Commander C. R. P. Rodgers' Letter Book
Commander Christopher Raymond Perry Rodgers, from Brooklyn, New York, served in the Mexican-American War prior to the Civil War. In command of the frigate U.S.S. Wabash during the Civil War, Rodgers led the Union Navy landing party that occupied St. Augustine in March 1862. He was later transferred to the staff of Rear Admiral Samuel F. DuPont, commander of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron. He retired in 1881 after serving as Superintendent of the Naval Academy.
For more information and the letter book's citation, please see the the bottom of the page.
U.S. Flag Ship Wabash
In order that no intimation might be given to the enemy of our approach, these vessels remained at Beaufort, until after dark, when they ascended to a point about two miles from the Coosaw, where we anchored to await daylight.
At four the next morning, I moved on with the Launches, and at daylight joined Genl' Stevens, at the head of his column, at the appointed place of rendezvous.
The troops having all embarked, we crossed the Coosaw, and at 8 AM, the first detachment of Volunteers landed under cover of our boat guns, at Haywoods Plantation, and with them, went the two light howitzers of the Wabash, to serve as a section of light artillery, under Lt' Irwin, of this ship.
At the same time Lieut' Comdg" Stevens, succeeded in getting the Ottawa through the difficult passage of the "Brick Yard" and in joining me in front of the column. The Pembina and EB Hale arriving shortly afterwards, we proceeded to the next landing at Adams Plantation, where the remaining troops were directed to disembark.
On our way up we threw a few shells into what seemed an outpost of the enemy, near a long embankment.
Anchoring the Gun-boats at ten oclock, so as to cover the route of the advancing column, and the second point of debarcation, where also our Launches were stationed, I went up in the Hale, to within range of the battery at Port Royal ferry, at which Lt' Barnes threw a few shot and shell, dislodging a body of troops stationed in the adjoining field, but eliciting no response from the battery.
At 1.30 PM, Gen Stevens being ready to move, the Gunboats shelled the woods in front of his skirmishers, and then advancing, we threw a rapid fire into the fort at Port Royal Ferry, and anchored, the Ottawa having passed between the heads of the two causeways.
At half past two the Seneca Lt' Comdg" Ammen and Ellen Master comdg' Bridd, the other vessels which you had placed under my orders, having assisted in the destruction of the work at Seabrook, passing from Broad River through Whale Branch (?) came within signal distance, and their Commanders came on board the Ottawa, but their vessels were prevented from joining me by the lowness of the tide. The Ellen came up at 8 oclock and the Seneca the next morning.
Soon after sunset we ceased firing for a while, and the enemy sent a flag of truce to one of our advanced posts(?), to ask permission to carry off their killed and wounded. Just then the Gunboats reopened; and before Gen Stevens messenger could convey his reply that the firing should cease for an hour, to enable the enemy to carry off their wounded, the Officer who had brought the flag, had galloped off.
At Sunset I landed our heavy howitzer; directing Lt. Upshur to place it in battery with the guns already on shore, under Lt' Irwin; there being no artillery with the Brigade but that of the Wabash. At the same time, Lieut Luce with the 2d Launch, and its rifled gun, and Lt Barnes with the Hale, were sent to the lower landing, to protect the boats and steamer in which our troops had crossed, and to superintend their removal to the ferry, which was accomplished about midnight.
At sunrise we reembarked our boat guns.
At 9.30 on the morning of the 2d the enemy again appearing in the wood, we opened a hot fire of shot and shells from the Ottawa, Seneca, Pembina, Ellen and Hale, and after firing briskly for a time, slackened the fire, so as to drop a shot or shell into the woods, about once a minute.
The enemy made no further demonstration.
The scows which had been used in crossing, were taken to our vessels, to be towed to Beaufort; and at 2 PM we got 'under' way, and moved down the Coosaw, to a point near the Beaufort River, where we were compelled to wait for this mornings tide, to pass through the Brick Yard Channel.
I beg leave to express to you the great satisfaction I found in cooperating with Genl Stevens, 'and my admiration of the skillful manner' in which he handled his troops, and made his combinations. About 2500 of our volunteers crossed the Coosaw; their conduct and bearing were excellent.
I have to thank the Commanding Officers of vessels, for the skillful and prompt support they gave me. The manner in which their guns were served, and their vessels handled, under very difficult circumstances, shows the highest professional merit.
The manner in which the boat and field guns of the Wabash were managed by the officers in charge of them, did those officers much credit.
Lt Comdg' Ammen will make a separate report of the service of the Seneca and Ellen at Seabrook, before I met him at half past two on New Years day. It is unnecessary for me to say to you that his work was thoroughly done.
The channel of the Coosaw is so marrow and so shallow, in many parts, that it does not afford a vessel room to turn, by the ordinary method, and our Gunboats were consequently very often aground, but so admirable are they adapted to this kind of service, that we never felt any solicitude for their safety.
Lieut" Coggswell a Signal Officer of the army, was directed to report to me for duty, and furnished me with the means of constantly communicating with Gen Stevens, with a facility and rapidity unknown to the Naval Service. I take this opportunity of recommending that the Code of signals invented by Major Meyer, be at once introduced into the Navy.
I have the honor to be
U.S. Flag Ship Wabash
My Dear Sir
He is very desirous to have one of the new side wheel steamers with eleven inch guns.
Now, you may think it strange for me to offer any recommendation upon such a matter, but I trust you will pardon me for doing so.
Within the last month, I have been sent upon three expeditions, and have always had the good fortune to have Stevens with me, and to embark on board his vessel.
I have had the opportunity to observe the admirable manner in which he commands the Ottawa, and the skill with which she is always handled.
I have also been much struck by the attachment and confidence with which he had inspired his officers and men.
Moreover, I feel under great obligations to him for the cheerful, prompt, and most efficient support he has always given me. Therefore, I venture to write you in his behalf.
Those noble vessels you are about to commission will need able, energetic, and gallant commanders; and I doubt not, that you will exercise a wholesome eclecticism in their choice.
John Rodgers, will, I suppose, be prominently before you for one of the best of them, and Stevens and Ammen are men also, who in the war, have shown themselves up to the requirements of the times, and worthy of the confidence of the Department.
I remain faithfully Your friend
Hon G V. Fox
U.S. Flag Ship Wabash
My Dear Sir,
Lieut' Luce, with whom I served at the Naval School, and whose worth and loyalty and nerve were invaluable at Annapolis, when many faltered; and who also distinguished himself on the 7th of November, by his conduct and bearing, and skill, now goes North, to resume his duties at Newport, and will visit Washington to ask the Department to restore him to his proper place on the Register, which he earned in his Academic Course, but of which, he was deprived as a punishment for a boyish act
[The remainder of this letter as well as letterbook pages 38, 39, 40]
[The following two letters were in the letterbook after the January 9 letter.]
I beg leave to enclose a requisition and drawing for six nippers, to be used in getting our anchors. Those furnished the Ship were too light to serve their purpose during very heavy waves.
We found the same difficulty during the cruise of this Ship in the Mediterranean, and were compelled to have heavier nippers made in Genoa.
I respectfully request that new ones, made after the drawing, may be sent in the first supply vessel from New York.
I respectfully urge that this ship may be at the earliest possible moment, furnished with another rifle, but one of much greater weight than that now sent to Washington.
I am very respectfully
U.S. S. Pawnee
On board were several passengers with their baggage, and among them Asst" Surgeon H.G. Lungren [name unclear] of the Confederate forces.
We also captured a small Schooner. I left the 2d Launch of the Wabash to secure the drawbridge, and hold the passage during the night.
As soon as the prizes could be taken to Fernandina I left that place, in the Ottawa, with the armed cutters of the Wabash, and reached the town of St' Marys soon after midnight, which we at once proceeded to occupy.
At the time of our arrival, the place was held by a picket of cavalry, which made its escape; but we seized their horses and equipment.
The greater part of the inhabitants had left the town, some however, remain.
Leaving the Ottawa and one of the cutters of the Wabash in possession of St' Marys, I have returned to Fernandina.
I have to thank Lt" Comdg Stevens for very cordial and efficient cooperation. Asst" W.H. Dennis of the Coast Survey, accompanied me to St Marys, and rendered me much valuable aid.
I am very respectfully
U.S.S. Ship Wabash
Landing at the wharf, and enguiring(sic) for the chief authority, I was soon joined by the Mayor and conducted to the city hall where the municipal authorities were assembled.
I informed them that having come to restore the authority of the United States, you had deemed it more kind to send an unarmed boat to inform the citizens of your determination, than to occupy the town at once by force of arms. That you were desirous to calm any apprehension of harsh treatment that might exist in their minds, and that you would carefully respect the persons and property of all citizens who submitted to the authority of the United States. That you had a single purpose, to restore the state of affairs which existed before the rebellion.
I informed the municipal authorities, that so long as they respected the authorities of the government which we serve, and acted in good faith, municipal affairs would be left in their hands so far as might be consistent with the exigencies of the times.
The Mayor and council then informed me that the place had been evacuated the preceding night by two companies of Florida troops, and that they gladly received the assurances I gave them and placed the city in my hands.
I recommended them to hoist the flag of the Union at once, and in prompt accordance with this advice by order of the Mayor, the national ensign was displayed from the flag staff of the Fort.
The Mayor proposed to turn over to me the five cannon mounted at the fort, which are in good condition and not spiked, and also the few munitions of war left by the retreating enemy.
I desired him to take charge of them for the present, to make careful inventories, and establish a patrol and guard, informing him that he would be held responsible for the place until our forces should enter the harbor.
I called on the clergymen of the city requesting them to reassure their people, and to confide in our kind intentions to them. About fifteen hundred persons remain in St" Augustine, about one fifth of the inhabitants have fled.
I believe that there are many citizens who are earnestly attached to(sic) the Union, a large number who are silently opposed to it, and a still larger number who care very little about the matter.
I think that nearly all the men acquiesce in the condition of affairs we are now establishing.
There is much violent and pestilent feeling among the women, they seem to mistake treason for courage, and have a theatrical desire to figure as heroines.
Their minds have doubtless been filled with the falsehoods so industriously circulated in regard to the lust and hatred of our troops.
On the night before our arrival, a party of women assembled in front of the barracks and cut down the flag staff, in order that it might not be used to support the old flag.
The men seemed anxious to conciliate us in every way. There is a great scarcity of provisions in the place, there seems to be no money except the wretched paper currency of the rebellion, and much poverty exists.
In the water battery at the fort are three fine army thirty two pounders of 7,000 pounds, and two 8 inch sea coast howitzers of 5600 pounds, with shot and some powder.
There are a number of very old guns in the fort, useless and not mounted. Several good guns were taken away some months ago to arm batteries at other harbors.
The garrison of the place went from St Augustine at midnight on the 10th for Smyrna, where are said to be about eight hundred troops, a battery, the steamer Carolina and a considerable quantity of arms and ammunitions.
I am lead to believe that Musquito(sic) Inlet, upon which Smyrna is situated, has been much used for the introduction of arms from the Bahamas.
It is very positively stated that the Governor has ordered the abandonment of East Florida, and proposes to make a stand near Apalachicola.
When I attempted to return to the Wabash at 5. PM, the breakers had become so heavy as to render the bar absolutely impassable, though I had secured the services of the best pilot in the fort.
I crossed them this morning with much difficulty, having remained in the town all night.
Mr' Dennis, of the Coast Survey, who accompanied me, rendered me much valuable aid.
I have the honor to be
My Dear Sir,
About six weeks ago, he received from the Navy Department a very interesting memoir, which, although it had no signature, he attributed to your pen. The views contained in that paper, and its predictions, have been in no small degree sustained by the events of the last fortnight. Fernandina, Jacksonville and St Augustine are now in our hands. Many of their citizens remain in their homes; and in the two last places there are evidences of a strong Union feeling, smothered, repressed, somewhat timid but susceptible of being cherished into a very genial loyalty. In Jacksonville and St Augustine from three fourths to four fifths of the people remain. Many of them are heartily glad to be once more under the old flag. Many more are heartily tired of the disquiet, exactions, and misery of the rebellion, and there doubtless are many whose hearts and minds are full of treason. The Flag Officer has sought to allay all apprehension, has given the kindest assurance of protection both of person and property, and of his desire to deal as gently and generously as possible with all who may again live loyally under the government of the United States. The fears of the inhabitants seem in great measure removed but much tact, and much knowledge of the community is required to bring about a thorough, cordial and active return to their allegiance. The Flag Officer knows no one whose patriotism integrity and exact knowledge of Florida could render such good service in this neighbourhood at this juncture, as yours, and he directs me to express to you the satisfaction he should feel if you could leave your important duties at Key West and visit St Augustine and St Johns.
If he had an available steamer here he would at once dispatch her for you, but he begs that you will apply to the Commanding Naval Officer at Key West for transportation to this vicinity and he desires me to assure you that a steamer shall be detailed for your return. It is very important that the Union Party should be organized, armed, and reanimated. At present it seems full of suspicion that we shall again, at some future day, abandon it to the vengeance of the secessionists. A civilian of distinguished stature and character, like yourself, could reach their convictions much more readily than any of us men of the sword. Therefore, my dear sir, I trust that you may be able to add in this way another to the many services you have already rendered to the United States and to Florida.
It may perhaps be interesting to you if I give you a brief account of our movements during the last fortnight. A feint made upon Savannah in latter part of January, and a menacing position assumed at Nassau Sound during February, led the enemy to concentrate their troops at Savannah, and in order to consolidate their force and escape impending defeat upon the coast, they determined to evacuate Brunswick and Fernandina.
Of this we were not aware shen we sailed from Port Roayl, and we reached Fernandina during the evacuation, which became precipitate upon our approach, and caused the abandonment of much heavy ordnance, and the capture of the Steamer Darlington, loaded with military wagons, mules, forage etc. and carrying many passengers among whom were women and children. Not supposing that soldiers would fly until the women and children had been provided for, we fired upon the steamer believing it to contain troops. Fortunately no one was injured, and the vessel was finally captured by a Launch from this ship. I mention this, as it is susceptible of misrepresentation. The Captain, and owner, of the steamer, was besought by his passengers to hoist a white flag, but in his reckless eagerness to save his property, he wantonly disregarded the dictates of humanity and imperrilled(sic) the lives of helpless persons. He has been sent to the North as a prisoner. The defences(sic) of Fernandina were of the most formidable description. Thirty eight cannon of heavy caliber were in position, and so skillfully placed as to be little exposed to the fire of ships. The heaviest of these guns was a rifle carrying a shell of a hundred and twenty pounds. So difficult is the passage of the bar, without the ordinary aids of navigation, and so strong were the seaward defences(sic), that the place could have been captured by our Naval forces, only after immense loss, had the enemy stood firmly to their guns.
Gen Wright, with a portion of his brigade, supported by Com Drayton with a Naval force, now occupies this stronghold.
We reached Fernandina at sunset and the Ottawa, with the boats of the Wabash pushing on to St Marys, occupied that town at midnight, surprising a cavalry picket, the men of which made their escape, leaving their horses and equipments in our hands. Nearly all the white inhabitants have left St Marys.
On the 8th inst the Gunboats were dispatched to St Johns bar, but it was impossible to cross it until the 11th, when they entered the river and passing up stream found the saw-mills at Jacksonville, and a block of houses in flames. Their opportune arrival probably saved the remainder of the city from destruction?
The enemy had abandoned St Johns bluff, where were found heavy cannon and formidable means of defence(sic), and they had fled from Jacksonville also.
Hastily organizing the government there, and throwing into the town a New Hampshire battalion with two field guns from the Wabash, Lt Comdg Stevens pushed on to Picolata and Pilatka; since when we have no advices from him. The rebels destroyed a nearly finished gun boat upon the stocks; a foundry where its engine was being built; all the saw-mills, save one owned by an Englishman; and a million feet of lumber. They also fired the Judson house and the adjoining block.
In the mean time the Wabash and the Huron, having anchored before St Augustine, the Flag Officer sent a boat to summon the place to surrender, and the municipal authorities promptly hoisted the flag of the Union, and held the place for the United States until it could be occupied by our forces. An armed vessels(sic) with nine heavy guns, now holds the harbour and is anchored directly in front of the public square, while a company of marines and another of New Hampshire troops occupy the fort and the town. The flag officer has ordered the fine battalion of marines from Bay Point, under Lt Col" Reynolds, who will hold the place against all comers. There are about six hundred rebel troops at Smyrna, and as soon as we can get our Launches from the St Johns, the Flag Officer proposes to seize that point also. A Naval force under Commander Godon holds Brunswick, which is said to have been defended by strong covered works encased with rail-road iron.
I remain etc
Hon Wm Marvin
U.S. Flag Ship Wabash
I desire to inform you of the fact that you have not yet settled the account of Robert Nugent, Firemen, formerly employed on board the "Maple Leaf."
You will remember you promised to do so the morning after our conversation.
Nugest is now on board the "Weehawken" and will leave as soon as the weather will permit.
The above was sent under cover to Chief Quartermaster, Hilton Head So. Ca.
I am Colonel
Copy of Receipt.
Received from Captain H.W. Dale Thirty four dollars and Seventy Cents
(Signed) Robert (his mark) Nugent
August Kellis 1. Revolver Value $18.50
I would also inform you that three revolvers, belonging to this ship, were left on board the [unclear] Andrew, by some of the crew of our 5th Cutter, and I should be much obliged to you if you would cause your ship to be thoroughly searched, so as to recover the missing arms if possible. There can be no doubt that they were left there on board.
Mr Dickinson has one revolver belonging to this Ship - not included in the three referred to. If I can be of any service to you here I beg you to command me.
Act" Master L.A. Harris
Charges and Specifications of Charges, preferred against Harrison L. Eastman, Sea" on board the U.S.S. Wabash by Commander CRPRodgers, upon information furnished by Actg Lieut John S. Barnes
Sentence: Twenty days solitary confinement, on bread and water, first ten days to be in double irons, and last ten days to be in single irons, without tobacco - and loss of pay during confinement.
Charges and Specifications of Charges Preferred against John Franklyn Ord Sea on board the USS Wabash by Commander CRP Rodgers upon information furnished by Actg" Lieut" John S Barnes.
Charges and Specifications of Charges preferred against August Kellis, a Seaman on board the U.S.S. Wabash by Commander C.R.P. Rodgers, upon information furnished by Actg Lieut' John S. Barnes.
Sentence: Thirty days solitary confinement, in double irons, on bread and water, and loss of 3 months pay.
Charges and Specifications of Charges preferred against John W. Taylor, Quarter Gunner, on board the U.S.S. Wabash, by Commander C.R.P. Rodgers, upon information furnished by Actg" Lieut" John S. Barnes.
(Signed) CRP Rodgers
Sentence: Thirty days solitary confinement, in double irons, on bread and water, and loss of 3. months pay.
Approved: but the forfeiture of that portion of the pay of John W Taylor, which is assigned for the support of his family is hereby remitted.
Charges and Specifications of Charges, preferred against James Thompson, Sea" on board the USS Wabash by Commander CRPRodgers, upon information furnished by Act"g Master Louis Kempff
Sentence: Thirty days solitary confinement, on bread and water, in double irons, without tobacco, and loss of 3. months pay.
Approved: but the forfeiture of that portion of the Pay of James Thomson(sic) which is assigned for the support of his family, is hereby remitted.
You are hereby appointed Senior Member of a Summary Court Martial, which will convene upon the half-deck of this Ship, at 10 oclock on the morning of Monday, the 31st inst, for the trial of John Franklyn Ord Seaman, Harrison L. Eastman Sea, August Kellis Sea, and John W. Taylor Qtr Gunner.
Actg" Vol Lieut' W H West and Actg" Master John H. Rowland will be associated with you as members of the court, and Mr L.B Blydenburgh Commanders Clerk of the Wabash will act as Recorder. The Court will meet in Service Dress.
I am very respectfully
Lieut […] Corbin
Act"g Vol Lieut W. H. West and Actg Master John H. Rowland will be associated with you as members of the court, and Mr. L.B. Blydenburgh, Commanders Clerk of the Wabash will act as Recorder.
The Court will meet in Service dress.
Lieut Thomas G. Corbin
My dear Marchand.
I am so very tired that I can only write a line.
I will send you a coal vessel; Mr. Preston has gone to despatch one, which if possible Parrott will tow to Sea.
We hope to get the Ellen off for Stono [Inlet] to-morrow. I have just received a note from Gen Benham; there seems to be some hesitation as to the forward movement.
While the Commodore was gone, there were great complaints of his absence, "when it was so necessary that he should be consulted and his cooperation secured". He has now been here three full days, without a line or word from the military authorities, although he wrote the night of his arrival requesting to be informed if there was any plan on hand requiring his cooperation.
The Stono is to be the base of Army operations, therefore it is all important that we should hold and command it.
The Flag Officer will send you any reinforcements you may desire, which he can furnish.
Were we to give up the rivers there would be no end to the outcry from the Army, and should their projected plan fail, it would be attributed to the Short coming of the Navy.
I shall write to Benham to night, telling him of your embarrassment with the contrabands, and that if he wishes to occupy the line of the Stono, he had better do so at once. I begin to think it probably that they may consider that they have begun their movement prematurely.
They must go on with it I think our squadron will soon be largely reinforced from the Chesapeake and then we may do something purely Naval.
The Sumpter has been ordered to join you from Nassau.
The Huron takes up two barrels of oil for your Squadron. I will send more by the next Steamer.
In great haste, dear Marchand faithfully yours.
Letters sent by Capt. C. R. Perry Rodgers, commanding the Wabash, South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, Nov. 1861 - May 1863, Record Group 45: Records Collection of the Office of Naval Records and Library, Letter Books of U.S. Naval Officers, March 1778 - July 1908, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.
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