Civil War Naval History
1 Wooden side-wheelers U.S.S. Morse, Lieutenant Commander Babcock, and U.S.S. General Putnam, Acting Master Hugh H. Savage, convoyed 2,500 Army troops up the York River to West Point, Virginia, where the soldiers were landed under the ships' guns and occupied the town. Another side-wheel steamer, U.S.S. Shawsheen, Acting Master Henry A. Phelon, joined the naval forces later in the day and operated with General Putnam in the Pamunkey River "for covering our troops and resisting any attack which might be made by the enemy." Morse patrolled the Mattapony River where, Babcock reported, "my guns would sweep the whole plain before the entrenchments." Army movements, as Rear Admiral Lee had observed of an earlier plan by Major General Benjamin F. Butler, required "a powerful cooperating naval force to cover his landing, protect his position, and keep open his communications."
U.S.S. Fox, Acting Master Charles T. Chase, captured sloop Oscar outbound from St. Marks, Florida, with cargo of cotton.
2-9 Colonel Bailey and his regiments of Maine and New York soldiers succeeded, after eight days of gruelling work, in nearly completing the dam across the Red River at Alexandria, and hopes rose that Rear Admiral Porter would be able to save the Mississippi Squadron, marooned above the rapids. On 9 May, two of the stone-filled barges which had been sunk as parts of the dam gave way under the increasing pressure of the backed-up water. The barges, however, swung into position to form a chute over the rapids, and Porter quickly ordered his lighter draft vessels to attempt a passage through the gap. As the water was falling, ironclads Osage and Neosho and wooden steamers Fort Hindman and Lexington careened over the rapids with little damage. As Porter later recalled about this thrilling moment: "Thirty thousand voices rose in one deafening cheer, and universal joy seemed to pervade the face of every man present. But all of Porter's vessels were not yet safe, as the larger ships of the squadron remained above the falls. "The accident to the dam," the Admiral related, "instead of disheartening Colonel Bailey, only induced him to renew his exertions, after he had seen the success of getting four vessels through." Bailey and his men, despite the fact that eight days of the heaviest labor had been swept away, turned immediately to work on a new dam.
3 U.S.S. Chocura, Lieutenant Commander Bancroft Gherardi, captured blockade running British schooner Agnes off the mouth of the Brazos River, Texas, with cargo of cotton. Later that same day, Chocura overhauled and captured Prussian schooner Frederick the Second, also laden with cotton, which had run the blockade with Agnes.
U.S.S. Virginia, Acting Lieutenant C. H. Brown, captured schooner Experiment off the Texas coast and destroyed her after removing the cotton cargo.
4 Flag Officer Barron in Paris wrote Secretary Mallory: "I have the honor to inform you that the Georgia, after having received in the port of Bordeaux all necessary aid and courtesy, has arrived in Liverpool, where I have turned her over to Commander J. D. Bulloch, agent for the Navy Department in Europe, to be disposed of for the benefit of the Government. . . . the plans which I had formed for equipping the Rappahannock for service as a man-of-war have been a second time frustrated by the unexplained and unjustifiable action of the French authorities in detaining the Rappahannock in the port of Calais. Had she been permitted to sail on the day appointed by her commander her concerted meeting with the Georgia would have taken place in a fine, out-of-the-way harbor on the coast of Morocco, in and about which place the Georgia had six days of uninterrupted good weather and secure from the notice of all Europeans." As the tide of war turned relentlessly against the Confederacy, foreign governments became increasingly reluctant to involve themselves in the conflict by allowing raiders to outfit in their harbors, and Union diplomatic moves to choke off this source of Southern sea power intensified.
4-7 Steamers U.S.S. Sunflower, Acting Master Edward Van Sice, and Honduras, Acting Master John H. Platt, and sailing bark J. L. Davis, Acting Master William Fales, supported the capture of Tampa, Florida, in a combined operation. The Union ships carried the soldiers to Tampa and pro-vided a naval landing party which joined in the assault. Van Sice reported of the engagement: "At 7 A.M. the place was taken possession of, capturing some 40 prisoners, the naval force capturing about one-half, which were turned over to the Army, and a few minutes after 7 the Stars and Stripes were hoisted in the town by the Navy." The warships also captured blockade running sloop Neptune on 6 May with cargo of cotton. Brigadier General Daniel Woodbury later wrote to Rear Admiral Bailey, Commander of the East Gulf Blockading Squadron: "I wish to acknowledge the important service you have rendered to the army department by placing the gunboat Honduras in my charge, and by your special and general instructions to the commanding Officers of your squadron to assist and cooperate in any military operations."
5 C.S.S. Albemarle, Commander Cooke, with Bombshell, Lieutenant Albert G. Hudgins, and Cotton Plant in company, steamed into Albemarle Sound and engaged Union naval forces in fierce action off the mouth of the Roanoke River. Bombshell was captured early in the action after coming under severe fire from U.S.S. Sassacus, and Cotton Plant withdrew up the Roanoke. Albemarle resolutely continued the action. Sassacus, Lieutenant Commander Roe, gallantly rammed the heavy ironclad but with little effect. Sassacus received a direct hit in her starboard boiler, killing several sailors and forcing her out of action Side-wheelers U.S.S. Mattabesett, Captain M. Smith, and U.S.S. Wyalusing, Lieutenant Commander Walter W. Queen, continued to engage the Southern ram until darkness halted the action after nearly three hours of intensive fighting. As Assistant Surgeon Samuel P. Boyer, on board Mattabesett, wrote: "Shot and shell came fast like hail." Albemarle withdrew up the Roanoke River and small side-wheelers U.S.S. Commodore Hull and Ceres steamed to the river's mouth on picket duty to guard against her reentry into the sound. The ironclad had returned to her river haven, but she had given new evidence that she was a mighty force to be reckoned with. Captain Smith reported: "The ram is certainly very formidable. He is fast for that class of vessel, making from 6 to 7 knots, turns quickly, and is armed with heavy guns. . . ." And Lieutenant Commander Roe noted: ". . . I am forced to think that the Albemarle is more formidable than the Merrimack or Atlanta, for our solid l00– pounder rifle shot flew into splinters upon her iron plates." Albemarle's commander was more critical of her performance. Three days later he wrote Secretary Mallory that the ram "draws too much water to navigate the sounds well, and has not sufficient bouyancy. In consequence she is very slow and not easily managed. Her decks are so near the water as to render it an easy task for the enemy's vessels to run on her, and any great weight soon submerges the deck." For the next five months Union efforts in the area focused on Albemarle's destruction.
While Rear Admiral Porter's fleet awaited the opportunity to pass over the Red River rapids, the ships below Alexandria were incessantly attacked by Confederate forces. This date, wooden steamers U.S.S. Covington, Acting Lieutenant George P. Lord, U.S.S. Signal, Acting Lieutenant Edward Morgan, and transport Warner were lost in a fierce engagement on the Red River near Dunn's Bayou, Louisiana. On 4 May, Covington and Warner had been briefly attacked by infantry, and the next morning the Confederates reappeared with two pieces of artillery and a large company of riflemen. Warner, in the lead, soon went out of control, blocked the river at a bend near Pierce's Landing, and despite the efforts of Lord and Morgan was forced to surrender. Signal also became disabled and although Covington attempted to tow her upstream, she went adrift out of control and came to anchor. The gunboats continued the hot engagement, but Lord finally burned and abandoned Covington after his ammunition was exhausted and many of the crew were killed. After continuing to sustain the Confederate cannonade alone, the crippled Signal was finally compelled to strike the colors. The Southerners then sank Signal as a channel obstruc-tion.
Chief Engineer Henry A. Ramsay of the newly established Confederate Navy Yard, Charlotte, North Carolina, advised Commander Brooke, Chief of the Naval Bureau of Ordnance, that be-cause of difficulties in recruiting skilled workers and a shortage of mechanics he was unable to operate some of the equipment for arming Southern ironclads; nor could he repair the locomo-tives assigned to that station by Secretary Mallory. He added: "I understand from you that the iron-clad Virginia [No. II] at Richmond is now in readiness for action except her gun carriages and wrought-iron projectiles, which arc being made at these works. If we had a full force of mechanics this work would have been finished in one-half the time. . . . Two days later, Lieutenant David P. McCorkle wrote Brooke in a similar vein from the Naval Ordnance Works at Atlanta, Georgia. This chronic shortage of skilled workers combined with the material shortages occasioned by the blockade could not be surmounted by the Confederacy.
6 U.S.S. Commodore Jones, Acting Lieutenant Thomas Wade, was destroyed by a huge 2,000-pound electric torpedo in the James River while dragging for torpedoes with U.S.S. Mackinaw and Commodore Morris. From the Norfolk Naval Hospital, Wade later reported that the torpedo "exploded directly under the ship with terrible effect, causing her destruction instantly, absolutely blowing the vessel to splinters." Other observers said that the hull of the converted ferryboat was lifted completely out of the water by the force of the explosion which claimed some 40 lives. A landing party of Sailors and Marines went ashore immediately and captured two torpedomen and the galvanic batteries which had detonated the mine. One of the Confederates, Jeffries Johnson, refused to divulge information regarding the location of torpedoes under interrogation, but he "signified his willingness to tell all" when he was placed in the bow of the forward ship on river duty, and Johnson became the war's "unique minesweeper."
Early in the evening, C.S.S. Raleigh, Flag Officer Lynch, steamed over the bar at New Inlet, North Carolina, and engaged U.S.S. Britannia and Nansemond, forcing them to withdraw temporarily and enabling a blockade runner to escape. Captain Sands, senior officer present, commented: "The principal object [of Raleigh's attack], it seems to me . . . is for her to aid the outgoing and incom-ing of the runners by driving off the vessels stationed on and near the bar. . . ." Early the next morning, Raleigh renewed the engagement, exchanging fire with wooden steamers U.S.S. Howquah and Nansemond. Two other steamers, U.S.S. Mount Vernon and Kansas, also opened on the ram, and at 6 a.m. Lynch broke off the action. Attempting to cross the bar at the mouth of Cape Fear River, Raleigh grounded and was severely damaged. Lynch order her destroyed; his action was sanctioned by a subsequent court of inquiry. Thus, the Confederacy lost another formidable ram, one upon which Southern Army commanders had been depending to defend the inner bars from Union attack.
U.S.S. Granite City, Acting Master C.W. Lamson, and U.S.S. Wave, Acting Lieutenant Benjamin A. Loring, were captured by Confederate troops in Calcasieu River, Louisiana. Steamer Granite City and tinclad Wave had been dispatched to Calcasieu Pass to receive refugees on 28 April and both ships carried out this duty until the morning of the captures, landing a small army de-tachment on shore as pickets. The Southerners, with artillery and about 350 sharpshooters from the Sabine Pass garrison, overwhelmed the Union landing party, and took the ships under fire on the morning of 6 May. After an hour's engagement, Granite City surrendered; upon receiving shot in her boiler and steam drum, Wave shortly followed suit. On the 10th U.S.S. New London, Acting Master Lyman Wells, unaware that the Confederates had surprised and taken the Union vessels, arrived off Calcasieu. Wells sent one boat to Granite City, which did not return. On the morning of the 11th, he sent another boat, under the command of Acting Ensign Henry Jackson, toward Granite City under flag of truce. Seeing a Confederate flag flying from her, Jackson tried to shoot it down and was killed by a Southern sharpshooter. Upon receiving Acting Master Wells' report, Rear Admiral Farragut immediately planned to recapture the vessels but, having insufficient ships of light draft available, was forced to postpone his efforts.
U.S.S. Dawn, Acting Lieutenant John W. Simmons, transported soldiers to capture a signal station at Wilson's Wharf, Virginia. After landing the troops two miles above the station, Simmons proceeded to Sandy Point to cover the attack. When the soldiers were momentarily halted, a boat crew from Dawn spearheaded the successful assault.
U.S.S. Grand Gulf Commander George M. Ransom, captured blockade running British steamer Young Republic at sea east of Savannah with cargo of cotton and tobacco. Two weeks later, Rear Admiral Lee congratulated Ransom on the seizure and wrote: "Every capture made by the blockaders deprives the enemy of so much of the 'sinews of war,' and is equal to the taking of a supply train from the rebel Army."
U.S.S. Eutaw, Osceola, Pequot, Shokokon, and General Putnam, side-wheelers of Rear Admiral Lee's North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, supported the landing of troops at Bermuda Hundred, Virginia.
7 U.S.S. Shawsheen, Acting Ensign Charles Ringot, was disabled, captured and destroyed by Confederates in James River. Shawsheen, a 180-ton side-wheel steamer, had been ordered to drag the river for torpedoes above Chaffin's Bluff, and had anchored near shore shortly before noon so that the crew could eat, when Confederate infantry and artillery surprised the gunboat. A shot through the boiler forced many sailors overboard to avoid being scalded. Lieutenant Colonel W.M. Elliott, CSA, reported that Shawsheen was completely disabled and "though reluctantly, she nevertheless hauled down her colors and displayed the white flag in token of surrender. A boat was dispatched to enforce the delivery of the prisoners on board, the enemy's boats being made available to bring them off. The officer was also instructed to fire the vessel, which was effectively done, the fire quickly reaching the magazine, exploding it, consigning all to the wind and waves.
The Confederacy, hampered by limited armaments and foundries, sought to make optimum use of every piece of captured Union ordnance. This date, Major General Camille J. Polignac, CSA, pointed out the significance of the Southern capture of U.S.S. Signal and Covington and their two Parrott guns (see 6 May): "It is very important and desirable that these fruits of our victories over the enemy's gunboats shall be saved to us, as well as lost to them."
9 Rear Admiral Farragut again wrote Secretary Welles requesting ironclads for the reduction of Mobile Bay: "I am in hourly expectation of being attacked by almost an equal number of vessels, ironclads against wooden vessels, and a most unequal contest it will be, as the Tennessee is repre-sented as impervious to all their experiments at Mobile so that our only hope is to run her down, which we shall certainly do all in our power to accomplish; but should we be unsuccessful the panic in this part of the country will be beyond all control. They will imagine that New Orleans and Pensacola must fall." At this time Admiral Buchanan was trying to float Tennessee over the Mobile bar using watertight caissons or "camels". Until that could be effected, there would be no engagement with Farragut's fleet.
U.S.S. Connecticut, Commander Almy, seized blockade running British steamer Minnie with cargo of cotton, tobacco, turpentine, and $10,000 in gold. The steamer was a well-known suc-cessful blockade runner. On 16 April 1864, John T. Bourne, Confederate commercial agent at St. Georges, Bermuda, had advised B.W. Hart Company, of London: "Steamer Minnie, Captain [Thomas S.] Gilpin, has made a splendid trip bringing 700 & odd bales of cotton & good lot of Tobacco paying for herself & the Emily."
10 U.S. Army transport Harriet A. Weed, supporting troop movements in the St. John's River, was destroyed by a torpedo. Sinking in less than a minute, the steamer became the third victim of stepped-up Confederate torpedo activity in the St. John's River in less than six weeks. While reconnoitering the river near Harriet A. Weed's hulk, U.S.S. Vixen recovered a torpedo of the type that destroyed the transport. The keg torpedo was, reported Charles O. Boutelle of the Coast Survey, "simple and effectual".
U.S.S. Mound City, Acting Lieutenant Amos R. Langthorne, and U.S.S. Carondelet, Lieutenant Commander John G. Mitchell, grounded near where work was proceeding on the wing dams across the Red River rapids above Alexandria. Next day, as the Red River slowly continued to rise behind the two wing dams, ironclads Mound City, Carondelet, and U.S.S. Pittsburg, Acting Lieutenant William R. Hoel, were finally hauled across the upper falls above the obstructions by throngs of straining soldiers. As the troops looked on in tense anticipation, the gunboats, all hatches battened down, successfully lurched through the gap between the dams to safety. Rear Admiral Porter later reported to Secretary Welles: "The passage of these vessels was a beauti-ful sight, only to be realized when seen." U.S.S. Ozark, Louisville, and Chillicothe, ironclads which had crossed the upper falls, were preparing to follow the next day.
U.S.S. Connecticut, Commander Almy, captured blockade running British steamer Greyhound, Lieutenant George H. Bier, CSN, with cargo of cotton, tobacco, and turpentine on the Govern-ment account.
12 Rear Admiral Lee, prompted by the recent loss of U.S.S. Commodore Jones and Shawsheen, ordered Lieutenant Roswell H. Lamson to command a special "torpedo and picket division" in the James River. The force would comprise side-wheelers U.S.S. Stepping Stones, Delaware, and Tritonia. In addition to patrolling and reconnoitering the river banks and dragging the river itself for torpedoes, Lee directed Lamson: "By night keep picket vessels and boats ahead and underway with alarm signals to prevent surprise from rebel river craft, rams, torpedo 'Davids,' and fire rafts."
Flag Officer Barron in Paris wrote Secretary Mallory: "To-day I have heard indirectly and confidentially that the Alabama may be expected in a European port on any day. Ship and captain both requiring to be docked. Captain Semmes' health has begun to fail, and he feels that rest is needful to him. If he asks for a relief, I shall order Commander T.J. Page to take his place in command, and shall not hesitate to relieve the other officers if they ask for respite from sea duty after their long, arduous, and valuable service on the sea. There are numbers of fine young officers here who are panting for active duty on their proper element, and will cheerfully relieve their brother officers who have so handsomely availed themselves of the opportunities afforded them of rendering such distinguished service to their country and illustrating the naval profession."
Boat expedition under Acting Lieutenant William Budd, U.S.S. Somerset, transported a detachment of troops to Apalachicola, Florida, to disperse a Confederate force thought to be in the vicinity.
After disembarking the troops, Budd and his launches discovered a body of Confederate sailors embarking on a boat expedition, and after a brief exchange succeeded in driving them into the town and capturing their boats and supplies. The Confederates, led by Lieutenant Gift, CSN, had planned to capture U.S.S. Adela.
U.S.S. Beauregard, Acting Master Edward C. Mealy, seized blockade running sloop Resolute off Indian River, Florida.
13 Climaxing two weeks of unceasing effort to save the gunboats and bring to a close the unsuccessful Red River campaign, U.S.S. Louisville, Chillicothe, and Ozark, the last ships of Rear Admiral Porter's stranded fleet, succeeded in passing over the rapids above Alexandria, Louisiana. By mid-afternoon the gunboats steamed down the river, convoying Army transports; thus ended one of the most dramatic exploits of the war, as Lieutenant Colonel Bailey's ingenuity and the inexhaust-ible energy of the men working on the obstructions raised the level of the river enough to save the Mississippi Squadron. Porter later wrote to Secretary Welles: "The water had fallen so low that I had no hope or expectation of getting the vessels out this season, and as the army had made arrangements to evacuate the country I saw nothing before me but the destruction of the best part of the Mississippi squadron. . . ." He rightly praised the work of Colonel Bailey: "Words are inadequate to express the admiration I feel for the abilities of Lieutenant Colonel Bailey. This is without a doubt the best engineering feat ever performed . . . he has saved to the Union a valuable fleet, worth nearly $2,000,000. . . ." Bailey's services received prompt recognition, for in June he was promoted and he later received the formal thanks of Congress.
Small sidewheel steamer U.S.S. Ceres, Acting Master Henry H. Foster, with Army steamer Rockland and 100 embarked soldiers in company, conducted a raiding expedition on the Alligator River, North Carolina, captured Confederate schooner Ann S. Davenport and disabled a mill supplying ground corn for the Southern armies.
15 As ships of Rear Admiral Porter's gunboat fleet neared the mouth of the Red River, they met continued resistance from Confederate shore batteries and riflemen. U.S.S. St. Clair, a 200-ton stern-wheeler under Acting Lieutenant Thomas B. Gregory, engaged a battery near Eunice's Bluff, Louisiana. Gregory exchanged fire with the artillerists until the transports he was con-voying were out of danger, then continued downriver.
U.S.S. Kansas, Lieutenant Commander Pendleton G. Watmough, captured blockade running British steamer Tristram Shandy at sea east of Fort Fisher with cargo of cotton, tobacco, and turpentine.
16 Ships of the Mississippi Squadron were constantly occupied with safeguarding river transportation from Southern attack. Side-wheeler U.S.S. General Price, Acting Lieutenant Richardson, engaged a Confederate battery which had taken transport steamer Mississippi under fire near Ratliff's Landing, Mississippi. U.S.S. Lafayette, Lieutenant Commander J.P. Foster, and U.S.S. General Bragg, Acting Lieutenant Cyrenius Dominy, converged upon the battery and the three heavy steamers forced the Confederate gunners back from the river, enabling the transport to proceed.
Having crossed the rapids of the Red River at Alexandria, Rear Admiral Porter next had to traverse the many bars in the River near its mouth. The Admiral found that the water was higher there than had been anticipated and reported to Secretary Welles: "Providentially we had a rise from the backwater of the Mississippi, that river being very high at that time, the back-water extending to Alexandria, 150 miles distant, enabling us to pass all the bars and obstruc-tions with safety." After battling low water, rapids, and the harassing forces of General Taylor for two months along the Red River, Porter and his gunboats again entered the Mississippi.
A landing party from U.S.S. Stockdale, Acting Lieutenant Thomas Edwards, was fired upon by Confederate cavalry at the mouth of the Tchefuncta River in Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana. Edwards succeeded in forcing the Confederates to withdraw, but not until two of his officers had been captured and one killed.
18 After encountering many difficulties and setbacks Admiral Buchanan succeeded in floating the formidable Confederate ram Tennessee over Dog River Bar and out into Mobile Bay. With Rear Admiral Farragut's fleet forming outside the bay, the stage was now being set for one of the most dramatic and decisive naval battles of the War.
C.S.S. Florida, Lieutenant Morris, captured and burned schooner George Latimer of Baltimore at 34o55' N, 55o13' W, with cargo of flour, lard, bread, and kerosene.
19 U.S.S. General Price, Acting Lieutenant Richardson, engaged a Confederate battery on the banks of the Mississippi River at Tunica Bend, Louisiana. The Southerners, who had been attempting to destroy transport steamer Superior, were forced to evacuate their river position. Richardson put ashore a landing party which burned a group of buildings used by the Confederates as a headquarters from which attacks against river shipping were launched.
21 Gunfire from ironclad steamer U.S.S. Atlanta, Acting Lieutenant Thomas J. Woodward, and U.S.S. Dawn, Acting Lieutenant John W. Simmons, dispersed Confederate cavalry attacking Fort Powhatan on the James Rivet, Virginia. Dawn, a wooden steamer, remained above the fort during the night to prevent another attack.
22 During the long period of watchful waiting and preparation off Mobile, Rear Admiral Farragut wrote his son Loyall: "I am lying off here, looking at Buchanan and awaiting his coming out. He has a force of four ironclads and three wooden vessels. I have eight or nine wooden vessels. We'll try to amuse him if he comes. . . . I have a fine set of vessels here just now, and am anxious for my friend Buchanan to come out.
U.S.S. Kineo, Lieutenant Commander John Waters, seized blockade. running British schooner Sting Ray off Velasco, Texas. However, the prize crew put on board the schooner was overwhelmed by the original crew. The schooner was grounded on the Texas coast, where the Union sailors were turned over to the custody of Confederate troops.
U.S.S. Crusader, Lieutenant Peter Hays, captured schooner Isaac L. Adkins at the mouth of the Severn River, Maryland, with cargo of corn and oats.
23 U.S.S. Columbine, Acting Ensign Sanborn, was captured after a heated engagement with Con-federate batteries and riflemen at Horse Landing, near Palatka, Florida. Columbine, a 130-ton side-wheeler operating in support of Union Army forces and with soldiers embarked, lost steer-ing control and ran onto a mud bank, where she was riddled by the accurate Confederate fire. With some 20 men killed and wounded, Sanborn surrendered "to prevent the further useless expenditure of human life." Shortly after taking the prize, the Southerners destroyed her to avoid recapture by U.S.S. Ottawa, Lieutenant Commander Breese. Ottawa, cooperating with the Army in the same operation, had also been fired upon the night before and suffered damage but no casualties before compelling the Confederate battery at Brown's Landing to withdraw. Rear Admiral Dahlgren wrote: "The loss of the Columbine will be felt most inconveniently; her draft was only 5 or 6 feet, and having only two such steamers, the services of which are needed elsewhere, can not replace her.''
24 President Lincoln, ever ready to recognize the contributions of the officers and men in service afloat, recommended the promotion of Lieutenant Commander Francis A. Roe and First Assistant Engineer James M. Hobby for their distinguished conduct in the fierce battle between U.S.S. Sassacus and C.S.S. Albemarle in Albemarle Sound, North Carolina, on 5 May.
Confederate soldiers captured and burned steamer Lebanon near Ford's Landing, Arkansas. Six days later, Union transport Clara Ames and her cargo of cotton were taken and burned near Gaines Landing, Arkansas, after she was disabled by artillery fire. Confederates continually ranged along the banks of the western rivers engaging Union shipping in hit-and-run raids. The actions were a constant reminder of the continuing need for naval gunboat support and vigilance on these all important waterways.
Accurate gunfire from wooden steamer U.S.S. Dawn, Acting Lieutenant Simmons, compelled Confederate troops to break off an attack on the Union Army position at Wilson's Wharf on the James River. Other ships quickly moved to support the troops. Rear Admiral Lee later reported that General E.A. Wild, commanding the Army defenses, praised the Navy's work: "He stated to me that the gunboats were of great assistance to him in repelling their attack."
25 Boat crew from U.S.S. Mattabesett, Captain M. Smith, made an unsuccessful attempt to destroy C.S.S. Albemarle in the Roanoke River near Plymouth, North Carolina. After ascending the Middle River with two 100-pound torpedoes, Charles Baldwin, coal heaver, and John W. Lloyd, coxswain, swam across the Roanoke carrying a towline with which they hauled the torpedoes to the Plymouth shore. Baldwin planned to swim down to the ram and position a torpedo on either side of her bow. Across the river, Alexander Crawford, fireman, would then explode the weapons. However, Baldwin was discovered by a sentry when within a few yards of Albemarle and the daring mission had to be abandoned. John Lloyd cut the guidelines and swam back across the river to join John Laverty, fireman, who was guarding the far shore. They made their way to the dinghy in which they had rowed upriver and, with Benjamin Lloyd, coal heaver, who had acted as boatkeeper, made their way back to the Mattabesett. On 29 May Baldwin and Crawford, exhausted, returned to the ship. Captain Smith reported: "I can not too highly commend this party for their courage, zeal, and unwearied exertion in carrying out a project that had for some time been under consideration. The plan of executing it was their own, except in some minor details. . . . As Smith recommended, each of the five sailors was awarded the Medal of Honor for their heroic efforts.
A joint Army-Navy expedition advanced up the Ashepoo and South Edisto Rivers, South Carolina, with the object of cutting the Charleston and Savannah Railroad. Union naval forces, under Lieutenant Commander Edward F. Stone, included converted ferryboat U.S.S. Commodore Mc-Donough, and wooden steamers E.B. Hale, Dai Ching, and Vixen and a detachment of Marines. The Navy pushed up the South Edisto, while Army transports moved up the Ashepoo convoyed by Dai Ching. Stone landed the Marines and howitzers and on the morning of the 26th opened fire on Willstown, South Carolina. The naval commander, unable to make contact with General Birney to coordinate a further assault, withdrew next morning. Transport Boston ran aground in the Ashepoo and was destroyed to prevent her capture.
26 The unsuccessful Red River campaign having drawn to a close, General Banks' army on 20 May crossed the Atchafalaya River near Simmesport, Louisiana, protected by Rear Admiral Porter's fleet. Porter, whose health was beginning to fail after many months of arduous duty on the western waters, arrived at his headquarters at Cairo, Illinois, this date, and reported to Secretary Welles on the end of the expedition: "I have the honor to report my arrival at this place, four days from Red River. The army had all crossed the Atchafalaya, and General Smith's division had embarked; the gunboats covered the army until all were over. . . . The river is quiet be-tween this [Ohio River] and Red River. . . ."
Rear Admiral Farragut wrote Rear Admiral Bailey, then at Key West, about the torpedo prepara-tions made by Confederate Admiral Buchanan in Mobile Bay: "I can see his boats very industri-ously laying down torpedoes, so I judge that he is quite as much afraid of our going in as we are of his coming out; but I have come to the conclusion to fight the devil with fire, and therefore shall attach a torpedo to the bow of each ship, and see how it will work on the rebels-if they can stand blowing up any better than we can."
Commander Carter, U.S.S. Michigan, reported to Secretary Welles from Buffalo, New York, of the cruise of his iron side-wheeler on Lake Erie "relative to supposed armed vessel intended to raid on the lake cities. . . ., but he could "find no foundation for the rumors relative thereto . . . matters quiet at present. . . ."
Illustrative of the global demands placed on the Union Navy was the request of Robert H. Pruyn, U.S. Minister to Japan, that Captain Cicero Price bring U.S.S. Jamestown without delay to the port of Kanagawa, which the Japanese threatened to close to foreign commerce.
28 After a six-hour chase, U.S.S. Admiral, Lieutenant William B. Eaton, captured blockade running steamer Isabel, south of Galveston, Texas, with a cargo of powder and arms. Eaton commented in his report that "She was ably handled, and her commander evinced the most desperate courage, not surrendering until two broadsides at close quarters had been poured into him, and our Marines pouring in such an incessant fire of musketry that not a man could remain on deck, and not until then did the captain of her show a light as a signal of submission.'' Label, a highly successful blockade runner which was reported to have made more than 20 trips through the blockade at Mobile and Galveston, was severely damaged, and despite Eaton's efforts to save her, sank at Quarantine Station on the Mississippi River on 2 June.
U.S.S. Ariel, Acting Master James J. Russell, captured sloop General Finegan north of Chassahow-itzka Bay, Florida. The blockade runner's crew attempted to set her afire, but Ariel saved the cargo of cotton and turpentine and then destroyed General Finegan as unseaworthy.
29 U.S.S. Cowslip, Acting Ensign Richard Canfield, captured sloop Last Push off the coast of Missis-sippi with cargo of corn.
30 Mounting evidence pointed to a Confederate naval assault on Union forces in the James River be-low Richmond. This date, John Loomis, a deserter from C.S.S. Hampton, reported that three ironclads and six wooden gunboats, all armed with torpedoes, had passed the obstructions at Drewry's Bluff and were below Fort Darling, awaiting an opportunity to attack. The ironclads were C.S.S. Virginia II, Flag Officer John K. Mitchell, C.S.S. Richmond, Lieutenant William H Parker, and C.S.S. Fredericksburg, Commander Thomas R. Rootes. Two days later, Archy Jenkins, a Negro from Richmond, confirmed this statement and added: "They are putting two barges and a sloop lashed together, filled with shavings and pitch and with torpedoes, which they intend to set on fire, and when it reaches the fleet it will blow up and destroy the fleet. . . . They all say they know 'they can whip you all; they are certain of it.' They believe in their torpedoes in preference to everything." "In view of the novel attack contemplated," Rear Admiral Lee wrote Secretary Welles, " . . . one or more ironclads could be added to my force here, considering the importance of this river to the armies of Generals Grant and Butler."
U.S.S. Keystone State, Commander Crosby, and U.S.S. Massachusetts, Acting Lieutenant William H. West, captured blockade running British steamer Caledonia at sea south of Cape Fear after a three hour chase in which the steamer's cargo of bacon, leather, and medical supplies was thrown overboard.
31 U.S.S. Commodore Perry, Acting Lieutenant Amos P. Foster, engaged Confederate artillery on the James River, Virginia, in a two hour exchange during which the converted ferryboat was dam-aged by six hits.
Secretary Welles ordered U.S.S. Constellation, Captain Stellwagen, detached from duty in the Mediterranean to report to Rear Admiral Farragut in the Western Gulf Blockading Squadron.