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Lewis Randolph Hamersly.

The records of living officers of the U. S. navy and Marine corps: with a history of naval operations during the rebellion of 1861-5, and a list of the ships and officers participating in the great battles online

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Online LibraryLewis Randolph HamerslyThe records of living officers of the U. S. navy and Marine corps: with a history of naval operations during the rebellion of 1861-5, and a list of the ships and officers participating in the great battles → online text (page 31 of 42)
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Before long, however, the guns in the fort began to grow silent, and the vessels
evidently had the best of it.

The fire of the fleet was kept up all day, and at intervals through the night
a few shot and shell were thrown. No sooner had the firing begun in the



272 NORTH ATLANTIC SQUADRON.

morning than the landing of the troops was undertaken, and it had been carried
on so rapidly, that by 2 P. M. they were all ashore, with twelve days' pro-
visions.

The next day was the 15th, and on it the grand attack was to be made by sea
and land. The troops by this time were rested after their long confinement on
ship-board, and were eager for the attack. At 9 A. M., the squadron was sig-
naled to attack in three lines, and at about eleven o'clock they were all in position.
Each had opened fire as they took position in line, and the bombardment was
kept up furiously all day. At first the rebels replied with some effect, from the
same batteries as before, but they were soon driven away into the bomb-proofs.
Sixteen hundred sailors and four hundred marines had been detailed to assist in
the assault ; they were to attack the sea face of the fort, while the soldiers
assaulted from the land side. By three o'clock the troops were all in position,
and the signal to change the direction of fire was given, when the guns were'
turned on the upper batteries, away from the point where the assault was to be
made.

As soon as the army was found to be in motion, the men from the fleet were
ordered to advance also. This they did on the run, along the beach. The sailors,
being armed with cutlasses and pistols, were expected to treat the fort as a ves-
sel and board it with a dash. They went forward promptly to where the pali-
sades joined the fort, but the enemy here opened such a heavy fire upon the
advance that they were here checked, and a number of officers and men fell
killed and wounded. The first line was thus thrown back, but the second and
third lines, forming one compact column, advanced rapidly up the sea face of
Fort Fisher, and nearly gained the parapet, which was lined with one dense
mass of musketeers, whose fire checked and fiaally brought them to a halt.
Although rallied several times by the officers, and exhibiting great valor and
determiaation, they failed to get any further, though a few gained the parapet.
The men in the rear commenced to retreat, and were soon followed by the rest,
who got under cover till night. The attack in front, however, had the effect of
diverting the attention of the enemy, who supposed this to be the main column,
and the troops, assaulting from behind, thus met with less opposition. The fire
from the vessels was kept up on those portions of the fort still held by the
enemy, each traverse, as it was captured, being freed from the shot which fell
wherever the rebels still held possession. In this remarkable manner the army
and navy co-operated ; and the result was, that though the fighting lasted till
long after nightfall, this immense fort, with traverses and bomb-proofs of
enormous strength, was captured by a handful of men under the fire of the
guns of the fleet, and in seven hours after the attack was begun. The number
of guns captured was seventy-five, and of prisoners twenty-five hundred, among
them Generals Whiting and Lamb, both wounded.

Rear Admiral Porter, his officers and men, received the thanks of Congress
for their services in the capture of Fort Fisher.

Within twenty-four hours after the fall of Fort Fisher, Fort Caswell, Bald-
head Fort and Fort Shaw were evacuated by the rebels, who, before leaving,
spiked the guns and demolished the works. Fort Campbell was abandoned a
few hours later, thus placing in the possession of the United States forces the
entire chain of rebel defences in the vicinity of Fort Fisher.

The next important duty devolving upon the officers and men of Admiral
Porter s squadron was the removal of the torpedoes from Cape Fear river, an
extremely hazardous undertaking, requiring the greatest caution. About the
15th of February, the combined forces resumed operations against Wilmington,
N.L.; moving up the river in concert. Fort Anderson, the most important



SOUTH ATLANTIC SQUADRON. 273

work remaining in possession of the rebels, surrendered on the 18tli of Febru-
ary, after a vigorous bombardment of two days from the vessels of the squadron,
supported by General Sohofield, who advanced upon the fort with 2,000 men.

On the 21st, the rebels were driven from Fort Strong, which left the way to
Wilmington unobstructed, and on the 22d of the month that city was evacuated.

With the fall of Wilmington ended the war record of the North Atlantic
Blockading Squadron, which a few months later was disbanded.



SOUTH ATLANTIC BLOCKADING SQUADRON.

In October, 1861, a joint expedition of military and naval forces was organized
by the Government. Captain Samuel F. Du Pont, an officer of great professional
skill and experience, was appointed to its command, the military force being
under the control of Brigadier- General W. T. Sherman. The intention of the
Department was to seize and occupy one or more points on the southern coast
where the blockading squadron might find shelter, possess a depot, and afford
protection to loyal citizens. To Flag-officer Du Pont was entrusted the impor-
tant and responsible duty of selecting the point of attack. And he, believing
that the capabilities of the expedition justified it, determined, after consultation
with Brigadier General Sherman, to make Port Koyal, S. C, a well defended
harbor, the objective point.

On the 29th of October, 1861, the fleet, consisting of forty-eight vessels, in-
cluding transports, a larger squadron than ever before assembled under the United
States flag, left Hampton Roads. On Friday, November 1st, the fleet, being then
off Hatteras, encountered one of the severest storms ever known on the coast.
The gunboat Isaac Smith was compelled to throw her formidable battery over-
board, to keep from foundering, and thus relieved was enabled to go to the
assistance of the chartered steamer Governor, then in a very dangerous condition,
and on board of which was the battalion of marines under Major Reynolds.
They were finally rescued by Captain Ringgold, in the Sabine, under difficult
circumstances, soon after which the Governor went down. The transport Peer-
less, in a sinking condition, was met by the Mohican, Commander Godon. All
the men on board the transport, twenty-six in number, were saved by the boats
of the Mohican under very perilous circumstances.

On Sunday, November 3d, the weather moderated, and on the following
morning the fleet arrived at Port Royal, and came to anchor off the bar. All
aids to the navigation of Port Royal harbor had been removed by the rebels ;
but, thanks to the skill of Commander Davis, Fleet Captain, and Mr. Boutelle,
of the Coast Survey, the channel was immediately found, sounded out aid buoyed.
By 3 P. M., the transports, with all the gunboats, were sent forward, and before
dark they were securely anchored in the roadstead.

The gunboats almost immediately opened their batteries on two or three rebef
steamers under Commodore Tatnall, instantly chasing him under the shelter of
the batteries. In the morning. Commander John Rodgers, serving temporarily
on Admiral Du Font's staff, accompanied by Brigadier General Wright in the
gunboat Ottawa, Lieutenant-Commanding Stevens, and supported by the Seneca,
liieutenant-Commanding Ammen, and the steamers Curlew and Isaac Smith,
made a reconnoissance in force, and drew the fire of the batteries on Hilton Head
and Bay Point, sufficiently to show that the fortifications were works of strength
and scientifically constructed.
18



274 SOUTH ATLANTIC SQUADRON.

On the morning of Tuesday, the frigate Wabash, the flag-ship, crossed the
bar, followed closely by the frigate Susquehanna and the Atlanta, Vanderbilt,
and other transports of deep draught. Preparations for the ensuing battle were
at once commenced, but the inclemency of the weather made the postponement
of the attack unavoidable. Thereconnoissance of the 5th of November led Flag-
officer Du Pont to believe that the forts on Bay Point and Hilton Head were
armed with more than twenty guns each, of the heaviest calibre and longest
raufie, and were well constructed and well manned, but that the one on Hilton
Head was the strongest. The distance between them was two and two-tenths
nautical miles, too great to admit of their being advantageously engaged at the
same time, except at long range. He therefore determined to undertake the
reduction of Fort Walker, on Hilton Head, first, and afterwards to turn his at-
tention to Fort Beauregard, the fort on Bay Point. The greater part of the
guns of Fort Walker were presented upon two water fronts, and the flanks were
but slightly guarded, especially on the North, on which side the approach of an
enemy had not been looked for.

A fleet of the enemy, consisting of seven steamers armed with rifle guns, oc-
cupied the northern portion of the harbor, and stretched along the mouth of
Beaufort river to Scull creek.

It was high water on the 7th instant at 11.35 A. M., by the tables of the
Coast Survey.

These circumstances, the superiority of Fort Walker and its weakness on the
northern flank, the presence of the rebel fleet, and the flood tide of the morn-
ing, decided the plan of attack.

The order of battle comprised a main squadron ranged in a line ahead, and a
flanking squadron, which was to be thrown off on the northern section of the
harbor to engage the enemy's flotilla and to prevent their attacking the rear
ships of the main line when it turned to the southward" or cutting off a disabled
vessel.

The main squadron consisted of the frigate Wabash, Commander C. K. P.
Eodgers, the leading ship; the frigate Susquehanna, Captain J. L. Lardner ;
the sloop Mohican, Commander S. W. Godoa ; the sloop Seminole, Commander
J. P. Gillis ; the sloop Pawnee, Lieutenant-Commanding R. H. Wyman ; the
gunboat Unadilla, Lieutenant-Commanding N. Collins; the gunboat Ottawa,
Lieutenant-Commanding T. H. Stevens ; the gunboat Pembina, Lieutenant-Com-
manding J. P. Bankhead, and the sailing-sloop Vandalia, Commander F. 8.
Haggerty, towed by the Isaac Smith, Lieutenant-Commanding J. W. A. Nich-
olson.

The flanking squadron consisted of the gunboat Bienville, Commander
Charles Steedman, the leading ship; the gunboat Seneca, Lieutenant-Command-
ing Daniel Ammen; the gunboat Curlew, Lieutenant-Commanding P. G. Wat-
mough ; the gunboat Penguin, Lieutenant^Commanding T. A. Budd ; and the
gunboat Augusta, Commander E. G. Parrott, the closing ship of that line.
^ The plan of attack was to pass up midway between Ports Walker and Beau-
regard, receiving and returning the fire of both to a certain distance, about
two and a-half miles north of the latter. At that point the line was to turn to
the south, round by the west, and close in with Fort Walker, encountering it
on its weakest flank, at the same time enfilading in nearly a direct line its two
water faces.

When abreast of the fort the engine was to be slowed and the movement
reduced to a rate of speed that would be but sufficient to overcome the tide, to
preserve the order of battle by passing the batteries in slow succession, and to
avoid becoming a fixed mark for the enemy's fire. On reaching the extremity of



SOUTH ATLANTIC SQTJADKON. 275

Hilton Head the line was to turn to the north by the east, and passing to the
northward, to engage Fort Walker with the port battery nearer than when first
oa the same course. These evolutions were to be repeated.

At 8 A. M., the flag-ship signaled to the squadron to get under way, and
to take position in the line of battle. At nine o'clock, the signal was made for
close order. At 9.26, the Wabash poured a broadside into Fort Walker, and
the action commenced, and after a spirited engagement of three hours' dura-
tion, fought at a distance of six hundred yards, the order of battle being strictly
observed, the vessels having passed the batteries three times, the enemy desert-
ed the works at Hilton Head, and Commander John Rodgers, with a boat's crew
from the Wabash, landed and hoisted the American flag over the deserted post.

As soon as this was done, a detachment of gunboats was sent to reconnoitre
Fort Beauregard and ascertain its condition, when it was discovered that that
work also had been abandoned. Lieutenant-Commanding Ammen had the honor
of hoisting the national ensign over the rebel works.

None of the vessels that participated in the battle of Port Royal received any
serious injury, while the loss in killed and wounded was but light. Flag-officer
Du Pont and his command received a letter of commendation from the Navy
Department, and the thanks of Congress, for their services at Port Royal.

In the latter part of November, Commander John Rodgers, of the steamer
Flag, took possession of Tybee Island at the mouth of Savannah river, the fortifi-
cations having been previously abandoned by the rebels.

On November 25th, 1861, Commander Drayton, of the Pawnee, left Port Royal
harbor in command of an expedition up St. Helena sound and adjacent rivers, in
company with the Unadilla, Lieutenant-Commanding Collins, and the Pembina,
Lieutenant-Commanding Bankhead. Reconnoissanee was made of St. Helena
sound and the Coosa and Ashepoo rivers, and the fortifications on Otter Island,
at the junction of Barnwell Creek with the Coosa, were found to be deserted,
their magazines blown up and everything valuable carried away or destroyed.
A reconnoissanee of the North and South Edisto rivers revealed a like abandon-
ment of their fortified places on the part of the enemy.

Flag-officer Du Pont, being fearful of losing possession of the bay of St.
Helena, dispatched a second expedition under Commander Drayton, with orders
to hold the island until General Sherman was prepared to assume military
occupation of it. Commander C. R. P. Rodgers, with a force of gunboats under
his command, was ordered to make a reconnoissanee of Warsaw Inlet, in order
to ascertain the position and force of the enemy's battery there. The recon-
noissanee was made, and Commander Rodgers reported that the rebels, after
removing the guns, had abandoned the fortifications at Warsaw Island. In the
latter part of December, Commander Drayton, with his own vessel, the Pawnee,
and accompanied by the gunboat Seneca, Lieutenant-Commanding Ammen,
the Penguin, Lieutenant-Commanding Budd, and the coast survey steamer
Vixen, Captain Boutelle, made a reconnoissanee of North and South Edisto
rivers and the adjacent waters. He discovered numerous fortifications which
had been abandoned by the rebels. A large quantity of cotton was captured
by the expedition.

Commander C. R. P. Rodgers was directed to take under his command the gun-
boats Ottawa, Lieutenant-Commanding Stevens, and Seneca, Lieutenant-Com-
manding Ammen, and the steamer Henry Andrew, Acting Master Mather, and
to proceed to Ossibaw, where he was to inform himself as accurately as possible
of the state of affairs in the inlet and sound, and Vernon and Great Ogeechee
rivers. He left Tybee Roads on the Ilth of December, and crossed the bar at
Ossibaw soon after 8 A. M.



276 SOTITH ATLANTIC SQUADRON.

The expedition returned to Port Royal Roads on the following day, and Com-
mander Kodgers reported that there were no batteries on Ossibaw Island, or in
the Great Ogeechee, up which river he had ascended as far as Morrell's plantation,
which he found abandoned. He also reported that there was a fort, advan-
tageously situated and mounting eight guns, on the eastern end of Green Island ;
it commanded Vernon river, the Little Ogeechee, Hell-Gate, the passage from
the Vernon into the Great Ogeechee, and the channel of the latter river.

On the 28th of December, General Sherman addressed a communication to
Flag-officer Du Pont/requesting him to furnish a naval force to co-operate with
the army in arresting the design of the enemy, who had been for some time
endeavoring to shut up the national forces on Port Royal island, by obstructing
the Coosa river and Whale branch, by constructing batteries at Port Royal
Ferry, Seabrook and Boyd's Neck, and also by concentrating a force of three
thousand troops in the vicinity.

Commander C. R. P. Rodgers was appointed to the command of the naval
forces, which consisted of the gunboats Ottawa, Seneca, Pembina, Ellen, and
C.B.Hale. The part assigned to the gunboats was to protect the landing of
the troops at Heywood's plantation, the first point of debarkation ; to cover the
route of the advancing column and the second point of debarkation, and to
assail the batteries on the front. The attack was made on the first day of January,
1862, and the movement was entirely successful.

The aid rendered the army was of such a character as to elicit from Brigadier
General Sherman, who commanded the military forces, the most cordial thanks.

Flag-officer DuPont, having in contemplation an attack on Fernandina, deemed
it advisable to direct the enemy's attention from that point, by sending an expe-
dition of gunboats to make a reconnoissance of the Little Tybee river and the
adjacent streams, which would serve as a demonstration upon Savannah. The
expedition was commanded by Fleet Captain Charles H. Davis, and consisted
of the Ottawa, Lieutenant-Commanding Stevens j Seneca, Lieutenant-Command-
ing Ammen ; Isaac Smith, Lieutenant-Commanding Nicholson ; Potomska,
Lieutenant-Commanding Watmough; Ellen, Lieutenant-Commanding Budd;
Western World, Acting Master Gregory, and two armed launches of the
Wabash ; having in company three transport steamers, on board of which were
the _6th Connecticut, the 4th New Hampshire and the 97th Pennsylvania
Regiments, in all twenty-four hundred men, commanded by Brigadier-General
H. G. Wright. Commander C. R. P. Rodgers accompanied the expedition.

The expedition left Port Royal on the 1st of February, and anchored in
Warsaw Sound the same evening. On the 2d they entered the Little Tybee
river, and passed Fort Pulaski without being fired on. After passing the high-
land on Wilmington Island, the further progress of the gunboats was arrested
by a blockade of heavy piles across the channel. The vessels were anchored,
and boats were dispatched from them to examine the numerous creeks leading
into the river.

Captain Rodgers landed with the armed launches and a detachment of troops,
to scout and determine whether there were then or had been any batteries in
position in the vicinity; none were found ; Captain Ammen landed, passed the
marsh, and cut the telegraph wire leading from Fort Pulaski to the city.

About noon, five steamers, composing the rebel fleet, commanded by Commo-
dore Tatnall, attempted to pass down the river with scows in tow. They were
immediately fired upon by Fleet Captain Davis, and Commodore Tatnall returned
the fire. The engagement lasted less than half an hour. Commodore Tatnall,
with one of his squadron, was driven back; the rest escaped apparently without
injury, and succeeded in reaching Fort Pulaski.



SOUTH ATLANTIC SQUADRON. 277

In the afternoon, ttey returned up the river from the fort, and the firing was
resumed. They had waited for low water, and were so well protected by the
banks of the river, while Flag-officer Davis's gunboats were lying in a natural.,
trench or moat, that the harm inflicted upon them was entirely disproportionate
to the amount of ammunition expended.

As a demonstration, the appearance of the naval and military force in Wil-
mington and Warsaw Sounds was a complete success. Savannah was thrown
into a state of great alarm, and the energies of the place exerted to increase its
military defences, for which purpose troops were withdrawn from other points.
As a reconnoissance the results were equally satisfactory. Much valuable
information was obtained, and used with advantage by Flag-officer Du Pont in
his subsequent operations.

On the last day of February, 1862, Flag-officer Du Pont left Port Royal in
the Wabash, and on the 2d of March transferred his flag to the sloop-of-war
Mohican, and entered Cumberland sound in that vessel, accompanied by the
following vessels, sailing in the order named : Ottawa, Mohican, Ellen, Seminole,
Pawnee, Pocahontas, Flag, Florida, James Adger, Bienville, Alabama, Key-
stone State, Seneca, Huron, Pembina, Isaac Smith, Penguin, Potomska, armed
cutter Henrietta, armed transport McClellan, (the latter having on board a bat-
talion of marines under command of Major Reynolds,) and the transports Em-
pire City, Marion, Star of the South, Belvidere, Boston and Georgia, contain-
ing a brigade under the command of Brigadier-Greneral Wright.

The main object of the expedition was the repossession of Fort Clinch and the
capture of Fernandina. The rebels abandoned their works without a struggle,
and Lieutenant White, of the Ottawa, hoisted the national flag on Fort Clinch,
the first of the national forts on which the ensign of the Union had resumed its
proper place since the first proclamation of President Lincoln was issued.

Commander Percival Drayton, in the gunboat Ottawa, Lieutenant-Command-
ing Stevens, proceeded to Fernandina, and took possession of that place. Com-
mander C. R. P. Rodgers, with a second division, was sent to occupy St. Marys.
Lieutenant-Commanding T. H. Stevens, in the Ottawa, pushed on from this place,
and, encountering the rebel riflemen and cavalry on the banks, dispersed them
by a few shots from his 11-inch Dahlgren gun.

On the 7th of March, Commander S. W. Godon was dispatched with a divi-
sion of gunboats, consisting of the Mohican, Pocahontas, and the Potomska, to
hold Brunswick ; and on the same day another division of the squadron was
sent to Jacksonville, both places surrendering without opposition.

On the 12th of March, Commander 0. R. P. Rodgers received the surrender
of St. Augustine, the citizens raising the United States flag. This expedition
gave to Flag-officer Du Pont possession of Fort Clinch, Fernandina, St. Marys,
Cumberland island and sound, Amelia sound, Jacksonville, St. Augustine and
Brunswick вАФ in fact, the coast and inland waters from St. Simon's southward.

Soon after Flag-officer Du Font's return to Port Royal, Robert Small, a col-
ored pilot, escaped from Charleston, under circumstances of peculiar daring.
From him was received information which led to the occupation of Stono inlet
and river, thus securing an important base for future military operations.

Under date of the 24th of March, 1862, Flag-officer Du Pont reported to the
Navy Department the death of Lieutenant-Commanding Budd, Acting-Master
Mather and others, who had been killed by the enemy while on a boat expe-
dition in Mosquito lagoon. Flag-officer Du Pont closes his official report with
the following tribute .to their worth ;

" Lieutenant-Commanding Budd and Acting-Master Mather were brave and
devoted officers. The former commanded the Penguin in the action of the 7th



278 SOUTH ATLANTIC SQUADRON.

of November, and received my commendation. The latter, in the prime of life,
was a man of uncommon energy and daring, and had no superior, probably,
among the patriotic men who have been appointed in the navy from the mer-
cantile marine."

Fort Pulaski, after a bombardment of two days, surrendered to the military
forces on the 12th of April. Commander C. R. P. Rodgers, with a detachment
of officers and men from the Wabash, had the good fortune to represent the
navy on this occasion, they being in charge of Battery Sigel.

Feeling the impossibility of effectually blockading the port of Charleston, the
Navy Department, in 1862, commenced active preparations to send a force of
iron-clads to the South Atlantic Squadron, for the purpose of demolishing the
defences of Charleston harbor, and, if possible, capturing the city itself. As
soon as the iron-clads were turned over to the department by the contractors,
they were placed in commission and sent to report to Rear Admiral Du Pont.

On the 26th of January, 1863, Commander Worden, of the iron-clad Blon-
tauk, opened fire upon the enemy's battery at Genesis Point, Great Ogeechee river.
After a bombardment of four hours, during which the enemy's fort was seri-
ously damaged, the Montauk was compelled to haul off, her ammunition being
expended.

At 4 A. M., January 31st, 1863, during the obscurity of a thick haze, the
rebel rams Chicora and Palmetto came out of Charleston by the main ship
channel, unperceived by the squadron, and made a raid on the blockading fleet.



Online LibraryLewis Randolph HamerslyThe records of living officers of the U. S. navy and Marine corps: with a history of naval operations during the rebellion of 1861-5, and a list of the ships and officers participating in the great battles → online text (page 31 of 42)