< Civil War Naval History May 1862

Civil War Naval History


May 1862

1 U.S.S. Hatteras, Commander Emmons, captured schooner Magnolia near Berwick Bay, Louisiana, with cargo of cotton.

U.S.S. Jamestown, Commander Green, captured British blockade runner Intended off the coast of North Carolina with cargo of salt, coffee, and medicines.

U.S.S. Huron, Lieutenant Downes, captured schooner Albert off Charleston.

Schooner Sarah ran aground at Bull's Bay, South Carolina, and was destroyed by her own crew to prevent capture by U.S.S. Onward, Acting Lieutenant Nickels.

U.S.S. Marblehead, Lieutenant Somerville Nicholson, shelled the Confederate positions at Yorktown.

2 U.S.S. Restless, Acting Lieutenant Conroy, captured British blockade runner Flash off the coast of South Carolina.

3 U.S.S. R. R. Cuyler, Lieutenant F. Winslow, captured schooner Jane off Tampa Bay, Florida, with cargo including pig lead.

4 U.S.S. Corwin, Lieutenant Thomas S. Phelps, captured schooner Director and launch marked "U.S. brig Dolphin " in York River near Gloucester Point; guard boat General Scott and sloop Champion, both loaded with Confederate Army stores, were burned to prevent capture.

Boat crew from U.S.S. Wachusett, Commander W. Smith, raised United States flag at Gloucester Point, Virginia, after General McClellan's troops occupied Yorktown; two Confederate schooners were captured.

U.S.S. Calhoun, Lieutenant Joseph E. DeHaven, captured sloop Charles Henry off St. Joseph, Loui-siana, and raised the United States flag over Fort Pike, which had been evacuated.

Lieutenant English, commanding U.S.S. Somerset, reported the capture of steamer Circassian between Havana and Matanzas.

Union forces at Ragged Island burned schooner Beauregard, laden with coal for C.S.S. Virginia.

5 President Lincoln, with Secretaries Stanton and Chase on board, proceeded to Hampton Roads on steamer Miami to personally direct the stalled Peninsular Campaign. The following day, Lincoln informed Flag Officer L. M. Goldsborough: "I shall be found either at General Wool's [Fort Monroe] or on board the Miami." The President directed gunboat operations in the James River and the bombardment of Sewell's Point by the blockading squadron in the five days he acted as Commander-in-Chief in the field.

U.S.S. Calhoun, Lieutenant DeHaven, captured schooner Rover with cargo of brick in Lake Pont-chartrain, Louisiana.

Boat from U.S.S. Coru, Lieutenant T. S. Phelps, captured sloop Water Witch, abandoned the Previous day by Confederates above Gloucester Point, Virginia.

6 U.S.S. Calhoun, Lieutenant DeHaven, captured steamer Whiteman in Lake Pontchartrain.

U.S.S. Ottawa, Lieutenant J. Blakeley Creighton, captured schooner General C. C. Pinckney off Charleston.

7 U.S.S. Wachusett, Commander W. Smith, U.S.S. Chocura, and Sebago escorted Army transports up the York River, supported the landing at West Point, Virginia, and countered a Confederate attack with accurate gunfire. U.S.S. Currituck, Acting Master William F. Shankland, sent on a reconnaissance of the Pamunkey River by Smith on the 6th, captured American Coaster and Planter the next day. Shankland reported that some twenty schooners had been sunk and two gunboats burned by the Confederates above West Point.

8 U.S.S. Monitor, Dacotah, Naugatuck, Seminole, and Susquehanna by direction of the President"-shelled Confederate batteries at Sewell's Point, Virginia, as Flag Officer L. M. Goldsborough reported, ''mainly with the view of ascertaining the practicability of landing a body of troops thereabouts" to move on Norfolk. Whatever rumors President Lincoln had received about Confederates abandoning Norfolk were now confirmed; a tug deserted from Norfolk and brought news that the evacuation was well underway and that C.S.S. Virginia, with her accompanying small gunboats, planned to proceed up the James or York River. It was planned that when Virginia came out, as she had on the 7th, the Union fleet would retire with U.S.S. Monitor in the rear hoping to draw the powerful but under-engined warship into deep water where she might be rammed by high speed steamers. The bombardment uncovered reduced but considerable strength at Sewell's Point. Virginia came out but not far enough to be rammed. Two days later President Lincoln wrote Flag Officer Goldsborough: "I send you this copy of your report of yesterday for the purpose of saying to you in writing that you are quite right in supposing the movement made by you and therein reported was made in accordance with my wishes verbally expressed to you in advance. I avail myself of the occasion to thank you for your courtesy and all your conduct, so far as known to me, during my brief visit here.'' President Lincoln, acting as Commander-in-Chief in the field at Hampton Roads, also directed Flag Officer Goldsborough: "If you have tolerable confidence that you can successfully contend with the Merrimack without the help of the Galena and two accompanying gunboats, send the Galena and two gunboats up the James River at once'' to support General McClellan. This wise use of power afloat by the President silenced two shore batteries and forced gunboats C.S.S. Jamestown and Patrick Henry to return up the James River.

Landing party from U.S.S. Iroquois, Commander James S. Palmer, seized arsenal and took pos-session of Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

9 Captain Davis assumed temporary command of the Western Flotilla, relieving Flag Officer Foote who was failing from the wound suffered at Fort Donelson. Foote had made a series of major contributions toward reopening the "Father of Waters." In the words of Admiral Mahan: ''Over the birth and early efforts of that little fleet he had presided; upon his shoulders had fallen the burden of anxiety and unremitting labor which the early days of the war, when all had to be created, everywhere entailed. He was repaid, for under him its early glories were achieved and its reputation established."

President Lincoln himself, after talking to pilots and studying charts, reconnoitered to the east-ward of Sewell's Point and found a suitably unfortified landing site near Willoughby Point. The troops embarked in transports that night. The next morning they landed near the site selected by the President. The latter, still afloat, from his "command ship" Miami ordered U.S.S. Monitor to reconnoiter Sewell's Point to learn if the batteries were still manned. When he found the works abandoned, President Lincoln ordered Major General Wool's troops to march on Norfolk, where they arrived late on the afternoon of the 10th.

10 Norfolk Navy Yard set afire before being evacuated by Confederate forces in a general withdrawal up the peninsula to defend Richmond. Union troops under Major General Wool crossed Hampton Roads from Fort Monroe, landed at Ocean View, and captured Norfolk.

Pensacola reoccupied by Union Army and Navy forces. Military installations in the area, includ-ing the Navy Yard, Forts Barrancas and McRee, C.S.S. Fulton, and an ironclad building on the Escambia River, were destroyed by the Confederates the preceding day before withdrawing. Commander D. D. Porter reported to Secretary of the Navy Welles: "The rebels had done their work completely. The yard is a ruin. Abandonment of the important Pensacola coastal area had been in preparation by the Confederates for months after Flag Officer Foote's stunning suc-cesses on the upper Mississippi made redeployment of guns and troops necessary. Flag Officer Farragut's momentous victory at New Orleans precipitated the final evacuation. Colonel Thomas M. Jones, CSA, commanding at Pensacola, reported: "On receiving information that the enemy's gunboats had succeeded in passing the forts below New Orleans with their pow-erful batteries and splendid equipments, I came to the conclusion that, with my limited means of defense, reduced, as I have been by the withdrawal of nearly all my heavy guns and ammunition, I could not hold them in check or make even a respectable show of resistance.''

Confederate River Defense Fleet C.S.S. General Bragg, General Sumter, General Sterling Price, General Earl Van Dorn, General M. Jeff Thompson, General Lovell, General Beauregard, and Little Rebel--made a spirited attack on Union gunboats and mortar flotilla at Plum Point Bend, Tennessee. The Confed-erate fleet, Captain James E. Montgomery, attacked Mortar Boat No. 16, stationed just above Fort Pillow and engaged in bombarding the works. U.S.S. Cincinnati, Commander Stembel, coming to the mortar boat's defense, was rammed by Bragg and sank on a bar in eleven feet of water. Van Dorn rammed U.S.S. Mound City, Commander Kilty, forcing her to run aground to avoid sinking. The draft of the Confederate vessels would not permit them to press the attack into the shoal water in which the Union squadron steamed, and, having sustained various but minor injuries, Montgomery withdrew under the guns of Fort Pillow. Cincinnati and Mound City were quickly repaired and returned to service.

U.S.S. Unadilla, Lieutenant Collins, captured schooner Mary Teresa attempting to run the blockade at Charleston.

Ironclad steamer U.S.S. New Ironsides launched at Philadelphia.

11 C.S.S. Virginia blown up by her crew off Craney Island to avoid capture. The fall of Norfolk to Union forces denied Virginia her base, and when it was discovered that she drew too much water to be brought up the James River, Flag Officer Tattnall ordered the celebrated ironclad's destruc-tion. "Thus perished the Virginia," Tattnall wrote, "and with her many highflown hopes of naval supremacy and success." For the Union, the end of Virginia not only removed the formid-able threat to the large base at Fort Monroe, but gave Flag Officer Goldsborough's fleet free passage up the James River as far as Drewry's Bluff, a factor which was to save the Peninsular Campaign from probable disaster.
U.S.S. Bainbridge, Commander Thomas M. Brasher, captured schooner Newcastle at sea with cargo of turpentine and cotton.

U.S.S. Kittatinny, Acting Master Charles W. Lamson, captured blockade running British schooner Julia off Southwest Pass, Mississippi River, with cargo of cotton.

U.S.S. Hatteras, Commander Emmons, captured steamer Governor A. Mouton off Berwick Bay, Louisiana.

12 U.S.S: Maratanza, Lieutenant Stevens, and other gunboats made a reconnaissance of Pamunkey River in support of an Army advance to the new supply base at White House, Virginia, within twenty-two miles of Richmond.

Officers and crew of C.S.S. Virginia were ordered to report to Commander Farrand to establish a battery below Drewry's Bluff on the left bank of the river to prevent the ascent of Union gun-boats. The battery was to be organized and commanded by Lieutenant Catesby ap R. Jones.

13 Confederate steamer Planter, with her captain ashore in Charleston, was taken out of the harbor by an entirely Negro crew under Robert Smalls and turned over to U.S.S. Onward, Acting Lieu-tenant Nickels, of the blockading Union squadron. "At 4 in the morning," Flag Officer Du Pont reported,''. . . she left her wharf close to the Government office and headquarters, with palmetto and Confederate flag flying, passed the successive forts, saluting as usual by blowing her steam whistle. After getting beyond the range of the last gun she quickly hauled down the rebel flags and hoisted a white one . . . The steamer is quite a valuable acquisition to the squadron.

Du Pont added in a letter to Senator Grimes: "You should have heard his [Small's] modest reply when I asked him what was said of the carry away of General Ripley's barge sometime ago. He said they made a great fuss but perhaps they would make more 'to do' when they heard of the steamer having been brought out.

U.S.S. Iroquois, Commander Palmer, and U.S.S. Oneida, Commander S. P. Lee, occupied Natchez, Mississippi, as Flag Officer Farragut's fleet moved steadily toward Vicksburg.

U.S.S. Bohio, Acting Master W. D. Gregory, captured schooner Deer Island in Mississippi So with cargo of flour and rice.

Boat crew from U.S.S. Calhoun, Lieutenant DeHaven, captured Confederate gunboat Cory moored in Bayou Bonfouca, Louisiana.

14 U.S.S. Calhoun, Lieutenant DeHaven, captured schooner Venice in Lake Pontchartrain with cargo of cotton.

15 James River Flotilla, including U.S.S. Monitor, Galena, Aroostook, Port Royal, and Naugatuck, under Commander J - Rodgers encountered obstructions sunk across the river and at close range hotly engaged sharpshooters and strong Confederate batteries, manned in part by sailors and Marines, at Drewry's Bluff, Virginia. For his part in the ensuing action, Corporal John B. Mackie, a member of Galena's Marine Guard, was cited for gallantry in a letter to Secretary of the Navy Welles; in Department of the Navy General Order 17, issued on 10 July 1863, Mackie was awarded the first Medal of Honor authorized a member of the Marine Corps. In the bombardment, Galena was heavily damaged but, unsupported, Rodgers penetrated the James River to within eight miles of Richmond before falling back. Rodgers stated at this time that troops were needed to take Drewry' s Bluff in the rear. Had this been done, Richmond might well have fallen.

U.S.S. Sea Foam, Acting Master Henry E. Williams, and U.S.S. Matthew Vassar, Acting Master Hugh H. Savage, captured sloops Sarah and New Eagle off Ship Island, Mississippi, with cargo of cotton.

16 Union naval squadron under Commander S.P. Lee in U.S.S. Oneida, advancing up the Mississippi River toward Vicksburg, shelled Grand Gulf, Mississippi.

17 Joint expedition including U.S.S. Sebago, Lieutenant Murray, and U.S.S. Currituck, Acting Master Shankland, with troops embarked on transport Seth Low, at the request of General McClellan ascended the Pamunkey River to twenty-five miles above White House. Confederates burned seventeen vessels, some loaded with coal and commissary stores. The river was so narrow at this point that the Union gunboats were compelled to return stern foremost for several miles. General McClellan reported that the ''expedition was admirably managed, and all concerned deserve great credit.''

U.S.S. Hatteras, Commander Emmons, captured sloop Poody off Vermilion Bay, Louisiana.

18 Commander S.P. Lee submitted a demand from Flag Officer Farragut and General Butler for the surrender of Vicksburg; Confederate authorities refused and a year-long land and water assault on the stronghold began. As Flag Officer Du Pont observed: "The object is to have Vicksburg and the entire possession of the river in all its length and shores."

U.S.S. Hunchback, Acting Lieutenant Colhoun, and U.S.S. Shawsheen, Acting Master Thomas J. Woodward, captured schooner G. H. Smoot in Potecasi Creek, North Carolina.

20 Union gunboats occupied the Stono River above Cole's Island, South Carolina, and shelled Con-federate positions there. Flag Officer Du Pont reported to Secretary of the Navy Welles: "The Unadilla, Pembina, and Ottawa, under Commander Marchand . . . succeeded in entering Stono and proceeded up the river above the old Fort opposite Legareville. On their approach the barracks were fired and deserted by the enemy . . . This important base of operations, the Stono, has thus been secured for further operations by the army against Charleston.

U.S.S. Whitehead, Acting Master French, captured schooner Eugenia in Bennet's Creek, North Carolina.

21 Boat expedition from U.S.S. Hunchback, Acting Lieutenant Colhoun, and U.S.S. Whitehead, Acting Master French, captured schooner Winter Shrub in Keel's Creek, North Carolina, with cargo of fish.

22 U.S.S. Mount Vernon, Commander Glisson, captured steamer Constitution attempting to run the blockade at Wilmington.

U.S.S. Whitehead, Acting Master French, captured sloop Ella D off Keel's Creek, North Carolina, with cargo of salt.

24 U.S.S. Bienville, Commander Mullany, captured British blockade runner Stettin off Charleston.

U.S.S. Amanda, Acting Lieutenant Nathaniel Goodwin, and U.S.S. Bainbridge, Commander Brasher, captured steamer Swan west of Tortugas with cargo of cotton and rosin.

25 Confederate gunboat under command of Captain F. N. Bonneau, guarding the bridge between James and Dixon Islands, Charleston harbor, exchanged fire with Union gunboats. Captain Bonneau claimed several hits on the gunboats.

26 Lieutenant Isaac N. Brown, CSN, ordered to take command of C.S.S. Arkansas and "finish the vessel without regard to expenditure of men or money. Captain Lynch after inspecting the unfinished ram reported to Secretary of the Navy Mallory that: "the Arkansas is very inferior to the Merrimac[k] in every particular. The iron with which she is covered is worn and indif-ferent, taken from a railroad track, and is poorly secured to the vessel; boiler iron on stern and counter; her smoke-stack is sheet iron." Nevertheless, with great energy to overcome shortages and difficulties of every nature, Lieutenant Brown completed Arkansas, reinforced her bulwarks with cotton bales, and mounted a formidable armament of 10 guns. Lieutenant George W. Gift, CSN, who served in the ship later recorded that "within five weeks from the day we arrived at Yazoo City, we had a man-of-war (such as she was) from almost nothing-the credit for all of which belongs to Isaac Newton Brown, the commander of the vessel." A number of Army artillerists volunteered to act as gunners on board the ram.

U.S.S. Brooklyn, Captain T. T. Craven, and gunboats U.S.S. Kineo, Lieutenant George M. Ransom, arid U.S.S. Katahdin, Lieutenant Preble, shelled Grand Gulf, Mississippi.

U.S.S. Huron, Lieutenant Downes, captured British blockade runner Cambria off Charleston.

U.S.S. Pursuit, Acting Lieutenant Cate, captured schooner Andromeda near the coast of Cuba with cargo of cotton.

27 U.S.S. Bienville, Commander Mullany, seized blockade running British steamer Patras off Bull's Island, South Carolina, from Havana with cargo of powder and arms.

U.S.S. Santiago de Cuba, Commander Ridgely, captured schooner Lucy C. Holmes off Charleston with cargo of cotton.

28 U.S.S. State of Georgia, Commander Armstrong, and U.S.S. Victoria, Acting Master Joshua D. Warren, captured steamer Nassau near Fort Caswell, North Carolina.

Assistant Secretary of the Navy Fox wrote Senator Grimes: "I beg of you for the enduring good of the service, which you have so much at heart, to add a proviso [to the naval bill] abolishing the spirit ration and forbidding any distilled liquors being placed on board any vessel belonging to, or chartered by the U. States, excepting of course, that in the Medical Department. All insubordination, all misery, every deviltry on board ships can be traced to rum. Give the sailor double the value or more, and he will be content." Congressional Act approved 14 July 1862 abolished the spirit ration in the Navy.

29 U.S.S. Keystone State, Commander LeRoy, captured British blockade runner Elizabeth off Charleston.

U.S.S. Bienville, Commander Mullany, captured blockade runners Providence, with cargo of salt and cigars, Rebecca, with cargo of salt, and La Criola, with cargo of provisions, off Charleston.

31 Commander Rowan, commanding U.S.S. Philadelphia, reported the capture of schooner W. F. Harris in Core Sound, North Carolina.

U.S.S. Keystone State, Commander LeRoy, captured blockade running British schooner Cora off Charleston.