Naval History of the Civil War April 1862

 

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Civil War Naval History

 

April 1862

1 Combined Army-Navy boat expedition under Master John V. Johnston, USN, of gunboat U.S.S. St. Louis and Colonel George W. Roberts landed and spiked the guns of Fort No. 1 on the Tennessee shore above Island No. 10, Mississippi River (night of 1-2 April). Colonel Roberts reported: "To the naval officers in command of the boats great praise is due for the admirable manner in which our approach was conducted."

C.S.S. Gaines, Commander Hunter, recaptured Confederate schooner Isabel off Mobile. Isabel had been under tow of U.S.S. Cayuga, Lieutenant Harrison, but was cast off in a heavy gale in the Gulf of Mexico.

2 General McClellan and his staff arrived at Fort Monroe on board steamer Commodore. In the Peninsular Campaign to capture Richmond, the General intended to take full advantage of Union command of the seas for logistic support and offensive operations. He wrote: "Effective naval cooperation will shorten this operation by weeks." He proposed to outflank Confederate defenders by water movements up the James and York Rivers supported by the Navy. The ominous presence of C.S.S. Virginia at the mouth of the James River dictated that Flag Officer L. M. Goldsborough keep his main naval strength at Hampton Roads alerted against future attacks by the Confederate ironclad. Union gunboats frequently bombarded Yorktown, under siege by McClellan's army, until the city was evacuated on 3 May.

U.S.S. Mount Vernon, Commander Glisson, with U.S.S. Fernandina and Cambridge, destroyed schooner Kate attempting to run the blockade near Wilmington.

3 Armed boats from U.S.S. Mercedita, Commander Stellwagen, and U.S.S. Sagamore, Lieutenant Andrew J. Drake, captured Apalachicola, Florida, without resistance and took pilot boats Cygnet and Mary Olivia, schooners New Island, Floyd, and Rose, and sloop Octavia.

Flag Officer Du Pont and Brigadier General Henry W. Benham planned to cut off Fort Pulaski from Savannah in joint operations along the Georgia coast. Du Pont immediately ordered U.S.S. Mohican, Commander Godon, to reconnoiter the Wilmington River to determine the best means of obstructing it as part of the projected attack.

U.S.S. Susquehanna, Captain Lardner, captured British blockade runner Coquette off Charleston. Three armed boats from U.S.S. Isaac Smith, Lieutenant J. W. A. Nicholson, captured British blockade runner British Empire with cargo of provisions, dry goods, and medicines in Matanzas Inlet, Florida.

4 U.S.S. Carondelet,. Commander Walke, shrouded by a heavy storm at night, successfully ran past Island No. 10, Mississippi River, and reached Major General John Pope's army at New Madrid. For his heroic dash through flaming Confederate batteries, Walke strengthened Carondelet with cord-wood piled around the boilers, extra deck planking, and anchor chain for added armor protection. "The passage of the Carondelet," wrote A. T. Mahan, "was not only one of the most daring and dramatic events of the war; it was also the death blow to the Confederate defense of this position." With the support of the gunboats, the Union troops could now safely plan to cross the river and take the Confederate defenses from the rear.

U.S.S. Pursuit, Acting Lieutenant Cate, captured sloop LaFayette at St. Joseph's Bay, Florida, with cargo of cotton.

C.S.S. Carondelet, Lieutenant Washington Gwathmey, with C.S.S. Pamlico and Oregon, engaged gunboats U.S.S, J. P. Jackson, New London, and Hatteras, and troops on board steamer Lewis, but could not prevent the landing of 1,200 men at Pass Christian, Mississippi, and the destruction of the Confederate camp there.
J. P. Jackson, Acting Lieutenant Selim E. Woodworth, captured steamer P. C. Wallis near New Orleans with cargo of turpentine, pitch, rosin, and oil.

5 Brigadier General Benham informed Flag Officer Du Pont of a reported Confederate build-up of strength at Wilmington Island, "possibly for an effort to relieve or reinforce the garrison of Fort Pulaski." The General added that he was "most earnestly wishing" for further naval strength in the area. As reports of expected Confederate action at Fort Pulaski continued to reach Du Pont, he made every effort to render maximum support to the Army.

Flag Officer Farragut on board U.S.S. Iroquois made a personal reconnaissance in the area of Forts Jackson and St. Philip. The forts opened fire, but Farragut, observing from a mast, remained as "calm and placid as an onlooker at a mimic battle."

Launch from U.S.S, Montgomery, Lieutenant Charles Hunter, captured and destroyed schooner Columbia near San Luis Pass, Texas, loaded with cotton.

6 U.S.S. Tyler, Lieutenant Gwin, and U.S.S. Lexington, Lieutenant Shirk, protected the advanced river flank of General Grant's army at the Battle of Shiloh (Pittsburg Landing) and slowed the initially successful attack of the Confederates, Major General Polk, CSA, reported that the Confederate forces "were within from 150 to 400 yards of the enemy's position, and nothing seemed wanting to complete the most brilliant victory of the war but to press forward and make a vigorous assault on the demoralized remnant of his forces, At this juncture his gunboats dropped down the river, near the landing where his troops were collected, and opened a tremendous cannonade of shot and shell over the bank, in the direction from where our forces were approaching." Fire from the two wooden gunboats helped maintain Union positions until reinforcements arrived, and the next day contributed to forcing the Confederate retreat. ''In this repulse,'' wrote Grant, "much is due to the presence of the gunboats." General Beauregard, CSA, attributed the Confederate loss the following day in large part to the presence of the gunboats. "During the night [of the 6th] the rain fell in torrents, adding to the discomforts and harassed condition of the men. The enemy, moreover, had broken their rest by a discharge at measured intervals of heavy shells thrown from the gunboats; therefore, on the following morning the troops under my command were not in condition to cope with an equal force of fresh troops, armed and equipped like our adversary, in the immediate possession of his depots and sheltered by such an auxiliary as the enemy's gunboats." One of the Army divisions at Shiloh was commanded by Major General Nelson, a former naval officer assigned to the Army, "who," Lieutenant Gwin observed, "greatly distinguished himself." Gwin went on to report of the battle, ''I think this has been a crushing blow to the rebellion."

U.S.S. Carondelet, Commander Walke, made a reconnaissance down the Mississippi River from New Madrid to Tiptonville, exchanging shots with shore batteries and landing to spike Confederate guns in preparation for covering the river crossing by Major General Pope's troops.

U.S.S. Pursuit, Acting Lieutenant Cate, captured steamer Florida loading cotton at North Bay, head of Bear Creek, Florida.

7 U.S.S. Pittsburg, Lieutenant Egbert Thompson, ran past the batteries at Island No. 10 and joined U.S.S. Carondelet in covering the crossing of Major General Pope's army to the Tennessee side of the Mississippi River to move against Island No. 10. The General's words to Flag Officer Foote attested to the importance he attached to naval support: ". . . the lives of thousands of men and the success of our operations hang upon your decision. With the two boats all is safe.

Island No. 10, described by Brigadier General William W. Mackall, CSA, commanding the island, as "the key of the Mississippi," surrendered to the naval forces of Flag Officer Foote. Besides the heavy cannon and munitions captured, four steamers were taken and gunboat C.S.S. Grampus was sunk before the surrender. Capture of Island No. 10 opened the river to Union gunboats and transports south to Fort Pillow. Congress tendered Flag Officer Foote a vote of thanks "for his eminent services and gallantry at Fort Henry, Fort Donelson, and Island No. 10, while in command of the naval forces of the United States." Mobile naval strength had sealed the fate of the Confederacy on the upper Mississippi River, and was knifing into the heart of the South.

After surrender of Island No. 10, U.S.S. Mound City, Commander Augustus H. Kiley, seized Confederate ship Red Rover, which had been damaged by mortar fire. Temporarily repaired, Red Rover was moved to Cairo where she was converted to the Navy's first hospital ship. She joined the river fleet under Commander Pennock, on 10 June and shortly received her first patients.

Red Rover was officially transferred to the Navy on 1 October 1862 and commissioned 26 December.

Sisters of the Holy Cross volunteered and served on board as nurses- pioneers of the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps treating the sick and wounded. From Civil War Red Rover to the present, fine medical facilities afloat have promoted the efficiency and staying power of the combatant fleets.

U.S.S. Pensacola, Captain Morris, and U.S.S. Mississippi, Commander M. Smith, were successfully brought over the bar at the Passes and into the Mississippi River after several previous attempts to do so had met with failure. These were the two heaviest vessels ever to enter the river and figured prominently in the attack on New Orleans. "Now," Flag Officer Farragut wrote, "we are all right.''

Commander Semmes' log of C.S.S. Sumter recorded: "Received a telegram from Mr. Mason [J. M. Mason, Confederate Commissioner in London] ordering me to lay the Sumter up and to permit the officers and such of the crew as prefer it to return to the Confederate States." This action in large measure was caused by a serious breakdown of Sumter's boilers at Gibraltar.

8 General Robert E. Lee wrote Confederate Secretary of the Navy Mallory: . . . it is my opinion that they [General McClellan's army] are endeavoring to change their base of operations from James to York River. This change has no doubt been occasioned by their fear of the effect of the Virginia upon their shipping in the James. General Magruder informs me that their gunboats and transports have appeared off Shipping Point, on the Poquosin, near the mouth of the York, where they intend, apparently, to establish a landing for stores, preparatory to moving against our lines at Yorktown."

9 U.S.S. Ottawa, Lieutenant Stevens, U.S.S. Pembina, and Ellen escorted transports Cosmopolitan and Belvedere out of Jacksonville, as Union forces evacuated the area.

Flag Officer Hollins telegraphed Confederate Secretary of the Navy Mallory from Fort Pillow for authority to bring his force to the support of New Orleans. Mallory, convinced that the serious threat to New Orleans would come from Flag Officer Foote's force in the upper river rather than from Farragut's fleet below, denied Hollin's request.

10 Gunboat U.S.S. Kanawha, Lieutenant John C. Febiger, captured blockade running schooners Southern Independence, Victoria, Charlotte, and Cuba off Mobile.

U.S.S. Whitehead, Acting Master Charles A. French, captured schooners Comet, J. J. Crittenden, and sloop America in Newbegun Creek, North Carolina.

U.S.S. Keystone State, Commander LeRoy, chased blockade runner Liverpool, which ran aground outside North Inlet, South Carolina, and was destroyed by her crew.

11 C.S.S. Virginia, Flag Officer Tattnall, rounded Sewell's Point to make her second appearance In Hampton Roads. Under Virginia's protection, C.S.S. Jamestown, Lieutenant Barney, and C.S.S. Raleigh, Lieutenant Commander Joseph W. Alexander, captured three Union transports. Because of major strategic considerations on both sides, no second Monitor-Virginia duel ensued. Monitor's mission was to contain Virginia in support of General McClellan's campaign on the Peninsula, and Virginia safeguarded the important Norfolk area and the mouth of the James River.

Fort Pulaski, Georgia, surrendered after enduring an intensive two day bombardment by Union artillery. Commander C.R.P. Rodgers and a detachment of sailors from U.S.S. Wabash manned Battery Sigel the second day of the engagement and ''kept up a steady and well-directed fire until the fort hauled down its flag, at 2 p.m." The Navy gunners' participation in the action was at the invitation of Major General David Hunter, commander of the Army forces, and demonstrated once again the closeness of cooperation achieved by the two services.

Flag Officer Farragut expressed his views on the outcome of the anticipated assault on New Orleans: "God dispenses His will according to his judgment, and not according to our wishes or expectations. The defeat of our army at Corinth, which I saw in the rebel papers, will give us a much harder fight; men are easily elated or depressed by victory. But as to being prepared for defeat, I certainly am not. Any man who is prepared for defeat would be half defeated before he commenced. I hope for success; shall do all in my power to secure it, and trust to God for the rest. I trust in Him as a merciful being; but really in war it seems as if we hardly ought to expect mercy, when men are destroying one another upon questions of which He alone is the judge. Motive seems to constitute right and wrong.

Commander T. A. Craven, U.S.S. Tuscarora, reported that C.S.S. Sumter, Commander Semmes, had been abandoned at Gibraltar. Tuscarora had closely blockaded Sumter in port. The Confederate Congress expressed thanks "to Captain Raphael Semmes and the officers and crew of the steamer Sumter, under his command, for gallant and meritorious services rendered by them in seriously injuring the enemy's commerce upon the high seas, thereby setting an example reflecting honor upon our infant Navy which can not be too highly appreciated by Congress and the people of the Confederate States.'' In her spectacular though abbreviated career, Sumter captured 18 vessels and dealt Union shipping a heavy blow. "Well," Semmes remarked, "we have done the country some service, having cost the United States at least $1,000,000 in one way or another."

Secretary of the Navy Welles wrote President Lincoln: ''It is of the greatest importance that the exportation of anthracite coal from ports of the United States to any and all foreign ports should be absolutely prohibited. The rebels obtain the coal for their steamers from Nassau and Havana, and the fact that it burns without smoke enables them to approach blockaded ports with greater security, as all other coals throw out so much smoke as to render their presence visible a great distance at sea.

13 U.S.S.Tyler, Lieutenant Gwin, and U.S.S. Lexington, Lieutenant Shirk, convoyed Army troops from Shiloh (Pittsburg Landing) to Chickasaw, Alabama. The expedition destroyed a bridge at Bear Creek, Alabama, used by the Memphis and Charleston Railroad.

Coast Survey party under Ferdinand H. Gerdes, began surveying the Mississippi River below Forts Jackson and St. Philip. Harassed by fire from the forts and riflemen on the river banks, Gerdes' party worked for five days to provide Flag Officer Farragut with a reliable map of the river, forts, water batteries, and the obstruction across the river.

Lieutenant Eaton of U.S.S. Beauregard demanded the surrender of the Confederate garrison at Fort Brooke, Tampa Bay, Florida. His demands were refused and Eaton shelled the fort before withdrawing.

14 Union mortar boats of Flag Officer Foote's force commenced regular bombardment of Fort Pillow, Tennessee the next Army-Navy objective on the drive down the Mississippi.

Potomac Flotilla ascended the Rappahannock River and destroyed Confederate batteries and captured three vessels.

15 U.S.S. Keystone State, Commander LeRoy, captured blockade runner Success off Georgetown, South Carolina.

16 Flag Officer Farragut, after careful planning and extensive preparations, moved his fleet up the Mississippi to a position below Forts Jackson and St. Philip, guarding the approaches to New Orleans and mounting over 100 guns. High water in the river had flooded the forts. Confederate garrisons worked night and day to control the water and strengthen the forts against the impending assault. A chain obstruction supported by hulks spanned the river. Above the forts a Confederate flotilla, Flag Officer John K. Mitchell, included the potentially powerful but uncompleted ironclad Louisiana. Most of the others were small, makeshift gunboats. There were also a number of fire rafts readied to be set adrift to flow with the current into the midst of the Union fleet. Against these combined defenses Farragut, flying his flag in U.S.S.Hartford, brought seventeen ships carrying 154 guns and a squadron of 20 mortar boats under Commander D. D. Porter.

18 Confederate Congress, hoping to stem the constant sweeping of the seas and inland waters by the Union fleets, passed an act authorizing contracts for the purchase of not more than six ironclads to be paid for in cotton.

Union mortar boats, Commander D. D. Porter, began a five day bombardment of Fort Jackson. Moored some 3,000 yards from Fort Jackson, they concentrated their heavy shells, up to 285 pounds, for six days and nights on this nearest fort from which they were hidden by intervening woods. The garrison heroically endured the fire and stuck to their guns.

19 Mortar schooner U.S.S. Maria J. Canton, Acting Master Charles E. Jack, bombarding Fort Jackson, was sunk by Confederate fire. Commander Bell observed that the Confederate guns were being worked "beautifully and with effect."

U.S.S. Huron, Lieutenant John Downes, captured schooner Glide loaded with cotton, rice, and flour off Charleston.

20 U.S.S. Itasca, Lieutenant Caldwell, and U.S.S. Pinola, Lieutenant Crosby, under direction of Commander Bell, breached the obstructions below Forts Jackson and St. Philip under heavy fire, opening the way for Flag Officer Farragut's fleet. Brigadier General Johnson K. Duncan, CSA, commanding the forts, complained that the River Defense Fleet had sent no fire rafts down "to light up the river or distract the attention of the enemy at night" and had stationed no ship below to warn of the approach of Itasca and Pinola. This lack of coordination proved most costly to the Confederacy.

Lieutenant Wyman, commanding Potomac Flotilla, reported the capture of Eureka, Monterey, Lookout, Sarah Ann, Sydney Jones, Reindeer, Falcon, Sea Flower, and Roundout at the mouth of the Rappahannock River.

21 Flag Officer Farragut explained the delay in the attack on New Orleans: "We have been bombarding the forts for three or four days, but the current is running so strong that we cannot stem it sufficiently to do anything with our ships, so that lam now waiting a change of wind, which brings a slacker tide, and we shall be enabled to run up. . . . Captain Bell went last night to cut the chain across the river. I never felt such anxiety in my life as I did until his return. One of his vessels got on shore, and I was fearful she would be captured. They kept up a tremendous fire on him; but Porter diverted their fire with a heavy cannonade. They let the chain go, but the man sent to explode the petard did not succeed; his wires broke. Bell would have burned the hulks, but the illumination would have given the enemy a chance to destroy his gunboat, which got aground. However, the chain was divided, and it gives us space enough to go through."

U.S.S.Tyler, Lieutenant Gwin, captured steamer Alfred Robb on the Tennessee River.

22 Two boats from U.S.S. Arthur, Acting Lieutenant Kittredge, captured a schooner and two sloops at Aransas Pass, Texas, but were forced to abandon the prizes and their own boats when attacked by Confederate vessels and troops.

23 Brigadier General Duncan, the commander of Fort Jackson, wrote General Lovell in New Orleans: "Heavy and continued bombardment all night, and still progressing. No further casualties, except two men slightly wounded. God is certainly protecting us. We are still cheerful, and have an abiding faith in our ultimate success. We are making repairs as best we can. Our barbette guns are still in working order. Most of them have been disabled at times. The health of the troops continues good. Twenty-five thousand [actually about five thousand] XIII-inch shells have been fired by the enemy, thousands of which fell in the fort. They must soon exhaust themselves; if not, we can stand it as long as they can.

23-24 Expedition commanded by Lieutenant Flusser, including U.S.S. Lockwood, Whitehead, and Putnam, blocked the mouth of Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal, near Elizabeth City, North Carolina, sinking a schooner and other obstructions inside the canal.

24 Flag Officer Farragut's fleet ran past Forts Jackson and St. Philip and engaged the defending Confederate flotilla. At 2:00 a.m., U.S.S. Hartford had shown Farragut's signal for the fleet to get underway in three divisions to steam through the breach in the obstructions which had been opened by U.S.S. Pinola and Itasca. A withering fire from the forts was answered by roaring broadsides from the ships. Hartford, grounded in the swift current near Fort St. Philip, was set afire by a Confederate fireraft. Farragut's leadership and the disciplined training of the crew saved the flagship. U.S.S. Varuna was rammed by two Confederate ships and sunk In the ensuing melee, C.S.S. Warrior, Stonewall Jackson, General Lovell, and Breckinridge, tender Phoenix, steamers Star and Belle Algerine, and Louisiana gunboat General Quitman were destroyed. The armored ram C.S.S. Manassas was driven ashore by U.S.S. Mississippi and sunk. Steam tenders C.S.S. Landis and W. Burton surrendered; Resolute and Governor Moore were destroyed to prevent capture. ''The destruction of the Navy at New Orleans," wrote Confederate Secretary of the Navy Mallory, "was a sad, sad blow . . . When the Union Navy passed the forts and disposed of the Confederate forces afloat, the fate of New Orleans was decided. Farragut had achieved a brilliant victory, one which gave true meaning to the Flag Officer's own words: "The great man in our country must not only plan but execute.

C.S.S. Nashville made a successful run into Wilmington with 60,000 stand of arms and 40 tons of powder.

25 Flag Officer Farragut's fleet, having silenced Confederate batteries at Chalmette en route, anchored before New Orleans. High water in the river allowed the ships' guns to dominate the city over the levee top. Captain Bailey went ashore to demand the surrender. The Common Council of New Orleans resolved that: ". . . having been advised by the military authorities that the city is indefensible, [we] declare that no resistance will be made to the forces of the United States." Loss of New Orleans, the largest and wealthiest seaport in the South, was a critical blow to the Confederacy. With the rapid capitulation of Forts Jackson and St. Philip, the delta of the Mississippi was open to the water-borne movement of Union forces which were free to steam river to join those coming south in the great pincer which would sever the Confederacy. "Thus, reported Secretary of the Navy Welles, ''the great southern depot of the trade of the immense central valley of the Union was once more opened to commercial intercourse and the emporium of that wealthy region was restored to national authority; the mouth of the Mississippi was under our control and an outlet for the great West to the ocean was secured."

C.S.S. Mississippi, launched on 19 April and described by Confederate naval officers as "the strongest . . . most formidable war vessel that had ever been built," was destroyed by fire at New Orleans to prevent her capture by the Union fleet. Had the Tredegar Iron Works, Richmond, completed her shaft on time, Mississippi might have been readied to throw her weight into the defense of New Orleans.

Commander Charles H. McBlair, CSN, notified the Confederate Navy Department that as a result of the passage of the forts below New Orleans by Flag Officer Farragut's fleet that he intended to take the unfinished ram C.S.S. Arkansas, building at Memphis, up the Yazoo River to be completed. McBlair also reported that arrangements had been made to destroy the Tennessee on the stocks to prevent her capture if Memphis fell. In June Arkansas was moved down the Yazoo to Liverpool Landing where a raft across the river and shore batteries protected the ram from the Federal gunboats while work went forward on her.

U.S.S. Maratanza, Commander George H. Scott, began shelling Gloucester and Yorktown, Virginia, in support of General McClellan's Peninsular Campaign.

U.S.S. Katahdin, Lieutenant George Preble, captured schooner John Gilpin below New Orleans.

U.S.S. Santiago de Cuba, Commander Ridgely, captured blockade runner Ella Warley at sea 120 miles off Port Royal.

26 Flag Officer Farragut, from flagship U.S.S. Hartford, issued a general order after his victory at New Orleans: "Eleven o'clock this morning is the hour appointed for all the officers and crews of the fleet to return thanks to Almighty God for His great goodness and mercy in permitting us to pass through the events of the last two days with so little loss of life and blood. At that hour the church pennant will be hoisted on every vessel of the fleet, and their crews assembled will, in humiliation and prayer, make their acknowledgments therefore to the great dispenser of all human events.

Fort Macon, North Carolina, surrendered to combined land-sea forces under Commander Lockwood and Brigadier General John G. Parke. U.S.S. Daylight, State of Georgia, Chippewa, and Gemsbok heavily bombarded the fort; blockade runners Alliance and Gondar were captured after the fort's surrender.

U.S.S. Onward, Acting Lieutenant J. Frederick Nickels, forced schooner Chase aground on Raccoon Keys near Cape Romain, South Carolina, and subsequently destroyed her.

U.S.S. Flambeau, Lieutenant John H. Upshur, captured blockade runner Active near Stono Inlet, South Carolina.

U.S.S. Santiago de Cuba, Commander Ridgely, captured schooner Mersey off Charleston.

U.S.S. Uncas, Acting Master Lemuel G. Crane, captured schooner Belle off Charleston.

27 Fort Livingston, Bastian Bay, Louisiana, surrendered to the Navy Boat crew from U.S.S. Kittatinny raised the United States flag over the fort.

U.S.S. Mercedita, Commander Stellwagen, captured steamer Bermuda northeast of Abaco with large cargo of arms shipped from Liverpool.

U.S.S. Wamsutta, Lieutenant Alexander A. Semmes, and U.S.S. Potomska, Acting Lieutenant Pendleton G. Watmough, exchanged fire with dismounted Confederate cavalry concealed in woods on Woodville Island, Riceboro River, Georgia.

28 Forts Jackson and St. Philip, isolated since being passed by Flag Officer Farragut's fleet and the fall of New Orleans, surrendered to the Navy; the terms of capitulation were signed on board U.S.S. Harriet Lane, Commander D. D. Porter's flagship. C.S.S. Louisiana, Defiance, and McRae were destroyed to prevent their capture.

Steamer Oreto (C.S.S. Florida) arrived at Nassau, British West Indies.

29 Expedition under Lieutenant Alexander C. Rhind in U.S.S. E. B. Hale landed and destroyed Confederate battery at Grimball's, Dawho River, South Carolina, and exchanged fire with field pieces near Slann's Bluff.

Gunboat U.S.S. Kanawha, Lieutenant Febiger, captured blockade running British sloop Annie between Ship Island and Mobile, bound for Havana with cargo of cotton.

30 U.S.S. Santiago de Cuba, Commander Ridgely, captured schooner Maria off Port Royal.