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

. (page 34 of 42)
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 34 of 42)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

supplies from Texas, destined for the rebel armies. The steam-sloop Missis-
sippi, one of the finest vessels in Farragut's squadron, grounded, and was
destroyed in the attack on and attempted passage of the batteries at Port Hud-
son, March 14th, 1863.

Lieutenant-Commander. Cummings, executive officer of the Richmond, was
mortally wounded in the same attack. He was one of the most gallant and
promising young officers in the service.

After establishing a blockade of Red river. Rear Admiral Farragut left his
flag-ship, and returning below by way of the Atchafalaya, resumed operations
for a final assault on Port Hudson. A force was always kept ready to co-ope-
rate with the army in its movements, and On the part of the navy a continuous
shelling of the place from mortar boats, vessels, and a naval battery on shore
manned by seamen, was maintained. Nearly three thousand 13-inch shells
were thrown into the vyorks by the mortar vessels, and the naval battery of
four 9-inch guns, used as a breaching battery, performed good service. In con-
sequence of the capture of Vicksburg on the 4th of July, the reduction of Port
Hudson became inevitable, and the garrison finally surrendered on the 9th of
July to General Banks, who for some weeks had besieged the place. The river
being now open to peaceful commercial pursuits, Rear Admiral Farragut turned


over to Acting Rear Admiral Porter tte entire control of the western waters
above New Orleans, and departed for that city.

Rear Admiral Farragut was now tendered and accepted a leave of absence,
and Uommodore H. H. Bell, the nest officer in rank, was appointed to the tempo-
rary command of the squadron.

While Eear Admiral Farragut was engaged on the Mississippi in active opera-
tions against the enemy, others of his command were enforcing a rigid blockade
" of the G-ulf coast. The Rio Grande being the boundary between the United
States and Mexico, was open to the navigation of both countries, and could not,
therefore, be blockaded. With the knowledge of this fact a multitude of
schemes were projected, and under the guise of neutral trade, Matamoras sud-
denly became a great commercial mart for the rebels and their friends. But the
occupation of the Rio Grande and Brownsville put a final termination to the
extensive commerce of Matamoras, which became as insignificant as it was before
the rebellion.

The occupation of Brownsville was followed by a like movement at Brazos,
Aranzas and Cabello passes, in all of which the naval forces detailed by Com-
mander Bell and placed under command of Commander J. H. Strong, afforded
all required assistance. This possession of the several ports of Texas was of
short duration. After a four months' occupation, the military forces were with-
drawn, and the duty of guarding that extensive coast again devolved exclusively
upon the navy.

The bay of Mobile, guarded at its entrance by two formidable fortifications
constructed by the government in former years, was difficult to blockade, and
was one of the principal ports for trade with the rebels. It had been the inten-
tion of the Navy Department to get possession of that bay, as soon as operations
on the Mississippi would permit the detachment of a sufficient co-operative
military force for the expedition. In this there was delay, caused by the army
being fully occupied in other quarters. In the meantime, the rebels, availing
themselves of the advantages of their position, proceeded to the construction and
collection of a formidable navy, with the view of raising the blockade. The
information received was of such a character that the Department deemed it
important that Rear Admiral Farragut should resume his command, which he
did, and on the 18th of Januaty, 1864, arrived off Mobile.

Knowing the disadvantages of attacking iron-cased vessels with wooden ones,
and that, too, in the face and under the guns of heavy fortresses, without a co-
operative land force, he deferred the movement until the necessary elements of
success could reach him. But in the meantime he stood ever ready to meet and
measure his strength with the iron-clad fleet of Buchanan, should it venture to
come out._ Thus he constantly threatened an attack on Blobile, thereby aiding
the army in its general movements elsewhere.

Military co-operation was secured early in July, and two iron-clads from the
James river and two from the Mississippi having reached him. Rear Admiral
Farragut made his final preparations for his attack on the rebel defences of
Mobile bay.

On the 8th of July, Rear Admiral Farragut held a consultation with Generals
Canhy and Granger, on board the Hartford, on the subject of an attack upon
Forts Morgan and Gaines, at which it was agreed that General Canby would send
all the troops he could spare to co-operate with the fleet. Circumstances soon
obliged General Canby to inform Rear Admiral Farragut that he could not
spare a sufficient number of troops to invest both forts ; and in reply Farragut
suggested that Fort Gaines should be the first invested, engaging to have a force


on the sound ready' to cover tLe landing of the army on Dauphin Island, in the
rear of that fort.

Lieuteuant-Commander De Kraft, of the Conemaugh, was detailed to that

A second consultation between Rear Admiral Farragut and General Granger
■was held on board the Hartford on the 1st of August, and the 4th of the month
was fixed upon as the day for the landing of the troops, and the entrance of the
fleet into the bay. But owing to the unavoidable delay of the iron-clad Tecumseh
at Pensaoola, the fleet was not ready to move. General Granger, however, was
up to time, and the troops actually landed on Dauphin Island. In the light of
subsequent events the delay proved an advantage, as the rebels were busily
engaged daring the 4th in throwing troops and supplies into Fort Gaines, all of
which were captured a few days afterward.

The Tecumseh arrived on the evening' of the 4th, and everything being pro-
pitious, the attack was commenced on the following morning. The fleet was
under way by 5.40 A. M., in the following order, two abreast and lashed
together : Brooklyn, Captain James Alder, with the Ootorara, Lieutenant-Com-
mander C. H. Green, on the port side; flag-ship Hartford, Captain Percival
Drayton, with the Metacomet, Lieutenant-Commander J. E. Jouett ; Richmond,
Captain T. A. Jenkins, with the Port Royal, Lieutenant-Commander B. Gher-
ardij Lackawanna, Captain J. B. Marchand, with the Seminole, Commander E.
Donaldson; Monongahela, Commander J. H. Strong, with the Kennebec, Lieu-
tenant-Commander W. P. McCann; Ossipee, Commander W. E. Le Roy, with
the Itasca, Lieutenant-Commander George Brown; Oneida, Commander J. R.
Mullany, with the Galena, Lieutenant-Commander C. H. Welles. The iron-
clad Tecumseh, Commander T. H. M. Craven ; the Winnebago, Commander
T. H. Stevens ; the Manhattan, Commander J. W. A. Nicholson ; and the Chicka-
saw, Lieutenant-Commander G. H. Perkins, were already inside the bar, and
had been ordered to take up their position on the starboard side of the wooden
vessels, or between them and Fort Morgan, for the double purpose of keeping
down the fire' of the water battery, and the parapet guns of the fort, as well as
to attiick the ram Tennessee as soon as the fort was passed.'

At the urgent request of the captains and commanding officers of the fleet,
Rear Admiral Farragut yielded to the Brooklyn being the leading ship-of-the-
line, as she had four chase guns, and an ingenious arrangement for picking up
torpedoes; aod because, in their judgment, the flag-ship should not be too much
exposed. The attacking ships steamed steadily up the main ship channel, the
Tecumscjh firing the first shot at forty-seven minutes past six o'clock.

At six minutes past seven o'clock, the fort opeued upon the fleet, and was
replied to by a gun from the Brooklyn, and immediately afterward the action
became general.

It was soon apparent that there was some diificulty ahead. The Brooklyn
having got into shoal water, stopped, and by so doing arrested the advance of
the fleet, while at the same time the guns of the fort were playing with great
effect upon that vessel and the Hartford. A moment after, the iron-clad
Tecumseh was struck by a torpedo, and disappeared almost instantaneously
beneath the waves, carrying down her gallant cummander and nearly all her
crew. At this juncture, Rear Admiral B'arragut, after ordering the Metacomet
to send a boat to save, if possible, any of the perishing crew of the Tecumseh,
dashed ahead with the Hartford, closely followed by the Brooklyn and the other
ships. The Hartford steamed through the buojs where the torpedoes were to
have been sunk, Farragut believing that from thuir having been some time in
the water they were partially innocuous, and determined to take the chatioe of


their explosion. From the moment the vessels turned to the northwestward to
clear the middle ground, they were enahled to keep suoh broadside fire upon the
batteries of Fort Morgan that the rebel guns did comparatively little injury.

Just as Farragut passed the fort, about ten minutes before eight o'clock, the
ram dashed at the flag-ship, as had been expected, and in anticipation of which
the monitors had been ordered on the starboard side. He took no further notice
of the ram than to return her fire. The rebel gunboats Morgan, Gaines and
Selma were ahead, and the latter particularly annoyed the flag-ship with a
raking fire which her guns could not return. At 8 A. M., Farragut ordered
the Metacomet to cast off and go in pursuit of the Selma. Captain Jouett was
after her in a moment, and in an hour's time he had her as a prize. The Morgan
and Gaines succeeded in escaping under the guns of Fort Morgan. The Gaines
was so injured that she had to be run ashore, where she was subsequently de-
stroyed ; but the Morgan escaped to Mobile during the night, although she was
chased and fired upon.

Having passed the forts and dispersed the enemy's gunboats, most of the
vessels were ordered to anchor, when the ram Tennessee was perceived standing
for the flag-ship. This was at forty-five minutes past eight. The monitors and
such of the wooden vessels as were best adapted for the purpose, were imme-
diately ordered to attack the ram, not only with their guns, but with bows on at
full speed.

The Monongahela, Commander Strong, was the first vessel that struck her,
and in doing so carried away her own iron prow, together with the cutwater,
without apparently doing her adversary much injury. The Lackawanna, Captain
Marchand, was the next vessel to strike her, whieh she did at full speed ; but
though her stem was out and crushed to her plankeuds for the distance of three
feet above the water's edge to five feet below, the only perceptible effect on the
ram was to give her a heavy list.

The Hartford was the third vessel which struck her, but as the Tennessee
quickly shifted her helm the blow was a glancing one, and as she rasped along
the side the flag-ship poured a whole port broadside of 9-inch solid shot within
ten feet of her casement. The monitors working slowly, delivered their fire as
opportunity offered. The Chickasaw succeeded ia getting under her stern, and
a fifteeu-iuch shot from the Manhattan broke through her iron plating and heavy
wooden backing, though the missile itself did not enter the vessel.

Immediately after the collision with the flag-ship, Captain Drayton was
directed to bear down for the ram again. He was doing so at full speed, when
unfortunately the Lackawanna ran into the Hartford just forward of the mizzen-
mast, cutting her down to within two feet of the water's edge. The flag-ship
was soon got clear again, and was rapidly approaching the Tennessee, when she
struck her colors and run up the white flag. Just at this time she was sorely
beset, the Chickasaw was pounding away at her stern ; the Ossipee was approach-
ing her at full speed, and the Monongahela, Lackawanna, and the Hartford
were bearing down upon her, determined upon her destruction. Her smoke-
stack had been shot away, her steering chains were gone, compelling a resort to
her relieving tackles, and several of her port shutters were jammed.' From the
time the Hartford struck her, until her surrender, she never fired a trun.

During this contest with the rebel gunboats and the ram Tennessee, and
which terminated by her surrender at ten o'clock, many more men were lost
than froni the fire of the batteries of Fort Morgan. Admiral Buciianan was
wounded in the leg, two or three of his men were killed, and five or six wounded.
Commander Johnson, formerly of the United States Navy, was in command of


the Tennessee, and came on board the flag-ship to surrender his sword and that
of Admiral Buchanan. Thus terminated the famous naval battle of August 5th,

The wounded of both sides were sent to Pensacola for medical treatment.

On the following day, one of the iron-clads shelled Fort Gaines with such
effect, that Colonel Anderson, the commander, sent a communication to Bear
Admiral Farragut offering to surrender. General Granger, commanding the
military forces, was sent for, and the terms of capitulation were signed by the
respective parties on board of the Hartford.

From this time active movements were in progress for the reduction of Fort
Morgan, and on the 22d of August, at daylight, a bombardment was opened
from the shore batteries, the monitors and ships inside and the vessels outside
the bay. At 6 A. M. of the 23d, a white flag was displayed by the rebels, and
at 2 P. M. the fort was unconditionally surrendered to the navy and army of
the United States. Fort Powell had been attacked on the night of the -Sth and
blown up.

The capture of Forts Powell, Gaines and Morgan, and the destruction of the
rebel fleet gave the government possession of the bay, and closed the port
against all illicit trade with the rebels. As late as September 13th, Rear Admi-
ral Farragut informed the department that he was engaged in removing torpedoes
which had been strewn in the bay to obstruct naval operations.

Vice Admiral Farragut left the West Gulf Squadron in the autumn of 1864,
the command devolving on Commodore James S. Palmer, senior officer of the
station. Commodore Palmer continued operations until the arrival of Admiral
Farragut's successor. Acting Rear Admiral Thatcher. The resumption of
offensive operations against the city of Mobile, under direction of Major-General
Canby, were not determined upon until early in January, 1865, when Acting
Rear Admiral Thatcher, then recently appointed to the command of the West
Gulf Squadron, was ordered to proceed immediately to New Orleans, in order to
co-operate with the military commander.

A joint movement by land and water was arranged and carried into execution.
Indications that the rebels were about to evacuate the city led to a naval recon-
noissance, in order to ascertain the facts, on the 11th of March with four monitors,
in as close proximity as the shallow water and obstructions would permit. This
movement drew from the insurgents such a fire as to demonstrate beyond
doubt the fact that the defences of the city were still intact. The troops were
landed on the 21st of March on the left bank of Fisher's river, and pushed for-
ward as rapidly as the condition of the roads would permit, while the naval
vessels shelled the woods and kept open communication by signals with General
Canby for co-operation. It was thought by the rebels that the naval vessels
would not be able to cross the bar of Blakely river ; and even if successful
in crossing, that they would be destroyed by torpedoes, with which the river
was filled. They succeeded in sinking two of the monitors, the Milwaukee
and the Osage, and four wooden gunboats at the entrance of Blakely river.
Beyond the sinking of these vessels and the loss of a few lives, no serious conse-
quences attended the approach to and capture of Mobile.

The principal defensive works between the city and the forts at the entrance
of the bay captured in August 1864, by Vice Admiral Farragut, were Port
Alexis and Spanish Fort. By the 3d of April these had been completely
invested by the troops, and during the night of the 8th and morniag of the
9th they were, after a short but severe bombardment, captured, and with them
from 1,600 to 2,000 men, with sixteen heavy guns. Batteries Tracy and Huger
were evacuated on the evening of the 11th. On the 12th it was ascertained


that all the remaining defences of the place had been abandoned. A formal
surrender of the city was demanded by General Granger and Acting Rear Ad-
miral Thatcher, which was complied with. The works which surrounded Mobile
were of immense strength and extent. Nearly 400 guQS were captured, some of
them of the heaviest calibre.

Preparations were now made to follow the rebel forces in their retreat up the
Tombigbee river, but on the 4th of May propositions were received from Com-
mander Farrand, commanding the rebel naval forces in the waters of Alabama,
to surrender all the vessels, officers, men and property afloat and under
blockade on the Tombigbee. On the 10th of May the formal surrender took
place, and the insurgent navy ceased to be an organization. Sabine Pass and
Galveston, the only remaining rebel fortified points on the Gulf coast, soon capit-
ulated. The forts at Sabine Pass were evacuated on the 25th of May, and on
the 2d of June Galveston was surrendered, and the supremacy of the govern-
ment was once more established on the entire coast, from Maine to Texas.


In the summer of 1861, Commander John Rodgers was ordered to the West
for the purpose of purchasing, arming and equipping a force of gunboats to operate
on the Mississippi river and its tributary streams.

In August Commander Andrew H. Poote was appointed to the command of the
Mississippi flotilla. Flag-officer Foote on his arrival at St, Louis on the 6th of
September, 1861, found that his force consisted of three wooden gunboats in
commission, and that there were nine iron-clad vessels and thirty-eight mortar
boats in course of construction.

The first important operation of Flag-officer Foote's flotilla was the attack and
capture of Fort Henry, on the Tennessee river, on the 6th of February, 1862.

As soon as four of the iron-clads were ready for service. Flag-officer Foote
conferred with Brigadier-General Grant, commanding at Cairo, as to the pro-
priety of making a joint attack upon Fort Henry, on the Tennessee river. After
consultation with Major-General Halleck, Brigadier-General Grant agreed to
unite his forces with those of Flag-officer Poote in the proposed attack.

At 12,30 P. M., on the 6th of February, 1862, Flag-officer Foote commenced
the bombardment of Fort Henry. The attacking force consisted of the flag-ship
Cincinnati, Commander Stemble ; the Essex, Commander W. D. Porter ; Caron-
delet. Commander Walke ; St. Louis, Lieutenant-Commanding Paulding; Con-
estoga, Lieutenant-Commanding S. L. Phelps; Tyler, Lieutenant-Commanding
Gwin and the Lexington, Lieutenant-Commanding Shirk. The fire was
opened at 1,700 yards distant by the flag-ship, the others following in succession,
and continued while the fleet steamed slowly to within 600 yards of the fort.
After a sharp action of an hour and a quarter the rebel flag was lowered from
the lort, and General Tilghman and his command surrendered to Flag-officer
1^ oote, and were turned over to Brigadier-General Grant on his arrival an hour
atterward with the military force. The attack was to have been a joint one,
but the impassable condition of the roads delaved the army and prevented its co-
operation with the fleet.

Lieutenant-Commanding Phelps, of the Conestoga, having with him the
iyler and Lexington, and acting under orders previously received, proceeded up
the lennessee nver. He reached Florence, Alabama, which was as far as the


draught of his vessels permitted him to go. Several valuable prizes were taken ;
one of them the large steamer Eastport, which the rebels were converting into a
gunboat. From Port Henry, Flag-officer Footc proceeded with a portion of his
flotilla to the Cumberland river, to make an attack on Fort Donelson. On the
14th of Febiuary, with the iron-elads St. Louis (flag-ship), Carondelet, Louis-
ville and Pittsburg, and the wooden gunboats Tyler and Oonestnga, he engaged
that fort and its adjacent water batteries. With a much reduced force he had to
contend against more formidable works than he had met ou the6th,atFiirt Henry.

After a severe fight of an hour and a half, during whicli Flag iifficL;r Foote
was seriously wounded, when he wjs on the point of enfilading the fjrt, and
the rebel fire had materially slackened, the St. Louis aud Louisville were
disabled in their steering apparatus, and with the remaining boats, retired for
the night. The rebels were so greatly demoralized that th^y cuuld not be
brought into efiective action on the following day, which resulted in their defeat
and the surrender of Fort Donelson to JBrigadier-Goneral Crraut, cumnuioder of
the military forces. With the gunboats Conestoga and Cairo. Flair-officei- Foote
ascended . the Cumberland, and on the 19th of February seized ClarksviJle and
the three forts which defended the city and river. On the i!7th of February the
army took possession of the city of Nashville. Flag-officer Foote then returned
to Cairo.

On the 4th of March, a force of gunboats accompanied by transports convey-
ing troops, moved upon Columbus, on the Mississippi river. Alarmed by a
reconnoissance two days previously, the garrison had abandoned the place, and
■when the national forces arrived, the forts, though of uuufiual htrenyth, were
unoccupied. On the 14th, Flag-officer Foote left Cairo, with a force of ten iron-
clads and ten mortar boats, and having been joined by Col. Kufoid, with fifteen
hundred troops, at Columbus, moved down and took possession of Hickman.
Arriving the next day in the vicinity of Island No. 10, the murtar vessels in
charge of Captain Maynadier were placed in position and shelled out several

A siege of twenty-three days followed, during which a canal was cut to admit
the light transports to reach the army of General Pope, at New Madrid, below
Island No. 10, and permit him to cross to the Tennessee shore. A formidable
battery was spiked, and a floating battery was shelled out of the channel to enable
two gunboats, the Carondelet and Pittsburg, to run the blockade, which they did
at night in a heavy thunder-storm, under a tremendous fire from forty-seven guns.
Several batteries, erected to prevent the army of Brigadier-General Pope from
crossing, were demolished by the two gunboats, and the landing was effected. This
result accomplished, the rebel commander became convinced that he could not
avoid defeat from a combined assault, and, therefore, on the 7th of April, surren-
dered Island No. 10 to the commander of the naval forces.

One rebel gunboat, four transports, immense munitions of war, and many
prisoners fell into the hands of the United States forces by this important

Flag-officer Foote next proceeded to the vicinity of Fort Pillow, where he
was joined by Brigadier-General Pope and his army. Arrangements were
promptly made for an immediate combined attack on the fortifications ; but just
upon the point of execution, an order from General Halleok, for the army to
reinforce him at Corinth, frustrated the well-matured plans that had been made.

Flag-officer Foote, suffering from the long-neglected wound he received at
Fort Donelson, was, on the 9th of May, relieved by the Department, on the
advice of the surgeons, of the command of the flotilla, which was transferred to
Captain Charles H. Davis.


On tte 11th of May, an attack, for wHch the rebel fleet, lying below Fort
Pillow, had been preparing, was made upon Flag-officer Davis' flotilla. Eight
iron-clad steamers, four of them fitted as rams, steamed up, fully prepared for an
engagement, and the flotilla was soon in motion to receive them. An action
of an hour, at the closest quarters, followed, at the end of which the enemy
retreated under the guns of Fort Pillow, three of their gunboats having been
disabled. After this engagement, the ram fleet, under Colonel Ellett, joined
Flag-officer Davis, and on the 5th of June Fort Pillow was abandoned.

The flotilla then moved down the river, and on the evening of the 7th

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 34 of 42)