Civil War Naval History May 1863 - History

Civil War Naval History May 1863 - History

1 As requested by Secretary Mallory, the Confederate Congress enacted legislation "To create a Provisional Navy of the Confederate States." The object of the act, as explained by Captain Semmes, was . without interfering with the rank of the officers in the Regular Navy, to cull out from the navy list, younger and more active men, and put them in the Provisional Navy, with increased rank. The Regular Navy became, thus, a kind of retired list, and the Secretary of the Navy was enabled to accomplish his object of bringing forward younger officers for active service, without wounding the feelings of the older officers, by promoting their juniors over their heads, on the same list.'' At this time the Confederate Congress also provided that: ''. all persons serving in the land forces of the Confederate States who shall desire to be transferred to the naval service, and whose transfer as seamen or ordinary seamen shall be applied for by the Secretary of the Navy, shall be transferred from the land to the naval service. The Con-federate Navy suffered from an acute shortage of seamen. Mallory complained that the law was not complied with, and that hundreds of men had applied for naval duty but were not transferred.

Boat expedition from U.S.S. Western World, Acting Master S. B. Gregory, and U.S.S. Crusader, Acting Master Andrews, destroyed two Confederate schooners aground at Milford Haven, Virginia.

U.S.S. Kanawha, Lieutenant Commander Mayo, captured schooner Dart, bound from Havana to Mobile.

2 Captain John Rodgers wrote Secretary Welles relative to the April attack on Charleston: "The punishment which the monitors are able to stand is wonderful but it cannot be denied that their gun gear is more liable to accident than was foreseen. Battles are won by two qualities, ability to endure, and ability to injure. The first we possess in an unrivalled degree the latter one more sparingly. No vessels have ever been under such a fire as that of Charleston before, since the guns are new inventions only perfected since the Crimean War. When a man is in a tight place, he is to do the best he can-that best is often not a pleasant choice. Still if it is the best he can do, it is a great want of wisdom not to do the best he can. Experiment before the most formidable modern artillery has demonstrated that the monitors are more liable to lose their power of shooting than was foreseen but it does not appear that these deficiencies are irremediable even in the present monitors. the vessels were fast getting hors de combat. No one can say what would have been the result of a renewal of the fight but if after a renewal we had been driven out, and left a single monitor to fall into the enemy's hands then the whole character of the war would have changed the wooden blockade would have been at an end as far at least as Charleston is concerned, as far indeed as she could get along the coast. Seeing the damage we received and not knowing the in jury we were doing, the Admiral did not choose to risk the chances of a combat a' l'outrance which if it went against us would entail such momentous consequences. It was not fair game. In losing a couple of monitors to them we should receive far more injury than the taking of Charleston would advance our cause.

Two boat crews from U.S.S. Roebuck, Acting Master John Sherrill, seized blockade running British schooner Emma Amelia off St. Joseph's Bay, Florida, with cargo including flour and wine.

U.S.S. Perry, Acting Master William D. Urann, captured blockade running schooner Alma, bound from Bermuda to Beaufort, South Carolina, with cargo of salt and liquor.

U.S.S. Sacramento, Captain Charles S. Boggs, seized blockade running British schooner Wanderer off Murrell's Inlet, North Carolina, with cargo of salt and herring.

2-9 Union gunboats under Lieutenant Commander Selfridge, protecting steamers from guerrilla activity in the Greenville, Mississippi, vicinity, responded quickly when such action required it. On 2 May steamer Era was fired upon 3 miles above Greenville. U.S.S. Cricket, Acting Lieutenant Amos R. Langthorne, engaged the Confederate battery and then convoyed steamer Champion downstream the following day. In Cricket's absence, steamer Minnesota was destroyed by Southern guerrilla troops. Conestoga drove the force away and remained in the area until the evening of the 7th, when, after coaling U.S.S. Cricket and Rattler, she returned to the mouth of the White River. Next day, Selfridge ordered U.S.S. General Bragg to 'destroy the property in the vicinity of the recent firing upon the gunboat Cricket and transport Minnesota." On the 9th this order was carried out and ''houses etc. affording a protection to the enemy'' were destroyed, after which the Union ships returned to their normal stations.

3 Having paved the way for a final assault on Grand Gulf with the attack of 29 April, Rear Admiral Porter once again moved his gunboats against the strong Confederate batteries. The Southerners, however, finding their position totally untenable, Grant having taken his army into the country back of Grand Gulf, had evacuated. The great land-sea pincer could now close on Vicksburg. As Porter remarked to Secretary Welles: '' . it is with great pleasure that I report that the Navy holds the door to Vicksburg." In a general order the Admiral praised those under his command: ''I take this occasion to thank the officers and men engaged in the attack on the forts at Grand Gulf for the unflinching gallantry displayed in that affair. Never has there been so long and steady a fight against forts so well placed and ably commanded: "I take this occasion to thank the officers and men engaged in the attack on the forts at Grand Gulf for the unflinching gallantry displayed in that affair. Never has there been so long and steady a fight against forts so well placed and ably commanded. We have met losses which we can not but deplore; still, we should not regret the death of those who died so nobly at their guns. Officers and men, let us always be ready to make the sacrifice when duty requires it."

Porter departed Grand Gulf with his gunboat squadron and rendezvoused that evening with the Farragut fleet at the mouth of the Red River. After obtaining supplies, he proceeded up the River the next day with U.S.S. Benton, Lafayette, Pittsburg, Sterling Price, ram Switzerland, and tug Ivy. Estrella and Arina joined en route. The evening of 5 May, the ships arrived at Fort De Russy, Louisiana, ''a powerful casemated work'' which the Confederates had recently evacu-ated in the face of the naval threat. Porter pushed past a heavy obstruction in the river and proceeded to Alexandria, Louisiana, which he took possession of formally on the morning of the 7th, ''without encountering any resistance.'' Subsequently turning the town over to Army troops, and unable to continue upriver because of the low water, Porter's force returned to Fort De Russy and partially destroyed it. Porter also sent U.S.S. Sterling Price, Pittsburg, Arina, and ram Switzerland up the Black River on a reconnaissance. At Harrisonburg these ships encountered heavy batteries, which they engaged with little effect because of the position of the guns ''on high hills.'' Leaving the larger portion of his force at the Red River, Porter returned to Grand Gulf on the 13th.

Confederate troops under Captain Edward F. Hobby, CSA, captured a launch and drove off two other boats from U.S.S. William G. Anderson, Acting Lieutenant Hill, at St. Joseph's Island, Texas. The Union boats were salvaging cotton from a sloop which had been run ashore on 30 April.

3 C.S.S. Alabama, Captain Semmes, captured and burned bark Union Jack and ship Sea Lark off Brazil.

4 A part of Rear Admiral Porter's squadron having arrived off the Red River the previous evening, Rear Admiral Farragut sent a dispatch to Secretary Welles: "Feeling now that my instructions of October 2, 1862, have been carried out by my maintenance of the blockade of Red River until the arrival of Admiral Porter . I shall return to New Orleans as soon as practicable, leaving the Hartford and Albatross at the mouth of Red River to await the result of the combined attack upon Alexandria, but with order to Commodore Palmer to avail himself of the first good oppor-tunity to run down past Port Hudson." As the Admiral left Hartford, the crew manned the rigging and filled the air with cheers in tribute to him.

U.S.S. Albatross, Lieutenant Commander John E. Hart, on a reconnaissance up the Red River, engaged armed iron steamers Grand Duke and Mary T and Confederate cavalry near Fort De Russy. The Union gunboat sustained considerable damage and was compelled to withdraw.

U.S.S. Chocura, Lieutenant Commander Truxtun, with U.S.S. Maratanza in company, seized sloop Express off Charleston with cargo of salt.

U.S.S. Kennebec, Lieutenant Commander John H. Russell, captured schooner Juniper, bound from Havana to Mobile.

5 Major General John A. Dix wrote Rear Admiral 5 p, Lee, requesting naval assistance and sup-port during an expedition on the York River: "I need two gunboats to cover the landing of the troops. Lee assigned U.S.S. Commodore Morris, Morse, and Mystic to this duty and directed Lieu-tenant Commander Gillis to ". give the army all the assistance in your power." Two days later the Union vessels convoyed the Army transports as far as West Point and supported the landing. Guarding the troops until the soldiers' line of entrenchments was secure, Gillis de-tailed Morse and Mystic to remain on station to ''repel any attack that may be made, as their guns command the peninsula completely."

U.S.S. Tahoma, Lieutenant Commander A. A. Semmes, captured schooner Crazy Jane in the Gulf of Mexico northwest of Charlotte Harbor, Florida, with cargo of cotton and turpentine.

6 Commander North, CSN, wrote Secretary Mallory from Scotland regarding ships being built in England: ''For the first time I begin to fear that our vessels stand in much danger of being seized by this Government. I have written to our minister in France to know if this ship can be put under the French flag; this will involve some expense, but shall not consider a few thousand pounds . if we can only succeed in getting out . aiding to raise the blockade and making captures of some of their vessels, which may prove valuable additions to our little navy.

Rear Admiral Dahlgren noted in his private journal: "Captain Drayton came in about supper-time from New York, where he had brought the Passaic from Port Royal. He says it would be madness to go into Charleston again, and all the Captains who were in the action so agree fully. He thinks Dupont intended to renew the attack, but when the Captains of the iron-dads assembled in his ship, and made their reports, he gave it up.

C.S.S. Florida, Lieutenant Maffitt, captured brig Clarence off the coast of Brazil. Clarence was converted into a Confederate Cruiser under Lieutenant Charles Read who wrote: ''I propose to take the brig which we have just captured, and with a crew of twenty men to proceed to Hampton Roads and cut out a gunboat or steamer of the enemy.'' Maffitt concurred with the daring plan and ordered Clarence to raid Union shipping at either Hampton Roads or Baltimore.

U.S.S. R. Cuyler, Lieutenant Commander James E. Jouett, captured steamer Eugenie bound from Havana to Mobile.

U.S.S. Dragon, Acting Master G. F. Hill, seized schooner Samuel First attempting to run the block-ade above Potomac Creek, Virginia.

7 The Charleston Mercury reported: ''The guns of this famous ironclad [U.S.S. Keokuk] now lie on the South Commercial wharf. They consist of two long XI-inch columbiads, and will be mounted for our defense, valuable acquisitions, no less than handsome trophies of the battle of Charleston Harbor. The turret had to be unbolted, or unscrewed, and taken off before the guns could be slung for removal. This was an unpleasant job of some difficulty, the labor being performed under water, when the sea was smooth, and in the night time only. Those engaged in the under-taking, going in the small boat of the fort, were sometimes protected from the enemy by the presence of our gunboats; at other times not. One gun was raised last week, being removed by the old lightboat. General Ripley himself, night before last, went down to superintend the removal of the second gun. Enterprise, even with scant means, can accomplish much.''

8 Secretary Welles received Rear Admiral Porter's dispatch regarding the fall of Grand Golf and informed President Lincoln. ''The news,'' wrote Welles, ''was highly gratifying to the President, who had not heard of it until I met him at the Cabinet-meeting.

Union Mortar Flotilla under Commander Charles H. Caldwell, supported by U.S.S. Richmond Captain Alden, opened the bombardment of the Confederate works at Port Hudson, Louisiana.

U.S.S. Canandaigua, Captain Joseph F. Green, seized blockade running steamer Cherokee off Charles-ton with cargo of cotton.

U.S.S. Flag, Commander James H. Strong, captured schooner Amelia attempting to run the block-ade out of Charleston late at night with cargo of cotton. While under tow, Amelia developed a serious leak in a storm on the 15th and had to be abandoned.

U.S.S. Primrose, Master William T. Street, captured schooner Sarah Lavinia at Corrotoman Creek, Virginia.

9 Captain Case, commanding U.S.S. Iroquois, reported that the Confederates were mounting guns on the northern faces of Fort Fisher at Wilmington. ''They appear, he wrote Rear Admiral S. P. Lee, ''to be large caliber.'' This defensive strengthening of the Southern position was in keeping with the view voiced by Lieutenant John Taylor Wood, CSN, in a 14 February 1863, letter to President Davis concerning the defenses of Wilmington: ''The batteries covering the water approaches, as far as I am able to judge, are well placed and admirably constructed. But the great want, the absolute necessity of the place if it is to be held against naval attack, is heavy guns, larger caliber.'' So well did the Confederates do their job that Fort Fisher successfully dominated Cape Fear until the massive amphibious operation in January 1865.

U.S.S. Aroostook, Lieutenant Commander Franklin, seized schooner Sea Lion bound from Mobile to Havana with cargo of cotton.

10 U.S.S. Mound City, Lieutenant Commander Bryon Wilson, reconnoitering near Warrenton, Mis-sissippi took a recently constructed battery under fire and "in a short time it was all in a blaze.' Rear Admiral Porter observed: "Thus ended a fort in the space of an hour which had taken the rebels five months to build, working mostly day and night.'' This form of constant hammering by the gunboats at every point along the western waters sapped Confederate strength and resources. Boat crews from U.S.S. Owasco, Lieutenant Commander John Madigan, Jr., and U.S.S. Katahdin, Lieutenant Commander Philip C. Johnson, burned blockade runner Hanover off Galveston.

12 Writing of the significance of Farragut's operations in the Mississippi below Vicksburg, Commodore H. H. Bell said I an, one of those who attaches more importance to the admiral's brilliant move up the river than to anything that has been done by navy or army since capture of New Orleans. It was the finishing stroke to that great blow, and I am glad the admiral did it single handed, unassisted from other quarters. The want of provisions soon became sensibly felt from Vicksburg to Richmond. It was better than any battle, for it is of wider influence and more generally felt than any battle. Man cannot hold together without food. It was gallantly done, and I think the admiral has fairly wedded his name to the Mississippi through all ages to come.''

Having begun an expedition up the Tennessee River on 5 May to destroy "every kind of boat that could serve the rebels to cross the river,'' gunboats under Lieutenant Commander S. L. Phelps supported an Army assault on Confederate troops at Linden, Tennessee. ''Along the river,'' Phelps reported, ''I heard of detachments of rebel cavalry at various Points At Linden . there was a rebel force of this kind posted. I arranged with Colonel [William] K. M.; Breckenridge to cross his small force and cover different Points with the gunboats, places to which he could retreat if need be, while he should attempt to surprise Linden.'' Taking the Union cavalry on board the gunboats Phelps transported them across the river ''with little noise,'' thereby enabling the surprise attack to be completely successful. In many effective ways mobile naval support of Army movements extended the effective use of seapower deep into the arteries of the Confederacy.

U.S.S. Conemaugh, Commander Reed Werden, and U.S.S. Monticello, Lieutenant Commander Braine, stood in close to shore at Murrell's Inlet, South Carolina, and bombarded five schooners aground there. Werden reported: ''It affords me pleasure to state that so accurate was our firing that in less than an hour we had fired about 100 bales of cotton on the beach near the schooners, set one schooner on fire, and more or less injured all the others in spars and hull.''

13 The persistent Army-Navy siege and assault on Vicksburg compelled Confederate strategists to withdraw much needed troops from the eastern front in an effort to bring relief to their beleaguered forces in the west. General Beauregard and others warned repeatedly of the possible disasters such loss of strength in the Charleston area and elsewhere might bring. This date, Confederate Secretary of War James A. Seddon wrote to those objecting to the transfer of troops from Charles-ton to Vicksburg: I beg you to reflect on the vital importance of the Mississippi to our cause, to South Carolina, and to Charleston itself. Scarce any point in the Confederacy can be deemed more essential, for the 'cause of each is the cause of all,' and the sundering of the Confederacy [along the line of the Mississippi] would be felt as almost a mortal blow to the most remote parts.''

General Banks wrote Rear Admiral Farragot that the withdrawal of U.S.S. Hartford and other ships down river from above Port Hudson "would lose to us all that has been gained in the cam-paigns for the passage of the fleet to this day, as it would reopen to Port Hudson the now closed avenue of supplies." Farragut responded on 15 May and directed that Commodore James S. Palmer remain above "so long as he can contribute to the fall of Port Hudson."

Float expedition from U.S.S. Kingfisher, Acting Master John C. Dutch, departed St. Helena Sound for Edisto, South Carolina, where previous reconnaissance missions had revealed a large quantity of corn was stored. The expedition returned five days later with 800 bushels. "My object," Dutch reported, ''in doing this was, first, to prevent its falling into rebel hands, and, second, to supply the people in this vicinity."

U.S.S. Huntsville, Acting Lieutenant W. C. Rogers, captured schooner A. J. Hodge at sea off the east Florida coast.

U.S.S. Daffodil, Acting Master E. M. Baldwin, seized blockade running British schooner Wonder off Port Royal.

C.S.S. Florida, Lieutenant Maffitt, captured ship Crown Point off the coast of Brazil. After remov-ing stores, Maffitt burned the prize.

U.S.S. De Soto, Captain Walker, seized schooner Sea Bird from Havana, off Pensacola Bay.

14 Boat crew from U.S.S. Currituck, Acting Master Linnekin, captured schooner Ladies' Delight near Urbanna, Virginia.

15 Writing Benjamin F. Isherwood, Chief of the Bureau of Steam Engineering, regarding the U.S. naval floating machine shop at Port Royal, Rear Admiral Du Pont said: "This establishment is a most essential and important accession to the efficiency of this squadron, turning out an amount of work highly creditable to all concerned with it and particularly to Chief Engineer McCleery whose attention is ceaseless to the wants of the steamers now by long service so frequently requiring repairs. In this connection I would call the attention of the Bureau to the necessity of sending out a small store vessel in which the materials required for work at the machine shop, now constantly increasing since the arrival of the ironclads, could be stored, and that some person be carefully selected to take charge thereof. The machine shop, as the Bureau is aware is in two old hulks, one of which is taken up entirely as a workshop and for quarters; and the other is in too decayed a condition to be suitable for the purpose of stowage."

U.S. S. Canandaigua, Captain J. Green, captured blockade running sloop Secesh off Charleston with cargo of cotton.

U.S.S. Kanawha, Lieutenant Commander Mayo, seized blockade running British brig Comet 20 miles east of Fort Morgan, Mobile Bay.

Some 35 Confederates seized mail steamers Arrow and Emily at Currituck bridge and forced the crews to pilot them to Franklin, Virginia.

16 Commander Bulloch wrote Secretary Mallory from London: ". I had understood, and Mr. Slidell was under the impression, that French builders, being anxious to establish business con-nections with the South and to compete with England for the custom of the Confederate States after the war, would be willing to deal with us largely upon credit . I found that French builders, like the English, wanted money, and were not willing to lay down the ships unless I could give security in the shape of cotton certificates. Chronic currency shortage constantly blocked Confederate ambitions abroad.

U.S.S. Two Sisters, Acting Master's Mate John Boyle, captured schooner Oliver S. Breese off the Anclote Keys, Florida, hound from Havana to Bayport, Florida.

Store ship U.S.S. Courier, Acting Master Walter K. Cressy, captured blockade running sloops Angelina and Emeline off the South Carolina coast, bound from Charleston to Nassau with cargoes of cotton.

U.S.S. Powhatan, Captain Steedman, captured sloop C. Routereau off Charleston with small cargo of cotton and turpentine.

17 Confederate blockade runner Cuba was burned by her crew in the Gulf of Mexico to prevent capture by U.S.S. De Soto, Captain W. Walker. Rear Admiral Bailey reported: "Her cargo cost 5400,000 in specie at Havana, and was worth at Mobile a million and a quarter.

U.S.S. Courier, Acting Master Cressy, captured schooner Maria Bishop at sea off Cape Romain, South Carolina, with cargo of cotton.

Flag Officer Silas H. Stringham, in U.S.S. Minnesota, reported the capture of schooner Almira Ann near the Chickahominy River, Virginia, with cargo of timber.

U.S.S. Kanawha, Lieutenant Commander Mayo, captured schooner Hunter bound from Mobile to Havana with cargo of cotton.

18 Gunboats under Rear Admiral Porter joined with troops under Generals Grant and W. T. Sherman in assaulting Confederate works to the rear of Vicksburg. Porter had departed for the operation on the Yazoo River on the 15th. He reported to Secretary Welles: ''Leaving two of the ironclads at Red River, one at Grand Gulf, one at Carthage, three at Warrenton, and two in the Yazoo, left me a small force to cooperate with; still, I disposed of them to the best advantage." Observing that Grant's troops had cut off Confederates at Snyder's Bluff, Porter ordered U.S.S. Baron Dc Kalb, Choctaw, Linden, Romeo, Petrel, and Forest Rose up the Yazoo to assist the Army. Upon the Union occupation of Snyder's Bluff, Porter quickly sent up provisions for the troops, and U.S.S. De KaIb, Lieutenant Commander J. G. Walker, pushed on to Haynes' Bluff which the Southerners were evacuating. Porter noted that "guns, forts, tents, and equipage of all kinds fell into our hands." Quickly taking advantage of the opportunities presented by the fall of the heavy works, the Admiral moved the gunboats into position and began to shell the hill batteries at Vicksburg. On. the 19th six mortars began to fire "night and day as rapidly as they could."

U.S.S. Linden, Acting Lieutenant T. E. Smith, escorted five Army transports down the Mississippi. The lead transport, Crescent City, was fired into by a Confederate masked battery at Island No. 82, wounding some soldiers. Linden immediately opened fire, and drove the artillerists from their battery. Under the ships' guns, troops were landed and the buildings in the area were destroyed in retaliation

U.S.S. Kanawha, Lieutenant Commander Mayo, took schooner Ripple bound from Mobile to Havana with cargo of cotton.

U.S.S. Shepherd Knapp, Acting Lieutenant Henry Eytinge, ran aground on a reef at Cape Haitien, West Indies, could not get off, and was stripped of all usable stores, provisions, and instruments before being abandoned.

Boat crew under Acting Master's Mate N. Mayo Dyer from U.S.S.R. Cuyler boarded, captured, and burned schooner Isabel near Fort Morgan, Mobile Bay.

U.S.S. Octorara, Commander Collins, captured British blockade runner Eagle near the Bahamas. Collins reported that the chase had failed "to heave to till we had disabled her machinery.

18-21 Confederate troops planted torpedoes in Skull Creek, South Carolina, "with a view of destroy-ing the enemy's vessels, which are constantly passing through this thoroughfare.''

19 As Union Army troops advanced on Vicksburg, Generals Grant and Sherman sought continuous naval support for their movements. Grant wrote Rear Admiral Porter: ''If you can run down and throw shell in just back of the city it will aid us and demoralize an already badly beaten enemy.' Sherman requested similar assistance: "My right [flank] is on the Mississippi. We have possession of the bluff down a mile or more below the mouth of the Bayou. Can't you send immediately a couple of gunboats down? They can easily see and distinguish our men, and can silence a water battery that is the extremity of their flank on the river and enfilade the left flank of their works.'' U.S.S. Benton, Lieutenant Commander James A.- Greer, was ordered into action at once by Porter: "The moment you see the forts on the hills opening on our troops advancing toward the town, move up and open at long range with shell on such forts as may be firing. The object is to disconcert the enemy, and by firing shell at your longest range, you can do so. Do not come in range of the guns above the city, as there arc no forts there that can trouble our army. Fire on the forts on the hill, and try and drop your shell in them.''

Lieutenant Commander Reigart B. Lowry wrote Secretary Welles urging that naval officers and seamen not employed at sea be used to man forts and seacoast defenses: ''The most successful defenses made against us - - - at various points of the Mississippi and the seacoast have been made by ex-naval officers and seamen; in the last defense of Port Hudson the guns were worked by seamen and naval men, so at Vicksburg, at Galveston, and Charleston. The defenses of Sebastopol were entirely defended by Russian seamen for many months, while from the fort guarding that port they beat back the combined fleets of England and France."

U.S.S. Rogers, seized blockade running Spanish steamer Union in the Gulf of Mexico west of St. Petersburg.

Mortar schooner U.S.S. Sophronia, Acting Ensign William R. Rude, seized schooner Mignonette at Piney Point, Virginia, attempting to smuggle whiskey.

U.S.S. Walker, captured schooner Mississippian in the Gulf of Mexico, bound from Mobile to Havana with cargo of cotton and turpentine.

20 Rear Admiral Farragut reported to Secretary Welles: ''We are again about to attack Port Hudson. General Banks supported by the Hartford, Albatross and some of the small gunboats, will attack from above, landing probably at Bayou Sara, while General Augur will march up from Baton Rouge and will attack the place from below. my vessels are pretty well used up, but they must work as long as they can."

Writing of the reports he had made to the Navy Department after the Charleston attack, Rear Admiral Du Pont noted: ''I did not call a failure, a reconnaissance. 1 told them, to renew the attack would be to convert failure into disaster. I told them moreover that Charleston could not be taken by a purely naval attack-nor can it be in the ordinary professional acceptation of the term not that there is not power enough in the country to do it- but there is nothing to justify its application or to reward its success commensurate with the sacrifice etc. When Admiral Sir Charles Napier informed the Admiralty that to attack Cronstadt would be the destruction of the British fleet-or when the combined fleets withdrew from the attack of the forts at Sebastopol, it was not intended to convey, there was not wealth and life enough in Britain and France to accomplish it. Blood and treasure may do almost anything in war. Suvorov bridged marshes with human bodies, by forcing his advance guard into them, until the remainder of his army found a foot-hold on their fallen comrades."

Boat crew under Acting Master's Mate Charles W. Fisher of U.S.S. Louisiana captured schooner R. Renshaw in the Tar River, above Washington, North Carolina.

21 General Grant wrote Rear Admiral Porter, informing him of an anticipated Army attack on Vicks-burg and requesting the assistance of the gunboats: ''I expect to assault the city at 10 a.m. tomorrow. I would request, and earnestly request it, that you send up the gunboats below the city and shell the rebel entrenchments until that hour and for thirty minutes after. 1f the mortars could all be sent down to near this point on the Louisiana shore, and throw shells during the night, it would materially aid me. I would like at least to have the enemy kept annoyed during the night." Porter responded and "kept six mortars playing rapidly on the works and town all night; sent the Benton, Mound City, and Carondelet up to shell the water batteries, and other places where troops might be resting during the night." Early the morning of 22 May, Mound City, Lieutenant Commander Wilson, engaged the hill batteries. An hour later she was joined by U.S.S. Benton, Tuscumbia, and Carondelet. The combined fire temporarily silenced the Confederate work. Leaving Tuscumbia to prevent further action by the hill batteries, Porter proceeded with the other three gunboats against the water batteries. These guns opened on the Union ships "furiously," but Porter forced his way to within a quarter of a mile of them. By this time the gunboats had been engaged for an hour longer than Grant had requested, and, with no Army assault apparently forthcoming, the Admiral directed his ships to drop back Out of range. The gunboats were hit ''a number of times'' but suffered little severe damage; they were, however, nearly out of ammuni-tion when the attack was broken off. The Admiral later learned that the troops ashore had attacked Vicksburg, an unsuccessful assault that had been obscured from the squadron's view by the smoke and noise of its own guns and the Confederate batteries. Praising Grant's effort, Porter remarked: ''The army had terrible work before them, and are fighting as well as soldiers ever fought before, but the works are stronger than any of us dreamed of." Brigadier General John McArthur in turn praised the work of the gunboats. He wrote Porter: "I received your communication regarding the silencing of the two batteries below Vicksburg, and in reply would say that I witnessed with intense satisfaction the firing on that day, being the finest I have yet seen.

Under Lieutenant Commander J. Walker, U.S.S. Baron De Kalb, Choctaw, Forest Rose, Linden, and Petrel pushed up the Yazoo River from Haynes' Bluff to Yazoo City, Mississippi. As the gun-boats approached the city, Commander Isaac N. Brown, CSN, who had commanded the heroic ram C.S.S. Arkansas the preceding summer, was forced to destroy three ''powerful steamers, rams and a "fine navy yard, with machine shops of all kinds, sawmills, blacksmith shops, etc. to prevent their capture. Porter noted that ''what he had begun our forces finished," as the city was evacuated by the Southerners. The Confederate steamers destroyed were Mobile, Republic, and ''a monster, 310 feet long and 70 feet beam.'' Had the latter been completed, ''she would have given us much trouble.'' Porter's prediction to Secretary Welles at the end of the expedition, though overly optimistic in terms of the time that would be required, was nonetheless a clear summary of the effect of the gunboats' sweep up the Yazoo: ''It is a mere question of a few hours, and then, with the exception of Port Hudson (which will follow Vicksburg), the Missis-sippi will be open its entire length.''

Rear Admiral Farragut wrote Captain John R. Goldsborough, commanding the blockading force off Mobile: "I am much gratified to find that you are adding to the successes of the day by the number of captures recently made. I know' that your service is one of great anxiety, and irksome, with but little compensation save the pleasure of knowing that you are doing your duty toward your country. I know your officers would be glad to be with me in the river, and gladly would I bring them here to my assistance were it not indispensable to have them on the blockade. I feel as if I was about to make the last blow at them [the Confederates] I shall for some time to come. The fall of Port Hudson will place Admiral Porter in command of the river, and I shall join my fleet outside, and trust I shall call on my officers outside for their exertions in the reduc-tions of the last two places Mobile and Galveston."

U.S.S. Union, Acting Lieutenant Edward Conroy, seized blockade running British schooner Linnet in the Gulf of Mexico, west of Charlotte Harbor, Florida.

U.S.S. Currituck, Acting Master Linnekin, U.S.S. Anacostia, Acting Master Nelson Provost, and U.S.S. Satellite, Acting Master John F. D. Robinson, captured schooner Emily at the mouth of the Rappahannock River.

22 Small boats from U.S.S. Fort Henry, Lieutenant Commander McCauley, captured sloop Isabella in Waccassassa Bay, Florida.

Union Army steamer Allison destroyed schooner Sea Bird after seizing her cargo of coal near New Bern, North Carolina.

24 Confederates fired on the commissary and quartermaster boat of the Marine Brigade under Briga-dier General A. 'V. Ellet above Austin, Mississippi, on the evening of 23 May. Before dawn, this date, Ellet's forces went ashore, engaged Confederate cavalry some 8 miles outside of Austin, and, after a 2-hour engagement, compelled the Southerners to withdraw. Finding evidence of smuggling and in reprisal for the firing of the previous evening, Ellet ordered the town burned. ''As the fire progressed,'' Ellet reported, ''the discharge of firearms was rapid and frequent in the burning buildings, showing that fire is more penetrating in its search [for hidden weapons] than my men had been, two heavy explosions of powder also occurred during the conflagration.

A boat expedition under Acting Master Edgar Van Slyck from U.S.S. Port Royal, Lieutenant Commander Morris, captured sloop Fashion above Apalachicola, Florida, with cargo of cotton. Van Slyck also burned the facility at Devil's Elbow where the sloop had been previously repaired and destroyed a barge near Fashion.

24-30 Lieutenant Commander J. Walker ascended the Yazoo River with U.S.S. Baron De KaIb, Forest Rose, Linden, Signal, and Petrel to capture transports and to break up Confederate movements. Fifteen miles below Fort Pemberton, Walker found and burned four steamers which were sunk on a bar blocking the river. Fire was exchanged with Confederate sharp shooters as the Union gunboats returned downriver. A landing party destroyed a large sawmill, and at Yazoo City "brought away a large quantity of bar, round, and flat iron from the navy yard." Walker next penetrated the Sunflower River for about 150 miles, destroying shipping and grain before return-ing to the mouth of the Yazoo River. Admiral Porter reported to Secretary Welles: ''Steamers to the amount of $700,00n were destroyed by the late expedition 9 in all.''

25 C.S.S. Alabama, Captain Semmes, captured and burned ship Gildersleeve and bonded Justina off Bahia, Brazil.

26 General Banks wrote Rear Admiral Farragut of the status of the assault on Port Hudson, adding: ''Please let the mortars destroy the enemy's rest at night." The Admiral answered: ''I shall con-tinue to harass the enemy occasionally day and night. He was pretty well exercised last night both by the Hartford and the mortars. We have several mortar boats up half a mile nearer, and the ships will be ready to open the moment you give us notice. We will aid you all we can.

Commander Davenport reported the assistance rendered the Army in the occupation of Wilkinson's Point, North. Carolina. Ceres, Shawsheen, and Brinker reconnoitered the area along the Neuse River, capturing and destroying a number of small schooners and boats. The gunboats then covered the landing of the troops and remained on station until the Army was solidly entrenched in its position.

27 U.S.S. Cincinnati, Lieutenant Bache, ". in accordance with Generals Grant's and Sherman's urgent request," moved to enfilade some rifle pits which had barred the Army's progress before Vicksburg. Though Porter took great precautions for the ship's safety by packing her with logs and hay, a shot entered Cincinnati's magazine, "and she commenced filling rapidly." Bache reported: ''Before and after this time the enemy fired with great accuracy, hitting us almost every time. We were especially annoyed by plunging shots from the hills, an 8-inch rifle and a 10-inch smoothbore doing us much damage. The shot went entirely through our protection-hay, wood, and iron." Cincinnati, suffering 25 killed or wounded and 15 probable drownings, went down with her colors nailed to the mast. General Sherman wrote: "The style in which the Cincinnati engaged the battery elicited universal praise.'' And Secretary Welles expressed the Department's appreciation of your brave conduct."

Confederate defenders turned back a major assault on Port Hudson, inflicting severe losses on the Union Army. General Banks' troops fell back into siege position and appealed to Rear Admiral Farragut to continue the mortar and ship bombardment night and day, and requested naval offi-cers and Marines to man a heavy naval battery ashore. A week later, Farragut reported the situation to Welles: "General Banks still has Port Hudson closely invested and is now putting up a battery of four IX-inch guns and four 24 pounders. The first will be superintended by Lieutenant [Commander] Terry, of the Richmond, and worked by four of her gun crews and to be used as a breaching battery. We continue to shell the enemy every night from three to five hours, and at times during the day when they open fire on our troops. I have the Hartford and two or three gunboats above Port Hudson; the Richmond, Genesee, Essex, and this vessel [Monongahela], together with the mortar boats below, ready to aid the army in any way in our power.

C.S.S. Chattahoochee, Lieutenant John J. Guthrie, was accidentally sunk with what one Southern newspaper termed ''terrible loss of life" by an explosion in her boilers. Occurring while the gunboat was at anchor in the Chattahoochee River, Georgia, the accident cost the lives of some 18 men and injured others. She was later raised but never put to sea and was ultimately destroyed at war's end by the Confederates.

From Grand Gulf Lieutenant Commander Elias K. Owen, U.S.S. Louisville, reported to Rear Admiral Porter that, in accord with his order of the 23d, the destruction of the abandoned Rock Hill Point Battery had begun. He also informed the Admiral that at "the earnest request of Colonel [William] Hall, late commanding this post, I went up Big Black some three miles and destroyed a raft the enemy had placed across the river, chained at both ends.

U.S.S. Coeur de Lion, Acting Master William G. Morris, burned schooners Charity, Gazelle, and Flight in the Yeoeomico River, Virginia.

U.S.S. Brooklyn, Commodore H. Bell, captured sloop Blazer with cargo of cotton at Pass Cavallo, Texas.

28 Rear Admiral Porter instructed his gunboat squadron that "it will be the duty of the commander of every vessel to fire on people working on the enemy's batteries, to have officers on shore examining the heights, and not to have it said that the enemy put up batteries in sight of them and they did nothing to prevent it." The heavy firepower of the Union vessels- massed, mobile artillery-seriously hindered Confederate defenses and was a decisive factor in battle.

U.S.S. Bell, captured sloop Kate at Point Isabel, Texas, with cargo of cotton.

29 Major General Grant sent two communiqués to Rear Admiral Porter, requesting naval assistance for Army operations near Vicksburg. In the first he informed the Admiral that a force under Major General Frank P. Blair, Jr., was attempting "to clear out the enemy between the [Big Black and Yazoo rivers, and, if possible, destroy the Mississippi Central Railroad Bridge" over the former. Grant pointed out that there was ''great danger'' of the Confederates cutting this expedition off in the rear and asked that Porter send "one or two gunboats to navigate the Yazoo as high up as Yazoo City,'' so that Blair would be assured an escape route if necessary.

In the second letter, Grant asked Porter: ''Will you have the goodness to order the Marine Brigade to Haynes' Bluff, with directions to disembark and remain in occupation until I can relieve them by other troops?. I have also to request that you put at the disposal of Major S. Lyford, chief of ordnance, two siege guns, ammunition, and implements complete, to be placed to the rear of Vicksburg. After they are in battery, and ready for use, I should be pleased to have them manned by crews from your fleet." Porter immediately replied that the brigade would leave early the next morning but that he had only one suitable large gun for use ashore and that one he was fitting on a mortar boat for close support ''to throw shell into the [rifle] pits in front of Sherman." There were, however, six 8-inch guns on board U.S.S. Manitou, he told Grant, and he would have them landed as soon as that ship returned from Yazoo City.

Also on this date, Lieutenant Commander Greer, U.S.S. Benton, reported firing on Confederates building rifle pits on the crest and side of a hill near the battery that commanded the canal. He drove them away after firing for an hour. This action was renewed during the next 2 days for brief intervals and Greer, on 31 May, reported to Porter: ''They return to their work as soon as the boats drop down."

C.S.S. Alabama, Captain Semmes, captured and burned Jabez Snow in the South Atlantic, bound from Cardiff to Montevideo, Uruguay, with cargo of coal.

U.S.S. Cimarron, Commander Andrew J. Drake, took blockade runner evening Star off Wassaw Sound, Georgia, with cargo of cotton.

30 U.S.S. Forest Rose, Acting Lieutenant G. W. Brown, and U.S.S. Smith, reconnoitered Quiver River, Mississippi. A boat expedition from the two ships captured and burned Dew Drop and Emma Bett.

U.S.S. Rhode Island, Commander Stephen D. Trenchard, gave chase to blockade runner Margaret and Jessie off Eleuthera Island. Taking a shot in the boiler, the fleeing steamer was run ashore to keep from sinking with a large cargo of cotton.

Boat expedition under Lieutenant Commander Chester Hatfield captured schooner Star and sloop Victoria at Brazos Santiago, Texas; the latter was burned as she grounded in the attempt to bring her out into the Gulf.

Blockade runner A. Vance sailed from Great Britain to Wilmington; this was the first of 11 successful runs through the blockade for the vessel.

31 U.S.S. Carondelet, Lieutenant Murphy, patrolling the Mississippi River below Vicksburg, pro-ceeded to Perkins Landing, Louisiana, where Army troops were found cut off from the Union headquarters. Murphy "shelled the woods and thus prevented the enemy from advancing and throwing an enfilading fire on the troops ashore," while awaiting the arrival of a transport which could rescue the soldiers. As Forest Queen arrived and the Union troops began to board her, a large force of Confederates pressed an attack. Carondelet's guns laid down a heavy fire, saving the troops and forcing the Southerners eventually to break off the assault. Carondelet remained at Perkins' Landing after Forest Queen departed, saved those stores and material which it was possible to take on board, and destroyed the rest to prevent its capture by Confederates.

Rear Admiral Porter, accompanied by some of the fleet officers, went ashore, mounted horses and rude to Major General 'V. Sherman's headquarters before Vicksburg. Sherman reported that the Admiral, referring to the loss of U.S.S. Cincinnati on 27 May, was "willing to lose all the boats if he could do any good." Porter also volunteered to place a battery ashore. To that end, Lieutenant Commander Selfridge visited Sherman on the first of June and reported that he was prepared to land two 8-inch howitzers and to man and work them if the Army would haul the guns in to position and build a parapet for them. On 5 June Selfridge told Porter that one gun was in position and "I shall have the other gun mounted tonight. Frequent joint efforts of this nature hastened the end of Vicksburg.

U.S.S. Pawnee, Commander Balch, and U.S.S. E.B. Hale, Acting Lieutenant Edgar Brodhead, supported an Army reconnaissance to James Island, South Carolina, and covered the troop landing. Balch reported: ''The landing was successfully accomplished and the reconnaissance made, or forces meeting with no opposition, and they were embarked at 9 a.m. and returned to their camps without a casualty of any kind." Colonel Charles H. Simonton, CSA, commanding at James Island, warned: ''This expedition of the enemy removes all [their] fear of our supposed batteries on the Stono, and no doubt we will have visits from them often."

U.S.S. Sunflower, Acting Master Edward Van Sice, seized schooner Echo off the Marquesas Keys with cargo of cotton.


American Civil War May 1863

May 1863 saw two major events of the American Civil War. The first of these was the death of ‘Stonewall’ Jackson. The South was experiencing many difficulties – be it military or economic – and the loss of a highly talented military commander who seemed to thrive on being in the field as opposed to being in a tent studying maps was a major one. The second important event of May 1863 was the North’s attack on Vicksburg.

May 1 st : Stonewall Jackson halted the Union advance against Lee near Charlottesville. Hooker told his junior commanders, much to their astonishment, that the Union army would go on the defensive as a result of this setback despite having a 2 to 1 advantage in terms of men over the South (90,000 to 40,000).

May 2 nd : Jackson commanded a force of 25,000 men in an attempt to get behind Hooker’s main force and to attack them in the rear. It was a very bold plan that had to work. If Jackson’s army was wiped out, Lee would have been left with just 15,000 men. To convince Hooker that his men were retreating, Lee ordered numerous trains to ride up and down the Fredericksburg/Richmond railway – even if their carriages were empty. His plan worked and Hooker became convinced that Lee was pulling back his men. Lulled into a false sense of security, Hooker may well have taken his eye off of what was going on and when Jackson launched his attack behind Hooker’s line, the Union army was unprepared. Many parts of the Union army were driven back. However, in an attempt to know what was going on at the front, Jackson went to the front line to assess the situation for himself. One of his own men did not recognise him and shot him. Jackson was badly wounded.

May 3 rd : Hooker lost the Battle of Chancellorsville and he ordered the Army of the Potomac to prepare for a retreat. However, not knowing of this, General Sedgwick, believing that an attack on Fredericksburg would be successful, ordered such an attack. Initially he was very successful and captured 15 cannon and 1000 prisoners. However, without any support from Hooker he was totally isolated and at the mercy of Lee’s army.

May 4 th : Sedgwick’s men held off the first assaults on their positions by Lee’s army. Then in a stroke of fortune, the whole area was shrouded in fog and Sedgwick used this to get his men out of Fredericksburg without further loss. In a Council of War, Hooker announced that the Army of the Potomac was to retreat to Falmouth, Virginia.

May 5 th : Very heavy rain helped Hooker’s army in their retreat as it greatly hindered Lee’s army in its efforts to follow up its successes in May.

May 6 th : The last of the Union’s army had withdrawn. The Battle of Chancellorsville was a huge success for Lee and Jackson and if the weather had been better could have been a lot worse for Hooker. Hooker lost 17,000 men despite a 2 to 1 advantage over Lee. However, while the Union could sustain such losses, the South lost 13,000 men and they could not survive such a rate of attrition. The Confederacy agreed to spend $2 million on purchasing European naval ships. The requirement for the ships was simple: they had to be able to operate in the Atlantic yet be able to sail up the River Mississippi. The leaders of the Confederacy believed that such a ship would be able to break the Union blockade of southern ports.

May 8 th : Nearly a week after being accidentally shot by one of his own men, it became obvious that the wounds suffered by ‘Stonewall’ Jackson were life threatening. An arm had already been amputated but a chronic infection meant that he wasn’t expected to live. Nearly one week after the shooting, Jackson was drifting in and out of consciousness.

May 9 th : General Grant threatened to take Vicksburg, the key to the Mississippi. The Confederate leader, Davis, promised commanders in the city every means of support. The Confederate defenders of Vicksburg had a dislocated intelligence system and so had little knowledge of Grant’s movements.

May 10 th : ‘Stonewall’ Jackson died.

May 14 th : Jackson fell to Generals Sherman and McPherson. The Union government continued to put pressure on Great Britain not to sell naval boats to the South.

May 15 th : Sherman destroyed manufacturing centres and railroads in and around Jackson so that when Union forces moved on, they could not be reused by those who lived in Jackson – and supported the Confederacy. It was a foretaste of what he would do in future months.

May 16 th : Union forces attacked Southern forces defending Vicksburg at Champion’s Hill. The South had 22,000 men and faced a Union force of 27,000. Both sides suffered 2,000 casualties – though the Union army was better able to cope with such casualties. However, the South commander, John Pemberton, made one major error. Rather than keeping his men out in the field to face Union forces, Pemberton withdrew them to the poorly defended Vicksburg.

May 17 th : At dawn Union forces attacked Confederate defences at Big Black Rock, just outside of Vicksburg. The attack was so swift that the defenders only had time to get off one volley of shots before being overrun. The North captured 1,700 Confederate troops and 18 cannon and lost just 39 dead and 237 wounded.

May 18 th : Sherman’s leading men reached the outskirts of Vicksburg.

May 19 th : General Grant ordered a hasty and not well-prepared attack on Vicksburg. There were two reasons for this. The first was that he hoped to take advantage of what he hoped would be Confederate demoralisation within Vicksburg. The second was that prior to the success at Big Black Rock he had ignored and effectively disobeyed an order by his superior, General Halleck, to withdrew his men from Vicksburg and march to Port Hudson to assist General Banks in an attack there. One way of smoothing over this breach of military discipline would have been a swift, decisive and successful attack on Vicksburg. However, the attack failed and the North lost 900 men.

May 20 th : Grant’s men dug themselves in around Vicksburg. Union warships patrolled the River Mississippi around Vicksburg to hinder any Confederate use of the river. However, despite their military success, Union forces had not had it all their own way. They had to make do with five days rations over a three-week stretch.

May 21 st : Grant’s troops received their first batch of food in weeks when bread arrived along with coffee. Grant hoped that this would boost the morale of his men and ordered an attack on Vicksburg the following day.

May 22 nd : The attack was a failure and the North lost 500 killed and 2,500 wounded. The ruined Grant’s misguided belief that Vicksburg was not well defended. He withdrew his men and ordered Vicksburg to be besieged. Grant later described this as an attempt to “out-camp the enemy”. Grant’s siege line stretched for 15 miles around Vicksburg.

May 27 th : Union forces attacked Port Hudson. It was a failure as Confederate troops were well dug in. The North lost 293 dead and 1545 wounded. As at Vicksburg, a decision was taken to besiege Port Hudson.

May 28 th : The Union siege at Vicksburg was hampered by the fact that Grant had marched with small and manoeuvrable artillery. Therefore he did not have the necessary artillery to bombard Vicksburg. However, this problem was solved when large Union naval guns were brought up the Mississippi and installed ashore. Once operational, they were used to destroy known Confederate defences. In 1862, extensive defence lines had been built around Vicksburg. However, during the winter of 1862/63, they had fallen into disrepair and were only repaired after the clash at Big Black Rock on May 17 th . 30,000 Confederate troops manned these defences commanded by General John Pemberton. They faced 41,000 Union troops commanded by Grant – though this figure was to rise to 70,000 men by the summer. Life for the besieged citizens of Vicksburg and Port Hudson was hard as food and fresh water supplies dwindled.


Civil War Naval History May 1863 - History

The enlistment records of many Irish recruits during the Civil War provide detail on age, height, hair/eye colour and complexion. Although informative, this data still leaves us without a picture of life experience, or any insight into character. One exception was those men who enlisted in the Union navy. The marks and scars they acquired during their lifetime were recorded on enlistment, providing us with a unique opportunity to garner more detail about both their appearance and their personalities. Perhaps most fascinating of all are those marks that the Irishmen had chosen for themselves- their tattoos.

A German Stowaway at Ellis Island. Although taken in 1911 this gives an idea of the types of tattoos prevalent (New York Public Library Digital Gallery, Digital ID: 418057)

I have recently examined the enlistment records of the New York Naval Rendezvous for July 1863 to create a database of those Irishmen who enlisted during that month, 150 years ago. Of 1,064 men who were recorded as signing on between 1st and 31st July, a total of 319 were listed as being of Irish birth. They will form the topic of a number of posts on the site in the coming days. Naval recruits were seen as being of the rougher sort, often with a different set of motivations for enlisting when compared with other branches of service. Many were from extremely poor backgrounds and inhabited some of the most notorious districts of New York, such as the Five Points. By and large they were working class men- to study them is to examine the reality of urban life for the majority of Irish emigrants.

In 1860s New York, tattooing was most popular among the working classes. There were many different motivations for getting ‘inked’, be it for identification purposes, to express feelings for a loved one, or simply to fit in. Of the 319 Irishmen who enlisted in the navy from New York in July 1863, over 30 of them had tattoos:

Name Age Occupation Tattoo
Allan, William 24 Laborer Cross on his right breast, heart on his left breast
Auction, Martin 20 Laborer Anchor on his right hand
Breshnan, John 23 Printer “hoha”? On his right forearm
Cahill, Patrick 21 Seaman Cross on his right arm
Cahill, Peter 30 Fireman Women on both his forearms
Carter, William R. 16 None 󈫼” on his left forearm
Cautlon, Edward 23 None Name on his left forearm
Conway, William 21 Painter 󈬚” on his left arm
Coulter, James 21 Mariner Cross on his right arm, anchor and heart on left arm
Crowley, John 29 Mariner Anchor on his right hand
Donnelly, Patrick 30 Laborer Crucifix on his left forearm, name on his right forearm
Flood, Thomas 21 Printer Soldier on his left forearm
Grady, James 22 Bricklayer “J.G.” and star on his right forearm
Gugerty, Michael 23 Trunk Maker Monument? on his right forearm
Hickay, William 34 Mariner Crucifix on his right forearm
Hill, Thomas 21 Laborer Star on his left hand
Holden, Patrick 22 Fireman 󈫽” on his right forearm
Keough, Philip 23 Bricklayer Tattooed on the arms
Layton, Henry 22 Mariner Star on his left hand
Mansfield, Thomas 17 None Blue spots on his right arm (tattoo or scar?)
McCarthy, John 30 Laborer “J.McC.” on his left forearm
McCarthy, John 35 Mariner “M.P.” on his left wrist
McGill, James 35 Mariner A.M.’ on his right forearm
McNally, William 41 Mariner Woman and “I.C.” on his right arm
Murray, Francis 21 Laborer “F.M.” on this right arm
Murray, Patrick 21 Laborer Name on his right arm, crucifix on his left arm
Reilly, John 25 Machinist Anchor on both his forearms
Smith, Henry 28 Mariner Cross on his right forearm
Staldon, Charles 21 Shoemaker Cross on his right arm
Sweeney, Miles 23 Shipsmith “M.S.” on his right forearm
Whilon, Robert 23 Fireman ” B. O’Brien” on his right forearm
Wogan, William 22 Laborer 󈬁” and “East River” on his right forearm

Table 1. Tattoos of Irish enlistments in the New York Naval Rendezvous, July 1863 (1)

What was the process these men went through to get tattooed? The best known tattoo artist of the period was Martin Hildebrandt, who operated throughout the American Civil War and in the post-war years had a New York tattoo workshop. In 1876 the New York Times visited him to learn more about the process:

Mr Hildebrandt, with the true modesty of an artist, exhibited his book of drawings. All you had to do, in case you wanted to be marked for life, was to select a particular piece, and in a short time, varying from fifteen minutes to an hour and a half, you could, presenting your arm or your chest as an animated canvas to the artist, have transferred on your person any picture you wanted, at the reasonable price of from fifty cents to $2.50. (2)

Of course many of the working class Irishmen who revealed their tattoos to the recruiters in July 1863 would have been inked by amateur tattooists, often with a varying degree of competence. Hildebrandt’s method was to take a half dozen No.12 needles, that he ‘bound together in a slanting form, which are dipped as the pricking is made into the best India ink or vermilion. The puncture is not made directly up and down, but at an angle, the surface of the skin being only pricked.’ Wet gunpowder and ink were also sometimes used as a colorant to mix into the needle-marks. Once the tattoo was completed, blood and excess colouring were washed off the skin using either water, urine or sometimes rum and brandy. (3)

Examples of some late 19th century tattoos (Wikimedia Commons)

What of the different types of tattoos? In his examination of American seafarers’ tattoos between 1796 and 1818, Ira Dye developed a classification for the types of tattoos he encountered. The July 1863 New York Rendezvous sample shows that a number of the Irishmen had elected for similar designs. Initials and names tended to be the most common form. Men like John McCarthy and James Grady were probably concerned with people being able to identify them should some mishap occur, and wanted the initials to serve as a form of identity tag. William McNally had the initials ‘I.C.’ beneath the image of a woman, and it may well be that these were the initials of a loved one. Robert Whilon had ‘B. O’Brien’ tattooed on his arm. This may either represent a woman, friend or it is possible that he was one of many men who elected to enlist under a false name. (4)

A number of the men sported anchors, the tattoo most quintessentially associated with sailors. Although John Crowley and John Coulter were mariners, it is not clear if the other men with anchors- Laborer Martin Auction and Machinist John Reilly- had previous naval experience. Stars were also a popular motif, as were crucifixes. Depictions of crosses may have had some religious significance, but there is also a suggestion that sailors selected them to mark them out for Christian burial it may also have been regarded as lucky. Within this group of Irishmen crosses were the most common tattoo, with eight of the men carrying them. (5)

An interest in love and women generally can be seen with the selections a number of the men made. William Allan had a heart on his chest, while Fireman Peter Cahill clearly saw himself as somewhat of a paramour, with women on both his arms. Thomas Flood has also elected for a figure, but he chose a soldier rather than a woman, perhaps to remember service in the army or to recall a relative or friend who was fighting for the North. By far the most intriguing set of tattoos are the numbers that adorned some of the men. William Carter, a 16-year-old boy with no profession, had 󈧐’ on his arm. Painter William Conway had 󈧮’, Fireman Patrick Holden 󈧑’ and Laborer William Wogan 󈧕’ and ‘East River.’ I have been unable to ascertain what these numbers represent. Having considered areas or wards of the city, ladder companies and infantry regiments, none seem to offer a definitive answer. I would be interested to learn if any readers have come across references to such tattoos before, or if they have some suggestion as to what these numbers might represent.** (6)

Tattoos are most commonly associated with sailors in this period. What is fascinating about this group is that although all of them were bound for the navy, it was clear that many of the men who bore tattoos had no previous maritime experience. This allows us to envisage a scenario where a significant proportion of the working class Irish population (and indeed the working class generally) wore tattoos- indeed it must have been a common sight in areas like the Five Points. I hope in the future to extend my look at the Irish recruits in the navy and along the way discover more regarding the tattoos that were prevalent among the Irish community of New York.

*I am indebted to Dr. Matt Lodder for graciously providing information regarding sources and for his advice generally regarding 19th century tattooing and its interpretation.

**With regard to this question, see the contribution by Marc Hermann in the comments section below, which seems to confirm that these are most probably the numbers of Fire Engine, Ladder and Hose Companies.

(1) Naval Enlistment Returns (2) New York Times 16th January 1876 (3) Dye 1989:531 (4) Ibid:542 (5) Ibid:542, 547 (6) Ibid:544-545

Naval Enlistment Weekly Returns, New York Rendezvous, July 1863.

New York Times 16th January 1876. Tattooing in New York, A Visit Paid to the Artist.

Dye, Ira 1989. ‘The Tattoos of Early American Seafarers, 1796-1818’ in Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 133, No. 4, pp. 520-554.


Vicksburg

Vicksburg’s strategic location on the Mississippi River made it a critical win for both the Union and the Confederacy. The Confederate surrender there ensured Union control of the Mississippi River and cleaved the South in two.

How it ended

Union victory. After a 47-day siege, Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton’s Confederate troops surrendered to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. Together with the Union victory at Gettysburg just a day before, Vicksburg marked a turning point in the fortunes of the Union army.

In context

The Mississippi River was the primary conduit for supplies and communication through the south as well as a vital lifeline for goods going north. To Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Vicksburg was the "nailhead that holds the South's two halves together." President Abraham Lincoln remarked, “Vicksburg is the key! The war can never be brought to a close until that key is in our pocket.” The Vicksburg Campaign began in 1862 and ended with the Confederate surrender on July 4, 1863. With the loss of Confederate general John C. Pemberton’s army after the siege at Vicksburg and a Union victory at Port Hudson five days later, the Union controlled the entire Mississippi River and the Confederacy was split in half. Grant’s victory led to his continued command in eastern Tennessee and his eventual appointment as general-in-chief of the Union armies.

In the spring of 1863, Grant marches the Army of the Tennessee down the west side of the Mississippi River. The troops must rendezvous with the Union navy, which will provide transport for the river crossing into Confederate territory. On the evening of April 16, Rear Adm. David Dixon Porter sneaks his Union fleet past the Confederate batteries at Vicksburg to meet up with Grant. As the boats round De Soto Point, they are spotted by Confederate lookouts who spread the alarm. Although each vessel is hit by Confederate fire. Porter's fleet successfully fights its way past the Confederate batteries and meets up with Grant.

On April 29, Union troops attempt to cross the Mississippi at Grand Gulf. The Union fleet bombards Confederate defenses for five hours, but Grant’s troops are repulsed. Grant moves farther south in search of a more favorable crossing point and eventually finds one in Bruinsburg. In the early morning hours of April 30, infantrymen of the Twenty-fourth and Forty-sixth Indiana Regiments step ashore on Mississippi soil. The two sides clash at Port Gibson and Raymond. By May 14, the state capital of Jackson, Mississippi, is in Union hands. On May 16, Grant encounters Pemberton’s army and they exchange fire at Champion Hill. They clash again on May 17 at the Big Black River. Both battles result in Union victories and force the Confederates to retreat to their fortifications at Vicksburg with the Federals in hot pursuit.

May 18. Looking for a quick victory and not wanting to give Pemberton time to settle his garrison, Grant orders an immediate assault. Of his three corps, only Maj. Gen William T. Sherman’s Fifteenth Corps, stationed northeast of the city, is in a position to attack.

May 19. Sherman’s assault focuses on the Stockade Redan, named for a log stockade wall across the Graveyard Road connecting two gun positions. Here, the Twenty-seventh Louisiana Infantry, reinforced by Col. Francis Cockrell’s Missouri Brigade, mans the rifle pits. Sherman’s men move forward down the road at 2 p.m. and are immediately slowed by the ravines and obstructions in front of the redan. The combat is fierce and bloody outside the Confederate works. The Thirteenth United States Infantry plants its colors on the redan but can advance no further. Sherman’s men pull back. Undaunted by this failure, Grant makes a more thorough reconnaissance of the defenses prior to ordering another assault.

May 22. Early in the morning, Union artillery opens fire and for four hours bombards the city's defenses. At 10 a.m. the guns fall silent and Union infantry advances on a three-mile front. Sherman attacks again down the Graveyard Road, Maj. Gen. James B. McPherson’s Corps move against the center along the Jackson Road, and Maj. Gen. John A. McClernand’s Corps attack to the south at the Second Texas Lunette and the Railroad Redoubt, where the Southern Railroad crosses the Confederate lines. Surrounded by a ditch 10 feet deep and walls 20 feet high, the redoubt offers enfilading fire for rifles and artillery. After intense hand-to-hand fighting, Federals breach the Railroad Redoubt, capturing a handful of prisoners. The victory, however, is the only Confederate position captured that day.

Grant’s unsuccessful attacks give him no choice but to invest Vicksburg in a siege. As weeks go by, Pemberton’s defenders suffer from shortened rations, exposure to the elements, and constant bombardment from Grant’s army and navy gunboats. Reduced in number by sickness and casualties, the garrison of Vicksburg is spread dangerously thin. Civilians are hard hit, with many forced to live in crudely dug caves due to the heavy shelling.

June 25. Following Grant’s orders to dig tunnels and set explosives under the Confederate works, Union sappers detonate a mine with 2,200 pounds of black powder, causing a huge explosion. After more than 20 hours of hand-to-hand fighting in the 12-foot deep crater left by the blast, Union regiments are unable to advance and withdraw back to their lines. The siege continues.

July 3–4. With the situation dire for the Confederates, Grant and Pemberton meet between their lines. Grant insists on an unconditional surrender, but Pemberton refuses. Later that night Grant reconsiders and offers to parole the Confederate defenders. On July 4, the 47-day siege of Vicksburg is over.


Contents

Dictator was 312 ft (95.1 m) long, 50 ft (15.2 m) wide, had a draft of 20 ft 6 in (6.2 m), and displaced 4,438 long tons (4,509 t). She had a top speed of 10 knots (18.5 km/h 11.5 mph), [1] and was propelled by two screws and a two-cylinder Ericsson vibrating lever-engine, with a total of 3,500 indicated horsepower (2,600 kW). [2] It is thought that she had a light hurricane deck amidships. She was designed to carry 1,000 tons of coal. [3] She was armed with two 15-inch (38 cm) Dahlgren smoothbore guns. [2] She had 15 inches of armor on the turret, 12 in (305 mm) on the pilothouse, 6 in (152 mm) on the hull, and 1.5 in (38 mm) on the deck. She had a crew of 174 men. [4]

Originally she was to be called Protector, however she was named Dictator on 1 April 1862, after John Ericsson requested it from the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Gustavus Fox. [5]

Dictator was laid down by Delamater Iron Works, in New York, New York, under contract with John Ericsson on 16 August 1862, and launched on 26 December 1863. The ship was commissioned on 11 November 1864, under the command of Commander J. Rodgers, with a crew of 174. [2] [6]

Construction problems with her powerplant kept her initial service relatively brief and inactive. Assigned to duty with North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, Dictator cruised on the Atlantic coast from 15 December 1864 until placed out of commission on 5 September 1865 at the League Island Navy Yard. She remained in ordinary there until 1869. [1]

The ship was recommissioned on 20 July 1869, with a repair cost of $59,654.27. [6] Dictator served with the North Atlantic Fleet until 28 June 1871 when she was again placed out of commission. She was in ordinary at New York Navy Yard until 12 January 1874 when she was recommissioned for service on the North Atlantic Station. Dictator was decommissioned at League Island on 1 June 1877 and remained there until sold on 27 September 1883, [1] to A. Purvis & Son, for a cost of $40,250 dollars. [6]


Jersey Blue on the Green

Though better known for its role in the Revolutionary War, Morristown has a surprisingly rich connection with America’s “Second Revolution,” the Civil War. After the Confederate bombardment of Fort Sumter and the defeat of the Union Army at the First Battle of Bull Run, the call for enlistments went out in the North, and Morristown proudly answered, raising over 100 local volunteers to form Company K of the 7th New Jersey Regiment. The regiment’s commander was Joseph Warren Revere, grandson of Paul Revere, who was already a well-known naval officer and the architect and owner of the Willows Mansion at Fosterfields Farm in Morristown. Company K would receive a grand send-off on the Morristown Green, with services at the Presbyterian Church before joining the 7th NJ and their sister regiments to form the 2nd New Jersey Brigade which fought on some of the bloodiest battlefields in this country’s history, from the Peninsular Campaign through Gettysburg all the way to Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House.

The graves of fourteen United States Colored Troops at Evergreen Cemetery

In all, more than six thousand men from Morris County served in the Union Army, including Captain Ira J. Lindsley of the 15th NJ Regiment, a member of the prominent Lindsley family who were some of the first settlers in what would become Morristown. Captain Lindsley, like so many, paid the ultimate sacrifice when he lost his life on May 3, 1863 at Chancellorsville where his body was never recovered. Though physically lost, his actions were enshrined when after the war Morristown’s post of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR, the Civil War’s version of an American Legion veteran’s organization) decided to name themselves in honor of Lindsley, their fallen comrade and neighbor, instead of the more prominent Major General Phil Sheridan.

The graves of Joseph Waren Revere and Father James B. Sheeran at Holy Rood Cemetery

While Captain Lindsley’s life ended at Chancellorsville, so did General Joseph Warren Revere’s military career, when after the Union’s embarrassing defeat, part of the blame was assigned to him, resulting in a court-martial. Although Abraham Lincoln himself threw out the charge, Revere left the army and returned to Morristown, where he wrote two autobiographies before passing away on April 21, 1880, being buried at Holy Rood Cemetery. A stone’s throw away from Revere’s final resting place is the grave of Father James B. Sheeran, a pastor of Morristown’s Assumption Church, as well as a former chaplain of the Confederate Army. During his service preaching the word of God for the Southern cause, Sheeran once famously told Stonewall Jackson that “as a priest of God I outrank every officer in your command, I outrank even you.”

Morristown may be the only town that can claim not one, but two court-martialed generals as residents. Like Revere, Major General Fitzjohn Porter was faulted and discharged from the army for a humiliating Union defeat, this one at the Second Battle of Bull Run. After the war Porter made his home at 1 Farragut Place, (which itself is named after another Civil War hero, Admiral David Farragut.) The two mistreated generals became good friends after the war, and Porter was a pallbearer at Revere’s funeral. Porter was later vindicated in 1886 when his trial was ruled unjustified. He was restored to the army at the rank of a colonel before voluntarily retiring and would go on to serve as the Police Commissioner and Fire Commissioner of New York City.

Other high-ranking lives came together in post-war Morristown. Major General George Sears Greene and Brigadier General Hannibal Day, West Point graduates from the Class of 1823, served with the Union Army where they both saw action at Gettysburg. Day led a brigade of US Regulars around the Wheatfield while Greene led his brigade of New Yorkers in the defense of Culp’s Hill against an entire Confederate division, an action many would credit with saving the entire Army of the Potomac. After the war, Day’s son would marry Greene’s daughter, and later on after the death of Day’s son, they would both move in with Greene’s widowed daughter at 15 Wetmore Avenue.

The Morris County Civil War Monument on the Morristown Green

The Morris County Civil War Monument stands proudly on the Morristown Green, where Company K was given their farewells the before marching to war. The forty-eight-foot, one-hundred-ton tower with its silent sentinel watching over the town was unveiled on July 4, 1871. With attendance reportedly at a thousand spectators, Secretary of the Navy George M. Robeson gave the keynote address, with Governor Theodore Randolph and Fitzjohn Porter beside him. President Ulysses S. Grant and Major General George B. McClellan, a future governor of the state, sent letters to be read to the public for the event.

Ulysses S. Grant may have missed the monument’s dedication, but he was no stranger to Morristown, visiting on multiple occasions due to his friendship with resident and famed political cartoonist Thomas Nast, whose house still stands at 45 Macculloch Avenue. On one of his visits Grant signed the guest book of the Market Street Fire House. Grant’s son was also a resident of Morristown, owning property near Peck School, and Grant’s younger brother, Orville Lynch, was committed to Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital in the late 1870s. Other famed Civil War figures who passed through Morristown include Frederick Douglas, who gave a speech on the Green on June 9, 1865, and Major General Abner Doubleday, better known for being the father of baseball, who spent time here while living at the Phoenix House in Mendham.

There are hundreds of Civil War veterans buried throughout this town’s cemeteries in addition to the aforementioned Holy Rood. At Evergreen Cemetery on Martin Luther King Avenue you will find the grave of George T. Cobb who before becoming the first mayor of Morristown, fought as a US Congressman in support of the war effort and later died in a train accident in 1870 while on a tour of that war’s battlefields. Moving to Morristown after losing his left foot at the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, Brigadier General Henry Harrison Walker may be the highest-ranking Confederate buried in New Jersey, where he spent his postwar life as a successful stockbroker. Down the hill from this Virginian rebel are the graves of fourteen United States Colored Troops, all men who fought against Walker’s Confederacy to help win the freedom of four million slaves and ended up in their postwar years in Morristown, New Jersey.


Vicksburg - May 22, 1863

The city of Vicksburg, Mississippi, had long been the target of Union General Ulysses S. Grant before May of 1863. Now the principal Federal commander in the Western Theater found himself at the doorstep of the strategically important city.

An initial assault on the cities defenses failed on May 19. Undaunted, Grant renewed his efforts to capture the city on May 22. This assault focused on a railroad redoubt along the Southern Railroad of Mississippi. While the rail line itself had been severed east of the city by Grant's troops, the line offered a potential weak point jutting out from the Confederate lines.

On the morning of May 22, Union artillery bombarded the Confederate works for some four hours. Around 10:00 am, the Federals launched a massive three-pronged assault on the Confederate works. One of the Confederate defenders, Lt. J.M. Pearson of the 13 th Alabama described the Union attack, saying, “…they seemed to be springing from the bowels of the earth, a long line of indigo, a magnificent line in each direction…It was a grand and appalling sight.”

The Federals managed a short-lived penetration at Railroad Redoubt. Men of the 21 st and 22 nd Iowa breached the fort’s wall, gaining, for a few crucial moments, a lodgment in the city’s defenses. Scaling ladders were used to surmount the Confederate works in some places, as that proved very formidable. More Federals from Wisconsin and Illoins came to the aide of their comrades. Confederate Brig. Gen. Stephen D. Lee desperately attempted to get his men to counterattack, to no avail. He turned to Col. Thomas N. Waul, commander of the famed Waul’s Texas Legion who, with some nearby Alabamans, counterattacked.

In a desperate hand-to-hand struggle, the Iowans were driven back at the point of bayonets when no reinforcements were at hand. One of the Iowans that lay badly wounded on the fields was Sgt. Leonidas Mahlon Godley of the 22nd Iowa. "First Sergeant Godley led his company in the assault on the enemy's works and gained the parapet, there receiving three very severe wounds. He lay all day in the sun, was taken prisoner, and had his leg amputated without anesthetics." Godley survived his wounding and was later the recipient of the Medal of Honor.


Collection Civil War Glass Negatives and Related Prints

In an effort to placate the slave-holding border states, Lincoln resisted the demands of radical Republicans for complete abolition. Yet some Union generals, such as General B. F. Butler, declared slaves escaping to their lines "contraband of war," not to be returned to their masters. Other generals decreed that the slaves of men rebelling against the Union were to be considered free. Congress, too, had been moving toward abolition. In 1861, Congress had passed an act stating that all slaves employed against the Union were to be considered free. In 1862, another act stated that all slaves of men who supported the Confederacy were to be considered free. Lincoln, aware of the public's growing support of abolition, issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, declaring that all slaves in areas still in rebellion were, in the eyes of the federal government, free.

March 1863

The First Conscription Act

Because of recruiting difficulties, an act was passed making all men between the ages of 20 and 45 liable to be called for military service. Service could be avoided by paying a fee or finding a substitute. The act was seen as unfair to the poor, and riots in working-class sections of New York City broke out in protest. A similar conscription act in the South provoked a similar reaction.

May 1863

The Battle of Chancellorsville

On April 27, Union General Hooker crossed the Rappahannock River to attack General Lee's forces. Lee split his army, attacking a surprised Union army in three places and almost completely defeating them. Hooker withdrew across the Rappahannock River, giving the South a victory, but it was the Confederates' most costly victory in terms of casualties.

May 1863

The Vicksburg Campaign

Union General Grant won several victories around Vicksburg, Mississippi, the fortified city considered essential to the Union's plans to regain control of the Mississippi River. On May 22, Grant began a siege of the city. After six weeks, Confederate General John Pemberton surrendered, giving up the city and 30,000 men. The capture of Port Hudson, Louisiana, shortly thereafter placed the entire Mississippi River in Union hands. The Confederacy was split in two.

Through the Fall of Vicksburg&mdashJuly 1863

These photographs include three which William R. Pywell took in February 1864, referring back to Grant's brilliant campaign of the previous summer.

June-July 1863

The Gettysburg Campaign

Confederate General Lee decided to take the war to the enemy. On June 13, he defeated Union forces at Winchester, Virginia, and continued north to Pennsylvania. General Hooker, who had been planning to attack Richmond, was instead forced to follow Lee. Hooker, never comfortable with his commander, General Halleck, resigned on June 28, and General George Meade replaced him as commander of the Army of the Potomac.

On July 1, a chance encounter between Union and Confederate forces began the Battle of Gettysburg. In the fighting that followed, Meade had greater numbers and better defensive positions. He won the battle, but failed to follow Lee as he retreated back to Virginia. Militarily, the Battle of Gettysburg was the high-water mark of the Confederacy it is also significant because it ended Confederate hopes of formal recognition by foreign governments. On November 19, President Lincoln dedicated a portion of the Gettysburg battlefield as a national cemetery, and delivered his memorable "Gettysburg Address."

Photographs of the battleground began immediately after the battle of July 1-3. This group of photographs also includes a scene of Hooker's troops in Virginia on route to Gettysburg.

September 1863

The Battle of Chickamauga

On September 19, Union and Confederate forces met on the Tennessee-Georgia border, near Chickamauga Creek. After the battle, Union forces retreated to Chattanooga, and the Confederacy maintained control of the battlefield.

Meade in Virginia&mdashAugust-November 1863

After the Battle of Gettysburg, General Meade engaged in some cautious and inconclusive operations, but the heavy activity of the photographers was confined to the intervals between them&mdashat Bealeton, southwest of Warrenton, in August, and at Culpeper, before the Mine Run Campaign.

November 1863

The Battle of Chattanooga

On November 23-25, Union forces pushed Confederate troops away from Chattanooga. The victory set the stage for General Sherman's Atlanta Campaign.

Chattanooga&mdashSeptember-November 1863

After Rosecrans's debacle at Chickamauga, September 19-20, 1863, Confederate General Braxton Bragg's army occupied the mountains that ring the vital railroad center of Chattanooga. Grant, brought in to save the situation, steadily built up offensive strength, and on November 23- 25 burst the blockade in a series of brilliantly executed attacks. The photographs, probably all taken the following year when Chattanooga was the base for Sherman's Atlanta campaign, include scenes on Lookout Mountain, stormed by Hooker on November 24.

The Siege of Knoxville&mdashNovember-December 1863

The difficult strategic situation of the federal armies after Chickamauga enabled Bragg to detach a force under Longstreet to drive Burnside out of eastern Tennessee. Burnside sought refuge in Knoxville, which he successfully defended from Confederate assaults. These views, taken after Longstreet's withdrawal on December 3, include one of Strawberry Plains, on his line of retreat. Here we have part of an army record: Barnard was photographer of the Chief Engineer's Office, Military Division of the Mississippi, and his views were transmitted with the report of the chief engineer of Burnside's army, April 11, 1864.

This time line was compiled by Joanne Freeman and owes a special debt to the Encyclopedia of American History by Richard B. Morris.


May 1st marks two critical events in the history of the American Civil. The first occurred in 1862. On May 1st of that year, The Union Army completed the Capture of New Orleans. A year later, in 1863, The Battle of Chancellorsville began, ultimately resulting in a Confederate victory, although the confederates lost one of their most celebrated generals (Stonewall Jackson) as a result of injuries sustained in the week long battle. In a bizarre twist, on the second night of the battle, Jackson was shot by fellow Southern soldiers who mistook him for a Union soldier. Despite having his wounded arm amputated, as it had been hit multiple times, the general died a few days later, becoming another of the hundreds of thousands to perish in The American Civil War, the deadliest war ever for American soldiers. The conflict briefly tore the country in two and ended with the death of a president and the eventual end of legalized slavery in America. This article presents a timeline of its most bizarre moments.

Digging Deeper: Causes and Origins of the American Civil War

“First cotton gin” from Harper’s Weekly. 1869 illustration depicting event of some 70 years earlier.

On March 14, 1794, American inventor Eli Whitney patented his greatest invention.

On May 22, 1856, Congressman Preston Brooks of South Carolina had had it!

On March 3, 1859, the largest sale of African slaves in the United States came to a sad conclusion near Savannah, Georgia when the last slaves formerly owned by plantation owner Pierce Mease Butler (1806-1867) were sold in order for Butler to satisfy his considerable debts.

Digging Deeper: The American Civil War

On April 13, 1861, the US Army installation known as Fort Sumter located at Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, surrendered to the rebellious forces of the fledgling Confederate States of America after a bombardment.

On April 19, 1861, an angry mob with pro-secessionist intentions attacked US Army troops on the streets of Baltimore, an event known as The Baltimore Riot of 1861, or alternately as The Pratt Street Riot or even the more dramatic Pratt Street Massacre

On June 3, 1861, in the first organized land battle (barely a battle in reality) of the American Civil War, the Union Army with 3000 men routed an untrained force of 800 Confederate volunteers in what it now West Virginia at Philippi, a small town that today has only about 3000 residents.

On July 26, 1861, Major General George McClellan was appointed the commander of the Army of the Potomac, a move President Lincoln hoped would instill professionalism and competence to that Army. McClellan was outranked only by Winfield Scott, the 75 year old relic who was increasingly under fire from a public that demanded a quick and thorough victory.

On August 5, 1861, the Federal Government of the United States instituted its first income tax to help pay for the Civil War . With a tax rate of only 3% of all income over $800, it may seem like a bargain today, but at the time it was about as popular as emptying the chamber pot.

On October 23, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln, defender of the Union of the United States, illegally suspended the rule of Habeas Corpus, the Constitutional protection of Americans against being held in confinement without charges and due process.

On March 8, 1862, during the American Civil War, perhaps the most important naval battle of the war began, a battle that would see the first clash of ironclad/armored warships.

On May 11, 1862, the CSA ironclad, CSS Virginia, was scuttled in the James River to avoid capture by Union forces. The Virginia had formerly been the USS Merrimac and had fought the USS Monitor in the first battle of ironclad armored ships.

On July 12, 1862, a congressional resolution was signed into law authorizing the Army to issue the Medal of Honor to enlisted soldiers (only) for “personal valor.” The Navy already had a similar medal for “personal valor” as of 1861. Prior to this development, the US military had no medals at all since the Mexican War.

On July 23, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln finally found a replacement for General George B. McClellan as General-in-Chief of the Union Army when he appointed General Henry W. Halleck.

On December 12, 1862, the United States ship, USS Cairo, an iron-clad gunboat of the City Class, was sunk in the Yazoo River by a remotely detonated Confederate “torpedo,” what naval mines were called back then.

On December 17, 1862, the stormy history of the United States concerning civil rights was once again marked by a shameful disregard for human rights when Major General Ulysses S. Grant, future President of the United States, issued his infamous Order No. 11, an order expelling all Jews from the military district he commanded, which included Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi.

On April 2, 1863, Southern women in Richmond, Virginia were at their wits end and had had enough, or more accurately had NOT had enough, because they and their families were starving for lack of food (aka, bread).

On May 2, 1863, during The Battle of Chancellorsville, Stonewall Jackson Jackson was shot by fellow Southern soldiers who mistook him for a Union soldier. Despite enduring the amputation of Jackson’s arm, which had been hit multiple times, the general died a few days later, becoming another of the hundreds of thousands to perish in The American Civil War.

On July 1, 1863, the battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania began, perhaps the most important battle of the US Civil War.

On July 3, 1863, the Army of the Potomac fought a defensive battle against the Army of Northern Virginia at the Pennsylvania town of Gettysburg.

On July 13, 1863, New Yorkers angry about military conscription (draft) started 3 days of rioting that would go down in history as the worst US riot ever.

On October 15, 1863, The H. L. Hunley, a Confederate (the South!) submarine, sank during a test, killing its inventor and namesake, Horace L. Hunley.

On November 24, 1863, Union forces under the command of future President of the United States Ulysses S. Grant captured Lookout Mountain as part of the campaign to relieve the siege of Chattanooga, Tennessee by Confederate General Braxton Bragg. Grant is known as the most successful Union general of the Civil War, and as the man most responsible for winning that war. This much is true, but much of the other things we “know” about Grant are not so true.

On February 17, 1864, the CSS H.L. Hunley became the first submarine to sink an enemy warship, even though it had itself sunk twice before!

On April 12, 1864, Confederate forces under Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest massacred a large part of the Federal troops defending Fort Pillow, Tennessee.

On July 30, 1864, Union forces exploded 8,000 pounds of black powder in a tunnel underneath Confederate trenches at Petersburg, Virginia, creating a crater 170 feet long and 120 feet wide, and 30 feet deep. The unorganized rush of Union troops into the crater resulted in Union failure, with Federal troops suffering well over double the casualties inflicted on the Confederate troops. The Battle of the Crater as this action was called is an example of an unconventional military idea that did not work.

On October 19, 1864, military forces of the Confederate States of America invaded Vermont from a staging area in Quebec, Canada.

On November 30, 1864, Confederate Lieutenant General John Bell Hood set what has to be some kind of record for an American general for getting his subordinate generals killed by making an epic fail charge against Union forces led by Major General John M. Schofield at the Battle of Franklin , Tennessee.

On April 27, 1865, the paddle-wheel steamboat, SS Sultana was carrying 2427 people when she blew up, killing 1800!

On May 9, 1865, the American Civil War ended, or did it?

On May 10, 1865, President of the Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis, was captured by Federal troops in Georgia. Many Americans in the North consider Jeff Davis to be the worst kind of traitor, while many Americans in the old Confederacy drive around with bumper stickers that read “My President is Jeff Davis.”

Digging Deeper: Aftermath and Consequences of the American Civil War

A Union soldier who survived

On November 10, 1865 , the long sad saga of the Camp Sumter prisoner of war camp located in Andersonville, Georgia finally came to a conclusion of sorts when the Camp Commandant, Confederate Major Henry Wirz was hanged for the crimes of conspiracy and murder for his terrible treatment of Union soldiers held captive at the camp popularly known as “Andersonville.”

On December 24, 1865 , 6 former Confederate veterans of the recently concluded US Civil War formed the first known chapter of the Ku Klux Klan, an organization largely founded on the principles of White Supremacy and violence against African Americans and those not in agreement with Klan beliefs.

On July 28, 1866, Vinnie (Lavinia) Ream, an 18 year old girl became the first woman in the United States to win a commission for a statue, that of the recently deceased President Lincoln. This statue became her most famous work, and it resides in the Rotunda of the US Capitol.

On December 25, 1868, much maligned and embattled President of the United States Andrew Johnson issued a blanket pardon for all Confederate veterans of the US Civil War.

On November 17, 1871, The National Rifle Association was founded by the editor of the Army and Navy Journal (William Church) and General George Wingate, being awarded a charter by the state of New York. The first president of the NRA was Civil War (Union) General Ambrose Burnside, who had also worked as a gunsmith in Rhode Island.

On October 29, 1877, former Confederate States of America Army General Nathan Bedford Forrest died, but despite being an early member of the infamous racist organization, the Ku Klux Klan and serving as the first Grand Wizard of the notorious hate group, he had changed his tune, denying involvement with the Klan and denouncing the racism and violence associated with the KKK

On August 30, 1879, American Army and Confederate Army General John Bell Hood died of Yellow Fever, only 6 days after his wife and daughter died of that disease, leaving behind 10 orphaned children and a rich heritage as a fighting man.

On August 8, 2000, 136 years after she sank with all hands, the Confederate submarine, the Hunley, was raised to the surface.

On August 8, 2000, the remains of Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley were raised to the surface 136 years after this pioneering vessel was sunk, probably by itself during the US Civil War.

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Historical Evidence

For more information of America leading up to the Civil War, please see…


The Carolinas Campaign and the Final Surrender

With Savannah captured, Grant issued orders for Sherman to bring his army north to aid in the siege of Petersburg. Rather than travel by sea, Sherman proposed marching overland, laying waste to the Carolinas along the way. Grant approved and Sherman's 60,000-man army moved out in January 1865, with the goal of capturing Columbia, SC. As Union troops entered South Carolina, the first state to secede, no mercy was given. Facing Sherman was a reconstituted army under his old adversary, Joseph E. Johnston, who seldom had more than 15,000 men. On February 10, Federal troops entered Columbia and burned everything of military value.

Pushing north, Sherman's forces encountered Johnston's small army at Bentonville, NC on March 19. The Confederates launched five attacks against the Union line to no avail. On the 21st, Johnston broke off contact and retreated towards Raleigh. Pursuing the Confederates, Sherman finally compelled Johnston to agree to an armistice at Bennett Place near Durham Station, NC on April 17. After negotiating surrender terms, Johnston capitulated on the 26th. Coupled with Gen. Robert E. Lee's surrender on the 9th, the surrender effectively ended the Civil War.