< Civil War Naval History November 1861

Civil War Naval History


November 1861

1 Violent storm struck the Port Royal Sound Expedition off the Carolina coast, widely scattering naval vessels, transports, and supply ships and jeopardizing the success of this major undertaking. However, the damage to the Fleet was less than could have been expected. All ships had been furnished with secret instructions to be opened at sea only in case of separation from the Fleet.

2 U.S.S. Sabine, Captain Cadwalader Ringgold, rescued Major John G. Reynolds and a battalion of U.S. Marines under his command from U.S. transport Governor, unit of the Port Royal Sound Expedition, sinking off Georgetown, South Carolina.

British steamer Bermuda ran the blockade at Charleston with 2000 bales of cotton.

4 Coast Survey Ship Vixen entered Port Royal Sound to sound channel escorted by U.S.S. Ottawa and Seneca. Confederate naval squadron under Commodore Tattnall took Union ships under fire.

5 U.S.S. Ottawa, Pembina, Seneca, and Pawnee engaged and dispersed small Confederate squadron in Port Royal Sound, fired on Fort Beauregard and Fort Walker.

6 U.S.S. Rescue, Lieutenant William Gwin, captured and burned schooner Ada hard aground in Corrotoman Creek, Virginia.

Captain Purviance, commander of U.S.S. St. Lawrence, reported capture of British schooner Fanny Lee, running the blockade at Darien, Georgia, with cargo of rice and tobacco.

7 Naval forces under Flag Officer Du Pont captured Port Royal Sound. While Du Pont's ships steamed in boldly, the naval gunners poured a withering fire into the defending Forts Walker and Beauregard with extreme accuracy. The Confederate defenders abandoned the Forts, and the small Confederate naval squadron under Commodore Tattnall could offer only harassing resistance but did rescue troops by ferrying them to the mainland from Hilton Head. Marines and sailors were landed to occupy the Forts until turned over to Army troops under General T. W. Sherman. Careful planning and skillfull execution had given Du Pont a great victory and the Union Navy an important base of operations. The Confederates were compelled to withdraw coastal defenses inland out of reach of naval gunfire. Du Pont wrote: "It is not my temper to rejoice over fallen foes, but this must be a gloomy night in Charleston."

U.S.S.Tyler, Commander Walke, and U.S.S. Lexington, Commander Stembel, supported 3000 Union troops under General Grant at the Battle of Belmont, Missouri, and engaged Confederate batteries along the Mississippi River. The arrival of Confederate reinforcements compelled Grant to withdraw under pressure. Grape, canister, and shell from the gunboats scattered the Confederates, enabling Union troops to re-embark on their transports. Grant, with characteristic restraint, reported that the gunboats' service was "most efficient," having "protected our transports throughout."

8 U.S.S. San Jacinto, Captain Wilkes, stopped British mail steamer Trent in Old Bahama Channel and removed Confederate Commissioners Mason and Slidell. The action sparked a serious international incident.

Boat expedition under Lieutenant, James E. Jouett from U.S.S. Santee surprised and captured Confederate crew of schooner Royal Yacht, and burned the vessel at Galveston.

U.S.S. Rescue, Lieutenant Gwin, shelled Confederate battery at Urbana Creek, Virginia, and captured large schooner.

9 Gunboats of Flag Officer Du Pont's force took possession of Beaufort, South Carolina, and, by blocking the mouth of Broad River, cut off this communication link between Charleston and Savannah.

Major General Robert E. Lee wrote Confederate Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin regarding the effects of the Union Navy's victory at Port Royal: "The enemy having complete possession of the water and inland navigation, commands all the islands on the coast and threatens both Savannah and Charleston, and can come in his boats, within 4 miles of this place [Lee's headquarters, Coosawhatchie, South Carolina]. His sloops of war and large steamers can come up Broad River to Mackay's Point, the mouth of the Pocotaligo, and his gunboats can ascend some distance up the Coosawhatchie and Tulifinny. We have no guns that can resist their batteries, and have no resources but to prepare to meet them in the field."

11 Thaddeus Lowe made balloon observation of Confederate forces from Balloon- Boat G.W. Parke Custis anchored in Potomac River. G. W. Parke Custis was procured for $150, and readied for the service at the Washington Navy Yard. Lowe reported: "I left the navy-yard early Sunday morning, the 10th instant– . . . towed our by the steamer Coeur de Lion, having on board competent assistant aeronauts, together with my new gas generating apparatus, which, though used for the first time, worked admirably. We located at the mouth of Mattawoman Creek, about three miles from the opposite or Virginia shore. Yesterday [11 November] proceeded to make observations accompanied in my ascensions by General Sickles and others. We had a fine view of the enemy's camp-fires during the evening, and saw the rebels constructing new batteries at Freestone Point."

12 Fingal (later C.S.S. Atlanta ), purchased in England, entered Savannah laden with military supplies– the first ship to run the blockade solely on Confederate government account.

U.S.S. W.G. Anderson, Acting Lieutenant William C. Rogers, captured Confederate privateer Beauregard near Abaco.

13 U.S.S. Water Witch, Lieutenant Aaron K. Hughes, captured blockade running British brigantine Cornucopia off Mobile.

14 U.S. cutter Mary, Captain Pease, seized Confederate privateer Neva at San Francisco, California.

15 Confederate Commissioners Mason and Slidell disembarked from U.S.S. San Jacinto, Captain Wilkes, at Fort Monroe.

U.S.S. Dale, Commander Yard, captured British schooner Mabel east of Jacksonville.

16 Confederate Secretary of the Navy Mallory advertised for plans and bids for building four seagoing ironclads capable of carrying four heavy guns each.

17 U.S.S Connecticut, Commander Maxwell Woodhull, captured British schooner Adeline, loaded with military stores and supplies off Cape Canaveral, Florida.

18 U.S.S. Monticello, Lieutenant Braine, engaged Confederate battery near New Inlet, North Carolina.

U.S.S. Conestoga, Lieutenant S. L. Phelps, on expedition up Cumberland River, dispersed Confederate forces and silenced battery at Canton, Kentucky.

19 C.S.S. Nashville, Lieutenant Pegram, captured and burned American clipper ship Harvey Birch, bound from Le Havre to New York.

21 U.S.S. New London, Lieutenant Abner Read, with U.S.S. R. R. Cuyler and crew members of U.S.S. Massachusetts, captured Confederate schooner Olive with cargo of lumber in Mississippi Sound; same force took steamer Anna, with naval stores, the following day.

22 Two days of combined gunfire commenced from U.S.S. Niagara, Flag Officer McKean, U.S.S. Richmond, Captain Francis B. Ellison, and Fort Pickens against Confederate defenses at Fort McRee, the Pensacola Navy Yard, and the town of Warrington, terminating the following day with damage to Confederate positions and to U.S.S. Richmond.

U.S. Marine Corps authorized to enlist an additional 500 privates and proportionate number of non-commissioned officers.

23 C.S.S. Sumter, Commander Semmes, evaded U.S.S. Iroquois at Martinique and steamed on course for Europe.

Confederate gunboat Tuscarora accidentally destroyed by fire near Helena, Arkansas.

24 Landing party from U.S.S. Flag, Commander J. Rodgers, U.S.S. Augusta, Pocahontas, Seneca, and Savannah, took possession of the Tybee Island, Savannah Harbor. "This abandonment of Tybee Island," Du Pont reported, "is due to the terror inspired by the bombardment of Forts Walker and Beauregard, and is a direct fruit of the victory of the 7th [capture of Port Royal Sound]."

25 First armor plate for shipment to C.S.S. Virginia (ex-U.S.S. Merrimack) accepted by Confederate Secretary of the Navy Mallory.

U.S.S. Penguin, Acting Lieutenant Thomas A. Budd, captured blockade running schooner Albion near North Edisto, South Carolina, with cargo of arms, munitions, and provisions.

C.S.S. Sumter, Commander Semmes, captured American brig Montmorenci off Leeward Islands.

26 C.S.S. Savannah, Commodore Tattnall, and three steamers sortied against Union fleet in Cockspur Roads, Savannah; unsuccessful in effort to draw blockading vessels within range of Fort Pulaski's guns.

Flag Officer Du Pont observed the blockade's increasing pressure on the South's economy: "The flag is hoisted on the lighthouse and martello tower at Tybee . . . Shoes are $8 a pair in Charleston. Salt $7 a bushel, no coffee– women going into the interior– [Captain James L.] Lardner has closed the port so effectively that they can no longer get fish even."

C.S.S. Sumter, Commander Semmes, captured and burned American schooner Arcade north of Leeward Islands.

27 U.S.S. Vincennes, Lieutenant Samuel Marcy, boarded and seized blockade running British bark Empress, aground at the mouth of the Mississippi River, with large cargo of coffee.

28 U.S.S. New London, Lieutenant A. Read, captured Confederate blockade runner Lewis, with cargo of sugar and molasses, and schooner A. J. View, with cargo of turpentine and tar, off Ship Island, Mississippi.

29 Lieutenant Worden, later commanding officer of U.S.S. Monitor, arrived in Washington after seven months as a prisoner in the South.

30 U.S.S. Wanderer, Lieutenant James H. Spotts, captured blockade running British schooner Telegraph near Indian Key, Florida.

U.S.S. Savannah, Commander John S. Missroon, with other ships in company, seized Confederate schooner E.J. Waterman, after the vessel grounded at Tybee Island with cargo of coffee on board.