Worden and the Rattlesnake

Posted on
Lt. John L. Worden, USN.
The Mariners’ Museum MS 16-14.

Commander John Worden would expand his leadership skills during the early days of his command of the Passaic-class ironclad USS Montauk. Shortly after the Montauk arrived in Port Royal Sound, South Carolina, Rear Admiral Samuel Francis du Pont sent Worden and his ironclad to bombard Fort McAllister on the Ogeechee River near Savannah, Georgia. Du Pont planned to test the destructive and resistance capabilities of Passaic–class ironclads in preparation for an ironclad attack on Charleston, South Carolina. 

During the February 28, 1863 attack, Montauk’s XV- and XI-inch Dahlgrens were able to destroy the former commerce raider CSS Nashville. Worden was pleased with his destruction of “this troublesome pest”; however, Montauk suffered a massive jolt when it struck a Confederate torpedo en route down the Ogeechee River. Worden’s quick thinking saved his ironclad, and he, the hero of USS Monitor, received even greater laurels for his newest decisive actions.    Read more

Hot Times on Monitor: One Steaming Summer On The James

Posted on
Battle of Drewry’s Bluff, line engraving. Harper’s Weekly, 1862. New York Public Library Digital Collections

The Union flotilla steamed downriver after its repulse at Drewry’s Bluff to City Point, Virginia. Commander John Rodgers, the flotilla’s leader, recognized that his ships, USS Monitor, USS Galena, USS Naugatuck, USS Port Royal, and USS Aroostook, were needed to support Major General George B. McClellan’s operations against Richmond. North Atlantic Blockading Squadron commander Flag Officer Louis M. Goldsborough sent supplies and additional gunboats, including USS Maratanza, Wachusetts, Island Belle, Stepping Stones, and Coeur De Lion, to City Point. This force was to protect the left flank of McClellan’s army. 

ENTER SIAH HULETT CARTER

William Keeler called Monitor’s new anchorage at City Point “out of humanity’s reach,” and it was there that he would soon witness new facets of war. The Union ships were operating in “enemy’s country” and consequently, armed guards were posted every evening in expectation of sharpshooters or a raiding party. During the night of May 18, 1862, an alert was called: “Boat ahoy!” And a shot was fired on an approaching boat. Captain Jeffers exclaimed, “Boarders!” All available crewmen rushed onto the deck. Once on deck, Keeler “found the vast array of ‘Monitors’ armed to the teeth drawn up confronting the enemy – a poor trembling contraband – begging not to be shot.”    Read more

April 7, 1863: Worden and the Ironclad Attack on Charleston

Posted on
The Union Iron Clad Monitor “MONTAUK” Destroying the Rebel Steamship “NASHVILLE” in the Ogeeche River, near Savannah, GA, Feb. 27th, 1863. Lithograph by Currier & Ives.
Courtesy of the D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts.

Recently promoted captain, John Lorimer Worden won a significant victory during his operations against Fort McAlister, Georgia. USS Montauk’s XV-inch shellgun destroyed the blockade runner, Rattlesnake, previously known as the raider CSS Nashville. On February 27, 1863, the ship’s destruction was welcome news to the war-weary North. Nevertheless, when the battle smoke cleared, Worden had an ominous report to present to the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron’s commander, Rear Admiral Samuel Francis DuPont.

Worden had previously worked on Passaicclass monitors as an assistant to Brooklyn Navy Yard commandant Rear Admiral Francis Hoyt Gregory. This position and his captaincy of USS Montauk gave him the ability to recognize various problems with this class of monitors. Worden believed the Passaic class had these major issues:   Read more

The Siege of Fort Pulaski

Posted on
Aerial view of Fort Pulaski.
Courtesy of the National Park Service.

The capture of Fort Pulaski on the mouth of the Savannah River had many significant implications. When the fort surrendered on April 11, 1862, it closed the port of Savannah. Accordingly, cotton exports had to be transported to Charleston or Wilmington to reach European markets. Most importantly was the impact of large rifle cannons on US coastal defense fortifications. These brick forts were considered indestructible, yet, after a 36-hour bombardment, Pulaski’s walls were breached, and it was forced to surrender. More than 40  years of military planning was changed in clouds of brick dust.

Why Savannah?

Savannah was Georgia’s largest city. Located on the Savannah River, just over 20 miles from the Atlantic Ocean, it was a leading cotton export port. Harbor activities made the town a major industrial and commercial center. The railroads that passed through Savannah northward were a primary supply link between the Deep South and Richmond, Virginia. Furthermore, Savannah featured several shipbuilding facilities and was home to the Georgia State Arsenal.   Read more

Brigadier General Samuel Chapman Armstrong

Posted on
Samuel Chapman Armstrong, 1904. Edith Armstrong Talbot (1904)
Samuel Chapman Armstrong: A Biographical Study,
New York: Doubleday, Page & Company, p. 254.

Samuel Chapman Armstrong was the founder of Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (now Hampton University). A native of Hawaii, he fought with the Union army during the Civil War. Eventually, Armstrong was brevetted brigadier general. After working for the Freedmen’s Bureau, he recognized that African Americans needed greater educational opportunities, which prompted him to establish Hampton Institute. Among its most noted graduates are Booker T. Washington and Thomas Calhoun Walker.

His Younger Years

Armstrong was born on January 30, 1839, on the island of Maui in the kingdom of Hawaii. His parents, Richard and Clarissa Chapman Armstrong, were Protestant missionaries sent by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. The Armstrongs arrived in 1832 and began establishing churches. In 1840 Richard Armstrong was appointed Kahus (Senior Pastor) of Kawaiaha’o Church in Honolulu. The church was made of coral and served as the national church of the Hawaiian Kingdom. Armstrong also served on the kingdom’s privy council and the House of Nobles. King Kamehameha III appointed Armstrong as Minister of Public Instruction in 1847, and, in 1855, he became President of the Board of Education. The educational model he established taught students faith-based citizenship. His teaching activities made him known as “the father of American education in Hawaii.”   Read more