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  1. Achievements of the Navy (on the Tennessee River, from the fall of Fort Henry) It is a struggle to come to grips with this topic, because “The Navy” was not technically part of the war effort on the inland waters until October 1862. So, up until that time (including the contribution made in support of Grant’s Army at Pittsburg Landing) the Timberclads and Ironclads (and from late April 1862, the Tinclads) were part of the Union Army, operated by competent officers and enlisted men of the U.S. Navy… except in the case of Ellet’s Rams, but that’s another story. Beginning with the initial raid up the Tennessee River, commenced immediately upon the fall of Fort Henry, the accomplishments of patrols and multi-vessel raids are many and varied: · Denied Rebel use of MC & L R.R. bridge at Danville · Capture of nearly complete ironclad, Eastport · Shock & awe of Confederate citizens along the Tennessee, as far as Florence, AL · Destroyed (or encouraged self-destruction) of almost every Rebel steamer on the Lower Tennessee River… except two, hidden until mid-April 1862 · Found important pockets of Union support (most notably at Savannah, Tennessee) · Intelligence collection · Second raid found M & C R.R. near Iuka too strongly defended · Strong Union support at Savannah confirmed · Confiscated massive amount of Rebel flour at Clifton, Tennessee · Moved controversial figure, Fielding Hurst, to safety at Cairo · Intelligence collection · Third raid recruited crew members at Savannah for Timberclad service · “Recruitment Picnic” broken up at Savannah (and leaders of that picnic – J.B. Kendrick of Captain Fitzgerald’s Company of Tennessee Volunteers and Clay Kendrick of Colonel Crew’s Regiment – taken into custody and removed to Cairo · Engagement at Pittsburg Landing on March 1st drives Rebels away from the bluff. Members of Company C and Company K of 32nd Illinois Infantry – acting in capacity of “sharp shooters” – participate as landing party. (The 32nd Illinois later takes part at Shiloh, attached to Hurlbut’s Fourth Division.) · As component of General C.F. Smith’s Expedition, the Lexington and Tyler provided support and protection to the transport fleet · Whenever discovered, ferry vessels were destroyed · Support to Sherman’s raids (attempted cut of M & C R.R.) · Reconnaissance and intelligence collection · In company with USS Cairo on April 1st, the gunboats conducted a reconnaissance of creeks as far upstream as Chickasaw Bluff (likely an attempt to uncover the hiding place of two Rebel steamers) · During the Battle of Shiloh, gunfire support (directed by General Hurlbut) commences just before 3 p.m. and intensifies until night halts the action of April 6th · Overnight, the Timberclads lob explosive shells into Rebel-held portions of Shiloh battlefield, every 15 minutes, until 5 a.m. Can you think of any other Naval contributions to add to the list? [Most information found in OR (Navy) vol.22 and Chicago Daily Tribune.]
  2. Let me start by saying, the title to this piece is my own invention (although I am certain that due to the Navy's love of abbreviations and acronyms, something more concise than 'The Flotilla assigned to Naval Operations on the Western Waters, under Command of the War Department,' was used on a daily basis.) Perhaps it was the 'Western Flotilla,' or the 'Mississippi Squadron.' In any event, it appears there were six naval officers who made up the core group -- the first tier -- of Western River warriors. The changes they helped bring about are significant: they helped the Navy transition from the Age of Sail, to the Age of Steam; they shifted emphasis from the use of wood, to the use of iron; and they helped progress from paddles to screws. The other thing these six officers have in common: they were all associated with the 'timberclad fleet' of Conestoga, Lexington and Tyler. Andrew Foote and Henry Walke first met each other in 1827, while serving aboard USS Natchez, and appear to have remained friends ever after. Together, they brought nearly eighty years experience to the Western Rivers Campaign. For more information about these two officers, click on the following links: http://archive.org/details/lifeofandrewhull00hopprich (Andrew Foote) http://www.civilwar.org/education/history/navy-hub/navy-history/primary-sources/the-battle-of-fort-henry.html (Henry Walke) James W. Shirk was born in Pennsylvania in 1832, and entered the Navy in 1849. He passed his Midshipman qualification in 1855, and was promoted to Lieutenant the following year. In the years leading up to the Civil War, this officer served in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans, and on the Great Lakes. He is recorded as having served aboard USS Plymouth. Shortly after the Battle of Fort Sumter, twenty-nine year old LT Shirk was 'out west,' involved in the 'sea trials' of USS Lexington, after that timberclad's conversion at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Shirk and his Lexington served at Belmont, and Fort Henry; participated in Phelp's Raid; and saw action at the Battle of Shiloh. But in December 1862, the two parted company: now a Lieutenant Commander, James Shirk was assigned to the new timberclad, USS Tuscumbia. And from early 1863, LCDR Shirk was in command of the Seventh Division of the Mississippi Squadron. Both James Shirk and USS Lexington survived the War Between the States. William Gwin was born in Indiana in 1832. He joined the Navy as a Midshipman in 1847, and was promoted to Lieutenant in 1855. During his years of service, Gwin received extensive steam-propulsion experience , primarily aboard the sloop USS Saranac, and the frigate USS Susquehanna (although he also made cruises aboard Germantown, Princeton, and Brandywine.) Assigned to blockade duty aboard USS Bainbridge at the start of the war, twenty-nine year old LT Gwin took command of USS Tyler in January 1862 (relieving Tyler's original skipper, Commander Walke. Walke took command of the new ironclad, USS Carondelet.) Gwin and Tyler served at Fort Henry; participated in Phelp's Raid; and joined USS Lexington in action at Shiloh. In 1862, Gwin was promoted to LCDR, and briefly saw service aboard the ironclad, USS Mound City, before assignment to the ironclad USS Benton. In December 1862, while engaged in an operation on the Yazoo River, LCDR Gwin was wounded, and evacuated to a hospital boat. He died of his wounds on January 3rd, 1863. Gwin's timberclad, USS Tyler, survived the war. Seth Ledyard Phelps was born in 1824 in Ohio. He was appointed as Midshipman in 1841, and served during the Mexican War aboard the schooner, USS Bonito. In 1855, Phelps was promoted to Lieutenant, and a year later was assigned to the steam frigate USS Susquehanna (where he became familiar with LT Isaac Newton Brown.) Shortly after Fort Sumter, LT Phelps was ordered to Cincinnati, and became the 'point man' for Commander John Rodgers (who was organizing construction of three timberclads, and endeavoring to build half a dozen ironclads.) Phelps was in constant motion, journeying from Cincinnati to Louisville; from Pittsburgh to Cairo, promoting the completion of required works. By September, there were three serviceable vessels; and USS Conestoga, built at Brownsville, Pennsylvania, became his first command. As skipper of Conestoga, Phelps was active from the start, conducting frequent reconnaissance sorties; and involved in an engagement versus CSS Jackson (during which the Confederate gunboat was damaged, but lived to fight another day.) After CDR Walke left USS Tyler in January 1862, LT Phelps became senior officer of the timberclad flotilla, in charge of combined operations. So it was that his boss, Flag-Officer Foote, assigned him (on February 2nd) as commander of the Raid up the Tennessee River, following the successful capture of Fort Henry. During that raid, Phelp's team captured three vessels, destroyed several others, and destroyed Confederate-controlled railroad bridges. Significantly, the raid also eliminated the local supply of Confederate torpedoes; took the CSS Eastport as a war prize; and took possession of documents belonging to Confederate Naval Officer I. N. Brown. Phelps was promoted to LCDR in July 1862, and transferred to USS Benton. Once completed, LCDR Phelps was given command of his war prize: USS Eastport. Eventually, LCDR Phelps took command of waterborne activities in vicinity of the Red River, and operated aboard the command ship, USS Black Hawk. LCDR Phelps resigned from the Navy in October 1864; in the 1880s, he was appointed Ambassador to Peru. His timberclad, USS Conestoga, did not survive the war: she was involved in a collision with another Federal gunboat in March 1864, and sunk. John Rodgers was born into a 'Navy family' in Maryland, in 1812: his father, Commodore John Rodgers, was a hero of the War of 1812. Appointed Midshipman in 1828, Rodgers served aboard USS Constellation and USS Concord, and saw service in the Mediterranean, the Atlantic, and the Pacific. He was promoted to Commander in 1855, and was serving at the Navy's Japan Office in Washington, D.C., when war broke out in April 1861. CDR Rodgers was ordered to the Gosport Navy Yard near Hampton Roads, Virginia, to remove or destroy all equipment of use to the Confederate Navy, but before completing his assignment, was captured by State of Virginia forces. Not yet at war with the United States, Virginia Governor John Letcher released Rodgers, who returned to Washington. Shortly afterwards, on May 16th, CDR Rodgers was ordered west to 'organize the Western Gunboat Flotilla.' Operating out of Cincinnati and Cairo, and using LT Phelps as his 'action officer,' he arranged for the conversion of three timberclads; and endeavored to construct the first ironclads (being required to consult with General Fremont and engineer-contractor James Eads.) Rodgers was relieved by Captain Andrew Foote in August 1861, and returned to Washington; he was given command of ironclad USS Galena. After promotion to Captain in July 1862, John Rodgers was given command of ironclad monitor, USS Weehawken, and fought at Fort Sumter (May 1863) and captured Confederate ram, CSS Atlanta (for which he received 'the Thanks of Congress.') Promoted to Commodore in July 1863, Rodgers took command of USS Dictator... but saw no further action during the war. John Rodgers died in May 1882. Ozzy Resources: wikipedia www.history.navy.mil ancestry.com Ironclad Captain: Seth L. Phelps and the U.S. Navy, 1841-1864, by Jay Slagle, Kent University Press, 1996 collections.mohistory.org http://collections.mohistory.org/resource/234858.html
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