Naval History of the Civil War December 1860

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Civil War Naval History

 

January 1861


5 U.S. steamer Star of the West, Captain John McGowan, USRM, departed New York with an Army detachment for the relief of Fort Sumter, Charleston Harbor, South Carolina.

Secretary of the Navy Toucey ordered Fort Washington-on Maryland side of the Potomac– garrisoned "to protect public property." Forty Marines from Washington Navy Yard under Captain Algernon S. Taylor, USMC, were sent to the Fort-a vital link in the defense of the Nation's Capital by land or water.

Fort Morgan, at the entrance to Mobile Bay, Alabama, was seized and garrisoned by Alabama militia.

9 U.S. steamer Star of the West, Captain McGowan, was fired on by Confederate troops from Morris Island and Fort Moultrie as she attempted to enter Charleston Harbor. Cadets from the Citadel took part in this action. The relief of Fort Sumter was not effected. These were the first Confederate shots fired at a vessel flying the United States flag. Star of the West returned to New York.

Thirty Marines from Washington Navy Yard under First Lieutenant Andrew J. Hays, USMC, garrisoned Fort McHenry, Baltimore, until U.S. Army troops could relieve them.

10 Forts Jackson and St. Philip, Mississippi River, Louisiana, were seized by Louisiana State troops. 11 U.S. Marine Hospital two miles below New Orleans was occupied by Louisiana State troops.

12 Fort Barrancas and the Pensacola Navy Yard, Captain James Armstrong, USN, were seized by Florida and Alabama militia. Union troops escaped across the Bay to Fort Pickens on Santa Rosa Island, a position which remained in Union hands throughout the war.

14 South Carolina legislature declared any attempt to reinforce Fort Sumter would be an act of war.

16 Captain Taylor, USMC, commanding Fort Washington, wrote Colonel John Harris, Marine Corps Commandant, regarding the "defenseless and pregnable condition" of the Fort. Taylor requested reinforcements, commenting that he did "not wish to be placed in a position to detract from the high character of my corps."

18 Confederates seized U.S. lighthouse tender Alert at Mobile, Alabama.

20 Fort on Ship Island, Mississippi, seized by Confederates; Ship Island was a key base for operations in the Gulf of Mexico and at the mouth of the Mississippi River.

22 Guns and ammunition sold to and destined for Georgia were seized by New York authorities. This action was protested by Georgia Governor Joseph E. Brown in a letter to New York Governor Edwin Morgan. In retaliation Governor Brown seized northern ships at Savannah on 8 and 21 February 1861. Marine Guard at Brooklyn Navy Yard put under arms as a precaution against difficulty with Confederate sympathizers.

23 Commander John A. Dahlgren noted that as a precaution against an attack on the Washington Navy Yard, he had the cannon and the ammunition from the Yard magazine removed to the attic of the main building.

25 Captain Samuel F. Du Pont wrote Commander Andrew Hull Foote about the number of naval officers resigning their commissions to go to their home States in the South: "What made me most sick at heart, is the resignations from the Navy . . . I [have been] nurtured, fed and clothed by the general government for over forty years, paid whether employed or not, and for what- why to stand by the country, whether assailed by enemies from without or foes within- my oath declared 'allegiance to the United States' as well as to support the Constitution . . I stick by the flag and the national government as long as we have one, whether my state does or not and she knows it.

28 Stephen R. Mallory, later Confederate Secretary of the Navy, hearing that U.S.S. Brooklyn, Captain William S. Walker, was en route to reinforce Fort Pickens, wired John Slidell that, if attempted, "resistance and a bloody conflict seems inevitable."

29 Secretaries of the Navy and War ordered that the Marines and troops on board U.S.S Brooklyn, Captain Walker, en route Pensacola, not be landed to reinforce Fort Pickens unless that work was taken under attack by the Confederates.

Louisiana having passed the ordinance of secession on 26 January, Secretary of the Treasury John A. Dix wired Agent William H. Jones at New Orleans ordering him not to surrender the U.S. Revenue Cutter there and to defend the American flag with force if necessary. Robert McClelland surrendered by Captain John G. Breshwood, USRM, to Louisiana authorities despite contrary command by Agent Jones.

30 U.S. Revenue Schooner Lewis Cass, Captain John J. Morrison, USRM, was surrendered at Mobile to State authorities.

31 U.S. Revenue Schooner Washington, Captain Robert K. Hudgins, USRM, was seized by State authorities at New Orleans, while undergoing repairs.