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Civil War Naval History June 1864 - History

Civil War Naval History June 1864 - History



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1 Rear Admiral Dahlgren wrote in his diary off Charleston: "Of the seven monitors left, two are here out of order, and the Passaic no better. The Rebels have four; wonder if they will come out and try their luck."

U.S.S. Exchange, a 210-ton wooden paddle-wheeler under Acting Master James C. Gipson, engaged two Confederate batteries on the Mississippi River near Columbia, Arkansas, sustaining serious damage. Gipson, who was wounded during the heated encounter, described the action: "They waited until I had passed by the lower battery, when they opened a destructive crossfire. As I had just rounded a point of a sand bar, I could not back down, consequently there was no other alternative but run by the upper battery if possible. I opened my port broadside guns, re-plying to theirs; but unfortunately the port engine was struck and disabled, causing her to work very slow, keeping us under fire about forty-five minutes. I had barely got out of range of their guns when the engine stopped entirely. I immediately let go the anchor . expecting every moment they would move their battery above us and open again; but we succeeded in getting out, although pretty badly damaged."

2 Union gunboats convoying transports on the western rivers continued to be harassed by hostile field artillery along the banks. Lieutenant Commander Owen, U.S.S. Louisville, after sustaining severe damage in an exchange at Columbia, Arkansas, wrote to Rear Admiral Porter: "The strength of the enemy in the neighborhood is undoubtedly great, and nothing but a military expedition can clear the banks. We can convoy boats every day with the usual loss of men and injury to boats, as the river is now, but it is falling rapidly, and vessels are of necessity being driven close under the enemy's guns." Next day, at Memphis, Lieutenant Commander John G. Mitchell, U.S.S. Carondelet, also observed: "Not a steamer arrives here from Cairo but what has been fired upon by gangs numbering from 12 to 100 men." The warships were encountering difficulties similar to those Rear Admiral Farragut had faced on the Texas coast in the fall of 1862: the ships could dominate the waterways and coasts, but troops were needed to prevent the buildup of Confederate artillery and troublesome guerilla activity.

U.S.S. Wamsutta, Acting Master Charles W. Lee, chased blockade running British steamer Rose aground at Pawley's Island, South Carolina, with small cargo including liquor and destroyed her.

U.S.S. Victoria, Acting Master Alfred Everson, chased blockade running steamer Georgiana McCaw aground near Wilmington and destroyed her with large cargo of provisions.

Landing party from U.S.S. Cowslip, Acting Ensign Canfield, captured five sloops and one steam boiler, destroyed six large boats, four salt works, and three flat boats during a raid up Biloxi Bay, Mississippi.

3 A Confederate boat expedition of some 130 officers and men under the command of Lieutenant Thomas P. Pelot, CSN, surprised and captured U.S.S. Water Witch, Lieutenant Commander Austin Pendergrast, in an early morning raid off Ossabaw Island, Georgia. In pitch darkness at 2 o'clock In the morning, Pelot silently guided his party to the anchored blockaders' and was within 50 yards of her when discovered. Before the Union sailors could man their stations, the Confederates had boarded Water Witch and a wild hand-to-hand melee ensued. "The fight," Rear Admiral Dahlgren recorded in his diary after learning of the incident, "was hard, but brief." Though the Southerners overwhelmed the defenders, Pelot and five others were killed and 17 were wounded in taking the prize. Lieutenant Joseph Price, who assumed command of the expedition when Pelot fell, said of his comrade: "In his death the country has lost a brave and gallant officer, and society one of her highest ornaments." Water Witch, a 380-ton sidewheeler, was taken into the Vernon River and moored above the obstructions guarding Savannah. Secretary Mallory wrote: "The plan and gallant execution of the enterprise reflect great credit upon all who were associated with it, and upon the service which they adorn. The fall of Lieutenant Pelot and his gallant associates in the moment of victory, and the suffering of his companions wounded, sadden the feelings of patriotic pleasure with which this brilliant achievement is everywhere received."

The valor with which Southern sailors fought on against great and ever-increasing odds helped keep Confederate hopes alive throughout the last dark year of the war.

Commander Bulloch wrote Secretary Mallory, enumerating some of the difficulties he experienced as Confederate Naval Agent abroad: "At no time since the completion of the Alabama has there been anything like money enough in hand, or within my control to pay for the ships actually under contract, and if no political complications bad to delay the completion of these ships and they bad been ready for delivery at the dates specified in the contracts, I should not have been able to pay for them. If these were ordinary times and the agent of your department could treat openly and in person with the European governments, we could doubtless obtain very good ships from several of the Continental navies, but acting through intermediaries who care for nothing beyond their commissions, we can not get anything but the cast-off vessels of other services, which either possess some radical defect of design rendering them unfit for cruisers, or are so delapidated as to be worthless."

In response to the increasing number of Confederate hit-and-run attacks upon river shipping on the western waters, Major General Canby wrote to Rear Admiral Porter offering the cooperation of land forces: ''I have ordered reserves of troops and of water transportation to be held in readi-ness at different points on the Mississippi, for the purpose of operating against any rebel force that may attempt to interrupt the navigation of the river. If you will direct naval commanders to give early notice of any movements of this kind to the commanders of the military districts, a sufficient military force can be sent at once to cooperate with the gunboats in destroying or driv-ing off the rebels."

U.S.S. Coeur de Lion, Acting Master William G. Morris, seized schooner Malinda in the Potomac River for violating the blockade.

4 The success of C.S.S. Tacony against shipping off the New England coast the previous year (see 2027 June 1863) prompted a committee in Gloucester, Massachusetts, to address a request to Secretary Welles: ''In behalf of the citizens and businessmen of this town interested in the fishing business, to ask your attention to the necessity of some protection for our fishing fleet the coming season. it is necessary that a steamer, properly armed, should be detailed for the special service of cruising in the Gulf of St. Lawrence until the close of the fishing season.'' Welles ordered U.S.S. Ticonderoga, Captain Charles Steedman, on this duty.

U.S.S. Fort Jackson, Captain Sands, captured blockade running steamer Thistle at sea east of Charles-ton. Her cargo, except for a cotton press, was thrown overboard during the six hour chase.

5 U.S.S. Keystone State, Commander Crosby, seized blockade running British steamer Siren off Beaufort harbor, North Carolina, with cargo including hoop iron and liquor.

6 Lieutenant Commander Owen, U.S.S. Louisville, covered the embarkation of 8,000 Union troops under General A. J. Smith on transports near Sunnyside, Arkansas, on the Mississippi River. Under Owen's charge, the transports had landed the Federal force on 4 June, and the soldiers had engaged Confederate units near Bayou Macon, Louisiana, forcing the Southerners into the interior. Owen noted in his report to Rear Admiral Porter: "The object that brought the enemy here in the first place doubtless still remains, and I may expect him any time after the departure of General Smith. Unless Marmaduke's forces, with his artillery, are driven away or destroyed, they will very much annoy navigation between Cypress Bend and Sunnyside."

U.S.S. Metacomet, Lieutenant Commander Jouett, captured blockade running steamer Donegal off Mobile with large cargo of munitions.

7 Confederate transport steamer Etiwan grounded off Fort Johnson and was sunk by Union batteries on Morris Island, Charleston harbor.

Suspecting that Confederates were using cotton to erect breastworks on the banks of the Suwannee River, Florida, boat expedition commanded by Acting Ensign Louis R. Chester, composed of men from U.S.S. Clyde and Sagamore, proceeded upriver and captured over 100 bales of cotton in the vicinity of Clay Landing.

8 Lieutenant Commander Ramsay, U.S.S. Chillicothe, led an expedition up the Atchafalaya River, Louisiana, accompanied by U.S.S. Neosho, Acting Lieutenant Howard, and U.S.S. Port Hindman, Acting Lieutenant Pearce, to silence a Confederate battery above Simmesport. The Union gun-boats, after a short engagement, forced the Southerners to abandon their position and a landing party captured the guns.

9 Illustrative of the vast difference in capabilities of the two navies were the reactions North and South during the aftermath of the capture of U.S.S. Water Witch on 6 June. The Northern fleet was concerned that she might escape to sea and attack Union coastal positions. "We must try to block the Water Witch," Rear Admiral Dahlgren wrote, anticipating an offensive effort such as he would make in similar circumstances. The South, however, hoping to conserve this unex-pected gain in strength by the capture, had no intention of risking the gunboat in such an ad-venture. Rather, every effort was made to bring her to Savannah as additional defense for the city. Flag Officer William W. Hunter, CSN, this date ordered Lieutenant William W. Carnes, CSN, commanding Water Witch: "Keep powder enough to blow her up say 100 pounds in the event the enemy may be enabled to recapture her." The North, with free access to the sea and with an abundance of material and great facilities available, could remain on the offensive; the South, in desperate need of ships and supplies, was committed to the defensive.

Secretary Welles decided ''to retire the Marine officers who are past the legal age, and to bring in Zeilin as Commandant of the Corps." Retirement of over-age naval and marine officers was one of the difficult administrative problems of the war.

The stringent material limitations with which the Confederate Navy had to operate greatly re-stricted its capabilities and prevented its taking offensive action. Menaced by the advance of Major General Butler's troops along the James River below Drewey's Bluff and by the Union squadron at Trent's Reach, Flag Officer Mitchell, commanding the Confederate James River Squadron, sought to attack "without delay . the enemy in Trent's Reach." This date, the leading officers of his squadron advised against such an assault "under existing circumstances." They wrote Mitchell that the Union squadron was "a force equal to, if not superior to our own that it was better supported ashore, that the Southern ships were not maneuverable enough for efficient use in the narrow confines of the Reach, and that obstructions would additionally hamper their movements. Thus, they were opposed to risking the "whole force" of Southern naval strength in an attack and suggested instead the more defensive but potentially less costly alterna-tive of sending fire rafts and floating torpedoes downriver against the Union squadron.

U.S.S. Proteus, Commander Robert W. Shufeldt, captured blockade running British schooner R.S. Hood at sea north of Little Bahama Bank.

U.S.S. New Berne, Acting Lieutenant Thomas A. Harris, chased blockade running steamer Pevensey aground near Beaufort, North Carolina, with cargo including arms, lead, bacon, and clothing. She blew up shortly thereafter.

U.S.S. Rosalie, Acting Master Peter F. Coffin, captured steamer Emma at Marco Pass, Florida, with cargo of blacksmith's coal.

10 U.S.S Elk, Acting Lieutenant Nicholas Kirby, captured blockade running sloop Yankee Doodle at the middle entrance of the Pearl River, Mississippi Sound, with cargo of cotton.

U.S.S. Union, Acting Lieutenant Edward Conroy, took sloop Caroline attempting to run the block-ade at Jupiter Inlet, Florida.

11 C.S.S. Alabama, Captain Semmes, badly in need of repairs, arrived at Cherbourg, France. Lieu-tenant Arthur Sinclair, CSN, an officer on board the Confederate raider, later recorded his im-pressions upon entering this, her last port: "We have cruised from the day of commission, August 24, 1862, to June 11, 1864, and during this time have visited two-thirds of the globe, experiencing all vicissitudes of climate and hardships attending constant cruising. We have had from first to last two hundred and thirteen officers and men on our payroll, and have lost not one by disease, and but one by accidental death." The Confederate Commissioner in France, John Slidell, assured Semmes that he anticipated no difficulty in obtaining French permission for Alabama to use the docking facilities. William L. Dayton, U.S. Minister to France, immediately protested the use of the French port by a vessel with a character "so obnoxious and so notorious''. Intelli-gence of the material condition and strength of Alabama was relayed by the American Vice-Consul at Cherbourg to Captain Winslow of U.S.S. Kearsarge at Flushing.

12 U.S.S. Flag, Commander James C. Williamson, captured blockade running sloop Cyclops shortly after she ran out of Charleston with cargo of cotton.

U.S.S. Lavender, Acting Master John H. Gleason, struck a shoal off North Carolina in a severe squall. The 175-ton wooden steamer was destroyed and nine crewmen lost before the survivors were rescued on 15 June by Army steamer John Farron.

13 U.S.S. Kearsarge, Captain Winslow, sailed from Dover, England, to blockade C.S.S. Alabama at Cherbourg.

14 U.S.S. Kearsarge, Captain Winslow, arrived off Cherbourg, France. The ship log recorded: "Found the rebel privateer Alabama lying at anchor in the roads." Kearsarge took up the blockade in international waters off the harbor entrance. Captain Semmes stated: ". My intention is to fight the Kearsarge as soon as I can make the necessary arrangements. I hope they will not detain me more than until tomorrow evening, or after the morrow morning at furthest. I beg she will not depart before I am ready to go out." With the famous Confederate raider at bay, Kearsarge had no intention of departing-the stage was set for the famous duel. As a poet on board Alabama wrote:

"We're homeward, we're homeward bound,
And soon shall stand on English ground.
But ere that English land we see,
We first must fight the Kearsargee."

U.S.S. Courier, Acting Master Samuel C. Gray, ran aground and was wrecked on Abaco Island, Bahamas; the sailing ship's crew and stores were saved.

15 Confederate artillery opened fire in the early morning hours on wooden side-wheeler U.S.S. General Bragg, Acting Lieutenant Dominy, lying off Como Landing, Louisiana. The return fire from General Bragg forced the Southerners to move to Ratliff's Landing where they fired on small paddle-wheel steamer U.S.S. Naiad, Acting Master Henry T. Keene. U.S.S. Winnebago, a double-turreted river monitor, alerted by the sound of gunfire, soon hove into sight, and the com-bined firepower of the three ships temporarily silenced the field battery. Next day, General Bragg was again taken under fire by Confederate guns on the river bank and another spirited engagement ensued, during which a shot disabled the ship's engine.

Confederate transport J. R. Williams, carrying supplies up the Arkansas River, Oklahoma, from Fort Smith to Fort Gibson, 'was taken under fire by Union artillery. The steamer was run aground and abandoned by her crew, and Federal forces subsequently destroyed her.

Lieutenant Bache, commanding U.S.S. Lexington, and a boat crew from U.S.S. Tyler, captured three steamers off Beulah Landing, Mississippi. Reports had reached Bache that steamers Mattie, M. Walt, and Hill, were "in communication with rebel soldiers, openly receiving them on the boats, and trading with them

16 Captain Semmes, C.S.S. Alabama, wrote Flag Officer Barron in Paris: "The position of Alabama here has been somewhat changed since I wrote you. The enemy's steamer, the Kearsarge, having appeared off this port, and being but very little heavier, if any in her armament than myself, I have deemed it my duty to go out and engage her. I have therefore withdrawn for the present my application to go into dock, and am engaged in coaling ship." Semmes noted in his journal "The enemy's ship still standing off and on the harbor."

16 Commander Catesby ap R. Jones, commandant of the Confederate Naval Gun Foundry and Ord-nance Works at Selma, Alabama, 'wrote Major General Dabney H. Maury at Mobile that the submersible torpedo boat Saint Patrick, built by John P. Halligan, would be launched "in a few days." Me added: "It combines a number of ingenious contrivances, which, if experiments show that they will answer the purposes expected, will render the boat very formidable. It is to be propelled by steam (the engine is very compact), though under water by hand. There are also arrangements for raising and descending at will, for attaching the torpedo to the bottom of ves-sels, etc. Its first field of operation will be off Mobile Bay, and I hope you may soon have evidence of its success. Although the South hoped to take Saint Patrick against the blockading forces off Mobile as the submarine H. L. Hunley had operated earlier in the year off Charleston, delay followed delay in getting her to sea and it was not until January 1865 that she went into action.

A minor joint expedition under Acting Lieutenant George W. Graves, commander of U.S.S. Lockwood, departed New Bern, North Carolina. Graves with a detachment of sailors from U.S.S. Louisiana and a dozen soldiers, embarked on Army transport Ella May. Small sidewheeler U.S.S. Ceres was in company. Near the mouth of Pamlico River schooners Iowa, Mary Emma, and Jenny Lind were captured and two others destroyed. With U.S.S. Valley City joining the expedi-tion, Graves scoured the Pungo River area for five more days before returning to New Bern, where he arrived early on 23 June.

16-17 U.S.S. Commodore Perry, Acting Lieutenant A. P. Foster, shelled Fort Clifton, Virginia, at the request of Major General Butler. Bombardment by the ship's heavy guns was almost a daily part of continuing naval support of Army operations along the James River.

17 C.S.S. Florida, Lieutenant Morris, at 30o N, 62o40' W, captured and burned brig. W. C. Clarke bound from Machias, Maine, to Matanzas with cargo of lumber.

19 "The day being Sunday and the weather fine, a large concourse of people-many having come all the way from Paris collected on the heights above the town [Cherbourg], in the upper stories of such of the houses as commanded a view of the sea, and on the walls and fortifications of the harbor. Several French luggers employed as pilot-boats went out, and also an English steam-yacht, called the Deerhound. Everything being in readiness between nine and ten o'clock, we got underway, and proceeded to sea, through the western entrance of the harbor; the Couronne [French ironclad] following us. As we emerged from behind the mole, we discovered the Kearsarge at a distance of between six and seven miles from the land. She had been apprised or our intention of coming out that morning, and was awaiting us." Thus Captain Raphael Semmes drew the scene as the historic Kearsarge-Alabama battle unfolded.

Alabama mounted 8 guns to Kearsarge's 7. Yet, Captain Winslow of Kearsarge enjoyed a superiority in eight of broadside including two heavy XI-inch Dahlgren guns while Semmes had but one heavy gun, an VIlI-inch. Perhaps his greatest advantage was superior ammuni-tion, since Alabama's had deteriorated during her long cruise. Furthermore, Winslow had pro-tected the sides of his ship and the vulnerable machinery by hanging heavy chains over the sides from topside to below the waterline. Kearsarge's complement numbered 163; Alabama's, 149.

The antagonists closed to about one and a half miles, when Semmes opened the action with a starboard broadside. Within minutes the firing became fierce from both ships as they fought starboard to starboard on a circular course. Lieutenant Sinclair, CSN, wrote: "Semmes would have chosen to bring about yard-arm quarters, fouling, and boarding, relying upon the superior physique of his crew to overbalance the superiority of numbers; but this was frustrated." Shot and shell from the heavier guns of Kearsarge crashed into Alabama's hull, while the Union sloop of war, her sides protected by the chain armor, suffered only minor damage. One shell from Alabama lodged in the Kearsarge's sternpost but failed to explode. "If it had exploded," wrote John M. McKenzie, who was only 16 years old at the time of the battle, "the Kearsarge would have gone to the bottom instead of the Alabama. But our ammunition was old and had lost its strength.'' Southern casualties were heavy as both sides fought valiantly. "After the lapse of about one hour and ten minutes," Semmes reported, "our ship was ascertained to be in a sinking condition, the enemy's shells having exploded in our side, and between decks, opening large apertures through which the water rushed with great rapidity. For some few minutes I had hopes of being able to reach the French coast, for which purpose I gave the ship all steam, and set such of the fore and aft sails as were available. The ship filled so rapidly, however, that before we had made much progress, the fires were extinguished in the furnaces, and we were evi-dently on the point of sinking. I now hauled down my colors to prevent the further destruction of life, and dispatched a boat to inform the enemy of our condition."

Alabama settled stern first and her bow raised high in the air as the waters of the English Channel closed over her. Boats from Kearsarge and French boats rescued the survivors. The English yacht Deerhound, owned by Mr. John Lancaster, picked up Captain Semmes with 13 of his officers and 27 crew members and carried them to Southampton.

The spectacular career of the Confederacy's most famous raider was closed. Before her last battle Semmes reminded his men: "You have destroyed, and driven for protection under neutral flags, one-half of the enemy's commerce, which, at the beginning of the war, covered every sea.

Alabama had captured and burned at sea 55 Union merchantmen valued at over four and one-half million dollars, and had bonded 10 others to the value of 562 thousand dollars. Another prize, Conrad, was commissioned C.S.S. Tuscaloosa, and herself struck at Northern shipping. Flag Officer Barron lamented: "It is true that we have lost our ship; the ubiquitous gallant Alabama is no more, but we have lost no honor."

For Winslow and Kearsarge the victory was well deserved and rewarding. Throughout the North news of Alabama's end was greeted with jubilation and relief. Secretary Welles wrote the Captain: "I congratulate you for your good fortune in meeting the Alabama, which had so long avoided the fastest ships of the service . for the ability displayed in the contest you have the thanks of the Department. The battle was so brief, the victory so decisive, and the comparative results so striking that the country will be reminded of the brilliant actions of our infant Navy, which have been repeated and illustrated in this engagement . Our countrymen have reason to be satisfied that in this, as in every naval action of this unhappy war, neither the ships, the guns, nor the crews have deteriorated, but that they maintain the ability and continue the renown which have ever adorned our naval annals." Winslow received a vote of thanks from Congress, and was promoted to Commodore with his commission dated 19 June 1864, his victory day.

20 Side-wheelers U.S.S. Morse, Lieutenant Commander Babcock, and U.S.S. Cactus, Acting Master Newell Graham, dislodged Confederate batteries which had opened fire on Army supply wagon trains near White Mouse, Virginia. Rear Admiral Lee reported: "Deserters afterwards reported that a force estimated at 10,000 of Wade Hampton's and Fitzhugh Lee's cavalry intended at-tacking our trains, but were deterred from the attempt by the fire of the gunboats." For three weeks Babcock had supported the Army at White Mouse. The Admiral noted: "I should not fail to call attention to the hearty, efficient, and successful service which Lieutenant Commander Babcock has rendered to the Army in opening and protecting its communications and in repelling the assaults of the enemy." Next day, U.S.S. Shokokon, Acting Master William B. Sheldon, similarly dispersed an attack on Union transport Eliza Hancox at Cumberland Point, Virginia.

Secretary Mallory wrote Flag Officer Barron in Paris: "I am surprised at the expression of your opinion that a battery for a certain vessel can not be purchased in England, because her laws permit the exportation of guns and ordnance stores daily, and no system of espionage, it would seem, could prevent their shipment for one port and their being landed at another, or placed at another on board the ship awaiting them. Could they not be shipped for any port in the United States, in the Mediterranean, China, Brazil, or Austria, and carried to a given rendezvous? They will involve the charter of a steamer, or other vessel, and be thereby expensive; but such expense is not to be compared for a moment with the risks of her attempting, unarmed, to reach the Confederacy, watched as she is." The procedure suggested by Mallory had been used successfully by the Confederacy before, notably in the case of C.S.S. Alabama.

20-24 Iron screw steamer U.S.S. Calypso, Acting Master Frederick D. Stuart, and wooden side wheeler U.S.S. Nansemond, Acting Ensign James H. Porter, transported and supported an Army expedition in the vicinity of New River, North Carolina. The object was to cut the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad, but Confederates had learned of the attempt and, taking up defensive positions in strength, compelled the Union troops to withdraw under cover of the ships' guns.

21 Rear Admiral Farragut viewed the forthcoming operation at Mobile Bay both as an event of tacti-cal and strategic importance and as an encounter which would pit the new against the old in naval warfare. Reflecting on the relative strengths of his own and Admiral Buchanan's fleet at Mobile, he wrote: "This question has to be settled, iron versus wood; and there never was a better chance to settle the question of the sea-going qualities of iron-clad ships.''

A joint Confederate Army-Navy long-range bombardment opened on the Union squadron in the James River at Trent's and Varina Reaches. The Confederate ships, commanded by Flag Officer Mitchell in the ironclad flagship Virginia II, included: ironclad ram C.S.S. Fredericksburg, Com-mander Rootes; 166-ton gunboats Hampton, Lieutenant John S. Maury, Nansemond, Lieutenant Charles W. Hayes, and Drewry, Lieutenant William H. Hall; small steamer Roanoke, Lieutenant Mortimer M. Beton, and 85-ton tug Beaufort, Lieutenant Joseph Gardner. Ironclad ram C.S.S. Richmond, Lieutenant W. H. Parker, initially intended to join in the bombardment, suffered a casualty getting underway and had to be towed upriver to a position near the obstructions below Richmond. An engine failure in Virginia II could not be repaired until afternoon, when it was too late to move farther downstream to engage at more effective range. The Union gunboats and monitors concentrated their fire on the Army shore batteries during the exchange; neither fleet suffered serious damage.

22 U.S.S. Lexington, Acting Ensign Henry Booby, withstood a surprise Confederate strike on White River Station, Arkansas, and forced the attacking Confederate troops to withdraw.

23 U.S.S. Tecumseh, Commander Tunis A. M. Craven, was ordered to proceed to sea "as soon as practicable" by Rear Admiral Lee. The monitor, departing the James River where she had been on duty since April, was to deploy under secret orders that were not to be opened until "you discharge your pilot." Unknowingly, Tecumseh was beginning her last operation.

23-24 Lieutenant Cushing, with Acting Ensign J. E. Jones, Acting Master's Mate Howorth and fifteen men, all from U.S.S. Monticello, reconnoitered up Cape Fear River to within 3 miles of Wilmington, North Carolina. They rowed past the batteries guarding the western bar on the night of the 23rd, and despite three narrow escapes pulled safely ashore below Wilmington as day dawned on the 24th. The expedition had begun as an attempt to gain information about C.S.S. Raleigh, which Cushing was unaware had been wrecked after the engagement on 6 May. He learned that the ram had been "indeed, destroyed, and nothing now remains of her above water.

Cushing also gained much other valuable information. C.S.S. Yadkin, 300-ton flagship of Flag Officer Lynch, "mounted only two guns, did not seem to have many men." Ironclad sloop C.S.S. North Carolina was at anchor off Wilmington; she "would not stand long against a monitor." His report continued: "Nine steamers passed in all, three of them being fine, large blockade runners. The scouting detachment captured a fishing party and a mail courier, gaining valuable intelligence on river obstructions and fortifications. That night, the expedition returned to the blockading fleet, after being detected and hotly pursued in the harbor. Only Cushing's ingenuity enabled the Union sailors to throw the Confederates off the track and cross the bar to safety. As late as the 28th, Confederates were still searching the harbor area for the daring raiders.

Cushing, who received a letter of commendation for his action from Secretary Welles, called special attention to his officers, Jones and Howorth ("whom I select because of their uniform enterprise and bravery"), and singled out David Warren, coxwain, William Wright, yeoman, and John Sullivan, seaman, who were awarded the Medal of Honor for their part in the expedi-tion. Rear Admiral Porter later wrote: 'There was not a more daring adventure than this in the whole course of the war. There were ninety-nine chances in a hundred that Cushing and his party would be killed or captured, but throughout all his daring scheme there seemed to be a method, and, though criticised as rash and ill-judged, Cushing returned unscathed from his frequent expeditions, with much important information. In this instance it was a great source of satisfaction to the blockading vessels to learn that the 'Raleigh' was destroyed, and that the other iron-clad ram was not considered fit to cross the bar."

24 U.S.S. Queen City, Acting Master Michael Hickey, lying at anchor off Clarendon, Arkansas, on the White River, was attacked and destroyed in the early morning hours by two regiments of Con-federate cavalry supported by artillery. The 210-ton wooden paddle-wheeler, taken by surprise, was disabled immediately, and Hickey surrendered her. Lieutenant Bache, U.S.S. Tyler, attempted to retake the ship, but when within a few miles of the location "heard two successive reports, which proved subsequently to have been the unfortunate Queen City blowing up. [Confederate General] Shelby, hearing us coming, had destroyed her." Bache proceeded with wooden steamers Tyler, U.S.S. Fawn, Acting Master John R. Grace, and U.S.S. Naumkeag, Acting Master John Rogers, to Clarendon, where he engaged the Confederate battery hotly for forty-five minutes. Naumkeag succeeded in recapturing one howitzer and several crewmen from Queen City as the Con-federates fell back from the riverbank.

26 U.S.S. Norfolk Packet, Acting Ensign George W. Wood, captured sloop Sarah Mary off Mosquito Inlet, Florida, with cargo of cotton.

27 U.S.S. Shufeldt, seized British blockade running steamer Jupiter northwest of Man-of-War Cay, Bahamas. Her cargo had been thrown overboard.

U.S.S. Nipsic, Lieutenant Commander Alexander F. Crosman, captured sloop Julia off Sapelo Sound, Georgia, with cargo of salt.

29-30 Converted ferryboat U.S.S. Hunchback, Lieutenant Joseph P. Fyffe, supported by single turretted monitor U.S.S. Saugus, Commander Colhoun, bombarded Confederate batteries at Deep Bottom on the James River and caused their eventual removal. Rear Admiral Lee reported: "The importance of holding our position at Deep Bottom is obvious. Without doing so our communications are cut there, and our wooden vessels can not remain above that point, and the monitors would be alone and exposed to the enemy's light torpedo craft from above and out of Four Mile Creek. The enemy could then plant torpedoes there to prevent the monitors passing by for supplies."

30 Immediately upon returning to command of the West Gulf Blockading Squadron, Rear Admiral Farragut moved to obtain monitors for the inevitable engagement with C.S.S. Tennessee in Mobile Bay. Earlier in June Secretary Welles had written to Rear Admiral Porter of the matter: ''It is of the greatest importance that some of the new ironclads building on the Mississippi should be sent without fail to Rear Admiral Farragut. Are not some of them ready? If not, can you not hurry them forward?" Porter responded that light-draft monitors U.S.S Winnebago and Chickasaw were completed, and this date issued orders for the two vessels, which were to play an important part in the Battle of Mobile Bay, to report to Farragut at New Orleans.

Acting Ensign Edward H. Watkeys, commanding a launch from U.S.S. Roebuck, captured sloop Last Resort off Indian River Inlet, Florida, with cargo of cotton.

U.S.S. Glasgow, Acting Master N. Mayo Dyer, forced blockade running steamer Ivanhoe to run aground near Fort Morgan at Mobile Bay. Because the steamer was protected by the fort's guns, Rear Admiral Farragut attempted at first to destroy her by long-range fire from U.S.S. Metacomet and Monongahela. When this proved unsuccessful, Farragut authorized his Flag Lieutenant, J. Crittenden Watson, to lead a boat expedition to burn Ivanhoe. Under the cover of darkness and the ready guns on board U.S.S. Metacomet and Kennebec, Watson led four boats directly to the grounded steamer and fired her in two places shortly after midnight 6 July. Farragut wrote: "The admiral commanding has much pleasure in announcing to the fleet, what was anxiously looked for last night by hundreds, the destruction of the blockade runner ashore under the rebel batteries by an expedition of boats. the entire conduct of the expedition was marked by a promptness and energy which shows what may be expected of such officers and men on similar occasions.


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The forty-two color ink drawings presented here were made in 1864 by a Confederate prisoner of war at Point Lookout, Maryland, the Union's largest Civil War prison camp. The drawings highlight the concerns and experiences of prisoners of war most scenes show prisoners playing cards, buying food, or engaging in barter with food vendors. All of the prison guards depicted are African American, and encounters are recorded between these guards and the Confederate prisoners. The album into which these sketches were pasted also includes photographs of commanding officers at Point Lookout, printed orders to prison guards about the treatment of prisoners, and letters from prisoners to President Lincoln asking to be released. The volume is part of the Naval History Society Collection, which was donated to the New-York Historical Society in 1925 by James Barnes. James Barnes was the son of the Naval History Society's founder, John S. Barnes, whose own father, Brigadier General James Barnes, commanded the Point Lookout prison. John S. Barnes found the album among his father's papers after his death in 1869.

Material type or medium of original

Watercolors (paintings)
Sketches
Photographs
Military records
Orders (military records)
Correspondence
Letters (correspondence)
Maps
Engravings
Text
Image

New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024, 212-873-3400

This digital image may be used for educational or scholarly purposes without restriction. Commercial and other uses of the item are prohibited without prior written permission from the New-York Historical Society. For more information, please visit the New-York Historical Society's Rights and Reproductions Department web page at http://www.nyhistory.org/about/rights-reproductions

Manakee, Harold R. 'Omenhausser's Confederate Prisoners of War Sketch.' Maryland Historical Magazine (June 1958): 177-179 and cover.


Map [Map of the defeat of the Confederate ship Alabama by the U.S. steamer Kearsarge on June 19, 1864, off Cherbourg, France].

The maps in the Map Collections materials were either published prior to 1922, produced by the United States government, or both (see catalogue records that accompany each map for information regarding date of publication and source). The Library of Congress is providing access to these materials for educational and research purposes and is not aware of any U.S. copyright protection (see Title 17 of the United States Code) or any other restrictions in the Map Collection materials.

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Credit Line: Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.


American Civil War June 1864

The plight the South found itself in was highlighted when the Confederate government ordered that men up to the age of 70 could be conscripted into the army. Grant lost a considerable number of men at Cold Harbor but they could be replaced. Any loss for the South now was of much greater harm.

June 1 st : The Battle of Cold Harbor started. Grant attacked Lee’s position near to the 1862 Seven Days battlefields.

Sherman sent out nearly 7,000 troops (3,000 cavalry and nearly 4,000 infantry) to hunt down the cavalry of Bedford Forrest, who continued to be a serious problem along Sherman’s supply lines. It was Bedford Forrest’s cavalry that was associated with the Fort Pillow, Tennessee, incident.

June 2 nd : Grant spent the day improving the entrenchments of his army.

Having captured the Allatoona Pass, Sherman was able to speed up his drive to Atlanta.

June 3 rd : At 04.30 Grant launched a major attack on Lee’s positions at Cold Harbor. However, Lee’s men were well dug in and in just one hour the Union force lost 7,000 men. The Confederates lost 1,500 men. At 12.00 Grant called off the attack. If the attack had been successful nothing would have stopped Grant and the Army of the Potomac getting to Richmond – just eight miles away. Those living in the city could hear the cannon fire.

June 5 th : The South suffered a major defeat at Piedmont in the Shenandoah Valley. A Confederate force of 5,000 suffered 1,500 casualties, including the loss of their commanding officer, General W E Jones. The Confederate army was incapable of sustaining a 30% loss.

June 6 th : Union troops commanded by Major-General David Hunter destroyed much private property in the Shenandoah Valley.

June 8 th : Lincoln received the nomination from the National Union Convention to stand for president in the forthcoming election. The party platform was that there should be no compromise with the South.

June 10 th : The Confederate Congress introduced military service for all men in the South aged between 17 and 70.

Bedford Forrest defeated a large Union force at Brice’s Cross Roads, Mississippi. Forrest had 3,500 men under his command while the Union cavalry force, commanded by General Samuel Stugis, stood at 8,000. The Union army suffered over 25% casualties (a total of 2,240) to Forrest’s total loss of 492 men.

June 12 th : After some days of military inactivity, the Army of the Potomac moved out of its lines at Cold Harbor. However, while the army had not been fighting, it had been constructing better roads and pontoons to allow for the swifter movement of men and supplies. Such planning paid off.

June 13 th : Lee withdrew his army to Richmond in the belief that Grant had built the roads and pontoons to allow his army to get behind the Army of Northern Virginia and attack Richmond. Lee was wrong in his assessment.

June 14 th : The South lost one of its top generals, Leonidas Polk. Killed by artillery fire on Pine Mountain, Polk was not a great strategic commander but he was popular with his men and his loss was a bitter blow to the morale of the Army of the Tennessee.

June 15 th : The North started a major assault on Petersburg, the ‘backdoor to Richmond’.

June 16 th : More units from the Army of the Potomac joined the attack on Petersburg. Against the odds, the defenders held out.

June 17 th : The defenders of Petersburg managed a counter-attack. It was not successful, but it did stop the Union troops from advancing any nearer to Petersburg.

June 18 th : Lee’s main army arrived at Petersburg to bolster the city’s defences. The North carried out the last of its attacks – the four days fighting for Petersburg had cost the Union 8,000 men.

June 20 th : Grant decided to besiege Petersburg. He concluded that even the Army of the Potomac could not sustain further heavy losses.

June 21 st : President Lincoln paid a visit to the Army of the Potomac. Grant enlivened the command of the army by appointing new generals. He hoped that new blood would invigorate the way the Army of the Potomac is led. One of his appointments was General David Birney who was given the command of II Corps.

June 22 nd : The Confederates launched a ferocious attack on Birney’s II Corps at Jerusalem Plank Road. Birney lost 604 killed, 2494 wounded and 1600 captured. The Confederates lost in total 500 men.

June 25 th : Union forces started to build a tunnel underneath one of the main Confederate redoubts in Petersburg.

June 27 th : Sherman launched a major attack against Confederate positions at Kennesaw Mountain. The North’s forces were stopped just short of the Confederates front line. Union losses were 2,000 killed or wounded out of 16,000 men.

June 28 th : Though they held Sherman at Kennesaw Mountain, the South knew that it was only a matter of time until it fell, such was the size of the force they were facing. Their commander here, Johnston, decided to pull back to the Chattahoochee River.


On a Hot Stove in the Old Ironclad

Illustrating Civil War history can be challenging. Maps, photos, drawings, paintings, prints–period and modern–are tools of the trade. But addressing the complex and esoteric technology of naval vessels calls for another method: the digital graphic drawing.

Historical illustrator Jim Caiella provided excellent ship plans for my previous books, A Confederate Biography: The Cruise of the CSS Shenandoah (Naval Institute Press, 2015) and Unlike Anything That Ever Floated: The Monitor and Virginia and the Battle Hampton Roads, March 8-9, 1862 (Savas Beatie, 2021). He encountered a problem with our current project on the Mississippi River campaigns.

Jim is working on drawings covering vessels of the Union River Squadron starting with the famous ironclad USS Cairo. Developing accurate representations of this historical gunboat requires deep and detailed research combining nautical archeology, reconstruction, replication, and imagination.

When Jim encountered a particular challenge with the ship’s cook stove, he found invaluable assistance and solved the problem with excellent results as described in this fascinating blog post on the subject. Please take a look.


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Battle of Peebles Farm - Aftermath:

Union losses in the fighting at the Battle of Peebles Farm numbered 2,889 killed and wounded while Confederate losses totaled 1,239. Though not decisive, the fighting saw Grant and Meade continue to push their lines south and west towards the Boydton Plank Road. Additionally, Butler's efforts north of the James succeeded in capturing part of the Confederate defenses. Fighting would resume above the river on October 7, while Grant waited until later in the month to attempt another effort south of Petersburg. This would result in the Battle of Boydton Plank Road which opened on October 27.


Oklahoma's Civil War Naval Battle

The Tulsa World had an item about what may be the only naval battle fought within the borders of Oklahoma, 150 years ago Sunday, on June 15, 1864. Confederate troops led by Col. Stand Watie (later promoted to Brigadier General) attacked a Union supply steamboat on the Arkansas River.

Painting of the Confederate attack on the J. R. Williams by Durant artist Neal Taylor, on display in the Oklahoma History Center.

After the war the U. S. Congress authorized the publication of the official war records of both armies in the "War of the Rebellion." Official dispatches from Col. Watie and his commanding officer regarding the Battle of the J. R. Williams were published in 1891 (Series I, Volume XXXIV, Part I (Reports), Chapter 46, Operations in Louisiana and the Trans-Mississippi States and Territories, Part 1, January 1 - June 30, 1864, pp. 1011-1013).

After one of Watie's lieutenants arrived with news, Gen. D. H. Cooper sent the following dispatch to Fort Towson:

HEADQUARTERS INDIAN DIVISION,
Limestone Prairie, June 17, 1864.

CAPTAIN: I have the pleasure to announce the capture of a steam-boat, loaded with commissary stores principally, at Pheasant Bluff, on the 15th instant, by Col. Stand Watie. A few prisoners were taken, others escaping to the north side of the river. All transportation, except a bare sufficiency to move the troops, having been sent back to Boggy Depot for supplies, the creeks being up and the roads almost impassable, I am unable at present to send a train to the boat, but have sent the Chickasaw regiment, under Lieutenant-Colonel Reynolds, to re-enforce Colonel Watie. Have also ordered McCurtain to send a heavy scout toward Fort Smith to attract notice, and shall send Colonel Walker forward toward Scullyville to intercept any cavalry who may attempt to go up to the bluff by the south side of the river. I have also sent Captain Desmukes and John Melvin, both experienced Arkansas River steam-boat men, to run the boat up Canadian as far as the water will allow. It will be destroyed only upon urgent necessity arising.

Respectfully,

D. H. COOPER,
Brigadier-General.

Capt. T. M. SCOTT,
Asst. Adjt. Gen., Dist. of Ind. Ter., Fort Towson.

N. B. -- The boat was fired into by the light howitzer battery under Lieutenant Forrester, killing 2 men and wounding several. The shot passed through the chimney and upper works of the boat did not injure the hull. She surrendered and came over to the south side.

Two days later Gen. Cooper forwarded the first dispatch from Col. Watie about the battle:

I send by Lieutenant Forrester, of Lee's light battery, 6 men, prisoners. They were taken on board the steam-boat Williams, captured on the 15th, of which you was apprised by a dispatch sent by A. Worford. The boat, after she was fired on, run onto the other shore. The men escaped into the woods on the other side 2 were killed on board and 2 after they had left the boat. With the boat was captured 150 barrels of flour, 16,000 pounds of bacon, and considerable quantity of store goods, which was very acceptable to the boys, but has turned out to be [a] disadvantage to the command, as greater portions of the Creeks and Seminoles immediately broke off to carry their booty home. I am left here with only a few men. The enemy is now on the opposite side of the river. Commenced firing on us about 12 yesterday. We have only a portion of flour and bacon brought up on the bluff. The river rose great deal last night and washed off several barrls of flour. If I can get wagons I would move the flour and bacon to Kribbs', otherwise I shall be compelled to leave it. The roads are in a wretched condition. The scout under Major Gillett has not yet returned. Colonel Adair is still on the other side of Canadian not fordable. Lieutenant Forrester will give particulars. The negro woman I send is to be retained. I would like for her to be returned to me as a cook whenever I rejoin the train. She says her master's name is, I think, Thompson. If he is a Federal she will, of course, be confiscated. I will keep you apprised of all I shall be able to learn of the enemy.

Yours, truly,

STAND WATIE,
Colonel, Commanding Troops on Arkansas River.

P. S. With regard to the black woman I am informed by Mr. Akins that she belongs, or did three years ago, to James Latty. Was raised by old Mr. Latty, near Evansville.

In forwarding Watie's account, Cooper added this note:

HEADQUARTERS INDIAN DIVISION,
Limestone Prairie, June 19, 1864.

Respectfully forwarded for General Maxey's information.

Re-enforcements were sent to Colonel Watie day before yesterday. Shall send a heavy scout toward Scullyville to prevent Federal cavalry from getting in his rear.

Respectfully,

D. H. COOPER,
Brigadier-General.

Twelve days after the battle, after returning to camp on Limestone Prairie, Watie filed the following report:

HEADQUARTERS FIRST INDIAN BRIGADE,
Camp, Limestone Prairie, June 27, 1864.

GENERAL: I have the honor to make the following report of the movements of my command up to this date: On the 10th of May Col. W. P. Adair was ordered to the neighborhood of the Arkansas River, from which the movements of the enemy were watched on both sides by means of scouting parties. On the 5th of this month, hearing that the Arkansas was rising rapidly, I started with two pieces of cannon in that direction. Lieutenant Forrester, of the battery, followed with the third piece. The battery was consolidated on the Canadian, near Kribbs', and Lieutenant Forrester ordered to take position with it at Pheasant Bluff, which he did. On the 15th June a boat containing commissary supplies and quartermaster's stores, en route from Fort Smith to Fort Gibson, was captured at this point. A great many of the men left to secure the plunder captured, thus leaving me without a sufficient force to secure the battery from even a small party.

In this condition I learned that a detachment of Federals of superior strength was approaching up the Arkansas on the south side, and I was compelled to burn the commissary stores captured, as I could not defend them successfully with the force I had, and the Canadian River being so high re-enforcements from Colonel Adair was impossible. After retreating 12 miles I met the Chickasaws, who had been ordered to support me. I ordered a party of 150, under Major Campbell, to the iron bridge on San Bois, which they reached about daylight or a little after.

The Federals soon made their appearance and a skirmish ensued. The enemy brought up and commenced using his artillery, when the detachment fell back. The skirmish served to check the enemy, who precipitately retreated from this point toward Fort Smith, as was learned by a scout afterward.

In the mean time and before the capture of the boat, Major Gillett was ordered with a scouting party to the neighborhood of Fort Smith. I have not received any report from him. The Cherokee force is now collected here, having all been ordered in to facilitate the reorganization of the regiments and companies. The Creeks are at present doing scouting duty.

I have the honor to be, respectfully, your obedient servant,

Rediscovered Civil War Shipwreck Gains International Recognition

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (June 10, 2020) – As the United States battled its most divisive conflict at the height of the American Civil War, a cargo ship named the Maple Leaf embarked on a short voyage from South Carolina to Florida carrying the equipment and personal belongings of three Union regiments.

It has now arrived in the 21 st century as an internationally recognized time capsule of everyday life for Civil War soldiers and a National Historic Landmark, thanks to an underwater explosive, seven feet of mud and a determined amateur historian.

More than 155 years after it settled into its final resting spot on the bottom of the St. Johns River and nearly 35 years after the first artifacts were retrieved from the Maple Leaf, the ship receives International recognition on National Geographic Channel’s documentary series Drain the Oceans.

The show’s London-based film crew joined Jacksonville-based SEARCH, Inc. as they conducted a high-resolution sonar and magnetometer archaeological survey of the wreck site in the summer of 2019.

SJAE divers with bow-rail 1988

Using computer-generated imagery, the teams digitally drained the water and mud around the wreck to unlock secrets long-held by the ship. The episode, part of this season’s Civil War segment, aired in the United States on June 9 and is slated to air in more than 170 countries.

Tin cookware

Dr. Keith Holland, a Jacksonville dentist intrigued by the prospect that the undiscovered Maple Leaf might still be found, sleuthed out the location of the wreck in the 1980s. Acquiring the skills of an underwater archeologist in his spare time, he led a team on a series of dives 20 feet below the surface of the St. Johns River and seven feet under mud.

Maple Leaf model

That obscuring river-bottom mud turned out to be the key element of a natural time capsule holding the remnants of the personal lives of Civil War soldiers. In the murky depths where neither light nor oxygen could intrude, the everyday belongings of soldiers quietly awaited discovery.

Perfectly preserved for over a century sat game pieces, shaving kits, tobacco pipes, framed daguerreotypes, personal letters, leather boots wrapped in readable newspaper and more.

Flag and swords

“This shipwreck was an insignificant event in the Civil War, but now it’s a time capsule of everyday life from the mid-19 th century,” said Dr. Keith V. Holland, Founder and President of St. Johns Archaeological Expeditions (SJAE).

“While diving in the darkness of the mud, we had no idea what we were uncovering until we surfaced. We held in our hands artifacts that were more than just a testament to the instruments of war – they were a testament to the fathers, sons and brothers who left their homes to fight.

After 35 years of researching the lineage of the soldiers’ names on these boxes and swords, I realize we still don’t know what we’ve uncovered with the Maple Leaf shipwreck – or what we
could uncover in the future.”

Dr. Holland on dive site with US Sanitary Commission Box

An estimated 400 tons of equipment and personal belongings of the nearly 2,000 Union soldiers of the 112th and the 169th New York State Infantry Volunteers and the 13th Indiana Infantry Volunteers was packed up into wooden boxes labeled with their names and regiments and loaded onto the Maple Leaf in Folly Island, S.C. in March of 1864.

Those personal possessions became historical artifacts when the ship hit an underwater mine filled with 70 pounds of explosive powder on April 1, 1864.

Coffee Pot, rare bitters, bottle, musical instruments, cantine, Skillet

The Maple Leaf tragedy was documented by one of its surviving passengers, Lt. George T. Garrison, eldest son of Boston abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison. The senior Garrison edited an anti-slavery newspaper The Liberator for 35 years.

“George worked The Liberator printing press before joining the Mass. 55th Regiment, one of two regiments of black soldiers from the state,” said Fritz Garrison, great-grandson of Lt. Garrison.

Buttons, hand-carved wooden box, personal materials

“The sole surviving item from the Maple Leaf — prior to its rediscovery by Dr. Holland — is a letter that my great grandfather wrote to his mother detailing news of the regiment.”

Legible newspaper clipping

The survivors rowed three lifeboats twelve miles “with the wind and tide against us all the way,” north to Jacksonville after the sinking. The following morning, Garrison wrote a second letter relating the events surrounding the explosion, which was printed in The Liberator several weeks later.

Ceremonial sword inscribed to Lt. William H. Potter, 112th N.Y.S.V.

“He also re-penned much of the first letter, believing it had gone down with the ship,” added his great grandson. “What he didn’t know at the time is that the first letter survived in a soggy mail bag that was retrieved the following day.”

That letter, now on deposit with the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston, bears the marks of a creeping waterline that was only hours from destroying the document altogether.

Plates, shells, pitcher, tobacco pipe

Dr. Holland and his team excavated less than one percent of the ship’s cargo between 1986-1996 and donated the more than 6,500 artifacts to Florida’s Division of Historical Resources.

Many of these artifacts provide a picture of soldiers’ lives during the Civil War — military equipment, boots, uniform belt buckles and buttons and swords, including one with the inscription “Presented to Lt. William H. Potter, 112th N.Y.S.V. by the members of his company in token of their esteem.”

But most of the artifacts tell of a life outside of war — musical instruments, jewelry, china, silverware, collected seashells, letters intended for home that were never mailed and even items most likely looted from Southern homes and plantations.

No. 1 patented Fairbanks balance beam scale

Today, the Maple Leaf shipwreck has become the largest Civil War underwater archaeological site and the nation’s fourth National Historic Landmark shipwreck site. To learn more about the Maple Leaf shipwreck on the National Geographic Channel’s documentary series Drain the Oceans, visit www.nationalgeographic.com/tv/shows/drain-the-oceans.

About St. Johns Archaeological Expeditions (SJAE)

Dr. Keith V. Holland founded the non-profit corporation St. Johns Archaeological Expeditions (SJAE) in 1985. The team of divers, historians, archaeologists, engineers and admiralty lawyers actively researched and excavated the Maple Leaf shipwreck from 1986-1996.

The recovered Civil War artifacts were donated to Florida’s Division of Historical Resources while some are on loan to museums across Florida, including both the Museum of Science and History and the Mandarin Museum in Jacksonville, FL and the Museum of Florida History in Tallahassee, FL.

Dr. Keith Holland

Dr. Holland and a handful of SJAE divers continue to work to educate the public on the importance and value of the Maple Leaf shipwreck, the artifacts recovered and the more than 99 percent of the ship’s Civil War memorabilia that remains encased in mud at the bottom of the St. Johns River.

More photos:

Hand-carved wooden Bible token

Personal items from 112th N.Y.S.V. company D soldier: domino, toothbrush, hand-carved wooden ring with initials.

China plate

Painted tobacco pipe

Leather military boots

Rare Gum Rubber rain hat

Sewing kit

Shaving compound

Military belt buckle and calvary spur

Military belt, buckle and blackpowder purse

Tobacco pipes

National Historic Landmark plaque


The Civil War Picket

The five 9-inch Dahlgren guns and one 30-pound Parrott Rifle will have a role in telling the story of the Water Witch, a sidewheel steamer captured by Confederates after vicious fighting off Ossabaw Island, Ga, in 1864.

The museum has built a $1.2 million outdoor replica of the Water Witch, which draws attention from 30,000 motorists driving on Victory Drive in Columbus each weekday. The museum’s Web site features a Web cam of the ship.

“Ever since we started building the replica, attendance has increased,” says Bruce Smith, museum executive director.

He says nearly 26,000 visitors have come to Port Columbus this year, roughly an 8 percent increase. Many are relatives of Army trainees graduating at nearby Fort Benning.

The Navy sent the large guns to Columbus as a loan from the Boston Navy Yard, where the cannon were inverted and used as posts to tie up ships. Smith says the museum particularly was interested in the Parrott rifle because one like it was used on the Water Witch.

When restored, the Parrott, which fired 30-pound shells, will be mounted on the bow of the Water Watch. The other guns will remain alongside the vessel, as if waiting transfer to another ship.

The Water Witch replica is 160 feet long, with a deck width of 26 feet and 90-foot masts.

Port Columbus is sponsoring an event this Friday and Saturday. About 20 living historians from around the Southeast will help illustrate scenes from the capture and talk about life aboard the Water Witch.

The tours are scheduled for 11 a.m, 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. both days, with a firing of the museum's huge original cannon following the final tour each day. Admission is adults, $6.50 senior citizens, $5.50 students, $5.

Confederate forces boarded and captured the Water Witch, used to carry mail and supplies, on the evening of June 3, 1864.

“There were cutlasses. Pistols. Very close-in fighting,” says Smith.

The Union lost two men, the Confederates six, but many more were seriously wounded. One of the Union dead was Jeremiah Sills, an African-American crewman.

Smith says the museum eventually wants to build a dock and water replica next to the Water Witch. Port Columbus has a few artifacts from the vessel, including a Bible, Parrott round and a canvas sea bag.


Watch the video: Naval Tech: The Civil War in Four Minutes (August 2022).