Tag Archive | civil war

Weapons free (a little late)

Always nice to see an MK75 76mm OTO Melara guns in action. The U.S. military only has like 15 of these left– all on Coast Guard Cutters. Back in the 1980s, there were nearly 100 of these Italian rapids floating around in the fleet between shoreside spares, 25 cutters, 51 FFG-7s, and six PHMs.

Coast Guard Cutter Harriet Lane fired a commemorative shot Thursday to honor the 158th anniversary of its namesake’s action near Fort Sumter

Coast Guard Cutter Harriet Lane fired a commemorative shot Thursday to honor the 158th anniversary of its namesake’s action near Fort Sumter, 30 May 2019. Although the anniversary was actually in April, Lane was in the midst of an 80-day patrol and thus out of pocket. She caught Charleston on the way back home to Virginia (USCG Photo)

From the Coast Guard (bold mine):

CHARLESTON, S.C. — The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Harriet Lane fired a commemorative shot Thursday to honor the 158th anniversary of its namesake’s action near Fort Sumter.

On April 11, 1861, United States Revenue Cutter Harriet Lane made history by firing the first naval shot of the Civil War. Cutter Lane fired across the bow of the merchant steamship Nashville. Nashville was attempting to enter Charleston Harbor without displaying a flag indicating its nationality. Congress merged the Revenue Cutter Service with the United States Lifesaving Service in 1915 to form today’s United States Coast Guard.

The cutter Harriet Lane, a 270-foot medium endurance cutter, is returning to its homeport of Portsmouth, Virginia after conducting a successful 80-day counter-narcotics patrol of the Caribbean Sea. The cutter saved the lives of two mariners in distress, conducted several boardings on the high seas, and seized 2,069 pounds of cocaine valued at $27 million.

Of note, we covered the original Harriett Lane, a very active steam powered Revenue Cutter that saw lots of Civil War service, in a past Warship Wednesday. 

The great, vanishing, Civil War re-enactor

(Photo: Chris Eger)

As someone with lots of friends that are into living history, a former period Texas cavalryman (have you ever priced a workable McClellan Saddle or sweated through a pair of wool pants in Vicksburg in July?!) and a frequent visitor to the Fall Muster at Beauvoir, I found this interesting.

The Week has a great piece on the modern reenactor or lack thereof.

“We try to be as authentic as we can without getting dysentery,” Brennan said of his unit, several of whom were frying bacon and brewing coffee over a fire. They were camped in a sea of canvas tents that housed many of the 6,000 re-enactors at the event. Beyond the spectator stands and hot dog stalls, the Confederates were camped just out of sight.

The 155th Gettysburg anniversary re-enactment, which was held over the second weekend in July, was a chance for dedicated hobbyists to blast away at one another with antique rifles and rekindle old friendships over campfire-cooked meals. Spectators paid $40 to watch nearly a dozen mock skirmishes over the course of four days, and there was an old-timey ball Saturday night. An Abraham Lincoln impersonator was on hand to pose for photos.

It was also a snapshot of a hobby in decline. Gettysburg is among the biggest re-enactments of the year, and it still draws thousands to the sweltering Pennsylvania countryside in the middle of summer.

But that’s nothing compared with the re-enactments of the 1980s and ’90s, when tens of thousands would turn out. In 1998, at the 135th anniversary of Gettysburg, there were an estimated 30,000 re-enactors and 50,000 spectators.

More here.

Warship Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018: Ole Droopy

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018: Ole Droopy


Here we see a mighty veteran of the Civil War, the ship–rigged screw sloop-of-war USS Monongahela with her full sail rig sucking air, believed to be around 1902 when she was in her last years as a sail training ship for apprentices at Newport.

Designed as a barkentine-rigged screw sloop with no bowsprit, she was the first U.S. Navy warship named for the river in Pennsylvania and, appropriately, was crafted in the Keystone State at Philadelphia Navy Yard during the early years of the Civil War. Armed with a 200-pounder Parrott rifle, and two 11-inch XI-inch Dahlgren shell guns, the 227-foot long three-master commissioned on 15 January 1863 and promptly sailed for points south to join the Union fleet.

USS Monongahela artwork showing her as originally built, with just three pivot guns and no bowsprit. This was her configuration until 1865. Later, she added a pair of 24-pounders as well as a matching set of 12-pounders to the list. NH 45205

Monongahela sailed to reinforce Rear Adm. David G. Farragut’s West Gulf Blockading Squadron off Mobile, then found herself just eight weeks after commissioning (some shakedown cruise!) attempting to run past the fire-breathing Confederate batteries on the Mississippi at Port Hudson, La., on the night of 14/15 March 1863. It was a near-disaster and Monongahela grounded under the guns of a heavy Rebel battery, taking a heavy fire and losing six men killed and 21 wounded, including the captain.

Rear Admiral David G. Farragut’s fleet engaging the rebel batteries at Port Hudson, Louisiana, March 14th, 1863. During this engagement, Farragut, passed the heavy batteries at Port Hudson, Louisiana, with USS Hartford and USS Albatross, to establish an effective blockade of the vital Red River supply lines. During this action, USS Richmond was disabled but drifted downstream, USS Monongahela was grounded but escaped, and USS Mississippi was grounded at high speed, set afire, and blew up. Hand color lithograph by Currier & Ives, possibly 1863. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. LC-DIG-PGS-05757

The fleet came back to Port Hudson in May, with Farragut using Monongahela as his flag, and pounded the batteries once again.

Then, in July, just days after Vicksburg had fallen, the ship dueled with Confederate batteries at Donaldsonville, La, where Monongahela‘s skipper, CDR. Abner Read, was killed by shrapnel and her executive officer maimed. This led a survivor from USS Mississippi, lost at Port Hudson four months prior, to be given command of the vessel, a lieutenant by the name of George Dewey who would later see a bit of service in the Philippines.

The ship, already a much-scarred veteran after just a half-year of service, now went to assist Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks’ Texas campaign, helping to capture Brownsville before Thanksgiving then ending the year back off Mobile, looking for blockade runners and exchanging potshots with Fort Morgan.

Speaking of which, she was in the thick of the action when Farragut charged the mouth of Mobile Bay in August 1864. There, something amazing happened. Outfitted with an iron prow ram, Monongahela was to be the Admiral’s designated tackle for the Confederate casemate ironclad Tennessee, the quarterback of the Rebel fleet in the Bay and flagship of grey coat Admiral Franklin Buchanan.

As described by Shelby Foote bis book “The Civil War, A Narrative Red River To Appomattox”:

Accordingly, when Tennessee came within range about 9.20, making hard for the {Farragut’s} flagship (Hartford), Monongahela moved ahead at full speed and struck her amidships, a heavy blow that had no effect at all on the rebel vessel but cost the sloop her iron beak, torn off along her cutwater.

From Farragut’s own report, in terse understatement:

All the vessels had passed the forts by 8: 30 o’clock, but the rebel ram Tennessee was still apparently uninjured in our rear.

Signal was at once made to all the fleet to turn again and attack the ram, not only with the guns but with orders to run her down at full speed. The Monongahela was the first that struck her, and, though she may have injured her badly, yet failed in disabling her. The Lackawanna also struck her, but ineffectually, and the flagship gave her a severe shock with her bow, and as she passed poured her whole port broadside into her, solid IX-inch shot and 13 pounds of powder, at a distance of not more than 12 feet. The ironclads were closing upon her and the Hartford and the rest of the fleet were bearing down upon her when, at 10 a. m., she surrendered. The rest of the rebel fleet, viz, Morgan and Gaines, succeeded in getting back under the protection of the guns of Fort Morgan.

This terminated the action of the day.

Admiral Buchanan sent me his sword, being himself badly wounded with a compound fracture of the leg, which it is supposed will have to be amputated.

This act– ramming a well-armored Rebel ironclad with a steam sloop at full speed at the start of a surface engagement while simultaneously brushing off the threat of mines and shore bombardment– was the stuff of legend and was well-remembered in naval lore, regardless of the tactical impact it had on the engagement. At the time, Leslie’s reported the blow caused “the huge rebel monster to reel like a drunken man.”

Battle of Mobile Bay, 5 August 1864. Woodcut by Roberts, circa 1866, entitled Capture of the Ram Tennessee by Farragut (Mobile Bay). It depicts CSS Tennessee being rammed by a U.S. Navy steam sloop, either USS Monongahela or USS Lackawanna. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 65707

Painting by Lieutenant Colonel Edmund S. Sayer, USMC (Retired), December 1938, depicting USS Monongahela ramming CSS Tennessee during the battle. The artist composed this painting from Rear Admiral David Glasgow Farragut’s battle plans. Courtesy of the U.S. Navy Art Collection, Washington, DC. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 42397

From Monongahela later came a boarding party to swarm over the seized Tennessee. That party included one Ensign (later RADM) Purnell Frederick Harrington of Dover, Delaware, who picked up a Leech & Rigdon .36 Colt Navy clone from the enemy ship.

Few Georgia-made Leech & Rigdon’s were made (less than 1,500 guns on a Confederate government contract) and fewer survive today. This one has a silver oval plaque inlaid in the right grip and engraved in block letters and flowing script: “Ensign P. Fred Harrington U.S. Navy, USS Monongahela, Mobile Bay Alabama Friday, Aug 5th, 1864 Captured with the Rebel Ironclad Tennessee.” It sold at auction via Cowan for $47K in 2016.

Monongahela on the Mississippi River during the Civil War. Across the top is written “Port Hudson. Donaldsonville. Texas Coast. Mobile” while the 691-ton Unadilla-class gunboat USS Winona (5 guns) is shown to the left and the 1000-ton ironclad river gunboat USS Essex (6 guns) to the right of the frame. From Philbrick collection, Kittery Maine. Catalog #: NH 995

After receiving bow repairs, Monongahela remained on duty with the West Gulf Squadron until the end of the Civil War and then received an assignment to the West Indies Squadron.

There, according to DANFS, she soon ran into another sort of battle– one with Poseidon.

The warship had the unique experience of being landed high and dry almost a mile inland from the shoreline when a wave generated by an underwater earthquake struck Frederiksted, St. Croix, on 18 November 1867. The tsunami generated a roughly 20-foot high wall of water that wrecked the harbor, destroying buildings and shattering many small boats. The water also carried the screw sloop over the beach, warehouses, and streets where she came to rest on an even keel some distance from the water. She lost not a soul, though the town suffered five people drowned. A working party of mechanics from New York Navy Yard under Naval Constructor Thomas Davidson succeeded in refloating the ship on 11 May 1868, following a four-month endeavor. Monongahela was towed to New York and thence Portsmouth where she was slowly repaired, finally departing in 1873 to join the South Atlantic Station.

USS Monongahela stranded at Frederiksted, St. Croix, the Virgin Islands on 4 March 1868 after an unsuccessful launching attempt. She had been washed ashore by a tidal wave on 18 November 1867 and was finally refloated on 11 May 1868. Monongahela had received a bowsprit in her 1865 refit but retains her original straight bow. NH 45208

After a decade of service as a training ship on both the East and West Coast, our hardy warship was stripped of her guns (although pictures show what appear to be at least one muzzle-loading Dahlgren on her deck as late as 1891), and, with her machinery removed and rig scaled back, was converted to a floating supply ship and tender at California’s Mare Island Navy Yard.

USS Monongahela off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, in July 1884, following conversion to a sailing storeship. USS Mohican (1885-1922) is fitting out in the left background, with Mare Island’s distinctive large crane beyond. NH 45209

In 1890, the seagoing storeship was re-cast as a ship-rigged training ship and dispatched to Newport Station, then a key training base. Leaving Mare Island after her period in doldrums, she rounded Cape Horn and made New York in just 106 days on sail alone– a feat for any windjammer. Once on the East Coast, she began her third career, that of a school ship.

USS Monongahela (photographed in port, following her 1890-91 conversion to a ship-rigged training ship. NH 60266

After a decade without guns, the old warrior was given a training battery that consisted of a mix of 6-pounder (57mm) breechloaders, multi-barrel 37mm Hotchkiss revolving cannon, and various small arms.

A book by Frank Child of Newport, Rhode Island, entitled “U.S.T.S. Monongahela and the U.S. Naval Training System, illustrated,” was published in 1892, and froze both the ship and her students in time. As such, they show the Victorian-era naval training establishment well, to include modern weapons such as rapid-fire guns, blended with traditional marlinspike seamanship and the use of cutlasses.

USS Monongahela (1863-1908), departing Newport, Rhode Island Caption: For Europe, 23 June 1891. Photographed by Frank H. Child, Newport. NH 45881

Apprentices drill at furling topsail and mainsail, off Newport, Rhode Island, circa June 1891. Halftone of a photo by Frank H. Child, Newport, NH 45894

“Morse code of signaling.” Apprentices practice semaphore signaling, circa June 1891. Halftone of a photo by Frank H. Child, Newport, Note: 37mm Hotchkiss rotary cannon behind these boys NH 45888

Apprentices in blues drill with a 37mm Hotchkiss rotary cannon, circa 1891. Halftone of a photo by Frank H. Child, Newport, NH 45891

“Ready.” Apprentices of the Fourth Division at small arms drill, on board USS MONONGAHELA (1863-1908), at Newport, Rhode Island, circa June 1891. Note the .45-70 caliber M1879/80/81 Winchester-Hotchkiss rifles. These were the first detachable-mag bolt-action rifles the Navy would adopt, buying some 2,500 of them. They were later replaced by the M1885 Remington-Lee and the M1895 Lee rifle. Further, note what seems to be a Civil War-era Dahlgren shell gun to the far right of the image. While you could say it was quaint, it should be noted that legacy ships such as the training sloop USS Enterprise still had working IX-inch Dahlgren pivot guns at the same time and would keep them until 1910! Halftone of a photo by Frank H. Child, Newport. NH 45886

Apprentices in winter blues at gun drill on board, circa 1891. Gun is a six-pounder rapid-fire Hotchkiss model. Halftone of a photo by Frank H. Child, Newport NH 45890

“Left face cut.” Cutlass exercises for apprentices on board USS Monongahela at Newport, Rhode Island, circa June 1891. Halftone of a photo by Frank H. Child, Newport, Rhode Island. From the book: “U.S.T.S. Monongahela and the U.S. Naval Training System, illustrated,” 1892. Keep in mind the Navy retained cutlasses in ship’s stores through WWII. Description: Catalog #: NH 45885

On 15 May 1894, she was attached to the Naval Academy at Annapolis as the school’s practice ship, carrying Mids on lengthy summer cruises to the Caribbean and Europe for the next half-decade (taking a break to serve as an auxillary patrol ship on the East Coast during the Spanish-American War) before being sent back to Newport to resume her old job teaching apprentices until 1904.

Sometime after 1895 (likely during the aformentioned SpanAm service) she evidently picked up at least one modern 3″/50 caliber gun. More on that later.

USS MONONGAHELA, practice ship for the Naval Academy from 1894-97, is seen tied up to the Academy wharf. USS Newport (PG-12) practice ship in 1897, can also be seen in the background. Description: Courtesy of Rear Admiral Edgar H. Batcheller, USN, Charleston South Carolina, 1969 NH 68422

Under sail, with starboard studding sails spread in a very light wind, while serving as U.S. Naval Academy Practice Ship in 1894-99. Courtesy of Edward Page, 1979. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 89732

In 1902 she was still beautiful, as the below postcard series shows.

19-N-12118 USS Monongahela, starboard stern, at sea,

19-N-6801 USS Monongahela, port bow, at sea,

19-N-12112 USS Monongahela, port bow, at sea,

19-N-12114 USS Monongahela, port bow, at sea,

19-N-12119 USS Monongahela, port view,

The old warship was dispatched in her 41st year to the naval station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where she was to serve as station ship at the primitive coaling base. There, she was engulfed in a fire on a cool spring night in March 1908 while anchored between South Toro Cay and Grenadillo Point. While the ship was afire, it was towed to the harbor area on the south side of Deer Point, near Officer’s Landing.

“The ship was towed to the harbor because it was easier to try and fight the fire,” explained CDR Jeff Johnston, public works officer for GITMO’s Naval Station in a 2009 article. “The effort was unsuccessful, and the ship sank in only about 20 feet of water.”

Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Remains of the USS MONONGAHELA, which had been destroyed by fire on March 17, 1908. Probably photographed during the early “teens”. Courtesy of Carter Rila, 1986. NH 100938

One of the few items salvaged from the charred wreck was a 3″/50 caliber deck gun, which had become warped and developed a downward drop of the barrel. Dubbed “Ole Droopy,” it was installed on Deer Point, directly over the remains of the old Civil War vet.

Ole Droopy was warped in the fire that destroyed the USS Monongahela in 1908, then later salvaged and put on display. This is how the venerable gun appeared in 1915. I believe– but am open to debate on this– that it is an early Mark 2 gun.

Ole Droopy stood sentinel over the sunken remains of the USS Monongahela at Deer Point before it was moved in 1942. The stone slab beneath the gun remains in the backyard of a private residence today. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy) UNCLASSIFIED – Cleared for public release. For additional information contact JTF Guantanamo PAO 011-5399-3589; DSN 660-3589

In 1942, the gun was moved to a downtown location, where it remained until 1988 when it “disappeared” rumored to be interred unceremoniously in a base landfill condemned by the base commander and public works officer who “were not pleased with the undignified look of the warped, downward pointing deck gun. To some young Sailors and Marines, it became the appendage of off-color jokes and references.”

Ole Droopy is shown on a postcard in front of the base library in the 1950s.

Other than the vintage naval rifle, which has now marched off into naval lore of her own, Monongahela was commemorated in the fleet itself by two vessels that went on to carry her proud name– a WWII-era Kennebec-class oiler (AO-42) that picked up a dozen battle stars before she was struck in 1959 and a Cimarron-class fleet replenishment oiler (AO-178) commissioned from 1981 to 1999.

Nonetheless, the original hard charger of Port Gibson and Brownsville, home to Dewey and Farragut, survivor of a beef with the king of the sea and schoolmaster to the fleet, Monongahela is well-remembered in maritime art, and Mids continue to see her every day.

Painting by Gordon Grant, showing the ship during her days as Naval Academy Training Ship. “U.S.S. MONONGAHELA, Civil War Veteran and famous Midshipmen’s Practice Cruise Ship.” This screened print appeared in the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, December 1944. Catalog #: NH 45992-KN

USS Monongahela (1863-1908) mural by Howard B. French, in Memorial Hall, U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, depicting Monongahela during her days at the Naval Academy Practice Ship, 1894-99. The mural was donated to the Naval Academy by Mrs. Louis M. Nulton. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 43576-KN

Further, her plans are in the National Archives.

Specs:

Displacement:2,078 long tons (2,111 t)
Length: 227 ft
Beam: 38 ft
Draft: 17 ft 6 in
Propulsion: Steam engine (until 1883)
Sail plan: Sloop sails, ship after 1890
Speed: 8.5 knots as designed
Armament:
(1865)
1 × 200-pounder Parrott rifle
2 × XI-inch Dahlgren smoothbores
2 × 24-pounder guns
2 × 12-pounder guns
(Disarmed 1883-1890, although may have kept a few old cannon)
(After 1890)
A mix of 3-inch and 6-pdr breechloaders, 37mm Hotchkiss revolving cannon, small arms

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Warship Wednesday, April 11, 2018: Ms. Lane, of Paraguay, Nashville and Galveston fame

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, April 11, 2018: Ms. Lane, of Paraguay, Nashville and Galveston fame

LC-USZ62-48021: United States Revenue Cutter Harriet Lane. Wood engraving, 1858. Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Here we see the classic steam warship, USRC Harriet Lane of the Revenue Marine Service, and 157 years ago this very day she fired the first shot (at sea) in the Civil War, securing her place in history.

A copper plated side-paddle steamer with an auxiliary schooner rig, Lane was built for the US Treasury Department, by William H. Webb at Bell’s shipyard in New York City in 1857 at a cost of $140,000. She was named in honor of Ms. Harriet Rebecca Lane Johnston, the popular niece of lifelong bachelor President James Buchanan, who served as his first lady since he was unmarried at the time.

Her armament, a pair of old 32-pounders and a quartet of 24-pdr brass howitzers, was deemed sufficient for her work in stopping smugglers and destroying derelicts at sea, but she was constructed with three magazines and open deck space for additional guns should they be needed.

USCG Historian’s Office

And soon, she was loaned to the Navy.

Before Lane was even laid down, the gunboat USS Water Witch, who was busy surveying the Río de la Plata basin in South America in 1855, was fired upon as by a Paraguayan battery at Fort Itapirú. Intended as a warning shot (Water Witch had approval from the Argentines but not Paraguay to survey the river), the ball accidentally hit the gunboat and killed the very unfortunate helmsman Samuel Chaney. A resulting fire-fight saw Water Witch hulled 10 times. Fast forward to October 1858 and a punitive expedition was ordered sent to Paraguay to sort things out, even though Water Witch had returned home in 1856.

This expeditionary force, the largest ever assembled by the U.S. Navy until the Civil War, consisted of 19 ships, which seems like a lot but really isn’t when you look at the list of vessels that went. While the Navy had a half-dozen large ships-of-the-line on the Naval List, all were in ordinary at the time. Of the impressive dozen super-sized frigates, just one, the 50-gun USS St. Lawrence, already in Brazil, could be spared. This left the rest of the fleet to be comprised of smaller sloops and brigs, ships taken up from trade and armed with cannon or two, and the brand new and very modern Harriet Lane. The commander of the task force? Flag Officer (there were no admirals at the time) William B. Shubrick, a War of 1812 veteran who was taken from his warm quiet desk at the Lighthouse Bureau in Washington and given his last seagoing command.

Ships of The Paraguay Squadron underway. Ships are from left to right: USS Water Witch next the flag-ship; USS Sabine; next to USS Fulton; behind Fulton is USS Western Port (later USS Wyandotte); next is USS Harriet Lane; behind Harriet Lane is USS Supply; and next to the bow of USS Memphis. Artist unknown. Image from Harper’s Weekly, New York, 16 October 1858. Description from Navsource.

The force was filled with supplies and Marines (Lane herself shipped a 22-man force of Leathernecks) and set off for Latin America with special commissioner James B. Bowlin in tow. Lane at the time was skippered by Captain John Faunce, a skilled USRM officer since 1841, who would later command her at Fort Sumter– but we are ahead of ourselves.

Arriving in January 1859, Paraguay signed a commercial treaty with Brown, apologized for the hit on Water Witch with no more shots fired by either side and agreed to pay an indemnity to the family of the long-dead helmsman and the fleet returned home in February after some literal gunboat diplomacy.

By late 1860, she was back in New York and tapped for another high-profile job. On October 11, the cutter brought 18-year-old Edward, then-Prince of Wales and future King Edward VII of Great Britain and his suite from South Amboy to the waterfront of New York’s Battery Park where he was met by adoring crowds including Gen. Winfield Scott and Mayor Wood and an escort of “two troops of cavalry attached to the Seventh and Eight regiments” of the New York Militia whisked him away from Castle Garden to City Hall and all points Broadway. In her task, she flew the Royal Ensign and received 17-gun salutes up and down the New Jersey coast and Hudson River, surely a first for a Revenue Cutter.

Though Lane resumed her Revenue duties, she was soon again in Naval service.

With states dropping out of the Union left and right from December 1860 onward, she transferred to the Navy 30 March 1861 and was assigned to the Northern Blockading Squadron. Detailed to help supply the Fort Sumter garrison, a small U.S. Army post in rebel-held Charleston Harbor under the guns of coastal defense expert and former U.S. Army Maj (bvt) P. G. T. Beauregard, Lane left New York on 8 April headed to the Palmetto State, arriving three days later. The reason an armed ship was sent was that President Buchannan had detailed the unarmed merchant ship Star of the West to do so earlier in the year, an effort that failed when it was fired upon by Beauregard’s shore batteries made up partially of students from the Citadel.

On the morning of 11 April 1861, Harriet Lane arrived ahead of her task force that was following with supplies and 500 soldiers. Taking up a picket location around the island fort, on the morning of April 13, while the installation was under attack, Faunce order a shot from one of her 32-pounders, commanded by Lt. W. D. Thompson, across the bow of the oncoming steamship SS Nashville (1,241t, 215ft) as that vessel tried to enter Charleston Harbor. The reason for the round was because Nashville was flying no identifying flag, meaning she could possibly be a rebel ship.

The Revenue Cutter Harriet Lane forces the merchant steamer Nashville to show its colors during the attack on Fort Sumter, April 13, 1861. “The Cutter Harriet Lane Fires Across the Bow of Nashville” by Coast Guard artist Howard Koslow.

Unarmed and not looking to be sent to the bottom, Nashville raised the U.S. standard, and Harriet Lane broke off. Anticlimactic for sure, but the ole Nash went on to become a Confederate commerce raider armed with a pair of 12-pounders before serving in 1862 as the blockade runner Thomas L. Wragg and finally as the privateer Rattlesnake before she was destroyed by the monitor USS Montauk on the Ogeechee River in Georgia.

But back to our hero.

Fort Sumter fell on April 13, surrendered after a bloodless two-day bombardment that saw 2,000 Confederate shells hit the masonry fort and Lane withdrew. She soon was up-armed and before the end of the year engaged in the efforts against Fort Clark and Fort Hatteras on the outer banks of North Carolina.

80-G-1049444: USS Harriet Lane engaging a battery at Pig’s Point, on the Nansemond River, opposite Newport News. Copied from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, 1861.

Then in early 1862 joined David Dixon Porter’s Mortar Flotilla at Key West as flagship, from where she captured the Confederate schooner, Joanna Ward.

With Porter aboard, Lane was there as his flagship when he plastered the rebel Forts Jackson and St. Philip, abreast the Mississippi below New Orleans, then continued to serve through the preliminary stages of the Vicksburg Campaigns.

LC-DIG-PPMSCA-35362: Rear Admiral David G. Farragut and Captain David D. Porter’s mortar fleet entering the Mississippi River, May 17, 1862. Wood engraving shows large squadron of battleships and ironclads entering the Mississippi River near the “Light-house of Southwest Pass”; some are identified as the “Colorado, 40 Guns”, “Pensacola on the Bar”, “Westfield”, “Mississippi on the Bar”, “Porter’s Mortar Fleet”, “Harriet Lane”, “Connecticut, 8 Guns”, “Clifton”, and “Banona“. Harper’s Weekly, V.6, no.281, pg 312-13. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. 2048×1443 big up

On 4 October 1862, in conjunction with the sidewheel steam ferryboat USS Westfield, Unadilla-class gunboat USS Owasco, the paddlewheel gunboat USS Clifton, and the schooner USS Henry Janes, Lane captured Galveston harbor from the Confederates in a show of force that left zero casualties on both sides.

Still in that newly-Union held port in Confederate Texas, Harriet Lane was the subject of an attack on 1 January 1863 that saw the Confederate cotton-clad CSS Bayou City and the armed tugboat Neptune engage the bigger cutter. While Lane sank the Neptune and damaged Bayou City, she was captured when the crew of the cottonclad succeeded in storming and overpowering the crew of the Lane with both the cutter’s captain and the executive officer killed along with three of her crew in fierce hand-to-hand combat.

An illustration of the Harriet Lane’s capture by Confederate forces on 1 January 1863

Her crew was taken into custody.

Lane, repaired and disarmed, was sold by the state of Texas to an enterprising shipper who christened her as the blockade runner Lavinia and, after just two trips carrying cotton abroad and commodities back, she finished the war in Cuban waters.

In 1867, the Revenue Marine sent her old Sumter commander, Faunce, and a crew to recover the battered, worn-out ship from Havana in condemned condition and she was subsequently sold to a Boston merchant.

As noted by DANFS, she was abandoned after a fire during hurricane-force winds off Pernambuco, Brazil, 13 May 1884, while en route to Buenos Aires.

Relics of her time in Texas are in the collection of The Museum of Southern History, located in Houston.

The Revenue Marine, of course, became the U.S. Coast Guard in 1916 and the service honored the historic vessel by naming a second cutter, USCGC Harriet Lane (WSC-141), a 125-foot patrol craft, in 1926 which gave 20 years of hard service to include WWII and Prohibition.

The third cutter to share the name is the 270-foot Bear (Famous)-class medium endurance cutter USCGC Harriet Lane (WMEC-903). Commissioned in May 1984, she is still in active service and last week commemorated the first Lane’s historic shot in front of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.

That 75mm OTO! The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Harriet Lane sails past Fort Sumter near Charleston, South Carolina, April 5, 2018. USCG Photo

She is no lightweight either, recently returned to homeport from a 94-day patrol in drug trafficking zones of the Eastern Pacific, after seizing approximately 17,203 pounds of cocaine from suspected smugglers.

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Harriet Lane approaches a suspected smuggling vessel while a helicopter crew from the Coast Guard Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron monitors from the air, February 25, 2018.

Specs:

USCG Historian’s Office

Displacement 539 lt. 619 std, 730 t. fl
Length 175′ 5″
Beam 30′ 5″
Draft 10′ as designed, 13 at full load 1862
Propulsion: steam – double-right angled marine engine with two side paddles, auxiliary sail two-masted schooner rig
Speed 11 anticipated, 13kts on trials
Complement: 8 officers, 74 men (1857) 12 officers, 95 men (1862)
Armament
(As built)
3×32-pounders
4x 24-pounder brass howitzers
(After joining West Gulf Squadron, 1862)
1×4″ Parrott gun as a pivot on forecastle
1×9″ Dahlgren gun on pivot before the first mast
2×8″ Dahlgren Columbiad guns
2×24-pounder brass howitzers
Plus “cutlasses and small arms for 95 men”

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

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Warship Wednesday, April 4, 2018: The often imitated but never duplicated Indy

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, April 4, 2018: The often imitated but never duplicated Indy

Image Courtesy Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield; WICR 30184-B

Here we see the “Western gunboat ram” USS Indianola in 1863 during her brief service to the Navy. A one of a kind vessel, the Indy was laid down as a riverboat in Antebellum times but was rushed into service in the Civil War, rode hard, and never made it out alive.

A 174-foot long side-wheel screw steamer, Indianola was constructed in the Cincinnati yard of Mr. Joseph Brown in early 1862, specifically for service with the U.S. Navy on the Western river systems for operations against the newly-formed Confederacy.

Indianola under construction via LOC https://www.loc.gov/item/2013647478/

Compared to the 15-vessel City class-ironclads designed by Mr. Samuel M. Pook, the infamous “Pook’s Turtles,” Indianola was about the same size and had iron-plating 2.5 inches thick, enough to ward off musketry and shrapnel but not serious artillery rounds.

Pushed out into the Ohio River on 4 September, the partially complete 511-ton armored gunboat was placed in commission just 19 days later under the command of Acting Master Edward Shaw. The reason for the rush job was that Cincinnati at the time was considered under threat of capture by Confederate Gen. Kirby “Seminole” Smith whose “Heartland Offensive” reached its high-water mark in Lexington, Kentucky, just some 80 miles to the South a few days prior.

Armed with a pair of 11-inch Dahlgren smoothbores and another pair of smaller 9-inch guns, Indianola remained in the Ohio for several months even after Smith retreated to the Deep South and by January 1863, under the command of LCDR George Brown, she was detailed to the infant Mississippi Squadron, a force that the Navy never knew it would have. By 13 February, the plucky new ironclad met the enemy for the first time by running past the fearsome Confederate batteries at Vicksburg, Mississippi at night.

As noted by DANFS:

She left her anchorage in the Yazoo at 10:15 p.m. 13 February and moved slowly downstream until the first gun was fired at her from the Vicksburg cliffs slightly more than an hour later. She then raced ahead at full speed until out of range of the Confederate cannon which thundered at her from above.

The United States gunboat INDIANOLA (Ironclad) running the blockade at Vicksburg [Feb. 13, 1863] via Harper’s Weekly, v. 7, (1863 March 7), p. 149. LOC https://www.loc.gov/item/99614196/

She anchored for the night 4 miles below Warrenton, Miss., and early the next morning got underway downriver, with orders from Adm. David Dixon Porter to blockade the mouth of the Red River.

Two days later, Indianola chased and engaged in a long-range artillery duel with the Confederate Army-manned “cotton-clad” 655-ton side-wheel converted tug, Webb, that proved ultimately unsuccessful, her high speed (for a river boat) negated by the fact that she had to tow pair of coal barges alongside for refueling in hostile enemy-controlled waters.

On the evening of 24 February, the Union gunboat came across the Confederate steamer Queen of the West, formerly a U.S. Army-manned ram, who, along with her partner and recent Indianola-nemesis Webb, cornered the Yankee in the shallow water near New Carthage, Mississippi and commenced a river warship battle. While Indianola was better armed with her big Dahlgrens compared to the Parrots and 12-pdr howitzers of the Rebel ships, she was no match for the demolition derby unleashed on her by the Confederate vessels on either side who smashed her a reported seven times leaving the ship “in an almost powerless condition.”

LCDR Brown had more than two feet of cold Mississippi river water over the floor of his fighting deck and she was surrounded by now four Rebel vessels, packed with armed infantry ready to board. With that, Indianola ran her bow on the west bank of the river, spiked her guns, and surrendered to Confederate Major Joseph Lancaster Brent, her service to the U.S. Navy lasting just six months.

The loss meant that Porter would keep his fleet north of Vicksburg and that Farragut, entering the Mississippi from the Gulf, would be forced to run his own past Port Gibson the next month to join him.

While Brent went to work salvaging his newest addition to the Confederate fleet, Brown, who was wounded, handed over his personal Manhattan .36 caliber percussion revolver and was toted off to Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia

However, Brent would not “own” the ex-Indianola for long.

While the rebs were busy trying to save as much as they could from the Union gunboat, members of Porter’s fleet “resurrected” the ghost of the stricken ship and crafted a fake version of her to run past the batteries at Vicksburg in a scare job the night following Indianola‘s capture. The cobbled-together craft was complete with a Jolly Roger flag and the words “Deluded People Cave In” painted on the faux paddle wheel housings.

Admiral [David Dixon] Porter’s Second Dummy Frightening the Rebels at Vicksburg. This shows a wooden dummy “ironclad” made from an old coal barge. Wood engraving after a sketch by Theodore R. Davis – Harper’s Weekly

From DANFS:

A dummy monitor was made by building paddle boxes on an old coal barge to simulate a turret which in turn was adorned with logs painted black to resemble guns. Pork-barrel funnels containing burning smudge pots were the final touch added just before the strange craft was cast adrift to float past Vicksburg on the night of Indianola’s surrender, Word of this “river Monitor” panicked the salvage crew working on Indianola causing them to set off the ship’s magazines to prevent her recapture.

And, it worked, with Brent triggering the Union vessel’s powder stores and sending her wheelhouse to the sky.

USS Indianola (1862-1863) Is blown up by her Confederate captors, below Vicksburg, Mississippi, circa 25 February 1863, upon the appearance of Rear Admiral David Dixon Porter’s fake monitor “Wooden Dummy “Taken from a sketch by RAdm. Porter, this print is entitled “Dummy Taking a Shoot”. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph NH 53235

On the bright side, Brown only languished at Libby prison until May and was exchanged, going on to command the Unadilla-class gunboat Itasca at the Battle of Mobile Bay in 1864 and retire at the rank of Rear Admiral in 1897. Brent, his first captor, went on to become a one-star general leading the Louisiana Cavalry Brigade in the tail end of the war. He passed in 1905 and his papers are preserved at LSU.

As for Indianola, once the Mississippi river calmed down, her wreck was refloated, towed to Mound City, Illinois, and sold on 17 January 1865. Her name has never again appeared on the Navy List.

Brown’s Manhattan .36 caliber revolver? It is on display at Wilson’s Creek battlefield near Republic, Missouri.

Specs:

Displacement: 511 tons
Length: 174 ft (53 m)
Beam: 50 ft (15 m)
Draft: 5 ft (1.5 m)
Propulsion: Sidewheel, Steam-driven screw
Engine Size: Cylinders 24 inches diameters by 6 foot in length of the piston stroke, 5 boilers – Side Paddlewheels
Speed: 9 knots
Armament:
2 – 11-inch Dahlgren smoothbore
2 – 9-inch Dahlgren smoothbore

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

PRINT still has its place. If you LOVE warships you should belong.

I’m a member, so should you be!

The bayonet, in reflection

[Unidentified soldier in Union sack coat and forage cap with bayonet scabbard and bayoneted musket] LOC 2010650281

From Capt. Henry Thweatt Owen, Company C (Nottoway Rifle Guards), 18th Virginia Volunteer Infantry Regiment, Battle of Gettysburg, as related in Rifle Shots and Bugle Notes, Grand Army Gazette, 1883:

“We were now four hundred yards from the foot of Cemetery Hill, when away off to the right, nearly half a mile, there appeared in the open field a line of men at right angles with our own, a long, dark mass, dressed in blue, and coming down at a “double-quick” upon the unprotected right flank of Pickett’s men, with their muskets “upon the right shoulder shift,” their battle flags dancing and fluttering in the breeze created by their own rapid motion, and their burnished bayonets glistening above their heads like forest twigs covered with sheets of sparkling ice when shaken by a blast…”

Owen went on to take command of the decimated 18th Virginia after Gettysburg as the seniormost officer still able to walk. When the 1,300-billet unit surrendered 5 April 1865 at Sailor’s Creek, only 2 officers and 32 men remained. Owen died in 1929 and his papers are preserved at the Library of Virginia.

The ‘three months volunteer’ at home

#Loc LC-USZ62-126968

Soldier saying to Boy “No, Bubby, take that away. I won’t take off my boots, but jest have a cup of tea and be off again!” – Illus. in: Harper’s weekly, v. 6, no. 299 (1862 Sept. 20), p. 608.

It is notable that the cartoon ran in Sept. 1862, more than a year after the war began.

In April 1861, at the start of the Civil War, Lincoln, called for a “75,000-man” volunteer militia to augment the tiny regular Army and serve for three months following the bombardment and surrender of Fort Sumter. This was in-line with the Militia Act of 1795 for both the maximum number that could be called to the colors and the longest time periods.

The men were soon quartered in every federal space in Washington as seen by this woodblock of the barracks sleeping bunks of the 1st Rhode Island Infantry regiment inside the U.S. Patent Office at Washington DC in the spring and summer of 1861.

LC-USZ62-102672

In May 1861, with the consent of Congress, he authorized 500,000 men for three years. In all, the Union Army fielded more than 2 million during the conflict and most for far longer than 90 days.

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