Naval History of the Civil War September 1862

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Civil War Naval History


SEPTEMBER 1862

1 C.S.S. Florida, Lieutenant Maffitt, put into Havana after suffering a yellow fever epidemic on board which was fatal to several crew members.

Rear Admiral S.P. Lee relieved Rear Admiral L.M. Goldsborough as Commander, North Atlantic Blockading Squadron.

2 U.S.S. Restless, Acting Lieutenant Conroy, captured sloop John Thompson off South Carolina with cargo of turpentine.

3 U.S.S. Essex, Commodore W. D. Porter, in pursuit of C.S.S. Webb, had a landing party fired on at Natchez, Mississippi, from which Union forces had withdrawn on 25 July. Essex bombarded the town for an hour, after which the mayor "unconditionally surrendered" the city to Porter.

4 First session of the Naval Investigating Committee of the Confederate Congress was held in Richmond to examine Secretary Mallory's administration of naval affairs and the causes of the Southern disaster at New Orleans. The final report of the committee was favorable to Mallory.

C.S.S. Florida, Lieutenant Maffitt, ran the blockade into Mobile Bay. Many of the crew were suffering from yellow fever and Maffitt determined to make the bold dash into Mobile. Running past the broadside of U.S.S. Oneida, Commander Preble, Florida also evaded U.S.S. Winona and Rachel Seaman before coming to anchor under the guns of Fort Morgan in a much damaged condi-tion. This Florida incident brought forth orders for stricter enforcement of the blockade.

U.S.S.William G. Anderson, Acting Master D'Oyley, captured schooner Theresa in the Gulf of Mexico with cargo including salt.

U.S.S. Shepherd Knapp, Acting Lieutenant Henry S. Eytinge, captured bark Fannie Laurie off South Edisto River, South Carolina.

5 Rear Admiral Du Pont wrote Secretary of the Navy Welles, again expressing concern about reports of Confederate ironclads building at Charleston: "The ironclads or rams built at Charleston have been described to me, by intelligent persons who have seen them, as well protected by their armor, but as not formidable for offensive operations against our vessels, in consequence of their defi-ciency in steam power, it having been intended to place in them engines taken from old steamers belonging to South Carolina. If it be true that English steam engines have been provided for them, as reported to me by the Department, it becomes my duty to urge upon it the necessity of sending some iron-clad vessels of our own, to render our position off Charleston tenable. Vessels even imperfectly covered with armor emerging from the protection of forts, and always provided with a place of refuge, would be comparatively secure, while they might do great harm to wooden ships, especially of the light class which forms the chief material of this squadron. If by any possibility the blockading force off Charleston could be destroyed, or compelled to retire, it would produce a moral impression to our disadvantage even more disastrous than the actual loss itself. If it be possible to send the Ironsides to take up a position off that [Charleston] harbor, the efforts of the enemy would be completely frustrated."

C.S.S. Alabama, Captain Semmes, seized and burned ship Ocmulgee near the Azores, the first of many Union whalers and merchant vessels to fall prey to the feared commerce raider.

6 U.S.S. Louisiana, Acting Lieutenant Richard T. Renshaw, joined with Union troops in repelling the Confederate attack on Washington, North Carolina. Major General John G. Foster reported that Louisiana rendered most efficient aid, throwing her shells with great precision, and clearing the streets, through which her guns had range." U.S. Army gunboat Picket was destroyed by an accidental magazine explosion during engagement.

7 C.S.S. Alabama, Captain Semmes, captured and burned schooner Starlight near the Azores.

U.S.S. Essex, Commodore W.D. Porter, steamed down the Mississippi to New Orleans past Confederate batteries at Port Hudson, Louisiana. Essex was struck with heavy shot 14 times. Porter noted that the Port Hudson batteries would seriously interrupt the free navigation of the Lower Mississippi."

8 Commodore Wilkes ordered to command a "Flying Squadron" -including U.S.S. Wachusett, Dacotah, Cimarron, Sonoma, Tioga, Octorara, and Santiago de Cuba. The squadron was originated specifically to seek out and capture commerce raiders C.S.S. Alabama and Florida. Though the squadron seized several vessels engaged in blockade running, the two noted raiders eluded Wilkes' force.

A landing party from U.S.S. Kingfisher destroyed salt works at St. Joseph's Bay, Florida, that could produce some 200 bushels a day. Three days later, similar works at St. Andrew's Bay were destroyed by a landing party from U.S.S. Sagamore.

C.S.S. Alabama, Captain Semmes, captured and burned whaling ship Ocean Rover near the Azores.

9 C.S.S. Alabama, Captain Semmes, captured and burned whaling ships Alert and Weather Gauge near the Azores.

11 U.S.S. Patroon, Acting Master William D. Urann, and U.S.S. Uncas, Acting Master Crane, engaged Confederate batteries at St. John's Bluff, Florida. Uncas suffered damage, but temporarily forced the abandonment of the batteries.

12 Rear Admiral Du Pont wrote Senator Grimes of Iowa expressing his "warm appreciation of your tremendous labors in behalf of the Navy during the last session. I believe this to be emphatically the opinion of the whole service.'' Grimes had strongly backed the bill creating the rank of Rear Admiral in the Navy. In reply the Senator stated: "I am in no wise deserving of the kind compliments you lavish upon me. . . . you know that up to my time [in Congress] it was supposed that all information in relation to your branch of the public service was confined to a select
'guild' about the Atlantic cities, no one from the interior having presumed to know anything about it. If I have been of any real service it has been in breaking down and eradicating that idea, in assisting to nationalize the Navy– in making the frontiersman as well as the longshoreman feel that he was interested in it and partook of its glory."

13 C.S.S. Alabama, Captain Semmes, seized and burned whaling ship Altamaha near the Azores.

14 C.S.S. Alabama, Captain Semmes, seized and burned whaling ship Benjamin Tucker near the Azores.

15 Lieutenant Commander Samuel Magaw, commander of U.S.S. Thomas Freeborn, reported the seizure and burning of schooner Arctic in Great Wicomico River, Maryland.

16 Confederate Congress passed a resolution expressing thanks to Commander Ebenezer Farrand, CSN, senior officer in command of the combined naval and military forces at Drewry's Bluff on 15 May, "for the great and signal victory achieved over the naval forces of the United States in the engagement . . . at Drewry's Bluff;" Farrand was praised for his "gallantry, courage, and endurance in that protracted fight. . . ." which Confederate statesmen knew could have been so disastrous to their cause.

C.S.S. Alabama, Captain Semmes, captured and burned whaling ship Courser near the Azores.

17 Rear Admiral S.P. Lee, concerned by frequent reports as to the building by the Confederates of "Merrimack II," again wrote Assistant Secretary of the Navy Fox asking that an ironclad be sent to Norfolk to support his forces there. "I feel the necessity," he wrote, "of having a fast steamer convenient as to size & draft, with bow & stern strengthened, and iron plated suitable for ramming, carrying effective guns in broadside, & fitted so as to work two heavy rifled guns at each end-bow & stern-capable of throwing such projectiles as will most readily penetrate iron plating." On 22 September Fox, sympathetic to Lee's needs, answered: "The Ironsides will probably be with you on Wednesday [24 September]. . . . With the Ironsides you will feel no anxiety. She is fast, and has a terrible battery, and is a match for the whole Southern navy. If the Merrimac[k] #2 comes down I trust they will follow her up and destroy her."

U.S.S. W. G. Anderson, Acting Master D'Oyley, seized schooner Reindeer in the Gulf of Mexico (27N, 93W) with cargo of cotton.

C.S.S. Alabama, Captain Semmes, captured and burned whaling ship Virginia near the Azores.

18 C.S.S. Alabama, Captain Semmes, captured and burned whaling ship Elisha Dunbar near the Azores. ''The whaling season at the Azores being at an end," Semmes later wrote, ''. . . I resolved to change my cruising-ground, and stretch over to the Banks of New Foundland

19 Ram Queen of the West, Medical Cadet Charles R. Ellet, escorting two troop transports, had a sharp engagement with Confederate infantry and artillery above Bolivar, Mississippi.

20 Answering a letter in which Assistant Secretary of the Navy Fox had written, "We must have Charleston Rear Admiral Du Pont replied: "Do not go it half cocked about Charleston– it is a bigger job than Port Royal . . . failure now at Charleston is ten times the failure elsewhere. . ." The same day, Du Pont wrote Senator Grimes in Iowa: "The thorn in my flesh is Charleston, they have been allowed seventeen months to prepare its defenses– and in no part of the wretched Confederacy has there been more industry, energy, and intelligent zeal, and science displayed- It is a cul de sac and resembles more a porcupine's hide turned outside in than anything else, with no outlet- you go into a bag no running the forts as at New Orleans. We have to do what never has been done, take regular forts by gunboats this must be done, but it is no ordinary work . . . One thing only oppresses us, that just in proportion to the extent of the honor and glory of the success, and the prestige gained at home and abroad so will be the deep mortification and moral injury if we fail at this wicked seat of the rebellion- hence we want quiet calm preparation of plans.'' Du Pont's estimate of the stubbornness of the Con-federate defenses at Charleston, as well as his appreciation of the probable effect on the North of a Union failure in his particular quarter proved correct. Throughout the fall of 1862 the ironclads were being built which Du Pont would command against the symbol of the Confederacy.

21 U.S.S. Albatross, Commander Henry French, captured schooner Two Sisters off the Rio Grande River.

22 Writing during a storm ("I suppose the true equinoctial gale''), Rear Admiral Farragut noted that "these are the times that try the commander of a squadron. I could not sleep last night, thinking of the blockaders. It is rough work lying off a port month in and month out . . . I have 6 vessels off Mobile, so that one can always come in for coal. They are all the time breaking down and coming in for repairs."

U.S.S. Wyandank, Acting Master John McGowan, Jr., captured schooner Southerner on Coan River, Virginia.

23 U.S.S. Alabama, Lieutenant Commander William T. Truxtun, captured blockade running British schooner Nelly off Ossabaw Sound, Georgia, with cargo including drugs and salt.

25 U.S.S. Kensington, Acting Master Crocker, U.S.S. Rachel Seaman, Acting Master Hooper, and mor-tar schooner Henry Janes, Acting Master Lewis Pennington, bombarded Confederate batteries at Sabine Pass, Texas. The action was broken off when the defending troops evacuated the fort, having spiked the guns. Though Sabine City surrendered to Acting Master Crocker the next day and a force under Acting Master Hooper severed communications between Sabine Pass and Taylor's Bayou by burning the railroad bridge and seized the mails on 27 September, the expedition sent by Rear Admiral Farragut could not occupy the area because there were no troops available for that purpose. As Rear Admiral Farragut noted some three months later, "It takes too much force to hold the places for me to take any more, or my outside fleet will be too much reduced to keep up the blockade and keep the river open" - the two primary missions of the squadron.

Nevertheless, the attacks were a constant drain on the Confederates and imposed widespread dispersion of strength to protect against them anytime ships hove over the horizon.

U.S.S. Florida, Lieutenant Commander Robert W. Scott, captured British schooner Agnes, attempt-ing to run the blockade at St. Andrew's Sound, Georgia.

26 U.S.S. State of Georgia, Commander Armstrong, and U.S.S. Mystic, Lieutenant Commander Arnold, chased a blockade running schooner (name unknown) ashore at New Inlet, North Carolina, and destroyed her.

Rear Admiral Du Pont sought to extend his policy of "mobile support" logistics by requesting an afloat fuel storage in the form of a coal hulk capable of holding a thousand tons and fitted out with hoisting equipment. Coal schooners from the North unloaded into this hulk and men-of-war coaled from it as needed while on station. This practice antedated the modern use of fleet oilers in furthering the fleet's efficiency and effectiveness. Storeships, receiving ships, and machinery repair hulks were already being employed at this time at Port Royal.

27 U.S.S. Kittatinny, Acting Master Lamson, captured schooner Emma off the coast of Texas with cargo of cotton.

28 U.S.S. State of Georgia, Commander Armstrong, and U.S.S. Mystic, Lieutenant Commander Arnold, captured blockade running British steamer Sunbeam near New Inlet, North Carolina.

30 Assistant Secretary of the Navy Fox wrote Commodore Blake, Superintendent of the Naval Academy at Newport, regarding training at the Academy: "The seamanship is of the utmost importance, in my opinion, notwithstanding steam, and iron clads. I share the old Jack Tar feeling that a sailor can do anything, and that a man is not good for much, who is not a thorough seaman. D. D. Porter was particularly struck at seeing your boys scrubbing copper: he was always afraid they were getting too scientific, too conceited, but his experience at Newport seems to have un-deceived him."