area where the river channel narrowed, the boat was fired upon by an ambush of as many as 50 or 60 enemy troops. Seaman Patrick Doran was hit in the neck and died instantly. Seaman John Bishop was also hit and died shortly afterward. The remaining seamen returned fire and pulled the boat back downriver out of range. As might be expected, McCauley was not at all pleased when the boat returned, indicating in his report to Adm. Bailey:

I forbade the ascent of Crystal River, little imagining a necessity of the kind in respect to the Waccasassa.”

Seamen Doran and Bishop were buried in a small cemetery on Seahorse Key. Their graves can be viewed today when the key is open to the public the third weekend in October. A nice set of photos of the cemetery is on Flicker at: (Flicker Seaman Bishop's new headstone was placed in 2004 by the Friends of the Cedar Key Wildlife Refuge.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Siege of Charleston: Supporting the Charge of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteers

The Assault on Fort Wagner as published in 1890.
This interpretation of the famous charge of the 54th Massachusetts is
 one  of the  few that show the U.S. Navy's ironclads in action.
Amidst siege operations in Charleston,Union leadership decided to try and seize Fort Wagner. The fort commanded the southern approaches to Charleston Harbor. It was relatively isolated from other Confederate fortifications.  Thus, it could not count on help if attacked. 

Map of Morris Island and Fort Wagner
Rear Admiral John Dahlgren, commanding the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, and Brigadier General Quincy Gilmore, commanding Union ground forces, agreed on a plan.  They planned to first seize the southern shores of Morris Island before beginning an assault on Fort Wagner on July 11.  The first part of the plan worked well.  A combination of four monitors (USS Weehawken, Nahant, Catskill, and Montauk), wooden gunboats, and small boats from the steam frigate USS Wabash equipped with boat howitzers, provided sufficient cover for a Union landing to overrun Confederate defenses. 

The monitors shelled Confederate positions from 4 a.m. until 12 p.m..  They then withdrew back out into open water "for lunch" promptly at noon.  Two hours later, the monitors resumed their firing positions. 

This assault on Fort Wagner itself did not succeed due to accurate heavy gun fire from Confederate gunners.  The Confederate gunners even damaged some of the monitors with a bolt type, armor-piercing shot. Union forces managed to establish a siege line during the melee. Gilmore planned a second assault on Wagner with five regiments.  The African American-manned 54th Massachusetts Volunteers lead the attack.

For the Navy's part, Dahlgren prepared six ironclads to support the operation.  The Federal force included the four monitors previously mentioned, plus USS New Ironsides, the monitor USS Patapsco, and three wooden gunboats. The steam sloop USS Housantonic stood back to observe where the ironclads' shots landed and to signal each ship the results. Additionally, Dahlgren put New Ironsides' Marines on alert, just in case they were needed in the ground assault.

Alfred Waud's drawing of USS Patapsco
 and other monitors off of Charleston.

The Navy bombardment began in the morning, with the squadron firing from 1,200 yards. Taking advantage of the flood tide, the ironclads moved west of the Main Ship Channel and closer to the fort.  At three hundred yards, the ironclads began a rapid fire bombardment.  Unlike the July 11 attack, the Navy's shelling kept the Confederate gunners from returning fire.

The ships kept up the fire until 7.30 p.m.  Gilmore signaled to Dahlgren that his troops were in position to assault.  Dahlgren ordered a cease fire due to a lack of light and a fear of hitting Union ground forces. The admiral reported that he witnessed flashes of gunfire from the ground assault until 9:30 p.m. Dahlgren wrote that the "ill-tiding of a repulse were not long in coming."  He received official word at 10:30 p.m. 

Supporting the second assault, the Navy unloaded about 1,945 shells (mostly XI-inch shells, but also some XV-inch shells, 150-pound and 100-pounder rifle shells) on Fort Wagner.  The number is a bit misleading, as New Ironsides accounted for 1,120 of them, the wooden gunboats 200, and the monitors about 625.  The broadside ironclad out-fired all the monitors combined.  In all, the squadron fired 432,676 lbs, or a little over 216 tons, of ordnance at Fort Wagner. During the bombardment, a disturbing trend arose.  Critical breaches occurred on three of the squadron's Parrot Rifles.

Dahlgren concluded that the plan was sound, but more troops were needed for the ground assault.  Additionally, he held high praise for the Army's assault.  He wrote, "the loss sustained by our troops bears witness to the preserving gallantry with which they endeavored to storm the work, and which deserve, I trust, a renewed effort."

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

With Millions in Hand, 2 Businessmen Set out to Wreck Rebel Ship-buying Plans

(Library of Congress photos)
Former Treasury Secretary Robert Walker, left, was also sent to Europe by his successor, Salmon Chase.  While Forbes and Aspinwall were to wreck Confederate  ship-buying plans, Walker was to undercut their bonds sale.
Second of Three Parts
With the basic points settled on what two private businessmen would be doing to disrupt Confederate shipbuilding efforts in Europe, especially the rams being built near Liverpool, Navy Secretary Gideon Welles, Treasury Secretary Salmon Chase, John Murray Forbes and William H. Aspinwall agreed that Forbes should leave first. He would take his young son John Forbes II. Aspinwall, on the other hand, was to wait until  the 12, 500, five- and twenty-year bonds were countersigned, pack them into “five or six trunks,” and then head overseas from New York. He would take a Captain Pearson from his steamship company to scout yards in England and Scotland. 
What was so extraordinary about this mission hatched in a New York hotel room in spring 1963 -- during some of the darkest days facing the Union cause -- was the Lincoln administration’s handing over after the briefest of meetings to two private citizens millions of taxpayers’ dollars “to dispose of pretty much as they liked” in Europe. (1)
After seeing Consul Thomas Haines Dudley in Liverpool to assess the situation at Laird, Forbes hunted down his old friend Joshua Bates, a Massachusetts-born senior official at  Baring Brothers bank in London. The bank was the grand sounding “financial agent” for the Union government in Great Britain. In reality, the “financial agent” disbursed piddling sums to cover immediate bills and pay consuls’ salaries. In the plan hatched in the Fifth Avenue hotel, Barings became vital to securing the credit needed to buy ships or to the raise prices so high that the South couldn’t afford them.
On the more personal level, Bates and Baring Brothers had a long relationship with Forbes and his western railroad investments. In fact, before receiving Chase’s telegram, Forbes took the extraordinary step of sharing with Bates, who for decades ran the commercial side of the bank’s global operations, confidential letters between him and Gustavus Fox, assistant secretary of the Navy,  outlining the Confederate ironclad threat. To this meeting at the bank with Bates and Thomas Baring, Forbes also brought a letter of introduction from Chase. (2)
From policy I gave them (as they wished) a very limited sketch of my plans, Forbes wrote. He then left to meet briefly with Charles Francis Adams, the United States minister to Great Britain, who did not press Forbes on exactly what he was doing for the United States. He pledged his aides’ assistance if needed. Forbes left the impression with Adams that he was in Europe to recruit soldiers in Germany for the Union army. By the time Forbes returned to Barings, the United States was awarded a 500,000 pound line of credit “subject to cash draft.”  All that was needed now was for Aspinwall to deposit the securities at the bank. (3) 
The businessmen’s cover was blown almost from the day Aspinwall arrived in the compact financial city that was abuzz with news of the British seizure of Alexanda, a soon-to-be commerce raider, in Liverpool and the capture of Peterhoff on its run from the British Virgin Islands to Matamoros.  As Aspinwall and Forbes dined with Adams, the Times reported on April 7, “Two well known merchants, one from Boston and one from New York have been commissioned by the Washington government … to employ part of the 2 million pounds” they brought with them to buying up “the gunboats now building in England for the rebels.”  (4)
Like Confederate Secret Agent James Bulloch whose presence became news upon his arrival in Liverpool, the two pressed on with their work – buy ironclads, disrupt Confederate shipbuilding activities, and where possible, preach the gospel of the Union emphasizing the Emancipation Proclamation. (5)
The businessmen and the consuls understood that they needed real intelligence to stymie the Confederate agents and that meant paying for depositions and necessary legal fees, retaining detectives and spies of their own, and spreading cash among disaffected shipyard workers and seamen, and when necessary, bribing clerks in shipyards along the Thames, Mersey, and Clyde, for plans;   clerks in banking houses on curious transactions, and chandleries on suspicious purchases. The line of credit at Barings gave the Union a leg up in all these areas. 
While neither the businessmen nor consuls saw any problem with spending the Navy’s money on spying, the funds should have been coming from the State Department, a point that concerned Welles, and he let officials at State know that.
What Forbes and Aspinwall also picked up was the depth of British resentment over the letters of marque resurrecting the anger over Captain Charles Wilkes’ forcibly removing James Mason and John Slidell from the British mail packet Trent in 1861.  “Every Englishman thinks that his appointment [as flotilla commander in the West Indies] was a taint to the international mails.” On these two points, the men finally got their way. The letters of marque were never issued, and Wilkes was reassigned. 
As April moved along, Forbes was receiving advice from Adams, who by then knew what their real mission was, to be very wary of the shipyards toying with them.  “This is merely playing the game of the Englishmen” in driving war materiel prices skyward.  The Confederates’ successful sale of bonds based on the delivery of cotton had changed the financial game, the minister noted. On the rams, they were not going to be out-bid. Adams stepped up his diplomatic pressure on the British.  Dudley’s reports from Liverpool, paid for out of the Barings account, were particularly useful in building the Union’s case on who really was buying these warships. (6)
The defeat at Chancellorsville added to financial pressures on the Union overseas. The Union bonds were bringing between 60 and 75 percent of par value, further reducing the businessmen’s ability to knock the South out of the European arms and shipbuilding markets.
Adams then reminded Forbes it was better to work as a private businessman with a limited amount of hard currency in these matters than appear to be an agent of the United States with its deep pockets.
Complicating matters for the Union in London was the arrival of Robert Walker, a former secretary of the Treasury and a one-time senator from Mississippi, on a special mission from Chase.  Walker’s mission was to undermine Confederate bond sales and to bolster the Union’s standing in European financial markets. It was just another addition to the posse of roving diplomats, like Thurlow Weed; poaching diplomats, like William Evarts to handle American claims against the British government;  volunteer diplomats, like Moncure Conway who began corresponding with Mason, the Confederate commissioner in London, that soon appeared in the Times, and special mission diplomats, like Forbes, Aspinwall, and Walker.  Adams noted in his diary that like Forbes’ and Aspinwall’s mission, “I had nothing to do” with Walker’s. 
As for the two businessmen, they were pleasant enough with Walker but remained tight-lipped about what they were about. This was in contrast to their letter to Chase about conferring freely with him. The letter was proof that Forbes, especially, had an  uncanny ability at “working through indirections.” The historian Adams marveled, “That, under such an ingeniously bad system, a catastrophe did not result, speaks volumes for the discretion of those concerned.”  By contrast, Confederate agents even representing the same department bickered among themselves over who was entitled to what share of the Erlanger Loan. The Confederate agents “are soon found out and drawn into confessions and statements by gossiping acquaintances.”  (7)
End notes:
1.Charles Francis Adams, Laird Rams (hereafter Adams, Laird), Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Vol. 33, Google e-Book, p. 196, John Murray Forbes, Drawing on Letters and Recollections of John Murray Forbes edited by his daughter Sarah Forbes Hughes (hereafter Hughes, Recollections), Vol. 1, Cambridge, Google e-Book, Vol. 1, p. 340. John Launtz Larson, Bonds of Enterprise: John Murray Forbes and Western Development in America’s Railway Age (hereafter Larson, Bonds of Enterprise), Google e-Book, p. 211.
2.Hughes, Recollection, Vol. 1, p. 340.  Larson, Bonds of Enterprise, p. 211.  Stanley Chapman, The Rise of Merchant Banking, Taylor and Francis, Oxon, U.K., 2006, p. 28.
3.Hughes, Recollections, Vol. 2, pp. 8-9. Adams, Studies, p. 358.
4.Adams, Studies, p. 359. Maynard, Forbes, pp. 67-89.
5.Hughes, recollections, Vol. 2, p. 9.  Maynard, Forbes, pp. 67-89.
6.Maynard, Forbes, pp. 67-89.
7.Adams, Studies, pp. 360-364. Adams, Laird, pp. 165-207.  John Niven (ed.), Salmon P. Chase Papers, Correspondence, 1863-1864, Vol. 4, Kent State University Press, Kent, pp. 16-18.

War on the Periphery-Confederate California Dreamin

Several hundred miles from the main front was the young state of California. While there was no strategic significance to California's land in determining the outcome of war, the state's gold was an invaluable source of income for both Union businessmen and the Federal Government. Throughout the war, many Confederate men dreamed of raiding these gold shipments.

One of these men was Asbury Harpending. A member of the San Francisco chapter of the infamous "Knights of the Golden Circle," Harpending tried since the beginning of the war to create a pro-Confederate breakaway section of California.  In 1863, he came up with a more workable plan, though just as daring. He knew that several shipments of California gold left San Francisco en route for the American east coast via mail steamer.

Asbury Harpending-gun runner, member of
the California Knights of the Golden Circle,
 and Confederate privateer.
He believed that a small, fast schooner manned by several dozen armed men would be enough to overpower and seize these steamers. Harpending travelled from San Fransisco to Richmond.  He even received a personal audience with Confederate President Jefferson Davis. After listening to Harpending's plan to raid the gold shipments, Davis signed and gave him a letter of marque to conduct raids on behalf of the Confederacy.

With the legal document in hand, a fellow Golden Circle member, Ridgely Greathouse, assembled $250,000 in capital from other rich Golden Circle members to purchase, outfit, and arm a schooner called Chapman (note: many references to this event use the name J.M. Chapman, but Harpending himself wrote that it was called simply Chapman). The schooner was fast, as she had just arrived in San Francisco from New York via Cape Horn in a record time of 114 days.

Harpending and Greathouse outfitted the schooner with the greatest of secrecy.  They used special coded letters and falsely labeled boxes. When challenged, the men replied they were simply outfitting a ship to support the "Liberal Party" in Mexico. Equipped with two 12-pounders, several dozen muskets, and twenty Southern men, Harpending was ready to put to sea. That is when things began to unravel.

Commissioned in 1837, The sloop-of-war
USS Cyane had been assigned to the Pacific
Squadron in 1858.  The fear of privateers
like Harpending forced the Navy to keep
a few ships stationed in California.
Harpending's hired pilot did not show up for work the night the schooner was set to deploy. At the time, Harpending did not think much of it and went to bed. A few hours later, the watch woke him up in a panic. Harpending came out on deck to find the guns of the sail sloop-of-war USS Cyane trained on his ship and several dozen armed Revenue Cutter sailors and local police close by. He and his crew surrendered without a fight.  The police took him to Fort Alcatraz to await trial. Someone, possibly the pilot, tipped off local authorities, who in turn asked the Navy for help.

A U.S. Attorney charged both Harpending and Greathouse with thirteen different criminal counts, including treason and aiding and abetting the enemy. Found guilty on all counts, the court handed down punishments of twenty years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Fortunately for both men, President Abraham Lincoln issued a general pardon for people like Harpending and Greatbridge. After declaring their loyalty to the United States, they walked away free men without paying a fine.  Nonetheless, the Navy's swift actions against Champman put a chill on any future attempts by California's sizable pro-Confederate faction to put out anymore privateers.

Harpending would get his riches two years later through more honest means.  He bought up several parcels of undeveloped land of what is now called Havilah, California. After selling the development and mineral rights to prospectors, he put $800,000 in a San Fransisco bank.  He also wrote an autobiography called the Great Diamond Hoax and Other Stirring Incidents (which includes the Chapman affair). 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Vicksburg Campaign-The Fortress Surrenders

On July 7, 1863, Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles received the following telegram from the Office of the U.S. Military Telegraph at the War Department:

"From U.S. Miss Squadron, Flagship Blackhawk

Hon. Gideon Welles Secretary Navy

Sir, I have the honor to inform you that Vicksburg has surrendered to the U.S. Forces on this 4th of July.

Very Respectfully, Your Obedient Servt D.D. Porter Acting Rear Admiral."

In a more complete report to Welles, Porter noted that the Navy's mortar boats fired over 7,000 shells at Vicksburg; the ships fired about 4,500 shells from their direct fire weapons with an additional 4,500 fired from Navy guns on shore. On top of that, the Navy provided 6,000 shells to the Army. He also commented that "the capture of Vicksburg leaves us a large army and naval force free to act all along the river. The effect of this blow will be felt far up the tributaries of the Mississippi."

Upon hearing the news, President Lincoln is to have said "The Father of Waters again goes unvexed to the sea."

The Navy Memorial at Vicksburg National Military Park

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Union Navy Expedition up the Peace River, Florida

Print showing a sloop of the configuration of the USS Rosalie. Source:  Library of Congress on-line image library.

The coast of southwest Florida, from the Keys to Tampa Bay, was practically uninhabited through much of the Civil War, almost the very definition of “remote.” Small fishing villages appear to have existed at Ft. Myers and Punta Gorda, along with a few hardy souls living in camps on some of the old Calusa Indian shell middens scattered throughout Pine Island Sound and the Ten Thousand Islands region to the south. The coast was part of the patrol sector of the East Gulf Blockading Squadron. The major water body in this region was the estuarine bay Charlotte Harbor. Two rivers, the Peace and Myakka, drained into this bay from the state’s interior. Just south of the entrance to the bay, the Caloosahatchee River emptied into San Carlos Bay. Because of its remoteness, the region proved irresistible to blockade runners and did see some activity.

On 6 July 1863, Acting Master W. R. Browne from the bark USS Restless took on board two white refugees from the area. They told him that two Confederate blockade runners had attempted a run out that morning. Browne sent out a party of 36 men in the bark’s two cutters, under the command of Acting Ensigns Eason and Russel and Acting Master’s Mate Browne, guided by the two refugees. Their objective was to find the sloop USS Rosalie, with orders for her commander Acting Ensign Charles P. Clark, and then with the Rosalie attempt to locate the runners. The Rosalie was supposed to be stationed in Pine Island Sound. Rosalie in this case was not the larger "sloop-of-war" such as the USS Cumberland; she was a shallow-draft, single-masted sailing ship. She was actually a captured blockade runner and highly useful in the shallow inshore waters of southwest Florida. She was armed with a 12-pdr Dahlgren boat howitzer.

The boats from the Restless did not find the sloop in this location, and so they headed up the Peace River to the small settlement of Punta Gorda. The next morning, they sighted the Rosalie about 5 miles upriver. Upon pulling up to the sloop, they were told by Ensign Clark that he had moved the sloop to the mouth of the river. About 9 AM the morning of the sixth, he saw a sloop and a schooner making a run up the river (probably they had been on their way down when they sighted the Union gunboat and “turned tail”). He set off in pursuit, but it was his misfortune to ground the sloop on a sand bar in the river. The Confederate runners continued upstream, no doubt having a better knowledge of the river channel. By the time the Restless’ boats had reached the Rosalie, Clark had succeeded in freeing her from the bar. The boats and the sloop continued upriver, until shoal water would not allow the sloop to proceed further on the evening of the seventh.

Clark anchored for the night, at this time about 45 miles upriver. The next morning, 8 July, Clark left the sloop in charge of Acting Master's Mate Browne, took command of the two Restless boats, and pushed further upriver to Horse Creek, where they found the two runners unmanned. They were the Bahamian schooner Ann and an un-named sloop, both loaded with cotton. The naval expedition took possession of the two runners and their cargo and made their way back down to the Rosalie, then back out the bay to rejoin the Restless the afternoon of 9 July. For their actions, Adm. Bailey issued a letter of commendation to Acting Master Browne and the crew of the Restless, and promoted Clark from Acting Ensign to Acting Master.

An 1868 Navigation Map of the Charlotte Harbor entrance is at:

Monday, July 1, 2013

Vicskburg Campaign-The Navy Unloads Its Firepower.

One of the chief reasons for Union victory in the West was the close
cooperation  between General Grant and Admiral Porter.
While the the Navy bombarded Port Hudson from the river and land, Admiral Dixon Porter set up a similar operation for Vicksburg itself. The admiral had the USS Cincinnati, Mound City, Carendolet, Benton, and Tuscumbia approach within 300-400 yards of the Confederate guns.  The two sides exchanged shots for over two hours before the Union squadron withdrew.  Porter often coordinated closely with General Ulysses S. Grant's ground assaults.  It was during one of these raids that Confederate gunners found their mark on Cincinnati, striking the ironclad in several critical places.  The ironclad soon sank.

Porter's ships bombarding Vicksburg at night.
Direct assaults did not make much progress.   Union leadership decided on a  more passive siege.  Ground forces would bombard from land, while Porter deployed a number of heavy guns from river and land to shell the fortress town.  Porter brought up mortar boats equipped with 175 mortars (not all of them functioning) from the south to augment his ironclad squadron. 

In addition to his warships, Porter placed IX-Inch and X-inch Dahlgrens and 100 pounder Parrott Rifles on scows (flat bottom river boats).  On land, he contributed five VIII-inch and two IX-inch Dahlgrens, two 42-pounder rifles, and older 32-pounder smoothbores.  All the guns were added to Grant's artillery batteries and manned by sailors from Porter's squadron. From 27 May to 3 July 1863,  Porter's gunners bombarded Vicksburg.  The gunners usually fired either first thing in the morning or at night, as Porter did not want to exhaust his gunners during the hot summer days. 

"Siege of Vicksburg"-Compare this print to the war time sketch
 of the same scene by Theodore Davis.
Porter directed the gunners not only to fire at the town, but also at the town supply depots, such as its cattle herd. The bombardments killed several hundred heads of cattle, making the Confederate's supply situation that much worse. 

One target Porter directed his gunners to stop firing at was the infamous "Whistling Dick" gun.  "Dick" was an 18-pounder rifle that made a distinct "whistling" sound when fired.  It is credited with sinking Cincinnati.  After many failed attempts to knock the gun out, Porter told his ships not to specifically target it anymore. 

In addition to the massive bombardment, Naval forces assisted in keeping Confederate relief columns from coming to Vicksburg's rescue. Porter deployed Brigadier General Alfred Ellet's Mississippi Marine Brigade to help Union ground forces fend off approaching enemy units.  This unique formation now under Navy control was a combined unit of infantry and cavalry with its own river transports.  The unit also took control of plantations along the river where newly freed slaves produced cotton for Union forces.

Porter received a note during the siege indicating that Admiral Andrew Hull Foote died in a New York hospital on 27 June.  Considered one of the Navy's finest seamen (and rabid teetotaler), he suffered an injury during the Fort Donelson campaign which he never fully recovered from.  He was to take over the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, but his injury prevented him from travelling.  All the ships in the squadron lowered their flags to half mast.