Taking on the Rebel Ram Tennessee

There came a moment during the Aug. 5, 1864, Battle of Mobile Bay when Rear Adm. David Farragut’s most powerful warships went up against the Confederate ironclad ram Tennessee.

The Hartford, Brooklyn and Richmond lined up abreast and bore down on the Tennessee, hell bent on taking her out of action.

The Richmond’s crew included one of the navy’s youngest officers, Philip Henry Cooper, pictured here, center. A recent Naval Academy graduate, he had served aboard the Richmond for about a year.

Cooper and his shipmates, and the crews of the other two Union vessels, traded shot and shell with the Tennessee for more than an hour before the rebel ram called it quits and raised the white flag.

The crew of the Richmond was lucky—no casualties and minimum damage. For Cooper, it was the beginning of a long career in the service of the navy that included cruises around the globe and stints on the staff of his alma mater. He posed for this carte de visite with two of his comrades, Lt. Cmdr. Charles W. Tracy and a secretary named Procter, during a South American cruise about 1866-1868.

Cooper retired as a captain in 1904 and died in 1912 at age 68.

This image is new to my collection and is available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr.
Taking on the Rebel Ram Tennessee

Advertisements

He Saved the Union

If you believe that the fighting at Little Round Top on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg prevented the Union army from being destroyed by the Confederates, and that this act set up Pickett’s Charge on the third and final day of the engagement, then you might reasonably argue that you live under the Stars and Stripes today in part because of this man.

Pvt. Peter L. Quant of the “People’s Ellsworth Regiment,” also known as the 44th New York Infantry, hustled into position along the crest of Little Round Top on the afternoon of July 2, 1863. He and his comrades in Company K and the rest of the regiment, along with other hastily organized Union troops, stopped the Confederate juggernaut in its tracks.
A 29-year-old farmer from Montgomery, N.Y., when he enlisted during the summer of 1861, Quant survived numerous engagements with the 44th, including the Seven Days’ Battles, Second Manassas, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. He also made it through Gettysburg without injury.

His luck ran out the following year. On July 7, 1864, along the front lines of Petersburg, a Confederate bullet found its mark. Critically injured, Quant languished in a hospital at City Point, Va., until he succumbed to his wounds on July 24.

Quant did not live to see the States reunited.

This image is new to my collection and is available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr.
He Saved the Union

Vigilant Defender of Washington

The letter, number and crossed cannons attached to this soldier’s cap and the photographer’s back mark offer the biggest clue to his identity: He served in Company F of the 1st New Hampshire Heavy Artillery. Organized in the late summer and early fall of 1864, Company F reported to defenses of Washington and stood guard in expectation of Confederates that never materialized. Two of the regiment’s companies, A and B, were formed a year earlier. Both were present in the Capital’s defenses when Jubal Early’s rebel army attacked on July 11-12, 1864, and with other federals successfully repulsed the invaders.

This image by Reeve & Watts of Columbus, Ohio, is new to my collection and is available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr.
Vigilant Defender of Washington

Redemption at Mobile Bay

dana-collageMy latest Civil War News profile is the story of William Starr Dana and his navy experience. An excerpt:

A hailstorm of rebel artillery pounded Union Rear Adm. David Farragut’s flagship, the Hartford, as she steamed into Mobile Bay at the head of the attacking fleet on August 5, 1864. Shells tore through her planking as heavy metal fragments and wood splinters careened through the air at lightning speed and took a deadly toll on officers and men.

Cmdr. Richard Starr Dana, U.S. Navy, standing, and his brother, Richard Starr Dana. Carte de visite by an unidentified photographer, about October 1863. Collection of the author.
One well-aimed projectile ripped through the Hartford’s battle-scarred wooden hull and blasted the forward berth deck. The commander of this section of the ship, Ensign William S. Dana, recalled, “Fragments of the shell flew over my head and I was covered by the brains and blood of the man next to me.” This single shot killed three and wounded two, which removed more than a third of his 13-man crew.

Read the rest on Medium.

Border State Girl

A young lady stands before the camera with one arm resting on a table upon which rests her bonnet. The remains of a revenue stamp on the back of the mount dates this carte de visite to 1864-1866, which was taken by Elrod Bros. of Lexington, Ky. Her name is lost to history, and it is not known if she had brothers who may have fought for the North and South.

This image is new to my collection, and is available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr.
Border State Girl

Damn the Torpedoes! What Did Farragut Really Say at Mobile Bay?

The actual words by Adm. David Farragut during the 1864 Battle of Mobile Bay that became paraphrased as “Damn the torpedoes, full speed speed ahead” are still something of a mystery 150 years after they were uttered.

Several sources note that Farragut originally cried, “Damn the torpedoes! Four bells. Captain Drayton, go ahead! Jouett, full speed!”

But according to a newly discovered primary source, the true words spoken by Farragut were: “Damn the torpedoes! Go on! Put the helm a-starboard, Captain Drayton!”

Brownell-Henry-H-USN-FThe provenance of this version is an inscription in a gilt-embossed green buckram 1864 pamphlet “Bay-Fight” by Henry H. Brownell (pictured), acting ensign and clerk to Farragut during the Battle of Mobile Bay. The pamphlet was recently sold on Cowan’s Auctions.

Brownell’s poem, “Bay-Fight,” was first published in “Harper’s Monthly” magazine. The author presented this particular copy to Fleet Surgeon James C. Palmer.

Brownell never mentions the “Damn the torpedoes” phrase in his poem. He wrote:

From the main-top, bold and brief,
Came the word of our grand old Chief—
“Go on!”—’twas all he said—
Our helm was put to the starboard,
And the Hartford passed ahead.

But in this pamphlet, Surg. Palmer put a hand-written asterisk next to “Go on!” with this explanatory note:

page02*All Mr. Brownell heard. Or, perhaps, the Admiral, who was not a profane man, told him to suppress one phrase. When the pilot reported from the “Metacomet” that we were edging down the torpedo-field, Admiral Farragut called, from under the maintop, in these words: “Damn the torpedoes! Go on! Put the helm a-starboard, Captain Drayton!” So we held our breath, and screwed over the bank. -J.C.P.

Two references worthy of mention. The “Metacomet” is one of the Union vessels present and in the thick of the battle. Use of the word “screwed” refers to the action of the screw-propeller engine that drove the ship.

Brownell’s carte de visite is new to my collection, and now available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr.

The Great New Orleans Chase

webb-armstrongMy latest “Faces of War” column in the Civil War News is the story of Union naval officer Thomas Armstrong and how the ship on which he served, the Hollyhock, went up against the Confederate Webb. An excerpt:

A side-wheel steamer laden with cotton chugged along the Mississippi River above New Orleans early on April 24, 1865. Her crew lounged about the deck, dressed in army overcoats to counter the morning chill, and casually smoked cigars or picked their teeth. The Stars and Stripes hung above them at half-mast, in mourning for the slain president.

This section of the river was crowded with vessels of all classes, including federal gunboats and military support ships. All the navy vessels were on high alert after a reliable report stated that a Confederate ram was moving in their direction. Word also reached the citizens of the city, who had gathered in the streets and along the levees to await the arrival of the rebels. According to an account published in the New York Herald, the fleet “looked for something of the Merrimac style of iron-clads.”

One of the sailors in New Orleans was Thomas Armstrong. An English immigrant who had joined the navy in 1861, he had been stationed in the Pelican City since it fell to Union forces in 1862. He had recently been appointed third assistant engineer and assigned to the supply ship Hollyhock, a paddle-wheel steamer armed with three guns.

Read the rest of the story.

American Indians in Confederate Territory

wolfMy latest Disunion post is the story of Payson Wolf and his comrades in Company K of the First Michigan Sharpshooters. An excerpt:

On the morning of June 18, 1864, Pvt. Payson Wolf trudged through the streets of Petersburg, Va., with other battered and bloodied Union prisoners of war. The captives were herded into an old tobacco barn with hundreds of other bluecoats to await their fate in the hands of Confederate military authorities.

Only hours earlier, Wolf had come out on the wrong end of a rare nighttime assault, which put him and his comrades in an advanced position near the formidable defenses of the Cockade City. They had been attacked by veteran North Carolina troops and compelled to surrender after a brief and brutal fight.

The prisoners were quickly divested of their muskets; one company of Tar Heels jumped at the opportunity to trade their worn weapons for the captured guns. They soon noticed that the wooden musket stocks had been ornately carved with fish, snakes, turtles and other animals – perhaps their first clue that their captives were no ordinary Union soldiers.

Read the rest of his story. 

Wood Meets Iron at Mobile Bay

langer-montage2nd Asst. Eng. Philip Joseph Langer of the Union gunboat Monongahela is the subject of my latest profile in “Faces of War” from the Civil War News. An excerpt:

Philip Langer braced for impact. The wooden sloop-of-war on which he served, the Monongahela, was only yards away from ramming the rebel ironclad ram Tennessee in the waters of Mobile Bay on August 5, 1864.

The Tennessee fired its guns into the approaching Monongahela at this critical moment. Two shells fired from her ports crashed into the Monongahela’s bow. One shell tore into the wood siding near the prow and lodged in the berth deck. The other ripped through the berth deck where Langer and others stood firm. It exploded and sent iron fragments, splinters of wood and other debris through the air. The crew was thrown violently to the floor.

Then the Monongahela struck her prey full force amidships. The blow, according to a news report, caused “the huge rebel monster to reel like a drunken man.”

Read the full profile.

Participated in the “Powder Boat” Affair

Iowa-born and Oregon raised Roswell Hawks Lamson (1838-1903) graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1862. He was promoted to lieutenant, and commanded the gunboats Mount Washington, Gettysburg and Wilderness. In the latter vessel, he participated in the December 1864 attempt to destroy Fort Fisher using a boat loaded with 215 tons of gunpowder. The “powder boat” exploded, but did not damage the fort.

Lamson sat for this carte de visite in the Napoli, Italy, studio of Fratelli Alinar of Napoli. He resigned from the navy in 1866, and returned to Oregon.

This image is new to my collection, and is available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/8026096@N04/14054414882/