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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
The prototype of the USS Alligator, the Navy's first submarine, was intentially beached in the Philadelphia Harbor and confiscated
Thu Nov 27 1862

CMDR Andrew A Harwood, Potomac Flotilla, writes SECNAV "I enclose a copy of my letter of the 18th instant, requesting the navy agent at Philadelphia to supply the coal required for the Potomac Flotilla.
Lieutenant-Commander McCrea writes that he has written two weeks ago to the agent to send the coal, but none has arrived. I have sent a telegram to Mr. Chambers to hurry on the supply.
I take the opportunity to inform the Department that whatever interference may have taken place with the coal transports of the Army, it must be imputed to the necessity of moving immediately to the support of the Army.
I have given orders not to interfere with the army transports, and shall refer the officers to General Burnside in case any extreme want of coal should make it necessary to borrow coal before the naval supplies reach the depots of the Potomac."

LCDR McCrea, 2nd Division, Potomac Flotilla, writers CMDR Harwood, "Upon reflection, the necessity for having coal is extreme. I have ordered the Dragon to leave immediately for the Potomac, and to tow any coal vessel around here.
The guard ship at Piney Point will know if she is successful or not. I must act in this way, for I shall be helpless otherwise."
In a separate letter he writes "I arrived this morning at 5 a.m. with the gunboats Currituck, Anacostia, Ceur de Lion, Jacob Bell, and Dragon. I was en route 6 miles farther above for an anchorage, but was stopped by receiving a message from Major-General Burnside, through an aid, desiring me to remain here until further orders. I was delayed in reaching even this point by the very low tides of the river, and slowness of the vessels generally. I informed Major-General Burnside, immediately upon my arrival here, that I would await further instructions. I would inform you that the suddenness of the move to this river, and the absence of the storeship at the time, prevented a replenishing of-provisions, etc. But in justice to myself and the commanding officers I would say that I have written and rewritten constantly for the last three weeks for coal, but as yet none had arrived previously to our leaving the Potomac; the vessels consequently left without coal, and are in a degree inefficient. I had no alternative but to proceed to the Rappahannock, according to your dispatch of November 22. It is now necessary that a coal vessel be immediately dispatched to this point, under guard of a gunboat, or as your judgment will dictate, for this squadron, as one or two vessels have only one days coal. As adjutant of the flotilla I can not be held responsible for the present inefficiency of the vessels, as my official dis-patches, as well as my private letters, will show that I have required it and written myself to the navy agent at Philadelphia for coal. Your general order prohibiting the taking of coal from passing vessels, without actually necessary, I adhered to as long as possible; but upon receiving your dispatch of November 22 I was thrown upon my own judgment and disobeyed the order, and took 30 tons of coal from a schooner belonging to the Army, even under the protest of her captain. Time was too valuable, I considered, distance too great for me to refer the matter to you as my commander in chief; therefore I had to decide; so I have assumed the responsibility. I have done all for the best, and trust I will not merit your displeasure. As it was I was obliged to take all the coal possible from the Wyandank and Teaser to put on board the vessels that came with me. I knew the importance of my going to the Rappahannock, having conferred personally with General Burnside, and, in my opinion, an officer in my then position, and thrown upon his own resources, must decide in his own opinion to the best advantage, when he knows what he is deciding is not known to his commander in chief at the moment, and is unable to inform him for speedy instructions and possible nonaccomplishment of the desired result.
The absence of the paymaster's steward of this vessel, and the paymaster and paymasters steward of the Currituck, renders their provision account, upon examination, lower than estimated. Consequently they want provisions. I would report the paymaster of the Currituck for sending his steward (his son) home without the knowledge of his commanding officer, and for a general unofficer-like arrangement of matters upon his leaving the vessel, condemned by medical survey, or upon leave of absence for two weeks, I am unable exactly to understand which. In fact, the general internal routine of the vessels is so complicated in regard to leaves of absence that I hesitate to report officers but would rather state the facts. As adjutant, it is extremely difficult to state the actual occurrences of the flotilla for the vessels, or acts committed by their officers, when it seems almost impossible to get reports in detail from the commanding officers. I would state two instances: I understand during a fight inshore at Piankatank that one of the masters mates, or an officer in the expedition, deserted his boat and returned to his vessel in a canoe. Again, that the revenue steamer Hercules was permitted to pass the vessels at the mouth of the Rappahannock, when she proceeded up the river and threw three shells into the unoffending town of Tappahannock [Urbana]. These are facts that come to me indirectly, days or weeks after their occurrence, and render it somewhat difficult for me to use them. I would, though, now respectfully suggest that the commanding officer of the said steamer Hercules be arrested and severely punished, dismissed, if possible, for so flagrant an outrage. I would also suggest that an order be given by the honorable the Secretary of the Navy that the revenue vessels are not to come in the waters within the limits of your command, except in cases of stress of weather, or disabled; for they are impudent and careless, and their acts, good or bad, go to the credit of the Potomac Flotilla.
I trust that [there is] nothing in this, my dispatch, but the proper report of of me, your adjutant, and with all respect due to opinions you, my commander in chief I earnestly hope you will dispatch coal and provisions. I do not know how long I shall remain here, as I am waiting instructions for cooperating with the Army."

CDR Parker, USS Mahaska, writes CAPT Thomas Turner, SOPA Newport News, "I omitted to mention to you yesterday in my report that large canoes, I find, are now principally used in running the blockade of the rivers flowing into Chesapeake Bay. I was informed, too, by a man who has given me much reliable information of late, that contraband trade is carried on to some considerable extent between North and Back rivers. How can this be? said I to my informant: Back River is wholly within our lines. I know that very well, was the reply, and the supplies are furnished by the sutlers of your army. I have, of course, made this known to the commanding general at Yorktown.
I have been up the river to-day and captured five boats with over a hundred bushels of oysters intended for the Richmond market."

CDR H K Davenport, SOPA, Sounds of North Carolina, writes RADM Samuel P Lee, North Atlantic Blockading Squadron "I have the honor to enclose herewith a report of Lieutenant William B. Cushing of his operations at New River Inlet by which you will perceive that the U. S. S. Ellis is lost.
I trust that, in consideration of the courage, coolness, and gallantry displayed on the occasion by Lieutenant Cushing, his course may meet with the approval of yourself and the honorable Secretary of the Navy."

Master F S Wells,USS Seymour writes CDR Davenport "I beg leave to submit for your consideration an account of an affair which occurred on the deck of this vessel this afternoon between an army officer and myself. The particulars are as follows:
A person wearing the insignia of a major of infantry, and calling himself provost-marshal of New Berne, came on board this vessel and produced a document signed by himself requiring me to deliver the money and effects of the late Mr. Whall, masters mate, U. S. Navy, into the hands of Mr. Carrow, light-house keeper. I quietly informed the officer that the paper required Commander Davenports signature before I obeyed the order contained therein. He then became much excited; said he would make me give up the things in spite of a thousand Commander Davenports, and called a guard of several soldiers, whom he had at his back to support him, and endeavored to arrest me in the name of General Foster. I, however, declined being arrested in anyone's name other than that of my commanding officer's, and immediately hauled the vessel into the stream in order to prevent a collision between my men and the soldiers, and repaired on board the senior officers vessel to report this unprovoked indignity offered to the service, to my commanding officer, and to myself, and to ask for instructions whereby to regulate my future conduct should the same occur again."

MJR Jones Frankle, USA, Povost-Marshal, New berne, NC writes CDR Davenport, "Having received an order from Governor Stanly authorizing Joseph Carrow to receive certain personal property belonging to Charles F. Whall, lately deceased, said property being in the possession of Captain Wells, of the gunboat Seymour, I sent Carrow to Captain Wells with a communication to that effect.
Captain Wells sent a reply that he did not recognize the authority of Governor Stanly, General Foster, or myself and should not give up the property. I then went personally to Captain Wells in order to explain the matter to him; he repeated the remark that he did not recognize the authority of Governor Stanly, General Foster, or the provost-marshal, and added that there was but one man that he should obey, and that that was Commander Davenport, and proceeded to unmoor the boat, using most disrespectful language toward Governor Stanly, General Foster, and myself. I ordered him under arrest and told him to go with me to my office; he said he could not go then, but would report in half an hour, but he has not made his appearance.
In order to avoid all trouble I desire to leave the execution of Governor Stanlys order in your hands, but would respectfully request you to place Captain Wells under arrest, as I intend to prefer charges."

Master Washburn, XO, USS Morning Light, writes Master John Dillingham, USS Morning Light, "Agreeable to your orders, we have this day destroyed the extensive salt manufactory near Cedar Lake, Tex.
Acting Master William W. Fowler, with one party, destroyed one factory of 8 large kettles and all the buildings belonging to it. I, with another party, destroyed those extending to the northward, consisting of 4 large tubular boilers and 10 large and 4 small kettles.
The whole amount of salt ready packed for transportation was not far from 10 tons, all of which was ruined.
Acting Masters Mate G. H. Rice, with the three boats, covered our retreat in case of attack from the guerrillas, a number of whom were mounted and were watching our movements. All connected with the expedition were prompt in executing and obedient to orders."

RADM David D Porter, Mississippi Squadron, writes LCDR Fitch, USS Fairplay,"You will now begin to send some of your vessels up the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers, and keep them actively moving to prevent the rebels making use of the rivers in any way. You know my views pretty well by this time, and I need not give you precise instructions. You can never go wrong in doing a rebel all the harm you can. Leave no means of crossing the rivers. Destroy all small boats likely to carry intelligence, and capture all rebel property. That is the way to put down the rebellion. I am no advocate for the milk and water policy. I should be better satisfied had I seen some evidences that the Caseyville people had lost some of their wheat and other produce. I see that some of those fellows have got back again. I enclose you a slip from a newspaper. Look out for them, and the next time you catch them keep them in irons. You will soon have water enough in the Ohio, Cumberland, and Tennessee. I look to you to see that quiet is maintained there."

LCDR James Shirk, ISS Lexington, writes RADM Porter, "Upon my arrival at Memphis on the 16th instant I met Mr. Tucker, who, you had informed me, was to have a boat ready to go down the river below Helena for cotton. I found that he had not yet completed his arrangements and that, in fact, he was not at all certain of going. I waited for him until the morning of the 19th, and then, his plans having failed, I left with this ship and the Signal for Helena.
Upon my arrival at that place I found that Captain Walke had left word that if any of the light-draft boats came down the river they should be sent to join him at Montgomery Point. I sent the Signal to him, and the next morning (having on board Mr. Halliday, of Cairo, and Messrs. Hunt and Watson, of Frankfort, Ky., who were passed by Military Governor Boyle, of Kentucky, and who had joined me at Memphis as passengers) proceeded down the river. At noon I met the Carondelet and communicated with Captain Walke.
At Choctaw Bend I landed Messrs. Hunt and Watson and proceeded slowly down the river until Sunday afternoon, when I had reached Ashton, in the State of Louisiana. Just above here I overtook and destroyed a large lighter filled with corn, bound to Vicksburg. There were between 2,000 and 2,500 bushels of corn. The lighter also contained a few bags of dried peas and two boxes of tallow dip candles. The peas were given to the paymaster and the candles will be sent to your order at Cairo.
On Monday morning we commenced our upward trip. I have succeeded in obtaining 24 male contrabands, 2 of which I have appropriated for the use of this ship, and the rest I will send to you.
I have destroyed every ferryboat between Helena and Ashton. By this destruction of ferryboats I have effectually put a stop to quite a large transportation of salt from Lake Bistineau, La., into Mississippi.
I took on board at Columbia, Ark., a Mr. Garrard, of Kentucky, and his family. He is a Union man, and has suffered a great deal of persecution on account of his Union feelings.
I find that the wish and desire of almost every planter on the river is to save their cotton, but the authorities are burning it whereever it can be found. The smoke is seen from the river at all times and in all directions.
There will be no use in sending persons down below for cotton unless some arrangement has been previously made with the planters, so that it may be concealed and ready to be produced at the proper time.
I landed at several plantations along the river and tried to make the planters believe that they were not to be harmed by the gunboats (of which they are in mortal terror), and told them that unless they disturbed the boats the boats would not interfere with them. They asked me about, the slaves; I told them that was their own lookout; that they must take care of that kind of property. They replied that they could not, that the slaves had heard of the President's proclamation, and that in spite of all the owners could do they would get to the river. I was surprised at the amount of information possessed by the slaves. All of those who came on board the Lexington tell me that they are to be free on the 1st of January, but that their owners are getting ready to move them back from the river as soon as possible. Yesterday I met the squadron and Captain Walke at Bolivar, and received permission from him to go to Helena to land my passengers. I will leave here as soon as the Lexington is coaled, to join him at the mouth of Yazoo River.
Last evening, just after dark, we were fired upon by a squad of about 25 men about 5 miles above Prentiss on the Mississippi shore. I caused the woods in the vicinity to be well scoured with shell and canister. Fortunately no one on board the ship was injured. It was too dark for me to ascertain whether or not our firing did any damage. I will pay my respects to the vicinity on my way to join the squadron."
In a separate letter he writes " I have the honor to report that when I took on board contrabands at Grand Lake, Ark., they told me that they had several bales of cotton which their late owner had given them, provided they could save them from the cotton burners, and that they wished to take them along. I took the cotton on board, giving the owners receipts (copies of which please find enclosed). Judy Emerson, one of those to whom I receipted, remained at home, as I did not want any woman on board the Lexington.
I have placed 16 bales of cotton, 3 boxes of tallow candles, and 22 contrabands on board the V. F. Wilson and directed the captain to report to you. The negroes who owned the cotton will be perfectly satisfied with any fair price you may be disposed to allow them.
I have directed the transfer and descriptive rolls of the contrabands to be sent to Fleet Paymaster Dunn, to be disposed of as you may direct." In a third letter he writes "I most respectfully call your attention to the fact that some of the gunboats are very short of provisions. The Pittsburg came down here with two days provisions, and had to obtain a supply from the army at this place.
The Pittsburg will accompany me to join the squadron under command of Captain Walke."

ASSIST Quartermaster COL Lewis B Parsons, USA writes RADM Porter, "At request of Captain Pennock, I have turned over to him for you the ram Sampson. I herewith enclose his receipt, with an invoice and transfer papers of the steam ram. Please sign the triplicate receipts and return them to me by mail.
The Sampson is a powerful tugboat, and would be invaluable for towing your gunboats upstream or for towing coal barges. She was built for the latter use. Captain Pennock said it was in contemplation to use her for a blacksmiths shop. I would suggest that a small and much less valuable steamer might be used for such purposes, and the Sampson might be of far more valuable service as a towboat. I make this suggestion, as the use of steamers for the movement of troops and supplies requires all the tonnage available. During the last two months over 20 steamers have been burned and sunk, and we find the supply available for transportation less than the demand. It is therefore a matter of general interest to the Army and Navy to economize the occupation of boats as much as possible, so that all branches of the service may be accommodated."

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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