Confederate Ironclad Attack on Charleston | Naval History Magazine

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Most students of Civil War naval history are familiar with the failed attack by Union ironclads at Charleston, South Carolina on April 7, 1863. Little is known that in the early hours of January 31, 1863, her two Confederate ironclads attempted to lift the blockade of the city by the United States Navy. richmondclass armored destroyer Palmetto State When Chicora Four wooden blockades were severely damaged before the rebel ships were driven back to Charleston Harbor.

Lieutenant William H. Parker, Enforcer of the CSS Palmetto Stateleft a vivid description of the attack in his memoirs, Memoirs of a naval officerParker and his older brother, Foxhall A. Parker, Jr., were prewar officers in the United States Navy. Although William sided with the Confederates, Foxhall remained loyal to the Union, later helping found the United States Naval Institute and serving as superintendent of the United States Naval Academy.

Below is William’s description. Palmetto Statesortie and encounter with one of the Union blockademen.

Admiral [Duncan] Ingraham boarded Palmetto State, and at 11.30, the two ships quietly stopped fasting and lost weight. There were no beach demonstrations and I think few citizens knew that an attack was planned. At this time, Charleston was full of spies, all carried to the enemy. It was a mostly calm, bright moonlit night. His age is 11 days. We made our way slowly down from Charleston to the bar of the ship’s line, where she was 11 miles away, hoping to reach her about 4 o’clock in the morning at high tide. . .

We slowly made our way down the harbor, knowing that a long night awaited us, so we ordered the hammocks to be lowered by pipes. The men refused to take them.1 There was no need for silence on this occasion, so the captain let them enjoy themselves.2 No one has shown a better spirit before making a move. And such a manly speech of the captain convinced us that we should be well commanded under any circumstances. A yellow flank emerged in the reflection and went down the channel along Morris Island. I think everyone was watching us with their hands up in the forts and batteries, but nothing was said. After midnight, the men began to descend, two or three at a time, and soon there was a deadly silence…

As we approached the bar, around 4am, we saw a steamboat Mercedita It’s anchored a short distance outside of it. There was no worry that she would see our hull. But we were burning soft coals, and the night was so clear, almost full moon, that our smoke seemed to trail behind us like a giant black snake. rice field. Must visible for miles away. We quietly made our way to the quarters and the main deck presented a scene that will forever remain in my memory. The harbor shutters were closed, no light was visible from outside, and the few battle lights that were lit cast a strange, faint light on the gun deck. my friend Phil. Pocher, who commanded the bowgun, wore white children’s gloves and had an unlit cigar in his mouth.3 The silence intensified as I stood at the station without even whispering. Just beside me, I noticed the little broadside gunpowder boy, fast asleep, with a powder flask over his shoulder, sitting in a match pail. Mercedita.

We cross the bar and turn the steering wheel directly MerceditaThey didn’t see us until we were very close. Her captain called out to us and ordered us to stay away. otherwise it will fire. we didn’t reply. Just then we attacked his starboard side, dropped the forward port shutters and fired our bow guns.According to the captain, a shell from it [Henry S.] The Stellwagen that commanded her passed diagonally through her, penetrated the starboard side, through the condenser, through the steam drum of the port boiler, exploded toward the port side of the ship, and cut a hole in the exit five feet square. Opened..she didn’t fire the gun and immediately said the commander had surrendered. Captain Rutledge then instructed him to send the boats sideways. When he saw a boat coming, he went out to the afterdeck to receive it. The men inside were half-dressed and half-soaked because they forgot to plug it in when they took it down. We gave them boat hooks to provide plug locations and helped rescue her.

During the Civil War, William Parker took part in the Battle of Hampton Roads, helped defend Drewleys Bluff on the James River, and served as commander of the Confederate Naval Academy. (U.S. Naval Research Laboratory Photo Archive)

Lieutenant T. Abbott Mercedita, came on a boat. I took him to the harbor and up to Admiral Ingraham. He must have been impressed with the novel look of our gun deck. But his demeanor was officer-like and cool. He reported the ship’s name and captain, and said it had 128 souls on board and was in a state of sinking. “Give his commanders, officers and crew the word of honor not to serve in the military.” This was an oral parole. He then returned to his ship. . .

we poked Mercedita At 4:30 am, much precious time was lost while the Admiral decided what to do with his officers and men. The chance for great success lay in exploiting the darkness. I knew that one day the enemy would see me fighting an iron wall and would refuse to fight. We will go east at last, Quaker City, memphis, and several other ships appeared, but left as soon as they felt our metal weight. As the sun rose, we had the opportunity to go up to the spa deck.I searched the stern first Mercedita, and, having not seen her, asked our pilot where she was. He said her girlfriend must have sunk. That was the general impression on board. But I knew she wasn’t in deep water and her mast wasn’t sticking out.

In fact, we didn’t hit her hard enough. The panic on board her, caused by shells from our bowguns, was so great at first that they thought she was sinking. I think I returned. However, when they stood out to engage the enemy in the East, they resolved the matter and headed for Port Royal, where she finally arrived safely.

Charleston’s Confederate commander, General PGT Beauregard, quickly issued a proclamation that the blockade had been lifted by the attack, but conveniently the surrendered Union ships and their crews escaped in the early morning darkness. ignored that.the status of Mercedita It was decided not only by her officers and subordinates, but by a Union military court of inquiry. Lieutenant Abbott’s pledge that the crews would not take up arms against the Confederates until exchanged was found binding, but it did apply to the gunboats later used in the North Atlantic and West Gulf blockading squadrons. I didn’t.


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