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Civil War Naval History November 1863 - History

Civil War Naval History November 1863 - History

2 -3 The report of Lieutenant Commander Greenleaf Cilley, U.S.S. Catskill, indicated extensive Confederate preparations to meet any Union attempt to breach the obstructions between Forts Sumter and Moultrie as the furious Northern bombardment of Fort Sumter continued. Two boats under sail were seen moving from Sumter toward Sullivan's Island," Cilley wrote. "About 11 p.m. a balloon with two lights attached rose from Sumter and floated toward Fort Johnson. At midnight a steamer left Sumter and moved toward Fort Johnson. At sunrise . observed the three rams [C.S.S. Charleston, Chicora, and Palmetto State] and the side-wheel steamer anchored in line of battle ahead from Johnson toward Charleston, and each with its torpedo topped up forward of the bows."

3-4 Naval forces under Commander Strong, including U.S.S. Monongahela, Owasco, and Virginia, convoyed and supported troops commanded by General Banks at Brazos Santiago, Texas. The landing began on the 2nd and continued the next day without opposition. On the 4th Brownsville, Texas, was evacuated, and the Union foothold on the Mexican border was secured. Major General Dana wrote Commander Strong thanking him for the "many services you have rendered this expedition, particularly for the gallant service rendered by Captain Henry and the crew of the Owasco in saving the steam transport Zephyr from wreck during the late storm [encountered enroute on 30 October] and towing her to the rendezvous, and to you and your crew for assisting the steam transport Bagley in distress; also especially for the signal gallantry of your brave tars in landing our soldiers through the dangerous surf yesterday at the mouth of the Rio Grande" The naval force also quickly effected the capture of several blockade runners in the vicinity.

3 Rear Admiral Dahlgren closely examined Fort Sumter from his flagship during the evening and "could plainly observe the further effects of the firing; still," he added, "this mass of ruin is capable of harboring a number of the enemy, who may retain their hold until expelled by the bayonet. "

U.S.S. Kenwood, Acting Master Swaney, captured steamer Black Flank off Port Hudson, Louisiana, with cargo of cotton.

4 U.S.S. Virginia, Acting Lieutenant C. H. Brown, seized blockade running British schooner Matamoras at the mouth of the Rio Grande River with cargo including shoes, axes, and spades for the Confederate Army.

5 Ships of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron continued to cannonade Fort Sumter in concert with Army batteries ashore on Morris Island. Rear Admiral Dahlgren described the results of the combined bombardment: "The only original feature left is the northeast face, the rest is a pile of rubbish."

U.S.S. Virginia, Acting Lieutenant C.H. Brown, seized blockade running British bark Science, and, in company with U.S.S. Owasco, Lieutenant Commander Henry, captured blockade running British brigs Volante and Dashing Wave at the mouth of the Rio Grande River.

Rear Admiral Porter wrote Major General Banks in response to the General's long expressed request for gunboats near and below New Orleans. The Admiral advised him that a dozen gun-boats were being fitted out, and added "This will give you 22 gunboats in your department, with those now there, and I may be able to do more after we drive the rebels back from the Tennessee River." Banks wrote in mid-December that this assistance would "render it impossible for the enemy to annoy us, as they have heretofore done, by using against us the wonderful network of navigable waters west of the Mississippi River."

Blockade runner Margaret and Jessie was captured at sea east of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, after a prolonged chase by Army transport Fulton and U.S.S. Nansemond, Lieutenant R. Lamson. The chase had been started the preceding evening by U.S.S. Howquah, Acting Lieutenant Mac-Diarmid, which kept the steamer in sight throughout the night. U.S.S. Keystone State, Com-mander Edward Donaldson, joined the chase in the morning and was at hand when the capture was effected, putting an end to the career of a ship that had run the blockade some 15 times.

U.S.S. Beauregard, Acting Master Burgess, seized blockade running British schooner Volante off Cape Canaveral, Florida, with cargo including salt and dry goods.

6 Faced with the problem of passing through the maze of complicated Confederate obstructions near Fort Sumter if the capture of Charleston was to be effected from the sea, the North experi-mented with another innovation by John Ericsson, celebrated builder of U.S.S. Monitor. This date, U.S.S. Patapsco, Commander Stevens, tested Ericsson's anti-obstruction torpedo. The device, which was a cast-iron, shell some 23 feet long and 10 inches in diameter containing 600 pounds of powder, was suspended from a raft which was attached to the ironclad's bow and held in position by two long booms. The demonstration was favorable, for the shock of the explosion was "hardly perceptible" on board Patapsco and, though a "really fearful" column of water was thrown 40 or 50 feet into the air, little of the water fell on the ironclad's deck. Even in the calm water in which the test was conducted, however, the raft seriously interfered with the ship's maneuverability. Rear Admiral Dahlgren noted significantly that "perfectly smooth water" was "a miracle here. ." Stevens expressed the view that the torpedo was useful only against fixed objects but that for operations against ironclads "the arrangement and attachment are too complicated" and that "something in the way of a torpedo which can be managed with facility" was needed.

C.S.S. Alabama, Captain Semmes, captured and destroyed bark Amanda in the East Indies with cargo of hemp and sugar.

7 Merchant steamer Allen Collier, with cargo of cotton, was burned by Confederate guerrillas at Whitworth's Landing, Mississippi, after she left the protection of U.S.S. Eastport, Acting Ensign Sylvester Pool. The uneasy quiet on the river required constant gunboat cover.

Cutter from U.SS. Sagamore, Lieutenant Commander Charles E. Fleming, captured blockade running British schooner Paul off Bayport, Florida.

8 U.S.S. James Adger, Commander Thomas H. Patterson, and U.S.S. Niphon, Acting Master Breck, captured steamer Cornubia north of New Inlet, North Carolina.

9 U.S.S. James Adger, Commander Patterson, captured blockade runner Robert E. Lee off Cape Lookout Shoals, North Carolina. The steamer had left Bermuda 2 days before with cargo including shoes, blankets, rifles, saltpeter, and lead. She had been one of the most famous and successful blockade runners. Her former captain, Lieutenant John Wilkinson, CSN, later wrote: "She had run the blockade twenty-one times while under my command, and had carried abroad between six thou-sand and seven thousand bales of cotton, worth at that time about two millions of dollars in gold, and had carried into the Confederacy equally valuable cargoes."

Intelligence data on the Confederate naval capability in Georgia waters reached Union Army and Navy commanders. C.S.S. Savannah, Commander Robert F. Pinkney, had two 7-inch and two 6-inch Brooke rifled guns and a torpedo mounted on her bow as armament. She carried two other torpedoes in her hold. Her sides were plated with 4 inches of rolled iron and her speed was about seven knots "in smooth water." C.S.S. Isondiga, a wooden steamer, was reported to have old boilers and "unreliable" machinery . The frames for two more rams were said to be on the stocks at Savannah, but no iron could be obtained to complete them. Resolute, thought by the Union commanders to be awaiting an opportunity to run the blockade, had been converted to a tender, and all the cotton at Savannah was being transferred to Wilmington for shipment through the blockade. Georgia, a floating battery commanded by Lieutenant Washington Gwathmey, CSN, was at anchor near Fort Jackson and was reported to be "a failure." Such information as this enabled Union commanders to revise their thinking and adjust their tactics to the new conditions in order to maintain the blockade and move against the coast with increasing effectiveness.

Rear Admiral Porter wrote Secretary Welles suggesting that the Coast Survey make careful maps of the area adjacent to the Mississippi River "where navigation is made up of innumerable lakes and bayous not known to any but the most experienced pilots." The existence of these water-ways, he added, "would certainly never be known by examining modern charts." A fortnight later, the Secretary recommended to the Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase that surveys similar to those completed by the Coast Survey for Rear Admiral S.P. Lee along the North Carolina coast be made in accordance with Porter's request. Welles noted that the operations of the Mississippi Squadron and the transport fleet would be "greatly facilitated" and volunteered naval assistance for such an effort.

Admiral Buchanan ordered Acting Midshipman Edward A. Swain to report to Fort Morgan to take "command of the C.S.S. Gunnison and proceed off the harbor of Mobile and destroy, if possible, the U.S.S. Colorado or any other vessel of the blockading squadron. " Gunnison was a torpedo boat.

U.S.S. Niphon, Acting Master Breck, captured blockade runner Ella and Annie off Masonboro lnlet, North Carolina, with cargo of arms and provisions. In an effort to escape, Ella and Annie rammed Niphon, but, when the two ships swung broadside, the runner was taken by boarding.

10 As an intensive two-week Union bombardment of Fort Sumter drew to a close, General Beauregard noted: "Bombardment of Sumter continues gradually to decrease. Total number of shots [received] since 26th, when attack recommenced, is 9,306."

Major General James B. McPherson reported to Lieutenant Commander E. K. Owen, U.S.S. Louisville, that he anticipated an attack by Confederate troops near Goodrich's Landing, Louisiana. "I have to request," the General wrote, "that you will send one or two gunboats to Goodrich's Landing to assist General [John P.] Hawkins if necessary." For more than two months McPherson relied on naval support in the face of Southern movements in the area.

U.S.S. Howquah, Acting Lieutenant MacDiarmid, captured blockade running steamer Ella off Wilmington.

C.S.S. Alabama, Captain Semmes, captured and burned clipper ship Winged Racer in the Straits of Sunda off Java, with cargo of sugar, hides, and jute. "She had, besides," wrote Semmes, "a large supply of Manila tobacco, and my sailors' pipes were beginning to want replenishing."

11 C.S.S. Alabama, Captain Semmes, captured and destroyed clipper ship Contest after a long chase off Gaspar Strait with cargo of Japanese goods for New York.

14 U.S.S. Bermuda, Acting Lieutenant J.W. Smith, recaptured schooner Mary Campbell after she had been seized earlier the same day by Confederates under command of Master Duke, CSN, whose daring exploits five months before (see 8 June 1863) had resulted in the capture of a Union ship near New Orleans. Bermuda also took an unnamed lugger which the Confederates had used to capture Mary Campbell. The captures took place off Pensacola after the ships had come out of the Perdido River under Duke's command. Lieutenant Smith reported that . the notorious James Duke . also captured the Norman, with which vessel he, with 10 of his crew, had made for the land upon my heaving in sight, and I have reason to believe that he beached and burned her. ."

The relentless pressure exerted on the Confederacy by the Union Navy was becoming increasingly apparent. Paymaster John deBree, CSN, reported to Secretary Mallory: "Restricted as our resources are by the blockade and by the reduced number of producers in the country, it has . .been the main object to feed and clothe the Navy without a strict regard to those technicalities that obtain in times of peace and plenty." DeBree noted that the Confederate Navy had to purchase its cloth largely from blockade runners and "necessarily had to pay high prices. Still, the closing of the Mississippi River losing us the benefit of a full supply of shoes, blankets and cloth, . rendered the necessity so urgent that we were obliged to adopt this method of clothing our half naked and fast increasing Navy. ." The paymaster reported that the lack of shoes was "our great difficulty" and that shoes were being made out of canvas rather than leather. "For leather shoe we will have to await the arrival of shipments from abroad, and in this, more than any other particular, we feel the inconvenience caused by the loss of our goods. by the closing of the Mississippi River." The Confederacy's ability to continue the war was be-coming ever more dependent on supplies run through the blockade, and the blockade was tightening.

General Beauregard commented on the limitations of the Confederate ships at Charleston: "Our gunboats are defective in six respects: First. They have no speed, going only from 3 to 5 miles an hour in smooth water and no current. Second. They are of too great draft to navigate our in-land waters. Third. They are unseaworthy by their shape and construction. Even in the harbor they are at times considered unsafe in a storm. Fourth. They are incapable of resisting the enemy's XV-inch shots at close quarters. Fifth. They can not fight at long range. Sixth. They are very costly, warm, uncomfortable, and badly ventilated; consequently sickly." Nonetheless, the General was forced to rely heavily on them in his plans for the defense of Charles-ton from sea attack. Lacking the industrial capacity, funds and material to construct in strength the desperately needed ships of war, the Confederacy nevertheless accomplished much with in-adequate ships.

U.S.S. Dai Ching, Lieutenant Commander James C. Chaplin, captured schooner George Chisholm off the Santee River, South Carolina, with cargo of salt.

15 U.S.S. Lodona, Acting Lieutenant Brodhead, seized blockade running British schooner Arctic southwest of Frying Pan Shoals, North Carolina, with cargo of salt.

15-16 Fort Moultrie opened a heavy, evening bombardment on Union Army positions at Cumming's Point, Morris Island. Brigadier General Gillmore immediately turned to Rear Admiral Dahlgren for assistance. "Will you have some of your vessels move up, so as to prevent an attack by boats on the sea face of the point," he wired late at night. The Admiral answered "at once" and ordered the tugs on patrol duty to keep "a good lookout." U.S.S. Lehigh, Commander Andrew Bryson, grounded while covering Cumming's Point and was taken under heavy fire the next morning before U.S.S. Nahant, Lieutenant Commander John J. Cornwell, got her off. Landsmen Frank S. Gile and William Williams, gunner's mate George W. Leland, coxswain Thomas Irving, and seaman Horatio N. Young from Lehigh were subsequently awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism while carrying a line from their ship to Nahant, thus enabling Lehigh to work free from her desperate position.

16 The effect of the Union's western successes was severely felt by the Confederate effort in the cast. Commander John K. Mitchell wrote Secretary Mallory that there was a critical shortage of fuels for manufacturing purposes and naval use. "The occupation of Chattanooga by the enemy in August has effectually cut off the supply from the mines in that region, upon which the public works in Georgia and South Carolina and the naval vessels in the waters of those States were dependent. Meager supplies have been sent to Charleston from this place [Richmond] and from the Egypt mines in North Carolina. ." He reported that there was a sufficient amount of coal in the Richmond area to supply the Confederate ships operating in Virginia waters and rivers, and he felt that wood was being successfully substituted for coal at Charleston and Savannah. Mitchell paid tribute to the thoroughness of the Union blockade when he wrote of the economic plight of the Confederate States: "The prices of almost all articles of prime necessity have advanced from five to ten times above those ruling at the breaking out of the war, and, for many articles, a much greater advance has been reached, so that now the pay of the higher grades of officers, even those with small families, is insufficient for the pay of their board only; how much greater, then, must be the difficulty of living in the case of the lower grades of officers, and, the families of enlisted persons. This difficulty, when the private sources of credit and the limited means of most of the officers become exhausted, must soon, unless relief be extended to them by the Govern-ment, reach the point of destitution, or of charitable dependence, a point, in fact, already reached in many instances."

16-17 U.S.S. Monongahela, Commander Strong, escorted Army transports and covered the landing of more than a thousand troops on Mustang Island, Aransas Pass, Texas. Monongahela's sailors manned a battery of two howitzers ashore, and the ship shelled Confederate works until the out-numbered defenders surrendered. General Banks wrote in high praise of the "great assistance" rendered by Monongahela during this successful operation.

17 U.S.S. Mystic, Acting Master William Wright, assigned to the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, seized schooner Emma D. off Yorktown, Virginia. The same day, Assistant Secretary Fox wrote Rear Admiral S.P. Lee praising the effectiveness of the squadron: "I congratulate you upon the captures off Wilmington. Nine steamers have been lost to the rebels in a short time, all due to the 'fine spirit' of our people engaged in the blockade. It is a severe duty and well maintained and Jeff Davis pays us a higher compliment than our own people when he declares that there is but one port in 3500 miles (recollect that the whole Atlantic front of Europe is but 2900 miles) through which they can get in supplies."

18 Merchant schooner Joseph L. Garrity, 2 days out of Matamoras bound for New York, was seized by five Southern sympathizers under Thomas E. Hogg, later a Master in the Confederate Navy. They had boarded the ship as passengers. Hogg landed Joseph L. Garrity's crew "without injury to life or limb" on the coast of Yucatan on 26 November, and sailed her to British Honduras where he entered her as blockade runner Eureka and sold her cargo of cotton. Three of the crew were eventually captured in Liverpool, England, and charged with piracy, but on 1 June 1864, Confederate Commissioner James Mason informed Secretary of State Benjamin that they had been acquitted of the charge. In the meantime, Garrity was turned over to the custody of the U.S. commercial agent at Belize, British Honduras, and ultimately returned to her owners.

Acting Master C. W. Lamson, U.S.S. Granite City, reported the capture of schooner Amelia Ann and Spanish bark Teresita, with cargo of cotton, both attempting to run the blockade at Aransas Pass, Texas.

Captain Thomas A. Faries, CSA, commanding a battery near Hog Point, Louisiana, mounted to interdict the movement of the Union shipping on the Mississippi River, reported an engagement with U.S.S. Choctaw, Franklin, and Carondelet. "The Choctaw, left her position above, and, passing down, delivered a very heavy fire from her bow, side, and stern guns, enfilading for a short time the four rifle guns in the redoubt."

20 Rear Admiral Farragut, eager to return to sea duty in the Gulf, informed Secretary Welles from New York that U.S.S. Hartford and Brooklyn "will not be ready for sea in less than three weeks, from the best information I can obtain. I particularly regret it, because I see that General Banks is in the field and my services may be required." The Admiral noted that he had received a letter from Commodore Bell, commanding in his absence, which indicated that there were not enough ships to serve on the Texas coast and maintain the blockade elsewhere as well. Farragut noted that some turreted ironclads were building at St. Louis and suggested: "They draw about 6 feet of water and will be the very vessels to operate in the shallow waters of Texas, if the Department would order them down there." Three days later, the Secretary asked Rear Admiral Potter to "consider the subject and inform the Department as early as practicable to what extent Farragut's wishes can be complied with." Porter replied on the 27th that he could supply Farragut with eight light drafts "in the course of a month" and that "six weeks from today I could have ten vessels sent to Admiral Farragut, if I can get the officers and men. ."

21 U.S.S. Grand Gulf, Commander George M. Ransom, and Army transport Fulton seized blockade running British steamer Banshee south of Salter Path, North Carolina.

22 U.S.S. Aroostook, Lieutenant Chester Hatfield, captured schooner Eureka off Galveston. She had been bound to Havana with cargo of cotton.

U.S.S. Jacob Bell, Acting Master Schulze, transported and supported a troop landing at St. George's Island, Maryland, where some 30 Confederates, some of whom were blockade runners, were captured.

23 The threat of Confederate torpedoes in the rivers and coastal areas became an increasing menace as the war progressed. The necessity of taking proper precautions against this innovation in naval warfare slowed Northern operations and tied up ships on picket duty that might otherwise have been utilized more positively. This date, Secretary Welles wrote Captain Gansevoort, U.S.S. Roanoke, at Newport News: "Since the discovery of the torpedo on James River, near Newport News, the Department has felt some uneasiness with regard to the position of your vessel, as it is evidently the design of the rebels to drift such machines of destruction upon her. Vigilance is demanded." Upon receipt of this instruction, Gansevoort replied 2 days later: "The Roanoke lies in the deepest water here, and until very lately, when the necessary force has been temporarily reduced by casualties to machinery, a picket boat has been kept underway during all night just above this anchorage to prevent such missiles from approaching the ship. This pre-caution has been renewed now that the Poppy has been added to this disposable force, and in addition I have caused . a gunboat to be anchored above us to keep a sharp lookout for torpedoes."

24 Rear Admiral Lee wrote Secretary Welles regarding a conversation with General Benjamin F. Butler while reconnoitering the Sounds of North Carolina: "I gave him my views respecting the best method of attacking Wilmington, viz, either to march from New Berne and seize the best and nearest fortified inlet on the north of Fort Fisher, thence to cross and blockade the Cape Fear River, or to land below Fort Caswell (the key to the position) and blockade the river from the right bank between Smithville and Brunswick." Four days later, Commander W. A. Parker supported the Admiral's views after making his own observations. Recommending a joint Army-Navy assault to capture Fort Fisher, he wrote: "I am of the opinion that 25,000 men and two or three ironclads should be sent to capture this place, if so large a force can be conveniently furnished for this purpose. The ironclads . should be employed to divert the attention of the garrison at Fort Fisher during the landing of our troops at Masonboro Inlet, and to prevent the force there from being used to oppose the debarkation. Fort Fisher would probably fall after a short resistance, as I have been informed that the heavy guns all point to seaward, and there is but slight provision made to resist an attack from the interior." Union efforts in the east were concentrated on the capture of Charleston at this time, however, and a thrust at Wilmington was postponed. The city continued as a prime haven for blockade runners until early 1865.

Under cover of U.S.S. Pawnee, Commander Balch, and U.S.S. Marblehead, Lieutenant Commander Richard W. Meade, Jr., Army troops commenced sinking piles as obstructions in the Stono River above Legareville, South Carolina. The troops, protected by Marblehead, had landed the day before. The naval force remained on station at the request of Brigadier General Schimmelfennig to preclude a possible Confederate attack.

25 The valiant but overpowered Confederate Navy faced many problems in the struggle for survival. One of them was the inability to obtain enough ordnance. Commander Brooke reported to Secretary Mallory this date that ordnance workshops had been established at Charlotte, Richmond, Atlanta, and Selma, Alabama. While great efforts were made to meet Southern needs, Brooke wrote: "The deficiency of heavy ordnance has been severely felt during this war. The timely addition of a sufficient number of heavy guns would render our ports invulnerable to the attacks of the enemy's fleets, whether ironclads or not.

U.S.S. Fort Hindman, Acting Lieutenant John Pearce, captured steamer Volunteer off Natchez Island, Mississippi.

26 U.S.S. James Adger, Commander Patterson, seized British blockade runner Ella off Masonboro Inlet, North Carolina, with cargo of salt.

U.S.S. Antona, Acting Master Zerega, captured schooner Mary Ann southeast of Corpus Christi with cargo of cotton.

27 U.S.S. Two Sisters, Acting Master Charles H. Rockwell, seized blockade running schooner Maria Alberta near Bayport, Florida.

28 U.S.S. Chippewa, Lieutenant Commander Thomas C. Harris, convoyed Army transport Monohassett and Mayflower up Skull Creek, South Carolina, on a reconnaissance mission. Though Confederate troops had established defensive positions from which to resist attacks, Chippewa's effective fire prevented them from halting the movement. "The object of the expedition was fully accom-plished," Harris reported, "and the reconnaissance was complete."

29 U.S.S. Kanawha, Lieutenant Commander Mayo, captured schooner Albert (or Wenona) attempting to run the blockade out of Mobile, with cargo of cotton, rosin, turpentine, and tobacco.

At the request of Major General Banks, a gun crew from U.S.S. Monongahela, Commander Strong, went ashore to man howitzers in support of an Army attack on Pass Cavallo, Texas.

30 Secretary Mallory emphasized the necessity for the proper training of naval officers in his annual report on the Confederate States Navy. It was, he wrote, "a subject of the greatest importance." He observed: "The naval powers of the earth are bestowing peculiar care upon the education of their officers, now more than ever demanded by the changes in all the elements of naval warfare. Appointed from civil life and possessing generally but little knowledge of the duties of an officer and rarely even the vocabulary of their profession they have heretofore been sent to vessels or batteries where it is impossible for them to obtain a knowledge of its most important branches, which can be best, if not only, acquired by methodical study." Mallory noted that there were 693 officers and 2,250 enlisted men in the Confederate Navy. He reported that while Union victories at Little Rock and on the Yazoo River had terminated the Department's attempts to construct ships in that area, construction was "making good progress at Richmond, Wilming-ton, Charleston, Savannah, Mobile, on the Roanoke, Peedee, Chattahoochee, and Alabama Rivers . ." Two major problems Mallory enumerated troubled the Confederacy throughout the conflict the lack of skilled labor to build ships and the inability to obtain adequate iron to protect them. In the industrial North, neither was a difficulty– a factor which helped decide the course of the war.

Confederate naval officers and men played vital roles in Southern shore defenses throughout the war. This date, Secretary Mallory praised the naval command at Drewey's Bluff which guarded the James River approach to Richmond. The battery, he reported, "composed of seamen and marines, is in a high state of efficiency and the river obstructions are believed to be sufficient, in connection with the shore and submarine batteries, to prevent the passage of the enemy's ships. An active force is employed on submarine batteries and torpedoes."


Harvest Moon, a side-wheel steamer, was built in 1863 at Portland, Maine, and was purchased by Commodore Montgomery from Charles Spear at Boston, Massachusetts, 16 November 1863. She was fitted out for blockade duty at Boston Navy Yard and commissioned 12 February 1864, Acting Lieutenant J. D. Warren in command.

Operating with the South Atlantic Blockade Edit

Assigned to the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, Harvest Moon departed Boston 18 February and arrived off Charleston, South Carolina, 25 February 1864. Next day Rear Admiral John A. Dahlgren made the steamer his flagship. After putting into Washington Navy Yard for repairs. Harvest Moon began her regular blockading duties 7 June 1864 off Charleston.

For the next nine months the steamer served off Tybee Island, Georgia, the North Edisto River, and Charleston harbor. During this period she also acted as a picket and dispatch vessel as well as Admiral Dahlgren's flagship.

Sinking Edit

While proceeding in company with tug USS Clover shortly after 0800 on 1 March 1865 Harvest Moon struck a torpedo (mine) in Winyah Bay, South Carolina. Admiral Dahlgren, awaiting breakfast in his cabin, saw the bulkhead shatter and explode toward him.

The explosion blew a large hole in the ship's hull aft and she sank in 2½ fathoms of water. One man was killed. The admiral and the crew were taken on board USS Nipsic. Harvest Moon was stripped of her valuable machinery and abandoned 21 April 1865.

In 1963, nearly 100 years later, a project was initiated to raise Harvest Moon from the mud at the bottom of Winyah Bay and to restore the ship, but has made little headway.

This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.


Fort McAllister was a small earthen fort located along Genesis Point and armed with several heavy cannon to defend the Great Ogeechee River approach south of Savannah, Georgia. It was expanded repeatedly by adding more guns, traverses and bombproofs. Obstructions and eventually torpedoes (mines) completed the riverine defenses.

In July 1862 the blockade runner Nashville ran up the river to escape blockaders, and would remain trapped. Learning that the Nashville was lying near the fort, Adm. Du Pont ordered Commander Charles Steedman to make a "reconnaissance in force" and to destroy the fort if possible. At this time the garrison was commanded by Capt. Alfred L. Hartridge of Co. A., 1st Georgia Volunteer Infantry, the "DeKalb Riflemen." [3] The main battery consisted of five 32-pounder and one 42-pounder smoothbore. [4] On July 29, Steedman led the wooden gunboats USS Paul Jones, Unadilla, Huron and Madgie against the work in a 90-minute long-range exchange. Steedman found that approaching the fort would cause unacceptable losses and withdrew. [5]

An 8" Columbiad was added to the fort in August and the garrison was replaced with the Emmett Rifles and the Republican Blues. [6] Under Cdr. John L. Davis the Federal gunboats USS Wissahickon and Dawn and a mortar schooner engaged the fort for several hours on November 19. The fort did not reply to the initial long-range bombardment and waited until the warships ascended the river to the guns' effective range. When the lead vessels reached 3,000 yards the garrison opened fire and immediately scored a hit, holing the Wissahickon below the waterline. The Federals withdrew. [7] [8] Damage to the fort was minor and readily repaired and only three men were slightly wounded in the fortifications. [9]

Adm. Du Pont dispatched an ironclad in an attempt to capture the fort, sink the Nashville and burn the Atlantic and Gulf railway bridge farther up the river. [10] This would provide the first test of the new Passaic class of ironclad monitor armed with the massive new 15" Dahlgren cannon, at the time the heaviest cannon mounted on a warship. [11] The single turret of the new class contained one 11" Dahlgren in addition to the 15". On January 27, 1863 the monitor USS Montauk, three gunboats, and a mortar schooner again engaged the fort. Commander John L. Worden of the Montauk shelled the fort for five hours at a range of 1,500-1,800 yards, penetrating and tearing up the parapets, but causing no lasting damage or casualties. Likewise, thirteen hits scored by the fort's artillery did little beside denting the monitor's plate and sink a small launch. The defenders simply repaired the damaged earthworks during the night. [12]

On February 1, Worden tried again to silence the fort. The prior night Federal scouts had removed several mines from the channel so that the vessels could more closely approach. [13] The Montauk spent another five hours bombarding at only 600 yards distance. The garrison commander, Maj. John B. Gallie, was killed and seven were wounded. Major George Wayne Anderson was placed in Command of the fort following the death of Major Gallie. [14] The monitor was struck by 48 rounds and the turret jammed for a time. [15] Following this engagement, the river defenses would be augmented with the placement of nine "Rains torpedoes" in the channel near where the Montauk had engaged the fort. [16]

Unable to run the Federal blockade, the Nashville had been sold and converted into an armed commerce raider under Capt. Thomas H. Baker. It was renamed the Rattlesnake and on February 27 Baker attempted to make the open sea during rainy weather, but was deterred by a blockader. Returning, the raider ran aground on a bend upriver from the fort but still visible to the blockaders. The next morning Worden anchored the Montauk about 1,200 yards from the fort, and about equidistant to the Rattlesnake stuck in the river bend. The monitor began firing on the stranded ship and the fort fired on the ironclad in an attempt to distract the Union vessel. After only a few minutes the Montauk sent its fifth shot into the raider's hull. This and subsequent shells produced a fire and eventually explosions which destroyed the ship. The Montauk had fired fourteen rounds in all. [17]

As the Montauk withdrew down the river, it struck a torpedo (mine). Quick action by the commander and pilot steered the vessel onto a mud bank as the tide receded, sealing the leak until repairs could be effected. Following temporary patching, the rising tide refloated the boat. Eventually the Montauk was sent to Port Royal for permanent repairs. [18]

After the early engagements with the fort, Adm. Du Pont recognized that a single monitor turret lacked the rate of fire to force the capitulation of the earthen battery. He therefore ordered three ironclads—USS Patapsco, Passaic, and Nahant—to test their guns and mechanical appliances and practice artillery firing by attacking the fort. The Montauk was to be held in reserve as its 15" gun had already fired a large number of rounds and its durability was unknown at the time. Capt. Percival Drayton of the Passaic would command this expedition. [19]

Anticipating an attack, the malleable fort was again expanded, adding a 10" Columbiad. The fort then consisted of a "32-pounder rifle" (an old 32-pounder smoothbore rifled so that it would fire an approximately 64-pound rifled bolt or somewhat lighter shell), a 10" Columbiad, an 8" Columbiad, a 42-pounder smoothbore, three 32-pounder smoothbores (one being a "hot shot" gun), and 10" mortar in a connected work. [20] Additionally, several sharpshooters were placed in the marsh on the opposite side of the river near where the monitors were likely to station during an attack. [21]

On March 3, 1863, the three newer ironclads conducted an eight-hour bombardment. They were supported by five gunboats and three mortar schooners held out of range of the fort's guns. Several steamers containing the 47th New York Infantry awaited nearby to occupy the fort when subdued. [22]

The lead monitors anchored about 1,200 yards from the fort and commenced shelling as the fort attempted to target the gun ports when the turrets rotated to fire. The bombardment knocked out the 8" Columbiad, tore large holes in the face of the fort, and for a time disabled all but the 10" Columbiad, before several other guns could be returned to service. [23]

The Confederate sharpshooters hidden in the marsh fired on Capt. Drayton and Cmdr. Miller when they emerged on the deck of the Passaic. Neither was seriously injured, and they withdrew into the vessel. Grapeshot was fired into the marsh to discourage any further sharpshooting. [24]

While most of the damage experienced by the ironclads was the result of firing of their own cannon, the 10" Confederate mortar battery inflicted some potentially fatal damage to the Passaic. The mortar battery commander, Capt. Robert Martin, realized that explosive mortar shells would have little effect, so he filled each shell with sand instead of gunpowder, to increase its weight and density. This would result in it retaining more velocity and momentum when it struck the thinly armored deck. One of these struck and partially penetrated the ironclad, only being stopped from penetrating all the way through the vessel because it struck on a beam. [25]

As the tide was receding and nightfall was coming, the naval vessels withdrew. Capt. Drayton attempted to prevent repair of the earthworks overnight by maintaining 13" mortar fire on the fort overnight. This prevented slave labor from conducting the repair, but it did not prevent Confederate soldiers from working. The damage had been repaired by the next afternoon, and the loss of the fort's mascot, Tom Cat, reported to General Beauregard. [26]

The attack on the fort had failed and no further naval assaults against it were ordered. Valuable information about several deficiencies of the monitors had been revealed by the action, and efforts would be made to remedy them where possible. [27]

The first test of the 15-inch Dahlgren gun and single-turret monitors against the sand parapets of Fort McAllister had revealed several things:

  • The very slow rate of fire of the very large cannon in two-gun turrets resulted in little offensive power and allowed defenders time to fire against the open gun ports, then take cover. The defenders could fire several times as rapidly. Even several monitors firing at once did not create a sufficient volume of fire to suppress the battery.
  • The monitors were subject to jamming of their turret rings or other mechanical failures of the guns that could take their battery out of action. effects of broken bolts on impact posed a hazard to the crew even though the armor prevented penetration.
  • The thin monitor decks were vulnerable to plunging fire from heavy mortars.
  • Earthworks could be rapidly repaired overnight or the following day so that a garrison could return to full effectiveness.
  • Long-range mortar fire against a fort was so inaccurate as to be ineffective.
  • Suppressing fire against earthworks would be required overnight to limit the ability to repair damage.
  • Obstructions and mines prevented passage past forts, even though the monitors might be "invulnerable" to the fort's guns during the passage.
  • Sand forts held up well to shelling, while mud forts did not.
  • Properly constructed traverses and bombproofs prevented forts from easily being taken out of action on the flank. [28]

Du Pont attempted to address the shortcomings as best he could while preparing for the attack on Charleston. He ordered the strengthening of the decks with additional armor. He attempted to create a "submarine torpedo exploder" on the bow of his vessels to clear mines. He added as many ironclads to the assault as possible to increase the total volume of fire against the defenses.

Adm. Du Pont's warnings and concerns about the inability of monitors to reduce earthen forts would go unheeded as he prepared the assault on Charleston harbor. The assault was a failure and an ironclad (USS Keokuk) was lost in the attempt. Du Pont accepted responsibility for the failure at Charleston by resigning. [29]

Fort McAllister would not be subdued by naval bombardment, but would succumb to an infantry assault at the end of Sherman's March to the Sea in December 1864.


The Battle of the Falkland Islands

A month after German naval forces led by Admiral Maximilian von Spee inflicted the Royal Navy’s first defeat in a century by sinking two British cruisers with all hands off the southern coast of Chile, Spee’s squadron attempts to raid the Falkland Islands, located in the southern Atlantic Ocean, only to be thwarted by the British navy. Under the command of Admiral Doveton Sturdee, the British seamen sought vengeance on behalf of their defeated fellows.

Spee could have given the Falklands a wide berth, but he brought his fleet close to British squadrons anchored in Cape Pembroke in the Falkland Islands, confident he could outdistance the slow British Dreadnoughts, or big battleships, he saw in the port. Instead, the German light cruisers, damaged by the long voyage and heavy use, soon found themselves pursued by two swift battle cruisers, Inflexible and Invincible, designed by Britain’s famous First Sea Lord, Jackie Fisher, to combine speed and maneuverability with heavy hitting power.

Inflexible opened fire on the German ships from 16,500 yards, careful to stay outside the range of the German guns. Spee’s flagship, Scharnhorst was sunk first, with the admiral aboard his two sons, on the Gneisenau and NÜrnberg, also went down with their ships. All told, Germany lost four warships and more than 2,000 sailors in the Falkland Islands, compared with only 10 British deaths.

Historians have referred to the Battle of the Falkland Islands as the most decisive naval battle of World War I. It gave the Allies a huge, much-needed surge of confidence on the seas, especially important because other areas of the war—the Western Front, Gallipoli—were not proceeding as hoped. The battle also represents one of the last important instances of old-style naval warfare, between ships and sailors and their guns alone, without the aid or interference of airplanes, submarines, or underwater minefields.


President Lincoln delivers Gettysburg Address

On November 19, 1863, at the dedication of a military cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, during the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln delivers one of the most memorable speeches in American history. In fewer than 275 words, Lincoln brilliantly and movingly reminded a war-weary public why the Union had to fight, and win, the Civil War.

The Battle of Gettysburg, fought some four months earlier, was the single bloodiest battle of the Civil War. Over the course of three days, more than 45,000 men were killed, injured, captured or went missing. The battle also proved to be the turning point of the war: General Robert E. Lee’s defeat and retreat from Gettysburg marked the last Confederate invasion of Northern territory and the beginning of the Southern army’s ultimate decline.

Charged by Pennsylvania’s governor, Andrew Curtin, to care for the Gettysburg dead, an attorney named David Wills bought 17 acres of pasture to turn into a cemetery for the more than 7,500 who fell in battle. Wills invited Edward Everett, one of the most famous orators of the day, to deliver a speech at the cemetery’s dedication. Almost as an afterthought, Wills also sent a letter to Lincoln—just two weeks before the ceremony—requesting 𠇊 few appropriate remarks” to consecrate the grounds.

At the dedication, the crowd listened for two hours to Everett before Lincoln spoke. Lincoln’s address lasted just two or three minutes. The speech reflected his redefined belief that the Civil War was not just a fight to save the Union, but a struggle for freedom and equality for all, an idea Lincoln had not championed in the years leading up to the war. This was his stirring conclusion: “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom𠅊nd that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”


American Civil War November 1863

November 1863 is best remembered for what was to become the most famous speech made during the American Civil War – the Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincon. Again, as in October 1863, the weather dictated what senior commanders could do in the field.

November 2 nd : President Lincoln was invited to make a speech at the dedication of the new cemetery at Gettysburg. Jefferson Davis visited Charleston and publicly stated that he believed the city would not fall.

November 3 rd : Sherman continued his march to Chattanooga. Unwilling to rely on a single rail line from Decatur to Nashville for his supplies, he ordered that it was rebuilt as double tracked.

November 4 th : General Bragg, supported by Jefferson Davis, rid himself of General Longstreet and his 20,000 men who were sent to support Confederate troops at Knoxville.

November 7 th : General Meade, commander of the Army of the Potomac, attacked Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Several Confederate redoubts were captured at Kelly’s Ford on the Rappahannock River and 1,629 prisoners were taken. However, the North lost far more men killed – 83 to 6.

November 8 th : Meade continued his assault on Confederate positions but by now they are no more than skirmishes as opposed full-scale assaults.

November 9 th : Lincoln visited the theatre to see a play called “The Marble Heart” that starred John Wilkes Booth.

November 14 th : Sherman arrived at Bridgeport at the head of 17,000 men. His men had covered 675 miles in just fourteen days. At Bridgeport, Sherman was briefed by Grant as to the state of play at Chattanooga. Sherman was told not to expect any help from the Army of the Cumberland, as it would maintain its defensive position rather than an offensive one.

In the South, the Confederate Government ordered the use of force in its efforts to collect taxes. This included the confiscation of property and was primarily directed at farmers in North Carolina who were refusing to pay their taxes.

November 15 th : Sherman started his campaign against Chattanooga. Accepting Grant’s advice, Sherman viewed the role of the Army of the Cumberland to be solely defensive.

November 16 th : Longstreet finally reached Knoxville. However, lacking heavy artillery, Longstreet was unable to besiege the town, which was well defended by Union troops commanded by General Burnside.

November 18 th : Lincoln left Washington DC en route to Gettysburg.

November 19 th : The dedication of the cemetery at Gettysburg took place. 15,000 people assembled there. The dedication started with a two-hour speech by Edward Everett as to the course of the battle. Lincoln spoke after Everett and for only ten minutes and received polite applause. Some in the gathering were unaware that he had even spoken. ‘The Times’ in London considered Everett’s speech to have been very good while the President’s was a disappointment. His speech was carefully prepared and not, as was once thought, put together on the train journey from Washington to Gettysburg. Lincoln himself said “the world will little note, nor long remember what we say here.”

November 20 th : Sherman’s advance on Chattanooga was delayed by heavy rain.

November 21 st : With better weather, Sherman prepared for his attack on Chattanooga.

November 23 rd : Unionist troops took Orchard Knob just outside of Chattanooga. The capture of this position gave them a height advantage over Confederate positions around Chattanooga. Such was the strategic advantage of Orchard Knob, Grant made it his headquarters.

November 25 th : Sherman started his main assault against Confederate positions around Chattanooga, especially the men based on Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge. By 15.00 the positions held by the Army of Tennessee had fallen. Seven Congressional Medals of Honour were awarded for the Union assault on Missionary Ridge. One went to Lieutenant Arthur MacArthur, the father of Douglas MacArthur.

November 26 th : The Army of the Potomac threatened an attack on Richmond.

Bragg withdrew his forces from the Chattanooga area To Dalton, Georgia, having lost 10% of his men – 6,667 out of 64,000. Bragg was not to know that Sherman’s army had suffered a similar percentage of casualties – 5,824 out of 56,000 men. By withdrawing, Bragg kept his army as an effective fighting unit. However, Sherman’s army was free to advance on Atlanta.

November 27 th : The Army of the Potomac meets that Army of Northern Virginia at Mine Run

November 30 th : An attack on the Army of Northern Virginia was cancelled at the last minute when Meade decided that Lee’s men were too well dug in.


The Battle of Chattanooga:

By 23 November 1863, 70,000 Federal troops were amassed in battle of Chattanooga. The Federal breakout began with General Thomas seizing Orchard Knob from the Confederates, and driving the Confederate line back. The next day, Joseph Hooker led the Federal attack at the Battle of Lookout Mountain, known as the “The Battle above the Clouds,” and used his six-to-one advantage in men to defeat the Confederates.

But the key battle was the Battle of Missionary Ridge. It was begun on 24 November and engaged with a fury on 25 November. Again the Federals had six to one odds in their favor, but the three Confederate lines ascending the steep ridge threw back Federal attacks all day—at times in hand to hand combat.

General Thomas, however, refused to be denied victory. He brought up 23,000 Federals on a two mile-long line and sent them charging a full mile under fire. The bluecoats crashed into and overwhelmed the 3,200 Confederates in the rifle pits at the base of the ridge. As retreating Confederates scrambled out of the way, fire poured down on the Federals from the Confederate second line: artillery fire, musket fire, an inferno of blazing fire. The Yankee junior officers on the spot thought they had no choice: they had to charge straight up the mountain through that avalanche of artillery shells and bullets.

Grant, seeing the blue uniforms move up, thought it was suicide and demanded to know who had given the order to attack up the ridge. No one knew, but the bluecoats kept moving, dodging behind whatever cover they could find as they made their ascent. Soon they had captured the second line of Confederate rifle pits, the defenders scrambling higher to the final line. Though the fire remained fierce and deadly, the Union troops got a break. As the Federals ascended, the Confederate artillery‘s field of fire diminished to nothing, it being impossible to depress the barrels any farther. The Confederate gunners were reduced to lighting fuses on canister shells and rolling them and cannon balls down the ridge.

Grabbing the flag of the 24th Wisconsin from an exhausted color sergeant, eighteen-year-old Lieutenant Arthur MacArthur (father of future general Douglas MacArthur) led the final charge: “On Wisconsin!” he cried. Soon the Federals were over the top, and as MacArthur planted his regiment’s colors in front of what had been Braxton Bragg’s headquarters he was greeted with the sight of Confederate uniforms melting away down the reverse slope of the ridge.

Phil Sheridan led the Federals’ pursuit, which continued the next day. Only the fighting courage of Patrick Cleburne’s shielding division (Cleburne was known as “the Stonewall Jackson of the West”) allowed the Confederates to escape. The charge up Missionary Ridge had decided the contest. Told that Confederate generals had considered Missionary Ridge impregnable, Grant replied, “Well, it was impregnable.”4 But the bravery of men like Arthur MacArthur and Phil Sheridan had changed that.


Civil War

The Election of 1860
Slavery and its expansion into the western territories divided the nation. Southern slaveholders thought that banning slavery in the territories was the first step to abolishing it everywhere. Many northerners believed that if slavery expanded westward it was just a matter of time before it would move back into the North. This debate fractured the political parties into regional factions.

Republican Abraham Lincoln won the election with less than 40 percent of the popular vote and without winning one southern state. News of his victory prompted a secession movement across the South.

1860 Election Map

War
By the time Lincoln took the oath of office, seven southern states had formed the Confederate States of America. Four others soon joined. On April 12, 1861, Confederate forces bombarded Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina, and Lincoln responded by calling for 75,000 new volunteers for the Union army. Both North and South were confident they could easily win the struggle. Each misjudged the other’s determination and tragically underestimated the horrors of the war ahead. Neither predicted that African Americans would transform this war into a battle for freedom.


Chattanooga

The Federals’ victory at Chattanooga opened up the Deep South for a Union invasion and set the stage for Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign the following spring.

How it ended

Union victory. After the battles, the rivers, rails, and roads of Chatta­nooga were firmly in Union hands. The city was transformed into a supply and communications base for Sherman’s 1864 March to the Sea.

In context

Following Union general William Rosecrans’s defeat at Chickamauga on September 18–20, 1863, the Army of the Cumberland fell back to the high ground and rail hub at Chattanooga, Tennessee. Confederate general Braxton Bragg chose to besiege the Union forces entrenched around the city, hoping to starve them into surrender.

In October, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant was given command of all Union forces in the west and replaced Rosecrans with Maj. Gen. George Thomas. After securing the vital “Cracker Line” to feed his starving army and defeating the Confederate counterattack at Wauhatchie, Grant turned his focus to a Union breakout.

The three-day Battles of Chattanooga resulted in one of the most dramatic turnabouts in American military history. When the fighting stopped on November 25, 1863, Union forces had driven Confederate troops away from Chattanooga, Tennessee, into Georgia, clearing the way for Union general William T. Sherman's March to the Sea a year later. Sherman wreaked havoc as his troops blazed a path of destruction, burning towns between Atlanta and Savannah in an effort to cripple the South.

Distraught at his devastating loss at the Battle of Chickamauga in September, Union general William Rosecrans retreats to Chattanooga, Tennessee. Confederate general Braxton Bragg, looking to capitalize on his victory against Rosecrans, follows the Federals there and establishes positions on Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain, successfully putting the Union troops under siege and cutting off their supply line.

On October 17, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant is given command over the newly created Military Division of the Mississippi, which puts all Federal troops in the Western Theater—including the Army of the Cumberland—under his control. In the days that follow, Grant learns that Rosecrans is planning to withdraw the Army of the Cumberland from Chattanooga, effectively surrendering the strategically important city. Grant immediately replaces Rosecrans with Maj. Gen. George Thomas and orders Thomas to hold Chattanooga, to which Thomas responds, “we will hold the town till we starve.” In an effort to send support to the men of the Army of Cumberland, Grant sets up a “Cracker Line” to move food across the Tennessee River to the soldiers under siege.

November 23. Grant receives word from Confederate deserters that Bragg is withdrawing some of his brigades. On seeing columns of Confederates marching away from Missionary Ridge, Grant becomes concerned that Bragg is sending troops to reinforce the Confederates under Lt. Gen. James Longstreet near Knoxville. In an effort to prevent this, Grant sends 14,000 Union troops to engage a rear-guard of 600 Confederates at Orchard Knob. The vastly outnumbered Rebels are able to get off only one volley before being overrun by the Federals. Orchard Knob serves as Grant’s headquarters for the remainder of the battle.

November 24. Major General Joseph Hooker strikes the Confederate left at Lookout Mountain. Hooker has three divisions under his command, which are led by generals John W. Geary, Charles Cruft, and Peter J. Osterhaus. At 10:30 a.m., Geary’s men make contact with Confederate general Edward Walthall’s men one mile southwest of Point Lookout. The Confederates’ inferior numbers are quickly driven back. At 1:00 p.m. Confederate general John C. Moore launches a counterattack against the surging Union forces, but the Rebels find themselves severely outflanked and retreat through the fog. That night, Bragg holds a council with his generals and decides to withdraw from Lookout Mountain to reinforce Missionary Ridge. This hands Grant a second victory.

Although Grant expects Gen. William T. Sherman to attack Missionary Ridge in coordination with Hooker’s attack at Lookout Mountain, faulty intelligence leads Sherman’s men to Billy Goat Hill instead. Undaunted, Grant is determined to follow up the success of November 24 with a coordinated effort. Hooker will advance on Missionary Ridge from the south while Sherman attacks Tunnel Hill, on the northern end of the Confederate position. Thomas’s Army of the Cumberland is arrayed against the center of Bragg’s line to offer assistance as needed.


When the Russian navy sailed into New York

Many Americans are surprised to learn that until the early 20 th century, the United States had better relations with Russia than with Britain or France. The United States had fought two bitter wars against Britain: the War of Independence and the War of 1812.

Additionally, the two nations endured many years of tension without war, mostly related to border issues in North America, where Canada remained British territory. During the American Civil War, the British government&rsquos sympathy seemed to be with the Confederacy and there was great concern in Washington that the British would give enter the war on the side of the South.

The United States had its share of difficulties with France as well. While France had been a vital ally of the young nation during its War of Independence, relations deteriorated shortly afterward.

In 1793 the United States quarreled with France about neutrality and then fought a brief, undeclared war in 1798. By the time of the Civil War Americans were complaining about the French occupation of Mexico and that regime&rsquos conduct toward Confederate rebels.

By contrast, the United States had never had a quarrel with Imperial Russia, and, in fact, the relationship was characterized by peace and goodwill. Empress Catherine II (the Great) refused to send Russian soldiers requested by King George III to suppress the rebellion of his subjects in North America.

Emperor Alexander I helped mediate a peace between the United States and Britain to end the War of 1812. In 1832, Russia became the first nation to have &ldquomost favored nation&rdquo trading status with the United States. The United States alone stood by Russia in 1854 and 1855 during the Crimean War.

The American government furnished Russian forces with arms and sent a whole shipload of gunpowder to the defenders of the Siberian coast. Frank Golder, no Russophile, would later write of the Crimean War, &ldquoBy the time it was over the United States was the only nation in the world that was neither ashamed nor afraid to acknowledge boldly her friendship with Russia.&rdquo

One of the greatest spectacles of the 1863 New York social season was the Russian Ball held in honor of the officers of the Russian fleet, on November 5. Source: Brooklyn Museum

Those Americans who supported the Union cause during the Civil War were also pleased that Emperor Alexander II had freed Russia&rsquos serfs in February 1861. He became known as the &ldquoTsar Liberator&rdquo, while Americans referred to President Lincoln as &ldquoThe Great Emancipator&rdquo for freeing the slaves in Confederate territories in January 1863.

During the fall of 1863, the darkest hour of the Civil War, part of the Russian fleet arrived at the ports of New York and San Francisco. The first group came in September, and the second in October. There were 12 ships in total.

While the Russians never said why they had come, their arrival was interpreted by many Americans as a concrete expression of Russian friendship. The North seemed to be urgently in need of friends and the arrival of Russian warships dramatically highlighted the fact that not only was Alexander II America&rsquos one true friend, but that he was seemingly prepared to fight on our side.

&ldquoGod bless the Russians!&rdquo exclaimed Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, and this sentiment was echoed throughout the Union.

The welcome the Russians received in New York and San Francisco was overwhelming, and included elaborate balls. The New York squadron also visited Washington and Boston, and were feted with galas in those cities as well.

Sailing on the &ldquoAlmaz&rdquo clipper was the composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Legend has it that he wrote &ldquoFlight of the Bumblebee&rdquo because of that trip. He wrote in a letter home: &ldquoI&rsquom bored and hear buzzing wind all the time.&rdquo Some believe that buzzing became the sound of the bees in his famous composition.

&ldquoFlight of the Bumblebee&rdquo by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Source: Youtube

The squadrons remained in the U.S. almost a year before returning home.

Dr. C. Douglas Kroll is an associate professor of history at the College of the Desert in Palm Desert, California.


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