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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
A group of Monitors in Trent's Reach on the James River
Thu Aug 07 1862

SECNAV writes to CAPT A A Harwood, Washington Navy Yard, to release the schooner Mail per the Treasury Department.

RADM Samuel Du Pont, South Atlantic Blockading Squadron writes to SECNAV of the capture of the schooner Aquilla by the USS Huron off Charleston as the ship was attempting to escape with 300-400 barrels of turpentine. In a separate letter he writes of the capture of the British steamer Lodona by the USS Unadilla. "The Lodona is a new steamer, built this year at Kingston-upon-Hull, and among her papers was a permit from the U. S. consul at Leeds to go to Port Royal, and Beaufort, N. C."

SECNAV writes to LT Budd, USS Magnolia sending him a dispatch "...giving information of the clearance from Queenstown of a propeller built by Laird at Birkenhead for the rebels, said to be destined for Nassau. It is not unlikely this is the gunboat of which the Department has been heretofore advised as in the course of construction." He is to give this information to RADM Du Pont at Port Royal.

RADM Du Pont orders Master Snell, USS FB Hale to assume SOPA St John's River, Fl. "Should there not be a medical officer on board the Uncas, you will detach Assistant Surgeon Moore from the Patroon and order him to the Hale or Uncas. Acting Master Dickinson, of the Patroon, a pilot for St. Johns River, is ordered to report for duty on board the Hale."He ends his instructions with "If any persons representing themselves as loyal citizens apply to you as the owners of any such contrabands, you will record the circumstance in the log book, together with the name of such applicant, making a report of the circumstance to me; but you will not deliver any up."

RADM Du Pont orders LT Clary, USS Dawn to assist BGEN Saxton, USA who is doing a reconnaissance of the Fernandina area.

RADM Du Pont writes to CDR Goldsborough saying that "Brigadier-General Saxton proceeds to St. Simon's with a large force of the First South Carolina Regiment Volunteers, to take charge of the contraband settlement on St. Simon's Island" He is to transfer command to him, but retain his gunships in support of "...this colony, which owes its origin and existence to the Navy."

CDR W D Porter, USS Essex, writes to RADM David G Farragut, West Gulf Blockading Squadron "A very large force under the rebel General Breckinridge {CSA} attacked Baton Rouge this morning at 2 a. m. Our right wing was driven with great loss and General Williams killed. This vessel and the Sumter shelled the rebels and held them in check. The ram is lying behind a point 5 miles above us. I am lying as far up as it is necessary for me to do so in order to protect the right wing and keep the Arkansas in check. A very large proportion of my crew are in the hospital, and I have been compelled to borrow six men, all I can get, from the Kineo. If General Butler does not send at least 5,000 troops as a reinforcement, it is my opinion the army will be defeated. If I had a gunboat to take my present position I could then attack the ram, and a tug is absolutely necessary if we expect to get this vessel up the river at all."

COL Cahill, USA writes "We are attacked by a very superior force, probably 15,000. They are determined to take the city at all hazards. General Williams is killed and a number of field officers badly wounded. If it is possible to send us reinforcements let it be done with all dispatch. The navy is threatened by the ram Arkansas, which will divert them from our service; therefore, if more gunboats can be sent, they will be of great use.

RADM David G Farragut, West Gulf Blockading Squadron writes to SECNAV "It is one of the happiest moments of my life that I am enabled to inform the Department of the destruction of the ram {CSS} Arkansas, not because I held the ironclad in such terror, but because the community did." During MGEN Breckinridge's, CSA, attack on baton Rouge the Arkansas, kept herself about 5 miles up river. BGen William, USA was killed by a Minie' ball through his heart."As soon as the enemy was repulsed, Commander Porter, with the gunboats, went upstream after the ram Arkansas, which was lying about 5 miles above, apparently afraid to take her share in the conflict, according to the preconcerted plan; as he came within gunshot he opened on her, and probably soon disabled some of her machinery or steering apparatus for she became unmanageable, continuing, however, to fire her guns at the Essex. Commander Porter says he took advantage of her presenting a weak point toward him, and loaded with incendiary shells. After his first discharge of this projectile a gush of fire came out of her side, and from that moment it was discovered that she was on fire, which he continued his exertions to prevent from being extinguished. They backed her ashore and made a line fast, which soon burned, and she swung off into the river, where she continued to burn until she blew up with a tremendous explosion, thus ending the career of the last ironclad ram of The Mississippi. There were many persons on the banks of the river witnessing the fight in which they anticipated a triumph for Secessia, but on the return of the Essex not a soul was to be seen. I will leave a sufficient force of gunboats here to support the army, and will return to-morrow to New Orleans and depart immediately for Ship Island with a light heart, that I have left no bugbear to torment the communities of the Mississippi in my absence."

MGEN Van Dorn, CSA, writes to SECWAR, CSA "{CSS} Arkansas ordered to cooperate with General Breckinridge. Broke machinery 5 miles above Baton Rouge. On way down was attacked by the enemy. In this condition fought well, inflicting great damage to gunboats, and was then blown up by crew, all of whom escaped so reported. Breckinridge drove the enemy from town to cover of boats. Burned camp and large amount of stores. Captured some prisoners and several colors. Was reduced one-half by sickness since left Vicksburg. General [Charles] Clark mortally wounded. General Thomas Williams, commanding enemy's troops, and several other prominent officers, killed. Sending reinforcements to break up garrison entirely. Breckinridge in camp 10 miles from Baton Rouge."

CDR I N Brown, CSN (who was sick and absent during the battle) writes in the Richmond Dispatch, of the CSS Arkansas "They succeeded in getting nearly opposite Port Hudson where they were, my informant thinks, overtaken by the enemy's horse, the gunboats also pursuing. It is believed that Lieutenant H. K. Stevens and most of his men and some few officers must have been made prisoners. Eight men and three lieutenants got over with the pilot at Port Hudson. I fear that a strict pursuit will be made by the enemy on both sides of the river after my unfortunates. The engines totally gave way. The vessel did not run ashore in a fog, but would have accomplished the required work but for defects in the machinery, which no one on board could remedy or guard against. Of these defects I was aware and ever in fear, though no one could think they would so soon have ruined everything"

LT Read, CSS Arkansas writes in the Jackson Mississippian "Lieutenant Read, of the ram Arkansas, gives the following particulars: The Arkansas left Vicksburg at 2 oclock Sunday morning, August 3, and steamed leisurely down the river, having ample time to reach Baton Rouge at the appointed hour. When she arrived within 15 miles of Baton Rouge, her starboard engine broke down. Repairs were immediately commenced, and at 8 oclock were partially completed, though she was not in condition to engage many of the Yankee vessels on account of the injury received. At 4 o'clock, almost to a minute, General Breckinridge opened the attack on Baton Rouge. A messenger was dispatched at 8 o'clock to ascertain the strength of the enemy's fleet, and the Arkansas proceeded to a point 5 miles above Baton Rouge, when she was cleared for action. We learned from the guerrillas on shore that there were only three gunboats. On rounding the point, the starboard engine again broke down, and the ship drifted ashore in sight of Baton Rouge, on the Arkansas side. Repairs were immediately commenced, and the ship got afloat at 5 o'clock the same evening. The engineer reported that the engines were unreliable. It was determined to make another trial trip up the river to ascertain the strength of the engines proceeded some 500 yards up the river when her engines again broke more seriously than ever. The crew was engaged all night in repairs. Next morning at 8 o'clock the lookouts reported the Federal fleet coming up. The ship was moored head downstream, and cleared for action, and in this condition was determined to fight to the last. At 9 o'clock the Essex came round the point and opened fire. At this moment the engineers reported the engines ready, and that they would last half a day. The lines were cut, and the Arkansas started for the Essex with the intention of running her down. Proceeded about 300 yards in the direction of the Essex, and the larboard engine suddenly stopped. She then made for the bank, her stern down, the Essex pouring a hot fire into her. In this condition we opened fire with the stern. The Essex continued to advance, and when within 400 yards the crew of the Arkansas were ordered ashore, and the vessel fired. After all hands were ashore the Essex fired upon the disabled vessel most furiously. In an hour after her abandonment the fire communicated to her magazine, and all that remained of the noble Arkansas was blown up. Lieutenant Stevens was in command of the Arkansas, and displayed remarkable coolness under the most perilous and distressing misfortunes. Our informant, Lieutenant Read, states that but for the misfortune to her engines the expedition would have been a most brilliant success, and the Yankees would have been driven from New Orleans in a few days. Let me say one word of comfort for the guerrillas on this side: My poor men (unarmed and seeking food and protection) approached a camp of Confederate guerrillas, near where they landed, and stampeded them at half a mile distance, and never could get in hail. Pray have all such running heroes added to the conscript roll on both sides."

LT Preble, USS Oneida, writes to MGEN Butler, "I have reason to suppose the collision of the steamer Lewis Whiteman with this vessel at 1 a. m., on the morning of the 7th instant, was through design and not accidental." The Oneida was 50-100 feet from the bank going up river and blew her whistle when the Whiteman was still 1/2 mile distance, the moon being bright. The engineer reported to him that they had 120 pounds of steam and no bells rung to slow down. An hour earlier, the USS Sciota had narrowly escaped a collision with the Whiteman as well. The passengers and crew wanted the captain of the Whiteman arrested. "The captain has, I understand, four sons in the rebel Army, and has declared he would go into that service himself if a young man." He wants an investigation in the cause of the collision.

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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