Tue Feb 28 1865|
CMDR Thomas T Craven, USS Niagara, writes SECNAV "On the 5th instant I had the honor of informing you in a brief dispatch (No. 3) that I was then on my way in search of the pirate Olinde. That dispatch had scarcely been mailed before I received telegrams reporting the arrival of the pirate ram at Coruña and Ferrol for repairs. This was late in the evening, and a thick fog and heavy storm prevailing at the time delayed my departure until the following morning. The westerly gale which continued for the two days while we were steaming out of the channel, and a fresh gale which occurred from the eastward as we approached the coast of Spain, retarded my arrival at this port until the 11th instant, when I learned that an ironclad ram under the Confederate flag, called the Stonewall, had put in here some ten days previously for repairs, but remained only three days and then went to Ferrol, and would be ready for sea in about three days. Immediately upon anchoring here I announced it to our several legations at London, Paris, Madrid, and Lisbon, and requested them if they knew of the whereabouts of the Sacramento to send her immediately. Return telegrams from Madrid and Lisbon reported the Sacramento as being disabled on her way from Cadiz, and was then at Lisbon for repairs, which could not be completed for ten days.
On the evening of the 15th instant I proceeded with the Niagara to Ferrol, and on the following morning called upon the military and civil governors of the place, who informed me that her commander, Thomas J. Page, had reported the Stonewall ready for sea, but had not as yet appointed a time for sailing.
During my interview with the Spanish authorities I earnestly protested against their aiding in or permitting the pirates to be fitted for sea while in these waters. They assured me in the most positive manner that she had received no assistance from them excepting that of the loan of a Government hulk, which was then lashed alongside, for the reception of her stores, etc., while such work as was absolutely needed for her safety at sea was being done by private workmen, and not by those employed by the Government. I remarked to the governors that I not only relied implicitly upon the good faith of Spain in this matter, but while I felt that the utmost watchfulness would be kept on their part to prevent it, the rebels whom they had to deal with would, if possible, by bribing or other disreputable means strive to complete the fitment of their vessel, while lying in their harbor, in the most perfect manner. I also remarked that I had been informed that an English steamer, the Louisa Ann Fanny, said to be a blockade runner, had within a day or two visited their harbor, and that I felt morally sure that it was for no other purpose than that of furnishing supplies to the pirate. They assented to the remark, but affirmed that there had been no intercommunication between the two vessels; that they had not only placed a guard on board of the hulk then lying alongside of the Stonewall, but had also anchored nigh her a revenue vessel with a guard of some twenty-five or thirty men, who had positive orders not to allow supplies of any sort to be received either from the shore or any other quarter. Our interview was of the most friendly nature, and I left them fully impressed with the belief that they would act in perfect good faith toward us.
On the morning of the 17th our commercial agent, Mr. A. F. Fernandez, visited me and stated that he had but a few minutes before been waited on by the governor, who called expressly to inform him that Captain Page had been to see him to learn if there would be any objection on the part of the Government to his being absent from his vessel for a few days for the purpose of visiting Paris; that he found his vessel still leaked and was not seaworthy, and he wished to see if something could not be done to throw her back upon the contractors hands. There being no objection interposed, Captain Page, on the afternoon of the 17th, left in a steamer said to be a Government vessel for Coruña, en route for Madrid and Paris.
In the afternoon of the 18th our consular agent at Coruña came on board and informed me that Page had remarked to several citizens on the night previously that his repairs were all completed and that his vessel was all ready for sea, but that he was going to Paris for the purpose of purchasing another vessel.
The Spanish corvette hulk which had been used for the reception of the Stonewalls stores, etc., was hauled off from her side and returned to the arsenal on the 19th instant, and since then I observed no indication of her leakage, as I had done for the first two or three days after my arrival there. On the 20th she commenced taking in coal, and appeared to be ready to sail at any moment.
On the 21st the Sacramento arrived and anchored near us, and soon after dark we discovered that the ram was getting up steam. A report prevailed on shore on the following morning that she attempted to go to sea, but that her officers and crew protested against it and refused to get her underway.
In the afternoon of the 22d, accompanied by the Sacramento, I returned to this port of Coruña, where I shall not be subject to the twenty-four-hour rule in case the pirates feel inclined to again put to sea.
The Stonewall is a much more formidable vessel than any of our monitors, is brig-rigged, about 175 feet in length, and completely cased in 5-inch plates of iron. Under her topgallant forecastle is her casemated 300-pounder Armstrong rifle, which can be fired directly ahead or on either beam. Abaft her mainmast, in a fixed turret, are two other rifled guns, 120-pounders, both of which can be fired directly astern and one on each beam. She has two other smaller guns in broadside. She has four engines, two screws, and two rudders, and is provided with a long projecting spur for butting, and is reported fast. In smooth water and open sea she would be more than a match for three such vessels as the Niagara. In rough weather, however, we might be able to annoy if not to destroy her.
I feel, sir, as if placed in a most unenviable position. All that I can now do is to watch closely her movements, and hope that at any rate she may be detained where she is definitely, or until such necessary reenforcements are sent out as to enable us to cope with her.
It has occurred to me that Page may have left here for the purpose of meeting or obtaining the assistance of another ram which was reported by our consul at Nantes as being near Belle Ile on the 25th of January, and which report was transmitted to me from the legation at Paris through our minister at Brussels, copies of which I forwarded to you in my dispatch No. 2, dated January 31.
For the further information of the Department I herewith enclose copies of a dispatch received yesterday from Mr. Perry, our chargê d' affaires at Madrid, marked A, and of my reply thereto, marked B. You will find also enclosed copies of correspondence between Messrs. Bigelow and Perry, dated February 8, marked C and D; copies of a dispatch from Mr. Bigelow, dated February 13, marked E, and of my reply thereto of February 20, marked F, and a copy of a telegram from myself to Mr. Perry, dated February 13, marked G.
Rest assured, sir, of my constant vigilance and readiness for action, and that, whatever transpires in this complicated case, I shall endeavor to do my whole duty."
CMDR Craven writes Horatio J Perry, Chargêe d' Affair, Madrid "I had the honor yesterday of receiving your dispatch of the 23d instant, with its accompanying copies of your several dispatches to our Secretary of State at Washington and to our chargê d' affaires at Paris, giving full and very interesting information of what has been done in the matter of the pirate ram Stonewall.
You ask my opinion as to her capability of going to sea in her present condition. I can only answer this by stating that from the information I received on my arrival here, and from what I have been able to see of that vessel and learn from our agent and the authorities at Ferrol provided the information received can be relied on - she is not at this [time] in a seaworthy condition. The leak has been but imperfectly stopped, and might at any time break out and become as inconvenient as ever. Notwithstanding the pledges given you by the Spanish minister that strict orders had been issued to the commandant at Ferrol not to allow any repairs, except such as were indispensable for the security of the crew of the Stonewall at sea, to be put upon her; notwithstanding the assurances of the naval commandant at Ferrol that those orders had been strictly obeyed, and notwithstanding I place implicit confidence in the honesty of purpose of these assurances, I can not help feeling that in spite of their care and watchfulness to prevent it the pirates have had the opportunity and have clandestinely improved their time, and have done much more than they have proposed to do, not only toward the repairs, but to the fitting out of their vessel in the bay of Ferrol. Besides other occupations, they were busily engaged for one or two days after my arrival at that port in filling up their shells and otherwise preparing their battery for work.
The Stonewall is a very formidable vessel, about 175 feet long, brig-rigged, and completely clothed in iron plates of 5 inches in thickness.
Under her topgallant forecastle is her casemated Armstrong 300-pounder rifled gun. In a turret abaft her mainmast are two 120-pounder rifled guns, and she has two smaller gnus mounted in broadside.
If as fast as reputed to be, in smooth water she ought to be more than a match for three such ships as the Niagara. Should we be so fortunate, however, as to catch her out in rough weather, we might possibly be able to put an end to her career. Our main chance now depends upon the possibility of detaining her where she is until the Government sees fit to send out the proper reenforcements. In the meantime, and in any event, I shall strive to do my duty.
As the Spanish authorities have acknowledged their inability to prevent the egress of the Stonewall from Ferrol, why have I not the right "in self-defense" to seize upon the opportunity to run her down in that harbor? I feel sorely tempted to try it, and were she in a French port, with the same good reason holding, I should not long hesitate to hazard the die.
In order that you may understand fully the part that I have taken in this matter, I enclose herewith a copy of part of a letter which I addressed to Mr. Bigelow on the 20th instant, and which he has just acknowledged the receipt of by telegram on the 26th. I wished to send you the entire copy of that dispatch, but it has not been copied in my letter book, and I can not now lay my hand on the missing finishing clause, which, however, was merely introducing a gentleman who kindly volunteered to bear my dispatches to Paris, and is of no importance.
Thanking you, sir, for your very kind consideration in loaning me those press copies of your correspondence (which are herewith returned), and with heartfelt thanks for the bold stand you have taken, and my warmest congratulations upon the very able and felicitous manner in which you have handled this case of the Stonewall"
Master James Taylor, St. inigoes Naval Depot writes LT Edward Hooker, 1st Division, Potomac Flotilla, "Have just received a dispatch from Commander Parker. He is coming down immediately; has ordered the Anacostia to go to Tangier Sound, where it is reported that the rebels have two tugs. In that direction we heard heavy firing last evening, say at about 9 o'clock.
The Heliotrope is ordered to look after Smith's Point light-boat.
Commander Parker's order to-day in relation to coaling your vessel is as follows:
Let the Rappahannock Squadron coal at Norfolk until further orders.
I [have] no news to send you at this time. All is quiet about here."
LT W F Shankland, USS Banshee telegrams CDR Foxhall A Parker, Potomac Flotilla, from Cherrystone "I arrived at this station at 8 a. m. this day by orders from Acting Volunteer Lieutenant-Commander Hooker. I found the Periwinkle here, by orders from the honorable Secretary of the Navy, and do not think it prudent to countermand the orders, as I have been ordered by Captain Hooker to do in case I come across her. The Banshee is too long to get up the river, and is now lying inside the lighthouse. I have not as yet learned that any rebels have been known to have crossed the bay. Please inform Captain Hooker of my actions, as I am ordered to report to him to-morrow morning."
CMDR William radford, James River Flotilla, telegrams LGEN U S Grant, USA "The barges were sunk as soon as they arrived at the place designated."
RADM Jonathan Dahlgren, South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, writes SECNAV "Under date of the 26th instant I apprised the Department that the naval forces under my command had taken possession of Georgetown.
As soon as the occupation of Charleston left my thoughts and means at liberty I gave my attention to this point as likely to be the preferable communication for General Sherman, in case such become desirable to him before entering North Carolina. Accordingly, I soon began to collect a suitable force from other stations.
The McDonough, Geranium, and two launches were ordered into the Santee, being the only class of vessels whose draft admits of passing the bar of the river.
On the 22d instant the Pawnee was ordered to Georgetown, and all the marines I could collect were embodied in a battalion. Detachments of seamen were also directed, the object being to pass up the Santee with this body of men, take the road to Georgetown, which traverses the rear of the rebel work, and assault it while the vessels attacked in front. This infantry was to be under the command of Commander Stanly, assisted by Lieutenant-Commander Williams.
On the 23d February the Pawnee crossed the bar and joined the Mingoe and Nipsic within, upon which the rebels abandoned the work (Battery White) and the Mingoe steamed up the bay and took possession. The marines were landed, and the municipal authorities tendered their submission to the Government of the Union.
The battery was found to be a well-constructed and formidable work, mounting 15 guns, of which 2 are X-inch columbiads.
The previous accounts of this battery had varied so much as to render our knowledge of it uncertain.
Generally, it had been much underrated and supposed to be unable to resist the attack of a single vessel or a few men. But we can now understand that it was well placed, well constructed, and strongly armed, so that we should have had some trouble to reduce it if well manned.
I desire to bring First Lieutenant Stoddard to the notice of the Department. He did good service in the field with the marines of the fleet brigade at Boyd's Neck and the Tulifinny, and now has the command of the largest force of marines that has been collected for some time. He has always acquitted himself with credit. I would respectfully suggest a brevet.
Captain Stanly necessarily lost the opportunity that promised, and which, from the energy and vigor which he displayed in the operations at Bull's Bay, he would have improved.
I enclose the reports of commanding officers and also a copy of the submission of the authorities of Georgetown.
This has exhibited every indication of a flourishing place, and though with less than 2,000 inhabitants, is the third town of the State.
The rice and cotton and lumber of a large scope of country is floated here by the rivers that flow together at its site, the Pedee, Black, Sampit, and Waccamaw, with their tributaries.
There was a rumor that General Sherman was not far distant, but no tidings have reached direct from himself or his army."
SECNAV writes RADM J K Thatcher, West Gulf Blockading Squadron, "The Department feels concerned at the very great expenses incurred in the repair of naval vessels and for other purposes connected with the Navy at New Orleans. Economy in every branch should be practiced, and there should be no expenditure that can be avoided. Please enquire thoroughly into the system now practiced and report whether, and if so, in what way, it can be improved, so that the expenditures can be reduced."
RADM Samuel P Lee, Mississippi Squadron, writes MGEN N J T Dana, USA, Department of Mississippi " Yours of the 26th instant, enclosing a copy of General Washburn's communication to you of the 22d instant, was received last night.
I thank you for the information, and have issued orders to frustrate any attempt the enemy may make on Vicksburg or on the Mississippi from the Yazoo.
I shall always be obliged to you for any information you can furnish me in regard to the enemy's movements or designs."