Naval History of the Civil War October 1861

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Civil War Naval History

 

October 1861

1 Confederate naval forces, including C.S.S. Curlew, Raleigh, and Junaluska. under flag Officer William F. Lynch, CSN, captured steamer Fanny in Pamlico Sound with Union troops on board. Colonel Claiborne Snead, CSA, reported: "The victory was important in more respects than one. It was our first naval success in North Carolina and the first capture made by our arms of an armed war- vessel of the enemy. and dispelled the gloom of recent disasters. The property captured [two rifled guns and large amount of army stores] was considerable, much needed, and highly esteemed. . ."

Secretary Welles, in a letter to Secretary Seward, opposed issuing letters of marque because it would be "a recognition of the assumption of the insurgents that they are a distinct and independent nationality."

3 Captain Eagle, commanding U.S.S. Santee, reported return of U.S.S. Sam Houston to Galveston with schooner Reindeer, captured off San Luis Pass, Texas. The schooner, deemed worthless, was sunk.

4 U.S.S. South Carolina, Commander Alden, captured Confederate schooners Ezilda and Joseph H. Toone off South West Pass of the Mississippi River with four to five thousand stand of arms.

5 Two boats from U.S.S. Louisiana, Lieutenant A. Murray, destroyed Confederate schooner being fitted out as a privateer at Chincoteague Inlet, Virginia.

U.S.S. Monticello, Lieutenant Daniel L. Braine, drove off Confederate troops and steamers attacking Union soldiers in the vicinity of Hatteras Inlet.

6 U.S.S. Flag, Commander Louis C. Sartori, captured Confederate blockade running schooner Alert near Charleston.

7 U.S.S. Tyler, Commander Walke, and U.S.S. Lexington, Commander Stembel, exchanged fire with Confederate batteries at Iron Bluffs, near Columbus, Kentucky.

U.S.S. Louisiana, Lieutenant A. Murray, captured schooner S.T. Garrison, with cargo of wood, near Wallops Island, Virginia.

9 Confederate steamer Ivy, Lieutenant Joseph Fry, attacked U.S. blockading vessels at Head of Passes, Mississippi River; No damage caused but long range of Ivy's guns concerned naval officers.

10 U.S.S. Daylight, Commander Lockwood, silenced Confederate battery attacking American ship John Clark anchored in Lynnhaven Bay, Virginia.

Confederate troops at Tampa Bay captured American sloop William Batty.

11 Lieutenant Abram D. Harrell of U.S.S. Union. with 3 boat crews cut out and burned Confederate schooner in Dumfries Creek on the Potomac River.

12 Confederate metal-sheathed ram Manassas, Commodore Hollins, CSN, in company with armed steamer Ivy and James L. Day, attacked U.S.S. Richmond, Vincennes, Water Witch, Nightingale, and Preble near Head of Passes, Mississippi River. In this offensive and spirited action by the small Confederate force, Manassas rammed Richmond, forced her and Vincennes aground under heavy fire before withdrawing. Acting Master Edward F. Devens of Vincennes observed: "From the appearance of the Richmond's side in the vicinity of the hole, I should say that the ram had claws or hooks attached to her . . . for the purpose of tearing out the plank from the ship's side, It is a most destructive invention . . . [Manassas] resembles in shape, a cigar cut lengthwise, and very low in the water. She must be covered with railroad iron as all the shells which struck her glanced off, some directly at right angles. You could hear the shot strike quite plainly. They did not appear to trouble her much as she ran up the river at a very fast rate."

Confederate ship Theodora ran the blockade at Charleston with Mason and Slidell, Commissioners to England and France respectively, on board.

Confederate privateer Sallie captured American brig Granada in the Atlantic (33o N, 71o W):

U.S.S. Dale, Commander Edward M. Yard, captured schooner Specie east of Jacksonville, bound for Havana with large cargo of rice.

Secretary of the Navy Welles wrote Flag Officer Du Pont: "In examining the various points upon the coast, it has been ascertained that Bull's Bay, St. Helena, Port Royal, and Fernandina, are each and all accessible and desirable points for the purposes indicated [Fleet coaling and supply stations], and the Government has decided to take possession of at least two of them." Coaling and supply depots seized by the Navy on the Southern coast allowed blockaders to remain on station for longer periods without returning to Northern navy yards.

Warning given that Confederates had lined James River with powerful submarine batteries (mines).

13 U.S.S. Keystone State, Commander Gustavus H. Scott, captured Confederate steamer Salvor near the Tortugas Islands with cargo of coffee, cigars, and munitions.

14 In the presence of Lieutenant A. Murray of U.S.S. Louisiana, citizens of Chincoteague Island, Virginia, took the oath of allegiance to the United States and presented a petition in which they stated their "abhorrence of the secession heresy."

15 U.S.S. Roanoke, Flag, Monticello, and Vandalia captured and burned blockade runner Thomas Watson on Stono Reef, off Charleston.

16 U.S.S. South Carolina, Commander Alden, captured schooner Edward Barnard with cargo of turpentine on board at South West Pass, Mississippi River.

17 Flag Officer Du Pont wrote: 'There is no question that Port Royal is the most important point to strike, and the most desirable to have first and hold . . . Port Royal alone admits the large ships– and gives us such a naval position on the sea coast as our Army is holding across the Potomac." Subsequently, the strategic importance of Port Royal to the Union Navy and the blockade substantiated this judgment.

Confederate privateer Sallie, Master Henry S. Lebby, captured American brig Betsey Ames opposite the Bahama Banks with cargo including machinery.

18 U.S.S. Gemsbok, Acting Master Cavendy, captured brig Ariel off Wilmington with cargo of salt.

19 U.S.S. Massachusetts, Commander M. Smith, engaged C.S.S. Florida, Lieutenant Charles W. Hays, in Mississippi Sound. Though the battle was inconclusive, Captain Levin M. Powell of U.S.S. Potomac noted one result that could be bothersome to Union naval forces: "The caliber and long range of the rifled cannon [of Florida] . . . established the ability of these fast steam gunboats to keep out of the range of all broadside guns, and enables them to disregard the armament or magnitude of all ships thus armed, or indeed any number of them, when sheltered by shoal water."

21 Charles P. Leavitt, Second Virginia Regiment, wrote the Confederate Secretary of War: "I have invented an instrument of war which for a better name I have called a submarine gunboat. . . My plan is simple. A vessel is built of boiler iron of about fifty tons burden . . . but made of an oval form with the propeller behind. This is for the purpose of having as little draft of water as possible for the purpose of passing over sand-bars without being observed by the enemy. The engines are of the latest and best style so as to use as little steam as possible in proportion to the power received. The boilers are so constructed as to generate steam without a supply of air. The air for respiration is kept in a fit condition for breathing by the gradual addition of oxygen, while the carbonic acid is absorbed by a shower of lime water . . . I propose to tow out my gun-boat to sea and when within range of the enemy's guns it sinks below the water's surface so as to leave no trace on the surface of its approach, a self-acting apparatus keeping it at any depth required. When within a few rods of the enemy it leaps to surface and the two vessels come in contact before the enemy can fire a gun. Placed in the bow of the gun-boat is a small mortar containing a self-exploding shell. As it strikes the engines are reversed, the gun-boat sinks below the surface and goes noiselessly on its way toward another ship. After a few ships are sunk the enemy can scarcely have the temerity to remain in our waters . . . I have written you on this subject in order to obtain an opportunity to draft out my invention, which with the means at command in Richmond can be done in a week . . ." Although Leavitt's scheme was not adopted, it was an interesting indication of early thinking about submarines in the South. Ultimately the Confederacy built H. L. Hunley, first submarine to be used successfully in combat.

22 Captain T. T. Craven, commanding Potomac River Flotilla, reported the Potomac River was commanded by Confederate batteries at all important points below Alexandria.

23 Officers and men of privateer Savannah went on trial in New York, charged with "piracy."

25 John Ericcson began construction of single-turret, two-gun ironclad U.S.S. Monitor at Greenpoint, New York.

Flag Officer Du Pont wrote Assistant Secretary of the Navy Fox of the continuing importance of amphibious training: "Landing a brigade today to exercise Ferry boats and Surf boats-reaping immense advantages from the experiment by seeing the defects."

U.S.S. Rhode Island, Lieutenant Stephen D. Trenchard, captured schooner Aristides off Charlotte Harbor, Florida.

26 U.S.S. Conestoga, Lieutenant S. L. Phelps, transported Union troops to Eddyville, Kentucky, for attack on Confederate cavalry at Saratoga.

C.S.S. Nashville, Lieutenant Pegram, ran the blockade out of Charleston.

27 U.S.S. Santee, Captain Eagle, captured brig Delta off Galveston.

C.S.S. Sumter, Commander Semmes, captured and burned American schooner Trowbridge in the Atlantic after removing a five months' supply of provisions.

27-28 Boat expedition from U.S.S. Louisiana led by Lieutenant Alfred Hopkins surprised and burned three Confederate vessels at Chincoteague Inlet, Virginia.

29 Large Union expedition to Port Royal, South Carolina, sailed from Fort Monroe, under command of Flag Officer Du Pont in U.S.S. Wabash. Comprising 77 vessels, it was the largest U.S. Fleet ever assembled to that date. Army forces numbered about 16,000 men, commanded by Brigadier General Thomas W. Sherman. Port Royal Sound, about equi-distant from Savannah and Charleston, was of recognized importance, and one of the first locations fortified by the Confederates against the entrance of Union ships.

30 Confederate privateer Sallie captured American brig B. K. Eaton.
Confederate forces sank stone-filled barges to obstruct Cumberland River near Fort Donelson, Tennessee, against the advance of Union gunboats.