The Battle of Fort Fisher, N.C.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Two Civil War Cannons in Galena, Illinois-- Part 1

While no Civil War engagements took place in Galena, other than all those generals, and, of course that Grant guy, the city does find itself owning two Civil War cannons, one of which was at the first battle at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, SC. The other is often called the workhorse of the artillery on both Union and Confederate sides.


Known technically as the 12-Pounder Field Gun, Model 1857. This particular one is a bronze, smoothbore cannon cast in 1862 at Miles Greenwood's "Eagle Foundry" in Cincinnati, Ohio. These cannons made up about 40% of the artillery used by both armies.

This cannon was presented to the city by the US War Department and arrived in April 1865, in time to be fired in celebration of the capture of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

It was displayed at the Galena Fairgrounds until 1882 when it was moved to the soldiers monument lot on the west side of the river. When Grant Park was created in 1891, both the monument and cannon were moved there.

It was restored and remounted in 2000. At the time, the "profound impression" on the breech was allowed to stay on it. The general belief is that this was made by a direct hit of a solid projectile.

The article didn't mention whether this was a Union or Confederate gun, but since the other three cannons in the park are all captured ones, it might very well be Confederate.


I have been to Galena many times, but have never been to Grant Park. Next time through, I will have to go there, though, to see these two connections of the war as well as the cannon from the Spanish cruiser Vizcaya captured at the Battle of Santiago Bay during the Spanish-American War and the 1913 Krupp Howitzer (no, not coffee-maker) captured during World War I.

From the Spring-Summer 2009 Galenian pages 72-73. It also has pictures of all the guns.

Something I Didn't Know About. --Old B-R

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Galena Generals

The Spring-Summer 2009 Galenian had a picture of the Galena Generals posed by a cannon with a backdrop of Galena, looking all general-y.

This is a group of men who portray the the nine generals Galena sent to the Civil War. I imagine having one of them being U.S. Grant had to help.

They started back on the Civil War Centennial in 1961 to participate in parades and re-enactments. Members changed over the years, but the group continued until 2002, but came back in 2006.

The nine generals:

U.S. Grant
Augustus Chetlain
John E. Smith
John O. Duer
William Rowley
Ely Parker
John C. Smith
John Rawlins
Jasper Maltby

Search Galena Generals to find out more about each one.


The mission of the Galena Generals is to provide historic representation of the nine Civil War generals that were from Galena and the Galena area. In doing so, we will portray each general to maintain a correct and accurate portrayal to the best of our ability. We will provide historic information to the public as we attend public functions such as parades, public gatherings and also walking the streets in our community and other communities in our general area. We will maintain proper attire and also conduct ourselves in a superior manner.

Sure Would Be Something to See Them All Together. --Old B-Runner

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Deep in the Heart of Illinois Civil War History

We're in Galena, Illinois, right now. Besides Springfield, probably no other Illinois town has as much Civil War history.

US Grant was living and working here when the war broke out. A grateful citizenry bought him a house after his success as the commander of the Union Armies. It still stands today and is a state historic site.

His presidential campaign headquarters were at the Desoto House Hotel, where you can still rent a room.

At least six Union generals also came from Galena.

Just a Bit of History. --Old B-R

Monday, August 24, 2009

Two Civil War Highways

Well, actually I should say two highways with Civil War connections.

Today and tomorrow we will be on two highways that also have names associated with the Civil War.

Today, we took US-12 to Fox Lake to go boating. It is also called the Iron Brigade Highway, named after the unit that gained so much fame for its fighting prowess during the war.

Tomorrow, we will be driving the US Grant Highway, aka US-20, to Galena, Illinois. Galena is where Grant lived before the war and for a little after it.

Road Games. --Old B-Runner

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Pomfret, New York's Cushing Brothers

The Fredonia, NY, paper ran an article about a new book that will be released at the Fredonia Farm Festival later this month.

It is written by Pomfret town historian Todd Langworthy and goes into the boyhoods, military service, and later life of the four Cushing boys, who were the grandsons of Pomfret founder Zatta Cushing. Two, Milton and William, served in the Navy. Alonzo and Howard were in the Army.

Alonzo died a hero at Gettysburg and another died fighting Indians. Of course, William Cushing was the bane of the Confederacy and often called "Lincoln's Commando."

A Real Thorn in the Side of the Confederacy. --Old B-Runner

Saturday, August 22, 2009

"Load, Ready, Fire" at Fort Fisher

Fort Fisher North Carolina State Historical site is host a "Load, Ready, Fire" exhibition at the fort today. Costumed staff and volunteers will be giving guided tours of the fort's remains today.

Also, a 12-pounder Napoleon cannon will be fired twice. Staff warn that the firings are quite loud. Imagine that.

Children will have the opportunity to experience soldier life and artillery firing.

The site is open seven days a week from April to September. After that, it is open Tuesday through Saturday.

An Experience at the Fort, My Fort. The Reason I'm Interested in the Civil War. --Old B-Runner

Fort Fisher Survivors Association: H. C. McQueen

As I mentioned in the last post, I'd never heard of H. C. McQueen in connection with Fort Fisher. I didn't find anything on him with the search word Fort Fisher, but did with Wilmington.

He was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1912 from Wilmington, NC. His grave site is unknown.

Then, he was very involved in Wilmington and North Carolina's business from the early 1900s. He evidently did not live in Wilmington before 1900, but did afterwards.

One source showed him as President of the Murchisen National Bank of Wilmington and was a director of the Peoples Bank in Goldsboro, NC (my hometown). He was Chairman of the Board of the Peoples Savings Bank of Wilmington with $65,000 capital.

In 1919, he was shown as President of the Carolina Insurance Company. I found nothing of his being a Fort Fisher survivor. If he wasn't, perhaps he was on the Executive Committee for his business acumen.

I was unable to find out anything about R. W. Price or Jas. A. Smith. I have also not found any records of the Fort Fisher Survivors Association, other than a few mentions in the Back Then column in the Wilmington Star News.

Still a Mystery. --Old B-Runner

Back Then: Fort Fisher Survivors Association to Petition Congress

The Wilmington Star News ran a Back Then column for hundred years earlier.

The December 25, 1908 (Christmas Day) issue had an article about the Fort Fisher Survivors Association calling for a special meeting of the group in Washington, DC, to bring before Congress a call to create a national park at Fort Fisher.

The group evidently was one composed of both Confederate and Union participants of the battle as the Executive Committee (which called for the meeting) consisted of William Lamb (the fort's commander, N. M. Curtis (a Union general), Jas. A. Smith, H. C. McQueen, and R. W. Price. I am not familiar with the last three, but will look them up.

So even back then, there was an effort to turn the fort into a historical site. Today, it is part of the North Carolina State Historic sites, and the state has done an excellent job slowing down the ocean's constant attack and preserving what is left of the old dirt/sand fort. So, evidently, this effort failed.

Fort Fisher, a Great Place to Visit and a Blockade-Runner's Best Friend. --Old B-Runner

Save Your Blockade-Runner Certificates-- Part 2

The Carolina Collectors Civil War Relics has a blockade-runner company certificate available for sale.

It is two shares of stock in the Chicora Importing and Exporting Company of Charleston, SC.

Research shows that the president was Charleston merchant Archibald Johnston. Two other backers were Charleston banker George W. Williams, and a Trenholm partner in the John Fraser & Co., Theodore Wagner.

The company was not incorporated until 1863, although it began operations in 1862. They operated several successful runners including the General Beauregard, captained by Louis Coxeter. The Beauregard was chased ashore off Carolina Beach, North Carolina where it still can be seen at low tide.

This blockade-runner was directly off the beach from my gradparents' beach house until it was destroyed by Hurricane Hazel. A few years back, there was a beach restoration and you could walk out very close to the old ship.

By the way, this 8 X 5 inch , blue colored certificate can be bought for $1,950!!

Like I Said, Save Your Blockade-Runner Certificates. --Old Blockade-Runner

Friday, August 21, 2009

CSS Pee Dee and Mars Bluff Navy Yard, SC

In an article in SC Now by Diane Owens dated June 11th. "Underwater archeology work to solve mysteries."

Despite losing days to the flooding of the Great Pee Dee River, quite a few artifacts were found on the river bottom, including cannon shells and cannons.

The CSS Pee Dee Research and Recovery Team had done work at the site earlier.

In 1925 and 1954, the river level was so low, the remains of the CSS Pee Dee could be seen. In 1925, the propellers were torn off and now can be seen in the Florence (SC) County Museum.

The remains of 14 building at the Navy Yard were also found.

Keep on Diving and Digging. --B-R'er

Save Your Blockade-Runner Certificates-- Part 1

OK, the South lost, as such, any and every official document connected to the "Lost Cause" is worthless. Right? But no. If you have a certificate from a company involved with running the blockade, it is highly collectible.

The July 14th Numismaster had an article about them.

The South relied on "King Cotton" to fund the war effort. The blockade was fairly effective and the Confederacy needed military and medical supplies as well as weapons. A new line of companies came into being to get the cotton out and supplies in.

Most were incorporated in South Carolina with shares usually costing $1000 apiece.

Blockade-running could be extremely profitable. A single successful run would just about pay for the ship. After that, the profit was astronomical.

Most blockade-runner certificates were small, 5 X 9 inches and not very elaborate.

These items are rare and highly sought after by collectors.

To see the arfticle and pictures of certificates:

Make Me Some Money!! --Old B-Runner

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Fort Fisher's Summer Intern

Wilmington Star News by Amy Hotz "Summer intern ready to share history of Fort Fisher battle."

Each summer, a new person is chosen for the Mary Holloway Summer Internship, which was started in 1986. Mary Holloway was Fort Fisher's first tour guide who died of breast cancer.

This year, Clyde Wilson was named intern. He is 22 and an Army veteran who has just received a master's degree from North Carolina Central. He left the Army as a Sgt. First Class, but will wear the uniform of a Private in the United States Colored Troops when he gives the battle tours. About one-third of the Union forces in the battles at Fort Fisher were members of the USCT.

He will be able to provide a part of the story not generally known by most Americans, the service of black soldiers in the Union Armies.

I met Mary Holloway back in the 1980s. She was quite a wonderful person. And did she know her Fort Fisher stuff.

Great News for the Fort. --Old B-Runner

Seven Things Your Teacher Probably Didn't tell You About the Civil War

June 15th Mental Floss by Eric Johnson.

1. LINCOLN'S FIRST SOLUTION TO SLAVERY WAS A FIASCO-- he wanted to move them to Liberia in Africa.

2. HUNGRY LADIES EFFECTIVELY MUGGED JEFFERSON DAVIS-- In April 1863, women staged a protest in Richmond, Va., that became a mob and disorderly.

3. THE UNION USED HOT AIR BALLOONS AND SUBMARINES-- The Union Army Balloon Corps observed Confederate lines, and the north had a submarine called the Alligator that sank off Cape Hatteras.

4. "DIXIE" WAS ONLY A NORTHERN SONG-- Written by a northerner.

5. PAUL REVERE WAS AT GETTYSBURG-- Paul Revere's grandson, Paul Joseph Revere served as an officer and was mortally wounded July 3, 1863, at the battle.

6. MARK TWAIN FIRED ONE SHOT AND LEFT-- In his "Private History of a Campaign That Failed," he wrote of his short service in a Confederate militia unit. He soon left to head out west.

7. ARMIES WEREN'T ALL MALE-- hundreds of women served in the armies on boty sides, pulling a Mulan, assuming a male identity.

Stuff Most Folks Don't Know. --B-Runner

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Cushing Was Involved

Referring to the earlier post of today.

At least, he commanded the USS Monticello from 1863 to 1865. As such, he was the commander of these men. I'm not sure that he accompanied them as the ship's commander, however.

But, having read about him and his exploits as "Lincoln's Commando," I'm sure he would have wanted to go. Actually, I believe he probably did.

I'll research further.

That Guy!! --Old B-R'er

Medals of Honor: Wilmington, NC, Operations

The June 25th "Argghhh!!! Blog had an account of three sailors aboard the USS Monticello who received Medals of Honor for a reconnaissance of the harbor and water defenses of Wilmington, NC, June 23rd to 25th.

They captured mail carriers, mail, cut telegraph wire and captured a large group of prisoners..

They were:

JOHN SULLIVAN-- born 1839 in New York, seaman
DAVID WARREN-- born 1836 in Scotland, Coxswain
William Wright, born 1835 in London, England-- yeoman

Sounds Suspiciously Like Something Cushing Would Do. --Old B-R

CSS Tallahassee's Daring August Raid-- Part 2

Let's see, 19 days, 26 enemy vessels destroyed, 7 captured, eluding Union ships, and getting away with it, despite a really close shave at Halifax. Even got enough coal. Not a bad two and a half weeks. Just imagine if they got prize money. But, nonetheless, the adrenalin rush. Quite the cruise.

Stats of the Tallahassee: 220 feet long, 24 foot beam; armament: 1 rifles 32-pdr forward, 1 rifled 100-pdr amidships, 1 heavy Parrot aft.

Ran out of Wilmington on August 6, 1864 and chased by the USS Nansemond and USS Huron. Almost caught at Halifax by the USS Pontoosuc. (I also read that the first two Union vessels followed the Tallahassee to Halifax and blocked the channel in one account, but didn't find any confirmation anywhere else.

Then, there was running the blockade twice, plenty of excitement in that all by itself.

Sail Ho!! --Old B-R

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

CSS Tallahassee's Daring August Raid-- Part 1

On this date, August 18, 1864, the CSS Tallahassee, under Commander Wood, out into Halifax to replenish its coal supply after a raid up the Union coast. Over a 19-day period from August 6th, when she ran the Wilmington blockade, the Tallahassee destroyed 26 vessels and captured 7.

The Union government was immediately made aware of the Tallahassee's presence and Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles, ordered the USS Pontoosuc to leave Eastport, Maine, where it had just arrived, and sail to Halifax to intercept her..

However, the Confederate ship left the night of the 19th and Pontoosuc arrived on the 20th.

Elusive Boat. --B-R

Charlotte Naval Yard-- Part 2

According to Dr. Dan L. Merrill, the Navy Yard was built along the tracks of the North Carolina Rail Road. Charlotte was a vital link in the Confederacy's railroad lines.

There was also a Confederate State Acid Workshop established at Charlotte to produce sulfuric acid and nitric acid, both necessary for fulminate of mercury, an important part of percussion caps.

Sulfuric acid was also important for wet cell batteries which provided the electricity for Confederate telegraph lines.

A Navy Yard That Far from the Sea? Who'd Have Figured. --B-R

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Charlotte North Carolina Confederate Navy Yard

With Charlotte North Carolina's distance from the sea, you sure wouldn't expect to find a navy yard, but one existed there from the spring of 1862 to January 7, 1864. The Gosport Navy Yard at Norfolk, Virginia, was moved there for protection from Union attack.

Confederate officials looked at several sites for it, but chose Charlotte because of rail connections.

All of the machinery from Gosport and employees were moved there by railroad.

A huge explosion destroyed it shortly after activity at the site began. Investigators were never able to find out why.

Three hundred machinists eventually operated at the rebuilt facility and the area around it became known as Mechanicsville. Mines, anchors, gun carriages, and engines were made there. The propeller and shaft of the CSS Albemarle were made there. It was officially called the Charlotte CSA Naval Ordnance Depot and Naval Works.

Stuff I Didn't Know. --Old B-Runner

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Tennessee's Fort Defiance

This coming August 29th, there will be a Civil War encampment and ball put on by the Friends of Fort Defiance group. They have been working for years to open an interpretive center at the site, located at the corner of A and Pine streets in Clarksville, Tennessee.

Not many photos of the fort from the Civil War remain, but the site does contain some impressive earthworks remains because it was overlooked for so many years.

No battles were fought there. It was built by the Confederates, but burned and abandoned after the fall of Fort Donelson before Clarksville was captured. It was then recaptured by the Confederates and recaptured by Union forces, who then garrisoned it under the command of Col. Sander D. Bruce and became known as Fort Bruce. It became a haven for escaped slaves.

It overlooks the Cumberland and Red rivers.

The group hopes to have the center opened by 2011, the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the war.

From the Clarksville (TN) Leaf Chronicle.

Little Known, But a Piece of History Nonetheless. Old B-R'er

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Union Guy With Confederate Name

The April 16th Inserv US Navy site had an article about a Civil War Union Naval officer who had what could be considered an unfortunate Confederate Naval name. That man would be Commodore Alexander Alderman Semmes (1809-1885).

He was promoted to Lt. Commander in July 1862, and became a commander after the war. In 1882, he became a commodore.

He was commander of the USS Tahoma in the East Gulf Blockade Squadron during much of the war. Because of his service, he had many illnesses. He had the reputation of being a very aggressive commanders and made a lot of blockade-runner captures and raids along the coast.

In 1861, he served on the USS Rhode Island and in 1862, commanded the USS Wamsutta. After assuming command of the Tahoma, a new 158 foot screw propeller steamer, in his first six months, made seven captures of ships trying to slip through the blockade.

He led an expeditionary force in an attack on Tampa and engaged shore batteries at Gadsden Point.


Earlier in life, his family had taken in Raphael Semmes and his brother Samuel after their parents had died. As such, he grew up with later Confederate Navy Admiral Raphael Semmes who at one time commanded the CSS Alabama.

I wonder if this ever caused any problems in his climb through the ranks?

What's in a Name? --Old B-Runner

Friday, August 14, 2009

USS Commodore Hull

From Wikipedia

Launched New York City in 1860. Acquired by US Navy in September 1862 and commissioned 27 Nov 1862. Decommissioned June 8, 1865 in New York Navy Yard. Sold September 27, 1865, for $16,000.

Stats: 376 tons; length 141 feet; beam 28.4 feet; armament: two 30-pdr rifles, four 24-pdr smoothbore.

Names for Commodore Isaac Hull. There have been four other ships in The US Navy by the name Hull, all destroyers.

The Hull's ferry boat design and draft were of particular good use in North carolina's shallow rivers and sounds, so the ship was assigned to the North Atlantic Blockade Squadron.

It took part in the siege of Washington, NC, in 1863 and took part in the fight versus the CSS Albemarle 5 May 1864. In October 1864, took part in the attack on Plymouth, NC, after the Albemarle had been destroyed.

In action, October 31, 1864, the Hull was heavily damaged by Confederate batteries with four killed and three wounded. Coxswain Patrick Colbert was painfully wounded by a shell that killed the man next to him. As captain of the forward pivot gun, he remained at his post and was awarded the Medal of Honor.

The Hull was repaired and served out the rest of the war.

So, Now You Know. --Blockade-R

Lighting Up the Frying Pan Shoals, NC

In addition to the lightships, three regular lighthouses have warned sailors of the shoal.


The first lighthouse built to warn of the shoals, he Bald Head Light, was built in 1817 and still stands. Locals refer to it as "Old Baldy. It stands 110 feet tall and was an active lighthouse until 1935 and then had a radio beacon until 1958 when it was completely decommissioned after the completion of the Oak Island Lighthouse.

During Hurricane Fran, locals who did not leave Bald Head Island took refuge behind its five foot thick walls.


This iron "skeleton tower" was erected at the southern end of Bald Head Island in 1903 and demolished in 1958, again, with the completion of the Oak Island Lighthouse. The concrete pads for its legs can still be seen.


This latest one is 158 feet high.

We'll Leave the Light On. --Old B-Runner

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Civil War Shipwreck at Eagle Island, Wilmington, NC-- Part 2

Dozens of vessels are resting out their days there, most for economic reasons. You can't just call the local garbage truck when you can no longer use a ship.

At Eagle island, there are nearly two dozen barges, the tugboat Minnesota and the stern paddle-wheeler H. G. Wright which served as a shag boat. Several old ship yards are in the marshy land as well.


Nothing can be seen of the Waccamaw, a 120-foot steamer originally called the Nuestro Senora de Regla, which was built in New York City in 1861 and intended for use around Cuba.

However, on its maiden voyage, it ran into trouble off the South Carolina and eventually ended up in the service of the US Navy as the USS Commodore Hull. It was active in the Albemarle Sound area.

After the war, it sailed on the Cape Fear River as a freight/passenger ship called the Waccamaw. On September 6, 1886, it caught fire and burned to the waterline. It was not in use at the time so one has to wonder. It lies beneath the mud now.

Almost Forgotten, But, Not. --Old B-R

Civil War Shipwreck at Eagle Island Wilmington, NC-- Part 1

A June 10th Wilmington Star News article "Across the Cape Fear from Wilmington sits more than 30 wrecks-- and valuable land" by Gareth McGrath.

One of those wrecks is that of the steamer Waccamaw which saw service in the NC sounds during the Civil War as the USS Commodore Hull.

Eagle Island has served as boatyards as well as a junkyard for unwanted vessels since the 1800s. Some of the named vessels in the mud of the island are the iron tugboat Argonauta dating to 1876 and the tug Isco.

Historians regard it as a "historical viewscape." A slice of history preserved just as it was (unless the vessel was salvaged). Along with numerous barges, there are more than 30 wrecks, docks, and dockyards. In the mid-1980s, these wrecks and other Eagle Island nautical remnants were placed on Wilmington's National Register of Historic Places.

However, these days there is a near insatiable developer appetite for any and all things waterfront, so the days of Eagle Island's sleeping repose are probably near an end.

More to Come. --Old B-R

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Battle of Port Royal

Awhile back, the good folks at HMdb did a look at the historical marker on a naval battle on November 7, 1861, probably the largest naval attack during the Civil War up until that time, the Battle of Port Royal, SC.

It involved 18 Union warships and 55 supporting craft led by Admiral DuPont bombarding Confederate Forts Walker and Beauregard for four and a half hours.

Thirteen troops under the command of Union General Thomas W. Sherman landed on the beach.

The Drayton brothers ended up on opposite sides of this fight. Commander Percival Drayton's USS Pocahontas attacked Fort Walker which was commanded by his brother General Thomas Drayton.

Brother Vs. Brother, Indeed. --B-R'er

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

So, What Are the Frying Pan Shoals-- Part 4

Continuing with Ben Steelman's article.

Salvors raised it in June 1866, and took it to Cassidey and Beery Shipyard in Wilmington where it was repaired and refitted as a lightship and served from 1867 until it was condemned in 1878.

Lightship No. 28 resumed the Frying Pan Shoals station in 1865 and was the first ship to have the famous "Frying Pan Shoals" name painted in big letters on the hull. It had two lights mounted 40 feet above the water.

Other lightships followed, the longest-serving was the 133 feet long No. 115 (WAL-337) built in Charleston, SC, in 1929.

In 1964, the Frying Pan Shoals Light Tower took station. It is a 125 foot tall Texas tower built in Louisiana and manned by the Coast Guard until 1970. Then, an unmanned weather station operated on the tower until 2003. The tower suffered severe damage from Hurricanes Fran and Floyd.

Recently, the tower was auctioned off, amid quite a bit of controversy.

Oh, Give Me a Light. --B-Runner

Monday, August 10, 2009

So, What Are the Frying Pan Shoals? --Part 3-- The CSS Arctic

I went to good ol' Wikipedia and found a list of lightships.

It had Lightship D, which it said was built c1854 and served duty until 1860 when it was sunk or captured by the Confederate States Navy.

Lightship No. 8, or LV-8 (Light Vessel I presume) was built in 1855 and originally called the Thomas G. Haight and then commissioned in the US Navy as the USS Arctic and sold to the Lighthouse Establishment sometime prior to 1859. It was sunk by the CS Navy and later salvaged and repaired and used as a lightship again at Hans and Chickens from 1867 to 1877, and then relief from 1877 to 1879.

I seem to remember there being a CSS Arctic at Wilmington during the war. Could this have been the LV-8.


The Dictionary of American Fighting Ships list a CSS Arctic at Wilmington.

It says the CSS Arctic was built at Wilmington in 1863 as an ironclad floating battery. and also a receiving ship for Flag Officer Robert F. Pinkney's North Carolina Defense Force. It was stationed on the Cape Fear River from 1862-1864 (Hard to be 1862 if it was built in 1863) with Lt. C.B. Poindexter, CSN, in command.

The machinery was removed in 1862 to be used on the CSS Richmond ironclad being constructed in Richmond. It was sunk Dec. 24, 1864, in the Cape Fear River as an obstruction.

There sure is a lot of confusion as to this ship. But the fact that the lightship had at one time had the name USS Arctic leads me to believe that perhaps the CSS Arctic and this vessel were the same.

So That's What Happened to Those Lightships. --B-R

Saturday, August 8, 2009

So, What Are the Frying Pan Shoals? -- Part 2


The shoals were first shown on a 1738 map by James Wimble and called Cape Fair Shoals. A 1790 map had them listed as Frying Pan Shoals.

They get their name because of their shape and they are formed by silt carried out to sea by the Cape Fear River. They are hazardous because they occasionally shift and over the years have cause numerous shipwrecks.

Lightships were stationed there from 1854 to 1964 with the exceptions of the Civil War and World War II. Lightship D too station from 1854 to 1861 when it was removed to Fort Caswell and burned by the Union Navy the night of Dec. 30-31, 1861. It was a first-order lightship, mounting two lights 40 feet above the water.

The Navy Department tried to send Lightship No. 8 to replace it, but it was seized by Confederates. On December 1864, it was sunk in the Cape Fear River 3 miles south of Wilmington as an obstruction.

That Light Is Still On. --Blockade-R

So, What Are the Frying Pan Shoals?-- Part 1

The Wilmington (NC) Star News reporter Ben Steelman answered the question of what are the Frying Pan Shoals, located off the Cape Fear River.

They are a line of shallow sandbars extending southeast of Bald Head Island for 28 miles into the Atlantic Ocean, and they have always been a menace to navigation, and during the Civil War, made it particularly difficult to blockade for Union ships, especially with the fact there were two entrances blockade-runners could choose.

Two lighthouses were built over the years to mark it as well as several lightships, and one Texas tower. Today, it is very popular with fishermen, especially for blue fin tuna. Recently, the tower was auctioned off, but the deal apparently has fallen through.

Since 2003, the NOAA has operated a 3-meter discus buoy about 8.22 miles off the Frying Pan Shoals Light Tower.

We'll Leave the Light On Again. --Old B-Runner

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Vicksburg Campaign Tour/Steele's Bayou Expedition-- Part 2

The first stop is at the USS Cairo Museum in Vicksburg National Military Park, which was not one of the five gunboats, but it will give you an idea of their size.

The bayous and rivers were deeper back then (before levees) during spring flooding. The ironclad gunboats formed a single file line and couldn't turn around. General Sherman led a division along side them for support.

The plan was to gain control of the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers by isolating Vicksburg and outflanking Confederate batteries at Snyder's Bluff.

It is 30 miles up Steele Bayou to Black Bayou, 4 miles to Deer Creek, and then 30 miles to Rolling Fork Creek when you had to navigate to the Yazoo River by way of Big Sunflower River.

They gunboats got to Rolling Fork before having a fight with Confederates. Admiral D.D. Porter put the ships in reverse to escape. Confederates cut down trees in front of and behind the gunboats. Had the Confederate been able to capture the Union ships, that would have had quite an impact on operations in that area.

Damn the Snags and Mosquitoes. Full Speed Ahead. --B-R'er

Vicksburg Campaign Tour/Steele's Bayou Expedition-- Part 1

The February 22nd Clarion (Ms) Ledger had an article about little-known Civil War history that is spotlighted on a new tour which covers about 100 miles.

Union General U.S. Grant spent months trying to bypass Confederate batteries at Vicksburg, Mississippi before deciding he'd just have to capture the place. He spent months trying to dig a canal through the river bend opposite the city and out of reach of Confederate guns, but this didn't work out.


By Mid-March, 1863, a new plan had been developed to send five Union gunboats through 100 miles of twisting waterways and bayous north of Vicksburg in what became known as the Steele Bayou Expedition which ultimately became a failure as well because of Confederate attacks, blockages, and sniper fire.

Recently, a free tour guide has been released by the Lower Delta Partnership. There are seven interpretive signs with eleven stops between Vicksburg and Rolling Fork. You can spend four hours minimum and cover one hundred miles to do it. The Partnership got a $37,000 grant from the National Park Service to do it.

More to Come. Old B-Runner

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Sabine Pass Battlefield-- Part 5-- Oh, Really?

Continuing with ships at the battle.


Iron-hulled, side wheel steamer. 200 feet long, 34 feet beam, 6 guns.

The SS Arizona was completed in 1859 and carried passengers and freight from New Orleans to the Brazos River.

On January 15, 1862, it was seized by the Confederates and became the blockade-runner Caroline. On October 28, 1862the USS Montgomery gave it a six hour chase and captured it. The Caroline's commander said that he was bound for neutral Matamoras, Mexico, not Mobile. The Montgomery's commander replied, "I do not take you for running the blockade, but for your damned poor navigation. Any man bound for Matamoras from Havana and coming within twelve miles of the Mobile Light has no business to have a steamer."

Well, it was worth a shot, I guess.


It was sent to Philadelphia, condemned, and bought by the US Navy in January 1863, and had its original name restored. It was among the US ships that attacked the CSS Queen of the West. On September 8, 1863, the Arizona took part in the Texas Channel action with the Clifton and Granite City. It was then at the Sabine Pass battle.

On February 27, 1865, a fir broke out aboard and it exploded and sank. Out of a crew of 98, only four were missing.

Some Interesting Naval Stories. --Old B-R

Monday, August 3, 2009

Gosport Naval Yard

This played a significant role in the Civil War and in the history of the US Navy. Once again, a big tip of the hat to the good folks at HMdb, Historical Marker database.

The USS Merrimack was burned and transformed into the CSS Virginia here.

It was first established in 1767 by the British and was captured in 1775 and became the base of the Virginia State Navy. It was burned in 1779 when the British occupied Portsmouth, Virginia.

The US Navy bought it in 1801. The frigate USS Chesapeake was the first ship built there 1798-1799.

On January 17, 1833, the 74-gun ship-of-the-line USS Delaware became the first ship to enter the newly-completed Dry Dock No. 1, the first ship to enter dry dock anywhere in North America.

When Virginia joined the Confederacy, Gosport Navy Yard was evacuated and burnedand then occupied by the Confederates. They salvaged stores and 1,085 cannons which were used in the area and throughout the South.

The 40-gun frigate USS Merrimack was being repaired at the time, and was burned and sunk. It was raised and taken to Dry Dock No. 1 and was rebuilt as an ironclad under the design of Naval Constructor John L. Porter.

The Confederates built other gunboats there as well as the CSS Richmond.

On May 10, 1862, Gosport Navy Yard was burned again and reoccupied by Union forces for the rest of the war.

British-American-British-American-Confederate-Union. Better Save Your Flags. --Old B-R'er

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Sabine Pass Battlefield-- Part 4

I've already written about two US ships, the Sachem and Clifton, which were captured by Confederate forces at the Second Battle of Sabine Pass and became blockade-runners.

The next, the USS Granite City, was a blockade-runner, was captured by the Union, became a gunboat, was recaptured by the Confederates and became a blockade-runner again, before running ashore and being destroyed. Quite a history.


160 feet long, 7 guns.

Originally the blockade-runner Granite City and was captured in the Bahama Islands by the USS Tioga March 22, 1863. The US Navy purchased it April 16, 1863, and it was attached to the West Gulf Blockading Squadron. What better way to catch blockade-runners than by using a blockade-runner?

Because of its shallow draft, it escaped the debacle at Sabine Pass, but in April 28, 1864, was recaptured by Confederate troops after an hour battle at Calcasieu Pass, Louisiana, while receiving refugees.

It was fitted out again as a blockade-runner, and on January 20, 1865, while attempting to run the blockade at Velasco, Texas, was chased ashore by the USS Penguin and broke up on the beach.

What would I do without Wikipedia?

So There You Go. Once a Blockade-Runner, ALWAYS a Blockade-Runner. --Old B-Runner

Fort Morgan/Battle of Mobile Bay Anniversary

A big to-do is scheduled for this weekend at Fort Morgan to celebrate the 145th anniversary of what they're calling the largest naval engagement of the Civil War (I would have thought it was Fort Fisher, myself).

The actual battle began August 5, 1864. A siege then began of Fort Morgan until its surrender August 23, 1864.

It has been named one of the Top Ten Events by the Alabama Tourist Department.

Fort Gaines on nearby Dauphin Island will also be holding activities in conjunction with Fort Morgan.

There will be artillery duels, and a battle between the USS Manhattan and CSS Tennessee, both ironclads which fought at the battle. These are ships normally representing the USS Monitor and CSS Virginia on loan from the National Civil War Naval Museum in Columbus, Georgia.

A $5 admission will be charged both today and tomorrow.

Sounds Like the Place to Be If You're in the Area. --B-R'er

Sabine Pass Battlefield-- Part 3

Continuing with ships at the battle.

USS SACHEM-- 121 feet long, 23.6 ft beam, 5 guns, 52 crew. Launched 1844 and purchased by the US Navy in 1861. Escorted the Monitor to Hampton Roads and at the historic Virginia-Monitor fight March 7, 1862.

Also at the battles of Forts Jackson and St. Philip, New Orleans, and helped rescue the USS Clifton when it ran ashore near Fort Morgan in Mobile Bay May 8, 1862.

Also at the Battle of Galveston Jan. 1, 1862, and in the Vicksburg Campaign.

At the Second Battle of Sabine Pass, it was shot through the boiler, disabled, and forced to surrender. It was towed to Sabine City by the CSS Uncle Ben, a cotton-clad steamer and repaired. It became part of the Texas Marine Department.

In April 1864, it was commanded by blockade-runner Captain John Davisson and reportedly had cotton aboard. This is the last record of the ship.

Next, the USS Granite City and USS Arizona. --Old B-Runner