Civil War Navies Book Jacket

Delighted to share the design for the book jacket. My sincere thanks to the fine folks at The Johns Hopkins University Press for making the project a reality.

Codd

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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

Crisis in Pensacola

m2My latest profile in the Civil War News Faces of War series is Confederate navy officer William Thomas Morrill. An excerpt from his story:

By early January 1861, mechanic W. Thomas Morrill, pictured here, and other employees of the Pensacola Navy Yard in Florida were caught in a humanitarian crisis. They had not been paid for two months—the result of civil unrest that disrupted the flow of money and materials to military outposts in the Southern states as the country drifted towards civil war. Hunger became a real and present danger.

Morrill had a wife and two infants to feed. Many of his fellow workers also had families to support and no relief was in sight. On January 8, the workers rallied at a mass meeting at a Masonic hall in Warrington, a village outside the walls of the Yard.

They appointed a committee who promptly met with the commander of the Yard and requested that provisions be issued in lieu of pay. The sympathetic officer in charge, Cmdr. James Armstrong, acted promptly to relieve their sufferings. Flour, sugar, rice, coffee and butter were distributed on January 10—the same day Florida legislators voted by a wide margin to secede from the Union.

Read the rest on Medium.

 

Early Defender of His Homeland

montageLt. John Grimball was in the Civil War from the Star of the West incident in January 1861 through the surrender of the Shenandoah in November 1865. His story is featured in the current issue of Civil War News. An excerpt:

Later that year he reported for duty to the Shenandoah. Grimball and his shipmates hunted Yankee merchant ships on the high seas during a yearlong cruise. Their exploits inspired Southerners during the waning months of the Confederate nation and prompted Northerners to brand them pirates. The Shenandoah continued to operate for months after surrender of the gray armies and dissolution of the government. The crew had heard rumors of the downfall of the Confederacy but had no confirmation of it.

“We were now the only Confederate cruiser afloat, and as we continued our course around the world, passing from ocean to ocean, meeting in turn ships of various nationalities, I always felt that whenever our nationality was known to neutral ships the greetings we received rarely warmed up beyond that of a more or less interested curiosity, and while we had many friends ashore who were most lavish and generous in welcoming us to port, underlying it all there appeared to exist a wish of the authorities to have us ‘move on.’”

Read his full story.

Captured on Patrol

beville-collageFrancis Bartow Beville of Savannah, Ga., suffered a severe wound that ended his combat service at the First Battle of Manassas. Still willing to serve, he joined the Confederate navy and wound up enduring great privations as a prisoner of war. His story was just published in the Civil War News. An excerpt:

On July 21, 1861, during the First Battle of Manassas, Bartow was shot and killed as he led a desperate charge against a Union battery. Casualties in the Eighth were heavy, and they included Beville. A minié bullet struck him on the right side of the chest below the collarbone. His comrades carried him from the battlefield and a surgeon operated to cut the Yankee lead out of his back. Beville recuperated from his wound in a private home in Richmond. Nerve and muscular damage limited motion to his right arm and hand, and he received a discharge from the army before the end of the year.[i]

No longer able to perform in combat but still eager to serve, Beville found a way back into the military and a return to his Savannah home: In early 1862 he received an appointment to the navy as a midshipman and was assigned to the formidable casemate ironclad Atlanta. Here he received basic training on active duty—the Confederacy would later establish a naval school ship in Richmond for this purpose.

Meanwhile, the Union blockade choked the life out of the Southern economy and slowed the flow of supplies to the Confederacy military. Savannah was no exception. Desertions by soldiers and sailors increased, including one trio that escaped into the marshes below Savannah on or about March 14.

Read his full story.

A New York Tribune Journalist After His Escape from a Confederate POW Camp

browne-detailThis carte de visite (below, and detail, right, with a period engraving) by Dennis & Fry’s Photographic Gallery of Cincinnati, Ohio pictures New York Tribune journalist Julius Henri Browne. According to a period ink inscription on the back of the mount, he posed for this portrait soon after his escape from prison in Salisbury, N.C., and arrival inside Union lines on January 14, 1865—after twenty months in captivity.

An account of his wartime activities, Four Years in Secessia: Adventures Within and Beyond the Union Lines, was published in 1865. The flowery narrative makes this a challenge for the contemporary reader, although it is filled with marvelous detail and observation from an eyewitness who traveled with federal soldiers and sailors. The density of the book is perhaps one reason why journalist and author Peter Carlson wrote a new book, Junius and Albert’s Adventures in the Confederacy (2013).

“Albert” is Albert D. Richardson of the Tribune, who was captured with Browne as they attempted to run the batteries and Vicksburg in 1863. A third reporter, Richard T. Colburn of the World, also fell into enemy hands. The trio fancied themselves part of the “Bohemian Brigade,” a group of journalists who operated in the war zone.

One of my favorite passages in Browne’s Secessia is an anecdote that recounts Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman’s reaction when he learned that Browne, Richardson and Colburn were missing and at the time presumed dead:

“We were all reported lost, we learned afterward; though General Sherman’s humorous comment, when apprised that three of the Bohemians had been killed—‘That’s good! We’ll have dispatches now from hell before breakfast.’”

Browne’s description of the events leading up to his capture is worthy of note and typical of his writing style. In this excerpt, he and his Bohemians are riding on a tugboat with hay-stacked barges on the Mississippi River:

Every moment we thought a shot might wreck our expedition; but in the occasional pause of the artillery, as I have said before, we could detect the rapid puff, puff, puff of the little tug, which was a sure sign that we still floated.

Suddenly a huge crash by our side, of wood and iron. A deep a heavy and peculiar report. A rush of steam, and a descending shower of cinders and ashes that covered our persons.

We heard the puff of the tug no more; but in its place went up a wild yell which we had often heard in the front of battle—shrill, exultant, savage; so different from the deep, manly, generous shout of the Union soldiers, that we knew at once it was the triumphant acclamation of our cruel foe.

The boiler of the tug had been exploded by a plunging shot from one of the upper batteries. The shot was accidental, but extremely effective. It wrecked our expedition at once. After passing through the boiler, the shell exploded in the furnaces, throwing the fires upon the barges and igniting the loose hay immediately.

“The play is over,” said Richardson; “Hand in your checks, boys,” exclaimed Colburn; “A change of base for the Bohemians,” remarked the undersigned; and we glanced around, and heard the groans and sharp cries of the wounded and scalded.

We rushed forward to try and trample out the flames, but they rose behind us like fiery serpents, and paled the full-orbed moon, and lit up the dark waters of the Stygian river far and near.

The Rebels, who had ceased firing for a moment, now bent themselves to their guns once more, and the iron missiles swept over and around us, and several of the soldiers on board were wounded by fragments of bursting shells.

Every one was now bent on saving himself. A few of the privates and some of the tug’s crew plunged madly overboard, with fragments of the wreck in their hands, and in three minutes none but the wounded and the journalistic trio remained on the burning barges.

We threw the bales of hay into the river for the benefit of the wounded and those who could not swim—for we had early learned Leander’s art—and then arranged our own programme.

Richardson went off first on a bale of hay, from which a large round-shot, passing near, and dashing a column of spray into the air just beyond him, soon displaced his corporeality.

Colburn followed; and I, seeing my field of operations hemmed in by rapidly advancing fire, answered his summons, dived, after divesting myself of all superfluous clothing, into the aqueous embrace of the father of Waters.

Several bales of hay were floating below, but I swam to the one nearest Colburn, and there we concluded to get beyond the town and pickets, and then, striking out for the Louisiana shore, make our was as best we could back to the army.

The Rebels had then ceased firing—certainly not for humanity’s sake, we thought—and the reason was patent when we heard the sound of row-locks across the water.

The chivalrous whippers of women were evidently coming to capture us.

My companion and myself believed if we kept very quiet, and floated with our faces only out of the water, we would not be discovered.

A yawl full of armed men passed near us, and we fancied we would escape. Like the so-called “Confederacy,” we waned to be let alone.

Just as we were internally congratulating ourselves, a small boat darted round the corner of the burning barge, and we were hauled in by a couple of stalwart fellows, after the manner of colossal catfish, without even the asking of our leave.

In fifteen minutes were were under guard on shore, where we found our collaborateur Richardson safe and sound.

About half our small crew had been killed and wounded,and the rest were prisoners.

This carte de visite is new to my collection, and is available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr.
A New York Tribune Journalist After His Escape from a Confederate POW Camp

A Brilliant Engagement at Hill’s Point

lamsonRoswell Hawks Lamson is one of the lesser known naval officers who served in the Union navy, and yet three warships have been named in his honor. His story, recently published in the Civil War News, details how he became such a respected military figure.

An excerpt:

Lamson leapt into action. He called to the nearby Stepping Stones, the ferryboat with theMount Washington in tow, and had her pull alongside. He transferred all the officers and men to the vessel. The long towlines were cast off and the Stepping Stones moved out of harm’s way.

Lamson remained on the disabled ship with a bare bones crew. They wheeled a small howitzer behind a side-wheel paddle box on the upper deck and returned fire. Some of the men grabbed carbines and they used them to hold the sharpshooters at bay.

Read the full story.

Blasting Fort Wagner into Sand Heaps

kenyon-collageMy latest Faces of War column in the Civil War News profiles navy officer Albert J. Kenyon. An excerpt:

Hours before the 54th Massachusetts Infantry and other federal infantry assaulted Fort Wagner, S.C., on July 18, 1863, the Union navy launched a furious bombardment. Six ironclads steamed to within 1,200 yards of the fort and unleashed hell on the garrison. Shell after shell belched from the fiery mouths of the big guns in the turrets of the metal monsters to soften the position, which was critical to the rebel defenses of Charleston.

Read on!

Rabble Rousing Alabama Private

David “Davy” Barnum seems to have spent much of his life in some sort of trouble. Alabama-born and loyal to the South, he was about to be expelled from the U.S. Naval Academy when the Civil War began. He left the Academy and joined his late father’s militia company, which had become part of the 5th Alabama Infantry. In camp, episodes of drinking and brawling were routine. In battle, he was a proven fighter—and a forager. At the Battle of Gettysburg, he turned up after the first day’s fight with a haversack full of candy, lemons and other niceties from town and distributed them to his comrades. But his true love was the sea, and he eventually transferred to the Confederate navy. His career as a sailor was short-lived, however, as the Confederacy needed infantrymen and ordered Barnum back to the 5th. He left the regiment during the waning days of the Army of Northern Virginia, and made his way to Chattanooga, Tenn., where he signed the oath of allegiance to the federal government. According to his former captain, Barnum died in St. Louis shortly after the end of the war.

This carte de visite is new to my collection, and will be included in my forthcoming book about the Union and Confederate navies. It is available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr.
Rabble Rousing Alabama Private

Face to Face With a Rebel

bradbury-imagesIsaac Bradbury is the subject of my latest Faces of War column, published monthly in the Civil War News. The Union navy ensign from Machias, Maine, spent his service along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, and saw plenty of action as part of the massive federal blockade that choked the life out of the Confederacy. An excerpt:

He continued, “You can imagine my feelings the first time I was under fire, we got nigh in too the Batterys and they opened on us, and we in return engaged them. Death & destruction was all around, the shells as a majority all over shot us, so at the flash of every gun of the ‘Rebs’ all the officers & men on the spar deck would throw themselves flat on their faces, and as the shells went over us a screaming they made anything but delightful music, in fact I thought I would rather be at home hearing the ‘Machias Cornet Band’ playing ‘Home Sweet Home,’ I think it would be far preferable. But I was doomed to be put to a severe test for a shell suddenly burst among the men cutting one in two and severely wounding several others. The one that was killed fell towards me and the blood spouted over my uniform.”

Read the rest of his story.