Naval History of the Civil War August 1862

 

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Civil War Naval History

AUGUST 1862

1 U.S.S. Thomas Freeborn, Acting Master James L. Plunkett, captured schooner Mail in Coan River, Virginia, with cargo including salt.

U.S.S. Penobscot, Lieutenant Clitz, captured sloop Lizzie off New Inlet, North Carolina, with cargo including salt.

2 William H. Aspinwall, a Union merchant and long time booster of ironclads, wrote Assistant Secretary of the Navy Fox suggesting an innovation in weaponry to which can be traced the modern torpedo: "I have been thinking for some time about the probability that a properly shaped cylindrical shot fired 6 or 8 feet under water will be the next improvement on iron clad vessels. At short range great effect could be attained below the iron plating. . . . I have the plan for firing a gun projecting 6 or 8 or 10 feet below the water line of a vessel, which I think would work well, if it is found that shot can be relied on to do the intended injury under water. "

C.S.S. Florida, Lieutenant Maffitt, about to take to sea from Nassau, was released by the Admiralty Court after having been seized by H.M.S. Greyhound.

3 U.S.S. Santiago de Cuba, Commander Ridgely, seized blockade runner Columbia north of Abaco with cargo of arms.

4 U.S.S. Unadilla, Lieutenant Collins, captured British steamer Lodona attempting to run the block-ade at Hell Gate, Georgia.

U.S.S. Huron, Lieutenant Downes, seized schooner Aquilla near Charleston with cargo of tur-pentine.

5 Assistant Secretary of the Navy Fox observed that: ''The Richmond Engineer [Enquirer] said that the first federal [army] officer meeting a navy officer at James River after McClellan's 'strategic move' [withdrawing from Malvern Hill to Harrison's Landing] threw his arms around his neck and said 'Oh my dear Sir, we ought to have a gunboat in every family!'

6 C.S.S. Arkansas, Lieutenant Henry Stevens temporarily in command, having become unmanage-able due to engine failure while advancing to support a Confederate attack on Baton Rouge, was engaged by U.S.S. Essex, Commander W. D. Porter. Lieutenant Stevens recognized his helpless condition, shotted his guns, and ordered Arkansas destroyed to prevent her capture. He reported: "It was beautiful to see her, when abandoned by Commander and crew, and dedicated to sacrifice, fighting the battle on her own hook." Without naval support and under fire from U.S.S. Sumter, Cayuga, Kineo, and Katahdin, the Confederate thrust was repelled. When the wounded and ill Commander Brown had departed Arkansas on a brief leave, he had realized that critical repairs were necessary and that his ship was not ready for combat. He ordered Stevens not to move her until his return. Nevertheless, General Van Dorn, to ensure the success of his expedition, ordered Arkansas into the fatal Baton Rouge action. Had Arkansas been fit for battle, the Confederates might have taken Baton Rouge and reopened the important Red River supply line then under Union blockade.

7 President Lincoln, with Secretaries Seward and Stanton, visited Captain Dahlgren at the Wash-ington Navy Yard for a two hour demonstration of the "Rafael" repeating cannon. Later Dahlgren took the party on board a steamer to cool off and rest.

C.S.S. Florida departed Nassau and began her renowned career under Lieutenant Maffitt.

8 Confederate Secretary of the Navy Mallory wrote Commander Bulloch in London: "I am pleased to learn that the credit of my department stands well in England, and sensible of the great impor-tance of maintaining it. I am endeavoring to place funds to your credit, which the scarcity and very high rate of exchange render difficult. We have just paid 200 and 210 per cent for 80,072.3.9, which amount is now in the hands of John Fraser & Co. of Charleston, with orders to place the same to your credit in England." The tightening blockade constantly constricted the Southern economy.

10 Rear Admiral Farragut reported to Secretary of the Navy Welles that he had partially destroyed Donaldsonville, Louisiana, in reprisal for the firing by guerrilla forces on steamers ''passing up and down the river.'' Farragut wrote that he had ''sent a message to the inhabitants that if they did not discontinue this practice, I would destroy their town. The last time I passed up to Baton Rouge to the support of the army, I. . . heard them firing upon the vessels coming up, first upon the Sallie Robinson and next upon the Brooklyn. In the latter case they made a mistake, and it was so quickly returned that they ran away. The next night they fired again upon the St. Charles. I therefore ordered them to send their women and children out of the town, as I cer-tainly intended to destroy it on my way down the river, and I fulfilled my promise to a certain extent. I burned down the hotels and wharf buildings, also the dwelling houses and other buildings of a Mr. Phillippe Landry, who is said to be a captain of guerrillas." Though Farragut had no taste for devastating private property, he felt justified in doing so if private citizens endan-gered the lives of his men.

U.S.S. Resolute, Acting Master James C. Tole, captured schooner S.S. Jones near the Virginia coast.

11 Rear Admiral Farragut, having received his promotion, "hoisted my flag at the main." His general order to the fleet on this date ascribed the promotion to ''the gallantry of the officers and men of the fleet . . . [and] your Admiral feels assured that you will never disappoint these high expectations. A new field is now opening before you. To your ordinary duties is added the contest with the elements. Let it he your pride to show the world that danger has no greater terror for you in one form than in another; that you are as ready to meet the enemy in the one shape as in the other, and that you, with your wooden vessels, have never been alarmed by fire rafts, torpedoes, chain booms, ironclad rams, ironclad gunboats, or forts. The same Great Power preserves you in the presence of all."

12 U.S.S. Arthur, Acting Lieutenant Kittredge, captured armed schooner Breaker at Aransas Pass, Texas. Confederate schooner Elma and sloop Hannah were burned at Corpus Christi to prevent their capture by Arthur.

13 Rear Admiral Du Pont wrote Assistant Secretary of the Navy Fox on the subject of Confederate rams and ironclads at Savannah and Charleston: "The Savannah one, not at all the Fingal, is more of a floating battery, doubtless with 10 inch guns (8 of them) but she has a list, leaks, and has not power to go against stream. She may be used to cover vessels running the blockade by putting herself between them and the Forts if entering Savannah River. . . . The Charleston vessels are not yet ready and I hope are progressing slowly, one is simply an ironclad, size of Pembina---the other more of a ram." Because of the power which C.S.S. Virginia had promised and demon-strated, the Confederacy made every effort to ready other ironclads to strike against the blockad-ing forces. However, lack of critical material and industrial facilities prevented the South from mounting a truly serious threat. On the Savannah River, ironclad rams Georgia and Atlanta were launched, but both were too slow and drew too much water to he fully effective. Atlanta showed herself to Du Pont's squadron on 31 July, when she steamed down the river toward Fort Pulaski and returned to Savannah. Some six months later, Master H. Beverly Littlepage, CSN, wrote Lieutenant Catesby ap R. Jones of her: "We are still at anchor in the river between Fort Jackson and the first obstructions, only a few hundred yards from the Georgia. I understand it is the inten-tion of the commodore [Tattnall] that the Atlanta shall he moored as near the stern of the Georgia as she can get so that by springing her either of her broadsides may be made to bear on the obstructions in the event of the anticipated attack. I think I can safely affirm that the Atlanta will never go outside of the obstructions again or, at least for some time. . . . There is no ventilation below at all, and I think it will be impossible for us to live on her in the summer. . . .I would venture to say that if a person were blindfolded and carried below and then turned loose he would imagine himself in a swamp, for the water is trickling in all the time and everything is so damp." C.S.S. Georgia, for want of adequate engines, was used as a floating battery. The ironclads concerning Du Pont at Charleston were C.S.S. Palmetto State, a ram, and gunboat C.S.S. Chicora. Palmetto State's keel had been laid in January under Flag Officer Duncan N. Ingraham. Two months later Chicora's keel was laid-in the rear of the Charleston post office-under the direction of James M. Eason, who built two additional ironclads at Charleston, C.S.S. Charleston (whose keel was laid in December 1862) and C.S.S. Columbia, which was not completed before the fall of Charleston. Lieutenant James H. Rochelle, who commanded Palmetto State late in the war, described the vessels: ''The iron-clads were . . . slow vessels with imperfect engines, which required frequent repairing. . . . Their armor was four inches thick, and they were all of the type of the Virginia. . . . Each of the iron-clads carried a torpedo fitted to the end of a spar some 15 or 20 feet long, projecting from the bow on a line with the keel, and so arranged that it could be carried either triced up clear of the water or submerged five or six feet below the surface.

Every night one or more of the iron-clads anchored in the channel near Sumter for the purpose of resisting a night attack on Sumter or a dash into the harbor by the Federal vessels.'' Of Columbia Rochelle wrote: ''She had a thickness of six inches of iron on her casemate, and was otherwise superior to the other iron- clads. Unfortunately, the Columbia was bilged in consequence of the ignorance, carelessness or treachery of her pilot, and rendered no service whatever." For all their defects, the Charleston vessels, particularly Palmetto State and Chicora, did in a measure, as naval constructor John L. Porter forecast in a 20 June 1862 letter to Eason, ''afford great protection to the harbor of Charleston when completed."

U.S.S. Kensington, Acting Master Crocker, seized schooner Troy off Sabine Pass, Texas, with cargo of cotton.

14 U.S.S. Pocahontas, Lieutenant George B. Balch, and steam tug Treaty, Acting Lieutenant Baxter, on an expedition up the Black River from Georgetown, South Carolina, exchanged fire with Confederate troops at close range along both banks of the river for a distance of 20 miles in an unsuccessful attempt to capture steamer Nina.

15 Commodore Wilkes, commanding James River Flotilla, ordered U.S.S. Galena, Commander J. Rodgers, U.S.S. Port Royal, and U.S.S. Satellite to cover the withdrawal of the left wing of General McClellan's army from Harrison's Landing over the Chickahominy. Rodgers was directed to "communicate with General Pleasonton and inform him that you are to cover his cavalry force until such time as the services of the gunboats may no longer be useful to him.''

Confederate steamer A. B. (or A. Bee), aground at the entrance of the Nueces River near Corpus Christi, was burned to avoid capture by U.S.S. Arthur, Acting Lieutenant Kittredge.

16 Naval forces under Lieutenant Commander S. L. Phelps, including U.S.S. Mound City, Benton, and General Bragg, and rams Monarch, Samson, Lioness, and Switzerland, under Colonel Ellet, con-voyed and covered Army troops under Colonel Charles R. Woods in a joint expedition up the Mis-sissippi from Helena as far as the Yazoo River. The force was landed at various points en route, capturing steamer Fairplay above Vicksburg, with large cargo of arms, and dispersing Confederate troop encampments. The joint expedition also destroyed a newly erected Confederate battery about 20 miles up the Yazoo River.

Confederate Secretary of the Navy Mallory wrote of the desperate need of iron for the South's ships: "The want of iron is severely felt throughout the Confederacy, and the means of increasing its production demand, in my judgment, the prompt consideration of Congress. The Government has outstanding contracts amounting to millions of dollars, but the iron is not forthcoming to meet the increasing public wants. Scrap iron of all classes is being industriously collected by agents of the Government, and we are now rolling railroad iron into plates for covering ships . . . " Chronic lack of iron drastically restricted Confederate ship construction, and eventually weighed heavily in the final decision. As Commander Maury had written: ''Our necessities cry out for a Navy in war; and when peace comes, it will profit us but little to be afluent and free, if we are continually liable to be pillaged by all . . . the breadth of our plantations and the value of our staples will be of small advantage if the others may have the mastery in our own waters.'' Weak-ness in naval power made the Confederate supply problems insurmountable.

16-18 Union naval force, comprising U.S.S. Sachem, Reindeer, Belle Italia, and yacht Corypheus, under command of Acting Lieutenant Kittredge, bombarded Corpus Christi. On 18 August a landing party of sailors from Belle Italia, supported by ships' gunfire, attempted to seize a Confederate battery but was driven back by a cavalry force. Lieutenant Kittredge was captured while ashore on 14 September. Confederate General H. P. Bee characterized Kittredge as ''an honorable enemy and a "bold and energetic leader." Lacking troop strength to occupy and hold Corpus Christi, Sabine City or Galveston, Rear Admiral Farragut's ships nonetheless effectively controlled the Texas coast and pinned down Confederate forces which were vitally needed elsewhere.

17 Joint landing party from U.S.S. Ellis, Master Benjamin H. Porter, and Army boats destroyed Confederate salt works, battery, and barracks near Swansboro, North Carolina. This constant attack from the sea destroyed the South's resources and drained her strength.

18 Secretary of the Navy Welles wrote Commodore Wilkes: ''Our naval operations in James River have, from the time you were placed in command of the flotilla, depended almost entirely on army movements; and notwithstanding the army has left your vicinity, your future action and the orders you may receive will, for a time at least, and in a great degree, be controlled by develop-ments elsewhere."

Secretary of the Navy Welles, regarding the right of search, instructed squadron and cruiser commanders: ''Some recent occurrences in the capture of vessels, and matters pertaining to the blockade, render it necessary that there should be a recapitulation of the instructions hereto-fore . . . given . . . It is essential, in the remarkable contest now waging, that we should exer-cise great forbearance, with great firmness, and manifest to the world that it is the intention of our Government, while asserting and maintaining our own rights, to respect and scrupulously regard the right of others . . . You are specially informed that the fact that a suspicious vessel has been indicated to you . . . does not in any way authorize you to depart from the practice of the rules of visitation, search, and capture prescribed by the law of nations."

19 Captain John A. Winslow of U.S.S. St. Louis reported the burning by Confederates of Union steamer Swallow, aground below Memphis.

21 Rear Admiral Farragut commented on the intervention of foreign powers in the Civil War: "I don't believe it, and, if it does come, you will find the United States not so easy a nut to crack as they imagine. We have no dread of 'rams' or 'he-goats,' and, if our Editors had less, the coun-try would be better off. Now they scare everybody to death."

U.S.S. Bienville, Commander Mullany, captured British blockade runner Eliza, bound from Nassau to Shallotte Inlet, North Carolina.

22 Secretary of the Navy Welles ordered Rear Admiral L. M. Goldsborough, commanding North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, to "assist the army, as far as you may be able, in embarking the troops at Fortress Monroe and Newport News, as desired by Major General Halleck." The withdrawal northward of the Army of the Potomac by water transport brought to a close the Peninsular Campaign.

Rear Admiral Farragut instructed Lieutenant Commander Philip C. Johnson, commanding U.S.S. Tennessee, that "you will stop at Pilot Town [Louisiana] and bring Lieutenant McClain Tilton and the Marine guard, together with all the stores you can [to the Pensacola Navy Yard]." Earlier in the year the Marines had garrisoned the town.

U.S.S. Keystone State, Commander Le Roy, captured British schooner Fanny with cargo of salt, near St. Simon's Sound, Georgia.

23 U.S.S. Adirondack, Captain Guert Gansevoort, ran on a reef outside Man of War Cay, Little Baha-mas, and was abandoned after efforts to save her failed.

U.S.S. Bienville, Commander Mullany, seized British blockade runner Louisa off Cape Romain, South Carolina.

U.S.S. James S. Chambers, Acting Master D. Frank Mosman, seized schooner Corelia off the coast of Cuba.

23-24 Boat crew from U.S.S. Essex, Captain W. D. Porter, was fired upon by Confederate guerrillas at Bayou Sara, Louisiana. Essex shelled the town.

24 Raphael Semmes took command of C.S.S. Alabama at sea off the island of Terceira, Azores. Of Alabama, Semmes said, "She was indeed a beautiful thing to look upon." As Semmes finished reading his orders promoting him to Captain and appointing him to command Alabama, the Con-federate ensign replaced the English colors at the mast head, a gun was fired, and 'The air was rent by a deafening cheer from officers and men. The band, at the same time, playing Dixie." Thus, the celebrated raider was christened to begin her storied two year career.

U.S.S. Isaac N. Seymour, Acting Master Francis S. Wells, ran aground and sank in Neuse River, North Carolina.

U.S.S. Henry Andrew, Lieutenant Arthur S. Gardner, wrecked after grounding during a heavy gale 15 miles south of Cape Henry, Virginia.

U.S.S. Stars and Stripes, Lieutenant McCook, captured British ship Mary Elizabeth, attempting to run the blockade into Wilmington with cargo of salt and fruit.

U.S. yacht Corypheus, tender to U.S.S. Arthur, Acting Lieutenant Kittredge, captured schooner Water Witch off Aransas Bay, Texas.

25 Typical log entry (this of U.S.S. Benton) describing the relentless naval operations on the western waters: "At 7 [a.m.] sent a boat ashore, which destroyed seven skiffs and one batteau. At 11:40 came to at Bolivar Landing [Mississippi]. At 11:45 General Woods landing troops; opened fire upon the enemy. We opened fire with our bow and starboard guns in protecting the landing of the troops . . . fired a number of shots in direction of the rebel force.''

26 Captain Franklin Buchanan promoted to Admiral in the Confederate Navy "for gallant and meri-torious conduct in attacking the enemy's fleet in Hampton Roads and destroying the frigate Con-gress, sloop of war Cumberland . . . whilst in command of the squadron in the waters of Virginia on the 8th of March, 1862."

Confederate steamer Yorktown, running the blockade from Mobile to Havana, sprung a leak and foundered at sea off Ship Island with cargo of cotton.

27 U.S.S. South Carolina, Commander John J. Almy, destroyed abandoned schooner Patriot, aground near Mosquito Inlet, Florida.

U.S.S. Santiago de Cuba, Commander Ridgely, captured blockade runner Lavinia north of Abaco with cargo of turpentine.

29 U.S.S. Pittsburg, Lieutenant Thompson, escorted steamers White Cloud and latan with Army troops embarked to Eunice, Arkansas. The gunboat shelled and dispersed Confederate forces from a camp above Carson's Landing on the Mississippi shore. Landing the troops under cover of Pittsburg's guns for reconnaissance missions en route, Lieutenant Thompson at Eunice seized a large wharf boat, fitted out as a floating hotel. This type of persistent patrolling of the Missis-sippi and tributaries by the Union Navy in support of Army operations was instrumental in preventing the Confederates from establishing firm positions.

The James River Flotilla having carried out its mission in support of General McClellan's army, the Navy Department ordered Commodore Wilkes to turn the ships over to Rear Admiral L. M. Goldsborough and to proceed to Washington to assume command of the Potomac Flotilla.

30 U.S.S. Passaic launched at Greenpoint, New York. A newspaper reporter observed: "A fleet of monsters has been created, volcanoes in a nutshell, breathing under water, fighting under shelter, steered with mirrors, driven by vapor, running anywhere, retreating from nothing. These floating carriages bear immense ordnance, perfected by new processes, and easily worked by new and simple devices.

U.S.S. R. R. Cuyler, Acting Master Simeon N. Freeman, captured schooner Anne Sophia at sea east of Jacksonville.

31 U.S. transport W. B. Terry, Master Leonard G. Klinck, carrying cargo of coal for Union gunboats, ran aground at Duck River Shoals, Tennessee River, and was captured by Confederate troops.

U.S.S. William G. Anderson, Acting Master D'Oyley, seized schooner Lily off Louisiana with cargo of gun powder.