Union navy officer George Work and his crew mates on the monitor Tecumseh went into the historic attack on Mobile Bay full steam ahead—until an underwater torpedo ended in destruction and death.
“When nearly abreast of Fort Morgan,” reported two acting masters of the Tecumseh, “A row of buoys was discovered stretching from the shore a distance from one to two hundred yards. It being reported to Captain Craven, he immediately gave the vessel full speed and attempted to pass between two of them.”
The Tecumseh advanced on the rebel ram Tennessee, and turned to engage her. At this moment, 7:40 a.m., the hull of the Tecumseh struck a torpedo. The two masters recalled that the explosion occurred, “directly below the turret, blowing a large hole through the bottom of the vessel, through which the water rushed with great rapidity.”
I recently added this carte de visite of Henry M. Meade to my collection. His portrait and story will be included in my forthcoming book about the Civil War navies. Meade was one of Maj. Gen. George G. Meade’s nephews, and I’ve only just begun to research his life and military service. His navy biography through 1868, from the Records of Living Officers of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps,: Born in New York. Appointed from New York, January 31st, 1862; entered the service as Acting Assistant Paymaster; attached to receiving ship, New York, 1862-4; steamer Mattabessett, North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, 1864-5; special duty, Navy Department, 1865-6; appointed Passed Assistant Paymaster, U.S. Navy, July 23d, 1866; steam-sloop Juniata, South Atlantic Squadron, 1867; steam-sloop Kearsarge, South Pacific Squadron, 1868-9; commissioned as Paymaster, April 9th, 1868.
Connecticut-born trader George Work posed for his portrait in the New York City studio of photographer George Work in February 1864, shortly after receiving a commission as an acting assistant paymaster in the U.S. navy. Before the end of the month he was assigned to the monitor-class ironclad Tecumseh. Six months later during the Battle of Mobile Bay, the Tecumseh struck an underwater mine (known as a torpedo) at the very onset of the fighting on Aug. 5, 1864. According to eyewitness accounts, the vessel sunk in less than 30 seconds. Almost the entire crew went down with the ship, including Work. His body was never recovered.
New to my collection is this carte de visite of William Henry Hathorne by R.A. Miller of Boston, Mass. A dry goods salesman in Worcester, Mass., prior to the Civil War, Maine-born Hathorne was appointed an acting assistant paymaster in the spring of 1863. Ordered to the Mississippi Squadron soon after, he served a stint on the casemate gunboat Cincinnati before reporting to the gunboat Silver Cloud for the duration of the war.
Hathorne was present for duty on the Silver Cloud in January 1864, when the ship and crew carried Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman on a trip from Memphis, Tenn., to Vicksburg, Miss. Three months later, on April 14, the vessell participated in operations against Fort Pillow, which had been captured by Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest two days earlier. Union forces were successful in driving away Forrest and his men.
Hathorne left the navy in the autumn of 1865. He returned to Worcester, married, and worked as a salesman until his death in 1904.