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McLean Research Associates is dedicated to presenting little known facts about the US Navy in the Civil War, presentations on a myriad of astronomical topics,STEM workshops, and letterboxing.


In commemoration of the 160 years since the Civil War - or more appropriately in the vernacular of the day - The War of the Slaveholders' Rebellion - we are featuring a quote and picture of the day from the Naval Records


Period Picture
Crew of the USS Mendota
Fri May 20 1864

Walter Graham, US Consul, Cape Town writes SECNAV "The Sacramento arrived here on the 30th of April and left for Brest, France, on the 5th instant, her commander, Captain H. Walke, believing from information received here that the Alabama had gone to some port in France for repairs.
    The Wyoming arrived here on the 16th instant, and being coaled with great dispatch, left this port on the 17th. She is homeward bound.
    Nothing further has been heard of the Florida.
    The Secretary of State has issued a circular calling for information as to the coaling of privateers under the insurgent flag, and I have informed him that Anderson, Saxon & Co., of this place, have acted as agents for and coaled all such vessels.
    Now, I perceive from a British blue book that the London correspondents of this firm claim that they (Anderson, Saxon & Co.) also coaled the Vanderbilt. I have thought it proper to make an explanation. The commander of the Vanderbilt refused to come to Table Bay on account of the strong northwest gales in the winter, and as Anderson, Saxon & Co. were the only parties having coal there, I would have nothing to do with them, but received from Deane & Johnson, of this place, a tender for the supply of the Vanderbilt there (Simon's Town) at current rates, and the latter firm bought of the former. This is the whole history of the matter, and Commander Baldwin was entirely satisfied. The Sacramento was coaled by Thomson, Watson & Co. and the Wyoming by Deane & Johnson from coals belonging to those firms in Cape Town."

SECNAV telegrams RADM Hiram Paulding, New York Navy Yard "Get the Niagara ready for sea as early as convenient and report. Not longer than ten days."

CDR Foxhall A Parker, Potomac Flotilla, telegrams LT Edward Hooker, 1st Division, Potomac Flotilla,"Government transports leave the mouth of the Rappahannock River for Fredericksburg at daylight. Will you see that they are properly convoyed all the way ? The lower part of the river has been attended to for the first trip." In a second telegram he sends "Your telegram received. Send Fuchsia to-morrow. Let her use the same precautions in descending the Rappahannock as were used in ascending. Is the Bell with you?"

COL W Hoffman, 3rd Infantry, Commissary-General Prisoners, writes SECWAR ".... There are two gunboats lying off the depot, one a sailing vessel, but I am informed by the commanding officer that he is frequently left with the sailing vessel alone, which makes him comparatively helpless in unfavorable wind or a calm and exposes him to capture by an unexpected attack. I would therefore respectfully recommend that application be made to the Navy Department for a steam gunboat, to be stationed permanently at the depot, to guard against a descent of the enemy from the Virginia shore and to overawe the prisoners. The two vessels should, if possible, be generally present, but if one is detached it should be the sailing vessel...."

SECNAV writes RADM Samuel P Lee, North Atlantic Blockading Squadron "Your dispatch, dated May 16, Aikens Landing, James River, Virginia, is received, asking for one fast tug with an improved prod for Captain Smith; also six similar ones for your squadron; also two good vessels for ramming for Captain Smith, even without guns, and one or two double-enders and some rams for yourself.
    The Ordnance Bureau has nearly ready ten torpedoes, which can easily be applied to any tug, and these will be sent to you. The Department has no rams especially as such, though the bow of the monitors is fitted especially for that purpose. A double-ender striking an object at 13 knots speed has a momentum equal to a solid 809-pound shot going 1,300 feet per second, but it must be a fair blow. You have all the tugs belonging to Rear-Admiral Farragut, also all his ironclads and double-enders, and must reinforce the sounds from this force.
    In the early part of the war the Department prepared a cigar boat, which has been copied by the rebels, but, as you are aware, the officers could make no use of it, although it had a speed of 7 knots and barely showed above water. There was also prepared at nearly $1OO,OOO expense a large number of torpedo rafts, some of which are now lying at the Norfolk navy yard, which experimentally performed most successfully, though they could not be kept on the bow of a vessel in a seaway. All these appliances are thrown aside at great expense and calls made for other machines, although the Department has conferred full authority upon commanders of squadrons to construct and prepare anything of the kind they deem necessary or advantageous, and in the sounds of North Carolina your dispatches show that considerable progress was made relative to the preparation of torpedoes.
    A telegram has been sent to New York to fit a vessel with a prow under water to be sent to Captain Smith."

CDR George B Balch, SOPA St John's River, RADM Jonathan Dahlgren, South Atlantic Blockading Squadron "I have the honor to report all quiet in this vicinity.
    The Ottawa and Norwich are up the river between Jacksonville and Picolata, where they are engaged in watching the movements of the enemy and picketing the river by boats to prevent the putting down of torpedoes.
    The Mahaska is stationed off Trout Creek, between this place and the bar, and is rendering excellent service. Lieutenant-Commander Lewis has been very vigilant, and after great labor has succeeded in getting three torpedoes, which he has now on board his vessel. These torpedoes are somewhat different in their construction from those heretofore found, and I have directed Lieutenant-Commander Lewis to reserve one for you, should you require one to be sent.
    From information received by deserters, it is believed that the force immediately in front of Jacksonville has been much reduced, but whether our force is strong enough to make an advance is somewhat doubtful.
    You will be pleased to learn that our repairs are completed, and that we have steam up on board the Pawnee, with the expectation that no considerable repairs will be needed for some time."

CAPT Percival Drayton, USS Hartford, writes CAPT Thornton Jenkins, USN "We have papers here two days later, 17th, from Mobile, than those brought by Narcissus. The telegraph is evidently interrupted north of Petersburg, so that there is no reliable intelligence.
    The two refugees brought by Narcissus I keep. I think we have enough of these fellows running loose. We have a traitor, I believe, in everyone we favor in any way. Break up the trading business as soon as you can, and you will, I am satisfied, do us a good service.
    The Buckthorn will be along in the morning, when I will write more fully. Having had enquiries about yeomen, etc., made to me, I have printed the regulation and sent it to you for distribution.
Added is "The admiral says you can send your paymaster's clerk to New Orleans."

LCDR Watson Smith, USS Chillicothe, writes RADM David D Porter, Mississippi Squadron, "General A. J. Smith is moving his men to the left bank (where you were in the Black Hawk), intending to remain here tonight, and the transports are to leave at 5 or 6 p. m. for Old River, a mile or two down, which, turning to the right from the Atchafalaya, he intends to embark his men to-morrow, leaving Simmesport at 7 a. m.
    The transports will have the fleet of seven gunboats to see them off, and the St. Clair and Gazelle will convoy them to Old River. The Mound City will be just above Bayou de Grace [Glaise?], the Pitts- burg below a hundred yards or more, and below her this vessel, with guns on the open space below the bayou, and the Fort Hindman below still farther, guarding the approaches below with her stern guns. This arrangement is somewhat different from my first arrangement, which did not contemplate any division of the gunboats. We will have steam to-night."

Teachers and Educators - we have several Civil War presentations covering the US Navy throughout the Civil War which include our portable museum, Submarines, and key naval and land battles. Check out our Civil War section for more details. We also have several presentations on astronomy for all age groups




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