One of the most disastrous expeditions of the Civil War was that which was undertaken by General N.P. Banks, in the spring of 1864. His ostensible purpose was to complete the conquest of Texas and Louisiana, but there is good reason to believe that the famous Red River expedition was little more than a huge cotton speculation. Immense quantities were stored along the river and could it have been secured would have been worth many hundred thousand dollars to the captors. The charge has been made, with apparent reason, that several Confederate leaders were concerned in the "deal," seeing as they did, that the end of the Confederacy was at hand. The trouble, however, was that other Confederates like General Dick Taylor did all they could to defeat the purpose of General Banks and they succeeded to perfection.
The Union commander had an army of 30,000 men with which he began the ascent of the Red River. He captured Fort de Russy March 14 and then marched against Shreveport. His forces were strewn along for miles, with no thought of danger, when at Sabine Cross Roads they were furiously attacked by General Dick Taylor and routed as utterly as was the first advance upon Manassas in July, 1861. The demoralized men were rallied at Pleasant Hill, where they were again attacked and routed by Taylor. Banks succeeded at last in reaching New Orleans, where he was relieved of his command.
When Porter had waited a short time at the appointed place of meeting for Banks's army a messenger reached him with news of that General's defeat and his hurried retreat. Porter saw that it would not do for him to delay an hour. He had had great difficulty in getting his fifty vessels up the narrow stream, whose current was falling so rapidly that it already appeared impossible to get the fleet past the snags and shoals to the point of safety two hundred miles below.
Improving every moment and under a continual fire from the shore, Porter managed to descend something more than half way down the river to Grand Ecore, where he found Banks and his demoralized army. Porter advised the commander to remain where he was until the spring rains would enable the fleet to ascend the river again, but Banks was too frightened to do anything but retreat, and he kept it up until he arrived at New Orleans.
The river fell so rapidly that all the fleet would have been stranded above the falls but for the genius of Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Bailey, of Wisconsin, a military engineer who accompanied Banks's expedition. Under his direction several thousand men were set to work, and, at the end of twelve days, they had constructed a series of wing dams, through which the vessels were safely floated into the deeper water below the falls. This accomplished their deliverance from what otherwise would have been certain destruction. Porter pronounced the exploit of Bailey the greatest engineering feat of the whole war. One of the Admiral's most pleasing traits was his appreciation of the services of his assistants. He complimented Bailey in glowing terms in his official report, secured his promotion to brigadier-general and presented him with a sword which cost nearly a thousand dollars.
Porter was now transferred to the North Atlantic Squadron and commanded the powerful naval contingents in the two attacks on Fort Fisher, December, 1864, and January, 1865. In the latter Porter and General Terry succeeded in capturing the last important sea fortress belonging to the Confederates. Porter was promoted to be vice-admiral in 1866 and admiral in 1870. He was superintendent of the naval academy until 1869, and died in Washington, February 13, 1891, one day before the death of General Sherman.
Charles Stuart Boggs—His Coolness in the Presence of Danger—His Desperate Fight Below New Orleans—His Subsequent Services.
When the gallant Lawrence, mortally wounded on the Chesapeake, was dying, he called out in his delirium, "Don't give up the ship!" thus furnishing a motto that has served times without number for the American navy. Among the mourning relatives left by Lawrence was a married sister, Mrs. Boggs, who lived in New Brunswick, N.J., where a son was born to her in January, 1811, and named Charles Stuart.
It was probably the admiration formed for his heroic uncle which led the boy to determine to follow in his footsteps, for he was appointed a midshipman when fifteen years old, and saw active service in the Mediterranean against the Greek pirates, to which reference has been made in a previous chapter. He was made lieutenant in 1833. One of the most marked traits in young Boggs was his perfect coolness in times of peril and his instant perception of the best thing to do. The following incident will illustrate this remarkable power on his part, which was united to a gentleness of disposition that made one wonder at his daring and intrepidity.
During the war with Mexico Lieutenant Boggs was ordered to the steamer Princeton, which took a leading part in the bombardment of the Castle of St. Juan de Ulloa and of Tampico. The brig Truxton unfortunately ran aground on the bar of Tuspan River and had to be surrendered to the Mexicans. The Princeton was ordered to destroy her. Anchoring near the wreck, a boat was manned and placed in charge of Lieutenant Boggs, to whom the work of destruction was intrusted.
The boat had nearly reached the stranded vessel when it was caught in one of the tropical tempests, which sometimes appear with cyclonic suddenness in that part of the world. It was impossible to board the wreck, and equally impossible to get back to the Princeton. A powerful current set in toward shore, in which direction the gale was blowing. The combined efforts of the sturdy rowers could not check the progress of the boat, which perhaps would have been the right course to take but for an alarming discovery.
On the beach a company of Mexican soldiers were drawn up with a field piece, making ready to annihilate the little American company, as they could do without the slightest difficulty before the gallant sailors could land and make a charge. Here was a dilemma indeed. Nothing could extricate the boat and its crew from their peril and not a man could raise a finger to help himself.
There was only one person who saw the only possible thing to do. Lieutenant Boggs ordered the single white shirt in the party to be torn up, tied on the end of a boathook and displayed as a flag of truce. Then, by his directions, the men rowed with all speed straight for the enemy, who were thus disarmed of their hostile purpose. Walking up to the leader of the company, the lieutenant explained that he had been sent to destroy the Truxton, but had been driven ashore against his will. He hastened to explain to the officer that he had no intention of attacking the town, but he should do so if any one tried to prevent his destruction of the stranded vessel.
When the insignificance of the American party is remembered, there was something amusing in this; but the Mexican officer not only gave his promise, but entertained his visitors until the gale was over. Then the Truxton was fired and Boggs returned to his ship.
He was on the Pacific coast when the Civil War broke out, serving as inspector of lighthouses. Chafing under idleness, he petitioned the Government to give him active employment afloat. His wish was granted and he was placed in command of the Varuna, a passenger steamer, purchased by the Government and changed into a gunboat. Admiral Farragut was making his preparations to attack New Orleans, and the Varuna was added to his fleet. She was a very swift but frail craft, a fact which led Farragut to grant Boggs' request to be allowed to run ahead of the position that had been assigned him.
In order to get up all the steam possible, the pork among the ship's store was flung into the blazing furnace under the boilers. The craft went through the water at a tremendous speed, and upon coming opposite the forts, Boggs fired his starboard battery and then ordered grape and canister to be used as rapidly as possible. Work had hardly begun when the Confederate gunboats appeared on every hand. With the same coolness that he had shown when driven ashore in Mexico, the command was given for the guns to be fired "on both sides." Indeed, there were so many targets that it would have been about as difficult to miss as to hit one.
The Varuna did terrific work, her gunners displaying fine markmanship. The formidable craft Governor Moore had detected her in the early morning light, and steaming after her, fired a shot when only a hundred yards away, but missed. The Varuna replied, killing and wounding men on the Governor Moore at every shot. One of the enemy's shot, however, raked the Varuna, killing four men and wounding nine. Another struck the Varuna's pivot gun and killed and wounded a number more. Then the Governor Moore rammed the Varuna twice in quick succession.
But while the Confederate was doing so, Boggs planted three 8-inch shells into his antagonist, which set her on fire and compelled her to drop out of action. Her loss had been heavy and her engines were so battered that her commander ran her ashore, where she was burned to the water's edge.
Out of the misty light burst the Stonewall Jackson and rammed the Varuna on the port side, repeating the blow with a viciousness that stove in the vessel below the water line; but the Varuna swung the ram ahead until her own broadside guns bore, when she planted several 5-inch shells into the Stonewall Jackson, which set her on fire and caused her to drift ashore.
But the Varuna had been mortally hurt and was sinking fast. To quote the words of Commodore Boggs: "In fifteen minutes from the time the Varuna was struck by the Stonewall Jackson, she was on the bottom, with only her topgallant forecastle out of the water."
But those were exceedingly lively minutes for the Varuna and the other craft in her neighborhood. Commander Boggs turned her prow toward shore and crowded all steam, firing his guns as the water rose about the trucks. When the last shell left the side of the sinking vessel the current had reached the mouth of the piece, and some of it was blown out like mist with the shrieking missile.
The moment the bow of the Varuna struck the bank a chain cable was fastened around the trunk of a tree, so as to prevent her from sliding into deep water as she went down and taking the wounded and dead with her. This was a precaution which would not have occurred to every man in the situation of Commander Boggs.
The daring conduct of this officer brought a tribute from one of our poets, which contains the stanzas:
"Who has not heard of the dauntless Varuna? Who shall not hear of the deeds she has done? Who shall not hear while the brown Mississippi Rushes along from the snow to the sun?
"Five of the rebels like satellites round her, Burned in her orbit of splendor and fear, One like the Pleiad of mystical story Shot terror-stricken beyond her dread sphere."
When Boggs' native city heard of his gallant conduct it voted him a sword, and the State of New Jersey did the same. He came North and was appointed to the command of the blockading squadron off Wilmington. He would have preferred active service, and finally his health broke down under the exposure and fatigue to which he was subjected, and he was compelled to return home to recruit. Upon his recovery, he was appointed to duty in New York, but the war ended without his having another opportunity to distinguish himself in the service of his country. He died a few years after the close of hostilities.
John Ancrum Winslow—His Early Life and Training—The Famous Battle Between the Kearsarge and Alabama.
A few weeks ago I had as guests at my house two young men who were graduates of the West Point Military Academy in 1889. One was my son, at present an instructor in the Academy, and the other was E. Eveleth Winslow, of the corps of engineers, who had the honor of being graduated at the head of his class. During the course of the conversation I asked Captain Winslow whether he was a relative of the late Commodore John Ancrum Winslow, commander of the Kearsarge in her famous fight with the Alabama.
"He was my grandfather," replied my friend, with a glow of pride.
It was a pleasant bit of information, but it made me realize how the years are passing. It seems but a short time ago that the country was electrified by the news of the great battle, off Cherbourg, France, which sent to the bottom of the ocean the most destructive cruiser the Southern Confederacy ever launched. And here was the grandson of the hero of that fight, already thirty years of age, with the hair on his crown growing scant. Tempus fugit indeed.
The name Winslow is a distinguished one in the annals of our country, and especially in Massachusetts, the State from which Captain Winslow hails. He is the ninth generation from John Winslow, brother of Edward Winslow, Governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, and the founder, as may be said, of Plymouth Rock itself. John A. Winslow, the subject of this sketch, however, was a Southerner by birth, being a native of Wilmington, North Carolina, where he was born November 19, 1811. His mother belonged to the famous Rhett family of the fiery State of South Carolina. The father had gone to Wilmington from Boston, to establish a commercial house, four years before the birth of the son, who was sent North to be educated. At the age of sixteen he entered the navy, and saw a good deal of dangerous service in the extirpation of the West Indian pirates. The exciting experience was exactly to the liking of young Winslow, whose life more than once was placed in great peril.
After an extended cruise in the Pacific, he returned east in 1833, and was promoted to past midshipman. His service was of an unimportant character for a number of years, the rank of lieutenant coming to him in 1839. His conduct was so gallant in the war with Mexico that he was publicly complimented by Commodore Matthew C. Perry, a younger brother of the Lake Erie hero, and given the choice of vessels belonging to the fleet.
A curious incident is mentioned by his biographer. He went with the division which set out to capture Tampico, but the city surrendered without a fight upon the approach of the boats. He remained several weeks and then went back to the fleet at Vera Cruz. One of the vessels had been capsized in a squall, and the captain was occupying Winslow's room, and continued to share it until other arrangements could be made. The name of this visitor was Raphael Semmes, afterward the commander of the Alabama. The history of our navy is full of such strange occurrences. When the furnace blast of secession swept over the country, the most intimate friends—in many cases brothers—became the deadliest of enemies. For a time two flags were flung to the breeze in the United States, and the men who fought under each were among the bravest of the brave, for they were all Americans.
In 1855 Winslow was made a commander and was engaged in various duties until the breaking out of the Civil War. He hurried to Washington and applied for active service. Captain Foote was busy fitting out a flotilla at St. Louis, and Winslow was sent to join him. The work involved great labor and difficulty, and Winslow's aid was invaluable, although far from congenial. The task of blazing away at the guerrillas in the bushes and woods along shore, of raking the muddy rivers and streams for torpedoes, and of managing the awkward, nondescript craft, was not to the liking of the naval officer, accustomed to the free air of the deep, blue ocean. Finally his request to be transferred to sea service was granted, and in the early part of 1863 he was placed in command of the Kearsarge.
This sloop of war had a crew of 163 men, carried two 11-inch pivot guns, four short 32-pounders and one rifled 30-pounder, the total shot weight of the seven guns being 430 pounds. In this place it may be well to give the statistics of the Alabama, since the two vessels were so intimately associated in history. The Confederate cruiser carried one 100-pounder Blakely gun, one 8-inch shell gun and six long 32-pounders, the eight guns having a total of 360 pounds shot weight, while the crew consisted of 149 men, of mixed nationalities, nearly all of them being Englishmen.
England at that time was less friendly to the United States than she has since become, and she gave most unfair help to the Southern Confederacy by aiding to fit out and man cruisers for it. When the war was over she was compelled to pay a good round sum for her dishonest course, and was taught a lesson she is not likely soon to forget. These cruisers wrought immense havoc among our shipping, and Commander Winslow was sent into European waters in quest of them. He was specially anxious to meet the Florida, and followed her from the coast of South America to that of England and France. The governments of those two countries threw every possible obstacle in his way. The French pilots were forbidden to serve the Kearsarge, and Captain Winslow had to be his own pilot—something he was well able to do because of his familiarity with the coasts.
Finding the Florida in Brest, he blockaded the port. It was in the depth of winter and the shore was dangerous, but Winslow did his duty so well that the Florida dared not poke her nose outside, until he was compelled, because of shortness of provisions, to steam over to Cadiz to obtain them. He made all haste to return, but when he arrived the Florida had slipped out and was gone.
There was no telling to what part of the world she had fled, and Captain Winslow sailed to Calais, where he learned that the rebel Rappahannock was awaiting a chance to put to sea. He held her there for two months, when a French pilot purposely ran the Kearsarge into the piers along shore. It was done by prearrangement with the officers of the Rappahannock, in order to give the latter a chance to put to sea. The indignant Winslow drove all the French pilots off his ship, and by vigorous work got her off by daylight the next morning. Meanwhile the Rappahannock, which had greatly overstayed her time, was ordered by the French authorities to leave. Winslow heard of this, and, without waiting for some of his men and officers who were on shore, he moved out of the harbor. When the commander of the Rappahannock saw the Kearsarge once more off the port of Calais, he knew it was all up and dismantled his ship.
There was one Confederate scourge that had been roaming the seas for months which Captain Winslow was anxious, above all others, to meet; that was the Alabama, commanded by his former room-mate, Captain Raphael Semmes. The Kearsarge, like many other vessels of the United States, had been hunting here and there for the ocean pest, but it seemed impossible to bring her to bay.
On Sunday morning, June 12, 1864, the Kearsarge was lying off the town of Flushing, Holland, with many of the officers and men ashore, and with everything wearing the appearance of a protracted rest for the crew. Some hours later, however, a gun was fired as a signal for every member of the ship's company to come aboard at once. The cause of this sudden awaking was a telegram from Minister William L. Dayton, at Paris, notifying Captain Winslow that the Alabama had arrived at Cherbourg. On Tuesday, Winslow appeared off the fort, and saw the cruiser within, with her Stars and Bars floating defiantly in the breeze. Had Captain Winslow followed, he would have been compelled by law to remain twenty-four hours after the departure of the Alabama, so he took a station outside, determined that the cruiser should not escape him again.
In this case, however, the precaution was unnecessary, for Semmes had made up his mind to fight the National vessel. He had been charged with cowardice in running away from armed ships, and he had destroyed and captured so many helpless merchantmen that he felt something was due to retrieve his reputation. A comparison of the crews and armaments of the Kearsarge and Alabama will show that they were pretty evenly matched, though the slight numerical superiority of the Union ship was emphasized by the fact that her men were almost wholly American, while those of Semmes, as already stated, were nearly all English.
Shortly after the arrival of Captain Winslow the following challenge was brought out to him:
Confederate Steamer Alabama, Cherbourg, June 14, 1864.
Sir:—I hear that you were informed by the United States Consul that the Kearsarge was to come to this port solely for the prisoners landed by me, and that she was to depart in twenty-four hours. I desire you to say to the United States Consul that my intention is to fight the Kearsarge as soon as I can make the necessary arrangements. I hope these will not detain me more than till to-morrow evening, or next morning, at the farthest. I beg she will not depart before I am ready to go out.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant
R. Semmes, Captain.
This note, though couched in seemingly courteous language, contained the most aggravating sort of sting, in the hope expressed that the Kearsarge would not leave until the Alabama was ready to go out, and the intimation—undoubtedly false—that the sole business of the Union vessel was to take charge of the prisoners brought thither by the Confederate. Captain Winslow had not spent months in hunting over the globe for such a chance as this to let it slip.
The Alabama was among friends. She had the sympathies of the thousands, who hoped to see the Yankee ship sunk by the fearful commerce-destroyer. Excursion trains were run from Paris and other points to Cherbourg, and among the vast multitude who gathered on shore on that warm, hazy Sunday morning—June 19—to witness the coming battle, it may be doubted whether there were a score who wished to see the Kearsarge win.
The respective captains were brave men and good officers. Both had declared that, if they ever met, the battle would not end until one of the ships went to the bottom, and each knew that the other would keep his word. Such a thing as surrender was not thought of by either.
Semmes was confident of his ability to sink the Kearsarge. Being a Roman Catholic, and unable to attend service, he requested a friend to go to mass and have it offered up for him, which was done. His accumulated sixty chronometers were sent ashore, and the motto displayed by his ship was "Aide toi et Dieu t'aidera," meaning, "Help yourself and God will help you," another version of the old adage, "God helps them that help themselves."
The church chimes were sending out their mellow notes on the warm summer air when the Alabama began slowly steaming out of the harbor. She was cheered by the sympathetic thousands, who heard the drums beating to quarters, and fervently prayed that their favorite might return victorious.
Winslow neglected nothing in the way of preparation. While calmly confident, his experience had taught him that such a contest is often decided by a chance shot, and he knew that the doom of one of the ships would be sealed before the set of sun. Having done all he could, he committed everything to the God of battles, content to abide by His will, whatever it might be.
It was about ten o'clock that Winslow, with his glass pointed toward shore, saw the head of the Alabama coming round the point of the mole, some three miles distant. He immediately beat to quarters. The Couronne accompanied the Alabama to the limits of French waters, and then turned back. The English yacht Deerhound had hurried down from Caen, upon being telegraphed of the impending fight, and the owner, with his family on board, followed the Alabama at the risk of receiving a stray shot that would wind up the career of the pleasure craft and all on board.
Some time before Captain Winslow had arranged his sheet chains for a distance of fifty feet amidships and over the side of his vessel, extending six feet down. They were intended as an additional protection to his machinery, and the practice is common among warships. The chains were secured by marline to eyebolts protected with one-inch boards. This natural precaution was the foundation for Captain Semmes' charge that the Kearsarge was partly armored. During the fight this part of the ship was hit only twice, so that the protection, if it be considered such, bore an unimportant part in the battle itself.
Captain Winslow was determined that no question about neutral waters should be raised. Accordingly, as the Alabama approached, he steamed out to sea, as if running away from his antagonist. Another object he had in mind was to prevent the Alabama, in case she was crippled, from escaping by running into the harbor.
When the Kearsarge had reached a point some seven miles from land, she swung around and made directly for the Alabama, although such a course exposed her to the raking broadsides of the enemy. Reading his purpose, Semmes slowed his engines and sheered off, thus presenting his starboard battery to the Kearsarge. When the vessels were about a mile apart, the jets of fire and smoke from the side of the Alabama, followed by the reverberating boom of her cannon, showed that she had fired her first broadside. It did only trifling damage to the rigging of the Kearsarge. A second and part of a third broadside were delivered, with no perceptible effect. All the time, under a full head of steam, Winslow was rushing toward his enemy for the death grapple. Still in peril of being raked, he now sheered when half a mile distant and fired his broadside of five-second shells, at the same time endeavoring to pass under the Alabama's stern, but Semmes defeated the manoeuvre by also sheering his vessel. The effort of each was now to keep his starboard broadside presented to the other, the attempt causing the two ships to describe an immense circle, the diameter of which steadily decreased, until it was barely a third of a mile.
Ten minutes after the opening of the battle the spanker gaff of the Alabama and the ensign were brought down by the fire of the Kearsarge, whose crew burst into cheers, but the Confederates quickly hoisted the colors to their mizzen. When the two ships were within a third of a mile of each other the fire became terrible; but from the first that of the Kearsarge was more accurate and did vast damage. This was impressively shown by the fact that although the Kearsarge fired only 173 shots during the fight, nearly every one struck the Alabama, which fired 370, of which only 28 landed.
One of the Alabama's 60-pound Blakely shells passed through the bulwarks of the Kearsarge, and, bursting on the quarter deck, wounded three men, of whom William Gowin was mortally hurt. When carried to the surgeon, the intensely suffering man smiled. "We are whipping the Alabama," he said, "and I am willing to give my life for such a victory."
Another Confederate shell burst in the hammock nettings and started a fire, which was easily extinguished. A third lodged in the sternpost, but failed to explode. Had it done so, its effect would have been terrific. The damage done by the other shells was insignificant.
A far different story was told on the Confederate cruiser. Winslow's instructions to his gunners were to fire slowly and to make every shot tell, and they did so. The men on the Alabama stripped to their shirts and drawers and fired rapidly, as if the only thing to do was to work the guns without taking pause to aim. Crashing planks and timber and exploding shells seemed to be all about them. A single shot from the Kearsarge killed and wounded eighteen men and disabled a gun. Another burst in the coal bunks and cluttered up the engine room. Death and destruction raged on every hand, and still the terrible Kearsarge kept working nearer, the dearest wish of Winslow being to get to close quarters.
The ships had described seven circles about each other and were starting on the eighth, when Winslow, all alive and eagerness, saw the Alabama set her fore trysail and two jibs and start for shore. That meant that it was all up with her, and her captain's only hope now was to get into the harbor of Cherbourg. Winslow ran across her bow and was on the point of raking her, when the Alabama's flag came down. Uncertain whether this was an accident, and suspecting a ruse by which the enemy expected to reach shore, now only two miles off, Winslow stopped firing, but held himself ready to open again. A white flag was displayed, and he began preparations to render assistance to his defeated antagonist. Just then, however, the Alabama fired again, upon which Winslow answered with several shots, when the white flag was run up for the second time.
The doom of the Alabama had overtaken her at last. She was fast settling, and while the only two serviceable boats of the Kearsarge were hurrying to the relief of the crew, the famous cruiser threw her prow high in air and slid stern foremost into the depths of the Atlantic.
In the midst of the wild confusion a boat from the Alabama, under charge of the English master's mate, came alongside, announcing that the Alabama had surrendered and begging for help. On the promise of this man to return, Winslow allowed him to go back to the aid of the drowning crew, but instead of keeping his pledge, he took refuge on the yacht Deerhound, which was circling about and doing all it could for the struggling wretches in the water. Among those picked up was Captain Semmes, who had flung his sword into the sea and leaped overboard as his ship was going down. He was suffering from a painful wound in the hand, and when helped on board of the Deerhound was in an exhausted condition. The captain of the yacht, after picking up thirty-nine men, including a number of officers, instead of delivering them to Captain Winslow, as he was in honor bound to do, edged away from the scene, and, putting on all steam, did not pause until he reached Southampton. The Kearsarge picked up the men that remained and took them into Cherbourg.
In this famous battle the Kearsarge had only 1 killed and 2 wounded, while Semmes lost 40 killed and 70 taken prisoners. The Confederate commander and his sympathizing British friends offered all sorts of excuses for his defeat. Some of them were ingenious, but none was the true one. The cause of the sinking of the Alabama was the same as that which gave us so many wonderful naval victories in the War of 1812. Our vessels were manned by Americans, while the Alabama was really an English ship, armed with English guns and manned and fought by an English crew: there's the truth in a nutshell.
Captain Winslow received the promotion to the grade of a commodore which he had so gallantly won. He died in 1873. It was a source of regret throughout the country that on the night of February 2, 1894, the Kearsarge was wrecked off Roncador Reef, while on a voyage from Port-au-Prince, Hayti, to Bluefields, Nicaragua. None of her crew was drowned, but the vessel itself was lost, despite every effort to save her.
An Unexpected Preacher—Andrew Hull Foote—His Character and Early Career—His Brilliant Services in the War for the Union.
One Sunday morning early in the Civil War a large assemblage had gathered in a prominent church in a Western city for the purpose of worship. But the hour for opening the services came and passed and the preacher, the one indispensable individual, did not appear. The auditors became uneasy. No one knew the cause of his absence and no word came from the parsonage, which was at some distance from the church. When the congregation were about to break up and pass out a stranger, sitting near the front, quietly arose, walked up the pulpit steps, gave out the opening hymn, led in prayer and preached a sermon which impressed all by its plain, practical truths. He held the attention of the people from the opening to the close, and among the listeners were more than one who felt that the unexplained absence of the regular pastor had resulted in a gain, though a brief one, for them.
Naturally there was no little curiosity to learn the name of the stranger. When approached by some of the leading brethren at the close of the services, he modestly said he was Captain Foote of the United States navy. He occasionally preached, when there seemed to be a call for such work on his part, but preaching was not his profession, and he would not have thought of entering the pulpit had he not seen that it was a choice between doing so and allowing the congregation to go home.
Andrew Hull Foote was born in New Haven, Conn., September 12, 1806. He belonged to a prominent family, his father, Samuel A. Foote, having served in Congress for several terms, as United States Senator, and as Governor of his State. The son received the best educational training and was subjected to the strict religious discipline characteristic of the Puritan families of old New England. His romantic nature was deeply stirred by the accounts of the naval exploits of his countrymen in the War of 1812, and he set his heart upon entering the navy. His mother opposed, but, when she saw it was useless, wisely yielded. His father's influence readily procured him the appointment of midshipman, and he was directed to report on the schooner Grampus, under the command of Lieutenant (afterward Admiral) Gregory.
The Grampus went to the West Indies in quest of pirates, but never found any. Young Foote was then transferred to the sloop of war Peacock, which had made such a glorious record in the last war with Great Britain, his next transfer being to the frigate United States, the flagship of Commodore Isaac Hull, who won the famous victory over the Guerriere in August, 1812.
The cruise lasted three years, and Foote returned to New York in the spring of 1837. He made a visit to his home, when he was once more ordered to the West Indies.
About this time he was brought under religious influence. He read his Bible and spent many hours in prayer, and finally yielded completely to God. He made his mother inexpressibly happy by sending her the glad news, and thenceforward throughout his stirring life he was one of the most humble, devout and consecrated of Christians.
Like Havelock, he did an amount of good among those placed under his charge, the full extent of which can never be known in this world. While on duty at the Naval Asylum in Philadelphia he persuaded the men to give up their grog rations and sign a pledge of total abstinence, and when executive officer on the Cumberland he did the same thing with its crew. He was a voluntary chaplain and gave a religious address on the berth deck every Sunday evening to those who wished to listen.
Disease of the eyes incapacitated him for duty for a long time, and he was much disappointed that he was not permitted to take any part in the Mexican war. One of his most practical temperance addresses was that, while engaged off the coast of Africa in suppressing the slave trade, he persuaded the men under him on the Perry, of which he was the commander, to give up the use of liquor. Although exposed to one of the most pestilential climates in the world, he did not lose a man.
At the breaking out of the Civil War he was in command of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. He was overwhelmed with work for a time, and was glad when, early in the autumn of 1861, he was ordered to the West to help in the building of an inland navy on the Mississippi.
Captain Foote worked with the tremendous energy which he threw into every task, and succeeded in getting together seven boats, four of which were partly protected by armor. At the beginning of February, 1862, he started from Cairo to ascend the Tennessee, his objective point being Fort Henry, though the Confederates were deceived into thinking it was Columbus, on the Mississippi. He asked the Government for more men with which to man additional boats, but they were not furnished, and he went forward with such as he could get.
On the night preceding the attack on Fort Henry the little fleet anchored abreast of the army under General Grant, which was encamped on the bank. The night was cold and tempestuous, but the morning dawned keen and clear, and no time was lost in preparing the flotilla for the attack on the fort. He intimated to General Grant that he must not linger if he wished to cut off the retreat of the enemy. Grant assured him he would be on time to put his army in motion.
Fort Henry stood on a bend in the river, which it commanded for a long distance up and down stream. Foote placed his boats behind an island a mile below the fort, with a view of avoiding the long range rifles of the Confederates, which were liable to cripple the gunboats before they could get into close action. The wooden vessels halted upon coming in view of the fort, and the ironclads, as they were called, moved slowly up stream abreast of one another, firing their bow guns in answer to the shots of the rebels. The latter had had the time to practice to acquire the exact range, while the boats had yet to find it. They fired slowly and with such accuracy that the infantry stationed outside of the works hastily fled, though the gunners bravely remained at their posts.
Foote opened fire when not quite a mile from the fort. His instructions were to fire slowly and with care, the result of which was that guns were continually dismounted and the earth and sandbags sent flying in every direction. It was while the attack was being pressed in this vigorous fashion that a shell pierced the boiler of the Essex, commanded by Lieutenant Porter, and caused so many deaths, as has been related in a preceding chapter.
This appalling accident was a serious loss to Captain Foote, for Porter was doing inestimable service when thus driven out of action, but the daring commander pressed forward in the face of the murderous fire, encouraged by the visible results of his shots, which were playing frightful havoc against the defences of the fort. Tilghman, the Confederate commander, displayed great bravery, fighting until every one of his guns was dismounted. Then, finding himself powerless to offer further resistance, he hauled down his flag. Firing immediately ceased on the part of the Union flotilla, and Foote sent a boat ashore to take possession.
Despite General Grant's usual promptness, he did not arrive in time to intercept the flight of the garrison. As a consequence the prisoners surrendered, including General Tilghman and his staff, numbered less than a hundred. The others fled overland to Fort Donelson, only to be compelled to surrender shortly afterward to Grant in what proved to be the first great Union victory of the war.
The severity of this battle is shown by the fact that Foote's ship was struck 31 times, the Essex 15, and the Carondelet 6. The total number of killed, wounded and missing was 48. The success was so decisive that Foote was applauded throughout the North, sharing the well-earned honors with General Grant, whose successful career is known to every boy in the land.
Foote now steamed down the river to Cairo and began the ascent of the Cumberland, to assist General Grant, who was marching overland to the attack on Fort Donelson. Dauntless as was the courage of the naval leader, he knew his task was a hopeless one. He had not only lost the Essex, but Fort Donelson was greatly superior in strength to Fort Henry. The water assault, however, was deemed a military necessity, and he did not hesitate.
On February 14 he advanced resolutely to the attack with his two wooden gunboats and four partial ironclads. The tremendous land batteries opened on this weak force the moment it came within range, and the results were of the most destructive nature. As usual, the chief attention was given to the flagship, which was struck again and again by the flying shot and shell. Undismayed by the awful tempest, Foote pushed steadily onward, cool, calm, hopeful and prepared for the worst.
His pilot was a brave man, but under the frightful fire he began to show a nervousness that caught the eye of Foote. Walking up to him, he placed his hand in a kindly manner on his shoulder and spoke encouragingly to him. While he was doing so, the poor fellow was torn into pieces by a shot, and the captain himself was badly wounded in the foot by a flying splinter. Paying no heed to the bleeding member, he limped about the boat, swept by the iron hail, and gave his orders as coolly as before. But the shot that killed the pilot also smashed the wheel, and the unmanageable boat began drifting down stream. The tiller ropes of another boat were also cut about the same time, and she also floated helplessly with the current. The Confederates increased their fire, and the other two boats, also greatly damaged, followed the flagship, and the ferocious fight that had lasted more than an hour was over, with the Union flotilla badly repulsed.
The flagship had been struck 59 times, and 54 had been killed and wounded on the different ships; but Foote would have maintained the fight, with a fair probability of success, but for the destruction of his steering gear.
Grant and Foote now formed a plan for the capture of Nashville, but on the eve of starting were stopped by a telegraphic order from General Halleck not to allow the gunboats to go further up the river than Clarksville. Foote was greatly disappointed, and, absolutely certain of capturing the city, telegraphed for permission to do so, but it was refused. Thus he was left no alternative but to return to Cairo.
While there, he learned that the Confederate force occupying Columbus had evacuated the town and fortified themselves on Island No. 10. They numbered about 8,000 and were under the command of General Mackall, from Beauregard's army. Foote transferred his flag to the ironclad Benton and advanced against the powerful works that had been erected on the island. The bombardment was continued for three weeks, without inflicting serious damage, and there was little prospect of capturing the place from the river, when General Pope arrived with a large land force; but to reach the fort it was necessary for him to get his troops across the river, and he had not a single transport to use for that purpose.
Pope's arrival below made it necessary to send a gunboat down to him, for until that was done he could make no movement against the rebel force there. The all-important question was whether any one of the gunboats could run the terrific gauntlet of the batteries that lined the shore. It looked as if the attempt must result in the inevitable destruction of any craft before half the distance could be accomplished. At a council of the officers it was agreed that it was too hazardous to try to run one of the gunboats past the batteries. Such was the opinion of every man except Henry Walke, commander of the Carondelet, who volunteered to try the seemingly impossible task. Captain Foote reluctantly gave his consent.
It was understood that Walke was to make the attempt on the first rainy or foggy night. In the event of success, he was to cooperate with Pope, and, when he moved, to assist in the attack on the fortifications. Captain Foote closed his instructions to his faithful aide with the following impressive words:
On this delicate and somewhat hazardous service to which I assign you I must enjoin upon you the importance of keeping your lights secreted in the hold or put out, keeping your officers and men from speaking at all, when passing the forts, above a whisper, and then only on duty, and of using every other precaution to prevent the rebels suspecting that you are dropping below their batteries.
If you successfully perform this duty assigned to you, which you so willingly undertake, it will reflect the highest credit upon you and all belonging to your vessel, and I doubt not but that the government will fully appreciate and reward you for a service which, I trust, will enable the army to cross the river and make a successful attack in the rear, while we storm the batteries in front of this stronghold of the rebels.
Commending you and all who compose your command to the care and protection of God, who rules the world and directs all things, I am, respectfully, your obedient servant,
P.S.—Should you meet with disaster, you will, as a last resort, destroy the steam machinery, and, if possible, to escape, set fire to your gunboat, or sink her, and prevent her falling into the hands of the rebels.
The night selected—April 4—was rainy and of inky blackness, relieved by vivid flashes of lightning. No precaution that could be thought of was neglected. Chains were twisted around the pilot-house and other vulnerable parts, and wood was piled against the boilers, with which the hose was connected, to make the jets of steam available to repel boarders. On one side was lashed a boat loaded with pressed hay, while a barge of coal was fastened on the side furthest from the dangerous batteries, and the escape steam was led into the paddle-wheel house in order to muffle the sound. Among the fully armed crew were twenty of the most expert sharpshooters in the army.
It was about ten o'clock when the Carondelet swung round in the stream and started on its fearful race. The fleet fairly held its breath, as officers and men listened and peered down the river in the tempestuous darkness. Now and then the zigzagging lightning gave a momentary glimpse of the craft moving away, but the straining eye and ear caught no sight or sound.
But when the Carondelet was close to the batteries a blaze suddenly shot up several feet above the chimneys. The soot had caught fire and the reflection was thrown far out on the water. The engineer immediately opened the flue caps and all was darkness again. So quickly did this singular glow come and vanish that it must have been mistaken by the sentinels for a part of the lightning display, for it caused no alarm; but the turning of the escape steam into the paddle-box had allowed the soot to get dry, and they flamed up a second time. Though extinguished as promptly as before, the sentinels knew something was wrong and signalled to the batteries below that one of the boats of the enemy was approaching.
It was useless to attempt concealment any longer. Walke ordered the engine ahead at full speed and ran close to the shore nearest the batteries, that their shot might pass over him. Aside from the enemy, this was dangerous work, for there was no telling into what obstruction the boat would dash. A man stood at the front with lead and line, quietly calling out in a guarded voice the soundings, which were repeated by a second man on deck, who forwarded the report aft to Walke, standing beside the pilot.
All the time the rain was falling in torrents. Suddenly a dazzling gleam showed the pilot he was speeding straight for a shoal under the guns of the Confederate battery.
"Hard aport!" commanded the captain, and the heavy craft barely missed the island, past which it shot at the highest speed. The lightning flashes helped the Carondelet in more than one way. It not only gave the pilot the necessary knowledge to avoid running aground, but confused the Confederate gunners, who sent most of their shots over the boat, which was not struck once during its remarkable run down the Mississippi. Two shots had entered the barge at her side, but not a man was hurt. The boat was received with wild cheers by the expectant soldiers, who, while hoping for the best, feared the worst.
It had been agreed between Walke and Captain Foote that in case the former was successful, he was to make it known by firing minute guns. The captain was listening intently, when through the rain and darkness the welcome signals reached his ears, and he thanked God that all had come out so well.
Now that General Pope had received the transport for which he longed, Captain Foote breathed freely and prepared to give what help he could in the attack upon the rebel fortifications; but, to his surprise, Pope sent an urgent request that a second boat should be sent to him on the next night, adding that the success of the whole movement depended upon a compliance with this request.
Foote replied that it would be as safe to run the batteries at midday as on a clear night; for a vessel had to pass not only seven batteries, but be kept "head on" to a battery of eleven guns, at the upper part of Island No. 10, and to pass within 300 yards of it. In deference to Pope's earnest request, Captain Foote consented to prepare another boat, but would not permit it to start until the night was favorable.
The second night was similar to the one described, and Lieutenant Thompson, in charge of the Pittsburg, started down the river at two o'clock in the morning. Although exposed to the same fire as the Carondelet, he was equally fortunate, and ran the gauntlet with the same good fortune.
The passage of these two ironclads sealed the fate of Island No. 10, for Pope could now cross the river, and, by taking position in the rear of the Confederate works, cut off the supplies of the garrison. The crossing was made and the enemy's batteries silenced. On the 8th the island was surrendered to Captain Foote and General Pope, including the garrison of 5,000 men.
Captain Foote's next move was to Fort Pillow. All this time he was suffering so severely from the wound in his foot that it affected his spirits, usually buoyant and hopeful. Another disturbing cause was the continual interference of General Halleck, who prevented several movements that Foote knew must have resulted in important successes.
His health continued to decline till finally the day came when he was compelled to ask for a leave of absence. He went to his brother's home in Cleveland, where his condition caused great solicitude throughout the country. Afflictions crowded upon him. He returned to his home, which was shadowed by the death of his bright boy at the age of fourteen years. A few months later two of his daughters died. How hollow sounded the praises of his countrymen when his head was bowed with such overwhelming sorrow! He had been made rear admiral, and, though still weak, was by his own request assigned to the command of the North Atlantic squadron. He went to New York to complete his preparations, but while there succumbed to his illness, and died at the Astor House, June 26, 1863.
A Man Devoid of Fear—William Barker Cushing—Some of His Exploits—The Blowing Up of the Albemarle—His Sad Death.
If ever man lived who knew not the meaning of fear, he was William Barker Cushing, born in Wisconsin in 1842. He entered the Naval Academy in 1857, remained four years, received his appointment from the State of New York, but claiming Pennsylvania as his residence. He was wild and reckless, and resigned in March, 1861, when even his closest friends saw little hope of his success in life.
Many heroes are referred to as fearless, but that man is reckoned brave who knows the full extent of the danger facing him, and yet does not hesitate to meet it; but Cushing was a youth who really seemed to love danger for its own sake, and never flinched while death was on every hand, but went unhesitatingly forward, when it would have been no reflection upon his courage had he turned about and run.
The breaking out of the Civil War offered so fascinating a field for him that he could not resist the temptation. The Secretary of the Navy always had a tender spot in his heart for the daring fellow, and when Cushing promised that if he would give him a chance he would prove himself worthy of the Secretary's confidence, that official consented and attached him to the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron. At the very first opportunity Cushing displayed the wonderful personal intrepidity which was soon to make him the most famous naval officer of his age.
In the expedition against Franklin, Va., in the autumn of the year, he was placed in command of the gunboat Ellis, and showed such skill and bravery that he was recommended by the acting admiral to the Navy Department. Some weeks later he steamed into New River Inlet, with the object of capturing Jacksonville and destroying the salt works. He was successful, secured three vessels and drove the enemy from two pieces of artillery with which they were firing on him at short range. All was going well, but while still close to the abandoned works Cushing's little steamer ran aground, and, despite every effort, he could not work her free.
He saw it was useless to try to get the boat off. He therefore took everything out of her, excepting the pivot gun and ammunition, and, placing them on board one of the captured schooners, ordered the crew to leave. Knowing the enemy would soon return in overwhelming numbers, he asked for six volunteers to stay with him and fight with the single gun to the last. The response was prompt, for his daring spirit was infectious, and he instructed the others, in the event of him and his comrades being attacked, to make no attempt to help them.
Just as he anticipated, the Confederates opened upon the doomed steamer at daylight, firing from so many different points that the defenders were helpless. As fast as the gun could be loaded, it was pointed here, there and everywhere, for, no matter in what direction it was aimed, it was pretty sure to hit some of the enemy; but a single gun against a score could accomplish nothing, and the lieutenant had to decide whether to remain, with the certainty of every man being shot to pieces, of surrendering, or of rowing in an open boat for more than a mile through the murderous fire. With scarcely a moment's hesitation, he resolved upon the last plan, which looked as suicidal as remaining on the steamer.
The gun was loaded to the muzzle and trained upon the enemy, so as to go off when heated, the steamer set on fire in several places, and, dropping into the smaller boat, the men pulled with might and main for the schooner. Fortune favors the brave, and they reached it in safety, and soon after arrived at Beaufort.
This exploit won for Cushing the commendation of the Navy Department for "his courage, coolness and gallantry."
His restless spirit would not allow him to remain idle. He was continually engaging in some daring enterprise, in which it must not be supposed he displayed nothing more than headlong recklessness. That quality was supplemented by coolness and skill, without which he never could have attained the remarkable success that attended his career.
Among the numerous achievements the following will serve as an illustration of the young man's disposition:
Lieutenants Lamson and Cushing had command of a number of gunboats that were sent to the aid of General Peck, stationed at Norfolk. In the latter part of April it was learned that a Union boat had been decoyed ashore by the display of a white handkerchief and then fired upon. The angered Cushing asked for and received the privilege of retaliating for this treacherous act. In charge of seven boats, manned by ninety sailors, he set out and landed under the protection of the fire of the vessels. Leaving a part of his force to protect the boats, he started inland, taking a 12-pounder howitzer with him.
His objective point was a village three miles away, where several hundred cavalry were stationed. Advancing boldly, he drove in the pickets, and coming across a span of mules hitched to a cart, he tied the rope of the howitzer to the rear, lashed the animals to a gallop and went clattering into the village to the loud shouts of "Forward, double quick!"
Just as they entered the formidable body of cavalry were discerned, galloping down the street toward them, swinging their sabres and shouting at the top of their voices. In a twinkling the howitzer was unlimbered, and the charge of grape which was poured into the approaching horsemen was supplemented by a volley of musketry. The racket terrified the mules, which broke into a gallop, dragging the cart and ammunition after them, and never paused until they were among the ranks of the enemy. With a shout, Cushing was after them, followed by his men, and mules and ammunition were recovered in a twinkling. By this time the demoralized cavalry had fled, and Cushing, after retaining possession of the village until dusk, leisurely made his way back to the boats.
The war having proven the immeasurable value of ironclads of the Merrimac type, the Confederates strained every nerve to build them, often succeeding under the most trying conditions. One of the most formidable of these craft was the Albemarle, upon which work was begun early in 1863, at Edward's Ferry, several miles up the Roanoke River. Iron was so scarce that the country was scoured for miles in every direction for bolts, bars and metal. As stated by Maclay, the keel was laid in an open cornfield, and an ordinary blacksmith's outfit formed the plant for building; but the makers persevered and completed a craft 122 feet over all, with 45 feet beam and drawing 8 feet of water. The casemate was 60 feet long, constructed of massive timbers, covered with 4-inch planking, over which were placed two layers of 2-inch iron. The motive power was furnished by twin screws operated by engines of 200 horse-power each. Her armament consisted of an Armstrong 100-pounder in the bow and another in the stern, the casemate being so pierced that the guns could be used at broadside or quarter.
At midnight, April 19, 1864, the Albemarle gave a proof of her prodigious power of destruction. On the preceding two days the Confederates had made a determined attack on Plymouth, held by the Union forces, and the ironclad now set out to render assistance. The wooden gunboats Miami and Southfield offered just the sort of targets the monster fancied. Under a full head of steam, the Albemarle rammed her iron beak clean into the fire room of the Southfield. The latter was skewered upon the projection and began slowly sinking. The snout was so entangled with the Southfield that the victim could not be shaken off, and as she sank she carried her foe with her. The bow of the ironclad dipped below the surface, and a most extraordinary and inglorious end seemed inevitable, when the Southfield touched bottom, rolled over and freed itself from the bow of the ram, which popped up again.
Meanwhile the Miami was pounding the iron hide of the monster, which shed the missiles as the Merrimac shed the broadsides from the Cumberland and Congress. When only a few feet from the Albemarle, Lieutenant Flusser, standing directly behind a gun of the Miami, let fly with a heavy shell, which, striking the armor of the Albemarle, was shivered into a thousand fragments, most of which rebounding, instantly killed the officer and wounded a dozen men. The Miami retreated, and the next day Plymouth surrendered to the Confederates.
In May, the Albemarle steamed down into the Sound and attacked the Union gunboats, which made a heroic defence. The monster received broadside after broadside and was repeatedly rammed, but suffered no material damage, while she killed 4, wounded 25 and caused the scalding of 13, through piercing the boiler of one of her assailants.
It will be seen that this ironclad had become a formidable menace to the Union arms, not only in the immediate neighborhood, but further north. It was the intention of her commander to clear out the fleets at the mouth of the river, and then make an excursion up the coast, somewhat like that which Secretary Stanton once believed the Merrimac was about to undertake. General Grant was pressing his final campaign against Richmond, and the Albemarle threatened to interfere with his plans, for if she made the diversion of which she was capable, she was likely to postpone indefinitely the wind up of the war.
Ah, if some daring scheme could be perfected for destroying the Albemarle! What a feat it would be and how vast the good it would accomplish! There was one young officer in the American navy who believed the thing could be done, and he volunteered to undertake it.
Well aware that the Unionists would neglect no means of blowing up the Albemarle, the Confederates used every possible precaution. At the wharf in Plymouth, where she was moored, a thousand soldiers were on guard, and her crew, consisting of sixty men, were alert and vigilant. To prevent the approach of a torpedo boat, the ram was surrounded by a boom of cypress logs, placed a considerable distance from the hull, and a double line of sentries was stationed along the river. What earthly chance was there under such conditions of any possible harm coming to her?
The picket boat in which Lieutenant Cushing undertook to destroy the rebel ram was built at New York under his supervision, and taken to Norfolk by way of the canals, and thence to Albemarle Sound again by canal. He made his preparations with great care, and on the night of October 27, which was dark and stormy, he started in his picket boat. He was accompanied by eight men and the following officers: Acting Ensign William L. Howarth, Acting Master's Mates Thomas S. Gay and John Woodman, Acting Assistant Paymaster Francis H. Swan, Acting Third Assistant Engineers Charles L. Steever and William Stotesbury.
Cushing took in tow a small cutter, in which he intended to capture the Confederate guard, that was in a schooner anchored near the wrecked Southfield, and prevent their sending up an alarm rocket as a warning to the sentinels above of the approach of danger. He stationed himself at the stern, his plan being to land a little way below the ram and board her from the wharf. A sudden dash promised her capture by surprise, when she could be taken down stream. If this scheme could not be carried out, he intended to blow her up with a torpedo as she lay at the dock.
The launch crept along the river bank as silently as an Indian canoe stealing into a hostile camp. The distance to be passed was fully eight miles, and the peril began almost from the moment of starting. The necessary commands were spoken in whispers, and the waiting men scarcely moved as they peered into the deep gloom and listened to the almost inaudible rippling of the water from the bow. Speed was reduced as they drew near Plymouth, in order to lessen the soft clanking of the engine or the motion of the screw.
They were still a mile below Plymouth when the shadowy outlines of the wrecked Southfield loomed dimly to view. The Confederates had raised her so that her hurricane deck was above the surface. Within a few yards of the wreck a schooner was anchored containing a guard of twenty men with a field piece and rocket, provided for precisely such danger as now drew near. But on this night, of all others, the sentinels were dozing, for had they been vigilant they must have seen the little craft whose crew saw theirs and were on the qui vive to board on the instant of discovery.
The good fortune encouraged all hands, and as the schooner and wreck melted into the darkness the launch swept around a bend in the river and caught the glimmer of the camp fires along the banks, partly extinguished by the falling rain. Still creeping cautiously on, the outlines of the prodigious ram gradually assumed form in the gloom. It looked as if the surprise would be complete, when a dog, more watchful than his masters, began barking. He had discovered the approaching danger, and the startled sentinels challenged, but no reply was made. A second challenge bringing no response, several muskets flashed in the night. Other dogs joined in barking, alarm rattles were sprung and wood flung upon the fires, which, flaring up, threw their illumination out on the river and revealed the launch and cutter. The hoarse commands of officers rang out, and the soldiers, springing from sleep, caught up their guns and rushed to quarters.
Amid the fearful din and peril Cushing cut the tow line and ordered the cutter to hasten down the river and capture the guard near the Southfield. At the same moment he directed the launch to go ahead at full speed. He had changed his plan. Instead of landing he determined to blow up the ram. When close to it he learned for the first time of the cordon of logs which surrounded the Albemarle, but, believing they were slippery enough from remaining long in the water to be passed, he sheered off, made a sweep of a hundred yards and again charged under full steam for the obstruction.
As he drew near the guards fired a volley which riddled Cushing's coat and tore off the sole of his shoe.
At the same moment he heard the vicious snapping of the primers of the huge guns, which showed they had missed fire.
"Leave the ram!" he shouted. "We're going to blow you up!"
The Confederates, however, did not follow the advice and the launch fired her howitzer. Then she glided over the slimy logs and paused in front of the muzzle of a loaded cannon which could be almost reached with the outstretched hand. Still cool and self-possessed amid the horrible perils, Cushing stood erect, lowered the torpedo spar, shoved it under the overhang, waited a moment for it to rise until he felt it touch the bottom of the ram, when he gave a quick, strong pull on the trigger line. A muffled, thunderous explosion followed, an immense column of water rose in the air and the tremendous tipping of the Albemarle showed she had received a mortal hurt.
It was accomplished at the critical second, for the rifled gun, filled with 100 pounds of canister and pointed at the launch ten feet away, was immediately discharged. The careening of the ram deviated the aim just enough to prevent the crew from being blown to fragments, but confident that not a man could escape, the Confederates twice called upon their assailants to surrender, and several did so, but Cushing was not among them. With the same marvelous coolness he had displayed from the first he took off his coat and shoes, flung his sword and revolver aside and shouted:
"Every man save himself!"
Then he leaped into the water and began swimming with might and main down stream, the bullets skipping all about him, but he soon passed beyond sight and was still swimming when he heard a plashing near him. It was made by one of the acting master's mates, John Woodman, who was exhausted. Cushing helped him until he himself had hardly an ounce of strength left, when he was obliged to let go, and the poor fellow, calling good-by, sank from sight.
When unable to struggle longer, Cushing let his feet drop and they touched bottom. He managed to reach land, where he sank down so worn out that he lay motionless until daylight. Then he crawled into a swamp, where he remained hidden until a friendly negro appeared, who extended every possible kindness to him. From him Cushing learned that the Albemarle had been destroyed and was at the bottom of the river. It was thrilling news, and the following night, after he had thoroughly rested and been fed by his dusky friend, he moved down the river, found a skiff and in it made his way to the fleet, bringing the first news of the success of an exploit which it is safe to say has never been surpassed in the history of our navy. Even the captain of the Albemarle declared that "a more gallant thing was not done during the war."
While conceding to Lieutenant Hobson the full credit for his daring achievement in sinking the Merrimac in the channel of Santiago harbor, on June 3, 1898, it was by no means the equal of that of Lieutenant Cushing, thirty-four years before.
For his superb work Cushing received a vote of thanks from Congress and was promoted to the rank of lieutenant commander. He led a division of sailors in the second and what proved to be the successful attack upon Fort Fisher, in January, 1865. It was a desperate fight and none displayed more heroism than the young officer who had destroyed the Albemarle.
Hon. J.T. Headley, the biographer of Cushing, in an article written immediately after the close of the Civil War, used these words: "Still a young man, he has a bright future before him, and if he lives will doubtless reach the highest rank in the navy. Bold, daring and self-collected under the most trying circumstances—equal to any emergency—never unbalanced by an unexpected contingency, he possesses those great qualities always found in a successful commander. No man in our navy, at his age, has ever won so brilliant a reputation, and it will be his own fault if it is not increased until he has no superior."
And yet Commander Cushing's reputation was not increased nor was it through any fault of his own. It was not long after the war that his friends were pained to observe unmistakable signs of mental unsoundness in the young hero. These increased until his brain was all askew, and he died in an insane asylum in 1874.
The Greatest of Naval Heroes—David Glasgow Farragut.
David Glasgow Farragut was the greatest naval hero of modern times. There are many honored names connected with the American navy, but his towers above them all. The highest honors that his country could give were freely bestowed upon him and no one will deny that he earned them all.
His father, although a native of Minorca, came to this country in 1776 and lost no time in joining the ragged, starving patriots in their struggle for independence. His skill and gallantry won him the rank of major. When the war ended he settled on the western frontier, near Knoxville, Tenn., where at a place called Campbell's Station his son David was born in 1801. When only nine years old he was appointed midshipman under Captain David Porter, the heroic commander of the Essex. Captain Porter and Major Farragut were old friends, to which fact was due the privilege extended to a lad of such tender years.
In the sketch of Captain Porter the reader will recall the incident in which young Farragut learned of the conspiracy among the 500 prisoners on board the Essex, and, by giving his commander warning, prevented the capture of the ship by the savage plotters.
The boy was on the Essex when, disabled and helpless, she was pounded into a surrender by two British ships while in the harbor of Valparaiso, in January, 1814. It was one of the most sanguinary battles of the war, when the decks ran with blood and the dead and dying were stretched on every hand. Amid the terrible carnage the boy Farragut conducted himself with such coolness and bravery that he was specially complimented by Captain Porter in his report. Although wounded, he stood unflinchingly to his guns, winning the admiration of the grim heroes around him and demonstrating the wonderful qualities which later were to raise him to the position of the foremost naval hero of the age.
Peace came, and, although Farragut was in continual service, promotion was slow. He became lieutenant in 1825, commander in 1841 and captain in 1851. His first wife, whom he married in Norfolk, became an invalid and did not live long. His second wife was also a native of Norfolk. Thus he was not only a Southerner himself, but his wife was a native of that section. When, therefore, civil war came and it became fashionable for people to express secession sentiments, it was taken for granted that Farragut would cast his fortunes with the South; but upon being approached he indignantly replied: "I would see every man of you damned before I would raise my hand against that flag!" Being told that it would be unsafe for him to remain in the South, he added that he wanted only two hours to find another place of residence. He moved away at once and with his wife and only son took up his home on the Hudson near Tarrytown.
Being a stranger in that neighborhood, he was regarded with suspicion. He was fond of taking long walks, and it is said that some of the people suspected that he belonged to a gang of plotters who intended to cut the Croton Aqueduct, but the quiet man was simply awaiting the summons of his country to serve her in any capacity possible.
The call came in the spring of 1861, when he was about threescore years old. His duty was that of serving on the board appointed by Congress to retire superannuated officers from the active service. This duty completed, he was appointed to the command of the expedition organized for the capture of New Orleans. He sailed from Hampton Roads on the 3d of February, 1862, in the flagship Hartford and arrived seventeen days later at Ship Island, the place of rendezvous. There he set to work to make his arrangements for the great task which was wholly different from any that had ever engaged his attention. But how well he completed this grand work, he being the real supervisor and superintendent, has been referred to in a previous chapter and is told in every history of our country.
The skill and courage displayed by Farragut in the capture of New Orleans attracted national attention and added greatly to his reputation. In the latter part of June he ran the batteries of Vicksburg, but notified the Government that though he could go up and down the river as he chose and silence the batteries when he pleased, no substantial good would result unless a land force of ten or twelve thousand men attacked the town from the rear. It was this plan which brought about the capture of Vicksburg by General Grant and the opening of the Mississippi River. Farragut, who had been made rear admiral, afforded great aid in taking Port Hudson and cleaning out all rebel fortifications along the Father of Waters.
This immense work having been accomplished, the Government now gave its attention to Mobile, another of the Confederate strongholds in the South. The campaign arranged was to attack it with a land force under the command of Generals Canby and Granger and a naval force under Farragut. In January, 1864, he made a reconnaissance of Mobile Bay and informed the Government that if it would supply him with a slight additional force he would attack and capture it at once. He knew that the defences were being strengthened every day and repeatedly urged that he be furnished with the means of making an immediate assault. But the ill-advised and disastrous expedition of Banks up the Red River took away the available troops and the appeal of Farragut remained unheeded until the summer was well advanced.
By that time the defences of Mobile were well nigh impregnable. Fort Gaines, on Dauphin Island, had a garrison of 864 men and mounted three 10-inch columbiads, four 32-pounder rifled guns and twenty smoothbore guns of 32, 24 and 18-pound calibres. The principal pass to Mississippi Sound was commanded by Fort Powell, with one mounted 10-inch gun, one 8-inch columbiad and four rifled guns. The main fortification was Fort Morgan, whose heavy guns were placed in three tiers. It mounted seven 10-inch, three 8-inch and twenty-two 32-pounder smoothbore guns and two 8-inch, two 6.5-inch and four 5.82-inch rifled guns. The exterior batteries were also heavily armed and the garrison numbered 640 men. The bay was filled with skilfully placed torpedoes, some of them of stupendous size and power and sufficient, it would seem, if properly handled, to destroy all the navies of the world.
All arrangements being completed, the signal for the advance was hoisted at daylight, August 5, 1864. The Union fleet consisted of 21 wooden vessels and 6 ironclads. The wooden vessels sailed in pairs, the larger on the starboard, so that if either was disabled the other could carry it along. Farragut's intention was to lead with the flagship Hartford, but he reluctantly allowed the Brooklyn to take that post, since she carried four chase guns to the Hartford's one and was provided with an ingenious apparatus for picking up torpedoes. It was contended further that the flagship would be the special target of the enemy, a fact that was likely to cripple her and prevent the employment of the all-important signals. The last argument bore no weight with Farragut, who replied that she would be the chief target anyway, no matter what the position, and exposure to fire was one of the penalties of rank in the navy. The monitors were to advance in single file, slightly in advance of the wooden ships, the Tecumseh, Commander Tunis A.M. Craven, in the lead.
In this order the slow advance was begun and at a few minutes past seven the Tecumseh fired the first gun. The forts waited twenty minutes when they replied, and the Brooklyn responded with two 100-pounder Parrot rifles. Under the protection of Fort Morgan nestled the Confederate rams and ironclads, which directed their fire principally at the wooden vessels. The great battle was opened.
The enemy's gunboats and the ram Tennessee moved out from behind the fort and continued firing at the wooden boats, giving principal attention, as was expected, to the flagship, which was struck several times. She soon began returning the fire, still advancing, and repeatedly drove the gunners from the water batteries, but they immediately returned and kept bravely at work.
Smokeless powder was unknown in those days, and, as the vapor enfolded the ships, Farragut kept stepping up the rigging almost unconsciously until he was so high that he was clinging to the futtock shrouds. He had his spyglass in one hand and kept raising it to his eyes. Captain Percival Drayton had been closely watching the Admiral and now became alarmed, lest some damage to the ropes should cause him to fall overboard. He told Signal Quartermaster Knowles to climb the rigging and secure Farragut to the shrouds. He obeyed and passed a lead line to one of the forward shrouds and then drew it around the Admiral to the after shroud and made it fast. Feeling the faithful officer at work, the Admiral looked down kindly at him and said: "Never mind me, I am all right." But Knowles persisted and did not descend until he had completed his work.
By and by the increasing smoke made it necessary for the commander to ascend still higher, in order to maintain a clear view of the battle. He untied the fastenings, and, climbing to the futtock shrouds, passed the rope once more around his body several times and tied the end to the rigging. The picture of Admiral Farragut thus lashed to the rigging has been seen thousands of times in the histories of the Civil War.
While in this perilous position he signalled for closer order. The bombardment of the fort was terrific and produced great effect. Commander Craven, with the Tecumseh, singled out the ram Tennessee, under the command of Admiral Franklin Buchanan, who had charge of the Merrimac on the first day of her fight with the Monitor. Both were ironclads and Buchanan was as anxious to fight Craven as the latter was to fight him. Craven, fearing his adversary would retreat, pressed forward so eagerly that he paid no attention to the torpedoes over which his hull was continually scraping. One or more of these suddenly exploded, the front dipped and the Tecumseh plunged bow foremost to the bottom of the bay, carrying with her 93 men out of a crew of 114.
This appalling disaster was accompanied by a touching incident. When the Tecumseh was diving downward Commander Craven and the pilot instinctively started for the opening through which only one man could pass at a time. They reached the foot of the ladder at the same moment. "You first," said Craven, halting. The pilot just succeeded in scrambling out, when the Tecumseh went down, taking her heroic captain with her.
The terrible occurrence was witnessed by friends and foes. A boat was quickly lowered from the Metacomet and sent to the relief of the survivors. It passed within a hundred yards of Fort Morgan, which could have easily blown it out of the water. But General Page, the Confederate commandant, knowing her errand, gave the order not to harm the boat, which was on its way to save drowning men. His soldiers broke into cheers, but he sternly stopped them, with the advice to wait till the Hartford was sunk. The boat picked up ten men and officers, while four swam to the beach and were made prisoners.
When the lull was over Farragut headed his ship for the fort, signalling to the remainder of the fleet, which followed close after him. When warned of the torpedoes the wrathful Admiral came near adding a little profanity to his contemptuous opinion of them as he passed on. Wheeling, he launched his whole broadside at the fort, then delivered a second at the Tennessee and headed for the gunboats Selma, Gaines and Morgan, all of which were raking him. Casting off his consort, the Metacomet, he sent her after the Selma, and, after a hot chase, she captured her. The other two took to shallow water under the guns of the fort.
The ships, having passed the latter, were about to anchor when the Tennessee was perceived coming straight for the fleet, with the intention of attacking it. Farragut signalled to the vessels to run her down and ordered the pilot of the Hartford to drive her with full speed at the ironclad. The Monongahela was the first to reach the monster, struck her fairly, and, swinging around, let fly with a broadside of 11-inch shot, which dropped harmlessly from her mailed side. Undaunted, the Monongahela rammed her again, though she received ten times as much damage as she inflicted. The Lackawanna passed through a somewhat similar experience but a gunner drove a 9-inch shell into one of the shutters, which was shattered and forced within the casemate. The crews were so close that they taunted each other through the portholes and even hurled missiles across the brief intervening space.
At this juncture the Hartford arrived, charging full speed upon the ram, which so shifted its position that the blow was a glancing one. Recoiling, the flagship delivered its most tremendous broadside, doing no harm, while the Hartford itself was pierced again and again by the exploding shells which strewed her deck with dead and dying. Nothing daunted, Farragut prepared to ram once more, when his ship was badly injured by an accidental blow from the Lackawanna. But Farragut, seeing that she still floated, called for a full head of steam that he might deliver a blow that was likely to send his own ship to the bottom.
By this time the slower going monitors had arrived and were getting in their fine work. The Tennessee's smokestack was shot away, her stern port shutter was disabled, making the gun useless, while her steering chains were smashed. Like a stag beset by a pack of hounds, she was brought to her knees. The white flag was raised, and the sorely battered Tennessee became the captive of the Union fleet. The forts were passed and the victory of Mobile Bay was secure.
But it had cost dearly. In addition to the men lost on the Tecumseh, there had been 25 killed and 28 wounded on the Hartford, 11 killed and 43 wounded on the Brooklyn, the total of all, including those lost on the Tecumseh, being 145 killed and 170 wounded. The Confederate loss was 12 killed, 20 wounded and 280 prisoners.
Fort Powell was subjected to a severe bombardment that afternoon and on the following night was abandoned and blown up. Fire being opened on Fort Gaines, it also surrendered. Fort Morgan, the only fort in the possession of the enemy, surrendered August 23, before an attack of the navy and the land forces under General Granger from New Orleans.
Soon after this splendid victory Admiral Farragut went North, where he was received with all possible honors. The war ending soon after, his inestimable services came to a close. That no reward might be lacking, the office of vice-admiral was specially created for him in December, 1864, and that of admiral in 1866. He died in 1870.
THE SPANISH-AMERICAN WAR.
The Movement Against Cuba—The Destruction of Cervera's Fleet—Admiral Sampson—Admiral Schley—"Fighting Bob" Evans—Commodore John C. Watson—Commodore John W. Philip—Lieutenant Commander Richard Wainwright.
Since the war with Spain was undertaken for the liberation of Cuba from the most frightful atrocities that mind can conceive, it was natural that the chief attention of our Government should be directed to the expulsion of the Spaniards from that island. Neither the Ladrones nor Philippines entered into the question; but, inasmuch as they were valuable possessions of Spain, their conquest was a natural and effective blow against the nation with which we were at war.
In view of what subsequently occurred, we can smile at the general uneasiness and fear which prevailed in this country at the opening of hostilities regarding the fleets of Spain. She was known to have a formidable navy and a great many believed it was superior to our own. There was no telling where it would strike the first blow. Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington and other seaboard cities made powerful preparations against the dread fleet, which in truth was no more to be feared than the ferryboats on the North River, and yet but for the preparations referred to it is more than probable we should have suffered.
The most formidable fleet was under the command of Admiral Cervera. Our own squadrons were engaged for weeks in hunting for it, and it was reported in a dozen different places. Finally it was learned that it had taken refuge in the harbor of Santiago, the city of that name being besieged by the land forces under General Shafter. Immediately the American fleet of Admiral Sampson blockaded the ships of the enemy, determined to hold it powerless inside the broad harbor, for it followed, as a matter of course, that so long as it was bottled up there it could do nothing to help Spain.
No one could know his weakness better than the Spanish Admiral. He had fine ships and fine guns, but his crews were undisciplined. They were wretched marksmen and in no respect to be compared with our gunners, who demonstrated in the War of 1812 that they have no equals in the whole world. Knowing all this, Admiral Cervera was loth to venture out of the harbor of Santiago, and the days and weeks passed in idleness while the monotonous blockade continued.