Civil War Naval History
1 Preparations for the naval assault on Charleston moved into their final week. Rear Admiral Du Pont sent ironclads U.S.S. Passaic, Montauk, Patapsco, and Keokuk to the North Edisto River and gunboat Sebago to Calibogue Sound. To Commander John C. Beaumont, commanding Sebago, the Admiral wrote that his objective was "to cover the approaches to the west end of Hilton Head Island and prevent any descent upon it from boats with troops, etc., and to give notice by signal to the picket stations on shore, you will use your own discretion as to your position.'' Du Pont assigned Captain Charles Steedman to protect the Army at Hilton Head Island while he himself led the offensive against Charleston. Next day, 2 April, Du Pont left Port Royal for the North Edisto, flying his pennant in U.S.S. James Adger.
U.S.S. Tuscumbia, with Rear Admiral Porter and Generals Grant and W. T. Sherman on board, reconnoitered the Yazoo River to determine the practicability of landing a force at Haynes' Bluff. Grant believed that an attack "would be attended with immense sacrifice of life, if not with defeat." This closed the last hope of turning Vicksburg's fortifications by the right, and gave added weight to the Grand Gulf operation below Vicksburg about which Grant and Porter had just exchanged letters. On 2 April, Secretary Welles wrote Porter a letter strongly urging the occupation of the Mississippi between Vicksburg and Port Hudson, which would be "the severest blow that can be struck upon the enemy, [and] is worth all the risk encountered by Rear-Admiral Farragut."
2 Assistant Secretary Fox wrote Rear Admiral Farragut that President Lincoln, with characteristic understanding of how to use naval strength, was "rather disgusted with the flanking expeditions [at Yazoo Pass and Steele's Bayou], and predicted their failure from the first. . . . he always observed that cutting the Rebels in two by our force in the river was of greater importance. . . Grant . . . has kept our Navy trailing through swamps to protect his soldiers when a force between Vicksburg and Port Hudson, the same length of time, would have been of greater injury to the enemy.
Lincoln informed Secretary Welles that Farragut had to be strengthened. Welles accordingly wrote Rear Admiral Du Pont to send all but two of his ironclads to New Orleans after the Charles-ton attack.
2-9 An armed boat expedition of sailors and Marines under Acting Lieutenant McCauley, U.S.S. Fort Henry, reconnoitered the Bayport, Florida, area. The boats stood in for Bayport on the evening of the 2nd, arriving off the city the next morning. The first launch, exhibiting the "slug-gish" qualities that were to be trying throughout the reconnaissance, slowed the expedition's progress through the intricate channel. "This waste of time," McCauley reported, "gave the rebels leisure to make all preparations for our reception." Two Confederate sloops and two small schooners ran into a bayou and grounded seeking to avoid destruction. Sloop Helen, carrying corn, was captured south of the harbor and destroyed. The Union boat crews engaged and forced the evacuation of a defending battery, and the Confederates burned a schooner with cargo of cotton. McCauley reported: "Having gained my object in her destruction and the clearing of the battery, the disabling of two of my guns, the unwieldiness of the first launch, which made it difficult to bring her gun to bear; the uncertainty of aim in the sea that was running, and conse-quent waste of ammunition, and the warnings of Mr. Ashley, the pilot, that if the ebb tide found us there we should be left aground, made me give up my design of trying to set the vessels in the bayou on fire by shelling." The boats withdrew out of range of a rifled gun which the Confed-erates brought up. In the next week the expedition examined the Chassahowitzka, Crystal, Homosassa, Withlacoochee, Waccassassa, and Suwannee Rivers, as small boats carried the mes-sage of seapower where deeper draft vessels could not pass.
3 Expedition under Lieutenant Commander Fitch, including U.S.S. Lexington, Brilliant, Robb, Silver Lake, and Springfield, destroyed Palmyra, Tennessee, in retaliation for Confederate guerrillas firing on a Union convoy (2 April), crippling U.S.S. St. Clair and damaging Army transports Eclipse and Luminary.
U.S.S. New London, Lieutenant Commander Abner Read, and U.S.S. Cayuga, Lieutenant Commander David A. McDermut, captured blockade running British schooner Tampico off Sabine Pass with cargo of cotton.
4 Rear Admiral Du Pont issued his order of battle and plan of attack on Charleston: ". . . The Squadron will pass up the main ship channel without returning the fire of the batteries on Morris Island, unless signal should be made to commence action. The ships will open fire on Fort Sumter when within easy range, and will take up a position to the northward and westward of that fortification, engaging its left or northeast face at a distance of from 600 to 800 yards firing low and aiming at the center embrasure. The commanding officers will instruct their officers and men to carefully avoid wasting shot and will enjoin upon them the necessity of precision rather than rapidity of fire. Each ship will be prepared to render every assistance possible to vessels that may require it. The special code of signals prepared for the ironclad vessels will be used in action. After the reduction of Fort Sumter it is probable that the next point of attack will be the batteries on Morris Island. The order of battle will be the line ahead. . . A squadron of reserve, of which Captain J. F. Green will be the senior officer, will be formed outside the bar and near the entrance buoy, consisting of the following vessels, Canandaigua, Housatonic, Huron, Unadilla, Wissahickon, and will be held in readiness to support the ironclads when they attack the batteries on Morris Island.''
President Lincoln wrote regarding harbor defense: "I have a single idea of my own about harbor defences. It is a steam-ram, built so as to sacrifice nearly all capacity for carrying to those of speed and strength. . . . her business would be to guard a Particular harbour, as a Bull-dog guards his master's door."
C.S.S. Alabama, Captain Semmes, captured ship Louisa Hatch off the coast of Brazil with large cargo of coal. Semmes took the prize with him so that he would still have a means of obtaining a supply of coal if he failed to rendezvous as planned with the bark Agrippina at Fernando de Noronha Island. Semmes' foresight again paid off, for the bark did not arrive at the island. After coaling and provisioning from Louisa Hatch, Semmes burned her on 17 April.
5 With ironclads and enough steamers to take them in tow if knocked out of action, Rear Admiral Du Pont departed North Edisto for Charleston, arriving off the Confederate stronghold that afternoon. As a last step before the assault, preparations were made to buoy the Stono bar to fix a safe channel. U.S.S. Patapsco, Commander Ammen, and U.S.S. Catskill, Commander George Rodgers, remained inside the bar to protect the buoys.
6 Commander Balch, U.S.S. Pawnee, reported that the Stono Bar had been buoyed, preparatory to the assault on Charleston. Rear Admiral Du Pont crossed the bar, his flag in U.S.S. New Ironsides, Captain Turner. Intending to attack Charleston that day, the Admiral took the other ironclads in with him: U.S.S. Passaic, Captain Drayton; Weehawken, Captain J. Rodgers; Montauk, Captain Worden; Patapsco, Commander Ammen; Catskill, Commander G. Rodgers; Nantucket, Commander Donald McD. Fairfax; Nahant, Commander John Downes; and Keokuk, Commander Alexander C. Rhind. After reaching an anchorage inside the bar, Du Pont reported,". . . the weather became so hazy, preventing our seeing the ranges, that the pilots declined to go farther."
Captain William F. Lynch, CSN, wrote Senator George Davis of North Carolina from Wilmington regarding the status of ships building in the waters of that state: "One ironclad, the North Carolina, building here, is very nearly ready for her crew... The other, the Raleigh, is now ready for her iron shield, and can in eight weeks be prepared for service, as far as the material is concerned. At Whitehall, upon the Neuse, we have a gunboat [Neuse] in nearly the same state of forwardness as the Raleigh; at Tarboro we have one with the frame up, the keel of one [Albemarle] is laid near Scotland Neck. . . ."
Assistant Secretary Fox wrote Commodore Rowan about a method of countering Confederate torpedoes at Mobile: "It strikes me that a small grapnel might be thrown several hundred yards ahead and hauled in so as to break the connections of their torpedoes. A small charge of powder, a wooden sabot, a grapnel and chain fast to a line, fired from a XV-inch gun, are all the elements. I advise you to prepare these arrangements, for you certainly will find torpedoes near Fort Morgan."
U.S.S. Huntsville, Acting Lieutenant W. C. Rogers, captured sloop Minnie off Charlotte Harbor, Florida, with cargo of cotton.
7 Rear Admiral Du Pont, with nine ironclads, engaged the strong Confederate forts in Charleston harbor. The Richmond Whig, unaware of the outcome of the battle, editorialized on 8 April: ''At last the hour of trial has come for Charleston.''
Du Pont made signal to get underway at noon, "this," the Admiral reported, "being the earliest hour at which, owing to the state of the tide, the pilots would consent to move." U.S.S. Weehauken, in the van pushing a raft to clear torpedoes from the path of the line ahead column, fouled the torpedo grapnels attached to the raft, delaying the movement for an hour, and con-tinued to impede the column's progress throughout so that it was nearly 3 o'clock before the ships came within range of Forts Moultrie and Sumter in the harbor.
Weehawken opened on Fort Sumter shortly after 3, followed by the other monitors. The Confederates had not only heavily obstructed the channels to Charleston, but they had also marked them with range indicators for their gunners in the forts, "which,'' Ammen later observed, "greatly increased the accuracy of the fire from the forts as the vessels passed.''
As Weehawken became hotly engaged, a torpedo exploded near her; "it lifted the vessel a little," the indomitable Captain John Rodgers reported, "but I am unable to perceive that it has done us any damage." Of greater concern to the commander of the lead ship were the obstructions extending from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter. "The appearance was so formidable," Rodgers wrote, "that, upon deliberate judgment, I thought it not right to entangle the vessel in obstructions which I did not think we could have passed through, and in which we should have been caught." He swung his ship's bow to seaward to prevent being swept against the obstructions by the strong flood tide which made the ironclads virtually unmanageable at times during the engagement. Weehawken steamed a few hundred feet southward to give the ships in the rear opportunity to turn in her wake. Engaged for 40 minutes, the lead ironclad was hit 53 times and was taking water through a shot hole which had been made in the deck.
Next in line, Passaic had her XI-inch gun disabled for several hours and the turret was temporarily unable to turn. All the plates forming the upper edge of the turret were broken and the pilot house badly dented while she was receiving some 35 hits from the forts. Montauk, maneuvering with difficulty was struck some 14 times with little effect as she, like Passaic, turned in Weehawken's wake away from the obstructions. Patapsco, endeavoring to turn short of Montauk's wake, lost headway and failed to obey the helm. She became a sitting target for the guns of Forts Sumter and Moultrie and took 47 hits. Backing, she was brought under control and turned seaward. The flagship, New Ironsides, had become unmanageable in the heavy current, and Catskill passed her, approaching to within some 600 yards of Sumter where the pointblank fire of her guns blasted a barbette gun from its mount. Caught in the forts' crossfire like the others, Catskill received 20 shots, one of which broke the deck plates and deck planking forward, causing her to take water. Meanwhile, New Ironsides narrowly escaped de-struction as she lay directly over a Confederate electric torpedo containing 2,000 pounds of powder near Fort Wagner. Every effort to fire the torpedo failed, and it was later discovered that a connecting wire had been cut by a wagon passing over it.
Nantucket followed Catskill past the flagship and was badly battered by 51 hits, one jamming her turret. Nahant took 36 hits: 3 disabled the turret; the impact of another broke off a segment of interior iron weighing nearly 80 pounds which wreaked havoc with the steering gear. Nuts from iron bolts sheered off, fatally wounding the helmsman and injuring the pilot.
Keokuk was compelled to run ahead of the crippled Nahant to avoid getting foul of her in the narrow channel and strong tide. This brought the last ironclad less than 600 yards from Fort Sumter, where she remained for half an hour. Colonel Alfred Rhett, CSA, wrote: "She received our undivided attention. . . Keokuk was riddled by 90 hits, one-fifth of which pierced her at or below the waterline. She was withdrawn from the action and anchored overnight outside of range of the forts, where the crew was able to keep her afloat only because of the calm seas. Next day, 8 April, a breeze came up, Keokuk took on more water, and, rapidly filling, sank.
With darkness approaching and his ironclads severely battered, Du Pont broke off the action. He reported to Secretary Welles: "When I withdrew the ironclad vessels from action on the evening of the 7th, I did so because I deemed it too late in the day to attempt to force a passage through the obstructions which we had encountered, and I fully intended to resume offensive operations the next day; but when I received the reports of the commanders of the ironclads as to the injuries those vessels had sustained and their performance in action I was fully convinced that a renewal of the attack could not result in the capture of Charleston, but would, in all probability, end in the destruction of a portion of the ironclad fleet and might leave several of them sunk within reach of the enemy (which opinion I afterwards learned was fully shared in by all their commanders). I therefore determined not to renew the attack."
The Confederates bad beaten back a serious threat and gained a stunning victory; Du Pont was thankful that the result was "a failure instead of a disaster." He wrote General Hunter: "I am now satisfied that that place cannot he taken by a purely naval attack, and I am admonished by the condition of these vessels that a persistence in our efforts would end in disaster and might cause us to leave some of our ironclads in the hands of the enemy, which would render it difficult for us to hold those parts of the coast which are now in our possession." Hunter replied: "No country can ever fail that has men capable of facing what your ironclads had yesterday to endure." Admiral Porter later wrote: "It was certainly the hardest task undertaken by the Navy during the war."
Rear Admiral Porter informed Welles that Army troops had been sent up " to take possession of the country through which we lately took the gunboats. When that is secured we can reach the Yazoo as we please, provided the water keeps up. I am preparing to pass the batteries of Vicks-burg with most of the fleet. General Grant is marching his army below, and we are going to endeavor to turn Vicksburg and get to Jackson by a very practicable route. . . . The enemy, owing to our late raids on them, have much reduced their force at Vicksburg. They are cut off from all supplies from below; so is Port Hudson." The long joint operation against the Southern stronghold was moving into its final stages.
U.S.S. Barataria, Acting Ensign James F. Perkins, on a reconnaissance mission with troops em-barked, struck a snag in Lake Maurepas, Louisiana, and was destroyed by her crew to prevent capture.
8 Mr. Edward C. Gabaudan, secretary to Farragut, arrived on board U.S.S. Richmond with a dis-patch from the river above after safely floating in a small boat past the Port Hudson batteries. Loyall Farragut, the Admiral's son, vividly described Gabaudan's memorable exploit: "A small dug-out was covered with twigs, ingeniously arranged to resemble the floating trees which were a common sight on the Mississippi. At nightfall Mr. Gabaudan lay down in the bottom of his little craft under the brush, with his revolver and a small paddle by his side, and silently drifted out into the current, followed by the prayers of his shipmates. He reached the Richmond in safety, with but one adventure, which came near being his last. His frail bark was swept in so close to the shore that he could distinctly hear the sentinels talking. The size of his craft attracted attention, and a boat put out to make an examination. Gabaudan felt that his time had come; but with a finger on the trigger of his revolver, he determined to fight for his liberty, and quietly awaited discovery. Fortunately for him, the rebels were not in a pulling humor that night, and seemed satisfied with a cursory glance. His mind was greatly relieved when they pronounced him to be 'only a log,' and returned to the shore. About ten o'clock pm. a rocket was seen to dart up into the air some miles below, a signal of the success of the perilous under-taking."
U.S.S. Gem of the Sea, Acting Lieutenant Baxter, seized blockade running British schooner Maggie Fulton off Indian River Inlet, Florida. "I am confident," Baxter reported to Rear Admiral Bailey, that no vessels have run in or out of either Jupiter or Indian River inlets since the 6th of March, 1863, as our boats are in the river whenever the bar will permit them to cross.
9 John A. Quinterro, Confederate Commissioner in Monterrey, Mexico, wrote Secretary of War Benjamin: "Narciso Monturio [of Barcelona, Spain] has invented a vessel for submarine navigation. She is called 'Ictineos' (fish-like vessel). As a man-of-war she can prevent not only the bombardment of the ports, but also the landing of the enemy. If . . . the necessary number of vessels [are] built, no Federal squadron would dare to approach our coasts. . . . The 'Ictineos' have guns which fire under water and also rams and torpedoes. They can navigate in a depth of about twenty-five fathoms. . . . The inventor creates an artificial atmosphere . . . and carries with him the elements of existence." The Confederates were continuously alert for any develop-ment that might contest the stranglehold of the North's overwhelming naval superiority.
10 President Jefferson Davis said: "We began this struggle without a single gun afloat, while the resources of our enemy enabled them to gather fleets which, according to their official list pub-lished in August last, consisted of 427 vessels, measuring 340,036 tons, and carrying 3,268 guns. Yet we have captured, sunk, or destroyed a number of these vessels, including two large frigates and one sloop of war, while four of their captured steam boats are now in our possession, adding to the strength of our little Navy, which is rapidly gaining in numbers and efficiency."
An expedition led by Lieutenant Commander Selfridge of U.S.S. Conestoga cut across Beulah Bend, Mississippi, and destroyed guerrilla stations that had harassed Union shipping on the river.
Boat crew under Lieutenant Benjamin F. Day from U.S.S. New London, while reconnoitering Confederate strength in the Sabine City area, captured a small sloop and four prisoners, including Captain Charles Fowler, who had commanded C.S.S. Josiah Bell when U.S.S. Morning Light and Velocity were captured in January 1863.
Landing party under Acting Master John C. Dutch, U.S.S. Kingfisher, captured Confederate pickets on Edisto Island, South Carolina.
11 General Beauregard, believing that a renewal of the naval attack on Charleston was imminent, wrote Lieutenant Webb, CSN, regarding an offensive measure to remove this threat: "Upon further reflection, after the discussion of yesterday with Captain Tucker and yourself, I think it would be preferable to attack each of the enemy's seven iron-dads (six monitors and one ironsides), now inside the bar, with at least two of your spar-torpedo row-boats, instead of the number (six in all) already agreed upon. I believe it will be as easy to surprise at the same time the whole of those iron-dads as a part of them. . . . about dark on the first calm night (the sooner the better) I would rendezvous all my boats at the mouth of the creek in the rear of Cummings Point, Morris Island. There I would await the proper hour of the night, which should not be too late, in order to take advantage of the present condition of the moon. . . . Having arrived at the point of the beach designated [opposite the fleet] I would form line of attack, putting my torpedoes in position, and would give orders that my boats should attack by twos any monitor or ironsides they should encounter on their way out, answering to the enemy's hail 'Boats on secret expedi-tion' or merely 'Contrabands'. . . . I feel convinced that with nerve and proper precaution on the part of your boats' crews, and with the protection of a kind Providence, not one of the enemy's monsters so much boasted of by them, would live to see the next morning's sun." The next day, however, the Union ironclads withdrew outside the bar, foiling the proposed torpedo attack.
Threatened by a "large force" of Confederates, Army commanders at Suffolk, Virginia, requested gunboat support from Rear Admiral S. P. Lee, who speedily replied that there were already three small naval vessels "up the Nansemond or at its mouth." Next day, 12 April, he sent U.S.S. Commodore Barney, Lieutenant William B. Cushing, "to assist in repelling the enemy, who are surrounding Suffolk."
Meanwhile, Southerners threatened Union positions on the York River as well, and York-town was felt to be in danger. Another appeal for naval support was sent to Lee, who ordered U.S.S. Commodore Morris to aid U.S.S. Crusader in that area. Whether in the North Carolina Sounds or the Virginia rivers, the demand for the services of the gunboats of the North Atlantic Squadron was great. As Admiral Porter later wrote: ''After all, most of these gun-boats were merely improvised for the occasion, and the Army transports, armed with field pieces, would have answered the same purpose. But the soldiers were not used to managing steamers up the narrow streams or handling guns behind the frail bulwarks of wooden gunboats. Only sailors could do that kind of work, and the Army were only too glad to have them do it."
Secretary Welles instructed Rear Admiral Du Pont to ''retain a strong force off Charleston, even should you find it impossible to carry the place." Though the large-scale attack 4 days before had failed, it was believed that the presence of the fleet at Charleston would keep the Confederates "in apprehension of a renewed attack, in order that they may be occupied and not come North or go West to the aid of the rebels with whom our forces will soon be in conflict. . . " The Union's ability to strike with vigor at a variety of points under seapower's flexibility con-tinued to keep Confederate strength dispersed.
12 Rear Admiral Porter advised Secretary Welles of developments in the proposed move below Vicksburg: "I have been endeavoring since I came here to get the batteries of these vessels changed, and have succeeded at last in getting three 11-inch guns placed in the bow of each one. This makes them much more effective. . . . [Major General Grant] proposes to embark his army at Carthage, seize Grand Gulf under fire of the gunboats, and make it the base of his operations. . . . The squadron will pass the [Vicksburg] batteries and engage them while the transports go by in the smoke, passing down, of course, at night. . . . In this operation I act in obedience to the orders of the Department to cooperate with the army, and shall do my best to make them successful." Though preoccupied with the plans to get below Vicksburg, Porter did not neglect other areas of need on the western waters. He ordered eight gunboats to the mouths of the Arkansas and White Rivers to meet any contingency at that point, and reported, "Every point on the Mississippi is guarded or patrolled where there is likelihood of a guerilla. The river from Cairo to Vicksburg is as quiet as in time of peace." Porter also sent a sizable force into the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers. "There are now (or soon will be) 23 vessels in the Tennessee River (including the Marine Brigade), 14 of which carry in all 97 guns, many of them of heavy caliber. The Cumberland River will he reinforced in like manner, as I can spare the light-drafts from below."
Porter wrote Welles about the shortage of men in his Mississippi Squadron: "I have been filling up deficiencies from the army. General Grant has supplied me with 800 soldiers, who are now very efficient. About 600 contrabands are employed in the place of discharged men, and we man the guns with them, the men sent from the North are light built (mostly boys). We are much in need of more experienced men for petty officers. .
Blockade running steamer Stonewall Jackson, attempting to get into Charleston, dashed past U.S.S. Flag and Huron. The blockaders poured a hail of shell after her, several of which holed her hull. Her commander finding escape impossible, Stonewall Jackson was run aground and destroyed with her cargo, including Army artillery and some 40,000 Army shoes.
The crew of a launch under Acting Master George C. Andrews, CSN, which had left Mobile on 6 April, captured steamboat Fox in the coal yard at a'Pass l'Outre, Mississippi. Andrews succeeded in running Fox into Mobile through the blockaders' fire on 15 April.
13 U.S.S. Annie, Acting Ensign James S. Williams, captured schooner Mattie off the Florida Gulf coast.
14 As two days of heavy fighting near Suffolk, Virginia, closed, Lieutenant Cushing informed Rear Admiral S.P. Lee that U.S.S. Mount Washington had been temporarily disabled and grounded under heavy fire but had been brought off by U.S.S. Stepping Stones. Cushing's own ship, U.S.S. Commodore Barney, had been raked heavily by a Confederate shore battery, but he wrote: "I can assure you that the Barney and her crew are still in good fighting trim, and we will beat the enemy or sink at our post." The gunboats repeatedly drove Confederate gunners from their rifle pits, only to see them return when the ships' fire slackened. The gunboats were a decisive factor in the Confederates' inability to move across the river to surround the Union 'troops.
U.S.S. Estrella, Lieutenant Commander Augustus P. Cooke; U.S.S. Arizona, Acting Lieutenant Upton; and U.S.S. Calhoun, Acting Master Meltiah Jordan, supporting operations ashore by General Banks' troops, engaged and destroyed ram C.S.S Queen of the West, Lieutenant E. W. Fuller, in Grand Lake, Louisiana. C.S.S. Diana and Hart were destroyed on 18 April to prevent their capture. General Banks reported: ''Great credit is due to the energy and efficiency shown by the officers of the Navy in this operation."
U.S.S. Sonoma, Commander Stevens, captured schooner Clyde in the Gulf of Mexico with cargo of cotton and rosin.
U.S.S Huntsville, Acting Lieutenant W. C. Rogers, took blockade running British schooner Ascension off the Florida Gulf coast.
Commander Charles F. M. Spotswood wrote Commander Mitchell concerning service on ironclad C.S.S. Georgia on the Savannah station: ". . . anything that floats at sea will suit me. . . . for being shut up in an Iron Box (for she is not a vessel) is horrible, and with no steam power to move her, in fact she is made fast here to a pile pier. . . . She is not a fit command for a Sargent of Marines. . .
C.S.S. Missouri was launched at Shreveport, Louisiana. Though the steamer mounted six guns, she never saw action and remained above the obstructions in the Red River until war's end.
15 C.S.S. Alabama, Captain Semmes, captured whalers Kate Cory and Lafayette off the island of Fer-nando de Noronha, Brazil. Semmes burned Lafayette this date and Kate Cory two days later.
U.S.S. Monticello, Lieutenant Commander Braine, captured schooner Odd Fellow near Little River, North Carolina, with cargo of turpentine and rosin.
U.S.S. William G. Anderson, Acting Lieutenant Frederic S. Hill, took schooner Royal Yacht in the Gulf of Mexico with cargo of cotton.
16 U.S.S. Hendrick Hudson, Acting Lieutenant Cate, captured blockade running British schooner Teresa off the coast of Florida.
U.S.S. Vanderbilt, Lieutenant Baldwin, seized British blockade runner Gertrude off the Bahama Islands.
16-17 Gunboats under Rear Admiral Porter engaged and ran past the Confederate batteries at Vicks-burg shepherding Army transports to New Carthage below the Southern citadel. The force included U.S.S. Benton, Lafayette, Louisville, Pittsburg, Mound City, Carondelet, and Tuscumbia; U.S.S. General Sterling Price was lashed to the starboard side of Lafayette for the passage, as was tug Ivy to Benton. Each hip, except Benton, also towed a coal barge containing 10,000 bushels of coal. Lafayette, Captain Walke, hampered by the ship lashed to her side, received nine ''effective'' shots through her casemate and had her coal barge sunk. Transport Henry Clay was sunk, with no loss of life, during the passage and another, Forest Queen, was temporarily disabled but was successfully aided by Tuscumbia, Lieutenant Commander James W. Shirk. Under fire for 2 1/2 hours, beginning shortly after 11 p.m. on the 16th, the squadron suffered what Porter termed only "very light'' loss. He reported that all ships were ready for service within half an hour after the passage. ''Altogether," he remarked, ''we were very fortunate; the vessels had some narrow escapes, but were saved in most instances by the precautions taken to protect them. They were covered with heavy logs and bales of wet hay, which were found to be an excellent defense." A memorandum in the Secretary of the Navy's office recorded: "The passage of the fleet by Vicks-burg was a damper to the spirits of all rebel sympathizers along the Mississippi for everyone was so impressed with the absurdity of our gunboats getting safely past their batteries without being knocked to pieces that they would not admit to themselves that it would be undertaken until they saw the gunboats moving down the river all safe and sound. Vicksburg was despaired of from that moment.'' The successful steaming of the squadron past the heavy batteries contributed to the early seizure of Grand Gulf, the eventual fall of Vicksburg itself, and ultimately the total control of the entire Mississippi.
17 U.S.S. Wanderer, Acting Master Eleazer S. Turner, took schooner Annie B southwest of Egmont Key, Florida, bound for Havana with cargo of cotton.
C.S.S. Florida, Lieutenant Maffitt, captured and destroyed ship Commonwealth off the coast of Brazil, bound from New York to San Francisco.
18 Boat expedition to reconnoiter Sabine City under command of Lieutenant Commander Read, U.S.S. New London, and Lieutenant Commander McDermut, U.S.S. Cayuga, was surprised at the lighthouse and driven off by Confederate troops.
U.S.S. Susquehanna, Commodore Hitchcock, captured schooner Alabama off the Florida Gulf coast with cargo including wine, coffee, nails, and dry goods.
U.S.S. Stettin, Acting Master James R. Beers, seized steamer St. Johns off Cape Romain, South Carolina.
U.S.S. Gem of the Sea, Acting Lieutenant Baxter, captured and destroyed blockade running British schooner Inez off Indian River Inlet, Florida.
19 U.S.S. Housatonic, Captain William Taylor, took sloop Neptune, attempting to run the blockade out of Charleston with cargo of cotton and turpentine.
U.S.S. Powhatan, Captain Steedman, captured schooner Major F. Willis near Charleston with cargo of cotton.
20 A joint Army-Navy attack succeeded in capturing a strong Confederate position at Hill's Point on the Nansemond River, Virginia, taking 5 howitzers and some 160 prisoners, as well as denying the South the use of an effective position from which to shell the flotilla guarding the Union Army position near Suffolk. Brigadier General George W. Getty wrote Rear Admiral S. P. Lee: "I beg to express my most sincere thanks to Captain Lamson, USN, his officers and crews for the gallantry, energy and ability displayed by them in the operations . . . resulting in the capture of one of the enemy's batteries on the west side of the Nansemond, and a number of prisoners." Later that night, 20 April, the Confederates evacuated their battery at Reed's Ferry, and Lieu-tenant Cushing reported: ''All is now clear at this point [the western branch of the Nansemond], and if the army fortify, we can hold the position against any force, the gunboats protecting both flanks.'' Though there were intermittent skirmishes for almost 2 weeks following this action, the back of the planned Confederate offensive was broken. As Cushing wrote on 21 April: "I think that active work is nearly over in this quarter." Both Cushing and Lamson were cited by Secretary Welles for their gallantry and meritorious services.
U.S.S. General Sterling Price, Commander Selim E. Woodworth, and U.S.S. Tuscumbia, Lieutenant Commander Shirk, reconnoitered down the Mississippi River from New Carthage to the Con-federate stronghold at Grand Gulf in preparation for the Union assault. Rear Admiral Porter reported to Major General Grant: "The rebels are at work fortifying. Three guns mounted on a bluff 100 feet high, pointing upriver. Two deep excavations are made in the side of the hill (fresh earth); it can not be seen whether guns are mounted on them or not." Porter urged Grant to move as quickly as possible: "My opinion is that they will move heaven and earth to stop us if we don't go ahead. I could go down and settle the batteries, but if disabled would not be in condition to cover the landing when it takes place, and I think it should be done together. If the troops just leave all their tents behind and take only provisions, we can be in Grand Gulf in four days. I don't want to make a failure, and am sure that a combined attack will succeed beautifully."
U.S.S. Estrella, Lieutenant Commander Cooke, with U.S.S. Clifton, Arina, and Calhoun, engaged and received the surrender of Fort Burton, Butte a' la Rose, Louisiana. Third Assistant Engineer George W. Baird noted in his diary: "The fight was short, sharp and decisive. It was done after the style of Daddy Farragut: we rush in. . . . We rushed right up to it and the four black vessels all firing made a savage appearance."
Porter reported the results of an examination of the hulk of U.S.S. Indianola, captured by the Confederates and subsequently sunk below Vicksburg: "Her hull and machinery seem to be uninjured; the woodwork on deck has all been burned. The casemate for the 11-inch guns has been blown to pieces; the iron plates lying around the deck I have had it taken to strengthen the gunboats now here. The 11-inch gun carriages are still in the wreck, much shattered. The 9-inch gun carriages were burned when the rebels heard a gunboat (the imitation monitor) was coming down. One 11-inch and one 9-inch gun were removed and a few shells." Recommending that an attempt be made to raise Indianola, Porter added: "It would be a great comfort to have the Indianola afloat once more and still on the Navy list."
U.S.S. Octorara, Commander Collins, captured British blockade runner W. Y. Leitch east of Florida with cargo of salt.
U.S.S. Lodona, Commander Edmund R. Colhoun, seized British schooner Minnie attempting to run the blockade at Bull's Bay, South Carolina, with cargo of salt.
A landing party under Lieutenant Commander George U. Morris, U.S.S. Port Royal, captured cotton awaiting transportation at Apalachicola, Florida. Three prisoners and a quantity of canister, shot, and chain were also taken.
C.S.S. Oreto, Lieutenant Samuel W. Averett, captured at sea and bonded ship Kate Dyer bound for Antwerp, Belgium.
21 Secretary Mallory wrote Commander Bullock: "The recent repulse of the enemy before Charleston will show the world that we have not been idle with regard to ordnance and that the enemy's ironclads suffered severely. At a recent experimental trial of the triple-banded Brooke navy gun, a wrought iron bolt was driven through 8 inches of iron and 18 inches of wood. The distance was 260 yards, 16 pounds of powder, with a bolt of 140 pounds."
Rear Admiral Dahlgren noted in his private journal: "I had a conversation with the Secretary about Charleston. He is not satisfied and thinks Du Pont gave up too soon: I reminded him that Du Pont was a judicious and brave officer, and that the Captains of the iron-dads who were chosen officers concurred with Du Pont."
Rear Admiral Porter, in U.S.S. Lafayette, personally reconnoitered the Confederate works at Grand Gulf. He found a "strung fort" under construction and shelled the workers out. Con-federate steamer Charm attempted to land supplies for the fort but was driven back up the Big Black River. By the 24th, Porter had stationed his gunboats so that they commanded the upper battery at Grand Gulf and closed off the mouth of the Big Black, "through which ammunition and supplies are brought down, and by which the rebels have hitherto obtained supplies from Red River.'' Porter continued to call for quick action. ''Dispatch,'' he urged Major General McClernand, "is all important at this moment."
Confederate guns at Vicksburg opened fire on Union Army steamers attempting a night passage of the batteries. Tigress was sunk and Empire City was totally disabled; Moderator was badly damaged, but J. W. Cheeseman, Anglo Saxon, and Horizon passed safely.
Farragut on board U.S.S. Hartford wrote to Rear Admiral Bailey about his passage of Port Hudson: "My disaster in passing Port Hudson was a misfortune incidental to battle, but the damage, with the exception of the loss of the Mississippi was nothing: the smoke was so thick that the pilots could not see. I worked through by the compass as I did by Jackson and had my pilot in the mizzentop. . . . I have now been absent from my command six weeks and know nothing of what is going on below. . . . they say no news is good news, and I hear of no disasters, and therefore hope for the best."
U.S.S. Octorara, Commander Collins, seized blockade running British schooner Handy east of Florida with cargo of salt.
U.S.S. Rachel Seaman, Acting Lieutenant Quincy A. Hooper, captured schooner Nymph attempting to run the blockade off Pass Cavallo, Texas, with cargo including coffee, rice, shoes, and medicine.
22 U.S.S. Mount Vernon, Acting Lieutenant Trathen, captured schooner St. George off New Inlet, North Carolina, with cargo including salt and rum.
Rear Admiral Farragut gave his thoughts on changes in the Navy uniform in a letter to Assistant Secretary Fox: "Pray do not let those officers at Washington be changing our uniform every week or two. . . . I wish that uniform [for Rear Admiral] had been simply a broad stripe of lace on the cuff say an inch and a quarter wide with a narrow stripe of a quarter of an inch above it, and a little rosette with a silver star in the centre. The star is the designation of the Admiral and therefore should be visible . . . but this adding stripes until they reach a man's elbow, appears to me to be a great error . . you must count the stripes to ascertain the officer's rank, which at any distance is almost impossible. . . The practical uniform, Farragut believed, should be ''well suited to the necessities of the service--easy to procure not expensive--easily preserved-- and the grades distinctly marked." It is essentially the one in use today.
23 Steamers Merrimac, Charleston, and Margaret and Jessie successfully ran the blockade into Wil-mington. Brigadier General William H. C. Whiting, CSA, reported: "The Merrimac brings me three splendid Blakely guns, 8-inch rifled 13-pounders."
C.S.S. Florida, Lieutenant Maffitt, captured and burned at sea bark Henrietta bound for Rio de Janeiro with cargo including flour.
U.S.S. Tioga, Commander Clary, seized blockade running British sloop Justina bound from Indian River, Florida, to Nassau with cargo of cotton.
U.S.S. Pembina, Lieutenant Commander Jonathan Young, captured sloop Elias Beck with near Mobile.
24 The extent to which the South was forced to dispersion of troops and weapons was graphically illustrated in an exchange of messages between General Beauregard at Charleston and Secretary of War J. A. Seddon. This date, Beauregard wrote requesting Whitworth guns, "one to place on Morris Island, to cover at long range the bar and enable us to get guns off the Keokuk, also to keep the enemy from replacing buoys and surveying [the] bar; the other to place on Sullivan's Island to cover vessels running the blockade [which] frequently run ashore." Next day, Seddon replied: ''I regret to be unable to spare the guns even for the object mentioned. The claims of Wilmington and the Mississippi are now paramount.
U.S.S. De Soto, Captain William M. Walker, captured blockade running schooners General Prim and Rapid, bound from Mobile to Havana, and sloops Jane Adelie and Bright with cargoes of cotton in the Gulf of Mexico.
C.S.S. Alabama, Captain Semmes, captured and burned whaler Nye off the coast of Brazil with cargo of sperm and whale oil. Semmes later wrote: "The fates seemed to have a grudge against these New England fishermen, and would persist in throwing them in my way, although I was not on a whaling-ground. This was the sixteenth I had captured--a greater number than had been captured from the English by Commodore David Porter, in his famous cruise in the Pacific, in the frigate Essex, during the war of 1812."
C.S.S. Florida, Lieutenant Maffitt, captured and destroyed ship Oneida, bound from Shanghai to New York with cargo of tea.
U.S.S. Western World, Acting Master Samuel B. Gregory, and U.S.S. Samuel Rotan took schooners Martha Ann and A. Carson off Horn Harbor, Virginia.
U.S.S. Pembina, Lieutenant Commander Young, captured schooner Joe Flanner, bound from Havana to Mobile.
25 C.S.S. Georgia, Lieutenant W. L. Maury, captured ship Dictator with cargo of coal off the Cape Verde Islands. Maury burned the prize the next day.
26 U.S.S. Lexington, Lieutenant Commander Fitch, joined the ram fleet under Brigadier General Alfred W. Ellet to engage and disperse Confederate cavalry concentrated at the mouth of Duck River, Tennessee.
C.S.S. Alabama, Captain Semmes, captured and burned ship Dorcas Prince at sea, east of Natal, Brazil, with cargo of coal.
U.S.S. De Soto, Captain W. M. Walker, seized British schooner Clarita in the Gulf of Mexico, bound from Havana to Matamoras.
U.S.S. Sagamore, Lieutenant Commander English, captured schooner New Year of Tortugas, Florida, with cargo of turpentine and cotton.
27 Rear Admiral Porter issued a general order concerning the attack on Grand Gulf: "It is reported that there are four positions where guns are placed, in which case it is desirable that all four places should be engaged at the same time. The Louisville, Carondelet, Mound City, and Pittsburg will proceed in advance, going down slowly, firing their bow guns at the guns in the first battery on the bluff, passing 100 yards from it, and 150 yards apart from each. As they pass the battery on the bluff they will fire grape, canister, and shrapnel, cut at one-half second, and percussion shell from rifled guns." Porter gave specific orders for the subsequent actions of the gunboats, and instructed: "The Lafayette will drop down . . . stern foremost, until within 600 yards, firing her rifled guns with percussion shells at the upper battery. The Tuscumbia will round to outside the Benton, not firing over her while so doing; after rounding to, she will keep astern and inside of the Benton, using her bow guns while the Benton fires her broadside guns. The Tuscumbia and Benton will also fire their stern guns at the forts below them whenever they will hear, using shell together."
Under Acting Master Louis A. Brown, boat crews from U.S.S. Monticello and Matthew Vassar boarded and destroyed British blockade runner Golden Liner in Murrell's Inlet, South Carolina. The ship contained a cargo of flour, brandy, sugar, and coffee.
U.S.S. Preble, Acting Master William F. Shankland, was accidentally destroyed by fire while at anchor off Pensacola.
28 U.S. tug Lily, Acting Master R. H. Timmonds, attempting to cross the bow of U.S.S. Choctaw, Lieutenant Commander Francis M. Ramsay, at anchor in the Yazoo River, was swept by the current into Choctaw's ram and sunk.
29 Gunboats under Rear Admiral Porter engaged the heavy Confederate works at Grand Gulf, "which," the Admiral acknowledged, "were very formidable." In the 5 1/2-hour battle, the gun-boats silenced the lower batteries but could succeed in stopping the fire from the upper forts only 'for a short time.'' Army transports passed safely below the batteries at night. Grand Gulf had been strongly fortified since Rear Admiral Farragut passed the batteries the preceeding summer, to prevent his coming up again," and four batteries were placed a quarter of a mile apart, com-pletely commanding the Mississippi River.
Though U.S.S. Benton, Tuscumbia, and Pittsburg were "pretty much cut up" in the engagement, the expedition was successful and the net result was summed up by Porter: "We are now in a position to make a landing where the general [Grant] pleases."
A Confederate soldier wrote on 30 April from Grand Gulf remarking on the state of affairs after the gunboat attack: "We came here two weeks ago and have had hot times ever since. Enemy from their gunboats have shelled us every day. Yesterday our batteries gave them a fight. The firing beat Oak Hill, Elkhorn, Corinth, Hutchin's Bridge, or anything I ever heard. I believe, too, they gave us rather the worst of it. We did not sink a single boat, while they silenced one of our batteries, dismounted 4 pieces, killed Colonel [William] Wade, commanding artillery, and one of his staff, and some 5 or 6 men.
29 April-1 May Union Army and Navy expedition feigned an attack on Confederate batteries at Haynes' Bluff on the Yazoo River. The force consisted of U.S.S. Tyler, Choctaw, DeKalb, Signal, Romeo, Linden, Petrel, Black Hawk, and 3 mortar boats under Lieutenant Commander Breese and 10 large transports carrying troops under command of Major General W. T. Sherman. The feint was made to prevent Confederates from reinforcing Grand Gulf. On the 29th the expedition proceeded as far as Chickasaw Bayou. As the force departed on the morning of the 30th, Petrel, remained at Old River on station; the remaining vessels moved up the Yazoo with Choctaw and DeKalb opening fire on the main works at Drumgould's Bluff and Tyler and Black Hawk opening on the fieldworks and batteries. Though instructed not to conduct an actual assault, the feint was so vigorously prosecuted that Choctaw, Lieutenant Commander Ramsay, was struck 53 times by Confederate guns. The soldiers were landed and "marched up toward Haynes' Bluff on the only roadway, the levee, making quite a display, and threatening one also." Naval gunfire supported the soldiers throughout the demonstration, which lasted through 1 May. The evening of the 1st, the expedition returned to the mouth of the Yazoo. Porter reported to Secretary Welles: ''The plan succeeded admirably, though the vessels were more exposed than the occasion called for; still as they met with no casualties, with the exception of the hulls, it mattered but little."
U.S.S. Juniata, Commander John M. B. Clita, captured schooner Harvest at sea north of the Baha-mas with cargo of cotton,
30 April-1 May Major General Grant ferried his troops across the Mississippi River at Bruinsburg to commence the work of isolating Vicksburg from reinforcements.