< Civil War Naval History December 1861

Civil War Naval History


December 1861

1 U.S.S. New London, Lieutenant A. Read, captured sloop Advocate in Mississippi Sound.

U.S.S. Seminole, Commander Gillis, seized sloop Lida, from Havana, off St. Simon's Sound, Georgia, with cargo of coffee, lead, and sugar.

2 In his first annual report, Secretary of the Navy Welles reported to President Lincoln that: "Since the institution of the blockade one hundred and fifty-three vessels have been captured . . . most of which were attempting to violate the blockade . . . When the vessels now building and purchased are ready for service, the condition of the navy will be . . . a total of 264 vessels, 2,557 guns, and 218,016 tons. The aggregate number of seamen in the service . . . Is now not less than 22,000 . . . The amount appropriated at the last regular session of Congress for the naval service for the current year was $13,168,675.86. To this was added at the special session in July last $30,446,875.91- making for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1862, an aggregate of $43,615,551.77. This sum will not be sufficient. . ."

C.S.S. Patrick Henry, Commander Tucker, attacked four Union steamers above Newport News; Patrick Henry damaged in the two hour action.

Lieutenant Robert D. Minor, CSN, reported a laboratory had been organized at New Orleans "for the supply of ordnance stores for the vessels fitting out at this station."

3 C.S.S. Sumter, Commander Semmes, captured and burned at sea American ship Vigilant, bound from New York to the West Indies.

U.S.S. Santiago de Cuba, Commander Ridgely, captured British blockade running schooner Victoria.

4 Confederate steamers Florida and Pamlico attacked U.S.S. Montgomery, Commander Thompson D. Shaw, off Horn Island Pass, Mississippi Sound.

5 Flag Officer Du Pont, regarding expedition to Wassaw Sound, Georgia, and plans for the use of the "stone fleet," wrote: "Ottawa, Pembina, and Seneca penetrated into Wassaw the 'stone fleet' are all at Savannah, and I hardly know what to do with them- for with Wassaw that city is more effectively closed than a bottle with wire over the cork . . . I am sending to [Captain James L.] Lardner to know if he can plant them on the Charleston bar . . . One good thing they [the 'stone fleet's' appearance at Savannah] did, I have not a doubt they were taken for men-of-war, and led to giving up the Wassaw defenses . . ."

6 U.S.S. Augusta, Commander Parrott, captured British blockade runner Cheshire off South Carolina.

8 C.S.S. Sumter, Commander Semmes, captured and burned American bark Eben Dodge in the mid-Atlantic (30o 57' N, 51o 49' W), equipped for whaling voyage in Pacific.

U.S.S. Rhode Island, Lieutenant Trenchard, seized British blockade runner Phantom with cargo of sugar off Cape Lookout, North Carolina.

9 U.S.S. New London, Lieutenant A: Read, captured schooner Delight and sloops Express and Osceola off Cat Island Passage, Mississippi.

U.S.S. Harriet Lane, Lieutenant Robert H. Wyman, and other vessels of the Potomac Flotilla engaged Confederate forces at Freestone Point, Virginia.

10 U.S.S. Isaac Smith, Lieutenant James W. A. Nicholson, on expedition up Ashepoo River, South Carolina, landed on Otter Island and took possession of abandoned Confederate fort; Nicholson turned over command of the fort to the Army.

11 U.S.S. Bienville, Commander Steedman, captured schooner Sarah and Caroline off St. John's River, Florida.

U.S.S. South Carolina, Commander Alden, captured Confederate sloop Florida off lighthouse at Timbalier, Louisiana.

12 U.S.S. Alabama, Commander Edward Lanier, captured British ship Admiral off Savannah, attempting to run the blockade.

U.S.S. Isaac Smith, Lieutenant J. W. A. Nicholson, on a reconnaissance in the Ashepoo River, South Carolina, with Marine detachment embarked, scattered Confederate troops by gunfire and landed Marines to destroy their quarters.

15 U.S.S. Stars and Stripes, Lieutenant Reed Werden, captured blockade running schooner Charity off Cape Hatteras.

U.S.S. Jamestown, Commander Green, captured Confederate sloop Havelock near Cape Fear, North Carolina.

17 Flag Officer Foote, Commanding U.S. Naval Forces, Western Waters, issued General Order regarding observance of Sunday on board ships of his flotilla: "It is the wish. . . that on Sunday the public worship of Almighty God may be observed . . . and that the respective commanders will either themselves, or cause other persons to pronounce prayers publicly on Sunday. . ." Foote added: "Discipline to be permanent must be based on moral grounds, and officers must in themselves, show a good example in morals, order, and patriotism to secure these qualities in the men." Since 1775 Navy Regulations have required that religious services be held on board ships of the Navy in peace and war.

Seven "stone fleet" vessels sunk at entrance of Savannah Harbor.

19 Confederate forces demolished lighthouse on Morris Island, Charleston.

20 "Stone fleet" sunk at Charleston by Captain C. H. Davis, Steamer Gordon ran the blockade off Wilmington.

21 U.S. Congress authorized Medal of Honor, the Nation's highest award.

24 U.S.S. Gem of the Sea, Lieutenant Irvin B. Baxter, captured and destroyed British blockade runner Prince of Wales off Georgetown, South Carolina.

Confederate Secretary of the Navy Mallory wrote Major General Leonidas Polk, commanding troops at Columbus, Kentucky, requesting furlough of troops to assist in construction of ironclad gunboats at Memphis. Mallory commented: "One of them at Columbus would have enabled you to complete the annihilation of the enemy."

25 U.S.S. Fernandina, Acting Lieutenant George W. Browne, captured schooner William H. Northrup off Cape Fear, North Carolina.

26 Confederate Fleet, including C.S.S. Savannah, Commodore Tattnall, Resolute, Sampson, Ida, and Barton, attacked Union blockading ships at mouth of Savannah River. Before returning to his anchorage under the guns of Fort Pulaski, Tattnall forced the blockaders to move seaward temporarily.

U.S.S. Rhode Island, Lieutenant Trenchard, captured Confederate schooner Venus southeast of Sabine Pass, off the Louisiana coast.

27 Flag Officer Du Pont wrote regarding the "Trent Affair": "I hope now that our politicians will begin to learn, that something is necessary to be 'a great universal Yankee Nation etc.' than politics and party. We should have armies and navies and have those appurtenances which enable a nation to defend itself and not be compelled to submit to humiliation [releasing Mason and Slidell] . . . Thirty ships like the Wabash would have spared us this without firing a gun, with an ironclad frigate or two."

28 U.S.S. New London, Lieutenant A. Read, captured Confederate schooner Gipsey with cargo of cotton in Mississippi Sound.

29 C.S.S. Sea Bird, Flag Officer Lynch, evaded Union gunfire and captured large schooner near Hampton Roads carrying fresh water to Fort Monroe.

30 U.S.S. Santee, Captain Eagle, captured schooner Garonne off Galveston.

Flag Officer Foote wrote Assistant Secretary of the Navy Fox of the pay scale he was using: "In the case of Masters, and Pilots, I have been obliged, in order to secure the services of efficient Men, to pay 1st Masters $150. per month, 2nd Masters $125, 3rd Masters $100, and 4th Masters $80. per month, while Pilots are paid $175. per month. These prices are much less than the incumbents received in ordinary times, while they have before been provided with table furniture and stores, bedding & c., which I have not allowed them."

31 Biloxi, Mississippi, surrendered to a landing party of seamen and Marines covered by U.S.S. Water Witch, New London, and Henry Lewis; a small Confederate battery was destroyed, two guns and schooner Captain Spedden captured.

Flag Officer Foote wrote Assistant Secretary of the Navy Fox about the delay in fitting out mortar boats: "I did say and still consider the mortar boats very defective. They are built of solid timber and when armed and manned will be awash with the deck . . - all will leak more or less. Still I would have them fitted out, with all their defects." Foote made excellent use of the mortar boats later at Island No. 10.

U.S.S. Augusta, Commander Parrott, captured Confederate schooner Island Belle attempting to run the blockade near Bull's Bay, South Carolina.

Two boats, under Acting Masters A. Allen and H. L. Sturges, from U.S.S. Mount Vernon, destroyed lightship off Wilmington which had been fitted out as a gunboat by Confederates.

31-2 January Naval squadron under Commander C. R. P. Rodgers, including gunboats Ottawa, Pembina, and Seneca and four armed boats carrying howitzers, joined General Stevens' troops in successful amphibious attack on Confederate positions at Port Royal Ferry and on Coosaw River. Gunboat fire covered the troop advance, and guns and naval gunners were landed as artillery support. Army signal officers acted as gunfire observers and coordinators on board the ships. The action disrupted Confederate plans to erect batteries and build troop strength in the area intending to close Coosaw River and isolate Federal troops on Port Royal Island. General Stevens wrote: "I would do great injustice to my
own feelings did I fail to express my satisfaction and delight with the recent cooperation of the command of Captain Rodgers in our celebration of New Year's Day. Whether regard be had to his beautiful working of the gunboats in the narrow channel of Port Royal, the thorough concert of action established through the signal officers, or the masterly handling of the guns against the enemy, nothing remained to be desired. Such a cooperation . . . augurs everything, propitious for the welfare of our cause in this quarter of the country."