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The American Civil War was the first of three major conflicts in which
virtually all of the resources of the Coast Survey, and, then in later
years, the Coast and Geodetic Survey, would be dedicated to support the
military operations of the United States Government. The Coast Survey as
an organization was strongly pro-Union in its sympathies and actions both
prior to and during the Civil War. Only seven civilians on active duty
with the Survey cast their lot with the South, and the majority of Army
and Navy officers that had served on the Survey chose to remain loyal to
By the end of the Civil War, the Coast Survey had shown itself to be
indispensable to the defense and preservation of the Union. However, during
the early days of the war, there were attempts to disband the Survey, as
much of its operational area was under the control of the seceding states.
At first glance, this would appear to be reasonable, for many believed
that the appropriation for the Survey would be better spent on military
and naval requirements. But Superintendent Bache was an imaginative and
innovative administrator. He was always able to take what looked like a
disadvantage and, by using his great talents for management and persuasion,
turn it to the benefit of both the Survey and the Nation.
The roots of major Coast Survey policies carrying down to today's NOAA
Corps are traced from the mapping and surveying operations of the Coast
Survey and the administrative needs that arose to support those operations.
The geodetic survey of the interior of the United States had its beginnings
in the interior surveys conducted in support of Army and Navy operations
throughout all theaters of the war. Likewise, the anomalous position of
Coast Survey civilian assistants attached to various Army and Navy commands
led to the granting of "assimilated rank" to Coast Survey officers serving
with those commands. The recognition that Coast Survey officers required
military rank to properly perform their duties in time of war ultimately
led in turn to the establishment of a commissioned service within the Coast
and Geodetic Survey and today's NOAA. Besides those granted assimilated
rank were the Coast Surveyors who volunteered to join the Army and Navy.
Three of the men who served in the Army as Colonels were brevetted Brigadier
Generals by the end of the war for their services; at least one Coast Survey
civilian ship operator was recognized by Congress after the war by being
placed on the retired roles as a Navy Commander for gallantry under fire
and meritorious services. Another of the forty or so civilian vessel operators
of the Coast Survey who volunteered for naval service rose to the rank
of Volunteer Lieutenant Commander during the war, one of only a handful
of volunteer officers to attain that rank prior to the end of the war,
and commanded a number of naval vessels.
Prior to the commencement of open warfare between the North and the
South, the core states of the Confederacy embarked on a policy of harassing
Federal officials and seizing Federal property. Because of the unarmed
status and relatively small size of Coast Survey field parties, their personnel,
equipment, and instruments were at risk from both official actions of the
seceding states and the unofficial actions of an aroused local population.
Most Coast Surveyors working along the Southern coastline in the winter
of 1860-1861 experienced harassment and threats leading to the early termination
of field work and return to Northern waters. However, an unlucky few saw
the seizure of their equipment, and, in one instance, incarceration as
The first state to secede was South Carolina which left the Union on
December 20, 1860. Within a few days of secession, the State of South Carolina
seized two Coast Survey vessels, the schooner PETREL and the small steam
tender FIRE FLY. The PETREL had a bizarre fate, while the FIRE FLY almost
survived the war, ultimately being burned at Savannah, Georgia, by the
Confederates to prevent recapture in late 1864. Conversely, the PETREL
was among the first ships lost to the Confederate cause. It was in the
care of a private citizen of Charleston at the time of its seizure, having
been left there under contract for care-taking in May, 1860. The ship required
extensive repairs and was in such poor condition that it was ultimately
rejected by the Confederate Navy. However, a group of Charleston entrepreneurs
invested in refurbishing it as one of the first Confederate privateers.
Thus, before dawn on the morning of July 28, 1861, the PETREL sailed out
of Charleston and evaded the Union blockaders guarding the harbor entrance.
At first light, William Perry, the captain of the schooner, spied a large
sail on the horizon and gave chase. Unfortunately for the PETREL, the ship
turned out to be the Union frigate ST. LAWRENCE carrying 52 guns to the
PETREL's 2 guns. The ST. LAWRENCE rapidly apprised the situation and commenced
chasing the privateer. At 10:00 A.M, it had caught up with the PETREL.
At this point, the captain of the PETREL foolishly ran up the Confederate
flag and began firing at the powerful frigate. The Union ship only fired
once and sank the PETREL with an 8-inch shell. Perry and his surviving
crew were captured, manacled, and sent to a Federal prison in Philadelphia,
ending the short inglorious career of the PETREL.
Earlier in the year, survey work which had been scheduled for South
Carolina was cancelled as Assistant C. P. Bolles who had orders to work
at Winyah Bay, "... judged, in consequence of the attitude taken by the
authorities of the State of South Carolina... that it would be inexpedient
to resume the field work...." Bolles, a resident of North Carolina, probably
saved Coast Survey instruments and equipment from being expropriated by
South Carolina officials, but it hardly mattered as he resigned from the
Survey on April 20 and retained a "small vessel, the instruments that had
been in the use of his party, and other property belonging to the government,
including plane-table sheet No. 725, and the sheets containing the topography
executed by Mr. Hinrichs in the working season of 1859-'60...."(1)(2)
Perhaps reflecting the state of confusion prevalent in the seceding
states and their relationship to the United States in the early months
of 1861, the Coast Survey office continued receiving records "from the
self-registering tide-gauge at the Charleston custom-house, S.C., ... up
to the 22nd of April last from the observer, Mr. W. R. Herron, and the
gauge was known to be in operation on the 4th of May. After that time,
postal intercourse being suspended, no information has been received in
regard to the observations."(3) All during
the early months of 1861, tidal records were received from the seceding
states. The self-registering tide gauge at the Union fort at Tortugas continued
observations until May 1, but was discontinued because of "frequent interruptions
from the jar produced by the firing of heavy guns at the fort" during firing
exercises. There was no further need for this station, as it was the standard
of reference for the other Gulf coast stations which were under Confederate
control, and observations were terminated.
Numerous survey parties were either at work or scheduled to begin work
along the coast of Florida in the winter of 1860-1861. On January 10, 1861,
Florida became the third state to secede from the Union. (Mississippi had
seceded January 9, 1861.) The project to connect the triangulation across
the Florida peninsula from Fernandina to Gainesville, and thence on to
Cedar Keys on the west coast, was cancelled because of the probability
of disruption by hostile parties. Coastal triangulation work in Pensacola
Bay was cancelled, as the chief of party, F. H. Gerdes, observed "that
the public excitement was such as to endanger the possession of the two
vessels under his charge." Accordingly, he directed his survey vessels,
the JAMES HALL and the GERDES, to Passe-a-Loutre, at the mouth of the Mississippi
River, but found the same state of agitation prevalent there as in Pensacola.
This was in spite of Louisiana not having seceded yet.(4)
As a result, Gerdes ordered his vessels to New York City, arriving in early
February. Similarly, work at Indian River by the schooner PEIRCE and at
St. Joseph's Bay by the schooner TORREY was terminated early because of
local hostility with both vessels leaving Florida waters in February.
F. W. Dorr, on the schooner DANA, was working in the vicinity of St.
Augustine, but left for New York City on January 12 when, "Events followed
which made it inexpedient to remain.... A boat and the camp equipage of
a party... was detained by the authorities of the State.... " The party
of Sub-Assistant N. S. Finney continued working on the northwest coast
of Florida up until February 11 when his surveying instruments and camp
gear were demanded "by a committee of armed inhabitants of Bayport, in
number about twenty." Fortunately, the instruments had just been sent off
in a boat to the schooner JOSEPH HENRY, but "the tent and camp fixtures
were... necessarily relinquished to the chairman of the committee, Mr.
C. T. Jenkins." Incredibly, relative to the later carnage and lack of concern
for property during the Civil War, Jenkins signed a receipt for the equipment
which Finney sent to the Coast Survey office. Jenkins also allowed Finney
and his aid, L. L. Nicholson, to proceed to the ship.
Not all work was terminated, however, as the triangulation party of
Lieutenant William R. Terrill, U. S. A., continued operations in the Charlotte
Harbor area of Florida's west coast even after learning in late January
of Florida's secession. Work was completed in late February and the ship
then departed for New York via Tortugas. After completing the season's
work on topography of the Florida Keys, Sub-Assistant C. T. Iardella reported
to the Coast Survey office in March, and then proceeded to his home in
Brentsville, Virginia, to ink the topographic sheet. As of the end of 1861,
he had "not yet returned to the office, nor has any communication been
received from him."(5)
Actually, it was Iardella's misfortune to live just a few miles south
of Manassas. When he first arrived home he was sick for a month recovering
from a disease contracted in Florida; by the time he recovered, the Confederate
Army occupied the area about Manassas. When he attempted to obtain a pass
to go through the lines to report to the Coast Survey, he was threatened
with arrest as he had not tendered his resignation as a Coast Survey officer.
He borrowed to support his family and did not report to Superintendent
Bache until the Confederates evacuated the Manassas area in March, 1862.
Iardella carried with him the Florida survey sheets that he had hidden
in his house while behind Confederate lines. He was sent again to Florida
to help survey the Florida reefs but returned in June, as his wife had
died making it necessary for him to care for their two small children.
Coast Surveyors on the Texas coast were not immune from harassment by
armed "public safety" committees. The triangulation party of Lieutenant
George Bell, U. S. A., working northeast of Galveston, ceased operations
on March 19 because of "the unfortunate and excited state of the country."(6)
Instruments and camp gear in storage from a triangulation party were expropriated
at Corpus Christi, as was a small boat on April 19. The Coast Survey schooner
TWILIGHT, conducting tidal observations, was seized at Port Aransas, Texas,
on April 20, and later served as a Confederate blockade runner. This vessel
was seized by the deputy customs collector of the port with nine armed
men when Assistant Andrew C. Mitchell(7)
left the ship for a few days to go to Corpus Christi to cash a government
check. No facility in Port Aransas would honor a Federal check. Mitchell
made it back to Washington, D. C., in May after considerable trouble.
North Carolina was the last state to leave the Union, voting for secession
on May 20, 1861. However, this did not inhibit an armed party of North
Carolina citizens from seizing the instruments and camp gear of a Coast
Survey party working on Roanoke Island on April 30. Sub-Assistant John
Mechan and his aid, Ferdinand R. Hassler, a grandson of the founder of
the Coast Survey, were unharmed and returned to the office at Washington,
D. C. Although most instruments seized from the Coast Survey parties were
never recovered by Union forces, these particular instruments were discovered
when Coast Survey topographers accompanying General W. T. Sherman on his
march from Savannah, Georgia, to Goldsboro, North Carolina, encountered
them at the arsenal in Fayetteville, North Carolina, on March 11, 1865.
The most unfortunate Coast Surveyor in this early period of the war
was P. H. Donegan, the tide observer at Calcasieu Pass, Louisiana. He was
left there by the TWILIGHT on March 14 and was to have been picked up when
the ship returned. Instead, he was stranded at Calcasieu Pass and continued
his tidal observations. He was interviewed by a committee of local citizens
at the beginning of April as to the nature of his business and allowed
to continue observations. His last communication with the office was dated
May 1, 1861, when he transmitted the April observations. He continued at
Calcasieu Pass until July 11 when he was arrested as a prisoner of war
and taken to Lake Charles for trial as a spy. A month later he was taken
to New Orleans where he explained his predicament to the governor of Louisiana.
The governor was willing to release him, but the military commander of
the city "met his explanations with personal abuse, and ordered his trial
by court-martial as a spy; that he was thereupon handcuffed, marched to
the common 'lockup,'"... where he was held for twenty-four hours without
food and then "remanded to the parish prison, where he was kept for a like
period without food..." Donegan "was there incarcerated... with seven acknowledged
criminals, in a space so small and close that all had to sustain life by
taking turns at a little hole in the door for air...." He was never tried
as a spy and was ultimately released through the intercession of the British
consul on November 15, 1861.(8)
Besides the disruptions to field operations caused by the onset of war,
there were disruptions to the Coast Survey personnel system as loyal Army
and Navy officers on Coast Survey duty were recalled to their respective
services, while those with Southern sympathies resigned their commissions.
Some Coast Survey civilians took leaves of absence to join the Union military
forces; and a few Coast Survey civilians resigned to cast their lot with
Most of these resignations were tendered in a gentlemanly manner such
as that of Aid John L. Tilghman on April 30, 1861:
Differing entirely as I do in every respect with the present administration of the Government and in consequence of the present condition of the country and the course which has been persued [sic] by all the officers from this state, I feel it my duty to tender my resignation.
With many thanks for kindness received and a deep regret at the termination
of our official associations."
In at least one instance, Bache displayed anger in terminating an employee
that he suspected of secessionist views. On July 6, 1861, he fired Aid
George U. Mayo in the following terms:
A treasonable letter addressed by you to your Uncle calls for your immediate
dismissal with disgrace from the Coast Survey of the United States. Your
clear, unequivocal, deliberate protestations to me of Unconditional Union
sentiments are entirely falsified by this letter. Your treachery to the
government which was supporting you was detected through the forwarding
of your letter, which you asked might be destroyed, to the dead letter
office. It is now a lasting witness against you in the Archives of the
government, which you would have betrayed.
"I cannot sign myself in any ordinary form of courtesy, but hereby dismiss
you from the service of the United States Coast Survey."
Like in other wars, there were those who were interested in employment
in the Federal Government because of possible exemption from the draft.
Charles Sanders Peirce, who was destined to become a great American scientist
and philosopher and who also happened to be son of Bache's good friend
Benjamin Peirce, wrote Bache on August 11, 1862:
"Does my appointment in the C.S. service exempt me from draft or not?
I have not had any letter of appointment so I am in doubt.... This town
has just raised a full company... considerably above its quota. But I perfectly
dread going. I should feel that I was ended and thrown away for nothing."
Bache wrote back, "Certainly your employment in an executive department
of the Gov't, viz, the Treasury exempts you from draft or the militia...."(9)
and hired him.
Perhaps more onerous to Bache than personnel turmoil and enemy harassment
of his field parties was that Congress looked upon the operations of the
Survey as expendable in the year 1861. A much reduced Congressional allocation
of funds for 1861-1862 led to curtailment of Coast Survey activities right
at the time that operations should have been expanding in support of Union
forces. This was followed by an attempt by the House of Representatives
to eliminate the Coast Survey appropriation for 1862-1863 . It is a tribute
to Bache as an administrator that he was able to overcome the disruptions
of early 1861 and further build and direct an organization that would play
a major role in determining much of the strategy and tactics of the Civil
Within a month and a half of the opening volley of the Civil War, Bache
had formulated the heart of the plan that assured the continuation of the
Coast Survey throughout the war, and, not incidentally, led to the strategy
that contributed greatly to the doom of the Southern cause. Extracts from
the letters of Rear Admiral Charles H. Davis,(10)
a good friend and confidant of Bache and a staunch supporter of the Coast
Survey, give insight into the formation of what came to be known as the
Blockade Strategy Board, or by the innocuous name "Conference on Commission."
On May 22, 1861, Davis, who at that time was in Washington, D. C., as
a member of the Navy Bureau of Detail, dined at Bache's home. He "found
that Bache has a plan of his own to carry out, which involves my remaining
here, and some other changes of another kind. He wishes to establish a
military commission, or advisory council, to determine military proceedings
and operations along the coast. The coast survey is to furnish the requisite
information of the hydrographical and topographical nature." Davis was
to be junior member and secretary of the board. Captain Samuel F. Du Pont,
Brigadier General Joseph Totten of the Army Corps of Engineers, and Bache
would comprise the remaining members of this commission. Davis was explicit
in crediting Bache with formulation of the plan for the Board: "Fox, [Gustavus
Fox, soon to be Assistant Secretary of the Navy] the chief clerk of the
Navy Department, has already been brought into the scheme of the commission
-- how much further he had gone, or been advised, in respect to Bache's
plans, I do not exactly know."(11) The
blockade, which had been declared by President Abraham Lincoln within a
week of the beginning of hostilities, was an intrinsic part of the "Anaconda
Plan," credited to General Winfield Scott, which was derisively named because
of the similarity of the plan to the slow strangulation of the South by
an anaconda. Perhaps early on the plan did seem too conservative; however,
the North ultimately won by following the basic tenets of Scott's plan.
On June 14th, 1861, Davis wrote:
"Bache is wonderful in his way. The general expectation has been that
the coast survey, being deprived of a large part of its field of usefulness,
would decline in power and be reduced in occupation. Some of those kindhearted
people, whose happiness is impaired by too much success and prosperity
on the part of their neighbors, have remarked to Mr. Bache in a tone of
condolence, but with a smile of satisfaction, that they supposed the coast
survey would be stopped now. But, in fact, it has never been so distinguished
and important as now. Bache's ingenuity has been exercised in discovering
methods of making the coast survey cooperative in the great movement of
the day. The new commission I have already spoken of; in addition to this,
he has made special surveys, made and distributed maps of the seat of war,
and, above all, he has managed so as to have calls made on his office for
reconnoissances; and he is now, by means of his assistants, actually performing
the duty of a topographical corps to this division of the army, for which
service he has received the thanks and compliments of the President, the
Secretary of War, and the general-in-chief. And his assistants will accompany
the army in its advance, and form the active members of the topographical
staff. He certainly possesses a very remarkable talent for this kind of
The Blockade Strategy Board first met on June 27, 1861, under the chairmanship of Du Pont. The only personnel difference from Bache's suggested membership was Major John G. Barnard of the Army Corps of Engineers, (soon to become a Major General and Chief Engineer of the Army of the Potomac) who sat on the board instead of Brigadier General Totten. The Board considered the major problems of the blockade and planned amphibious operations for establishing vital bases along the Southern coast. According to the official United States Navy compendium Civil War Naval Chronology 1861-1865, "Recommendations made by the Blockade Strategy Board, an early example of a 'Joint Staff,' had a profound effect on the course of the conflict and pointed the way to the successful naval actions at Hatteras Inlet, Port Royal, and New Orleans. The broad policies the Board set forth were essentially followed to their
culmination at Appomattox."(13) In essence,
this Board guided the Union naval efforts that resulted in the denial of
Southern access to the markets and military materiel of Europe.
To execute a naval blockade was a daunting task. From the Potomac River
and Chesapeake Bay to the Mexican border were over 3,500 miles of outer
coastline and many more thousand miles of coastline counting islands, inlets,
and interconnecting creeks and rivers. The geographic problem was compounded
by a political problem: the British and Spanish were both sympathetic to
the Southern cause and allowed the use of the Bahamas and Cuba as bases.
At ports in those islands, large deep-draught merchant vessels would unload
and then transfer their cargoes to small shallow-draught vessels. These
vessels would then either follow circuitous routes via the meandering waterways
of our southeastern coast to the major cities or offload their cargoes
in secluded locations for land transport to railways. Such tactics significantly
increased the extent of coast to be patrolled by Northern blockading ships.
The Blockade Strategy Board addressed these problems in a series of
five memoirs. These memoirs dealt with individual geographic regions of
the Southeast coast. The first memoir dealt with the stretch of coast from
Cape Henry, Virginia, to the southern limit of North Carolina; the second
included the South Carolina coast; the third encompassed the Georgia coast
and east coast of Florida; the fourth discussed the Gulf coast centered
about the Mississippi River and approaches to New Orleans; and the fifth
memoir dealt with the Florida Keys and reef, the west coast of Florida,
western Louisiana, and Texas.(14)
Memoir I, dated July 16, 1861, spelled out the broad goal of the blockade:
"But it is an important object in the present war that this trade, home
and foreign, should be interrupted, and for this purpose, it is desirable
to adopt some general method by which the approaches from the sea, and
the channels inside from sound to sound may be shut up." The two methods
available to the Union to interrupt maritime trade were blockading vessels
and the sinking of obstructions in harbor channels. The latter method,
first attributed to Assistant Secretary of the Navy Gustavus Fox, led to
the development of what came to be called the "Stone Fleet." The first
memoir continued: "The most obvious method of accomplishing this object
is by letting down material obstructions; and the most convenient form
of obstruction for transportation and use, is that of old vessels laden
with ballast in a neighboring port, and sunk in the appropriate places.
They would completely obliterate the old channels...." Recognizing that
all harbors are not amenable to such tactics, the memoir pointed out that
"There are two harbors that may have to be blockaded from the outside,
Beaufort and Cape Fear River...." To effect either means of blockade, "The
Archives of the Coast Survey will furnish the best information concerning
this region of Coast."
Memoir II, dated July 13, 1861, [predates Memoir I] suggested the taking
of one or more of three points on the coast of South Carolina for use as
a naval base, harbor of refuge, and coaling station for the Union steamers.
Bull's Bay, St. Helena Sound, and Port Royal Bay were all looked at in
detail. Port Royal Bay was ultimately decided upon as the point to attack
and seize, although considered the third choice by the Blockade Strategy
Board. Perhaps their own rhetoric did them in concerning the choice of
Port Royal Bay as the Board described it as "...the finest harbor South
of Chesapeake Bay, which it resembles in capacity and extent.... several
of our screw frigates of the first class can pass the bar, and when the
entrance is once made, a whole Navy can ride at anchor in the bay...."
In an odd negative recommendation, the Board remarked further "... we are
not disposed to recommend any immediate measures for the taking of Port
Royal. The putting of twelve or fifteen thousand men thus in the immediate
neighborhood of Charleston and Savannah, and the presence of a considerable
fleet in this noble harbor, would doubtless be a sore annoyance to the
Rebels, and necessitate the constant maintenance of large forces in these
cities and on those shores."
Memoir III, dated July 26, 1861, referred primarily to the coast of
Georgia and Florida but referred back to the suggestion for taking one
or more points on the South Carolina coast when it predicted "... the favorable
manner in which our foreign political relations would be affected by the
possession of one or more of the three points." The memoir further discussed
the coast of Georgia and the role of the Coast Survey: "We may complete
what we have to say of the navigation of these sounds and bays by observing
that it demands the most thorough local knowledge, and an accurate acquaintance
with the times and heights of tides, to follow all its circuitous paths:
and further, that the best pilot information concerning the navigation
that can be put on paper is to be found in the "Notes on the Coast of Georgia"
prepared by the Supdt of the Coast Survey from the archives of his office."
The Board finished this report with the recommendation that the coast from
Cape Henry, Virginia, to Cape Romain, South Carolina, comprise one naval
command, while that from Cape Romain to Cape Florida comprise a second
command. This resulted in the formation of the North Atlantic Blockading
Squadron and the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron.
Memoir IV, dated August 9, 1861, discussed the problems associated with
blockading New Orleans and Mobile and recommended the seizure of Ship Island
to establish a naval base. Memoir V, dated September 3, 1861, ended with
the strong statement: "We take this occasion to earnestly recommend that
a Coast Survey vessel be attached to to each of the principal blockading
squadrons to complete ... the examination of such parts of the Coast not
yet surveyed in detail. The importance of this measure cannot be overrated."
Major tools used by the Union in developing plans to enforce the blockade
and then in maintaining the blockade were the Coast Survey charts of the
coast and adjacent waters and a series of reports turned out by the Coast
Survey which included narrative descriptions of coastal areas, locations
of obstructions to navigation, lighthouse locations, tide and current information,
magnetic declination, and other related information. These reports were
developed by Superintendent Bache; Hydrographic Inspector C. P. Patterson,
a former naval officer and future head of the Survey; Professor William
P. Trowbridge, a former Army officer and Assistant in the Survey; and to
a lesser degree, other personnel within the Survey.
The hydrographic, geodetic, and topographic information contained in
the Blockade Strategy Board memoirs was in large measure either acquired
or processed with the assistance of Navy and Army officers assigned to
the Coast Survey in the antebellum years. The training of these military
and naval officers in hydrography, geodesy, and topographic mapping by
the core of civilian assistants of the Survey was the second major strategic
contribution of the Coast Survey to the conduct of the Civil War. Perhaps
it is a statistical aberration, but some of the greatest Navy and Army
leaders of the Civil War had served on the Coast Survey. Hassler and Bache
both alluded to the training of Army and Navy officers in skills that they
would need in the event of war. In 1851, Bache wrote: "While the obligations
of the survey to the officers of the army and navy serving on it are freely
and fully acknowledged, it should not be forgotten that, on the other hand,
the work serves as a school of practice for them, and thus gives while
it receives."(15) Hassler, as mentioned
before, while discussing the employment of naval officers upon the Survey
stated: " ... whether they do not find, from their experience, that the
navy is indebted to the coast survey, and not the coast survey to the navy."
As a school, it taught more than geodesy and hydrography. For many naval
officers, their first commands were on the Coast Survey. For many Army
officers, an intimate understanding of topography as well as leadership
in the field were developed in the triangulation and topographic parties
of the Coast Survey. Several Army officers also honed their administrative
skills in the offices of the Coast Survey as Assistant-in-Charge of the
Office or as head of one of the divisions into which the functions of the
Coast Survey were sub-divided.
Because he had been stationed in Georgia prior to the Civil War, General
William Tecumseh Sherman remarked that "he knew more about Georgia than
the Georgians." Analogous to Sherman's experience, in the 25 years prior
to the Civil War, over 400 Naval officers serving on the Coast Survey developed
similar knowledge of United States coastal regions by investigating their
shoals, inlets, tidal streams, and harbors. In many respects, these naval
officers knew more about the currents, bottom characteristics, and depths
to be expected in operating areas than did their adversaries; and by working
for months, and sometimes years in the same general area, they learned
the wind, sea, and weather conditions affecting operations throughout the
Southeast and Gulf Coast areas. They learned inshore piloting and small-boat
work in a brown-water environment, skills which also transfered to the
western rivers operating areas. This knowledge was indispensable for tactical
success in the coming conflict. In addition to the hydrographic and scientific
experience gained by these Naval officers, dozens of Naval ship engineers
received experience on Coast Survey steamers in the 1850's.(16)
Union naval officers who served on the Coast Survey and earned distinguished
Civil War records included Rear Admirals David Dixon Porter, John Dahlgren,
Charles H. Davis, and S. P.Lee; Commodores Steven C. Rowan and George S.
Blake; Captains John Rodgers, James Alden, Benjamin F. Sands, and Thornton
A. Jenkins; Commanders C.R.P. Rodgers, T.A.M. Craven, Foxhall A. Parker,
A. C. Rhind, and Thomas H. Stevens; and Lieutenant Commanders Earl English,
Thomas O. Selfridge, Charles W. Flusser, and S.L. Phelps. Engineer Alban
Stimers spent a year on the Survey in the 1850's and Gustavus Fox, Assistant
Secretary of the Navy during the Civil War, served on the Coast Survey
in the 1840's as a naval officer on the brig WASHINGTON. Confederate naval
officers with prior service on the Coast Survey included Flag Officer John
K. Mitchell; Commanders John Maffitt, James D. Bulloch, and Hunter Davidson;
and Lieutenants Charles Manigault Morris, William T. Glassell, John Wilkinson,
and John Rutledge.
Less than sixty Army officers served on the Coast Survey prior to the
Civil War. However, this small group encompassed some of the most illustrious
names associated with the war. Union Army officers who served on the Coast
Survey prior to the Civil War included: Grant's Corps commanders Major
Generals Andrew A. Humphreys and E.O.C.Ord; Major Generals Isaac Ingalls
Stevens, Henry W. Benham, Thomas Jefferson Cram, John G. Foster, John C.
Tidball, and Rufus Saxton; and Brigadier Generals James H. Simpson, Henry
Prince, Joseph Totten, James Oakes, Daniel T. Van Buren, William Myers,
George Bell, William Terrill, Thomas Wilson, and Judson D. Bingham. Among
those who served on the Coast Survey and rose to high rank in the Confederate
Army were General Joseph E. Johnston, head of the Army of Northern Virginia
before Robert E. Lee; Lieutenant General Ambrose P. Hill, who was among
Lee's most trusted commanders; Major General Martin Luther Smith; and Brigadier
Generals Roswell S. Ripley and Richard S. Ewell. It is remarkable that
out of such a relatively small group of Army officers who served with the
Survey, that so many rose to such high rank. Apparently RADM Benjamin F.
Sands' statement concerning naval officers who served on the Coast Survey
was equally true of Army officers: "The brightest of the young officers
applied for this duty as an instructive school in a branch of their profession
useful in peace or war ...."
DURING THE CIVIL WAR
There were few Civil War naval actions in which Coast Surveyors did
not play an intrinsic part. They were active participants in the Battle
of Port Royal Sound, the taking of New Orleans, the clearing of the Mississippi,
the siege of Charleston, and the capture of Fort Fisher. Naval officers
with Coast Survey experience commanded the Mississippi River Squadron,
the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, and the North Atlantic Blockading
Squadron. Many of the Union's most effective fighting vessels were commanded
by naval officers with Coast Survey experience. Hundreds of captures of
blockade-running vessels were made by naval officers who had served on
the Survey. And in many of the major actions, Coast Survey civilians provided
hydrography, triangulation data, and topography which gave Union commanders
an invaluable tactical advantage. In addition, Coast Surveyors served as
pilots of naval craft in many major engagements.
The Union Navy wasted no time in putting the concepts of the Blockade
Strategy Board into effect. On the morning of August 27, 1861, an amphibious
attack was launched against Forts Clark and Hatteras at Hatteras Inlet,
approximately thirteen miles below Cape Hatteras. By the next day, both
forts surrendered and the Union controlled Hatteras Inlet. With no casualties,
the Navy gained a naval station and port of refuge. This victory denied
the South its most convenient access point for supplying the Confederate
Army in Virginia and gave the Union control over the interior traffic in
Pamlico Sound. Three weeks later, the Confederates evacuated Ship Island,
Mississippi, which gave the Union another base at a location suggested
by the Blockade Strategy Board. Ship Island became Farragut's base of operations
during the New Orleans expedition.
Following the Hatteras Inlet expedition and the occupation of Ship Island,
the North began planning for a large operation against Port Royal Sound.
A great fleet began assembling in early October in Hampton Roads, Virginia.
On October 14, 1861, Bache's colleague from the Lighthouse Board and Blockade
Strategy Board, Commodore Samuel F. Du Pont, the designated commander of
the expedition, wrote to Bache and directed that he "send for Boutelle
(Charles O. Boutelle, Assistant in the Coast Survey) and officers and men
and put aboard VIXEN (Coast Survey steamer VIXEN) forthwith to report at
Fort Monroe to Comm. Du Pont or if he has sailed to follow him down the
coast."(17) By October 24, 1861, Boutelle
and the VIXEN had not shown up in Hampton Roads. The importance of Boutelle
to the expedition was paramount. Captain Charles H. Davis, fleet captain
and chief of staff to Flag Officer Du Pont, wrote his wife: "It was distinctly
understood by Du Pont and myself that Mr. Boutelle was to come here post-haste
and leave the VIXEN to follow."(18) This
statement is at odds with Du Pont's directive; but perhaps Du Pont had
further communication with Bache, as Davis, who was a good friend and confidant
of Bache, criticized Bache's motives in a letter home: "More than a week
has elapsed and he is not here. The truth is, no doubt, that Bache did
not want him to go without the VIXEN, in order that he might have a coast
survey vessel in the affair. We have decided in council to wait till Saturday
morning." Although not mentioned in this letter, Davis's major concern
was the timing of the expedition such that the fleet would enter Port Royal
Sound during the occurrence of spring tides on November 2, 1861. Davis's
pique did not last long as Boutelle showed up early the next morning, Saturday,
October 26. The VIXEN arrived in Hampton Roads two days later under Sailing
Master Robert Platt, in time to sail with the fleet.
Following Boutelle's arrival, Davis related to his wife: "He was very
welcome; nothing could have supplied the loss of his knowledge of the ground.
He made the triangulation, the groundwork of the survey, of the whole coast
of South Carolina, and he possesses a taste for topographical details,
and a faculty of observing, and, so to speak, of interpreting them, which
are truly wonderful. He lives with us in the cabin.... The first thing
after breakfast was to send for the other generals and have another council
of war. The generals talked over the matter with Mr. Boutelle, while Du
Pont and I wrote without cessation, preparing the final orders.... Mr.
Boutelle answered all their questions and removed all their scruples, and
they came heartily into the new plan of operations. He satisfied me upon
the only point about which I felt anxious; that is, the easy and certain
entrance of this ship [the U. S. S. WABASH, Admiral Du Pont's flagship]
into the place."(19)
Because of inclement weather, the greatest fleet to sail under the United
States flag up to that time did not get underway until Tuesday, October
29, 1861 The evening before sailing, Boutelle who was sailing on the WABASH
felt, "The lights of the immense fleet resemble a city upon the waters."
The fleet made a grand procession with forty-nine vessels passing out of
Hampton Roads in formation. The fleet passed Cape Hatteras uneventfully,
but when nearing Port Royal the fleet encountered a violent southeaster
on November 1 which did not abate until Sunday, November 3, 1861. Boutelle
wrote to Bache, "At daylight only seven vessels were in sight and we were
reduced to the square root of our squadron, having sailed on Tuesday night
with forty-nine."(20) The VIXEN rode out
the storm safely by putting out a drogue and calmed the surrounding seas
by "literally pouring oil upon the troubled waters." Following the storm,
the Coast Survey Steamer VIXEN was the first to arrive at Port Royal Sound
entrance. The sailing master of the VIXEN, Robert Platt, was a consummate
seaman and would be of inestimable value to Union efforts in the future.
The fleet lost approximately two days because of the poor weather. This
made the timing of the attack critical because of the predicted spring
tides centered about November 2, 1861. Possibly understood by Boutelle
after the fact, as alluded to in a letter written to Bache on November
8, 1861, was the effect of the proxigean spring tide which occurred in
the early morning hours of November 3, 1861.(21)
Such a tide, which produces tidal ranges approximately 40 per cent above
normal spring tides, occurs when the moon makes its closest approach to
the earth at a time coinciding with the the near alignment of the sun,
earth, and moon (termed the syzygy). This relationship occurs about every
1.5 years. The perigee-syzygy near-alignment continued for several days
thereafter resulting in higher (and lower) than normal tides for November
4, 5, and 6, 1861. The original plan had been to take the heavy ships over
the bar on November 2; but, because of the extraordinary tidal conditions,
Boutelle was able to pilot them into Port Royal Sound on November 4, much
later than originally planned.
Besides the state of tides, the first order of business for leading
the fleet into Port Royal Sound was to find the channel since the Confederates
had removed all aids to navigation. Boutelle, commanding the VIXEN and
accompanied by Commander Charles H. Davis, entered Port Royal Sound on
November 3, escorted by the U. S. S. OTTAWA and SENECA; the sounding expedition
was taken under fire by a Confederate naval squadron but succeeded in finding
and buoying the channel. Commodore Du Pont in his report to the Navy Department
wrote: "The Department is aware that all the aids to navigation had been
removed, and the bar lies ten miles seaward, with no features on the shore-line
sufficient to make any bearings reliable. But, by the skill of Commodore
Davis, the Fleet-Captain, and Mr. Boutelle, the able Assistant of the Coast
Survey, in charge of the steamer VIXEN, the channel was immediately found,
sounded out and buoyed.... On the evening of Monday Captain Davis and Mr.
Boutelle reported water enough for the WABASH to venture in. On the morning
of Tuesday, the WABASH crossed the bar." Du Pont leaves no doubt as to
who piloted the ships into Port Royal Sound as he thanked Boutelle personally
in a communication dated November 5, 1861: "I have to thank you for your
efficient assistance and cooperation in bringing the heavy ships of the
Squadron under my command and transports into Port Royal Roadstead...."
A reconnaisssance in force was sent out on November 5, that resulted
in the determination that Fort Walker on Hilton Head Island was significantly
stronger than Fort Beauregard on the north side of the Sound. This discovery
resulted in the revision of the plan of attack as formulated by Fleet Captain
Davis.(22) The plan was modified to concentrate
fire upon Fort Walker first and then to proceed against Fort Beauregard.
The night of November 5, the ship R.B. FORBES came to Boutelle on the
VIXEN to report "that the AUGUSTA and DALE (steam Gunboat and Sloop of
War) were outside. I reported the fact to the commodore, and he expressed
so earnest a wish to get them in before the attack, that I determined to
get them in at once, though night had already come on.... Both captains
were ready to go in if I would take the responsibility of leading them.
The AUGUSTA took the DALE in tow, and we passed in without trouble, having
no cast less than nineteen feet, and I had the satisfaction of reporting
to the flag-officer their arrival at half-past eleven P.M. Running outside
again, I anchored the VIXEN at the entrance, in readiness to bring in the
ERICSSON and the BALTIC, drawing twenty and twenty-two feet.... At sunrise
we anchored a large spar buoy at the entrance of the south channel. Mr.
Platt and Mr. Jones, first and second officers of this vessel, were then
sent on board of the BALTIC and ERICSSON respectively, and then led in
myself in this vessel at half flood...."
Commodore Du Pont scheduled the attack for the morning of November 6,
but a "violent gale from the westward prevailed until the afternoon of
that day." Thus, on November 7, the Battle of Port Royal Sound commenced.
Tactics for this battle were modified even at the last minute as reported
by Davis: "It now seems to me providential that we were prevented from
going in when we first intended, for the moment I woke up Thursday morning,
before I had fairly got my eyes open, it occurred to me that while the
direct approach to Fort Walker (Hilton Head) had the advantage of avoiding
the fire of Beauregard (Bay Point), leaving us to reserve all our force
and all our fire for the former, -- an advantage I had perhaps thought
too much of, -- yet that I had overlooked another advantage, which , on
reflection, I felt convinced ought not to be thrown away; and that was
the advantage arising from making an approach to Fort Walker from the north,
on which side we could enfilade the water-faces of the battery, and encounter
the fort at the beginning on its weakest flank.... I went to Du Pont's
stateroom without waiting to dress, and communicated my change in the plan
of attack, to which he consented immediately."
That was the mode of attack that Davis ordered; however, he had a minor
regret as regards changing the plan: "...if I had known the existence and
position of that venomous rifled eighty-pounder on the salient of Fort
Beauregard, to the fire of which we were exposed as we advanced, and, still
more, if I had known the rapidity and accuracy with which it was to be
served, I should have indulged in a little more reflection perhaps. Every
shot from that pestilential devil ... either struck us or went within forty
feet of the bridge on which Du Pont, the Rodgerses (John and Raymond),
the first lieutenant (Corbin), and myself were standing. It was evidently
aimed, according to the Southern custom, at the officers, and aimed, I
have no doubt, by some of our old brother officers turned rebel."(23)
Charles Boutelle, who was on the VIXEN and anchored by the troop transports
that had entered the Sound, gave a vivid description of the battle and
"The WABASH started for the batteries at 8:30 A.M. She was preceded
by the BIENVILLE, and followed by the SUSQUEHANNAH, MOHICAN, SEMINOLE,
PAWNEE, POCAHONTAS, CURLEW, PENGUIN, AUGUSTA, SENECA, OTTAWA, UNADILLA,
PEMBINA, ISAAC SMITH, VANDALIA (in tow of AUGUSTA), and the R.B. FORBES.
The sight was grand .... The fleet sailed around in an ellipse, under slow
steam, each vessel delivering its broadside as the guns were brought to
bear. The WABASH, with her tremendous batteries of eight-inch guns on two
decks, fairly reeled, as each division fired in succession. At the first
turn the fleet went so near that many shells passed over into the woods
beyond. As the vessels came around the second time they passed a little
further out, and the shells went directly into and around the works of
the enemy. Gun after gun ceased firing on shore, until at last, only one
gun replied to the vessels. As the fleet was about coming round for the
third time, that gun also ceased, and the flag of the fort came down. Soon
we saw a barge from the WABASH pulling in-shore with a flag of truce in
her bow, and in a few minutes more the flag of the United States was raised
on shore. At the sight of it shouts went up from the troops around us.
The whole fleet of transports was soon in motion, and with bands playing
and soldiers shouting the vessels passed into the bay and anchored around
the flag-ship. On visiting the WABASH I found, to my utter surprise, that
on board one man only had been killed and two wounded.... The loss [in
the entire squadron] is about ten men killed and not many more wounded."(24)
The Battle of Port Royal Sound remains comparatively unknown because
the Union did not follow up this victory with general land actions against
Charleston and Savannah; as such, the battle remained an isolated event
with relatively small casualties on both sides. However, both Charles H.
Davis and Brigadier General Isaac Ingalls Stevens, who was attached to
the Army contingent at Port Royal Sound and formerly the Assistant-in-Charge
of the Coast Survey office, both recommended action against Charleston
at this time. If this had been done, it would have had a profound effect
on the course of the war. Nevertheless, the North captured an excellent
base which provided them with a support facility for the blockading squadron,
cut off most water communication between Charleston and Savannah, and forced
the South to garrison Charleston with upwards of twenty thousand troops
which would have been used elsewhere.
Following the capture of bases for naval operations, offensive operations
of much wider scope began. The first of these major operations was the
capture of New Orleans. Both Assistant Secretary of the Navy Gustavus Fox
and Commander David Dixon Porter have been credited with the radical concept
of capturing New Orleans by a naval expedition approaching the city from
the South. All planning prior to this time was predicated on capturing
New Orleans from the north in a slow inexorable campaign proceeding down
the river. In November, 1861, the plan to capture New Orleans from the
south was put forth; and soon a relatively unknown naval officer by the
name of David Glasgow Farragut was put in command. By late February, 1862,
Coast Survey officers and resources had been assigned to the expedition
including the survey vessel UNCAS and Assistant Ferdinand H. Gerdes, Assistant
Joseph Harris (a surveyor with the U.S. Boundary Commisssion who had formerly
been a Sub-assistant in the Coast Survey and then volunteered for war service
with the Survey), Sub-assistants John G. Oltmanns and Richard E. Halter,
and Aid T. C. Bowie.
The UNCAS was loaned to the Coast Survey for this expedition by the
Navy and left New York on the last day of February under the command of
Assistant Joseph Harris for the Gulf Coast. Harris described the UNCAS
as "one of a pair of propeller steamers of about 200 tons burthen.... They
were lightly powered, had geared engines, and auxiliary sail power, but
I do not believe that ... either of them could make 8 knots under sail
and steam. They could not be handled under sail alone as the sails were
too far forward and could only help progress with a favoring wind. They
rolled terribly and their guns went under water very often in a heavy sea."
In spite of these problems, Harris reported that: "They were pretty fairly
comfortable vessels." Gerdes packed his gear and instruments on the UNCAS
but took an Army transport south as did Oltmanns and Bowie.
The UNCAS encountered relatively decent weather until crossing over
the Gulf Stream at Cape Hatteras. As the weather deteriorated, "the vessel
proved hard to handle. Seas had struck her several times and had blocked
or reversed our machinery breaking some of the teeth of our connecting
gear, so that the engineer had to stand by the engine from morning to night...."
The UNCAS began to run short of coal and a southwest gale continued. Harris
chose to put about and head for Hampton Roads for fuel and repairs. He
arrived off the Virginia Capes on the evening of March 8, 1862, and witnessed
the burning and explosion of the U. S. S. CONGRESS following the attack
of the C. S. S. MERRIMAC earlier in the day. The next morning he "saw firing
from vessels a few miles to the S. E., which I thought was artillery practice
of our own vessels, but which was the battle between the MONITOR and the
Because of the damage to the UNCAS, Harris was ordered to transfer his
equipment and crew to its sister ship, the SACHEM, for the remainder of
the voyage to the Gulf Coast. He left Hampton Roads on March 18 and put
into Port Royal for coal on the 24th. Here he was rebuffed by the Navy
supply department and ordered under threat of facing a firing squad to
support an expedition to Edisto Island. Harris declined as he repeatedly
stated that he was under Coast Survey orders to proceed to Ship Island
and report to Commodore Farragut. Only through the personal intervention
of Commodore Du Pont was the SACHEM finally coaled and allowed to depart
Port Royal. Following a coaling stop at Key West during which four men
mutinied and refused orders to pass coal to the SACHEM, Harris continued
on to Ship Island and arrived April 9. The fleet had left the day before
and gone to the mouth of the Mississippi River. The SACHEM proceeded to
the Mississippi River and arrived April 10, when Harris turned over command
of the small steamer to Ferdinand Gerdes.
Assistant Gerdes had been a few days ahead of the SACHEM on his trip
down; he wrote Bache from Key West on March 22 that he wished to proceed
directly to Ship Island. At that time, he was "deprived not only of all
the instruments, but regret particularly not to have Harris along. All
my papers, all my clothes, private outfit were on the UNCAS -- however,
these are only inconveniences which I will easily overcome...."(26)
Fortunately, the arrival of the SACHEM alleviated Gerdes' problems. Apparently
Sub-assistant Oltmanns and Aid Bowie were with Gerdes; but Sub-assistant
Halter had been attached to Farragut's command since the beginning of the
Prior to arrival of the SACHEM, Farragut attempted unsuccessfully to
get his heavy ships, the HARTFORD and the BROOKLYN, over the bar at Pass
a l'Outre, one of the three major passes into the river. On March 10, he
sent Halter to Southwest Pass to sound out and buoy the deepest channel
into the river. This resulted in the successful passage of the deeper draft
vessels into the river and the congregation of the Federal fleet at Head
of Passes. Although this increased the effectiveness of the blockade, it
would be another six weeks before Farragut was able to move against New
On April 12 operations began in earnest as Assistant Gerdes moved the
SACHEM up to the "Jump" accompanied by the gunboat OWASCO. The next day
the SACHEM got underway and "took the lead" proceeding upriver with the
gunboats of the flotilla and all other Navy vessels in the vicinity following.
The small survey ship was leading the ONEIDA, IROQUOIS, VARUNA, CAYUGA,
OSCEOLA, KENNEBECK, OWASCO, WESTFIELD, CLIFTON, and MIAMI. According to
Gerdes "... the steamer SACHEM had an escort, as probably never a Coast
Survey vessel experienced before."(27)
The object of this expedition was to establish survey markers on the
shore to serve as control points for indirect artillery fire into Forts
Jackson and St. Philip from mortar boats commanded by David Dixon Porter.
Gerdes' "plan was to measure a series of small triangles based upon the
two points 'Saltworks' and 'Jump' as we could get them best, and to operate
on both sides of the river at the same time. We had agreed upon a system
of signaling to each other, to know when to observe, and we succeeded in
the operations admirably and reached within three miles of the forts when
night fell."(28) To accomplish this work,
small boats carrying the survey crews were sent out from the SACHEM and
some of the accompanying escort vessels. (Joseph Harris was attached to
the gunboat OWASCO at this time.) The surveyors landed and conducted their
operations while the gunboats engaged the forts to distract them from the
surveying operations. Harris worked on the east bank of the river while
Oltmanns and Bowie worked on the west bank.
On April 14 the gunboats took up positions two miles from the forts
at a conspicuous point which Gerdes named "Porter Point." The gunboats
again "engaged the enemy to draw their attention from our boats. This however
was only partially effective.... When Mr. Oltmanns passed Porters Point,
he and his crew were fired on with eight or nine rifle shots but fortunately
the whole damage consisted in breaking the blade of an oar. The fire was
promptly returned by Messrs. Oltmanns and Bowie and by the crew." April
15 the survey continued with Oltmanns and Bowie getting to within one and
a half miles of the lower fort and observing "intersections on the hulks
[wrecked vessels supporting a chain across the river] and on the two flagstaffs
of the fortifications." While the surveying was being conducted, Gerdes
and other members of his party "converted the wardroom of the SACHEM into
a sub-office of the Coast Survey, and were busily engaged in preparing
copies [of charts and maps] for the use of the flotilla and fleet." Two
days later, Gerdes delivered the charts to Farragut and Porter on the flagship
HARTFORD at which time Farragut spoke of the "intrepidity, determination,
system, and dispatch" of the Coast Survey crews.(29)
At the meeting with Farragut and Porter, Porter requested that additional
survey points be placed every 100 to 150 meters on the shore between certain
already determined points. This was done immediately with Oltmanns and
Bowie continuing on the west bank while Harris worked on the east bank.
During this work, "... Several of the enemy's gunboats came out, and both
our boats were fired on repeatedly; the fire was returned by the most advanced
of the ships, and many of the shells and balls fell within 1/4 mile of
us."(30) Harris noted:
"Two of the Confederate gunboats which had been watching me go up the river, when I pulled up the shore, and commenced observing started for me, and commenced firing at us from a distance of about a mile. My man-of-war's crew were uneasy and all besought of me to get out, but I told them that they were not going to hit us, that we could see that one shot would fall short of us, another go over us, and pointed out the shot which we could see distinctly. On their continuing to urge that I should leave, I told them that I would finish that station, and then leave if they continued to approach. I privately looked toward the bank, and thought what chance of escape we should have if they attempted to capture us, which might have been awkward, as I had nothing to identify me as a military man, and might be treated as a spy.
"Our gunboats hearing the firing came around the bend of the river,
and engaged the Confederates who thereafter neglected me and allowed me
to go on with my work which I finished in a few hours, and was delighted
to find on putting it on paper that evening that I had made no mistakes
of the flags, and that my work all plotted perfectly, showing that in this
unaccustomed work I had been cool and clear headed...."(31)
The next day, April 18, the mortar boats were placed and commenced firing
on Fort Jackson. This was possibly the first instance in warfare of blind
firing of artillery based on aiming the weapon from a known surveyed location
at a target with known survey coordinate points.(32)
Over the next six days, thousands of mortar shells poured into the fort.
If remaining at one point too long, the Confederates would eventually discover
the location of the mortar boats; to avoid this, they were moved with great
regularity. This necessitated additional surveying. During this work, "One
of the vessels on which Mr. Harris was engaged was struck by a round shot
and another vessel where Mr. Oltmanns was in a boat alongside was sunk
while he was speaking with the captain." ( This was the schooner MARIA
J. CARLTON.) On April 23 Farragut sent the SACHEM downstream to deliver
wounded men to Pilot Town, at the entrance of Southwest Pass, as he planned
to run past the forts early on the next morning.
Farragut commenced moving the fleet past the forts at 2:00 A.M. on the
morning of April 24. Unfortunately, in spite of a bombardment in which
over 4,400 shells had burst in or over Fort Jackson out of 7,500 fired,
many guns were still operational at both Forts Jackson and St. Philip.
The problem was not accuracy, but the fuses of the shells. "Primitive fusing
caused the shells either to explode prematurely (thus delivering an ineffectual
shower of iron fragments) or, if the fuse had lengthened, to fire the charge
only after it had landed. Since the ground in and around both forts was
muddy, this often resulted in little more than a muffled roar, followed
by a splattering of mud."(33) In spite
of this problem, the disruption to the operations of the forts was great.
No ships were sunk by the guns of the forts and only 37 men were killed
and 146 wounded as Farragut's vessels passed by. This was a light casualty
total for the capture of New Orleans, the major city on the Gulf Coast,
and the South's loss of access to the lower Mississippi River.(34)
Without the surrender of the forts, Farragut's ships were in a precarious
position in New Orleans with no clear line of supply from the South and
the added prospect of having to run Army transports past the forts to bring
General Ben Butler's occupation army to New Orleans. General Butler's troops
arrived on April 24(35), and Oltmanns,
Harris, and Halter reconnoitered a route through the bayous and swamps
of the Mississippi Delta to lead them to the rear of Fort St. Philip.(36)
The night of April 27 troops at Fort Jackson mutinied and refused to fight
any more reflecting the demoralization of days of bombardment by the mortar
midnight, April 28, a Confederate officer under flag of truce asked permission
to come aboard Porter's flagship, HARRIET LANE. At daybreak of the 28th,
Porter met with officers from the forts and accepted their surrender. Butler's
troops in the unprotected rear of Fort St. Philip and the havoc wreaked
by Porter's mortarboats on Fort Jackson forced the surrender of the forts.
Although many of the guns of Fort Jackson remained operational, it was
reduced to a shambles. Following the surrender of the forts, Gerdes and
Commander Porter "inspected closely for several hours the damage done by
the mortars [to Fort Jackson], and I cannot understand to this minute how
the garrison could have possibly lived so long in the enclosure. The destruction
goes beyond all description; the ground is torn up by the shells as if
a thousand hogs had rooted it up, only that the holes are from 3 to 8 feet
deep; they are very close together and sometimes within a couple of feet.
All what was wood was consumed by fire, the brickwork is knocked down,
the arches stove, guns are dismounted, gun carriages burned, and the whole
presents such a spectacle of destruction as never an eye witnessed. The
surrender of both forts was made to the mortar fleet, and it is positively
stated by the commander of the enemy that only to them he would have surrendered
as he was conquered by them...."(39)
Commander Porter wrote to Bache concerning the battle of Forts St. Philip
and Jackson: "... The results of our mortar practice here have exceeded
anything I ever dreamed of; and for my success I am mainly indebted to
the accuracy of positions marked down, under Mr. Gerdes' direction, by
Mr. Harris and Mr. Oltmanns. They made a minute and complete survey from
the 'jump' to the forts, most of the time exposed to fire from shot and
shell, and from sharpshooters from the bushes.... The position that every
vessel was to occupy was marked by a white flag, and we knew to a yard
the exact distance of the hole in the mortar from the forts.... Mr. Oltmanns
and Mr. Harris remained constantly on board to put the vessels in position
again when they had to haul off for repairs, or on account of the severity
of the enemy's fire." Porter then pays the highest possible compliment
to these men and Gerdes: "...I assure you that I shall never undertake
a bombardment unless I have them at my side." Porter also pointed out another
aspect of the work: "Mr. Gerdes has been indefatigable in superintending
the work, laboring at night in making charts and providing the officers
in command of ships with them, marking the positions of obstructions in
the channel, and making all familiar with the main way. No accident happened
to any ship going through, notwithstanding the gentlemen in the forts thought
the obstructions impassable...."(40)
Over the few weeks following the fall of New Orleans and the forts,
the SACHEM engaged in two expeditions. On May 8, it accompanied a reconnaissance
to Fort Morgan at Mobile Bay entrance in which it helped the Gunboat CLIFTON
extricate itself from being aground under the guns of Fort Morgan. The
other expedition occurred on May 13 during which it accompanied the gunboats
CLIFTON and WESTFIELD on a trip up the Pearl River on the Louisiana-Mississippi
state border. The purpose of this foray was to look for three Confederate
gunboats which were unaccounted for following the destruction of the enemy
fleet during Farragut's passing of the forts. The river soon became too
narrow for the large gunboats to negotiate its sharp turns, and their captains
transferred to the SACHEM. About three miles from Gainesville the ship
was fired upon by musketry; and John Oltmanns, the executive officer, was
severely wounded. A musket ball hit him in the left side of his chest,
just above the lungs. The SACHEM returned fire with 50 or 60 musket shots
and discharged grape and canister from its 32-pound cannon which scattered
the enemy and left one dead draped over a tree branch. It then succeeded
in turning around in the narrow river which was scarcely as wide as the
ship was long. Two boats being towed astern were crushed between the ship
and the woods lining the bank, and the flag-staff was broken during this
maneuver. On the way back down the river a doctor probed Oltmanns' wound
but was unable to find the ball. Although Gerdes feared for Oltmanns' life,
he survived and continued surveying for the Union in Louisiana, Texas,
and Virginia over the final three years of the war.(41)
The work on the lower Mississippi being finished, Gerdes turned over
the SACHEM to Assistant Harris and proceeded to his home in New York. In
a final communication to Bache prior to proceeding to the Northeast on
June 11, 1862, Gerdes expressed the opinion "... and as to Vicksburg, I
presume it will not take long." Gerdes presumed wrong as the capture of
Vicksburg and the opening of the Mississippi River would take much longer
than he or David Dixon Porter or Ulysses S. Grant would have dreamed in
June of 1862.
In keeping with his request that Coast Surveyors accompany him on major
sieges, in November, 1862, recently promoted Rear Admiral Porter, commanding
the Mississippi River Squadron, requested that Ferdinand Gerdes report
to him at Cairo, Illinois, to assist in the campaign to take Vicksburg.
Gerdes began making preparations for joining Porter's staff and sent Sub-Assistant
Clarence Fendall, draughtsman Alexander Strausz, and Sub-Assistant R. E.
Halter to report prior to his arrival. Porter was having the second-class
gunboat CURLEW, a "tin-clad" in the jargon of the times, outfitted for
the Coast Survey party and would send for Gerdes once this vessel was ready.
Unfortunately, this vessel never became available for Coast Survey use
during the Vicksburg Campaign; and, as a consequence, Gerdes never reported
to the Mississippi Squadron until late 1863. Halter became quite ill with
an attack of pleurisy and returned home for convalescence shortly after
reporting. Strausz and Fendall remained with the party until just after
the fall of Vicksburg. Gerdes remained the chief-of-party although remaining
in New York. This arrangement was quite fortunate as a very complete record
of the party's accomplishments is found in Gerdes' correspondence with
Fendall, Strausz, Porter, and Bache. On the other hand, without Gerdes
present, dissension arose between Fendall and Strausz and there were indications
that Fendall and Porter did not get along well early in their relationship
as Fendall refers to Porter being "rude" (42)
although "not so rude at present, as when I first saw him...."
Fendall had become a protege of Gerdes the year before on work in the
northeast, although Gerdes had tried to have Fendall sent elsewhere initially.
It seems that Fendall had a poor reputation for getting along with people,
but Gerdes became one of his chief supporters after working with him. Fendall
was a field man and very competent technically; he took great pride in
exerting himself to accomplish his work with the utmost accuracy. Strausz,
on the other hand, had been an office draughtsman with little field survey
experience; but, nevertheless, he was mathematically inclined and quick
to use his talents to give the various admirals and generals with whom
he came in contact expedient, though less accurate, map products. He also
was much more politically astute and seemed to get along better with Rear
Admiral Porter through the Vicksburg campaign than Fendall.
In spite of his reported initial rudeness, Porter's regard for the Coast
Surveyors attached to his command was evident as he gave them two small
staterooms just off the wardroom on the BLACK HAWK and space in his own
quarters for a draughting room.(43) He
put them to work immediately. On December 15, 1862, Porter wrote to Bache
that he "sent Mr. Strausz down to Vicksburg to reconnoitre and sketch me
the fortifications." Showing another side to Coast Survey work, Strausz
went in a vessel carrying a flag of truce and accomplished his mission
by stealth. Porter later informed Bache that Strausz's sketches of the
batteries at Vicksburg gave him information that showed "the impracticability
of attacking Vicksburg by water alone. We might otherwise have run our
heads against a stone wall."(44)
A week later, Porter sent Strausz to the gunboat TYLER to make a reconnaissance
of the Yazoo River. This was a dangerous operation as the U. S. S. CAIRO
had been blown up by a Confederate mine (then called a torpedo) on December
12 while ascending the Yazoo. The sinking of the CAIRO marked the beginning
of effective mine warfare (one vessel was sunk during the American Revolution
as the result of a mine) as it was the first of over 30 Union vessels to
suffer a similar fate in the Civil War.(45)
In addition to mines, the Confederates had posted several thousand riflemen
along the banks of the Yazoo, as it was believed (by both North and South)
that the main Union thrust against Vicksburg would be preceded by landings
on its south bank.
The TYLER reconnaissance began on December 23 and the vessel had not
proceeded more than 5 miles up the river when it was attacked. Porter described
the action: "During the ascent of the Yazoo River, and while engaged in
taking up torpedoes, our passage was contested at every step by two or
three thousand riflemen, in pits behind levees: so protected that our guns
could not hurt them. The vessels were much cut up, the rifle-balls going
through and through the upper works. Mr. Strausz accompanied the expedition,
and while under fire, produced a good chart of the river and back country
, with which we made our advances. I could not have got along very well
without these maps."(46) Strausz reported:
"A little incident what happened to me while on this last expedition will
show you to what dangers I was exposed whilst making my sketch on the upper
deck from where I could overlook the bank of the River - a musket ball
entered my room and passed right over my head and after bounding twice
lit by my side. I keep this ball as a Christmas present from the Rebels."(47)
The reconnaissance sketch executed by Strausz was used by both Porter
and General William Tecumseh Sherman in the subsequent unsuccessful attack
at Chickasaw Bluffs. While Strausz, the draughtsman, was out doing reconnaissance
work, Fendall, the surveyor, was relegated to draughting. This did not
sit well with Fendall and on December 27 Fendall related to Gerdes that:
"Strausz came on board yesterday and will probably remain. He has made
a sort of map of the Yazoo, the scale of which is uncertain...." He continued,
"The army is slowly fighting its way up to Vicksburg but we don't admire
their movements. Last night I was called up to give a tracing to General
Sherman. The Adml. gave him my very prettiest map. The Gen. spoke very
highly of it. In fact my maps are in general demand...."
Sherman's failure at Chickasaw Bluffs, the recent disaster of the Union
Army at Fredericksburg, and the temporary withdrawal of Grant from marching
on Vicksburg as a result of the destruction of his supply base at Holly
Springs, made it necessary that the Union forces score a victory for both
morale and political purposes. Accordingly, Sherman and Porter decided
to attack Fort Hindman or Arkansas Post as it was known. This fort was
located approximately fifty miles up the Arkansas River from its confluence
with the Mississippi. Fendall and Strausz were engaged on producing maps
of the state of Arkansas prior to this expedition and both accompanied
this expedition on the BLACK HAWK. Just prior to the attack, Fendall expressed
his anger to Gerdes: "... We have heretofore done no field work. The Admiral
gives all of his orders in that way to Strausz. He seems to think that
I am a draughtsman and keeps me copying maps. But I am going to take out
the planetable next chance in spite of Strausz, Adm. or everybody else."(48)
Strausz once again is sent out by Porter on the afternoon of January
10 with a group of marines to make a reconnaissance of the fort which was
only partially successful. In Strausz's report to Gerdes,(49)
however, he gives an inkling of the source of his charm and ability to
stay on Porter's good side. He reports: "The marines and I however claim
the credit of having been the first to lead to the taking of some rifle
pits at which we had been shelling all day, the Adml was quite amused when
I reported the result of our expedition...." On January 11, 1863, the gunboats
began firing on the fort at 2 P.M. and "at 3 P.M. the water batteries were
silenced and the BLACK HAWK gallantly passed the fort.... by 4 1/2 P.M.
the forts surrendered to the gunboats."
Strausz must have been somewhat of a bon vivant as he advises
Gerdes, whom he still believed would eventually report to Porter, to bring
out supplies of "every kind," but in particular, "I think it would be very
desirable to have either whisky or Hochstadtlers Bitters for we are all
suffering from the want of some. Alcoholic liquors, if it would not be
too much trouble for you, I would beg you to bring a few gallons or half
doz. bottles of bitters on my account...."
In a subsequent letter to Gerdes,(50)
Fendall understated the battle: "We lay off a couple of miles and knocked
fits out of the [fort]. After a couple of afternoon's amusement of this
kind the rebels gave themselves up...."(51)
Fendall, who was all business, requested no luxuries from Gerdes. He wanted
for Gerdes to either send or bring with him "a few pair of cotton gloves
for plane table use" so as to keep his field sheets clean as he wanted
to "make a survey in the vicinity of Vicksburg." Fendall, while at Fort
Hindman, made a survey of the Confederate works which was sent off to the
Secretary of the Navy and Superintendent Bache. Bache, still unsure of
Fendall, commented: "Fendall has truly done well, if there are no drawbacks."(52)
Fendall finally got his chance to do real field work upon return from
the Arkansas Post expedition. By late January, he was working along the
Mississippi in front of Vicksburg producing a map of the river which was
among the most beautiful of Civil War combat maps. This map was produced
under the very noses of the Confederates. Fendall reported to Gerdes February
1, 1863: "Yesterday, I was three miles beyond our pickets and within 600
yds of the enemy's batteries. I did not stop work till the cannon balls
plowed up the ground within 20 feet of us. One of my men had his hat blown
off by the wind of a ball and one struck the levee just under my plane
table. I reckon about all of the inhabitants of Vicksburg were out after
me. We (our pickets) captured one captain who was heading off my retreat
and I had a conversation with a boat which approached within 100 yards
of my table. Tomorrow the Admiral will send a large force with me...."
Although Bache had previously had his concerns about Fendall's blunt
nature, he was delighted to receive a copy of this letter from Gerdes,
and he used "extracts from which I have at once sent to some of our friends
in the House.... I shall write thro' you to Mr. Fendall. He is doing admirably.
How timely these things are! Our bill is before the House and will soon
be up for discussion...."(53) Bache was
always looking for information to assist him in his yearly budget wars
with Congress. Fendall, who was the most unlikely of individuals to assist
in political battles, provided him with fodder which would aid in passing
the Coast Survey budget uncontested in Congress for 1863-1864.
Fendall, oblivious to the stir his letter had made, continued his survey
work. On February 13, 1863, while working with Strausz, he selected sites
for Porter's mortar boats which would be used in the upcoming siege of
Vicksburg. He "established the fact that they could not lie nearer than
4000 yards, as the rebs fired at our tug and came very near hitting it,
whenever we got nearer."(54) By March 7,
all of the survey work in the vicinity of Vicksburg had been accomplished.
A beautiful map of the great bend of the Mississippi sweeping around De
Soto Point had been finished and locations of targets in the town and surrounding
defenses had been determined. Fendall hoped that the canal being cut through
the south end of De Soto Point would soon be finished so that he could
take a boat through and continue his survey to Warrenton, just south of
Vicksburg. However, he jokingly remarked to Gerdes "...that if a ball hits
my instrument, at which I am working, my pay must be raised." (This happened
to a Coast Survey party working before Yorktown during the Peninsula Campaign.)
Routine work was carried out for the next month until the Yazoo Pass
and Steele's Bayou expeditions. Each of these expeditions was meant to
bypass the defenses of the northern approaches to Vicksburg and allow the
landing of Union troops on the high ground east of Vicksburg. The first
of these expeditions began February 25 and was led by Lieutenant Commander
Watson Smith. This expedition ended in failure two weeks later when it
ran into the guns of Fort Pemberton, on the Tallahatchie River. Three attacks
were made on the fort resulting in much damage to the gunboats and minimal
effect on the fort.
Because of the failure of the Yazoo Pass expedition, Porter decided
to lead a separate attempt to reach the Yazoo River by the more difficult
route via Steele's Bayou, Black Bayou, Deer Creek, Rolling Fork, and the
Sunflower River. Alexander Strausz and Julius Kroehl, a recently arrived
photographer whose equipment had been provided by the Coast Survey, accompanied
this nightmarish expedition which just missed accomplishing its objective
before being forced to turn back. The week prior to this expedition, Porter
wrote Bache: "We are finding out new watercourses every day and the wheels
of our largest vessels pass even where a canoe never went before."(55)
Porter proved this statement during his expedition but was ultimately defeated
by the geography and "the little willows, which grow so thick that we stuck
fast hundreds of times."(56) Confederate
sharpshooters contested every foot of progress while trees were being felled
both ahead of and behind Porter's vessels in an attempt to block their
passage. Ultimately, Porter called on General Sherman to rescue him from
his predicament. The Steele's Bayou expedition was the last attempt by
the Union to capture Vicksburg by way of the Yazoo River. General Grant
radically altered his strategy after this near disaster.
Over the next few weeks, Fendall and Strausz were left to wonder what
would be Grant's next move. On April 1, they went on a reconnaissance "and
saw a few rebels." Fendall related to Gerdes on April 7 that a delegation
of politicians had visited and M. C. Mitchell of Indiana related in confidence
that if "Grant and Porter did not 'do something' this month that they would
be superceded." Fendall went on: "Gen'l Grant tells his plans to no one.
Some doubt whether he has plans." Fendall was soon to find out that Grant
did indeed have plans as Navy gunboats and Army transports steamed by the
batteries of Vicksburg on the night of April 16-17 in the opening act of
one of the most brilliant maneuvers of the Civil War. Fendall was with
General Sherman that evening at a point on the peninsula below the town
and hailed each vessel as it passed.
Strausz, whose normal duties included accompanying Porter wherever he
went, had been told not to accompany him that evening because of the danger.
Strausz stayed ashore because he saw no reason to pass the batteries only
"for the sake of passing the batteries." Following the passage of the fleet,
Strausz also saw no reason for his services to be continued in the Vicksburg
area and wrote to Gerdes requesting to be sent home. Gerdes passed this
letter on to Bache who responded to Gerdes: "...Write at once to Mr. Strausz
and show him that credit is easily lost as well as won. It was a blunder
not to stick by the Admiral and it will be a still worse one if after making
the first he applies to come home."(57)
Needless to say, Strausz stayed at Vicksburg until its fall.
Not only Bache, but Fendall, was irritated by Strausz at this point.
From April 29 to May 1 a diversionary attack was made by General Sherman
and gunboats under Commodore Breese on the Haynes' Bluff area up the Yazoo
River. The purpose of this attack was to prevent the Confederates from
reinforcing Grand Gulf which was under attack by Grant's forces south of
Vicksburg. Fendall allowed his deep dislike of both Strausz and photographer
Kroehl (Kroehl's photographic mission was a failure as he was unable to
get good results) to show through in a report to Gerdes: "I am sorry to
say that neither Kroehl nor Strausz was hit yesterday. They will have another
chance today...."(58) (59)
Strausz and Kroehl survived as did Fendall. Over the next month, there
was little work required as the main thrust of the Vicksburg Campaign followed
Grant's easterly march to Jackson, Mississippi, and then back to the west
and the siege of Vicksburg. In late May, Strausz helped position some mortar
boats for Porter; and then on June 6, all of the Coast Survey party reported
to General Grant for duty mapping for his left wing as he approached Vicksburg.
Fendall became sick in camp and took no part in the mapping. Strausz, Kroehl,
and a Lieutenant Farrell of the Navy produced a sketch map of the Union
lines, Confederate defenses, and topography of the countryside. This sketch
was made from horseback often within 150 yards of the Confederate lines.
Farrell received two minor wounds during this work. Strausz reported that
his map was "all that was required by the Chief Engineer of Genl Grant's
staff, and all that could be done in the time it was required and under
the circumstances...."(60) Fendall characteristically
attacked Strausz's work in a letter to Gerdes: "Of course Strausz's map
is worthless. All his distances are estimated. He and Farrell rode over
the country with a compass in their hands and drew it. He got furious when
I told him that his was no map...."(61)
Fortunately for Fendall and Strausz, the fall of Vicksburg was near
and they would no longer have to torment each other. Fendall the perfectionist,
and Strausz, who had the talent to produce what was expedient, soon parted.
Strausz left almost immediately after the Confederate surrender on July
4, 1863, while Fendall stayed on to finish the survey of Confederate gun
emplacements and other defenses of Vicksburg that could not be observed
prior to the Union occupation of the town. Fendall became sick again and
departed for the East on July 17 without finishing this work.
Fendall's precise surveys and maps and Strausz's combat reconnaissance
sketches each served the Union cause. Each of the men displayed courage
in performing work in the face of hostile fire. Although Porter never mentioned
the animosity between the two men in his letters to Bache, he most assuredly
was aware of the conflict between them. It is a measure of Porter's leadership
that he was able to look past this element and use each man for the work
that accomplished the most good for the Union forces. Because of this,
the Coast Survey played a critical part in assuring that "The Father of
Waters again goes unvexed to the sea...."
Following Fendall's departure from the Vicksburg area, Porter wrote
to him: "Permit me to express my thanks to you for the handsome manner
in which you have conducted your duties while under my command, while surveying,
making reconnaissances or in the rifle pits at Vicksburg...."(62)
He followed this letter up a few weeks later by thanking Bache for the
services of both Fendall and Strausz: "I cannot speak too highly of the
interest shown by the gentlemen of the Coast Survey, Messrs. Fendall and
Strausz, in the difficult works in which they were engaged; and I feel
much indebted to them for the willingness and ability manifested in any
service required of them .... With many thanks to yourself for allowing
me the use of your assistants, and hoping that you will always permit me
to call on you for hydrographic assistants...."(63)
After recovering from his illness, Fendall reported to Gerdes, who was
operating on the coast of Maine. A series of letters between Bache and
Gerdes beginning in September led to the return of Gerdes and Fendall to
the Mississippi in the winter of 1863-1864. On October 3, 1863, Gerdes
wrote Bache and suggested that the Coast Survey produce a war atlas of
the Mississippi River activities as: "It is but due to the Navy and Army
that a representation of those localities, which are forever identified
with their names, should be preserved for a future generation in their
present appearance...."(64) Nineteen specific
sites were recommended for mapping. This suggestion was reinforced by Rear
Admiral Porter's desire to have the map of Vicksburg completed so "that
copies would be ready at the opening of Congress."(65)
Fendall was required to finish the Vicksburg map; recognizing his stormy nature, Bache previously told Gerdes to "not recommend anybody who will not work kindly with Mr. Fendall.
I appreciate highly the spirit and devotion to duty he has shown...."(66)
In the meantime, Fendall had been detached from Gerdes' party and proceeded
to the Army of the Cumberland where he conducted surveys in the vicinity
of Chattanooga. After receiving orders to proceed to the Mississippi, he
arrived in Vicksburg on November 24 and finished there by December 4. He
proceeded to Cairo, Illinois, and was given quarters on the ALEXANDRIA,
the admiral's flagship on the upper river. Because Admiral Porter was away
and had high regard for Fendall, Porter assigned his own quarters to him.
As the ALEXANDRIA was "the most beautifully furnished gunboat in the fleet,"
Fendall wrote Gerdes, "... My cabin is the most splendid affair that I
have ever seen...."(67)
Fendall's assignment in this area was to map the Ohio River in the vicinity
of Mound City, Illinois. Although away from the frontlines and living in
relative splendor, this duty was far from comfortable as Fendall related:
"It is extremely cold here - the ground is covered with snow and the river
is frozen several rods along each bank. One of my hands has become frostbitten,
from handling that infernally cold alhidade, but will be well enough to
commence sounding when the weather moderates...."(68)
The weather did not moderate. By January 20, the Mississippi River was
totally frozen over from St. Louis to Cairo.
Prior to arriving in Cairo, Gerdes recruited three Coast Survey employees
for duty on the Mississippi besides Fendall. In response to Gerdes' initial
inquiry, Aid Thomas C. Bowie replied, "I would rather go with you than
anyone else, but at the same time would say that I hope you will find work
for me that is not directly in contact with the enemy."(69)
Bowie took part in the surveys leading to Forts Jackson and St. Philip
and was reacting to vivid memories of conducting that work under fire.
Gerdes gave him no guarantee and he came along anyway. Besides Bowie, Sub-Assistant
Frederick F. Nes and Aid J. B. Adamson joined the survey party.
Gerdes arrived in Cairo in early January and took quarters on the ALEXANDRIA
with Fendall. On February 15, Fendall was detailed to accompany Porter
on the abortive Red River expedition. The next day Gerdes moved onto the
CURLEW, the ship that was to have been assigned to him during the Vicksburg
campaign. Over the next few weeks he conducted hydrography, current studies,
and triangulation between Cairo and Mound City. On March 10, the CURLEW
was ordered to Grand Gulf, Mississippi, a former Confederate stronghold,
where it remained for the next two months while Gerdes conducted his survey
In spite of the fact that the Mississippi was declared open for navigation
by Union vessels, the Confederate forces did not necessarily agree. Both
guerilla forces and regular forces harassed Union shipping on a regular
basis. The CURLEW was a target of this harassment as were the survey crews.
Soon after arriving at Grand Gulf, a rumor circulated that the survey work
was being done as a preliminary step to the building of fortifications.
Agitated by this rumor, guerilla bands attacked on March 15 and 16. Gerdes
described the action: "We are here at work but continually harassed by
guerillas and have to be extremely cautious. Yesterday and day before Mr.
Bowie had to drive off a number of them 3 times by musketfire and one by
the 12- pounder of our little tug. Last night they came riding along the
shore and had to be shelled off from the CURLEW."(70)
Because of guerilla activity, Assistant Gerdes was forced to modify
his working arrangements from day to day. He described this work to Bache:
"To baffle the band of guerillas that hover in the rear of the hills,
I shift daily my locality of operations - work one day here with the theodolite,
next day at some other place with the planetable and then again go out
sounding for a day on the steamtug. We have so far literally fought our
way step by step, as we went along. In the morning we shell, we shell out
from the CURLEW that part of the background where we intend to work during
the day, then some 12 or 15 men fully armed are posted by an officer as
pickets, who drive away any remaining stragglers by musketry and rifle
shots. Mr. Bowie was fired upon by two men, only a few days ago; they were
so near to him, that he could return three revolvor shots from a Colt pistol,
but having no more charges than those, he had to retire ...."(71)
Thomas Bowie, who proclaimed that he did not wish to work too closely to
the enemy, seemed to have gotten more than his fair share of being "in
contact with the enemy" during his work on the Mississippi in the spring
During his work at Grand Gulf, Gerdes received a letter from Superintendent
Bache with the information for Fendall that "he had met your father, who
mentioned that he had not heard for a long time from you...."(72)
Even in the midst of war, with everything that Superintendent Bache was
concerned with, he retained his paternalistic attitude towards running
the Survey. He always had the time to show interest in the family life
of his Survey employees; if one of his young aids or assistants was not
writing home, Bache would apply a prod to make sure the old folks were
kept informed of his health and well-being.
Perhaps Clarence Fendall could have made the time to write home, but
he had been occupied during the past few months with producing a map of
the Red River for Rear Admiral Porter. At the conclusion of this expedition
he wrote Gerdes from the mouth of the Red River:
"Five days ago I was with the Admiral about half way between Grand Ecore and Alexandria. As our boat [GAZELLE] was about knocked to pieces, he ordered her to Cairo for repairs. A couple of days afterwards we reached here, when I moved my traps on board the BLACK HAWK...."
"There are eight of our best boats above the falls which must be abandoned if the Army leaves Alexandria. These comprise two thirds of the heavy clads of the fleet.
"Everybody here is in the lowest spirits and everybody is down on [Major
General Nathaniel] Banks. Several Army officers have been arrested for
The GAZELLE was a small paddlewheel steamer and because of its light
draft was able to cross over the falls at Alexandria. From the timing of
Fendall's letter, it is unclear if the GAZELLE took part in the desperate
actions of April 26-27 when Porter's fleet passed shore batteries established
by Confederate Major General Richard Taylor. It is improbable that the
GAZELLE could have passed without protection, thus it was probably "about
knocked to pieces" during the fierce actions when the CHAMPION NO. 5 was
lost, the U. S. S. FORT HINDMAN was disabled, and the U. S. S. NEOSHO and
Porter's flagship, the CRICKET were severely pounded. During these actions,
Confederate Major General Richard Taylor issued a totally unambiguous order,
" My dispositions for the day are to ... keep up a constant fight with
the gunboats, following them with sharpshooters and killing every man who
Major General Banks did not desert Porter during this hour of need. An officer from Wisconsin, Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Bailey ,(74) who was familiar with building dams for logging operations, suggested that a dam be built below the falls that would raise the water level sufficiently to float the heavy ironclads across. Work began on April 30 and was nearing completion when it broke eight days later. However, four vessels made it across the falls with the onrushing waters. Smaller wing dams were built in a short time which raised the water level enough to float his last few vessels over. Porter's fleet was saved and he was able to resume aggressive patrolling of the Mississippi River.
In spite of the increased naval presence on the Mississippi, guerilla
activity continued relatively unabated. By the last week in May, Assistant
Gerdes finished his work at Grand Gulf and the CURLEW was returning to
Cairo, Illinois. At 5:00 A.M. on the morning of May 24, the ship was taken
under fire by a Confederate battery a few miles above Gaines' Landing,
Arkansas. It received 6 full volleys from 12 guns and approximately 30
stray shots. Of these 6 struck the CURLEW, "3 of which were round shot
of 6 pounds, penetrating the iron, but luckily having hit against oak knees,
had spent their force and rolled on the gun deck without exploding....
The six pounders used by the rebels were all thrown by ricochet and whenever
they fired a full volley, the balls danced upon the water and looked like
hail...."(75) Six days later, the Union
transport CLARA EAMES was captured and burned at the same location after
being disabled by artillery fire.
After returning to Cairo, Gerdes wrote to Julius Hilgard, Assistant-in-Charge
of the Coast Survey Office, about his trip north on the river that "after
having been popped at constantly by guerillas" and "how the Rebels gave
me on the way 5 or 6 parting salutes from 10 or 12 guns" that he had now
had "almost enough of that game...."(76)
Gerdes remained almost a month longer on the river; but Fendall, who became
ill at the end of the Red River Campaign, left for the Washington office
on May 31.
Besides completing a map of the Grand Gulf area, Gerdes also conducted
a reconnaissance of the Mississippi from 4 miles below Rodney, Mississippi,
to New Carthage, Louisiana. He established that "all the distances on the
river are overrated -- the estimates made them as long as possible, on
account of freight, pilotage, etc. I would not hesitate to say that the
distance from New Orleans to Cairo is considered generally 100 miles longer
than it actually is...."(77) Such a revelation
was not surprising, recalling the similar discovery of Major William Palmer,
U.S.A., and Assistant in the Coast Survey, concerning the Rappahannock
River in 1855. Palmer found that the distance from Fredericksburg to its
mouth at Chesapeake Bay was 108 miles instead of the 155 miles reported
by riverboat pilots.
Coast Survey operations on the Mississippi did much to improve the state
of geographic knowledge of the Mississippi River region with an accompanying
increase of efficiency in military operations as well as ramifications
for future commercial development. On June 18, Rear Admiral Porter directed
Gerdes to end survey operations for the season as the river level was too
low for gunboats to protect him and his crew from guerillas lurking behind
the levees and it was also the time for "summer sickness." Gerdes proceeded
to Casco Bay, Maine, where he headed a hydrographic survey party until
September when he left for his home in New York.
In late October 1864, Gerdes arrived back at Mound City, Illinois, and
continued surveys for a Navy Yard there. By then, Rear Admiral David Dixon
Porter had been transferred to the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron and
Rear Admiral Samuel Phillips Lee was the new commander of the Mississippi
River Squadron. Gerdes took this opportunity to write Lee and express the
belief that, "In case of a sudden surprise and capture, myself and the
party would be in a very bad predicament, having been taken in what the
rebels assert to be their territory, with instruments in charge and in
the very act of surveying their lines and fortifications we would be very
likely treated by these lawless bands as spies...."(78)
To remedy this situation, Gerdes requested that he and his party be authorized
to wear uniforms.(79) This was common practice
in the Army by this time; but no naval commander, for the duration of the
Civil War, authorized a Coast Surveyor to wear a naval uniform.
In December, Gerdes was appointed Topographic Engineer of the Western
Navy Yard Commission by its Chairman, Rear Admiral Charles H. Davis. Gerdes
proceeded to Washington, D. C., for a few weeks in relation to this Commission
while Sub-Assistant Thomas Bowie was placed in charge of the CURLEW and
conducted surveys in the vicinity of Vicksburg. Upon Gerdes' return, he
went on the CURLEW for a two week reconnaissance of the Tennessee River
and completed a reconnaissance map of 180 miles checked by astronomic observations
for latitude and longitude at six locations. The war was all but over at
this time. Gerdes continued operations on the river for the next few months.
In his communications to the office there is but oblique reference to the
ending of the war. In an April 26, 1865, letter to Julius Hilgard, he writes:
"The assassination of Mr. L. is the most frightful and horrible affair
I ever heard of."
Although the Civil War was over, Gerdes almost became a casualty on
April 29 when, "A gun on board the CURLEW was accidentally discharged this
morning - wounding very seriously one man and two balls went through the
floor in my room and lodged in the table. I was only a few feet from it.
The man is expected to die in a day or two."(80)
Gerdes' final letter from the river was to Rear Admiral S. P. Lee,(81)
then commander of the dwindling Mississippi River Squadron. In this letter
he suggests the need to continue the wartime work of the Coast Survey on
the inland rivers: "As a general remark I beg leave to state that a continuation
of an inland river reconnaissance will develop many resources for commerce,
cultivation, and improvements. The charts and maps contain besides the
data for navigation, also a delineation of the adjacent country, hills,
farms, woods, and cultivation, ferries, landings, roads, and distances,
and the knowledge of these data is at present confined to comparatively
few persons but if offered to the public in the shape of well authenticated
maps, it would accelerate the march of improvement rapidly...." Although
the charting of the inland waterways never became a Coast Survey responsibility,
Gerdes espoused a guiding ideal shared by many of his Coast Survey colleagues:
"to accelerate the march of improvement rapidly."
Gerdes returned to the east on June 16, leaving operations on the CURLEW
to Thomas Bowie. The Mississippi Squadron ceased to exist on August 14,
1865, when Rear Admiral Lee hauled down his flag on the U. S. S. TEMPEST.
Coast Survey operations on the river ended at this time. An official Navy
history stated the Squadron's role best in the victory of the Union over
the Confederate forces:
"The squadron had played a major role in fashioning the Union's ultimate
victory. In the Tennessee and Cumberland River campaigns, naval actions
had been decisive in rolling back the Confederacy's northern frontier from
Kentucky to Mississippi and Alabama. Its Mississippi River operations at
Vicksburg and elsewhere, combined with Admiral Farragut's victory at New
Orleans, had severed the Confederacy and denied to the eastern portion
the vital supplies of the provision-rich western half. Finally, the squadron's
operations on the tributaries of the Mississippi, including support of
the Army, had projected Union striking power into the deepest reaches of
The sounds, inlets, and rivers of the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida
were the scenes of many desperate engagements involving both the Navy and
Army. Most of these engagements were small sharp actions with some exceptions
such as various Union attacks on and around Charleston harbor and the attacks
on Fort Fisher late in the war. In retrospect, these actions appear to
have occurred almost randomly, both geographically and chronologically.
This appearance was the result of Union and Confederate strategy regarding
the eastern seaboard. The Union goal was to control all of the southeastern
waterways in order to curtail shipment of war materiel and supplies into
the South from foreign powers and to deny access to the waterways for internal
shipping of domestic goods from one point in the Confederacy to another.
The Confederate goal was to frustrate and defeat the Union blockade. To
do this, the Confederates built forts to guard their waterways, constructed
ironclads at various ports up and down the coast, and developed novel means
of destroying Union shipping such as electric torpedoes (mines) and submarines.
Most coastal defense actions of the South were not coordinated.
Coast Surveyors served on the Southeast Coast as ship pilots, hydrographers,
topographers, geodetic surveyors, scouts, messengers, and advisors to the
highest level of the Union command structure. Rear Admirals Du Pont and
Dahlgren made use of their services with the South Atlantic Blockading
Squadron as did Rear Admirals Lee and Porter on the North Atlantic Blockading
Squadron. Major General John Foster, commander of the Department of North
Carolina, used the services of Coast Surveyors in many actions and was
among the first to issue orders giving assimilated rank to Coast Surveyors
affiliated with his command.
Hatteras Inlet, North Carolina, was the opening volley of the naval
battles on the southeast coast. On August 28, 1861, Union naval forces
under Rear Admiral Silas Stringham transported Army troops under Major
General Benjamin Butler to just below Cape Hatteras and off-loaded them
for an attack on Forts Hatteras and Clark which guarded the entrance to
Hatteras Inlet. The capture of this strategic inlet was the first step
in the implementation of the strategy suggested by the Blockade Strategy
Board. Naval bombardment of the forts forced their evacuation prior to
a land assault. This relatively small battle sealed off the entrance of
Pamlico Sound from Confederate blockade runners and eliminated the South's
most effective sea route for supplying Richmond. Coast Surveyors were soon
in action in North Carolina as the Coast Survey Steamer CORWIN was sent
to survey Hatteras Inlet. This survey was the first step in further amphibious
operations in North Carolina. As Army and Navy operations encroached further
into the sounds and rivers of North Carolina, Coast Surveyors were there
providing their hydrographic and topographic expertise to the various commands.
The Hatteras Inlet success was followed in November by the Port Royal
victory. After securing Port Royal, Coast Surveyors were engaged for the
duration of the war working on the southeast coast. They immediately began
hydrographic, topographic, and triangulation surveys in the vicinity of
Port Royal. Over the next few months, Coast Surveyors accompanied naval
expeditions to St. Helena Sound, North Edisto entrance, Stono River, Tybee
Roads, Calibogue Sound, Savannah River, and Fernandina. In these expeditions,
Coast Surveyors surveyed and buoyed channels and waterways, piloted naval
ships across the bars of the various sounds and channels, and conducted
topographic surveys of many of the islands along the South Carolina and
Civil War operations of the Coast Survey in North Carolina began in
early October, 1861, with the arrival of the Coast Survey Steamer CORWIN
at Hatteras Inlet following the Union occupation of Forts Clarke and Hatteras.
While at Hatteras Inlet, the CORWIN, under Lieutenant Commanding Thomas
S. Phelps, U.S.N., was subjected to a series of storms that protracted
the work until late November. Adding to the complications in this area
was the rapidly changing nature of the bottom. On November 2, "The most
important alteration of recent years occurred ... the force of the sea
having cut quite through, separating the extremity of the peninsula on
the north side of Hatteras inlet from the main body of it above, and leaving
a water passage between Fort Clarke and Fort Hatteras."(83)
The changeable nature of the land and sea configuration would fuel a controversy
in the near future.
While working at Hatteras Inlet the CORWIN was attacked by the "Rebel
Steamer CURLEW" which "opened fire on this vessel with a heavy rifled gun,
to which we replied with both of our 6 pounders. Our second shot struck
within a few yards of her, when she commenced firing a second time which
was warmly responded to on our part, but on three of our shots either passing
into or over her, she started ahead, steaming out of range
and up the sound.... I am pleased to inform you that this is the second
time our guns have driven away an enemy of superior force...."(84)
While the CORWIN was working at Hatteras Inlet, Assistant Henry Mitchell
was detailed to conduct studies of the physical oceanography of the area.
These studies were begun at the request of Major General George B. McClellan,
who was contemplating sending an expedition to Roanoke Island to choke
off interior communication between Pamlico Sound to the south and Albemarle
Sound to the north. In planning for this expedition, it was critical to
know the depth of water to be expected when crossing into Pamlico Sound
through Hatteras Inlet and McClellan was minimizing the possibility of
sending too large of transports to cross the bar.
In an apparent breach of security concerning the possible expedition
to Roanoke Island, Superintendent Bache wrote in his 1861 annual report,
"Assistant A. S. Wadsworth will be engaged in completing the topography
of Roanoke island if that ground shall be occupied in the operations of
Brigadier General A. E. Burnside...."(85)
Bache dated his report December 15, 1861, although the report was forwarded
to Congress by Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase on March 5, 1862.
Perhaps it was general knowledge that Ambrose Burnside had recruited a
division of fishermen and other watermen (termed the Coast Division) for
anticipated amphibious operations on the southeast coast. However, General
McClellan did not even authorize the Roanoke Island expedition until January
7, 1862, and Burnside wrote Superintendent Bache on December 30, 1861:
It is obvious that Brigadier General Burnside was still quite interested
in maintaining security from the oblique manner in which he approached
the subject of an impending expedition. Regardless, the expedition left
Fortress Monroe on January 12, 1862, with Assistant Alexander Wadsworth
on staff to Brigadier General James G. Foster. It proceeded to sea in a
motley collection of small shallow-draft steamers for Hatteras Inlet. Unfortunately,
upon arrival the sea conditions were too rough for many of the ships to
cross over the bar and remained so until near the end of January. Then,
contrary to all information supplied by the Coast Survey, the larger eight-foot
draft steamers found a bar with maximum 6-foot depth upon it. This was
probably caused by the prolonged period of rough weather. However, this
obstacle was soon rectified by the larger steamers being driven at full
steam onto the bar and then held in place by steam tugs while the current
dug out a channel underneath them. Superintendent Bache was quite sensitive
to this problem and wrote to Wadsworth, "We have been unjustly blamed in
regard to the depth of water at the bar and bulkhead and have been put
upon our defence."(90)
Alexander S. Wadsworth worked on the shores of Albemarle Sound prior
to the war and was also familiar with Hatteras Inlet. He piloted many of
the ships through Hatteras Channel, and finally on February 1 the final
ship made it into Pamlico Sound. On February 5 the expedition to Roanoke
Island headed north up Pamlico Sound. Wadsworth accompanied Major General
Foster during the subsequent battle. The Confederates were outgunned and
outmanned. They were commanded by General Henry D. Wise, Ferdinand Hassler's
defender and ally during the Congressional inquiries of the early 1840's.
General Wise escaped but 3000 of his troops were captured and his son died
from wounds received during the battle. Wadsworth subsequently accompanied
expeditions to Elizabeth City and New Berne. These forays choked off communication
with Norfolk through the Dismal Swamp Canal to the north and effectively
stopped the use of the Atlantic and North Carolina Railroad from Morehead
City to the north and west. In late March Assistant Wadsworth took charge
of the schooner BANCROFT and cooperated with Henry Mitchell in surveys
of Oregon Inlet and other critical points. Alexander Wadsworth closed operations
in North Carolina in June and returned to Washington. He missed an appointment
with Superintendent Bache on July 1 for which he gave the excuse:
"The truth is sir that I have been suffering since sometime before daybreak
with an attack of cholera [morbus?] or something very like it. . . . I
am now quite well again though weak and will be in my usual strength tomorrow."(91)
This was Alexander Wadsworth's last communication with Superintendent
Bache. There is no further record of whether he temporarily recovered and
then fell sick again. He died in Washington on August 9, 1862.
After the fall of Roanoke Island, General Burnside captured Beaufort,
North Carolina, and Fort Macon. This necessitated a survey of Beaufort
Harbor entrance and Assistant Albert Boshke was sent to survey the Beaufort
area on the schooner JOSEPH HENRY. The most exciting part of this trip
was rounding Cape Hatteras as Boschke was "nearer to Cape Hatteras Shoals
in a S. E. gale as I ever want to be again. Only by carrying all sails
in a severe gale, I could save the vessel. Our small boat is the only thing
which has been injured, but I saved even her, although the sea had struck
her from her davits and she was saved by accident."(92)
The remainder of 1862 saw little action for the Coast Surveyors in the
sounds of North Carolina. The following season George Fairfield was in
command of the schooner JAMES HALL on the Neuse River when a large Confederate
force under General Daniel H. Hill attacked New Berne on March 14. A few
weeks later Fairfield wrote Superintendent Bache:
"As you say, times were a little exciting on the 14th. I was at work measuring on the Base Line, and even amid great perils we ... calmly pursued our scientific investigations.
"It was a little difficult however, as the men would look off to see the shells burst.
"Capt. Doughty said, 'D__n the base line, let's go to war.' He wanted
very much to send some balls out of the HALL, - but I thought you would
not be pleased if you could see daylight through her near the waterline."
The steamer U. S. S. HETZEL, the same that was a hard luck ship in the
Coast Survey, distinguished itself in this battle as the marksmanship of
its gunners was superb and was instrumental in helping drive off the Confederates.
Sub-assistants P. C. F. West and Cleveland Rockwell were serving with Major General John G. Foster at New Berne during this battle. A few days later Rockwell was ordered on a reconnaissance of the roads and area around the north side of the Neuse River. His escort was the 85th Regiment of New York volunteers. In early May Rockwell made another reconnaissance with four companies of cavalry towards the inland railroads. During this reconnaissance the commanding officer of the cavalry became aware that a Confederate unit had passed ahead of them shortly before. At this point the reconnaissance became a pursuit culminating in a cavalry charge in which Rockwell took part. The Union cavalry captured thirteen prisoners, thirty-five horses with all their gear, and killed two Confederates in this action.(93) Both West and Rockwell assisted Fairfield with the triangulation and base line measurement at New Bern prior to being ordered north in June 1863.
Acknowledging their services, Major General Foster wrote to Superintendent
Bache on June 1:
"Mr. Fairfield has just given me a copy of his triangulation work on the Neuse River, which puts me in mind to thank you for the assistance which you have rendered me in sending him, Mr. West, and Mr. Rockwell here. Their labors have aided very much in obtaining a correct knowledge of the country for military purposes.
"Mr. West's work from Newport barracks to Morehead City, has been especially
valuable. Hardly less so is the mapped reconnaissance of Mr. Rockwell on
the north side of the Neuse. Mr. Rockwell's work about Little Washington,
and on the route from Newbern to that place, was excellent, an of great
at military value. . . ."(94)
Major General Foster had headed a triangulation party for the Coast
Survey not so many years before and was more than competent to understand
and judge the value of the Coast Surveyors work.
Although little work was done for the Navy in early 1863, the late fall
and winter of 1863-1864 saw Assistant Alexander Strausz assigned to hydrographic
duty in North Carolina. For aids he had Gershom Bradford and Herbert G.
Ogden. In December the Coast Surveyors made special surveys at Beaufort
but then were ordered to the Neuse River in the vicinity of New Bern. This
was at a time when a military expedition under Confederate General Pickett
was planning an attack on New Bern which had the added twist that a naval
contingent was to capture at least one of the United States gunboats on
the river and turn it against the other Union vessels. The Coast Surveyors
were assigned to the gunboat COMMODORE HULL and, because of a shortage
of watch standing officers, Bradford and Ogden volunteered to stand watch
and command pickett boats sent out from the COMMODORE HULL. Early in the
morning of February 1, 1864, a Confederate Naval force led by Commander
John Taylor Wood attacked the U. S. S. UNDERWRITER and overwhelmed its
crew. Following this success, their plan went awry as Union shore batteries
became aware of their success and commenced firing at the vessel. The Confederates
ended up setting the ship on fire and escaping in their boats. This was
fortunate for Assistant George Fairfield, who was back in the Neuse River
conducting triangulation operations, as his schooner was anchored less
than a mile from the UNDERWRITER. His report to Superintendent Bache detailed
"Yesterday morning at about two o'clock this place was attacked by the rebels under General Pickett, said to number about twenty thousand. The firing was very heavy all day yesterday. We had lost during the day about one hundred fifty men. They say they are bound to take New Berne this time.
"This morning about two o'clock a party came down in boats from up the Neuse, boarded the gunboat "Underwriter," lying about a mile from my schooner, took the officers and crew prisoners, and no doubt intended to take her and attack the other gunboats . . . but they evidently got frightened for they set her on fire and left. She blew up at six o'clock this morning. Of course this suspends surveying operations."(95)
The Confederate Army attacks ended in failure in spite of the loss of
the UNDERWRITER. Subsequent to these early February attacks the Coast Survey
party under Strausz was made an armed reconnaissance of Bachelors Creek
in order to determine if a route existed through the maze of creeks for
an ironclad being built up the Neuse River to evade Union obstructions
and end up below New Bern. Assistant Strausz headed the expedition and
Gershom Bradford commanded one of the boats. After finding that there was
communication between the various creeks the Coast Surveyors returned to
New Bern. They then were ordered to Hatteras Inlet to resurvey the Swash
Channel and in late April piloted the Union gunboats that had come to attack
the Confederate ram ALBEMARLE through the channel and into Pamlico Sound.(96)
With this, Strausz, Gershom Bradford, and Ogden were done on the Carolina
coast and ordered north.
After the gunboats proceeded to the vicinity of Roanoke Island, they
were guided up Albemarle Sound and into the Roanoke River by buoys set
by Sub-Assistant John S. Bradford, the fleet hydrographer to the North
Atlantic Blockading Squadron. The Union vessels met the ALBEMARLE on May
5 and after a four-hour battle both sides withdrew. The Union vessels suffered
the heavier casualties but lost no vessels during this engagement. The
ALBEMARLE had its smokestack shot off, one gun damaged, and very little
additional damage. However, it retreated up the river and remained inactive
in Plymouth. Although John Maffitt took over as commanding officer of theALBEMARLE
and wished to go on the offensive, those fearful of the loss of Plymouth
and all defenses of the Roanoke River prevailed and caused the ship to
remain tied up for the next five months. Lieutenant William B. Cushing
led a celebrated raid which destroyed this vessel in late October 1864
and the Union regained Plymouth and with it total control of the North
With the clearing of the interior sounds the Union now looked to the
last Confederate bastion on the North Carolina coast. Wilmington and the
Cape Fear River remained open to blockade runners because of the guns of
Fort Fisher. Recently Rear Admiral David Dixon Porter had switched commands
with Rear Admiral S. P. Lee heralding the start of more aggressive offensive
efforts by the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron. The first order of business
was to close Wilmington as a blockade-runners' haven.
To take Fort Fisher would require a combined Army-Navy operation. General
Benjamin Butler was selected to command the Army contingent of this operation.
Because of his belief that the storming of Fort Fisher would cause large
Union casualties, he devised an alternate plan which at the time seemed
feasible but seems relatively bizarre in retrospect. General Butler's fertile
mind devised the concept of loading an old Union vessel with powder, towing
it to the shore below the walls of Fort Fisher, exploding it, and disabling
the guns if not destroying the fort. What was most remarkable about Butler's
plan is that he was able to convince both Rear Admiral Porter and Secretary
of the Navy Gideon Welles to expend time and effort in making the attempt
to blow up Fort Fisher. The overall plan was to assemble the largest fleet
of gunboats ever seen off of Fort Fisher and commence a major bombardment
after the explosion. The Army would launch a simultaneous amphibious attack.
Preparations for this grand experiment began in November with the modification of the U. S. S. LOUISIANA, an old iron gunboat displacing 295 tons. This vessel was at New York and then taken to Norfolk. While the modification required for placing up to 350 tons of black powder on this ship were being made, Assistant John S. Bradford was charged with surveying the approaches to Fort Fisher and finding the best route to bring the vessel into the breaker line below the guns of the fort. He surveyed the approaches to Fort Fisher at night right under the guns of one of the most impregnable forts in the world. All was ready by December 17 when the LOUISIANA arrived off Fort Fisher and was loaded for its final voyage. The ship went in that evening accompanied by the tug WILDERNESS. John Bradford was put off the tug in a small boat to reconnoiter that night and judged it too rough to bring the ship in close ashore based on his almost having capsized in the rough surf. It was another six days before the weather was calm enough to attempt bringing the LOUISIANA in below Fort Fisher again. Many years later Rear Admiral A. C. Rhind, the overall commander of the "powder-boat" expedition wrote to John Bradford acknowledging his services that evening:
"Perhaps the most hazardous of all your valuable services was in laying
out the course of the Powder-boat "Louisiana; which course enabled me to
take her to anchorage in a pocket of the shoals off the fort - and on the
occasion of the powderboat going in, you, who had sounded out the course,
assisted in piloting the craft to her position. And it is to be understood
that you, and all hands on the tug "Wilderness", took all the risks that
we did on the powder-boat; for had she been fired into or prematurely exploded,
the "Wilderness" and all hands on board would have perished. . . ."(97)
After setting the charges with timers and setting a fire in the cabin
of the LOUISIANA as extra insurance, then Commander Rhind and his small
crew escaped in a cutter and rowed to the WILDERNESS. The WILDERNESS proceeded
back to the fleet to await the great explosion. The powder-boat turned
out to be a fizzle as the planned explosion did not occur at the set time.
The LOUISIANA finally exploded at about 1:40 A. M. on the morning of December
24. There was no effect on Fort Fisher as the Confederate sentries on duty
that evening thought that perhaps a blockade runner had run aground and
then been set afire to assure not being captured. In spite of the mission
being a failure, the pure raw courage of the participants in this potentially
deadly experiment will always be worthy of admiration. The following day
the fleet bombarded Fort Fisher with a barrage that sent in over 100 shells
per minute. This was all to no avail as General Butler did not land his
troops until Christmas day. Then 2000 men landed on the beach and approached
the works in the afternoon; but General Butler decided that the fort was
too strong to storm and sent his troops back to the transports. In the
meantime the seas came up and 700 men were stranded on the beach for two
days. They were in no immediate danger as they were under the covering
fire of the fleet, but they did come back on board cold, wet, and hungry.
General Butler's failure to attack Fort Fisher generated criticism from
Rear Admiral Porter and he convinced General Grant to try an attack again
with a more aggressive commander. Major General Alfred H.Terry was assigned
command of the Army troops for the second attempt at attacking Fort Fisher.
On January 12, 1865, the Union fleet again began to assemble off the entrance
to Wilmington. The next day the fleet unleashed a terrific bombardment
of the fort, diminishing fire at fire, and then resuming the pace of the
day before on the 14th. The troops were landed on the 15th. The Navy sent
2, 000 volunteers ashore in a Naval Brigade. Finally in the afternoon of
the 15th the Naval Brigade made a valiant charge that was repulsed. Taking
part in the forefront of this charge was Lieutenant Commander George Bache,
Superintendent Bache's nephew, and Carlisle D. Porter, son of Rear Admiral
Porter, and nephew of Carlile Patterson, the then hydrographic inspector
in the Coast Survey office. In spite of the failure of this charge, their
efforts allowed the Army to breach the fort at a different location and
then it was only a matter of time. By 10:00 P. M. the fort had fallen and
the South had only Charleston as a port city. That would be evacuated within
a month. The end was near.
Assistant John S. Bradford prepared the battle-charts for the two bombardments
of Fort Fisher on which the positions of all Union combatants were marked
prior to the battles. Not only did Bradford and his aids do survey work,
but either he or one of his aids sketched a view of the "Position of the
Ironclads" and other Union vessels as they appeared on January 15, 1865.
This view was published in "The Official Military Atlas of the Civil War"(98)
and commemorates the Union fleet that was involved in that final major
naval battle of the war. After the fall of Fort Fisher he conducted elaborate
surveys of the defenses of Cape Fear River. In February he was sent North
by Rear Admiral Porter to carry his charts and the trophies of victory
from Fort Fisher to the Secretary of the Navy. Fort Fisher was the last
combat action in North Carolina waters. Assistant Bradford returned to
North Carolina and was engaged in surveying the Cape Fear River and its
approaches for much of the remainder of 1865.
After the capture of Port Royal Sound, the Union Navy was busy for the
next few months investigating and securing the sounds to the north and
south of Port Royal. Coast Surveyors accompanied many of these expeditions.
In particular, the Coast Survey was particularly active in operations to
the north, including the approaches to Charleston. The Coast Survey wasted
no time and immediately became involved in buoying obstructions in Port
Royal Sound, making a hydrographic survey of Skull Creek, and restoring
the triangulation scheme in the immediate area of the new Union naval base.
This work continued until November 24 when Boutelle's party accompanied
a naval expedition to St. Helena Sound, the first sound to the north.
Coast Surveyors piloted the naval vessels over the bar and then sketched
the rebel works on Otter Island, Sam's Point, and Fenwick Island. All of
these works were deserted. The fort at Sam's Point, like Fort Beauregard
at Bay Point in Port Royal Sound, were designed and built by J. W. Gregorie,
who had been an aid and sub-assistant in the Coast Survey in the early
1850's.(99) Charles Boutelle accomplished
an amazing piloting feat at St. Helena sound when he took the sloop-of-war
DALE "through Parrot Creek to her anchorage off Otter Island. Soundings
were made through the tortuous channels of Morgan river and the creek just
mentioned, a service rendered hazardous by the narrowness of the streams,
as the pilotage was made difficult by the fact that the Dale drew fourteen
feet of water."(100) Captain Percival
Drayton, senior officer attached to this expedition wrote in his report,
"I can not finish without mentioning the obligations I am under to Captain
Boutelle for the skill and untiring energy he displayed in piloting us
through those inland waters, and I think the people must have been a little
surprised at seeing vessels of war passing at full speed up narrow and
not over-deep rivers ...."(101)
Boutelle remained the senior Coast Survey assistant attached to the
South Atlantic Blockading Squadron for the duration of the Civil War. He
served knowing that he was in particular danger if he were to be captured
by Confederate forces as he had spent much time on the southeast coast
and had been friends with many of the influential citizens of Charleston
and Savannah. He expressed his relationship to the people of the southeast
in 1849: "I cannot close this account of my five months' sojourn in and
near Charleston without again expressing my deep sense of obligation for
the many acts of kindness, both official and personal, which I received
from its citizens. Much interest was manifested in our work, as was evinced
in one instance by the resolutions of the Chamber of Commerce, and the
appointment of a committee of their body to afford us such aid as we had
occasion to ask for. To the chairman of that committee, Henry Gourdin,
esq., we were indebted for much kind attention and civility."(102)
He continued working in the area during the years leading up to the Civil
War and even made his home in Beaufort for a few years prior to the war.
With the advent of war, his knowledge of the waters and topography of the
southeast coast were invaluable to the Union, but his old Southern friends
felt him to be a traitor. If he had been captured, he would have been hung
as a spy.
Additional Coast Survey personnel arrived at Port Royal in December.
Sub-Assistants William H. Dennis and Cleveland Rockwell arrived at Port
Royal on December 1 on the Army transport BIENVILLE. Rockwell and Dennis
took up topographic work on the inside shore of Port Royal Island and the
Broad and Beaufort Rivers. This work was done at the request of Brigadier
General Isaac Ingalls Stevens, formerly assistant-in-charge of the Coast
Survey office. On December 21, Assistant William. S. Edwards and Sub-Assistant
John. S. Bradford arrived. Edwards took command of the ARAGO and continued
work in Skull Creek.
In early December, North Edisto entrance was examined and Boutelle piloted
the naval vessels under the command of Captain Percival Drayton into the
river for a reconnaissance. Upon return to Port Royal, the VIXEN began
surveying and buoying the south and southeasterly channels into Port Royal
on December 22. It set ten "first-class iron buoys" in these channels by
the end of December and by the second week in January moored a light-vessel
at the entrance to the sound. Sailing directions for Port Royal Sound were
then made out and published for the use of Union vessels. The Coast Survey
steamer BIBB arrived at Port Royal on January 12, 1862, and relieved the
VIXEN which then returned north for repairs. This offered no relief for
the Coast Surveyors attached to the VIXEN as they merely moved their personal
and professional effects to the BIBB.
Having investigated many of the waterways between Port Royal and Charleston,
the BIBB headed south and commenced examining Calibogue Sound, Tybee Roads,
and Wassaw Sound in quick succession. The BIBB marked Tybee Roads, the
entrance to the Savannah river with large iron buoys, and Calibogue Sound
with spar buoys.(103) Boutelle also buoyed
the bar and channel leading into Wassaw Sound and provided Commodore Du
Pont with sailing directions. This followed earlier penetrations of Wassaw
Sound by Commander John Rodgers and Captain Charles H. Davis. Work to the
south was completed February 8.
For the next few weeks, the BIBB was used as a gunboat. February 11,
1862, the BIBB with the U. S. S. CRUSADER accompanied an army expedition
to Edisto Island. Here Boutelle piloted the Army transport BEN DEFORD,
with the 47th regiment of New York Volunteers, into North Edisto entrance.
The BIBB remained in this area for two weeks and helped protect the troops
from night attack as a Conferate force was only a few miles away. The BIBB
left North Edisto on February 23 and proceeded back to Port Royal where
it was used "as an armed vessel in concert with the VARUNA, the greater
part of the fleet having gone southward to repossess certain points on
the coast of Florida."(104)
During the stay in Port Royal, the Army Transport MISSISSIPPI limped
into the harbor on March 2 after having struck on Frying Pan Shoals while
proceeding to the south. This vessel carried Major General Benjamin F.
Butler and 1,400 troops. Butler was on his way to take part in the assault
on New Orleans. Boutelle was assigned the task of repairing the MISSISSIPPI.
By March 10, Butler was able to write to Boutelle thanking him for his
and his crew's services: "With the injury which this vessel has received
it would have been probably impossible to have gone forward in her; and
it would have been equally impossible at this place, within a reasonable
time, to have repaired that injury without the constant and cheerfully
tendered services of yourself, and the ingenious skill and unremitting
labor of your officers, Chief Engineer Charles French and Executive Officer
Robert Platt." Sailing Master Andrew Mitchell of the ARAGO was detached
to General Butler's staff as he had great knowledge of the Louisiana coast.
Butler went on to the Mississippi River where he was guided to the rear
of Fort St. Philip by Coast Surveyors.
The BIBB then proceeded to Fernandina, off the entrance to Jacksonville.
Here, once again, Boutelle surveyed and buoyed the bar. During a trip to
Jacksonville with General Thomas W. Sherman, he found "thirteen buoys and
a lot of mooring chain" which was put to use throughout the South Atlantic
Blockading Squadron's operating area. From Fernandina, the BIBB proceeded
back to the Georgia coast and arrived at St. Simon's Bar and Sound on March
23 and set a large signal on the ruins of the St. Simon's Lighthouse for
the use of the blockading vessels. April 5, Commodore Du Pont detailed
the BIBB to make special visits at the naval stations between Port Royal
and Mosquito Inlet (Florida.) The BIBB went on this trip under the charge
of Robert Platt as Boutelle was at St. Helena Sound. Upon its return on
the 11th, Du Pont chose to use the BIBB to go to Fort Pulaski which had
just surrendered. Then returning to Port Royal, the Boutelle resumed command
of the BIBB on the 18th.
The last week of April, the BIBB returned to North Edisto and permanently
buoyed both channels, placed a first-class buoy at the point where the
channels met, plotted the sailing lines on a chart, and wrote up the sailing
lines for the fleet and communicated them to the flag-officer. On 1 May,
Boutelle examined the lower part of the Savannah river between Fort Pulaski
and Square Beacon. Three large hulks had been sunk there by the Confederates,
and as opposed to making an obstruction, he found that they had deepened
the channel by as much as nearly six feet. In an interesting aside, Aid
H. W. Longfellow left Boutelle's survey party and returned north "in consequence
of illness." As Henry Wadworth Longfellow had no son with those initials,
it is possible that this was a son of Coast Survey Assistant Alexander
Wadsworth Longfellow, the brother of the poet.
The same day that Aid Longfellow departed for the north, the BIBB began
a survey of Rattlesnake Shoal at Charleston entrance as blockade runners
were evading Union ships by escaping over the shoal. The BIBB finished
surveying this channel in two days and its tender set buoys expanding the
operating area of the Union fleet and curtailing evasion to the south.
Next week Boutelle was ordered to Stono Inlet. On the morning of May 19
he examined the Stono bar and found a channel of seven feet at low water.
The next day Charles Boutelle and Sub-Assistant John S. Bradford piloted
the gunboats UNADILLA, OTTAWA, and PEMBINA into Stono Inlet and continued
piloting for a reconnaissance as far as the fortification known as "Old
Battery" on James Island. Rear Admiral Du Pont's report of this action
reported the three ships entered the Stono and that they "proceeded up
the river above the old Fort opposite Legareville. On their approach the
barracks were fired and deserted by the enemy.... This important base of
operations, the Stono, has thus been secured for further operations by
the army against Charleston...."(105)
Boutelle piloted other reconnaissances up the Folly Island River and the
Kiawah River even using the BIBB as a gunboat on the KIAWAH expedition.
On May 21, a Coast Survey party under Sub-Assistant Charles H. Boyd
captured "six out of a company of outlying rebel pickets belonging to the
twenty-fourth South Carolina regiment, one of whom was about to fire on
Mr. Boyd when he was taken. This was effected by Messrs. Boyd and Bradford,
who had landed from their boats with four men opposite to Legareville,
to examine the western side of James Island."(106)
Commander John B. Marchand described this incident in his journal:
". . . the officers of the BIBB . . . concluded to look into the magazine
first . . . and on approaching the door was met by a rebel soldier with
a bayonet in his hand. The officer's name was Boyd and on pointing his
revolver, the bayonet many surrendered. Mr. Boyd then stepped forward and
on looking into the magazine was confronted by another soldier with musket
aimed at him. He (Mr. Boyd) stepped back and called another officer from
the BIBB, Mr. Bradford, to come and bring the armed boat's crew. Upon their
arrival the soldiers were individually called out of the magazine and their
arms taken from them. They were six in number belonging to the 24th South
Carolina regiment and were employed on picket duty. They were all sent
to me on the UNADILLA and I ordered them to be taken to Port Royal in the
BIBB which was expected to leave tonight or tomorrow morning."(107)
By May 23, the hydrography of Beaufort river, Archer's creek, Jericho creek, and Cowan creek was finished by Sub-Assistant W.S. Edwards while at the same time, Sub-Assistant Cleveland Rockwell finished the topography between the shores of the Beaufort and Coosaw Rivers. Both of these men with their respective survey parties were then ordered to report at Stono Inlet. Sub-assistant Edwards, commanding the ARAGO, and Cleveland Rockwell, in charge of a topographic party, came under the direction of Charles Boutelle. Rockwell accomplished the shoreline surveys of Coles, Folly, Kiawah, and James's Islands. Boyd conducted triangulation surveys, often being accompanied by armed boats for protection, and determined the position of Fort Pemberton and other rebel batteries near the town of Secessionville during these operations. A major operation was being planned and the triangulation work determined the exact distance from various Confederate batteries to points on the river for use by the gunboats in ranging their guns in subsequent actions.
The battle at Stono Inlet occurred on June 16,1862. Union Army troops
under Brigadier General Henry W. Benham, formerly assistant-in-charge of
the Coast Survey Office, attacked entrenched Confederates at Fort Pemberton,
named for the Confederate commander, Major General John C. Pemberton. Although
the Confederates were outnumbered, they held a strong position. After a
half an hour of bloody fighting, it appeared that the Union would prevail.
Inexplicably, Benham ordered a retreat leaving behind 683 dead, wounded,
and missing. For this he was placed under arrest, sent back North, and
demoted. In this battle Benham just missed unlocking the backdoor to Charleston.
If he had prevailed, he would have been a great hero and perhaps the Civil
War would have been significantly shortened. However, he went home a goat.
He eventually recovered from this debacle and directed the building of
the famous pontoon bridge across the James River in 1864.
The Coast Survey party departed Stono Inlet on June 23 for Port Royal
and then proceeded north on July 1. It seems odd in retrospect, but the
Coast Survey maintained its pre-war seasonal rhythm of working north in
the summer and south in fall, winter, and spring. However, the BIBB did
require repairs, having been on station for the past six months; an additional
problem was the expiration of the term of enlistment for most of the crew.
The ARAGO and the CASWELL also proceeded north and arrived in New York
The Coast Surveyors returned to the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron
in November 1862. William S. Edwards was in charge of the ARAGO, William
H. Dennis in charge of the CASWELL, and Boutelle and Platt were on the
BIBB. The routine was much the same as the year before with piloting, surveying,
and placing buoys making up the bulk of the duties. The BIBB ranged from
the St. John's River, Florida, to north of Charleston during the first
two months of the 1862-1863 duty. In late January Rear Admiral Du Pont
sent Boutelle a message to proceed to Charleston "for the important service
which you have received from me verbally . . ." and "that as much secrecy
be given to the operations intrusted to you as circumstances will render
possible." The operation intrusted to Boutelle was to survey the Charleston
bar and find a passage for the ironclads to attack Charleston Harbor. Boutelle,
with Robert Platt and John S. Bradford, surveyed the bar on the nights
of January 29 and January 30, 1863, and found the Pumpkin Hill Channel.
Rear Admiral Du Pont took note of the results of this work and remarked
to Boutelle, "Your examination of the channels and water on the Charleston
Bar seem to have been conducted with great skill and boldness, and I beg
you to receive my thanks and commendation for the same and for the important
It was another two months before the attack was made. In the meantime,
the BIBB continued its varied duties. On March 27 it transported Chief
Engineer Alban Stimers of the Navy, workmen, ironplates for protecting
boilers and powder magazines, and equipment for gun carriages from Port
Royal up to the North Edisto River for modification of the ironclads. On
April 5, Boutelle, Platt, and Bradford once again surveyed the Pumpkin
Hill Channel under cover of darkness and buoyed the channel for guiding
the ironclads into Charleston Harbor. Two days later the attack was made.
At the request of both Rear Admiral Du Pont and Captain John Rodgers, Robert
S. Platt piloted the U. S. S. WEEHAWKEN, the lead Union vessel, into the
harbor. Captain Rodgers was on the WEEHAWKEN; when Platt received a concussion
from a shell hitting just above his head, Rodgers helped revive him. Platt
was held up to the piloting slits for the remainder of the battle and continued
directing the movements of the ship. The attack was a failure as the slow-firing
monitors were no matches for the defenses of Charleston. For informing
Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles and the President of this fact, Rear
Admiral Du Pont was relieved from duty. Although the monitors were formidable
machines, they were not invincible.
During the attack, the BIBB was stationed at the bar and served as an
observation vessel for Chief Engineer Alban Stimers and members of the
press. As it was politically unacceptable to face the reality that the
ironclads were no match for a well-fortified harbor, both Stimers and the
press blamed Rear Admiral Du Pont for not pressing the attack the next
day. Within a few months Rear Admiral John Dahlgren, Ferdinand Hassler's
old friend, was given command of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron.
Dahlgren had no better luck cracking the defenses of Charleston than his
In mid-May the hydrographic party of the BIBB discovered a channel leading
to the north out of Port Royal Sound that shortened the distance to Charleston
by 7 miles. Little else of consequence was accomplished by the Coast Surveyors
prior to the BIBB's departure from the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron
on June 13, 1863. The day before the ship's departure for a northern shipyard,
Rear Admiral Du Pont wrote a letter to Boutelle detailing the many services
of the Coast Survey to the squadron and closed it with a personal thanks
to Assistant Boutelle:
"In closing our official correspondence I deem it an act of simple duty to express to you my appreciation and thanks for the important services you have rendered your country and the aid you have been to me as commander in chief of this squadron while carrying out the duties of your own particular department.
"I have ever found you prompt, zealous, intelligent, and obliging, and
I shall always esteem it a privilege to bear testimony to the same."(108)
Rear Admiral Du Pont did not return to active naval command again. He
was a strong advocate of the Survey and a good friend of Alexander Dallas
Bache so Superintendent Bache must have felt his downfall keenly.
The summer of 1863 was exciting for the Coast Surveyors who went north
from the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron. The Confederate Army invaded
the north and marched through Maryland and into southern Pennsylvania.
Boutelle rushed to Philadelphia to join Superintendent Bache in surveying
that city's approaches and in constructing forts. The threat receded after
the Battle of Gettysburg but many Coast Surveyors continued toiling throughout
the summer. W. S. Edwards went north on the ARAGO to Penobscot Bay, Maine,
and was instrumental in helping quell a small uprising of anti-draft copperheads
in Rockport, Maine. A group of copperheads and disgruntled draftees threatened
to burn the businesses of the loyal Union men of Rockport on August 24.
When notified of this, "Captain Edwards . . . immediately took on board
some twenty or thirty volunteers . . . , hoisted anchor, and . . . ran
his vessel close up to the rebellious village, where he anchored, with
springs on his cable, broadside to the store of Carlston and Norwood. Two
brass pieces were mounted on the quarterdeck, his battle lanterns were
burning, a row of stacked muskets glittered fore and aft, and everything
was in readiness to give the copperheads 'Hail Columbia' if any indications
of riot or arson were given. When the schooner swung around to her position,
the brass pieces were discharged, and the Union men on shore say that when
the report came the copperheads, who till that time had been standing about
in little knots, streaked if for home and were seen no more till morning
. . ."(109)
Assistant Edwards faced a potentially more dangerous crisis six weeks
later when he was back on the Southeast Coast. On October 10 he wrote to
Bache, "Have been suffering from a severe cold . . . this morning had my
tonsils cut and throat burnt." Edwards survived this crude tonsillectomy.
Within a few weeks Charles Boutelle and Robert Platt were back on station,
this time with the VIXEN. (The VIXEN was replaced again by the BIBB sometime
before 1865.) The work remained the same as in the past years with a regimen
of surveying, piloting, planting buoys, and serving as a despatch vessel.
Work was accomplished on the Charleston Bar, at Lighthouse Inlet and Folly
River, South Carolina, and along the St. John's River in Florida. Topography
was done as far south as Pilatka along the St. John's. Assistant William
Dennis twice narrowly avoided capture while working beyond the Union pickets
at Pilatka. In May, he turned over his vessel, the schooner CASWELL, to
Robert Platt temporarily while it was being towed up the St. John's River.
The Army transport, HARRIET A. WEED, which was doing the towing was destroyed
by a torpedo and sunk within a minute or two. Concerning this affair, William
Dennis wrote to Bache on May 17, 1864, "The CASWELL's crew and officers
together with Mr. Platt and his crew picked up the wounded and passengers.
The people who witnessed this affair give great credit to the prompt manner
in which it was done."(110)
Apparently most of the Coast Survey party remained on the Southeast
coast for the remainder of the war. In mid- July Boutelle wrote to Bache
(although Bache had recently suffered what seems to have been a major stroke)
that "the admiral has been here all the week, which has been pleasantly
varied to me by the arrival of our old friend, Capt. Craven, now commanding
the monitor "Tecumseh" and on his way to Mobile. He left here yesterday
. . . . We have been much together and his interest in C. S. matters is
strong as ever, stronger, I think, than it is in [naval?] duties." Commander
T. A. M. Craven spent fifteen years on the Coast Survey prior to the Civil
War and was one of Bache's favorites.
The unfortunate Craven met his demise in the Battle of Mobile Bay. The
TECUMSEH struck a torpedo and sank with virtually all hands. Craven was
in the pilothouse with the pilot and was reported to have said, "After
you, pilot." The pilot survived. Commander Craven was never seen again.
A month later Boutelle would write to Carlile Patterson at the Coast Survey
office, "In rejoicing over Farragut's success, we mourn for Craven. The
pleasant week we spent together here last month will [always?] be a still
more pleasant memory. His friends have lost much but the country more.
The Chief will grieve at his death."(111)
Not all was mourning and grief. Many of the freed slaves from the Sea
Island plantations were members of crack boat racing teams prior to the
war. They were skilled watermen and probably could have been victorious
over boat teams from anywhere else. It was the Coast Survey's good fortune
to obtain the services of the best of these men for the hydrographic boat
crews. Gershom Bradford, a young aid who was sent to the BIBB in 1864,
reminisced about his boat crew many years later:
"When I was surveying off Charleston during the latter part of the Civil War, I had a boat's crew in which I took much pride.
"My boat was manned by six carefully selected Negroes. They were expert and fatigueless oarsmen. All day with but short intervals of rest they were at the oars. At sunset when the boat's head was turned for the ship they would break into song.
"It was the habit of these men when they feathered their oars after the power stroke to calculate the lift so carefully that the after edge of the blade on the forward course would just touch the water making a sweeping or swishing sound that was very fetching.
"Their voices were characteristically rich and pulling melodiously in
rhythm to their boat songs there was produced an effect that charmed all
who heard them. The course to our ship took the boat through the anchored
Union Fleet. The crew of each man-of-war invariably lined the rails to
hear them pass, and successively gave the Negro oarsmen an enthusiastic
The work continued on with surveys of Wassaw Sound and Ossabaw Sound.
This work was conducted by Clarence Fendall, who had spent much time with
Rear Admiral Porter on the Mississippi River. During these surveys he worked
on the hydrography and topography of the Great and Little Ogeechee Rivers,
the Wilmington River, the Vernon River, and other navigable waterways between
Wassaw Sound and Ossabaw Sound. Fendall's work was of particular importance
as it allowed the establishment of communication between the naval forces
on the southeast coast and the oncoming army of General William Tecumseh
Sherman as it approached Savannah. Much of this was done at considerable
risk prior to the area being secured by Union forces. Early December heralded
a flurry of action between Confederate forces defending Savannah and forces
under Dahlgren's command. On December 11, Dahlgens's pickets heard heavy
firing in the vicinity of Savannah heralding the arrival of General Sherman.
On December 15, Dahlgren and Sherman met and discussed cooperation between
the Army and Navy. The first order of business was to get supplies to the
Army. The solution to this problem was to bring relatively deep-draught
vessels up to Thunderbolt Battery just south of the village of Wassaw on
the Wilmington River. Charles Boutelle suggested Thunderbolt Battery as
the primary port for supply on December 24 in a letter to General Sherman:
"Vessels drawing 15 feet and under can come up to this place [Thunderbolt
Battery] now, entering at Wassaw Sound. The river has been dragged for
torpedoes and none have yet been discovered. . . . I have my vessel at
work sounding and putting up marks for navigation . . . ."(113)
This was where Fendall's work became of paramount importance; as even
after the fall of Savannah, the Savannah River was so obstructed by the
Confederates that it would be many months before the river was finally
clear. Rear Admiral Dahlgren acknowledged Fendall's work in a letter to
Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles:
"The work has been rendered important by reason of its usefulness in connecting General Sherman's positions near Savannah, with mine --- the previous survey not extending sufficiently to include Forts McAllister, Beaulieu, and Rosedew.
". . . Mr. Fendall did his duty very creditably, in the face of probable
interruption by the Rebel scouts . . . ."(114)
Aid Gershom Bradford was able to observe first-hand a meeting between
Rear Admiral John Dahlgren and General William Tecumseh Sherman on January
3, 1865, after Sherman had completed his celebrated (or infamous depending
on the viewpoint) march to the sea. The BIBB was used as the official site
for the two men to meet and discuss strategy and Bradford described the
". . . After dinner the two commanders were on the quarter deck conversing, and I had an excellent opportunity to observe them. The Admiral was dressed in a carefully brushed uniform, buttoned to the chin, and looked exceedingly trim, not to say stiff.
"The General wore a faded and rather unkempt uniform, unbuttoned, and was of a slouchy bearing. He leaned on the rail watching a gunboat firing shells at a Confederate battery, which shells fell invariably short. Several of us knew something of the captain of the gunboat and guessed why he was so far from the battery. The Admiral, uninterested in the doings of a small gunboat, pressed the important question of their conversation, but Sherman was not diverted.
"'Admiral, what is that fellow trying to do?'
"'He is reducing that battery, General,' was the abstracted reply.
"'If I were you, Admiral, I would order him up where he would get hurt.'"
Charleston was evacuated in late February 1865 and the Union Fleet promptly
took possession of the harbor. The BIBB commenced surveys to identify the
location of obstructions and clear the harbor for the resumption of normal
commercial shipping. In spite of the Confederate forces departing Charleston,
the harbor remained a dangerous place for Union vessels. The logbook of
the Coast Survey Steamer BIBB for 17 March 1865 read: "Got underweigh at
-520 and struck torpedo at -530. Found she made not water. Was towed to
the city by the tug "Clover" and anchored at 610. [signed] G. Bradford"
Fortunately there was little damage to the ship and 10 days later General
Quincy Gillmore wrote to Boutelle, "It has become my duty to provide for
the reception at Darien, GA, of over five thousand Union prisoners by the
8th of next month, and I have to request that if possible you will have
the channel leading to that place from the sea buoyed out so that my transports
can go there to receive them." Apparently these were prisoners from Andersonville
as Darien was the closest port city to that prison camp. This work involved
buoying Doboy Sound and the Darien River to the south and west of Sapelo
The end was in sight for the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron. The
log of the BIBB for April 12, 1865 read, "At 945 came to anchor near Ft.
Sumter and the fleet. At 115 manned the rigging and gave three cheers at
the raising of the old flag on Fort Sumter." Apparently some imbibing had
attended this celebration as the log also read, "Mr. Guldin was ordered
off the deck by Ex. Officer and pronounced as unfit for a watch officer."
The war was nearly over; no more were blockade-runners testing their luck
against the Union blockade. No more were Confederate iron-clads and submarines
lurking in the rivers and sounds of the Southeast coast waiting for an
opportunity to strike a blow against the Union Navy. The entry for Rear
Admiral John Dahlgren's diary for June 17, 1865 read:
"At last, all things being ready, I left the old PHILADELPHIA. About
3:30 P. M. I crossed the gangway of the PAWNEE and established myself in
the cabin. The ship steamed out with two little companions, IRIS and GERANIUM
(4 o'clock). And so ends a command of two years of one of the largest fleets
ever assembled under United States colors - as many as 96 at one time."
The BIBB was engaged in surveys for helping clear the South Carolina
and Georgia harbors of obstructions for the remainder of 1865. Perhaps
the last request for work of this nature came in October 1865 when Boutelle
was consulted concerning the removal of some obstructions in the Savannah
River. The Navy had finished its job and gone home. The Coast Survey's
job was continuing from where it had left off prior to the war.
2. C. P. Bolles was the senior Coast Survey assistant that resigned his status in the Coast Survey to join the Confederacy. He served as an engineering officer and did preliminary construction work at Ft. Fisher at the Cape Fear River entrance. Originally, Ft. Fisher was called Battery Bolles in his honor.
4. On January 31, five days after secession, Lousiana seized the USRC WASHINGTON, which was in shipyard at New Orleans. This was the same vessel which had accomplished early oceanographic work with the Coast Survey and weathered the hurricane of September 8, 1846. The WASHINGTON was scuttled by the Confederates the following year when Farragut took New Orleans.
11. Bache's role in forming this board and ultimately helping formulate Northern strategy is also documented in: Ammen, Daniel, Rear Admiral U.S.N., "Du Pont and the Port Royal Expedition", Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, Vol I, p. 671. Ammen wrote, "Naturally, the Navy Department sought the advice of Professor Alexander D. Bache, Superintendent of the Coast Survey, and it was at his suggestion that the department secured a board of conference composed of Captain S. F. Du Pont, of the Navy, as President, and Major J. G. Barnard, U.S. Engineers, Professor Bache, and Commander Charles H. Davis, U.S. Navy, as members." In a private letter Captain Du Pont wrote, on the 1st of June: "It may be that I shall be ordered to Washington on some temporary duty, on a board to arrange a programme of blockade -- first suggested by Professor Bache."
16. Many of the early steamers operated by the Coast Survey had originally been acquired by the Revenue Service. They were too slow and expensive for Revenue Service duty, and in an attempt to sell the vessels, extremely low bids were received. Bache suggested the Coast Survey take over the vessels beginning with the BIBB in 1847. The Revenue Service chose to return to sail as the motive power for its ships. Coast Survey steamers of the 1850's included the BIBB, LEGARE, JEFFERSON, WALKER, CORWIN, VIXEN, HETZEL, and ACTIVE. The ACTIVE was formerly a small commercial steamer and was acquired on the West Coast following the loss of the steamer JEFFERSON on the coast of Argentina in 1851. The JEFFERSON was attempting to transit the route from the United States East Coast to California for Coast Survey duty when it was lost..
21. Wood, F. J. 1976. The Strategic Role of Perigean Spring Tides in Nautical History and North American Coastal Flooding, 1635-1976. U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration. p. 78-84.
24. Boutelle to Bache, November 8, 1861. In: Bache, A. D. Report of the Superintendent ... 1861. Appendix No. 31, "Extracts from Official Reports Relative to the Occupation of Port Royal Sound, S.C., ...." p. 267-268.
32. Not all firing was "blind." Mortar schooners
stationed on the east bank of the Mississippi River had a clear line of
sight to Fort Jackson. As the fort had an equally clear line of sight to
the schooners on the east bank, Porter moved them to the west bank after
the first day's operations to reduce potential casualties. The work done
by the Coast Surveyors gave exact distances and directions to the forts
from each designated boat location. Known distance allowed the mortarmen
to adjust the angle of elevation of the mortars, but the slight variations
in the headings of the schooners while tied up to the shore would cause
shells to fly wide of the mark to left or right. To mitigate this, Joseph
Smith Harris spent most of one day on the mast of one of the mortar boats
looking over the trees and spotting the location of mortar shell explosions.
If wide of the mark, he would call down rudder commands to cause the boats
to slightly vary heading to adjust firing direction. Although the boats
were tied up, sufficient current existed to facilitate these minor heading
changes. Harris described his role on the west bank:
"On being transferred to the right bank into a closer position to Fort Jackson I could see nothing for me to do but go to the masthead and report how our shot were falling, as I could see
the Fort over the tops of the trees. While I sat there watching our shot which I could see very plainly till they commenced to fall rapidly, and watching the shots from the Fort which I could also see, I was struck by the sudden approach of one which came so near to me that I could almost have touched it by extending my arm. I watched it fall harmlessly in the water astern, and debated with myself whether I should stay where I was or get out, but I thought I might as well stay, and I did so for some hours. I could from my position direct the firing which I did, the vessel's head being turned by her rudder, if the previous shot showed that a change was necessary." (Autobiography of Joseph Smith Harris. Unpublished autobiography archived at the U.S. Army Military History Institute, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania.)
34. There has been dispute over the effectiveness
of Porter's mortar bombardment of Fort Jackson. Porter had a reputation
for bragging, exaggeration, and embellishment of facts in his reports and
correspondence. In the case of Fort Jackson, it appears indisputable that
the fort suffered tremendous damage in spite of low casualties (nine killed
and thirty-three wounded.) Certainly Fort Jackson's effectiveness as a
deterrent to Farragut's passage was significantly diminished. The fact
that Confederate troops at Fort Jackson mutinied and refused to fight on
the night of April 27th would also point to the mortar barrage as being
the major cause of the loss of will of the Confederate defenders. Confederate
General J.K. Duncan, who spent most of his time at Fort St. Philip during
the mortar barrage, attributed the mutiny at Fort Jackson to Irish and
German troops having little loyalty to the Confederacy. Whatever the strength
of their loyalty, it was sorely tried by the barrage. Bern Anderson in
By Sea and By River The Naval History of the Civil War (Da Capo
Press, New York. 1989. p. 127.) described the state of the fort following
its capitulation: "All of the wooden buildings were set on fire the
35. General Butler had a triple debt to the Coast Survey. On the way down from the north, his vessel, the transport MISSISSIPPI, struck on Cape Fear shoals and was severely damaged. It put into Port Royal Sound for repairs. These repairs were overseen by Charles O. Boutelle, Robert Platt, his executive officer from the BIBB, and his chief engineer, Charles French. General Butler gave Boutelle his thanks:
"Sir: I cannot allow myself to leave this port without tendering to you my cordial thanks for the great assistance which you have rendered to the service, and to myself, during the past week, in making this vessel fit to pursue her voyage to Ship island in safety.
"With the injury which this vessel has received it would have been probably impossible to have gone forward in her; and it would have been equally impossible at this place, within a reasonable time, to have repaired that injury without the constant and cheerfully tendered services of yourself, and the ingenious skill and unremitting labor of your officers, Chief Engineer Charles French and Executive Officer Robert Platt.
"To you, therefore, and to these officers, I owe it that I may now hope to reach my command in the gulf in season for active operations in that quarter...." (In Bache, A. D., Report of the Superintendent ... 1862. Appendix No. 32. "Letter of Major General Benjamin F. Butler, addressed to Assistant C.O. Boutelle, on the completion of repairs to the U.S. Steamer Mississippi.... p. 261.)
Although Butler was thankful to the Coast Surveyors at Port Royal, he ignored their contribution at Fort St. Philip in an article in the New York Express written January 21, 1863. This prompted Assistant F. H. Gerdes to complain,"... I wonder when Gen. Butler commenced his geog. discoveries, or who sounded the channels or buoyed them out with lamps so that the troops were transported even by night. Did he ever give us credit for any thing?" (National Archives, RG23, Entry 103, Records of Asst. F. H. Gerdes. Gerdes to Bache, January 22, 1863.)
At Port Royal Boutelle assigned Sailing Master A.C. Mitchell to accompany the MISSISSIPPI for pilotage on the Gulf Coast as Mitchell had spent close to twelve years in that area.
36. National Archives, RG23, Entry 103, Records of Asst. F. H. Gerdes Correspondence; and Harris, J. M. Autobiography of Joseph Smith Harris, unpublished autobiography archived at U.S. Army Military History Institute, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania.
40. Porter to Bache, April 29, 1862. In: Bache, A. D. Report of the Superintendent . . . 1862. Appendix No. 34. "Extracts from Commodore D.D. Porter's Letter to Professor A.D. Bache, Dated 'Harriet Lane, Forts Jackson and St. Philip, April 29, 1862.'" p. 262.
41. This account is based on the Gerdes to Porter letter of May 16, 1862. In: Bache, A. D. Report of the Superintendent ... 1862. Appendix No 35. "Report of Assistant F. H. Gerdes, U.S. Coast Survey, to Commander D.D. Porter, U.S.N., Commanding Mortar Flotilla in the Gulf of Mexico." p. 263.
45. Commander Matthew Fontaine Maury, CSN, Bache's long-time pre-war adversary, was instrumental in the development of modern mine warfare. Perhaps too lame to serve on a man-of-war, his imaginative brain devised the means of destroying over 40 Union vessels as well as causing untold fear with accompanying restrictions on Union tactical operations.
46. Porter to Bache, January 5, 1863. In: Jones, E. L. 1916. Military and Naval Service of the United States Coast Survey 1861-1865. Special Publication No. 37, p. 65. Washington, Government Printing Office. The Records of Asst. F. H. Gerdes in National Archives, RG23, Entry 103, includes a copy of this letter with slightly different verbiage.
51. Official accounts state that gunboats approached within 60 yards of Fort Hindman on January 10. Perhaps Fendall was speaking of the BLACK HAWK as it did not participate in the general action other than its role in passing the fort after the water battery had been disabled. (Division of Naval History, Navy Department, Civil War Naval Chronology 1861-1865. Washington, D. C. U.S. Government Printing Office, 1971. p. III-7,8.)
59. Earlier, Fendall had referred to photographer Kroehl "as a perfect butt on board. Farragut insulted him at dinner today.... The old Admiral don't like failures, neither do I." Julius Kroehl was commissioned an Acting Volunteer Lieutenant in the Navy from December 2, 1862, until August 8, 1863. His commission was "revoked" on the latter date. Whether that indicated dismissal with prejudice or merely indicated the end of his mission with the Mississippi squadron is unclear. However, from Rear Admiral Farragut's point of view, Kroehl had experienced nothing but failure as he was also involved with a failed attempt to blow up obstructions and a chain across the Mississippi just prior to Farragut passing the forts during the attack on New Orleans.
Fendall was beginning to show the strain of six months on the Mississippi at this point. Earlier he had actually voiced a complaint on behalf of Strausz when Strausz had lost his place in the wardroom to "a little ensign" (Fendall was probably seeing himself as the next to be displaced. Fendall to Gerdes, February 1, 1863); and he had complained about having no dedicated Coast Survey vessel and that under the arrangement on the BLACK HAWK Porter could "forget our existence when we are not needed and when we are, he can make us work harder than if we were away from him." (Fendall to Gerdes, February 5, 1863.)
In a return letter, Gerdes gently admonished Fendall: "These are times where all of us must put up with inconveniences - I suppose he [Porter] has enough of his own too!"
March 14, Fendall complained to Gerdes: "... The Admiral sends copies of all my maps to Genl Grant, which is only right, but Grant's/ or rather Sherman's engineers put all my results to their own credit ...." In retrospect, perhaps this was a legitimate gripe as certainly very few individuals today know of the role of Clarence Fendall and the Coast Survey in mapping the area around Vicksburg for the Union forces.
In the continuation of his letter of May 12, Fendall shows a curious combination of being
thankful for a helping hand and biting that same hand. Following the passage of the fleet past Vicksburg, Commodore S. L. Breese had immediate command of the naval vessels remaining above the town. Fendall commented on this state of affairs: "Since the Admiral left Breese is more than kind. Perhaps he is not down on the C.S. but only on Strausz who boot-licks the Admiral and infringes on one of Breese's prerogatives. Instead of ... [that which] I formerly had to fight for I have now a barge with ten oarsmen of the first-class, a coxswain to steer and my pick of the ships' lead lines and sounding poles. On my return I am received by the executive officer instead of the officer of the deck as formerly...."
63. Porter to Bache, August 5, 1863. In: Jones, E. L. 1916. Military and Naval Service of the United States Coast Survey 1861-1865. Special Publication No. 37. p. 68. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D. C.
74. Lieutenant Colonel Bailey had accomplished a similar feat in 1863 following the fall of Port Hudson, Louisiana. Two Confederate vessels were aground far up a creek following a drop in the water. Bailey refloated them and salvaged them for the Union.
75. National Archives, RG23, Entry 103, Records of Asst. F. H. Gerdes. This particular account is out of sequence in the Gerdes papers and found in: Miscellaneous Papers Referring to the Mississippi River 1863 and 1864.
77. Gerdes to Bache, June 2, 1864. National Archives, RG23, Entry 103, Records of Asst. F. H. Gerdes. Bache had been stricken by the disease or stroke that led to his lingering death a few weeks before this letter was written, and Gerdes had not yet received word of Bache's illness.
79. The need for Coast Surveyors to be identified as associated with the Army or Navy, or as a separate entity, for purposes of capture and prisoner exchange, was recognized quite early in the war. Assistant Charles O. Boutelle apparently was the first to recognize the need for uniforms for Coast Survey officers and wrote to Superintendent Bache on January 19, 1862, concerning uniforms. He dropped the matter for many months, but wrote again to Bache on September 28, 1862, requesting that Bache authorize a uniform with a coat similar to a Navy uniform coat, pants similar to those worn by Army staff officers, and distinctive Coast Survey insignia denoting both rank and affiliation. (Boutelle to Bache, September 28, 1862. National Archives, RG23, microfilm collection M642, Roll 248, pp. 280 -284.) Bache did not concur with the concept of wearing uniforms with distinctive Coast Survey insignia.
84. Phelps to Bache, November 14, 1861. In: Jones, E. L. 1916. Military and Naval Service of the United States Coast Survey 1861-1865, Special Publication No. 37, p. 51. U.S. Department of Commerce, Government Printing Office.
86. Burnside to Bache. In: Jones, E. L. 1916. Military and Naval Service of the United States Coast Survey 1861-1865. Special Publication No. 37, p. 58. (87)
87. Burnside to Bache. In: Jones, E. Lester. 1916. Military and Naval Service of the United States Coast Survey 1861-1865. p. 58.(88)
96. A few weeks earlier the Union gunboats MIAMI and SOUTHFIELD had engaged the ALBEMARLE at Plymouth, North Carolina, with disastrous consequences to the Union. The Southfield was sunk while Commander Flusser of the MIAMI was killed by ricocheting shell fragments from his own cannon fire bouncing back from the ALBEMARLE. Plymouth was re-occupied by Confederate forces after this engagement and then evacuated a short time later. The Navy then sent a number of double ended rams to Albemarle Sound to attack and contain the ALBEMARLE. These were the vessels that Strausz and his party piloted through the Swash Channel at Hatteras Inlet and that Bradford's buoys guided up Albemarle Sound.
98. Davis, G. B., Perry, L. J., Kirkley, J. W., and compiled by Cowles, C. D. 1891- 1895. Atlas to Accompany the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Washington, Government Printing Office. Reprinted as : 1983. The Official Military Atlas of the Civil War. Plate CXXIX, No. 9, Position of the Ironclads. Gramercy Books, New York.
99. Boutelle to Bache, November 30, 1861. In: Jones, E. L. 1916. Military and Naval Service of the United States Coast Survey 1861-1865. Special Publication No. 37, p. 54. U. S. Department of Commerce, Government Printing Office.
101. Drayton to Du Pont, November 28, 1861. In: Rawson, E. K. and Colvocoresses, G. P., and Stewart, C. W. 1900. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Series I, Volume 12, p. 323.
103. Shortly afterward, Union forces began placing siege guns upon the north shore of Tybee Island in anticipation of attacking Fort Pulaski. Over a two month period, guns were moved into position and on April 10 they opened fire upon the supposedly impregnable walls of Fort Pulaski. A few months earlier, General Robert E. Lee stood upon the ramparts of Fort Pulaski and declared to the fort commander that if the Federals should place guns upon the north end of Tybee Island, "... they will make it pretty hot for you with shells, but they cannot breach your walls at that distance." Lee was wrong. Within 36 hours, the new Union rifled guns had breached the 7-foot thick walls of the fort and forced its surrender. This effectively ended the use of Savannah as a southern port but made even more important the Union control of the interior waterways.
107. Marchand, John B. Journal Entry of May 21, 1862. In: Symonds, C. L., editor. 1976. Charleston Blockade The Journals of John B. Marchand, U. S. Navy 1861-1862. p. 174. Naval War College Press, Newport, Rhode Island.
108. Du Pont to Boutelle, June 12, 1863. In: Rawson, E. K. and Stewart, C. W. 1902. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Series I, Volume 14, p. 255. Government Printing Office, Washington.
109. Undated newspaper article in: Bache Correspondence, National Archives, RG23, MF642, roll 259, included in correspondence with W. S. Edwards. In the Superintendent's Report for 1863 the date of this event is given as August 24, 1863. Likewise, W. S. Edwards in his monthly journal, Roll 263, reported on August 24, " Went to Rockport to quell a riot."
110. The Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies makes no mention of the CASWELL in the rescue of survivors of the sinking of the HARRIET A. WEED. The Report of the Superintendent of the Coast Survey for 1864 mentions that the CASWELL narrowly missed destruction when the HARRIET A. WEED encountered the torpedo.