Civil War Naval History
1 Army expedition supported by minor naval forces (including converted ferry boat U.S.S. Commodore Morris, Lieutenant Commander James H. Gillis, and launches from U.S.S. Minnesota) was repulsed by Confederate sharpshooters near Smithfield Virginia, with the loss of Army gunboat Smith Briggs. The troops, whose original object had been the capture of a Confederate camp and a quantity of tobacco on Pagan Creek, re-embarked on the transports and withdrew downstream.
U.S.S. Sassacus, Lieutenant Commander Francis A. Roe, captured blockade runner Wild Dayrell aground at Stump Inlet, North Carolina. Roe attempted to get the steamer off for two days but, unable to do so, burned her.
Boat expedition from U.S.S. Braziliera, Acting Master William T. Gillespie, captured sloop Buffalo with cargo of cotton near Brunswick, Georgia.
2 Early in the morning, a Confederate boat expedition planned and boldly led by Commander John Taylor Wood, CSN, captured and destroyed 4-gun sidewheel steamer U.S.S. Underwriter, Acting Master Jacob Westervelt, anchored in the Neuse River near New Bern, North Carolina. The boats had been shipped by rail from Petersburg, Virginia, to Kinston, North Carolina, and from there started down the Neuse. Wood, grandson of President Taylor and nephew of Jef-ferson Davis, silently approached Underwriter about 2:30 a.m. and was within 100 yards of the gunboat before the boats were sighted. Underwriter's guns could not be brought to bear in time, and the Confederates quickly boarded and took her in hand-to-hand combat, during which Wester-velt was killed, Unable to move Underwriter because she did not have steam up, Wood destroyed her while under the fire of nearby Union batteries. He later wrote Colonel Lloyd J. Beall, Com-mandant of the Confederate Marine Corps, commending the Marines who had taken part in the expedition: "Though their duties were more arduous than those of the others, they were always prompt and ready for the performance of all they were called upon to do. As a body they would be a credit to any organization, and I will be glad to be associated with them on duty at any time." Lieutenant George W. Gift, CSN, who took part in what Secretary Mallory termed "this brilliant exploit," remarked: "I am all admiration for Wood. He is modesty personified, conceives boldly and executes with skill and courage.
Major General W. T. Sherman, who had recently arrived at Vicksburg on board U.S.S. Juliet, Acting Master J. Stoughton Watson, preparatory to commencing his expedition to Meridian, Mississippi, expressed his appreciation for the assistance Watson had given him. "I am very obliged to you personally and officially for the perfect manner [in which] you have contributed to my wants. You have enabled me to assemble and put in motion troops along the Mississippi, and have contributed to the personal comfort of myself and staff." In order to further assist Sherman's move, tern-wheel gunboats Marmora, Romeo, Exchange and tinclad Petrel supported a diversionary expedition up the Yazoo River. Sherman had written Lieutenant Commander Elias K. Owen, commanding the gunboats: "I desire to confuse the enemy as to our plans [to march across Mississippi and attack Meridian], and know that the appearance of a force up the Yazoo as far as possible will tend to that result." Moreover, such a showing of the flag would impress the people with the force available to Union commanders should it be necessary to use it.
U.S. Tug Geranium, Acting Ensign David Lee, captured eight members of the Confederate Tor-pedo Corps off Fort Moultrie, in Charleston Harbor, while they were attempting to remove stores from a grounded blockade runner.
2-4 Blockade runner Presto was discovered aground under the batteries of Fort Moultrie. Monitors U.S.S. Lehigh, Commander Andrew Bryson, Nahant, Lieutenant Commander John J. Cornwell, and Passaic, Lieutenant Commander Edward Simpson, fired on the steamer for three days, finally satisfying themselves on 4 February that she was destroyed.
2-–22 Major General Quincy A. Gillmore advised Rear Admiral Dahlgren of his intention " to throw a force into Florida on the west bank of St. John's River." He requested the support of two or three naval gunboats for the operation. Dahlgren promptly detailed small screw steamers U.S.S. Ottawa and Norwich to convoy the Army troops to Jacksonville, and ordered screw steamer U.S.S. Dai Ching, and sidewheelers Mahaska and Water Witch up the St. John's. The Admiral himself went to Florida to take a personal hand in directing his forces to . . . keep open the communi-cations by the river and give any assistance to the troops which operations may need . . . .With the gunboats deployed according to Dahlgren's instructions, the soldiers, under Brigadier General Truman Seymour, landed at Jacksonville, moved inland, captured fieldpieces and took a large quantity of cotton. As Dahlgren prepared to return to Charleston on 10 February, General Gillmore wrote: "Please accept my thanks for the prompt cooperation afforded me." A strong Confederate counterattack commenced on 20 February and compelled the Union troops to fall back on Jacksonville where the gunboats stood by to defend the city; naval howitzers were put ashore in battery, manned by seamen. Commander Balch, senior naval officer present, reported: "I had abundant reasons to believe that to the naval force must our troops be indebted for pro-tection against a greatly superior force flushed with victory." Seymour expressed his apprecia-tion for Balch's quick action". . . at a moment when it appeared probable that the vigorous assistance of the force under your command would be necessary.
3 U.S.S. Petrel, Marmora, Exchange, and Romeo, under Lieutenant Commander Owen, silenced Con-federate batteries at Liverpool, Mississippi, on the Yazoo River, as naval forces began an ex-pedition to prevent Southerners from harassing Major General W. T. Sherman's expedition to Meridian, Mississippi. In the next two weeks, Owen's light-draft gunboats pushed up the Yazoo Rivet as far as Greenwood, Mississippi, engaging Confederate troops en route. Confederates destroyed steamer Sharp to prevent her capture before the Union naval force turned back. 'This move," Rear Admiral Porter later reported to Secretary Welles," has had the effect of driving the guerrillas away from the Mississippi River, as they are fearful it is intended to cut them off."
U.S.S. Midnight, Acting Master Walter H. Garfield, captured blockade running schooner Defy off Doboy Light, Georgia, with cargo of salt.
4 A boat under command of Acting Master's Mate Henry B. Colby from U.S.S. Beauregard captured Lydia at Jupiter Narrows, Florida, with small cargo of cotton and turpentine.
4–5 U.S.S. Sassacus, Lieutenant Commander Roe, chased steamer Nutfield aground off New River Inlet, North Carolina. When it proved impossible to get her off, her cargo of Enfield rifles and quinine was salvaged and she was destroyed.
5 J. L. McPhail, Maryland's Provost Marshal General, wrote Commander Foxhall A. Parker of the Potomac Flotilla, informing him that a known Southern sympathizer was the agent for schooner Ann Hamilton's owners. McPhail recommended that she be taken, but it later developed that U.S. Revenue Steamer Hercules had already seized Ann Hamilton off Point Lookout, Maryland, on 4 February. A search of the schooner confirmed McPhail's suspicions: quantities of salt and lye and more than $15,000 in Confederate money were found on board. Parker ordered her to Washington for adjudication.
Captain John R. Tucker reported that the boiler of C.S.S. Chicora had given out and that hence-forth she could be used only as a floating battery in the defenses of Charleston harbor.
U.S.S. De Soto, Captain Gustavus H. Scott, seized blockade running British steamer Cumberland in the Gulf of Mexico south of Santa Rosa Island with cargo of arms, gunpowder, and dry goods.
6 Special Commissioner of the Confederate States A. Dudley Mann wrote Secretary of State Benjamin from London: "The iron hull is superseding the wooden hull just as steam is superseding canvas. The rich and exhaustless ore fields and coal mines of the 'Island Giant', her numerous workshops and shipyards, the abundance and constant augmentation of her seamen, will probably in less than a score of years produce for her a mercantile navy three times as large as that of all the world besides. The old American Union was her only rival in bottom carrying. That rival has dis-appeared." Mann here referred to the fact that the U.S. merchant vessels were increasingly sailing under foreign registry because of Southern commerce raiders.
U.S.S. Cambridge, Commander William F. Spicer, found blockade running steamer Dee aground and in flames near Masonboro, North Carolina. She had grounded the preceding night and was set afire to prevent capture. Spicer completed the destruction of the blockade runner with her cargo of lead, bacon, and spirits.
7 Confederate steamer St. Mary's, trapped in McGirt's Creek, above Jacksonville, Florida, by U.S.S. Norwich, Acting Master Frank B. Meriam, was sunk and her cargo of cotton destroyed to prevent its falling into Union hands.
8 Commander Catesby ap R. Jones, commanding the Confederate Naval Gun Factory at Selma, Alabama, wrote Admiral Franklin Buchanan at Mobile of the fighting qualities of the Union monitors: "The revolving turret enables the monitor class to bring their guns to bear without reference to the movements or turning of the vessel. You who fought the Virginia know well how to appreciate that great advantage. You doubtless recollect how often I reported to you that we could not bring one of her ten guns to bear. In fighting that class, it is very important to prevent the turret from revolving, which I think may be done either with the VII-inch or 6.4-inch rifles or 64 pounder, provided their projectiles strike the turret at or near its base where it joins the deck. . . . If the turret is prevented from revolving, the vessel is then less efficient than one with the same guns having the ordinary ports, as the monitors' ports are so small that the guns can not be trained except by the helm."
9 Acting Master Gerhard C. Schulze "received six refugees" on board U.S.S. Jacob Bell off Blakistone Island, Virginia. One of the men, Joseph Lenty, an Englishman, had worked in Richmond for four years and brought the North further news of recent refinement by Confederates of their in-genious torpedoes. ". . . they are now making a shell which looks exactly like a piece of coal, pieces of which were taken from a coal pile as patterns to imitate. I have made these shells myself. I believe these shells have power enough to burst any boiler. After they were thrown, in a coal pile I could not tell the difference between them and coal myself." The "coal torpedo" was reported to have been placed in production late in January 1864 and was suspected of having been the agent of several unexplained explosions and fires during the remainder of the war (see 27 November 1864). A general order issued by Rear Admiral Porter on the subject testified to the genuine alarm with which Union commanders viewed the new weapon: "The enemy have adopted new inventions to destroy human life and vessels in the shape of torpedoes, and an article resembling coal, which is to be placed in our coal piles for the purpose of blowing the vessels up, or injuring them. Officers will have to be careful in overlooking coal barges. Guards will be placed over them at all times, and anyone found attempting to place any of these things amongst the coal will be shot on the spot."
Life on board Confederate commerce raiders was taxing and little relieved by relaxation. This date C.S.S. Alabama made one of her few "port calls", putting into the island of Johanna between Africa and Madagascar for provisions. Captain Semmes later wrote: "I gave my sailors a run on shore, but this sort of 'liberty' was awful hard work for Jack. There was no such thing as a glass of grog to be found in the whole town, and as for a fiddle, and Sal for a partner- all of which would have been a matter of course in civilized countries- there were no such luxuries to be thought of. They found it a difficult matter to get through with the day, and were all down at the beach long before sunset- the hour appointed for their coming off-waiting for the approach of the welcome boat. I told Kell to let them go on shore as often as they pleased, but no one made a second application."
Commander T. H. Stevens, U.S.S. Patapsco, reported that one of his cutters commanded by Acting Ensign Walter C. Odiorne captured blockade running schooner Swift off Cabbage Island, Georgia, with cargo of fish.
10 C.S.S. Florida, Lieutenant Charles M. Morris, escaped to sea from Brest, France, having been laid up for repairs since the preceding August. "The Florida," reported Captain Winslow of Kearsarge, "took advantage of a thick, rainy night and left at 2 o'clock, proceeding through the southern passage." Morris' sailing instructions, received from Flag Officer Samuel Barron, contained the terse reminder: . . . you are to do the enemy's property the greatest injury in the shortest time." Winslow was finding, as the British found during the Napoleonic Wars, that Brest was a very difficult port to blockade.
U.S.S. Florida, Commander Peirce Crosby, forced blockade runner Fanny and Jenny aground near Masonboro Inlet, North Carolina. Immediately thereafter, Crosby sighted blockade runner Emily aground nearby. Unable to get either steamer afloat and under fire from a Confederate Whitworth battery, Crosby burned them. Fanny and Jenny carried an assorted cargo including a quantity of coal; Emily carried a cargo of salt. On Fanny and Jenny was also found a solid gold jewel-studded sword inscribed: "To General Robert E. Lee, from his British sympathizers."
Crosby reported that information given him by the captured crew members of Fanny and Jenny indicated that ten blockade runners had sailed from Nassau for Wilmington ". . . during this dark of the moon. Three have been destroyed, and one put back, broken down, leaving six others to be heard from."
11 U.S.S. Queen, Acting Master Robert Tarr, captured schooner Louisa off the mouth of the Brazos River, Texas, with cargo of powder and Enfield rifles.
12 Commander John M. Brooke, in charge of the Confederate Navy's Office of Ordnance and Hydrog-raphy wrote Flag Officer Barron in France for "material for cartridge bags, which is now much needed." Brooke asked Barron to purchase some 22,000 yards of material and ship it to Nassau. From there blockade runners would attempt to run it through the blockade, in 1000 yard lots to avoid losing it all in the event of capture. It was becoming increasingly difficult for the South to procure basic war materials, a problem which was compounded by the lack of good railroads for internal transportation and control of most of her rivers by the Federal fleet.
13 Rear Admiral Farragut reported to Assistant Secretary of Navy Pox that information given him indicated "that those publications about vessels running into Mobile are false [and] that no vessel has gotten in during the last six weeks and then only one, that the Isabel has been in there 4 months . . . that there are but 3 steamers, the Denbigh, and Isabel and Austin; the 2 last are loaded ready to run out and the Denbigh was so disabled by the Fleet when she attempted to run out the other night that she had to be towed up to the City [Mobile] and her cotton is at the Fort."
14 Lieutenant Commander Charles A. Babcock reported on a reconnaissance mission conducted the preceding day by U.S.S. Morse on the York River and Potopotank Creek, Virginia. A sloop, with a cargo of corn and small schooner Margaret Ann were seized and taken to Yorktown. Babcock also swept the river from Moody's Wharf to Purtan Island Point to verify reports that Con-federate torpedoes had been planted there. None were found in that area, but Babcock wrote: "I do not believe there are any torpedoes below Goff's Point, but across from Goff's Point to Terrapin Point and in the forks of the river at West Point I believe, from information received, that there are certainly torpedoes placed there."
15 U.S.S. Forest Rose, Acting Lieutenant John V. Johnson, came to the relief of Union soldiers who were hard pressed by attacking Confederate troops at Waterproof, Louisiana. The 260- ton gunboat compelled the Southerners to retire under a heavy bombardment. The commander of the Northerners ashore wrote Johnston: "I hope you will not consider it [mere] flattering when I say I never before saw more accurate artillery firing than you did in these engagements, invariably putting your shells in the right place ordered. My officers and men now feel perfectly secure against a large force, so long as we have the assistance of Captain Johnston and his most excellent drilled crew. . . . "
Rear Admiral C. H. Bell of the Pacific Squadron ordered Commander William E. Hopkins, U.S.S. Saginaw, to cruise in Mexican waters and warned: "It is believed that on that part of the coast of Mexico which you will visit during your present cruise there are many persons calling themselves citizens of the United States who are watching an opportunity to seize upon any vessel suitable to make depredations on our commerce. You must, therefore, be extremely careful, particularly when at anchor, that no boats approach without being ready to repel any attempt which may be made to take you by surprise. A sufficient watch on deck at night, with arms at hand, and the men drilled to rush on deck without waiting to dress, is absolutely indispensable in a low-deck vessel like the Saginaw."
The Confederate Congress tendered its thanks to Commander John Taylor Wood, his officers, and men "for the daring and brilliantly executed plans which resulted in the capture of the United States transport schooner Elmore, on the Potomac River; of the ship Allegheny [see Alleghanian, 28 October 1862]. . . and the United States transport schooners Golden Rod, Coquette, and Two Brothers, on the Chesapeake [see 25 August 1863]; and, more recently, in the capture from under the guns of the enemy's works of the United States gunboat Underwriter, on the Neuse River, near New Berne, North Carolina [see 2 February 1864], with the officers and crews of the several vessels brought off as prisoners."
Flag Officer Barron reported from Paris to Secretary Mallory: "From all the information I can get there seems to be scarcely a single Yankee vessel engaged in regular trade between any two places. But should our efforts to keep cruisers afloat abate or prove less successful doubtless their enterprise will again be brought into lively activity to relieve their present more than half-starved commerce.
U.S.S. Virginia, Acting Lieutenant Charles H. Brown, seized blockade running British schooner Mary Douglas off San Luis Pass, Texas, with cargo of bananas, coffee, and linen.
16 Union naval forces, composed of double-ender U.S.S. Octorara, Lieutenant Commander William W. Low, converted ferryboat U.S.S. J. P. Jackson, Acting Lieutenant Miner B. Crowell, and six mortar schooners, began bombarding Confederate works at Fort Powell as Rear Admiral Farragut commenced the long, arduous campaign that six months later would result in the closing of Mobile Bay. The bombardment of Fort Powell by gunboats was a continuing operation, though the mortar boats were eventually withdrawn.
Rear Admiral Dahlgren, alert to the potential offered by torpedoes, ordered 100 of them made by Benjamin Maillefert, an engineering specialist. Late the preceding November, Maillefert had proposed using torpedoes to clear the obstructions in the channel between Fort Sumter and Charles-ton: Each of these charges will he provided with a clockwork arrangement, which shall deter-mine the exact time of firing; they are to contain 110 to 125 pounds of gunpowder each. . . .This date Dahlgren, satisfied with the tests during the intervening period, wrote: ''Having witnessed the action of your time torpedoes, I think they may he serviceable in operating against the rebels at Charleston and elsewhere.'' By war's end both North and South were using torpedoes, forecasting the great roles this underwater ordnance would play in the 20th century.
U.S.S. Montgomery, Acting Lieutenant Faucon, seized blockade running British steamer Pet off Lockwood's Folly Inlet, South Carolina.
Lieutenant Minor, CSN, reported on the condition of C.S.S. Neuse, then building at Kinston, North Carolina: ". . . Lieutenant Comdg. [William] Sharp has a force of one hundred and seventy-two men employed upon her. . . . As you are aware the Steamer has two layers of iron on the forward end of her shield, but none on either broadside, or on the after part. The carpenters are now calking the longitudinal pieces on the hull, and if the iron can be delivered more rapidly, or in small quantities with some degree of regularity, the work would progress in a much more
satisfactory manner. The boiler was today lowered into the vessel and when in place, the main deck will be laid in . . . . The river I am told is unpredecently low for the season of the year I am satisfied not more than five feet can be now carried down the channel. . . . And as the Steamer when ready for service will draw between six or seven feet, it is very apparent that to be useful, she must be equipped in time to take advantage of the first rise.
16–23 U.S.S. Para, Acting Master Edward G. Furber, escorted troops up the St. Mary's River to Woodstock Mills, Florida, to obtain lumber. The 200-ton schooner engaged Confederates along the river banks and covered the transports while a large quantity of lumber was taken on board. On 21 February, Para captured small steamer Hard Times.
17 Confederate submarine H. L. Hunley, Lieutenant George E. Dixon, CSA, destroyed U.S.S. Housatonic, Captain Charles W. Pickering, off Charleston, and became the first submarine to sink an enemy ship in combat. After Hunley sank the preceding fall for the second time (see 15 October 1863), she was raised, a new volunteer crew trained, and for months under the cover of darkness moved out into the harbor where she awaited favorable conditions and a target. This night, the small cylindrical-shaped craft with a spar torpedo mounted on the bow found the heavy steam sloop of war Housatonic anchored outside the bar. Just before 9 o'clock in the evening, Acting Master John K. Crosby, Housatonic's officer of the deck, sighted an object in the water about 100 yards off but making directly for the ship. "It had the appearance of a plank moving in the water." Nevertheless Housatonic slipped her cable and began backing full; all hands were called to quarters. It was too late. Within two minutes of her first sighting, H. L. Hunley rammed her torpedo into Housatonic's starboard side, forward of the mizzenmast. The big warship was shattered by the ensuing explosion and "sank immediately."
The Charleston Daily Courier reported on 29 February: "The explosion made no noise, and the affair was not known among the fleet until daybreak, when the crew were discovered and released from their uneasy positions in the rigging. They had remained there all night. Two officers and three men were reported missing and were supposed to be drowned. The loss of the Housatonic caused great consternation in the fleet. All the wooden vessels are ordered to keep up steam and to go out to sea every night, not being allowed to anchor inside. The picket boats have been doubled and the force in each boat increased."
Dixon and his daring associates perished with H. L. Hunley in the attack. The exact cause of her loss was never determined, but as Confederate Engineer James H. Tomb later observed: "She was very slow in turning, but would sink at a moment's notice and at times without it." The submarine, Tomb added, "was a veritable coffin to this brave officer and his men. But in giving their lives the gallant crew of H. L. Hunley wrote a fateful page in history-for their deed foretold the huge contributions submarines would make in later years in other wars.
17-19 Boat expedition under the command of Acting Ensign J. G. Koehler, U.S.S. Tahoma, destroyed a large Confederate salt works and a supply of salt near St. Marks, Florida.
18 Commander James D. Bulloch wrote Secretary Mallory from Liverpool of his disappointment over the inability of the Confederacy to obtain ironclads in Europe and suggested, as Henry Hotze had a month before (see 16 January 1864), that the Navy Department . . . take the blockade-running business into its own hands Bulloch added: "The beams and decks of these steamers could be made of sufficient strength to bear heavy deck loads without exciting suspicion, and then if registered in the name of private individuals and sailed purely as commercial ships they could trade without interruption or violation of neutrality between our coasts and the Bermudas, Bahamas, and West Indies. When three or more of the vessels happened to be in harbor at the same time a few hours would suffice to mount a couple of heavy guns on each, and at early dawn a successful raid might be made upon the unsuspecting blockaders. . . . After a raid or cruise the vessels could be divested of every appliance of war, and resuming their private ownership and commercial names, could bring off cargoes of cotton to pay the cost of the cruise. . . . Such operations are not impracticable, and if vigorously carried on without notice and at irregular periods, would greatly increase the difficulty of blockading our harbors, and would render hazardous the transportation of troops along the line of our coasts and through the Gulf of Mexico." Bulloch's proposal to disguise raiders as merchantmen became a reality in the 20th century as a practice followed by European belligerents.
President Lincoln ended the blockade of Brownsville, Texas, and opened the port for trade.
20 Rear Admiral Dahlgren, greatly concerned by the loss of U.S.S. Housatonic, wrote in his diary: "The loss of the Housatonic troubles me very much. . . .Torpedoes have been laughed at; but this disaster ends that." The day before, he had written Secretary Welles urging that the Union develop and use torpedo boats to combat similar Confederate efforts. Under the impression that the submarine H.L. Hunley had been another "David" torpedo boat, the Admiral suggested "a large reward of prize money for the capture or destruction of a 'David'. I should say not less than $20,000 or $30,000 for each. They are worth more than that to us."
Rear Admiral Lee wrote Assistant Secretary of the Navy Fox about the blockade off Wilmington. He reported that "the number of blockade runners captured or destroyed since July 12, [is] 26, and since the blockade was strengthened last fall the number is 23 steamers lost to the trade. . . . I don't believe that many prizes will be made hereafter; the runners now take to the beach too readily when they see a blockader by day or night. . . . I think the additions to the runners are less than the numbers destroyed, etc. . . . The blockade off Wilmington is the blockade of two widely separated entrances each requiring as much force as Charleston did if not more. Experience teaches that a mere inner line will not answer for blockading in this steam era. Now the blockaders are from 1 to 2 miles, and more, apart. . . . Wilmington and its entrances and adjacent inlets require more attention than all the rest of the coast. The depots at Bermuda and Nassau are tributary to it." The Admiral also continued to urge an attack on Wilmington: "I long to cooperate with an army capable of investing Richmond or Wilmington, a la Vicksburg."
21 Lieutenant Commander Francis M. Ramsay off the mouth of the Red River reported that the water in the river was too low for three Confederate gunboats at Shreveport to get over the falls. This boded ill for the success of the Federals' Red River expedition soon to be undertaken.
22 Secretary Mallory wrote Flag Officer Barron, CSN, in Paris: "If you could raise the blockade of Wilmington, an important service would thereby be rendered, a service which would enable neutrals to carry a great deal of cotton from that port. . . . A dash at the New England ports and commerce might be made very destructive and would be a heavy blow in the right direction. A few days' cruising on the banks might inflict severe injury on the fisheries. The interception of the California steamers also offers good service. . . . Unless you determine to strike a blow which necessarily requires a combination of your force, it would be judicious to send the ships in opposite directions to distract the enemy in pursuit. It would be well, too, to give instructions looking to the occasional disguise and change of name of each vessel for the same purpose. Their advent upon the high seas will raise a howl throughout New England, and I trust it may be well founded. The destruction of a few ships off New York and Boston, Bath and Portland would raise insurance upon their coasting trade a hundred per cent above its present rates." Mallory well recalled the profound effect Lieutenant Charles W. Read's cruise in June 1863 had had on New England mercantile interests.
Tinclad U.S.S. Whitehead, Acting Master William N. Welles, ordered on an expedition up the Roanoke River by Lieutenant Commander Flusser, destroyed a corn mill used by Confederate troops near Rainbow Bluff, North Carolina. Torpedoes were reported to be planted in the river above that point, which Flusser observed "would argue rather fear of our advance than an intention on their part to attack.'' Flusser made this remark in the wake of repeatedly expressed concern over a rumored massive Confederate attack on Union positions in the sounds of North Carolina.
U.S.S. Virginia, Acting Lieutenant C. H. Brown, captured blockade running British schooner Henry Colthirst, off San Luis Pass, Texas, with cargo of gunpowder, hardware, and provisions.
U.S.S. Linden, Acting Master Thomas M. Farrell, attempting to aid transport Ad. Hines, hit a snag in the Arkansas River and sank.
23 Rear Admiral C. H. Bell wrote Secretary Welles from U.S.S. Lancaster at Acapulco, Mexico: "Such is the present state of affairs at Acapulco that it is believed by both native and foreign populations that the presence of man-of-war alone prevented an attempt to sack and destroy the town by the Indians in the interior, encouraged by the governor, General Alvarez. . . . Far from the main theaters of the Civil War, a U.S. naval vessel was carrying out the traditional mission of protecting American interests and keeping the peace.
24 U.S.S. Nita, Acting Lieutenant Robert B. Smith, chased blockade runner Nan-Nan ashore in the East Pass of Suwannee River, Florida. The steamer's crew fired her to prevent her falling into Union hands, but part of Nan-Nan's cargo of cotton, thrown overboard during the chase, was recovered.
25 U.S.S. Roebuck, Acting Master Sherrill, seized blockade running British sloop Two Brothers in Indian River, Florida, with cargo including salt, liquor, and nails.
26 While on night picket duty at Charleston harbor, a boat commanded by Acting Master's Mate William H. Kitching, Jr., from U.S.S. Nipsic, was captured by a Confederate cutter from C.S.S. Palmetto State. The Union boat encountered her captors in a thick fog and was unable to with-draw rapidly enough against the flood tide to escape. Kitching and his five crew members were taken prisoner and confined initially on board C.S.S. Charleston near Fort Sumter.
26–27 Boat expedition under the command of Acting Master E. C. Weeks, U.S.S. Tahoma, destroyed a large salt works belonging to the Confederate government on Goose Creek, near St. Marks, Florida. As Rear Admiral Bailey noted in his report to Secretary Welles: . . . the works to be destroyed were under the protection of a rebel cavalry company, whose pickets the expedition succeeded in eluding."
27 U.S.S. Roebuck, Acting Master Sherrill, seized blockade running British sloop Nina with cargo of liquors and coffee, and schooner Rebel with cargo of salt, liquor, and cotton, at Indian River Inlet, Florida.
Lieutenant David Porter McCorkle, CSN, wrote Commander C. ap R. Jones relaying information he had received from Lieutenant Augustus McLaughlin of the Columbus, Georgia, naval station: "The Muscogee draws too much water; she has to be altered. It will be a long time before the Muscogee will be ready. . . . On 16 March the editor of the Columbus Enquirer bitterly in-vited the public to "take a stroll below the wharf to see how much money has been wasted on a slanting 'dicular looking craft." Muscogee, he said, looked like an ark, and "nothing short of a flood will float it."
28 Lieutenant Minor, CSN, reporting on the progress being made on the ram C.S.S. Albemarle, told Secretary Mallory: . . . with the exception of some little connecting work to be completed [the ironclad] may be considered as ready. Steam will probably be raised on Friday next. The iron is all on the hull . . . the carpenters are now bolting the first layers of plate on the shield, and as long as iron is available the work will progress. The Rudder is in place. Shell room and magazine prepared. Officer quarters arranged and berth deck ready for either hammocks if allowed the ship or bunks if the canvas cannot be obtained. . . . The ship is now afloat and when ready for service will I think draw between 7 to 8 feet . . . The guns, carriages, and equip-ment have not yet arrived, but are expected on the 4th of March. . . ." Albemarle was launched less than two months later, on 17 April.
U.S.S. Penobscot, Lieutenant Commander Andrew F. K. Benham, seized British schooner Lilly attempting to run the blockade at Velasco, Texas, with cargo of powder.
29 The U.S. consular agent at Calais, France, sent Captain Winslow, U.S.S. Kearsarge, a detailed description of C.S.S. Rappahannock, Lieutenant William P. A. Campbell, under the impression that she would soon attempt to begin a cruise on the high seas. Rappahannock had been purchased for the Confederacy in England by Commander Matthew Fontaine Maury the previous year and in November had been brought to Calais to continue necessary repairs. Late in January, Flag Officer Barron had instructed Campbell to rendezvous with C.S.S. Georgia, Lieutenant William E. Evans, as soon as possible in order to transfer the latter's guns to Rappahannock. Though Georgia subsequently made her way to the appointed place of rendezvous off Morocco, Rappahannock never left Calais, detained by want of crew members and the French Government. She did, however, serve the Confederacy as a depot for men and supplies intended for other ships.
Two boats from U.S.S. Monticello led by Lieutenant William B. Cushing landed at Confederate-held Smithville, North Carolina, at night to attempt the capture of General Louis Hebert. The daring Cushing found his way with three of his men to the General's quarters in the middle of town and within fifty yards of the Confederate barracks. Cushing was disappointed to find that Hebert had gone to Wilmington earlier that day and instead reported to Rear Admiral Lee: "I send Captain Kelly, C.S. Army, to you, deeply regretting that the general was not in when I called."
U.S.S. Penobscot, Lieutenant Commander Benham, captured blockade running schooners Stingray and John Douglas with cargoes of cotton off Velasco, Texas.
U.S.S. Virginia, Acting Lieutenant C. H. Brown, captured Confederate schooner Camilla with cargo of cotton off the coast at Galveston, Texas. The sloop Catherine Holt was also cap-tured with cargo of cotton, but she went aground off San Luis Pass and was burned.
29-5 March Prior to the launching of the Red River campaign, Rear Admiral Porter ordered a naval reconnaissance expedition under Lieutenant Commander Ramsay to ascend the Black and Ouachita Rivers, Louisiana. The force included paddle wheel monitor U.S.S. Osage and gunboats Ouachita, Lexington, Fort Hindman, Conestoga, and Cricket. Ramsay moved up the Black River and met with
no resistance until late in the afternoon, 1 March, when Confederate sharpshooters took his ships under fire below Trinity. The gunboats countered with a hail of grape, canister, and shrapnel and steamed above the city before anchoring for the night. Next day Ram say's vessels entered the Ouachita River and Osage, Acting Master Thomas Wright, suffered a casualty which disabled her turret. Below Harrisonburg, Louisiana, which the naval force shelled on 2 March, Confederate troops again opened fire on the naval force, centering their attention on Fort Hindman, which took 27 hits. One of them disabled Fort Hindman's starboard engine and Ramsay dropped her back, transferring to Ouachita. She took 3 hits but suffered no serious damage, and the gun-boats silenced the Southern fire ashore. Ramsay proceeded as far as Catahoula Shoals and Bayou Louis without further incident. "I found plenty of water to enable me to proceed to Monroe," Ramsay reported, "but the water was falling so fast I deemed it best to return. The gunboats returned to the mouth of the Red River on 5 March after spending the 3rd and 4th landing at var-ious places and capturing field pieces and cotton, briefly engaging Confederate troops once more.