Civil War Naval History
1 Commander George H. Preble, U.S.S. St. Louis, reported that C.S.S. Florida, Lieutenant Morris, succeeded in getting to sea from Funchal, Madeira, where she had sailed after leaving Brest. Preble lamented: "Nelson said the want of frigates in his squadron would be found impressed on his heart. I am sure the want of steam will be found engraven on mine. Had the St. Louis been a steamer, I would have anchored alongside of her, and, unrestricted by the twenty-four hour rule, my old foe could not have escaped me." St. Louis gave chase but could not come up with Florida. Had the crews of these sailing vessels been used to man newly built steamers, the pursuit of the Confederate cruisers might have been more successful.
U.S.S. Connecticut, Commander Almy, took blockade running British steamer Scotia with cargo of cotton at sea off Cape Fear, North Carolina.
U.S.S. Roebuck, Acting Master Sherrill, seized blockade running British steamer Lauretta off Indian River Inlet, Florida, with cargo of salt.
1-2 At the request of Brigadier General Henry W. Wessells, Lieutenant Commander Flusser took double-ender U.S.S. Southfield and tinclad Whitehead up the Chowan River, North Carolina, to aid Army steamer Bombshell which had been cut off by Confederates above Petty Shore. Flusser had received reports earlier of Confederate torpedoes being planted at that point and concluded that he dared not attempt, with boats of such great draft to run by." The gunboats were engaged by shore artillery as night fell, and, unable to fire effectively or navigate safely in the darkness, Flusser dropped down stream about a mile to await morning before continuing operations. On 2 March Southfield and Whitehead kept up a constant bombardment of the Confederate position to enable Bombshell to dash by, which the Army steamer finally did later in the day. It was subsequently learned that the shore batteries had been withdrawn shortly after the gunboats had opened on them in the morning.
2 Rear Admiral Porter, in anticipation of the proposed campaign into Louisiana and Texas, arrived off the mouth of the Red River to coordinate the movements of his Mississippi Squadron with those of the Army. Previous attempts to gain control of Texas by coastal assault had not suc-ceeded (see 8 September 1863), and a joint expedition up the Red River to Shreveport was decided upon. From there the Army would attempt to occupy Texas. Ten thousand men from Major General W.T. Sherman's army at Vicksburg would rendezvous with Major General N.P. Banks' army and Porter's gunboats at Alexandria by 17 March. The naval forces would provide vital convoy and gunfire support up the river to Shreveport, where Major General Frederick Steele was to join them from Little Rock. This date, however, Porter wrote Secretary Welles, advising him of an unforeseen development that cast dark shadows on the entire expedition: "I came down here anticipating a move on the part of the army up toward Shreveport, but as the river is lower than it has been known for years, I much fear that the combined movement can not come off, without interfering with plans formed by General Grant." Porter was referring to the fact that the troops Sherman had detailed for the Red River campaign were committed to Grant after 10 April for his spring campaign. To wait for a rise in the river, Porter feared, would mean failure to meet that deadline; however, to ascend the river at its present stage would also jeopardize the large scale movement. Porter nevertheless pushed swiftly ahead to ready his squadron for the operation.
Rear Admiral Farragut wrote his son Loyall about his recent sighting of the Confederate ram Tennessee, commenting that "she is very long, and I thought moved very slowly." Nevertheless, this heavily armored and well-fought ship was to prove a formidable opponent for the Admiral's squadron in Mobile Bay.
U.S.S. Dan Smith, Acting Master Benjamin C. Dean, seized blockade running British schooner Sophia stranded in Altamaha Sound, Georgia, with an assorted cargo. Sophia was subsequently lost at sea in a heavy gale which disabled her and forced her abandonment on 8 May 1864 by Acting Ensign Paul Armandt and the prize crew.
4 British authorities instructed the Governor of the Cape of Good Hope, Sir Philip E. Wodehouse, to restore C.S.S. Tuscaloosa to Confederate authorities. Tuscaloosa had been captured under the name Conrad by Captain Semmes in C.S.S. Alabama on 20 June 1863 and sent on a cruise under Lieutenant John Low, CSN. On 26 December Tuscaloosa had put into Simon's Bay, Cape of Good Hope, after searching for Union merchantmen off the coast of Brazil. The next day the Governor had the bark seized for violating neutrality laws because she had never been properly adjudicated in a prize court. Low promptly protested on the grounds that he had previously entered Simon's Bay in August, at which time his ship took on supplies and effected repairs "with the full knowl-edge and sanction of the authorities." No protest had been made by the Governor at that time. Unsuccessfully seeking for more than three weeks the release of his ship, Low paid off his crew and with Acting Midshipman William H. Sinclair made his way to Liverpool, where he arrived late in February. The reversal of Governor Wodehouse's action was accounted for by the "pe-culiar circumstances of the case. The Tuscaloosa was allowed to enter the port of Cape Town, and to depart, the instructions of the 4th of November not having arrived at the Cape before her de-parture. The captain of the Alabama was thus entitled to assume that . . . [Low] might equally bring . . . [Tuscaloosa] a second time into the same harbor. . . The decision, however, came too late for the Confederates. Tuscaloosa was never reclaimed by the South and was eventually turned over to the Union. Semmes later said of the incident: "Besides embalming the beauti-ful name 'Tuscaloosa' in history this prize-ship settled the law point I had been so long contesting with Mr. Seward and Mr. Adams, to wit: that 'one nation cannot inquire into the antecedents of the ships of war of another nation;' and consequently that when the Alabama escaped from British waters and was commissioned, neither the United States nor Great Britain could object to her status as a ship of war."
Captain Semmes wrote in his journal: "My ship is weary, too, as well as her commander, and will need a general overhauling by the time I can get her into dock. If my poor service shall be deemed of any importance in harassing and weakening the enemy, and thus contributing to the independence of my beloved South, I shall be amply rewarded." It was her need for upkeep and repairs that three and a half months later brought her under the guns of U.S.S. Kearsarge off Cherbourg, France.
U.S.S. Pequot, Lieutenant Commander Stephen P. Qackenbush, seized blockade running British steamer Don at sea east of Fort Fisher, North Carolina, with cargo including Army shoes, blankets, and clothing. Captain Cory, master of the steamer, reported that he had made nine attempts to run into Wilmington during his career but had succeeded only four times.
5 Commander John Taylor Wood, CSN, led an early morning raid on the Union-held telegraph station at Cherrystone Point, Virginia. After crossing Chesapeake Bay at night with some 15 men in open barges, Wood landed and seized the station. Small Union Army steamers Aeolus and Titan, unaware that the station was in enemy hands, put into shore and each was captured by the daring Southerners. Wood then destroyed the telegraph station and surrounding warehouses, and disabled and bonded Aeolus before boarding Titan and steaming up the Piankatank River as far as possible. A joint Army-Navy expedition to recapture her was quickly organized, but Wood evaded U.S.S. Currituck and Tulip in the still early morning haze. A force of five gunboats under Commander F.A. Parker followed the Confederates up the river on the 7th, where Titan was found destroyed by Wood, "together with a number of large boats prepared for a raid."
Acting Master Thomas McElroy, commanding U.S.S. Petrel, reported a Confederate attack on Yazoo City. Heavy gunfire support by Petrel and U.S.S. Marmora, Acting Master Thomas Gibson, helped drive the Confederate troops off. In addition, McElroy wrote, I am proud to say that the Navy was well represented [ashore] by 3 sailors, who . . . stood by their guns through the whole action, fighting hand to hand to save the gun and the reputation of the Navy. The sailors are highly spoken of by the army officers.
6 A Confederate "David" torpedo boat commanded by First Assistant Engineer Tomb, CSN, attacked U.S.S. Memphis, Acting Master Robert O. Patterson, in the North Edisto River near Charleston. The "David" was sighted some 50 yards to port and a heavy volley of musket fire directed at her, but Tomb held his small craft on course. The spar torpedo containing 95 pounds of powder was thrust squarely against Memphis' port quarter, about eight feet below the waterline, but failed to explode. Tomb turned away and renewed the attack on the starboard quarter. Again the torpedo struck home, but this time only a glancing blow because Memphis was now underway. The two vessels collided, damaging the "David", and Tomb withdrew under heavy fire. The faulty torpedo had prevented the brave Tomb from adding an 800-ton iron steamer to a growing list of victims.
U.S.S. Morse, Lieutenant Commander Babcock, ascended the York River, Virginia, at the Army's request to assist a Union cavalry detachment under the command of Colonel Ulric Dahlgren, son of the Navy's famous Admiral. From Purtan Island Point Morse, a converted ferryboat, was slowed by the necessity of sweeping the river in front of the ship for torpedoes. Anchoring for the night off Terrapin Point, the gunboat continued upriver next morning and fired signal guns to attract the attention of the cavalry. Off Brick House Farm a boat carrying five cavalry-men put out to Morse. They reported that the Union force had been cut off and captured by a greatly superior Confederate unit of cavalry and infantry. Young Dahlgren, who had lost a leg at Gettysburg, was killed in the engagement. His grief-stricken father wrote in his diary, "How busy is death-oh, how busy indeed!"
Major General W.T. Sherman appointed Brigadier General Andrew J. Smith to command the forces of his Army in the Red River expedition. He directed Smith: ". . . proceed to the mouth of the Red River and confer with Admiral Porter; confer with him and in all the expedition rely on him implicitly, as he is the approved friend of the Army of the Tennessee, and has been as-sociated with us from the beginning. . . ." Long months of arduous duty together in the west had forged a close bond between Sherman and Porter.
U.S.S. Grand Gulf, Commander George M. Ransom, captured blockade running British steamer Mar Ann which had run out of Wilmington with cargo of cotton and tobacco.
U.S.S. Peterhoff, Acting Lieutenant Thomas Pickering, was run into by U.S.S. Monticello and sunk off New Inlet, North Carolina. The following day, U.S.S. Mount Vernon destroyed Peter-hoff to prevent possible salvage by the Confederates.
8 U.S.S. Conestoga, Lieutenant Commander Thomas O. Selfridge, was rammed by U.S.S. General Price, Lieutenant J. E. Richardson, about ten miles below Grand Gulf, Mississippi and sank in four minutes with the loss of two crew members. The collision resulted from a confusion in whistle signals on board General Price. Lieutenant Commander Selfridge, who achieved a conspicuously successful record in the war, had singularly bad luck in having his ships sunk under him. He commented later in his memoirs: "Thus for the third time in the war, I had my ship suddenly sunk under me. It is a strange coincidence that the names of these three ships all begin with the letter 'C', and that two of these disasters occurred on the 8th day of March; the other on the 12th of December." Selfridge had been on board U.S.S. Cumberland during her engagement with C.S.S. Virginia in Hampton Roads on 8 March 1862, and had commanded U.S.S. Cairo when she was struck by a torpedo and sank instantly in the Yazoo River on 12 December 1862. Admiral Porter, upon hearing the young officer's report on the sinking of Conestoga, replied: "Well, Selfridge, you do not seem to have much luck with the top of the alphabet. I think that for your next ship I will try the bottom." Thus Lieutenant Commander Selfridge took command of the paddle wheel monitor U.S.S. Osage, and, after she grounded in the Red River, was sent as captain of the new gunboat U.S.S Vindicator further down the alphabet.
U.S.S.Virginia, Acting Lieutenant C. H. Brown, captured blockade running sloop Randall off San Luis Pass, Texas.
9 Rear Admiral Porter directed Lieutenant Commander James A. Greer, U.S.S. Benton, to advise him as soon as General Sherman's troops were sighted coming down river on transports. The Admiral wanted to move quickly upon the arrival of the troops in order to meet Major General Banks at Alexandria on 17 March. Porter had gathered his gunboats at the month of the Red River for the move. They included ironclads U.S.S. Essex, Benton, Choctaw, Chillicothe, Ozark, Louisville, Carondelet, East port, Pittsburg, Mound City, Osage, and Neosho; large wooden steamers Lafayette and Ouachita; and small paddle-wheelers Lexington, Fort Hindman, Cricket, and Gazelle.
Confederate Secretary of War James A. Seddon authorized Thomas E. Courtenay to employ "a band of men, not exceeding twenty-five in number, for secret service against the enemy.
For the destruction of property of the enemy or injury done, a percentage shall be paid in 4 per cent bonds, in no case to exceed 50 per cent of the loss to the enemy, and to be awarded by such officer or officers as shall be charged with such duty. . . . The waters and railroads of the Con-federate States used by the enemy are properly the subjects and arenas of operations. . . ." Courtenay had aided in the development of the coal torpedo (see 19 January 1864).
U.S.S. Shokokon, Morse, and General Putnam, under Lieutenant Commander Babcock, convoyed an Army expedition up the York and Mattapony Rivers. After disembarking troops from the transports, Babcock remained at Sheppard's Landing throughout the 10th as requested by Brigadier General Isaac J. Wistar. Then the naval force withdrew downriver, arriving at Yorktown on the 12th. While enroute on the 11th, Babcock met a naval force under Acting Lieutenant Edward Hooker of the Potomac Flotilla and arranged for him to "keep a vigilant lookout for our forces, and also prevent any rebels from crossing from the mouth of the Piankatank River to Mosquito Point on the Rappahannock." As Rear Admiral Lee wrote: . . . the naval part of the expedition was well arranged and executed."
U.S.S. Yankee, Acting Lieutenant Hooker, reconnoitered the Rappahannock River to within a mile of Urbanna, Virginia. "We learned," he reported to Commander F. A. Parker, "that there is now no force of any importance at or near Urbanna, although the presence of troops a short time ago was confirmed." Two days later, "Major General Butler having requested me to 'watch the Rappahannock from 10 miles below Urbanna to its mouth,' " Parker directed Hooker to "lend such assistance . . . as you can . . . . Continuing operations in the river by the Union Navy tended to deny to the Confederates use of the inland waters for even marginal logistic support of their operations. This decisive function of seapower was just as valid on the inland waters as on the high sea.
10 Confederate steamer Helen, commanded by Lieutenant Philip Porcher, CSN, was lost at sea in a gale while running a cargo of cotton from Charleston to Nassau. Secretary Mallory wrote that Porcher "was one of the most efficient officers of the service, and his loss is deeply deplored.''
U.S.S. Virginia, Acting Lieutenant C. H. Brown, captured schooner Sylphide off San Luis Pass, Texas, with cargo including percussion caps.
11 U.S.S. Aroostook, Lieutenant Commander Chester Hatfield, captured blockade-running British schooner Mary P. Burton in the Gulf of Mexico south of Velasco, Texas, with cargo of iron and shot.
Boats under Acting Ensign Henry B. Colby, from U.S.S. Beauregard, and Acting Master George Delap, from U.S.S. Norfolk Packet, seized British schooner Linda at Mosquito Inlet, Florida, with cargo including salt, liquor, and coffee.
U.S.S. San Jacinto, Commander James F. Armstrong, captured schooner Lealtad, which had run the blockade at Mobile with cargo of cotton and turpentine.
Schooner Julia Baker was boarded by Confederate guerrilla forces near Newport News, Virginia. After taking $2,500 in cash and capturing the master and five men, the boarders burned the schooner.
U.S.S. Beauregard, Acting Master Francis Burgess, captured blockade running British sloop Hannah off Mosquito Inlet, Florida, with cargo of cotton cloth.
12 Rear Admiral Porter's gunboats moved up the Red River, Louisiana, to open the two month operation aimed at obtaining a lodgement across the border in Texas. U.S.S. East port, Lieutenant Commander Samuel L. Phelps, pushed ahead to remove the obstructions in the river below Fort De Russy, followed by ironclads U.S.S. Choctaw, Essex, Ozark, Osage, and Neosho and wooden steamers Lafayette, Fort Hindman, and Cricket. Porter took ironclads U.S.S. Benton, Chillicothe, Louisville, Pittsburg, and Mound City and wooden paddlewheelers Ouachita, Lexington, and Gazelle into the Atchafalaya River to cover the Army landing at Simmesport. A landing party from Benton, Lieutenant Commander Greer, drove back Confederate pickets prior to the arrival of the trans-ports. Next morning, 13 March, the soldiers disembarked and pursued the Confederates falling back on Fort De Russy. Meanwhile, Eastport and the gunboats which had continued up the Red River reached the obstructions which the Southerners had taken five months to build. 'They supposed it impassable," Porter observed, "but our energetic sailors with hard work opened a passage in a few hours." East port and Neosho passed through and commenced bombarding Fort De Russy as the Union troops began their assault on the works; by the 14th it was in Union hands. Porter wrote: "The surrender of the forts at Point De Russy is of much more importance than I at first supposed. The rebels had depended on that point to stop any advance of army or navy into rebeldom. Large quantities of ammunition, best engineers, and best troops were sent there.
U.S.S. Columbine, Acting Ensign Francis W. Sanborn, supporting an Army movement up the St. Johns River, Florida, captured Confederate river steamer General Sumter. Acting Master John C. Champion, commanding a launch from U.S.S. Pawnee which was in company with tug Columbine, took command of the prize, and the two vessels pushed on up the St. John's, reaching Lake Monroe on the 14th. That afternoon the naval force captured steamer Hattie at Deep Creek. The expedition continued for the next few days, destroying a Southern sugar refinery and proceeding to Palatka, where the Army was taking up a fortified position.
U.S.S. Aroostook, Lieutenant Commander Hatfield, captured schooner Marion near Velasco, Texas, with cargo of salt and iron. Marion sank in a gale off Galveston on the 14th.
U.S.S. Massachusetts, Acting Lieutenant William H. West, captured sloop Persis in Wassaw Sound, Georgia, with cargo of cotton.
15 After ordering ironclads U.S.S. Benton and Essex to remain at Fort De Russy in support of the Army detachment engaged in destroying the works, Rear Admiral Porter convoyed the main body of troops up the Red River toward Alexandria, Louisiana. Porter dispatched U.S.S. East port, Lex-ington, and Ouachita ahead to try to overtake the Confederate vessels seeking to escape above the Alexandria rapids. The Confederate ships were too far ahead, however, and the Union gunboats arrived at the rapids half an hour behind them. Confederate steamer Countess grounded in her hasty attempt to get upstream and was destroyed by her crew to prevent capture.
U.S.S. Nyanza, Acting Lieutenant Samuel B. Washburn, captured schooner J. W. Wilder in the Atchafalaya River, Louisiana.
16 Lieutenant Commander Flusser reported to Rear Admiral Lee on information reaching him regard-ing the Confederates' progress in completing C.S.S. Albemarle on the Roanoke River, North Carolina. The ram was reported to have two layers of iron and to be ready to proceed to Williamston on 1 April. Two days later Flusser again wrote Lee, informing him that he had just heard the rumor that Albemarle was to have 7 inches of plating. "I think," he observed, "the reporters are putting on the iron rather heavy. I am inclined to believe her armor is not more than stated in one of my former letters-3 inches." Albemarle actually carried two layers of 2-inch armor. By 24 March Flusser reported that intelligence, "which would seem reliable," indicated that the ironclad ram was at Hamilton and that the torpedoes placed by the Confederates in the Roanoke River below Williamston were being removed to permit her passage downstream.
Nine Union vessels had arrived at Alexandria, Louisiana, by morning and a landing party under Lieutenant Commander Selfridge, U.S.S. Osage, occupied the town prior to the arrival of Rear Admiral Porter and the troops. At Alexandria, Porter's gunboats and the soldiers awaited the arrival of Major General Banks' Army, which was delayed by heavy rains.
Rear Admiral James L. Lardner, commander of the West Indies Squadron, ordered U.S.S. Neptune, Commander Joseph P. Sanford, and U.S.S. Galatea, Commander John Guest, to convoy Cali-fornia steamers operating in the Caribbean. This was a measure designed to protect the merchant ships, which often carried quantities of vital Union gold, from the highly regarded Confederate cruisers.
18 Lieutenant General F. Kirby Smith, CSA, ordered steamer New Falls City taken to Scopern's Cut-off, below Shreveport on the Red River, where she was to be sunk if the Union movement threatened that far upriver. Next day the General directed that thirty torpedoes be placed below Grand Ecore to obstruct the Red River. An officer from C.S.S. Missouri was detailed for this duty. General Smith's foresight would shortly pay dividends, for the hulk of New Falls City did block the way of the Union gunboats and U.S.S. Eastport was to be severely damaged by a torpedo.
20 Arriving off Capetown, South Africa, Captain Semmes, C.S.S. Alabama, noted that there were no Union cruisers in the vicinity, though he was well aware that many had been dispatched from Northern ports to capture him. He recalled later: "That huge old coal-box, the Vanderbilt, having thought it useless to pursue us farther, had turned back, and was now probably doing a more profitable business, by picking up blockade-runners on the American coast. This opera-tion paid-the Captain might grow rich upon it. Chasing the Alabama did not."
U.S.S. Honeysuckle, Acting Ensign Sears, captured blockade running sloop Florida in the Gulf of Mexico west of Florida, with cargo of powder, shot, nails, and coffee.
U.S.S. Tioga, Lieutenant Commander Edward Y. McCauley, captured blockade running sloop Swallow, bound from the Combahee River, South Carolina, to Nassau, laden with cotton, rosin, and tobacco.
Lieutenant Charles C. Simms, C.S.S. Baltic, wrote Commander C. ap R. Jones that naval con-structor John L. Porter "has made a very unfavorable report on the condition of the ship [Baltic] and recommended that the iron be taken from her and put upon one of the new boats that were built. . . . Between you and I [sic] the Baltic is rotten as punk and is about as fit to go into action as a mud scow." By July Baltic had been dismantled and her armor transferred to C.S.S. Nashville.
21 Confederate forces at Sabine Pass, Texas, destroyed steamer Clifton (ex-U.S.S. Clifton, see 8 Septem-ber 1863) to prevent her capture by blockading Union naval forces. The 900-ton Clifton had been attempting to run out of the Texas port when she grounded and could not be floated.
U.S.S. Hendrick Hudson, Lieutenant Commander Charles J. McDougal, rammed blockade runner Wild Pigeon, hound from Havana to the Florida coast she struck Wild Pigeon amidships and the schooner sank immediately.
Confederate Secretary Mallory wrote Commander Bulloch in Europe disagreeing with Bulloch's conclusion that the Confederacy needed no additional cruisers since . . there is no longer any American commerce for them to prey upon." Mallory countered "We have, it is true, inflicted a heavy blow and great discouragement upon the Federal foreign commerce, but the coasting trade and fisheries, embracing the California trade, has suffered but little from our cruisers, and it can and must be struck."
24 A closely coordinated Army-Navy expedition departed Beaufort, North Carolina, on board side-wheel steamer U.S.S. Britannia. Some 200 soldiers were commanded by Colonel James Jourdan, while about 50 sailors from U.S.S. Keystone State, Florida, and Cambridge were in charge of Commander Benjamin M. Dove. The aim of the expedition was the capture or destruction of two schooners used in blockade running at Swansboro, North Carolina, and the capture of a Confederate army group on the south end of Bogue Island Banks. Arriving off Bogue Inlet late at night, the expedition encountered high winds and heavy seas which prevented landing on the beach. Early on the morning of the 25th, a second attempt was made under similarly difficult conditions, but a party got through to Bear Creek where one of the schooners was burned. Bad weather persisted throughout the day and the expedition eventually returned to Beaufort on the 26th with its mission only partially completed.
Rear Admiral Porter reported that his forces had seized more than 2,000 bales of cotton, as well as quantities of molasses and wool, since entering the Red River.
U.S.S. Stonewall, Master Henry B. Carter, captured sloop Josephine in Sarasota Sound, Florida, with cargo of cotton.
25 U.S.S. Peosta, Acting Lieutenant Thomas E. Smith, and U.S.S. Paw Paw, Acting Lieutenant A. Frank O'Neil, engaged Confederate troops who had launched a heavy assault on Northern positions at Paducah, Kentucky. Under the wooden gunboats' fire the Southerners were halted and finally forced to withdraw. The value of the force afloat was recognized by Brigadier General Mason Brayman, who later wrote of the action: "I wish to state during my short period of service here the Navy has borne a conspicuous part in all operations. The Peosta, Captain Smith, and Paw Paw, Captain O'Neil, joined Colonel Hicks at Paducah, and with gallantry equal to his own shelled the rebels out of the buildings from which their sharpshooters annoyed our troops. A large number took shelter in heavy warehouses near the river and maintained a furious fire upon the gunboats, inflicting some injury, but they were promptly dislodged and the build-ings destroyed. Fleet Captain Pennock, of the Mississippi Squadron, representing Admiral Porter in his absence, and Lieutenant Commander Shirk, of the Seventh Division, who had charge above Cairo and on the Tennessee, were prompt, vigilant, and courageous and cooperated in everything. That the river line was kept open, considering the inadequate force at my control, I regard as due in a great degree to the cooperation of the Navy."
Close cooperation and support between land and sea forces continued to mark Northern efforts in the Civil War. On 21 March, Major General Quincy A. Gillmore wrote Commodore Stephen C. Rowan that, though the Army had five steam transports operating in the vicinity of Port Royal on picket duty and as transports, he had "no officer possessing sufficient experience to properly outfit and command such vessels. My steamboat masters are citizens, and know nothing of artillery. My artillery officers are not sailors, and are not acquainted with naval gunnery." The General thus requested that an officer from the blockading squadron be assigned to assist the Army in this regard. "It would," Gillmore wrote, "be of advantage to this army. . . ." This date, Rowan, temporarily commanding the naval forces in the absence of Rear Admiral Dahlgren, ordered Acting Ensign William C. Hanford to assist the General as requested.
Secretary Welles called President Lincoln's attention to the scarcity of seamen in ships afloat and suggested the transfer of 12,000 men from the Army to the Navy. The transfer was later effected as a result of a bill sponsored by Senator Grimes of Iowa.
Lieutenant Commander Babcock, U.S.S. Morse, submitted a report to Rear Admiral Lee on all the Confederate material seized by his ship between 1 and 12 February on the York River. He wrote that the articles included a small schooner, a sloop, corn, wheat, oats, salt, tobacco, plows, a cultivator, plow points, plow shares, and molding boards. Seemingly inconsequential in them-selves, these articles lost were multiplied manyfold by the ceaseless efforts of the Navy in river and coastal waters; it was their steady attrition which was so sorely felt by Confederate fight-ing men and civilians alike.
A boat expedition under Acting Master Edward H. Sheffield from U.S.S. Winona, Lieutenant Commander A. W. Weaver, after making extensive reconnaissance of the area, captured blockade runner Little Ada loading cotton at McClellansville in the South Santee River, South Carolina. As Union sailors sought to bring the prize out, Confederate artillery opened on the vessel with devastating accuracy. The attack by Sheffield, carried on deep in Confederate-held territory, had begun in darkness, but as It was now fully light, the riddled prize had to be quickly abandoned to prevent capture of the boarding party.
Major General Banks arrived at Alexandria- a week later than originally planned. The main force of the Red River expedition was now assembled.
28 The versatility of Union gunboat crews was continually tested. Crewmen from U.S.S. Benton, Lieutenant Commander Greer, had gone ashore the 27th near Fort De Russy and taken some 13 bales of cotton from an abandoned plantation. They returned this date, Greer reported, and got 18 bales from the same place, which they baled themselves, using up an old awning for the purpose.
Secretary Welles ordered Commander John C. Carter to have U.S.S. Michigan "prepared for active service as soon as the ice will permit." Michigan, an iron side-wheel steamer, was at Erie, Pennsylvania, and it was rumored that the Confederates were planning a naval raid from Canada against a city on the Great Lakes.
U.S.S. Kingfisher, Acting Master John C. Dutch, ran aground and was totally wrecked in St. Helena Sound, South Carolina.
29 The low level of the Red River continued to hinder Rear Admiral Porter's efforts to get his gun-boats above the rapids at Alexandria for the assault on Shreveport. He reported: "After a great deal of labor and two and a half days' hard work, we succeeded in getting the Eastport over the rocks on the falls, hauling her over by main force. . . . ' All the Army transports maneuvered safely above the rapids, but hospital ship Woodford was battered against the rocks and sank. Porter added: "I shall only be able to take up I part of the force I brought with me, and leave the river guarded all the way through."
C.S.S. Florida, Lieutenant Morris, at 150o11' N, 34o25' W, captured ship Avon with a 1,600 ton cargo of guano. After removing the crew, Morris used the prize for gunnery practice and finally destroyed her by burning.
29-30 A boat expedition under the command of Acting Master James M. Williams, U.S.S. Commodore Barney, with a detachment of sailors under the command of Acting Master Charles B. Wilder, U.S.S. Minnesota, ascended Chuckatuck Creek late at night seeking to capture a party of Con-federate troops reported to be in that vicinity. After landing at Cherry Grove, Virginia, shortly before dawn, the sailors silently surrounded the Confederate headquarters and took 20 prisoners. Rear Admiral Lee reported to Secretary Welles that". . . it gives me pleasure to commend the energy and zeal displayed by these officers in planning and carrying out to a successful termina-tion an expedition of no little difficulty."
30 Captain John B. Marchand, commanding the Third Division of the Western Gulf Blockading Squadron, reported to Fleet Captain Percival Drayton on the difficulty of trying to maintain a tight blockade through the passes and inlets around Galveston: "This place has great advantages for blockade running, as, in addition to the regular channels, the shores, both to the northward and southward, are represented to be bold. I have been credibly informed that good large schooners have hugged the shore so close as to be dragged along for miles by lines from the land by soldiers and sailors into Galveston."
31 A boat crew under the command of Acting Master's Mate Francisco Silva, returned to U.S.S. Sagamore after destroying two blockade running schooners near Cedar Keys, Florida. Three boats had initiated the search for a blockade runner sighted on the 28th, but two had turned back after an unsuccessful search of nearly six hours, as night was falling and the weather threatening. Silva, however, continued to search for the next two days". . . with heavy rain squalls and an ugly sea running." Despite the adverse conditions, Silva succeeded in destroying schooner Etta and a second schooner whose name could not be ascertained. Blockade duty was seldom highly dramatic or widely publicized, but the resolute determination of the forces afloat to choke off Confederate commerce took a prohibitive toll of Southern shipping and kept the Confederacy in a constant state of need.