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appropriately placed in command of them. In a war such as this, unanimity and hearty co-operation should be the rule. Petty jealousies about slight shades of relative command, and bickering about trivial matters, are entirely out of place and highly improper, and, when carried so far as to interfere with the effectiveness of a command, become both criminal and contemptible. Within the ordinary limits of a letter it is impossible to provide for every contingency that may arise in a command which is not centred in a single individual. Itis therefore hoped that mutual concessions will be made, and that the good of the service will be the only aim of all."
With that circular an order was transmitted to Col. Peyton, at Yorktown, that the naval officer assigned to naval batteries would command all troops when in the battery, either for drill, instruction or fighting, but that in camp the officer of the particular command would have charge of the troops, but must make no order that would impede the naval officer in the proper discharge of his duties.
Commander James L. Henderson, of the navy, in command of the naval batteries at Gloucester Point, was retained by Gen. Magruder several weeks after the order detaching him, while awaiting the arrival of Lieut. Chas. M. Fauntleroy, and the repeated letters of Gen. Magruder for Lieut. Fauntleroy's services show the high appreciation in which that officer was held.
Complaint was made by Gen. Magruder that the gun-carriages of the naval batteries, having been made of green pine, had given indications of breaking down; that their manner of construction prevented their being elevated sufficiently to explode a fifteen-second fuse; that carriages of good pattern promised by the Navy Department had never been sent; and that the depth of water at the mouth of York River being ample for the largest ships, the defences were liable to assault, while the guns in battery on their present carriages could not reach the ships. Cant. George Minor, Chief of the Naval Ordnance Bureau, immediately had other and proper carriages made and replaced the defective ones.
The subject of building gunboats on the upper waters of York River was brought to the attention of the Virginia State authorities as early as May 11th, prior to that State joining the Confederacy, by Capt. Wm. C. Whittle, then commanding defences in York River. In a letter of that date to Capt. S. Barron, then in the Virginia Office of Detail and Equipment, Capt. Whittle urged that "an energetic naval constructor" be at once directed to commence, on the Pamunkey River, the construction of one or more steam-propeller boats, to carry each two eleven-inch shell guns, and to be manned by eighty to one hundred men; that much timber suitable to such boats was already cut, and an inexhaustible supply was standing everywhere in the surrounding forests. And, again, September 24th, Capt. Whittle renewed the request, and sent Gabriel F. Miller, a constructor from Matthews County, to Capt. F. Buchanan, then in charge of the C. S. Office of Orders and Detail, as a man every way reliable and fully competent, and ready to undertake at once the construction, at West Point, of a steampropeller gunboat—that the timber could be had on the Pamunkey River hard by. Capt. Whittle urged that such vessels, so valuable then, would be the true foundation for a navy composed of vessels of 800 or 1,000 tons, and manned by 100 men. each, such as the river trade in Virginia waters could supply. The suggestions were unheeded by both the State and Confederate authorities. It was the opinion of Capt.Whittle that a fleet of these small gunboats, secure behind the batteries at Yorktown and Gloucester Point, sallying forth when occasion offered, and intercepting every unarmed boat and vessel that approached Fortress Monroe, would have compelled the enemy to convoy all supplies to the fort, or have starved the fort into surrender. That convoy service would have weakened the blockading squadrons, as well as the expeditions to Southern waters, and those boats, in conjunction with the army, would have made an important diversion,probably fruitful in many important captures.
As late as January 23d, 1862, General Magruder wrote to the War Department that the work at Gloucester Point was not half finished; that the works at Yorktown, though trebled in strength in the last two months, were still unfinished, both as regards the protection of the men against the enemy's shells, guns and mortars at sea, as well as his attacks by land.
The victory of the Virginia in Hampton Roads, on March 9th, created such consternation in all military and naval circles that intelligence of every kind was eagerly caught at by the Federal officers. The " contraband " was a prolific source of information. One of these was received on board the Wachusett, April 13th, of whom Mr. I. S. Missroon says: "He is not intelligent"; but, notwithstanding, he communicated that Gen. Magruder had asked for and expected the Merrimac (Virginia) to come to the York River; that "the battery at Gloucester Point is commanded by Jeff Page, late of the U. S. navy, a good officer; Richard Page, also formerly of the navy, in command of the upper works at Gloucester; that they are very sanguine of sinking vessels, and have practiced their firing, which is very accurate; says Page (Jeff) can kill a dog a mile. He knows the roads and creeks. I will send his p. m. If you want him, telegraph. Would it not be well to communicate to Flag-officer Magruder's expectation of the Merrimac coming here? It can do no harm."1
The naval batteries at Gloucester Point and Yorktown, though incomplete and imperfect, had served their purpose fully, holding the enemy's fleet in check, barring their way up that river to the rear of the Confederate army on the peninsula, and were abandoned, not to the U. S. Navy, but to the exigencies of the C. S. army, which, retiring beyond the Chickahominy River, rendered the batteries useless.
» Off. Bee, Vol. XI.. Part m., p. 99.
CHAPTER V I.
CAPTURES IN VIRGINIA WATERS.
ABOUT the middle of June, 1861, Lieut. H. H. Lewis, of the C. 8. navy, while visiting the Potomac River at Aquia Creek with Gen. Holmes, observed the steamer St. Nicholas, of Baltimore, approach without challenge or inquiry the U.S. steamer Pawnee, range alongside without question from the Pawnee, and put provisions and other articles on board. There was neither stoppage or delay of the St. Nicholas before reaching the side of the Pawnee. Interested at this unusual proceeding in actual war, Lieut. Lewis called Gen. Holmes' attention to the matter, and finding from repeated observation . that the same unchallenged intercourse took place, Lieut. Lewis formed a plan upon that fact for the capture of the Pawnee, by first seizing the St. Nicholas lower down the river, putting upon her a force of naval officers and a detachment of infantry, and steaming, as was usual, alongside of the Pawnee, board and overpower her crew. Appealing to Gen. Holmes for a detail of 300 men from a Tennessee regiment which had many Western steamboat-men in its ranks, Lieut. Lewis met with a refusal by Gen. Holmes, who regarded the risk too great for him to assume the responsibility. He was referred to the Secretary of War, and on his way to Richmond met Capt. M. F. Maury, of the navy, at Fredericksburg, to whom he explained the plan of capture. Capt. Maury, approving heartily of the plan, returned with Lieut. Lewis to Richmond, and laid the plan before Mr. Mallory, who entered warmly into the enterprise, and talked it over with the Secretary of War, L. P. Walker. That officer, under date of June 25th, wrote to Gen. Holmes: "You are authorized to co-operate with Lieut. Lewis, C. S. navy,with any part of the force under your command, as you may deem advisable, in the operations which he has explained to this department, and with which you are acquainted." To this letter Gen. Holmes suggested that he be ordered to make the detail, and Mr. Mallory wrote to the Secretary of War: "Gen. Holmes suggests that instead of
obtaining volunteers from him, you order the Tennessee regiment to the duty required in our joint machinations against the 'peace and dignity' of Abraham and the Pawnee, and that a line from you to Col. Bate would ' enthuse ' them, etc. Capt. Maury calls on you, at my request, to attend to this. Our commander, Lewis of the navy, will command the party afloat, and will succeed." Secretary Walker immediately wrote to Gen. Holmes, June 27th: "If you deem the suggestions of Commander Lewis feasible, you are authorized to detail 500 troops for the purpose of co-operating with him. In doing this it will be proper to select from the lifferent regiments under your command. If, however, you do not concur with Commander Lewis in the feasibility of the undertaking, it will be proper for you to send a detachment of troops to Cone River to support him in the event he should find it necessary to run in at that point." To this letter Gen.Holmes replied to Secretary Walker, June 27th: "In answer to yours relative to cooperating with Commander Lewis, Confederate navy, I have respectfully to say that I did not feel justified in ordering volunteer troops on an expedition so fraught with ruinous consequences if it failed, and the success of which required that so many contingencies should be effectually accomplished. I referred the matter to the colonels of regiments, and they declined to volunteer their men."'
Foiled in an enterprise which he considered both feasible and gallant, Lieut. Lewis proceeded to duty on the- lower Rappahannock,where in a few days after he was surprised by a visit from Capt. George N. Hollins, of the C. S. navy, and Col. Thomas, who informed him that they were on their way to Baltimore to seize the St. Nicholas, run her into Cone River, and turn her over to his command. Returning immediately to Fredericksburg, Lieut. Lewis found there several naval officers and a part of the first Tennessee regiment under Col. Bate, and embarking on the steamer Virginia, they landed at Monasteon on the Rappahannock, and marched that evening across to Cone River, where, at three o'clock the next morning, the St. Nicholas arrived.
Such was the inception of the earliest and not the least bold and daring exploit of individual coolness, pluck and dash of the war—the capture of the steamer St. Nicholas on the Potomac River, on the morning of Saturday, June 29th, 1861. Events had already shaped themselves into a state of actual war. Maryland, though still in the Union, was, in the sentiment of a very large portion of her people, in thorough accord with the people of the seceded States. A similarity of institutions and a long association of trade, business, and social intimacy united and bound her people and her interests with those bf the people of the South. In the counties of that State in the peninsula between the bay and the Potomac, were the homes of the bulk of her slave-holding people, and every feeling of interest and of sympathy were warmest and strongest for the people of the Confederate States.
'Off. Rec, Vol. n., p. 9«. 958.
In St. Mary's County resided the Hon. Richard Thomas, one of Maryland's most honored citizens, who for many years had enjoyed the confidence and regard of her people, and who had presided for several sessions over the Maryland Senate. A large slave-holder, and thoroughly Southern in every principle of politics and every personal sympathy, his children had been educated and instructed in those principles of government which had obtained complete ascendancy over all the slave-holding States. Among his sons was Richard Thomas, whose sympathies were thoroughly enlisted with the South. Bold, brave, intelligent, and ardently desiring to signalize his advent in the South with an exploit which would serve to illustrate the spirit and purpose with which the sons of Maryland espoused the Southern cause, Richard Thomas planned and executed the capture of the steamer St. Nicholas with all that indifference as to the odds that might be against success which existed all over the South at the beginning of the war. Fully aware that the success of his attempt would add very much to the strength of the Confederacy on the waters of the Chesapeake Bay, he was not indifferent to the fact that, if unsuccessful, the very recklessness of the effort would illustrate that spirit of individual heroism so necessary in every contest between unequal forces.
That the expedition was not one of inconsiderate rashness is shown by the precautions taken to hold the steamer after capture. Col. Thomas visited Richmond, where he made known to Gov. Letcher his plans and purposes, and arranged to have a detachment of troops on the Virginia shore, together with naval officers, to take charge of the steamer. To that end, a detachment from Col. Bate's (1st) Tennessee regiment, then near Fredericksburg, was ordered to take position on the Potomac in the neighborhood of Cone River, and to be in position on the morning of June 29th, the day the St. Nicholas was regularly due at the ports on the Maryland shore. In company with the infantry, Lieuts. H. H. Lewis, Robert D. Minor, C. C. Simms, of the C. S. navy, Lieut. Thorburn of the Virginia navy, and fifteen sailors from the steamer Yorktown, were also dispatched from Richmond to lend assistance. The infantry and the naval force were promptly in place, having marched across the peninsula of the northern neck, and arrived almost simultaneously with the captured steamer.
These preliminary precautions taken and arranged, Col. Thomas repaired to Baltimore and gathered together the very few men in whom he could confide. These were necessarily very few in number, though very determined in purpose and fully resolved to succeed; no contemporaneous account states