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

Naval Intelligence in Hampton Roads: 1861-1862

Posted on
CSS Virginia.
The Mariners’ Museum.

There was no formal naval intelligence system established during the American Civil War. While a few examples exist of Northern sympathizers, free Blacks, like Mary Louvestre of Portsmouth, sent messages to various Union commanders about the Confederate ironclad construction effort. These links were unofficial and were generally between one Union officer and an individual. The Union nor the Confederacy needed to rely on such clandestine methods since Northern and Southern newspapers provided ample information, usually in a boastful manner. Each antagonist simply needed to obtain a copy of The New York Times or Mobile Register to gather all they needed to know about ironclad development. 

Union intelligence was able to receive valuable knowledge about the construction and impending attack of CSS Virginia. The information appeared to flow back and forth across Hampton Roads. On October 6, 1861, Major General John Ellis Wool, stationed at Fort Monroe as commander of the Union Department of Virginia, wrote to Lieutenant General Winfield Scott:   Read more