Naval History of the Civil War June 1861

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Civil War Naval History

 

June 1861

1 U.S.S. Union, Commander J. R. Goldsborough. captured Confederate schooner F. W. Johnson with cargo of railroad iron off the coast of North Carolina.

Captain Du Pont wrote: "I do not like the tone of things in England Lord Derby and Granville, etc., talk of two thousand miles of coast to be blockaded! They seem to forget so far as their rights and international interests are concerned we have only to blockade the ports of entry- from the Chesapeake to Galveston- any venture into any other harbors or inlets of any kind is liable to capture as a smuggler. It is the intention of the Government, I presume, to connect the shore between blockaded ports by light draft cruisers to prevent the ingress of arms and contraband, and the egress of privateers- but that is our business as a war measure- an effective blockade means the covering of the ports of entry- and this will be easily done in my judgment.

3 Confederate privateer Savannah Captain Baker, captured American brig Joseph with cargo of sugar; Savannah was then captured by U.S.S. Perry, Lieutenant Parrott.

5 Revenue Cutter Harriett Lane, Captain Faunce, USRM, engaged Confederate battery at Pig Point, Hampton Roads.

USS. Niagara. Captain MeKean, captured schooner Aid at Mobile.

Flag Officer Pendergrast reported the capture of bark General Green by U.S.S. Quaker City, Commander Overton Carr, at the Capes of the Chesapeake.

8 U.S.S. Mississippi, Flag Officer Mervine, set blockade at Key West.

U.S.S. Resolute, Acting Master W. Budd, having captured schooner Somerset at Breton's Bay. towed her close to the Virginia shore and burned her.

9 U.S.S. Massachusetts, Commander Melancton Smith, captured British blockade runner Perthshire with cargo of cotton near Pensacola.

10 U.S.S. Union, Commander J.R. Goldsborough, captured brig Hallie Jackson off Savannah with cargo of molasses.

Lieutenant John Mercer Brooke, CSN. ordered to design ironclad C.S.S. Virginia (ex-U.S.S. Merrimack).

13 U.S.S. Mississippi, Flag Officer Mervine, captured schooner Forest King, at Key West.

14 American schooner Christiana Ken, grounded and was burned by Confederates near Upper Machodoc Creek, Virginia.

Is Major General Robert F. Lee wrote Virginia Governor John Fletcher regarding preparations for the defense of the state: "The frigate United States- has been prepared for a school ship, provided with a deck battery of nineteen guns, 32-pounders and 9-inch Columbiads, for harbor defense. The frigate Merrimack has been raised and is in for the dry dock, and arrangements are made for raising the Germantown and Plymouth.'' Lee, showing his understanding of the serious threat posed by Union naval operations on the rivers, reported that: "Six batteries have been erected on the Elizabeth River, to guard the approaches to Norfolk and the Navy Yard... prevent ascent of the Nansemond River and the occupation of the railroad from Norfolk to Richmond, three batteries have been constructed ... Sites for batteries on the Potomac have also been selected, and arrangements were in progress for their construction, but the entire command of that river being in the possession of the U.S. Government, a larger force is required for their security than could be devoted to that purpose. The batteries at Aquia Creek have only been prepared . . . On the Rappahannock River a 4-gun battery ... has been erected."

17 U.S.S. Massachusetts, Commander M. Smith, captured schooner Achilles near Ship Island, Mississippi.

18 U.S.S. Union, Commander J. R. Goldsborough, captured Confederate blockade runner Amelia at Charleston with cargo of contraband from Liverpool.

Major General Robert E. Lee wrote Lieutenant Robert Randolph Carter, CSN, commander of C.S.S. Teaser: 'It is desired that the C.S. steam tender Teaser shall unite with the batteries at Jamestown Island in defense of James River, and be employed in obtaining intelligence of the movements of hostile vessels and the landing of troops either side of the river. It is suggested that you establish a system of signals as a means of communication with the troops, and take every precaution not to jeopardize the safety of your boat by proceeding too far beyond the protection of the guns of the batteries.

19 U.S.S. Massachusetts, Commander M. Smith, captured blockade running brig Nahum Stetson off Pass a l'Outre, Louisiana.

23 Confederate Navy- began reconstruction of ex- U.S.S. Merrimack as ironclad C.S.S. Virginia at Norfolk.

U.S.S. Massachusetts, Commander M. Smith, captured Mexican schooner Brilliant, with cargo of flour, and Confederate schooners Trois Freres, Olive Branch, Fanny, and Basile in the Gulf of Mexico.

24 U.S.S. Pawnee, Commander Rowan, and U.S.S. Thomas Freeborn, Commander Ward, shelled Confederate batteries at Mathias Point, Virginia.

25 Secretary of the Navy Welles received a report that "the rebels in New Orleans are constructing an infernal submarine vessel to destroy the Brooklyn, or any vessel blockading the mouth of the Mississippi... a projectile with a sharp iron or steel pointed prow to perforate the bottom of the vessel and then explode." It was also reported that "a formidable floating battery [is] being built at Mobile, to be mounted with large guns of immense size and range to drive away or capture the ships, by engaging them at long range.

26 U.S.S. Minnesota, Flag Officer Stringham, captured bark Sally Magee off Hampton Roads.

27 Blockade Strategy Board met under the chairmanship of Captain Du Pont and included as members Commander Charles H. Davis, USN. Major John G. Barnard, USA Corps of Engineers, and Professor Alexander D. Bache, Superintendent U.S. Coast Survey, to consider and report on the major problems of the blockade and to plan amphibious operations to seize vital bases on the Southern coast. Recommendations made by the Blockade Strategy Board, an early example of a "Joint Staff," had a profound effect on the course of the conflict and pointed the way to the successful naval actions at Hatteras Inlet, Port Royal, and New Orleans. The broad policies the Board early set forth were essentially followed to their culmination at Appomattox.

U.S.S. Resolute, Acting Master W. Budd, burned a Confederate supply depot on Virginia shore of the Potomac River.

U.S.S. Thomas Freeborn, Commander Ward, U.S.S. Reliance. Acting Lieutenant Jared P. K. Mygatt, with two boats under Lieutenant James C. Chaplin, from U.S.S. Pawnee, Commander Rowan, attacked Confederate forces at Mathias Point, Virginia. Commander Ward was killed in the action. Naval actions at Mathias Point, Aquia Creek, and elsewhere caused Admiral D.D. Porter to observe of these early operations on the Potomac and Chesapeake: "... the country was too busy watching the black clouds gathering in the South and West to note the ordinary events that were taking place on the Potomac, yet they formed the small links in the chain, which in the end, shackled the arms of the great rebellion.''

28 Confederate privateer Jefferson Davis, formerly slaver Echo, Captain Louis M. Coxetter, sailed from Charleston, later made numerous captures of Union ships along the coast, and caused much consternation on the Eastern seaboard.

Captain Du Pont, Chairman of the Blockade Strategy Board, wrote: "The order we received . . . set forth . . . the selection of two ports, one in South Carolina, another in the confines of Georgia and Florida, for coal depots . . . it seems impossible to supply the blockading fleet with coal without these depots."

28-29 Side-wheel steamer St. Nicholas, making scheduled run between Baltimore and Georgetown, D.C., was captured by Confederates who had boarded her posing as passengers at the steamer's various stopping points on the Potomac River. Confederates were led by Captain George N. Hollins, CSN, who took command of St. Nicholas, and Colonel Richard Thomas, CSA, who boarded disguised as a woman. St. Nicholas then began search for U.S.S. Pawnee, but, not finding her, put out into the Chesapeake Bay, where she seized schooners Margaret and Mary Pierce and brig Monticello the following day, 29 June.

30 C.S.S. Sumter, Commander Semmes, ran the blockade at the mouth of Mississippi River and escaped to sea through Pass a I'Outre, eluding U.S.S. Brooklyn, whereupon the crew "gave three hearty cheers for the flag of the Confederate States, thus ... thrown to the breeze on the high seas by a ship of war, launching Semmes' famous career as a commerce raider.

U.S.S. Reliance, Lieutenant Mygatt, seized and destroyed sloop Passenger in the Potomac River.