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

Rare map of Virginia added to our Collection

Posted on
MSM 1---1914.jpeg
New Map of Virginia, J. W. Randolph, 1861. MSM1-1914

The Mariners’ Library is pleased to announce the addition of a significant map of Virginia to the cartographic collection. Titled New Map of Virginia compiled from the latest maps 1861, this pocket map was published in mid-1861 by the Richmond, Virginia firm of J. W. Randolph. Other Richmond area firms involved in the printing of the map include Husted & Nenning, credited with drawing and coloring it, and Hoyer and Ludwig, credited as the lithographers. Scholars consider this map a rare Confederate imprint, with fewer than ten known examples in libraries and museums throughout the United States.

The map depicts Virginia on the eve of the Civil War, with the counties that would eventually form West Virginia still shown as part of the Commonwealth. A more precise dating of the map indicates that it
must have been printed after April 1861, as it includes Bland County, which was formed from portions of Giles, Tazewell, and Wythe Counties by an act of the General Assembly on March 30, 1861. In addition, the map includes insets in the upper right corner of the areas around Harpers Ferry and Norfolk Harbor and vicinity.   Read more

Coastal Ironclads Other Than Monitors

Posted on
Inventor John Ericsson, ca. 1862. Photographer unknown.
Courtesy of Naval History and Heritage Command # NH 305.

The American Civil War is often considered the first modern industrial war. Both North and South endeavored to mobilize their resources to wage total war. This experience revolutionized naval warfare, and in doing so, forever changed America’s political, social, and economic fabric. 

Proponents of seapower had witnessed significant changes in ordnance, motive power, and ship design during the first half of the 19th century. Confederate Secretary of the Navy Stephen Russell Mallory was the first to recognize that a new class of vessels, hitherto unknown in naval service, was needed. Mallory knew the possession of an armored ship was a matter of first necessity. The question then begged an answer: How could the agrarian South create such a warship? [1]   Read more