Edgar Stanton Maclay.

Reminiscences of the old Navy, from the journals and private papers of Captain Edward Trechard, and Rear-Admiral Stephen Decatur Trenchard online

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Online LibraryEdgar Stanton MaclayReminiscences of the old Navy, from the journals and private papers of Captain Edward Trechard, and Rear-Admiral Stephen Decatur Trenchard → online text (page 10 of 18)
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sion of the city of New Orleans, and releasing

Experience with the " Merrimac." 187

the marines from the squadron that had held
it after its surrender to Flag-Officer Farragut.


"Supplied a large number of vessels with
fresh provisions, etc. The following vessels
were off New Orleans : the Hartford, the
Pensacola, the Richmond, the Harriet Lane,
the Sciota, the Katahdin, and the Westfield.
At 5.50 P.M. got under way and stood up the
river in order to turn round. In doing this
we grounded on the Algiers side of the river.
At 7 P.M. the steamer Star came over and
attempted to tow us off, and failing to do so, at
8.30 P.M. she cast off and made fast to the
levee, in doing which she caught her port
wheel and remained there until the following

" SATURDAY, May 3d.

" At 8 A.M. succeeded in getting the Star
(alias St. Charles) clear of the levee. The coal
barge Tully Robinson came up and together
with the Star made several attempts to haul
us off during the day. The Richmond also
came up, but the water being too deep to
anchor sufficiently near us, and dragging her
anchors, she was unable to render us any as
sistance. Captain Alden was very much inter-

1 88 The Old Navy.

ested and very assiduous in his efforts to get
us off. We remained ashore until 12.45 P.M.
of the 6th, making daily attempts to get the
ship off, aided by the Kensington.

"SUNDAY, May 4th.

" Engaged in the mean time in lightening the
ship, and on Tuesday the 6th, with the aid of
the steamer Star, or St. Charles, on the star
board quarter, the Katahdin and the Tully
Robinson on the port quarter, the Rhode Island
started off at 12.45 P.M., to the extreme joy of
everyone on board. It is impossible for me
to express my joy and thankfulness in getting
the steamer afloat. A sad accident occurred,
casting a gloom on all, to one of the lighters
containing some of our coal and a number of
laborers employed by us. She was in tow of
the Tully Robinson, contrary to my orders, and
was unfortunately swamped and three men
were drowned."

The wife of one of the lost men was aboard
the barge at the time, and the officers of the
Rhode Island were so affected by her grief that
they made up a purse of three hundred dollars
for her.

" WEDNESDAY, May 7, 1862.

"Got under way and anchored on the New

Experience with the " Merrimac." 189

Orleans side of the river near the levee. Was
employed during the greater part of the day in
getting our coal and other things on board that
had been removed to lighten the vessel when
getting her off the shore. Pleasant visit on
shore with Dr. Smith and Capt. George Henry
Preble. Visit to Mrs. General Butler at the
St. Charles Hotel, the General s headquarters.

"THURSDAY, May 8th.

" At 1.30 P.M. got under way and proceeded
down the river. Just before reaching Forts
Jackson and St. Philip the Rhode Island passed
a break in the levee, through which the water
of the river was rushing in alarming quantities
and flooding the surrounding country. It re
quired no little skill and steam and power to
prevent the vessel from being carried into the
side current, where she undoubtedly would soon
be left high and dry on land, some yards from
the river bank."

Lieutenant Trenchard notes that it was an
" exciting scene." At Pilot Town the Rhode
Island, by order of Farragut, took aboard forty-
one Confederate prisoners, who were engaged
in resisting the National attack. Among them
were Com. I. K. Mitchell, Captains Beverly
Kennon and Wilkinson, who commanded di-

1 90 The Old Navy.

visions of the Confederate naval forces, and the
officers and crew of the ironclad Louisiana.

Captain Wilkinson, the famous blockade-
runner, writing of his experiences in the Rhode
Island, says :

" We were transferred to the Rhode Island,
bound to Fort Warren. On board of this ves
sel we were more completely tabooed by the
officers than in the Colorado, for the Rhode Isl
and was officered, with the exception of her
captain, by volunteers. The harsh orders had
been evaded on board the former vessel by old
friends and shipmates. On board the Rhode
Island the orders were strictly obeyed, much to
our satisfaction, for we would have lost our pa
tience to have been interviewed by fledgling
naval heroes. The noble commander of the
Rhode Island most of us had known of old as a
prim little precisian, and a great stickler for
etiquette, and by no means a bad fellow ; but
so strict a constructionist that he would prob
ably have refused to recognize his grandfather,
if it were against orders. But he had a humane
disposition under his frigid exterior ; and al
lowed us all the comfort and privileges com
patible with discipline and safety. At Fort
Warren, we were allowed, at our own expense,

Experience with the " Merrimac." 191

to supply our table from the Boston market,
not only abundantly, but luxuriously, the Gov
ernment furnishing the usual rations, and the
prisoners grew fat on the good fare and bra
cing climate."

After their arrival at Fort Warren, both
Mitchell and Kennon addressed letters to the
Secretary of the Navy. Mitchell said : " I
most emphatically assert that the Louisiana,
when abandoned and- fired by my orders, was
not only not turned adrift or intended to
injure the United States forces, as charged by
Commander Porter, but that she was actually
left secured to the opposite bank of the river,
and distant quite three fourths of a mile from
the said forces, for the very reason they were
flying a flag of truce, and for that reason I
despatched the warning message to Comman
der Porter, respecting the magazine. That it
is not only the right, but the duty of an officer
to destroy public property to prevent its fall
ing into the hands of the enemy does not
admit of a question ; and in addition to which,
it must not be overlooked that the forces
under my command flew no flag of truce, and
that I was not in any way a party to the sur
render of Fort Jackson or St. Philip." He

192 The Old Navy.

had previously addressed a letter to the De
partment and forwarded it by Commander
Trenchard from Hampton Roads. The Sec
retary replied, May 29, 1862 :

" SIR : The explanations of Com. I. K.
Mitchell are satisfactory, and the restrictions
imposed on him and his associates by the De
partment s order of the 2d inst. will be removed,
and they will be treated as prisoners of war.
This does not relieve Beverly Kennon from
the restrictions imposed on him.


Comdg. Fort Warren"

The Secretary requested Kennon to furnish
him with particulars of his gunboat, having
wounded on board. In reply Kennon says :

" When I destroyed and left the vessel which
I had commanded on the occasion referred to,
all the wounded men had been removed, the
most of them lowered in boats by my own
hands. I was the last person to leave the

The restrictions were removed from Ken
non, too, soon after this communication was
received by the Secretary.

Experience with the " Merrimac." 193

On her return trip the Rhode Island reached
Pensacola May roth, just in time to learn that
the Confederates had evacuated the place.
Lieutenant Trenchard speaks of the "sad ap
pearance of the Navy Yard, which had been
fired by the Confederates, reducing it to a mass
of ruins. The town of Warrington and the
naval hospitals presented the same appear
ance." At Key West, Lieutenant Trenchard
took aboard the officers and crew of the steamer
Bermuda, which had been captured by the

On Friday, May i6th, while twenty miles
from Carrysford Reef Light, the Rhode Island
passed the wreck of a hermaphrodite brig.
Part of her stern and starboard quarter was
out of the water. The vessel appeared to be
of foreign build and measured about two hun
dred tons. The forward spars were new, while
the after spars were old. From appearances
Lieutenant Trenchard judged that she must
have been struck by a squall and dismasted.
Boarding the American steamer Columbia on
the following day, Lieutenant Trenchard
learned of the surrender of Norfolk.

As the Rhode Island was leaving Port Royal
she met her sister ship, the Connecticut, bound


The Old Navy.

on her Southern supply trip. About the same
time the Rhode Island was boarded by the
United States steamer Augusta. Touching at
Fort Monroe, where Lieutenant Trenchard
visited a number of the sick and received " good
news from home, all well," he hastened on his
way for Boston, arriving there May 23d.

Here the prisoners of war, under charge of
Acting-Master Williams with a guard of ma
rines, were conveyed in a tug to Fort Warren
and safely lodged there. Lieutenant Trench
ard says : " It is impossible to describe my
great relief and thankfulness in reaching Bos
ton safely, and without having experienced any
trouble with the prisoners over whom we had
kept such a vigilant watch."



ON June 2, 1862, Secretary Welles sent
the following order to Lieutenant
Trenchard making a change in the Rhode 1st-
and s ordinary trips : " Hereafter the United
States steamer Rhode Island will not supply
the vessels of the Atlantic Squadrons, and will
touch at Port Royal only on the way to the
Gulf Squadrons, commencing at Cape Carna-
veral. On your return trip you will touch
both at Port Royal and Hampton Roads, for
warding your mail as you do from the latter
place to the Department. You will continue
to bring home the sick and wounded from Port
Royal and Hampton Roads, and from any
other vessels for the Atlantic Squadron that
you may communicate with. Proceed on this


196 The Old Navy.

service as soon as the Rhode Island is ready for
sea, and enter Boston on your return.
" I am, respectfully,

"Your Obedient Servant,


June iith, 1862, the Rhode Island left Bos
ton on her seventh trip South, having on board
two hundred seamen, and a number of acting-
masters and mates as supernumeraries for the
several blockading squadrons. At Hampton
Roads, June i2th, she took on board an unusu
ally heavy mail and then resumed her course
for Port Royal, boarding, on the way, the
schooner Mary Stuart of Nassau, a prize of
the Gem of the Sea, captured off Georgetown,
S. C, with a cargo of oil, etc. The Mary
Stuart was bound for New York for adjudica
tion. A number of other vessels also were
boarded, but finding their papers all right,
Lieutenant Trenchard did not detain them.

On arriving off Charleston the Rhode Island
exchanged signals with the United States
steamer Alabama and the schooner Flash, and
shortly afterward the blockading ships were
descried off Stono Inlet. The sea was so
heavy and the fog so dense at the time that
Lieutenant Trenchard deemed it too hazard-

Last Cruises as a Supply-Steamer. 197

ous to run in, and so stood on and off, blowing
his steam-whistle every few minutes so as to
warn any vessel that might be coming in col
lision with her. On the next day the weather
cleared, and Lieutenant Trenchard spoke the
supply-steamer Connecticut on her return trip.
The Rhode Island then ran into Port Royal
and anchored near the flagship Wabash.
" Landed the mails," wrote Lieutenant Trench
ard ; "transferred the men and stores for the
squadron. I dined with Flag-Officer Dupont
and Capt. C. R. P. Rodgers, remaining with
them until getting under way at 5.40 P.M."

Off Mosquito Inlet, Florida, June iQth, the
Rhode Island made her number to a steamer
anchored within the inlet, supposed to be the
Wyandotte. Skirting the Florida coast, two or
three miles from land, she boarded, on June
2Oth, the English brig Annita from Matanzas
for Halifax, and on the following day, just
after passing Carrysford Reef Light, the brig
John Jewett from New York to New Orleans
was spoken. At Key West the flagship San
Jacinto of the flying squadron, Flag-Officer
James L. Lardner, the Quaker City, the Giiard,
the Sagamore, the Wanderer, and the Merce-
dita were found. The Rhode Island left Key

198 The Old Navy.

West June 24th, and reached Fort Jefferson,
Tortugas, at 1.45. Lieutenant Trenchard
notes: "Went on shore and took a look at
the works and found great improvement had
taken place since my former visit."

In order to delay the Rhode Island as little
as possible many of the war-steamers, imme
diately upon making the Rhode Island 1 s num
ber, came out of the harbor and received their
supplies at sea. June 28th, Lieutenant Trench
ard notes: "Light airs from the north and
east, clear and pleasant. At 6.30 A.M. the
steam gunboat Young Rover, came out. Sup
plied her, and at 7.30 A.M. parted company for
the Western Pass of Appalachicola. On reach
ing the Middle Pass, found the United States
bark / L. Davis at anchor, and she was soon
after joined by the steam gunboat Fort Henry.
These boats came out for supplies, and after
receiving them we got under way for St. An
drews, arriving there at 8 P.M., meeting the
schooner Samuel Rotan and supplying her.
Saturday, June 28th, light airs from the south
and west. At 5.40 A. M. made Santa Rosa
Island Lighthouse on the starboard bow. At
7 A.M. received a pilot and stood in and ran
up to Pensacola, anchoring near the United

Last Cruises as a Supply-Steamer. 199

States ship Vincennes, off the town. Captain
Madigan came on board and breakfasted with
me. After breakfast I went on shore and
called on General Arnold. Got under way at
11.30 A.M., en route for Mobile, Lieutenant
Crosby, U. S. A., aide to General Arnold, tak
ing passage with us. Spoke the schooner
Henry Frams of Key West from Pensacola
for New Orleans. We were compelled to fire
a shot across her bow to bring her to and
show her colors."

On Sunday, June 29th, while off Ship Island
supplying the old sailing frigate Potomac, the
Rhode Island was overtaken by a terrific thun
der storm, the lightning at times making the
crew apprehensive for the safety of the maga
zine. The storm blew over, however, without
injury to the ship. At this place Capt. Levin
M. Powell, of the Potomac, became a passen
ger in the Rhode Island, bound for New
Orleans. The naval hospital at Pilot Town
was duly furnished with supplies, besides the
war-vessels stationed there and at New Or
leans. In crossing the bar, coming out of the
river, the Rhode Island struck ground, but sus
tained no serious injury.

On the morning of July 4, 1862, the Rhode

200 The Old Navy.

Island won the immortal glory of being the
first United States vessel to plant the Stars
and Stripes on Texan soil after the Civil War
broke out. On this day, the Rhode Island
being about seventeen miles to the south and
west of Galveston, a sail was made close in
with the land. The Rhode Island stood toward
her, but as soon as the character of the Union
vessel was discovered by the stranger, she
immediately put her helm up and ran ashore.
The day being fine and the water smooth, the
Rhode Island ran close in to the beach, and on
discovering a force of cavalry and infantry on
shore, who evidently were unloading the ves
sel, she opened fire with shell. This had the
effect of putting them to flight. Three armed
boats from the Rhode Island were then lowered
under command of Acting-Master Pennell,
executive officer of the Rhode Island, assisted
by Paymaster Douglass and Engineer Mc-
Cutchen, and pulled toward the vessel covered
by the guns of the Rhode Island, and under in
structions of Lieutenant Trenchard to see if the
vessel could be got off, and if not to destroy
her. They succeeded in boarding her without
molestation and found her to be the English
schooner Richard O Brien from Jamaica to

Last Cruises as a Supply-Steamer. 201

Matamoras. A few days before she had been
boarded by the De Soto and warned off the
coast. Lieutenant Trenchard was of the opin
ion that she was a Confederate vessel, and hav
ing succeeded in running the blockade, changed
her flag in Jamaica, as her papers had the ap
pearance of being recently made out. Mr.
Pennell on boarding the vessel found that she


had bilged, and that getting her off would be
impossible. He therefore, following his in
structions, filled all the boats with valuable
drugs which constituted a large part of her
cargo, set the vessel on fire, and returned to
the ship. The schooner, with the balance of
her cargo, part of which had been landed
before the Rhode Island hove in sight, was en
tirely consumed. The cargo rescued, consist
ing of rum and sugar, was sold for $1209.78,
the prize money amounting to $838.85.

While the boats were away, Lieutenant
Trenchard observed another vessel in what
had the appearance of being a lake or lagoon,
separated by only a narrow neck of land from
the ocean. Wishing to destroy her if possible,
he ordered Mr. Pennell to start again, and on
landing, he found it possible to haul his boats
over the sand and attack as he had the Richard

202 The Old Navy.

O Brien. The party landed, protected by the
Rhode Island s guns, in safety, and Mr. Pennell
planted the Stars and Stripes on Texan soil.
But on reaching the shore he discovered the nar
row sand spot to be at least a mile wide, thus
rendering their second expedition fruitless, for
hauling boats that distance was simply an im
possibility, especially in an enemy s country.
While they were ashore Lieutenant Trenchard
discovered a company of cavalry approaching,
but a few well-directed shells caused them to

After reaching Galveston the Rhode Island
began her return trip, stopping at New Orleans
and Mobile. At the latter port, Paymaster
Washington Irving came on board for passage
home. Taking aboard invalids and mails for the
North, the Rhode Island continued her voyage.

On July 1 5th, while approaching Key West,
Lieutenant Trenchard notes: "At 5 P.M.
made the bark Hamilton of New York from
Key West for Trinidad de Cuba, the captain
of which did not show his colors until ordered,
and then treated the boarding officer with the
greatest indignity and disrespect. At 7 P.M.
anchored at Key West and found that the
steamer Connecticut had just arrived five days

Last Cruises as a Supply-Steamer. 203

from New York." On July 23d, the Rhode
Island passed an English bark which also re
fused to show her colors until a blank cartridge
was fired at her. The Rhode Island arrived at
Boston July 25th, when her armament was in
creased by two rifled i2-pounders. On July
1 6th, Lieutenant Trenchard was promoted to
the rank of commander.

Taking on board two hundred seamen for
the squadrons of Farragut and Dupont, the
Rhode Island left Boston August 2d. On the
third day out much excitement was occasioned
by David A. Mentar, one of the crew, a coal-
heaver, jumping overboard. The engines were
promptly stopped, the life-buoy let go, boats
were lowered, and every effort was made to
save the unfortunate man, but in vain. He
perished before assistance could reach him.

At five minutes after five, on the morning
of September 5th, while the Rhode Island was
at sea, on her voyage between Port Royal and
Hampton Roads, on her return trip North, a
dense volume of smoke was discovered coming
from the port cargo room forward. Lieutenant
Trenchard notes : " Went to quarters and after
tracing the site of the fire introduced the hose
and soon extinguished the flames. The fire

204 The Old Navy.

originated between two of the timbers abreast
of the furnace on the port side. We beat a
retreat at 1.30 A.M., keeping a watch near the
place of the fire with buckets filled with water,
in readiness to extinguish the fire should it
break out again. It was supposed, after a
careful examination of the place after daylight,
that it originated by oil that had been spilt,
which may have run in between the timbers,
saturated shavings lodged there in building
the vessel, and fired by the extreme heat of the

The Rhode Island returned from this trip
September roth. On September 25th, 1862,
she left Boston on her ninth and last trip as a
supply-vessel, having on board a large number
of supernumerary officers for the blockading
squadrons. At Hampton Roads Commander
Trenchard took on board Captain Thornton
A. Jenkins as a passenger. " At 4.45 P.M.,
October 2d, she passed Port Royal lightboat,
entered the harbor, anchoring near the flag
ship Vermont ; Captain Godon being tempo
rarily in command. The Wabash and several
other vessels were in port at the time. A
number of supernumerary officers were left on
board the Vermont to join their respective

Last Cruises as a Supply-Steamer. 205

vessels, and some additional ones came on
board for passage in this vessel. At 5.25 P.M.
the Potomaska got under way. At 7 A.M.
we got under way and stopped abreast of the
Vandalia, standing in to send three men
attached to the Octorara on board. A boat
from the Vandalia came alongside and unfor
tunately got under the wheels, which turned,
swamped and upset the boat and crew, the
men being providentially saved."

" At 7 A.M., October 8th," wrote Com
mander Trenchard, " while running from Key
West to Cedar Keys, the Rhode Island gave
chase to a suspicious sail. At 9.40 the chase
hauled in for the shore and came to anchor.
We stood in for her until shoaling water made
it dangerous to proceed farther, when we
stopped the engines, fired a blank cartridge for
her to run out, and she failing to do so we
fired a shell ahead of her, lowered a boat, and
sent her to board the sloop, which got under
way. She proved to be the fishing sloop Wan
derer of Key West. Her commander was in
formed that he should have come out to us
upon the signal having been made. By not
doing so he had made himself liable to seizure."

On her return trip the Rhode Island, soon

2o6 The Old Navy.

after leaving Cedar Keys, gave chase to another
suspicious sail. Commander Trenchard says :
4< Sunday, November 26. : First part of the day
moderate breezes from the east, with squally
weather, and occasionally showers. At 4.40
A.M., spoke a steamer standing to the north,
and not learning her name, gave chase after
having burned costons preparatory, and being
answered, made our number, to which the
steamer replied, Stars and Stripes. Not learn
ing of that vessel being upon the station, and
supposing her to be a suspicious character, I
determined to get nearer. In approaching
her she attempted to cross our bow. On per
ceiving this manoeuvre our engines were re
versed and the steamer hailed and ordered to
do the same, or stop. The two vessels came
in contact ; we continued backing strong, thus
preventing a more serious collision. Our
false stem was slightly started by the shock,
and the starboard anchor of the Stars and
Stripes was torn away. The last-named vessel
sustained no injury, as reported by her."

On Tuesday, November 24th, Commander
Trenchard reports : " At i A.M. made a
steamer, beat to quarters, and upon boarding
her she proved to be the royal British steamer

Last Cruises as a Supply-Steamer. 207

Baracoa from Nassau, bound for Key West."
The Rhode Island arrived at Boston from this
trip November nth.

The following notice from the Boston Adver
tiser, in 1862, speaks well for the services of
the Rhode Island: "The dispatch of gov
ernment orders, mails, supplies, etc., to the
vessels and squadrons employed on the block
ade of Southern ports by the Rhode Island,
under her present efficient commander and a
corps of skilful officers, has proved her an
invaluable friend to the thousands of patient
and courageous officers and seamen who


through the long months now past have held
the passes of the rebellious coast."



WITH the occupation of New Orleans,
Pensacola, Port Royal, Fernandina,
and other ports along the Southern coast by
the Unionists, it became much easier for the
blockading squadrons to obtain fresh supplies,
and it was found that one steamer could prop
erly maintain the service. The Rhode Island
had proved, on more than one occasion, her
capacity for fighting, and on her return to the
Boston Navy Yard, November, 1862, she was
fitted out as a gunboat, while to the Connecticut
was assigned the duty of delivering provisions
and mails to the blockading squadrons and
bringing back the sick and wounded. The
Rhode Island s old battery, with the exception
of the 3<>pounder Parrott gun, and one rifled
12-pounder Dahlgren gun, was removed and


Sinking of the " Monitor." 209

replaced with one Q-inch Dahlgren on the
port side aft, and eight 8-inch guns in the

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Online LibraryEdgar Stanton MaclayReminiscences of the old Navy, from the journals and private papers of Captain Edward Trechard, and Rear-Admiral Stephen Decatur Trenchard → online text (page 10 of 18)