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 32 of 42)
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The Mercedita was the first vessel attacked, a heavy shell from the enemy
entering the starboard side, passing through the condenser, the steam drum of
the port boiler, and exploding against the port side, blowing a hole, in its exit,
some four or five feet square, killing the gunner, and by the escape of steam
scalding a pumber of men, and rendering her motive power useless.

The iron-clad, leaving the Mercedita to her fate to sink or not, next engaged
the Keystone State, Commander Le Roy, who was also attacked by the other
ram. Their fire was gallantly returned ; but a shell exploding on the forehold of
this vessel, she was set on fire.

Commander Le Roy kept off until the fire was got under, when he steered
again for one of the iron-clads, and ordered full steam, determined to try to run
her down. The guns had been trained and depressed for a plunging fire at the
moment of collision, and the ship had acquired a speed of twelve knots, when a
shell or shot from the enemy passed through both steam chests, wholly disabling
her boilers and rendering her powerless.

Ten rifled shells struck the Keystone State ; two burst on the quarter-deck,
but most of them struck near and below the water line. In the meantime, the
Augusta, Commander Parrot; the Quaker City, Commander Frailey, and the
Memphis, Acting Lieutenant Watmough, kept up a fire upon the enemy, divert-
ing their attention from the Keystone State, which was soon after taken in tow
by the Memphis and drawn out of range. The Augusta and Quaker City were
both struck in their hulls; the Memphis only in her rigging. The Housatonic,
Captain Taylor, gave chase, and a shot from her struck the pilot-house of one of
the iron-clads, doing some damage and carrying away one of her flags. The rebel
vessels then passed to the northward, and took refuge in the swash-channel,
behind the shoals. The only casualties were on the Mercedita and Keystone
State. On the Keystone State they were very large; about one- fourth of her
crew were killed and wounded, and among the former, the medical officer of the
ship. Assistant Surgeon Jacob H. Gotwald, who was scalded to death while
rendering surgical aid to one of the wounded men. Nine of those who
died perished from the escape of steam when the boilers and steam-chimneys


were penetrated; and among the wounded, the greater number received their
injuries from the same cause.

On the return of the rams to Charleston, General Beauregard issued a procla-
mation that the blockade of the port had been raised by force of arms. This
statement was promptly refuted by Kear Admiral Du Pont, who forwarded to
the Navy Department a paper signed by all the commanding officers on the
blockade, showing that, with the exception of the time occupied in engaging
the rams, the blockading vessels had not, for one moment, left their regular sta-

On the 30th of January, the steamer Isaac Smith was fired upon, and
grounded under the guns of a rebel battery in Stono river, and, after a gallant
resistance, was compelled to surrender. The vessel was destroyed, and her offi-
cers and crew taken prisoners.

A second attack was made by Commander Worden, of the Montauk, on the
rebel battery situated on the Ogeechee river, on February 1st, 18G3. After a
bombardment of six hours, finding it useless to continue the fire, he withdrew
out of range, the Montauk being struck forty-six times without material damage.

On the evening of the 27th of February, Commander Worden observed the
enemy's armed steamer Nashville in motion above the battery known as Fort
McAllister. A reconnoissance immediately made proved that in moving up the
river she had grounded. At daylight the next morning, Commander Worden,
in the Montauk, and accompanied by the gunboats Seneca, Wissahickon and
Dawn, moved up under a heavy fire from the battery, and opened their guns on
the Nashville, the Montauk engaging at twelve hundred yards and the wooden
gunboats at long range.

At 9.55 A. M., the magazine of the Nashville was exploded by a well-directed
shot from the Montauk, and Commander Worden, after assuring himself of the
complete destruction of the rebel vessel, dropped down beyond the range of the
enemy's guns. In so doing, a torpedo exploded under his vessel; inflicting,
however, but little injury.

The Nashville had been blockaded in the Ogeechee river for over eight
months, and the enemy had constructed a line of torpedoes across the river, to
prevent its ascent by light draught vessels to cut her out. The gallantry and
energy of Commander Worden released from blockading duty at least two
vessels, that would otherwise have been kept in the Ogeechee river for months
to come.

Wishing to fully test the powers of the monitors and iron-clads before engag-
ing in an attack on the defences in Charleston harbor. Hear Admiral Du Pont
sent the monitors Passaic, Captain Drayton; Patapsco, Commander Ammen,
and Nahant, Commander Downs, to engage Fort McAllister, on the Ogeechee

After a bombardment of eight hours. Captain Drayton, finding that he had
made but little impression on the fort, withdrew his vessels from action.

On the morning of the 6th of April, Kear Admiral Du Pont, in the flag-ship
New Ironsides, accompanied by the monitors Passaic, Captain Drayton ; Weehaw-
ken. Captain John Rodgers; Montauk, Captain J. L. Worden; Patapsco, Com-
mander Ammen ; Catskill, Commander George W. Rodgers ; Nantucket, Com-
mander Fairfax; Nahant, Commander Downs, and Keokuk, Commander Rhiud,
crossed the bar, intending to proceed the same day to the attack on Fort Sumpter,
but after reaching an anchorage inside, the weather became so hazy that the
pilots declined to go further.

On the following day, April 7th, at noon, being the earliest hour at which,
owing to the state of the tide, the pilots would consent to move, the vessels


weighed ancior and took their designated positions, their commanders having
previously received orders n,ot to reply to the batteries on Morris Island, but
reserve their fire until they could pass Fort Sumpter, in case there were no
obstructions, and to attack the north-west face, liie heavy fire received from
Forts Sumpter and Moultrie, and the other rebel batteries, together with the
nature of the obstructions, compelled the attack from the outside.

The flag-ship New Ironsides could not be brought into such close action as
the Admiral desired, as, owing to the narrow channel and rapid current, she
became partly unmanageable, and was twice forced to anchor to prevent going
ashore. She could not get nearer than one thousand yards. The monitors
were enabled to get within easy range of Fort Sumpter, at distances varying
from five hundred to eight hundred yards, in which positions they were sub-
jected successively to a tremendous concentrated fire from all the batteries on
fciullivan's Island, Morris Island, Sumpter and others of the most formidable
kind, and from guns of the heaviest calibre.

At 4.30 P. M., Bear Admiral Du Pont made signal to withdraw from action,
intending to resume the attack the next morning. But when the comnianding
officers of the iron-elads reported the severe injury their vessels had sustained,
the Commander-in-Chief became convinced of the utter impracticability of taking
the city of Charleston, with the force under his command, and so reported to
the Department.

The ships had been exposed to the severest fire of the enemy over forty minutes,
and yet, in that brief period, five of the iron-clads wore wholly or partially dis-
abled in that which was most essential to their success, their batteries. Com-
mander' Bhind, in the Keokuk, had only been able to fire^ three times during the
short period he was exposed to the guns of the enemy, and was obliged to with-
draw from action to prevent his vessel sinking, which event occurred on the
following morning.

Bear Admiral Du Pont returned his thanks to the commanding officers of the
vessels engaged in the attack, and to his Fleet Captain, Commander C. R. P.
Bodgers, whom he complimented in words of high praise for his efficient, gallant
and valuable services, from the capture of Port Boyal to the attack on the
defences of Charleston.

Bear Admiral Du Pont, having received information that the Atlanta and
other iron-clads, at Savannah, were about attempting to enter Warsaw sound
by Wilmington fiver, for the purpose of attacking the blockading vessels there
and in the sounds further south, dispatched the Weehawken, Captain John
Bodgers, and the Nahant, Commander John Downs, to Warsaw. At 4.10 A. M.,
on the 17th of June, the iron-clad Atlanta was discovered coming down the
Wilmington river, accompanied by two other steamers, one a side-wheel, and the
other a propeller. Captain Bodgers shipped the cable and prepared his vessel
for action. At 5.15 A. M., being distant from the enemy three hundred yards,
he commenced firing. At 5.30 A. M., the enemy hauled down his colors and
hoisted the white flag, and was taken possession of by a boat from the

But five shots were fired by the Weehawken, and the action was of such brief
duration that the Nahant did not have an opportunity to become engaged. The
rebels were so confident of a speedy and decisive victory, that the steamers
which accompanied the Atlanta were filled with gay parties from Savannah, to
witness the triumph of their favorite vessel.

Captain Bodgers received a complimentary letter from the Navy Department,
thanking him not only for his services in the capture of the Atlanta, but
throughout the rebellion.


The Navy Department also addressed the following letter to Kear Admiral
Du Pont, who was about to relinquish the command of the South Atlantic Block-
ading Squadron :

Navy Department, June 26th, 1863.

Sir : — The Department has received your several dispatches announcing the
capture of the rebel iron-clad steamer Fingal, alias Atlanta, and inclosing the
detailed reports of Captain John Rodgers and Commander John Downs of the
affair. I take occasion to express the Department's appreciation of your prompt
measures to prepare for the expected appearance of the rebel iron-clads, by send-
ing off Savannah two of your own, ably commanded, and congratulate you on
the acquisition of so powerful a vessel, which promises to be of important ser-
vice on the station.

To your ceaseless vigilance, and that of the oflScers under your command,
were we indebted, some months since, for the destruction of the steamer Nash-
ville, which the enemy had armed and fruitlessly endeavored to send out to
destroy our commerce ; and now to your timely measures, and the efficient means
provided, do we owe the capture of one of the most powerful iron-clads afloat —
a vessel prepared after months of toil and great expenditure of money, and sent
forth with confidence to disperse our blockading fleet and overcome our moni-
tors. You may well regard this, and we may with pleasure look upon it, as a
brilliant termination of a command gallantly commenced, and conducted for
nearly two years with industry, energy and ability.

The Department desires you to recommend an officer of the South Atlantic
Blockading Squadron to command the Atlanta.

Very respectfully,


Secretary of the Navy.

S. F. Du Pont, Commanding S. A. B. Squadron, Port Royal, S. C.

Rear Admiral Du Pont having signified his wish to be relieved, Rear Ad-
miral Andrew H. Foote was detailed to command the South Atlantic Blockading
Squadron. Rear Admiral Foote, while on the way to his command, was seized
■with fatal illness and died in New York city. His associate and second in com-
mand. Rear Admiral Dahlgren, proceeded immediately to Port Royal, and on the
6th day of July assumed command of the squadron.

Rear Admiral Dahlgren at once commenced active co-operation with Major
General Gilmore, commanding military forces, in effecting the occupation and
possession of Morris Island, on the south side of the entrance to Charleston

On the 18th of July, 1863, a combined attack was made on Fort Wagner,
by the troops under General Gilmore, and the iron-clads of the squadron.
Admiral Dahlgren led the attack in the Montauk, followed by the Ironsides,
Catskill, Nantucket, Weehawken and Patapsco. The fort was engaged at three
hundred yards' range, and silenced for the day, so that not a shot was fired
afterwards at the vessels, nor was there a man seen about it. The assaulting
party of troops were repulsed with some loss, and Rear Admiral Dahlgren, in his
official report, attributes the failure of the attack to the inadequacy of the force.

On the 17th of August, General Gilmore opened all his batteries on Fort
Sumpter, firing on Port Wagner and the intermediate space. Admiral Dahlgren
at the same time moved up with the entire available naval force, leading in the
Weehawken, followed by the Catskill, Nahant and Montauk ; the Passaic and
Patapsco in reserve for Sumpter, the Ironsides in position opposite to Wagner,


and a number of gunboats engaged at long range. As the tide rose the Wee-
hawken ran close in to about four hundred and fifty yards of Wagner, the other
three monitors followed, and the Ironsides as near as her great draught of
water permitted. After a steady and well-directed fire, Wagner was silenced
about 9.20 A. M., and that of the vessels was slackened in consequence.
Meanwhile the fire of their batteries was working effectually upon the gorge of
Sumpter, which appeared to have been strengthened in every possible manner.
At this time the Admiral's flag was shifted to the Passaic, which, with the
Patapsco, both having rifled guns, steamed up the channel within two thousand
yards of Sumpter, when fire was opened on the gorge, angle, and south east end
of the work. Sumpter scarcely replied, Wagner was silenced, and battery Gregg
alone maintained a deliberate fire at the Passaic and Patapsco. At noon the
vessels were withdrawn from action to give their crews a rest, they having been
working since daylight.

During the afternoon, the shore batteries continued the fire at Sumpter with
little or no reply from the enemy, and the Passaic and Patapsco were sent up
to prevent Wagner from repairing damages. The fort replied briskly, but in a
brief time left off firing.

During this action, Captain George W. Eodgers, Chief of Staff, was killed
while in command of the monitor Catskill, as was also Paymaster Woodbury,
who was standing near him. Admiral Dahlgren, in his report, pays a sincere
and beautiful tribute to the memory of the gallant Eodgers.

After several other engagements between the monitors (which were in each
instance led by Admiral Dahlgren in person) and the rebel works, Morris Island,
with all its batteries, was captured by the combined forces of the army and navy.
With the capture of Morris Island the commerce of Charleston ceased, blockade
running coming to an abrupt termination.

Rear Admiral Dahlgren received the thanks of the Navy Department for his
untiring energy and personal gallantry, as exhibited in his operations in Charles-
ton harbor.

In February, 1864, a division of gunboats was sent to the St. Johns river
to co-operate with the army in a movement into Florida. Rear Admiral Dahl-
gren accompanied the expedition, and assigned an adequate naval force, which
held possession of all points on the St. Johns occupied by the army.

On the night of February 17th, the sloop-of-war Housatonic, one of the
blockading fleet, was sunk by a torpedo boat off Charleston. Most of the crew
were saved.

The rebels made attacks with torpedoes upon several vessels, including the
flag-ship of the blockading squadron, but were unsuccessful, except in the case of
the Housatonic.

In February, Rear Admiral Dahlgren received leave of absence, transferring
the command of the squadron to Commodore S. C. Rowan. In March, a diver-
sion was made at Bull's Bay. In May, a force was detailed to co-operate in an
effort to sever the railroad between Charleston and Savannah.

Rear Admiral Dahlgren returned to the squadron in May, and found that
General Gilmore had been called with the greater part of his army to another
field, leaving behind, however, a sufficient defensive force when sustained by the
navy. The withdrawal of so large a portion of the military force necessarily
put a stop to further serious demonstrations against Charleston.

The retention of the harbor, as well as the safety of that coast, depended
thenceforward maiply on the ifon-clads.

In November, 1864, the Navy Department received official information that
Major- General Sherman had commenced his march from Atlanta to the sea-


board, and that lie might be expected to reach the Atlantic coast, in the vicinity
of Savannah, about the middle of December. Kear Admiral Dahlgren was ad-
vised of this fact, and was instructed to be in readiness to co-operate with
General Sherman, and furnish him such assistance as he might desire.

Before these instructions reached Kear Admiral Dahlgren, he had conferred
with Major-General Foster, then commanding the division of the South, and con-
certed with him plans to assist, so far as their joint forces would allow, in estab-
lishing communication with the advancing army. A combined expedition was
at once organized for cutting the railroad between Charleston and Savannah,
and otherwise engaging the attention of the enemy in that quarter. Force was
displayed at the most important points along the Carolina coast, and every avail-
able means adopted to aid in the success of the grand military movement which
was in progress through the heart of the enemy's country. General Sherman
reached the vicinity of Savannah on the 12th of December, and communication
between him and Kear Admiral Dahlgren was immediately established. The
latter made the best disposition of the vessels under his command to assist the
army in taking possession of Savannah.

On the 18th of December, the investment of that city, by the army on one
side and the navy on the other, was accomplished.

The garrisons succeeded in escaping across the river, and in effecting a retreat
towards Charleston, leaving General Sherman to occupy Savannah on the 21st
of the month.

Early in January, Kear Admiral Dahlgren was engaged in assisting in the
transfer of the right wing of the army to Beaufort, S. C, and in the course of
General Sherman's march northward, that officer and his army were aided by
all needful demonstrations.

On the 12th and 13th of February, a joint movement was made along the
approaches from Bull's Bay to Mount Pleasant, with a view of embarrassing the
military Commandant at Charleston, and blinding him as to the actual military
design. No real or serious attack on Charleston was contemplated. Other less
extensive movements were made at other points to attract the attention of the
rebels and aid General Sherman in accomplishing his great purpose of moving
towards Kichmond.

Charleston was in the meantime vigilantly watched, to detect the first indica-
tion of abandonment by the rebels, which it was known must take place at an
early day. The troops stationed thereabouts were advanced and the iron-clads
moved nearer to the works.

Daring the night of the 17th of February, the batteries were ceaselessly
employed, and the vessels in the harbor gave them watchful attention.

'The morning of the 18th revealed the fact that Charleston was evacuated.

During the night of the evacuation the monitors kept up a sharp and con-
tinuous bombardment on the rebel batteries, the enemy replying from Moultrie
with a few guns, but ceasing as the night wore on. Subsequent events developed
the fact that the main body had left the island at 8 o'clock, except a party of
one hundred and fifty men, who remained behind to keep up the firing and thus
delay the knowledge of the evacuation. Kear Admiral Dahlgren at onOe
pushed up the harbor, passing between Sumpter and Moultrie to the city
batteries on Cooper river, under the guidance of a mate captured from a blockade
runner a few nights previous.

The flag-ship was anchored off the city, and Admiral Dahlgren, accompanied
by several officers of his fleet, landed and walked along some of the principal
streets. There was nothing to indicate the ravages of war, save here and there,
where a rifle shot from distant batteries had scarred some dwellings.


The evacuation of Charleston was followed by that of Georgetown on the 23d
of February, and on the 26th of the same month, the place itself was occupied
by Rear Admiral Dahlgren.


The Eastern Gulf Blockading Squadron embraced within its limits -the coast
of Florida from Cape Florida to Pensacola. The division of the Gulf Squadron
did not take place until 1862. Previous to that time the blockade of the entire
coast from Cape Florida to the Rio Grande river, was under the command of
Captain William Mervine, who was relieved in September, 1861, by Captain
William W. McKean.

In January, 1862, Flag-officer McKean dispatched Commander Emmons, with
the steamer Hatteras, to operate against the rebels at Cedar Keys. The expedi-
tion was entirely successful, destroying a large amount of public property,
including military stores, and capturing a battery of two guns in position at
Sea Horse Key, and several schooners laden and ready to run the blockade.. In
the latter part of March, Commander Stellwagen, of the Mercedita, arrived off
Appalachicola, with that vessel and the Sagamore, Lieutenant-Commanding
Drake, and organized a boat expedition, the immediate object of which was the
capture of a number of vessels, understood to be at or above that city. The
place had been evacuated by the soldiers, some six hundred in number, on the
first appearance of the naval force. No resistance was offered, and the expedi-
tion brought out several vessels and destroyed others, owing to the difficulty
of getting them over the bar.

Information having been received that the rebel steamer Florida, which had
succeeded in getting into St. Andrews, was lying some twenty miles above that
town, Acting Volunteer Lieutenant David Cate, commanding tbe U. S. bark
Pursuit, determined to make an attempt to cut her out. A volunteer expedi-
tion was organized and left the vessel on the 4th of April, and on the night of
the 6th reached and surprised the Florida. The crew were captured with slight
resistance, and the vessel, a valuable side-wheel steamer of 500 tons, with a cargo
of 200 bales of cotton, was brought out safely.

_ About this time, April, 1862, the Gulf Squadron was divided into two sec-
tions; the Western division taking in that portion of the coast which lay
between Pensacola on the one hand and the Rio Grande on the other; including
the navigable streams entering into the Gulf; Flag-officer Farragut taking com-
mand of the Western Gulf, and Captain James L. Lardner the Eastern Gulf,
relieving Flag-officer McKean.

Flag-officer Lardner continued in the command of the squadron until the fall,
when he was relieved by Acting Rear Admiral Theodorus Bailey. During the
year 1863 many important boat expeditions for cutting out vessels and destroy-
ing salt-works were projected and executed with success. More than one hun-
dred blockade-runners were captured or destroyed by the squadron during the
year, and violating the blockade became so precarious a business that few were
desperate enough to attempt it. In the latter part of the year the limits of the
Eastern Gulf Squadron were extended so as to embrace within its cruising
grounds the waters of the Bahamas in the vicinity of Cuba.

In May, an expedition was planned by the rebels for capturing or destroying
the United States steamer Adela, then blockading off Appalachicola. The
organization consisted of several hundred men, led by rebel naval officers. Infor-


mation of the proposed movement was received in time to defeat their object,
and a joint military and naval force was dispatched against the party, and suc-
ceeded in capturing most of them, with several boats, their ammunition, flags
and accoutrements.

On the 7th of August, 1864, Acting Rear Admiral Bailey, whose health was
■ suffering from the debilitating influence of the climate, turned over the com-
mand of the squadron, by permission of the department, to Captain Theodore
P. Greene, the officer next in rank, and came north. Captain Greene continued
in command until the 12th of October, when he was relieved by Acting Rear

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 32 of 42)