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James river and took a position off Mulberry Island, on which point
rested the right of the Army of the Peninsula under Magruder. It
was dull work laying at anchor off Mulberry Island ; the officers and
crew very rarely went on shore, the steamer being kept always with
banked fires, and prepared to repel an attack which might have been
made at any moment, the Federal batteries at Newport News and
the guard vessels stationed there, the Congress, Cumberland, and
several gunboats being plainly in sight. After awhile the monotony
became so irksome that Commander Tucker took the Patrick Henry
down the river to within long range of the Federal squadron and
opened on them with his two heavy guns, with the hope of inducing
a single gunboat to ascend the river and engage vessel to vessel.
The challenge was not accepted, and the enemy having moved a field
battery of rifled guns up the bank of the river, and taken a secure
position from which they opened an annoying fire, the vessel was
steamed slowly back to her station off Mulberry Island. The North-
ern papers stated that in this little affair, which took place on Sep-
tember 13, 1 36 1, the fire of the Pat^'ick Henry did considerable
damage to the frigate Congress. About this time intelligence was
received that one or two of the Federal gunboats came up the river
every night on picket duty and anchored about a mile and a-half
above their squadron at Newport News. Here was a chance ; so on
the night of the ist of December, 1861, the Patrick Henry again
went down the river, keeping a sharp lookout for the expected picket
boat. Not a sign of a vessel was seen, and when day broke there
were the Federal squadron and batteries looming up against the dawn
with all the gunboats quietly at anchor near the larger vessels. As

The Confederate Steamship ^^ Patrick Henry." 129

the Patrick He7iry could not have returned unseen, Commander
Tucker opened fire. The Federals were evidently taken by surprise,
and it was some minutes before they replied to the fire. They soon
got to their guns however, and the sun as it rose was greeted with a
roar of artillery that shook the windows in Norfolk and roused the
people of that then gay city from their slumbers at a most inconve-
nient hour.

The Federal fire was well directed, and one officer and several men
were wounded on board the Patrick Heriry. One gunboat in par-
ticular, commanded by Lieutenant H. K. Davenport, was noted for
the precision with which she used her rifled guns. The old sailing
master of the Patrick Henry, a seaman of sixty winters and many
gales, was much pleased with the manner in which Davenport used
his guns. He said to some one standing near him, " look at that
black, ugly little craft yonder, well, whenever you see a puff^ of
smoke go up from her, look out, for, as sure as you are born, there will
be a blue pigeon about." The skirmish having continued for an
hour or more, and nothing to be gained by prolonging it, the Patrick
Henry returned to her usual anchorage.

In February, 1862, the ladies of Charles City, a county border-
ing on James river, desired to present to the Patrick Henry
a flag which they had made for her, as an evidence of their
confidence in the vessel, and their appreciation of the services she
had done them by keeping marauding expeditions from ascending
the river to pillage, plunder, and perhaps destroy the famous old
country seats that are to be found on its banks. But the flag was
destined never to be presented, such stirring times were at hand that
the few hours necessary for the ceremony could not be spared. The
iron-clad, Virginia, was about to make an attack upon the Federal
batteries and vessels at Newport News, and the Patrick Henry was
ordered to participate in the battle.

The day before the attack was to be made, the Patrick Henry was
moved down to Day's Neck, and an anchorage taken, from which
any vessel coming out from Norfolk could be seen.

The 8th of March, 1862, was a bright, placid, beautiful day, more
like a May than a March day. All eyes on board the Patrick Henry
were watching for the Virginia. About one o'clock in the afternoon
she came steaming out from behind Craney Island, attended by her
satellites — the gunboats Beaufort and Raleigh. Grand, and strong ,
and confident, a Hercules of the waters, she moved straight upon the

130 Southern Historical Society Papers.

It was not necessary to " call all hands up anchor" on board the
Patrick Henry, xh^ ^^chor wdiS "raised with a run," and under a
full head of steam the vessel sped on her way to aid her powerful

The Confederate vessels in James river formed " in line ahead" as
they approached the batteries at Newport News. The Patrick
Henry, lo, Commander Tucker, leading ; next C'diVCi^ \h& Jamestown,
2, Lieutenant-Commanding Barney ; and next the Teaser, 2, Lieu-
tenant-Commanding Webb. The Virginia reached the scene of
action first ; amidst the iron hail which fell harmlessly on her ar-
mour, she ran into and sank the Cumberland; a hearty cheer from
the James river vessels greeted her success, but there was no time
to give up to exultation, the long line of the Newport News batte-
ries were close at hand, and in order to reach the naval combat it
was necessary to pass them. The guns of the Patrick Henry were
elevated for a range of eight hundred yards, that being the distance
at which the pilots expected to pass the batteries.

And now the hush which precedes the shock of battle settled alike
on Federal and Confederate. Through the embrasures of the Fede-
ral batteries glimpses could be caught of the men at their guns, but
not a sound came from them. As the Patrick He?iry ranged up
abreast of the first battery she delivered her fire, and the flash from
her guns had scarcely vanished when the Federal works were wrap-
ped in smoke, and their projectiles came hissing through the air.
The first shots from the Patrick Henry went over the batteries, her
guns having been elevated for a range of eight hundred yards, con-
sequently she was passing the batteries at less than that distance,
and to this circumstance is to be attributed her not having been sunk
or disabled by them. The enemy supposed she would pass as far
from them as the channel would allow, and had elevated their guns
for that range ; the vessel passing closer than they thought she
would, their shot for the most part passed over her. She was struck,
however, several times during the passage ; one shot passed through
the crew of No. 3 gun, wounding two men and killing one, a volun-
teer from the army, who had come on board to serve only for the
fight. His last words as he fell were, " Never mind me, boys."

Having passed the batteries with less damage than was expected,
the Patrick Henry became engaged in the thick of the fight ; whilst
the forward guns were engaging one enemy, the after-guns were firing
at another. The situation of the Confederate wooden vessels at this
time seemed desperate. The Newport News batteries were on one


The Confederate Steamship ^^ Patrick Henry." 131

side; on the other, the frigates Mi7inesoia, St. Lawrence and Roan-
oke were coming up from Old Point Comfort, and, in front, the beach
was hned with field batteries and sharpshooters. Fortunately for
th€ Confederate wooden vessels, the Minnesota, St. Lawrence and
Roanoke grounded, and the smaller vessels which accompanied them,
warned by the fate of the Cumberland, returned to Old Point. The
Minnesota, though aground, was near enough to take part in the
action, and opened a heavy fire on the Confederate squadron.

About this time Flag-Officer Buchanan hailed the Patrick Henry,
and directed Commander Tucker to burn the Congress, which ves-
sel had run ashore, hauled down her ensign, and hoisted a white flag.
The gunboats, Raleigh, Beanfort and Teaser, had attempted to burn
her, but had been driven off by a heavy artillery and infantry fire
from the Federal troops on the beach. The pilots of the Patrick
Henry declared that that vessel could not get alongside the Congress
in consequence of an intervening shoal. This determined Com-
mander Tucker' to approach the Co7igress as near as the shoal would
permit, and then to send his boats and burn her; the boats were pre-
pared for the service, and the boat's crews and officers to command
them held readv, whilst the vessel was steaming in to the Congress.
This movement of the Patrick Heyiry placed her in the most immi-
nent peril; she was brought under the continuous and concentrated
fire of three points; on her port-quarter were the batteries of New-
port News, on her port-bow were the fielcf batteries and sharp-
shooters on the beach, and on her starboard-bow the Minnesota. It
soon became evident that no wooden vessel could long float under
such a fire ; several shots struck the hull ; a piece was shot out of the
walking beam ; as the sponge of the after pivot gun was being in-
serted in the piece the handle was cut in two by a shot — half in
prayer and half in despair at being unable to perform his duty, the
sponger exclaimed, "Oh, Lord! how is the gun to be sponged?"
and he was much relieved when the quarter gunner of his division
handed him a spare sponge. This state of things could not last long ;
a rifle shot from the field batteries penetrated the steam chest, the
engine room and fire room were filled with steam, five or six of the
firemen were scalded to death, the engineers were driven up on
deck, and the engines stopped working. The vessel was enveloped
in a cloud of escaped steam, and the enemy, seeing that some dis-
aster to the engines or boilers had occurred, increased his fire. At
the moment, no one knew what had happened, the general impres-
sion being that the boiler had exploded ; and it is an unmistakable evi-

132 Southern Hisforical Society Papers.

dence of the courage and discipline of the crew that the fire from
the Patrick Henry did not slacken, but went on as regularly as
before the damage. As the vessel was drifting towards the enemy,
the jib was hoisted to pay her head around, and the Jamestown,
Lieutenant-Commanding Barney, gallantly and promptly came to
her assistance and towed her from her perilous position. The en-
gineers soon got one boiler to work, the other was so badly damaged
that they were unable to repair it at the time, and with the steam of
one boiler alone the Patrick Henry returned to the conflict. Night,
however, soon closed in, and as in the darkness it was impossible to
distinguish friend from foe hostilities ceased, the victory of this day
being without dispute with the Confederates.

During the battle the shores of the Confederate side of the
" Roads" were lined with spectators from Norfolk and the adjacent
camps, who seemed greatly to enjoy the " historical piece" that was
enacted before them.

The night after the batde the Confederate squadron anchored un-
der Seawell's Point, at the mouth of the harbor of Norfolk. There
was little time for sleep that night, for the conflict was to be renewed
the next morning, and it was necessary to make many repairs and
preparations. Soon after midnight a column of fire ascended in the
darkness, followed by a terrific explosion. The Federal frigate Con
gress, which had been on fire all the evening, had blown up, the fire
having reached her m^'azine.

At the first peep of dawn on the 9th of March the Confederate
squadron was underway, it having been determined to destroy the
Minnesota, that frigate being still aground near Newport News. As
the daylight increased the Mimiesota was discovered in her old posi-
tion, but the Miyinesota was not the only thing to attract attention ;
close alongside of her there lay such a craft as the eyes of a seaman
does not delight in ; an immense shingle floating on the water with a
gigantic cheese box rising from its centre ; no sails, no wheels, no
smokestack, no guns, at least, none that could be seen. What could
it be? On board the Patrick Henry many were the surmises as to
the strange craft; some thought it a water tank sent to supply the
Minnesota with water, others that it was a floating magazine replen-
ishing her exhausted stock of ammunition, but few were of the
opinion that it was the Monitor which the Northern papers had been
boasting about for a long time.

All doubts about the stranger were soon dispelled; as the Virginia
steamed down upon the Minnesota the cheese box and shingle

The Confederate Steamship ^^ Patrick Henry." 133

steamed out to meet her. It was, indeed, the Monitor^ and then and
there commenced the first combat that had ever taken place between

The Pai7'ick Heyiry and the other Confederate wooden vessels took
little part in the events of the day, except to fire one shot at the
Monitor^ at very long;- range, as she passed and repassed at one time
during her manoeuvreing with the Virginia. At one time the Vir-
ginia did not seem to move, and apprehensions were entertained that
she had got aground or that some part of her machinery was dam-
aged. Signal flags were run up on board of her, but the flags did
not blow out clear, and it was some minutes before the signal officer
of the Patrick Heyiry could make out the numbers. At length he
reported the signal to be, as well as he was able to read it, "disabled
my propeller is."^

No wooden vessel could have floated twenty minutes under the fire
that the Virginia was then undergoing from the Monitor and the
Minnesota, but if her propeller was disabled it was necessary to at-
tempt to tow her back to the cover of the Confederate batteries. So
the Patrick Henry and Jamestown started to make the attempt, but
they had gone only a short distance when the Virgiyiia was seen to
move and her propeller to turn, showing that she required no assist-
ance. That evening all the Confederate vessels went into the harbor
of Norfolk.

Flag-Ofhcer Tattnall having relieved Flag Officer Buchanan, who
had been seriously wounded in the first day's fight in Hampton
Roads, and all the vessels having been refitted, on the 13th of April
the squadron again sallied out to meet the enemy. In case the Vir-
ginia should not be able to capture or destroy the Moyiitor, the gun-
boats Beaufort and Raleigh and two small steamers were assigned
the duty of carrying the MoJiitor by boarding.* The squadron
steamed about in Hampton Roads for two days in succession, and
the Jaynestowyi captured two of the Federal transports, but the
Monitor did not leave her anchorage at Fortress Monroe.*

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Lieutenant Commanding Confederate steamship Palmetto State.

134 Southern Historical Society Pcqoers.

^ The name of my dear and deeply-lamented friend, Admiral John
Randolph Tucker, has been necessarily so frequently mentioned in
this letter as commander of the Patrick Henry, that it will not be
out of place to say a few words as to his career.

During the course of his honorable and eventful life Admiral
Tucker served in three navies, rendering gallant, faithful and impor-
tant services to each of them, but probably the most brilliant, if not
the most important, of all his services was rendered whilst he com-
manded the Patrick Henry.

Born in Alexandria, Virginia, in the year 1812, he entered the navy
of the United States as a midshipman in 1826, and made his first
cruise in the frigate Brandyivine. In 1837 he was promoted to the
rank of lieutenant, and in 1855 to that of commander. During the
Mexican war he commanded the bomb-brig Stromboli. In 1861,
when commanded so to do by the Virginia Convention, he resigned
his commission in the United States navy and entered the Confederate
service, with the rank of commander. He commanded the Confed-
erate States steamer Patrick Henry at the naval conflict in Hampton
Roads ; and at Drewry's Bluff, having landed his crew and mounted
the principal guns of his vessel on the bluff, he materially aided in
repulsing the Federal squadron. Soon after the battle of Drewry's
Bluff he was promoted to the rank of captain, and ordered to Charles-
ton, where he commanded the Confederate naval forces as flag-officer
of the station. When Charleston was evacuated he returned to
Drewry's Bluff, which station he commanded until Richmond was
evacuated, when he reported with his command to General Lee. His
services in the civil war ended at Sailor's Creek, where, after a most
gallant resistance, he surrendered to General Keifer, who some years
after the close of the war returned him his sword.

During the war between the Republics of Peru and Chili and
Spain, Admiral Tucker commanded, with the commission of rear
admiral, the combined fleets of the two Republics. His last service
was the exploration and survey of the upper Amazon and its tribu
taries, being president of the Peruvian Hydrographic Commission of
the Amazon.

He died of disease of the heart, at his residence in Petersburg,
Virginia, on the 12th of June, 1883, and v/as buried by the side of
his wife, in the cemetery at Norfolk.

It would require a volume to do anything like justice to the char-
acter and career of this most noble and gallant man. His firmness

The Confederate Steamship ^^ Patrick Henry." 135

on all occasions of duty was of proof, though no one was more gentle
in the ordinary intercourse of private life. None served with. him
without feeling that he was a man fitted for high destinies, for he was
of a nature, an experience, and a professional skill, well calculated to
command respect and inspire confidence. In the course of my life
I have had many opportunities of hearing character discussed among
sea officers ; few escape criticism of some sort or other for their pro-
fessional acts, and fewer still as men, yet I do not remember a single
instance in which I have' ever heard a whisper of complaint against
the professional or private conduct of John Randolph Tucker. — ^J.
H. R., 1886.

^ The combat between the Virginia and the Mo7iitor was an inde-
cisive action so far as those two vessels were concerned ; at least
such was my opinion after witnessing the fight from the distance of
about a mile. Both vessels were skillfully and gallandy fought, and
neither could claim a victory over the other. If the Monitor had
been silenced, the Minnesota would have been destroyed, and prob-
ably much other damage done to the Federal forces. If the Vir-
ginia had been defeated, the city of Norfolk would have been at the
mercy of the Monitor.—]. H. R., 1886.

* Some years after the conclusion of the war I showed a copy of
this letter to my friend. Captain Catesby apRoger Jones, who was
in command of the Virginia during her fight with the Monitor.
Captain Jones informed me that the sig»al officer of the Patrick
Henry did not read the Virginia^ s signal correctly; I forget what
Captain Jones said the signal was, but it did not indicate that the Vir-
ginia was in distress, or that she desired assistance. — J. H. R., 1886.

* One of these small steamers was the tender of the Norfolk navy
yard. She was manned for the occasion by officers and men of the
Patrick Henry, under the command of the executive officer of that
vessel, and was christened by the men Patrick Henry, Junior. —
J. H. R., 1886.

* The conclusion of this letter has been lost. It went on to relate
the services of the Patrick Henry up to the date of the letter.
These services may be briefly recounted : When the Confederate
anthorities determined upon the evacuation of Norfolk, the Patrick

136 Southern Historical Society Papers.

Henry was employed to remove what public property could be saved
from the navy yard to Richmond. The hulls of several uncomple-
ted vessels were towed past the Federal batteries at Newport News.
The running past the batteries was always done in the middle of the
night, moonless nights being" chosen; so far as we ever knew, we
were not once discovered by the enemy.

When the Federal squadron entered James river, the Patrick Henry
ran up to Drewry's Bluff, and her officers and crew aided materially
in getting that position ready for defence. The Confederate steam-
ship, y^Wi^i'/^zt-'w, was sunk to complete the obstructions of the river,
her guns having been previously landed and placed in battery on
the Bluff. One solid shot 8-inch gun and two rifled 32-pounders
were landed from the Patrick Henry, mounted in pits dug in the
brow of the Bluff, and manned by the officers and crew of the vessel.

On the 15th of May, 1862, the Federal squadron, consisting of the
Galeyia, Monitor, Naugatuck, Port Royal and Aroostook, made the
well-known attack on the Confederate batteries at Drewry's Bluff,
which was the only defensible position between the squadron and
Richmond. The Galena and the Monitor were the onl}'^ vessels
which engaged the batteries at effective range. The Gale?ia was
managed with great skill and daring. She steamed up to about
eight hundred yards of the batteries, deliberately and swiftly moored
ship, sprung her broadside on the batteries, and opened with much
precision a most damaging fire. After a hot action of about four
hours duration, the Federal squadron was beaten off, and steamed
away down the river. Tlje guns on the Bluff were worked by the
officers and crews of the Patrick Henry, Jamestown, Virgi?iia, and
a battalion of artillery. The most effective gun on the Bluff was the
Patrick Henry s 8-mch solid shot gun; the working of this gun
was personally directed by Captain John R. Tucker, and the execu-
tion done by it was manifest.

After the action at Drewry's Bluff, the Patrick Henry s officers
and crew were permanently attached to the naval batteries at that
place. The vessel herself became the schoolship of the Confederate
States naval school, and was destroyed when Richmond was evacu-
ated by the Confederates, to prevent her from falling into the hands
of the enemy.— J. H. R., 1886.

Reminiscences of Field Ordnance Service. 137

Reminiscences of Field Ordnance Service with the Army of Northern
Virginia — 1863-'5.


A valuable and interesting paper by General Gorgas in Vol. XII,
Southern Historical Papers, gives a terse but vivid description of the
enormous difficulties which beset the Confederacy in reference to
munitions of war. The principal difficulties of the situation, of
course, rested upon the department which was charged with obtain-
ing the needed supplies, but it may be interesting and useful to recall
some of the experiences of the ordnance officers in the field, whose
duty it was to husband and distribute these supplies.

During the campaign of 1862, which, as General Gorgas says, was
the hardest year upon his department, the perplexities of ordnance
officers in the Army of Northern Virginia were frequendy relieved
by important captures from the enemy. The stores obtained from
Banks, McClellan, Pope, Burnside, and the capture of Harper's
Ferry, were of immense assistance in the campaign, and eked out the
meagre supplies to be obtained from Richmond. The organization
of the ordnance department in the field was at this time imperfect.
There were few ordnance officers below divisions and corps, and
even in the case of these larger bodies the duty of ordnance officer
was often combined with other staff duty. As a result, but little sys-
tem or order existed in the management and distribution of supplies.
Great waste, too, existed, but all serious difficulty was avoided by
frequent and valuable captures. During that summer a law was
passed by Congress providing for the full organization of the ord-
nance department in the field; by the assignment of regular ordnance
officers to all commands from brigades up, and, at the suggesdon of
General Gorgas, the Secretary of War determined to secure the
offixers needed for these appointments by means of a competitive
examination. A board of competent officers was commissioned to
conduct these examinations throughout the Confederacy. The ex-
aminations were held at the leading centres, both east and west of
the Mississippi, including the headquarters of all the principal armies.
From the list thus obtained it was designed that the appointments
should be made in order of merit. Some divergence from this rule
was subsequently made, when it was found that far more of the sue-

138 Southern Historical Society Pampers.

cessful candidates were from Virginia than from any other one State,
but though the order of merit was thus not strictly followed, the
appointments were all made from successful candidates. It is pro-

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