Civil War Blockade Strategy Board Sixth Report

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The Civil War Blockade Strategy Board: Sixth Report

19 September 1861 — ORN, I, volume 16, pages 680–681. ORN (Official records, navies). Officially known as the Official records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion.

Considers Ship Island and the lower Mississippi River in greater detail than report of 9 August. (See The Civil War Blockade Strategy Board Reports.)
Sixth Report: ORN, I, vol. 16, pp. 680–681

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 19, 1861.
Secretary of the Navy:

SIR: On page 25 of our fifth memoir, we had the honor to say that we should furnish some additional memoranda concerning--


(1) Ship Island; (2) The Fork of the Mississippi; and (3) Fort Livingston, Barataria Bay.


This information, which is chiefly of a military character, is herewith submitted:


1. Ship Island: The work on Ship Island is circular (diameter about 200 feet) and is intended to have one tier of 18 or 20 guns in casemate and another in barbette. It was to be surrounded by a wet ditch. In the actual condition in which it was left the walls were raised somewhat about the level of the parade. The wet ditch was not formed (except so far as the necessary excavation to get in the foundations of the scarp wall may have made one). No arches nor cover of any kind existed, nor were the embrasures in the scarp wall completed.


Since the place has been held by the secessionists, it is likely they have tried to avail themselves of the existing work, but it is probable that the utmost they have done is to throw up sand parapets inside of the unfinished scarp, in which case the work would be no stronger than an unflanked fieldwork of strong profile. As vessels drawing 18 feet may nearly surround the work, choosing their own distance, it is not likely it can resist a naval bombardment. A naval expedition must be accompanied by a small body of troops prepared to land to assist if necessary) in the capture, and to hold it when taken.


2. Fork of the Mississippi: It is not supposed that the seizing of the Head of the Passes would be attended with any difficulty, or even be resisted. We have no information of any defensive works below the strong permanent works, Jackson and St. Philip.


But it is likely that the permanent holding of this important point so near the great city of New Orleans, this hermetically closing of the great outlet of the Southwestern States, would invite the most determined attacks.


The naval force permanently maintained here should be strong, and doubtless here, if anywhere, is the place for ironclad ships, which, unless a permanent obstruction (in our opinion impracticable) is placed across the river, could run the gantlet of the forts above and attack New Orleans. To give mobility to the squadron, and to secure a depot of coal and other supplies, a strong fieldwork for 2,000 men should be constructed on the point between the South West and South Passes, if the ground will permit, as it probably will. Should this not be the case, well-armed hulks, anchored near the shores, must be resorted to. They might be useful even if a fieldwork should be built. They would aid in commanding the Passes, and furnish quarters for troops who need not, in general, be kept in the work. Among the means of attack, fire ships and explosive vessels will figure conspicuously. The conference should state that in all the plans of operations and estimates of forces necessary, it has had in view to give the Government some basis by which to judge of the magnitude and requirements of the things it has to undertake.


It would be a great mistake, without regard to circumstances, the time of the expedition, and state of the country, to take such estimates and plans as rigid. The officer who fits out and commands such expeditions must have the most recent information of the state of the enemy; he must study each locality himself, and (when fortifications are to be attacked) be furnished with the plans of the Engineer Bureau and all accessible information as to the actual condition of the works, etc.


8. Fort Livingston and Barataria Bay: Fort Livingston is a small, diamond-shaped work. Its two land faces are covered by a counter-scarp and glacis, and the faces of the work are flanked by a counter-scarp gallery and casemates. There are ample casemate accommodations for the garrison within the work, but no gun casemates.


When the work was suspended (many years ago, owing to settlement) its breast-height walls and parapets were partially formed. No gun platforms had been built, but it is believed the stone was procured for them and is on hand. No guns were on hand. It is likely that the rebels have mounted some heavy guns on the ramparts of this work, and that they have armed the flanking casemates. It is probable the work would require a short siege.


The places, though so near New Orleans, are in communication with it only by small boats and very light-draft steamers.


It is likely that a regiment would be sufficient for a disembarking force and for the holding of the place in conjunction with the gunboats, which must necessarily be kept permanently here. A large number of launches, armed with boat howitzers, would be necessary in these waters. The character of the naval force sent for the capture would be governed by the fact that nothing drawing more than 8 feet can cross the bar or he outside within 2 or 3 miles of the work. The cooperating squadron must, therefore, consist of vessels of small draft, and must, in getting into positions to cannonade the work, cross the bar and be subjected in approaching to a raking fire.


Very respectfully, your most obedient servants,

Captain, U. S. Navy, President.
Superintendent, U. S. Coast Survey, Member.
Major, U. S. Engineers, Member.
Commander, U. S. Navy, Member and Secretary.

Recommended Reading: Naval Campaigns of the Civil War. Description: This analysis of naval engagements during the War Between the States presents the action from the efforts at Fort Sumter during the secession of South Carolina in 1860, through the battles in the Gulf of Mexico, on the Mississippi River, and along the eastern seaboard, to the final attack at Fort Fisher on the coast of North Carolina in January 1865. This work provides an understanding of the maritime problems facing both sides at the beginning of the war, their efforts to overcome these problems, and their attempts, both triumphant and tragic, to control the waterways of the South. The Union blockade, Confederate privateers and commerce raiders are discussed, as is the famous battle between the Monitor and the Merrimack. Continued below…

An overview of the events in the early months preceding the outbreak of the war is presented. The chronological arrangement of the campaigns allows for ready reference regarding a single event or an entire series of campaigns. Maps and an index are also included. About the Author: Paul Calore, a graduate of Johnson and Wales University, was the Operations Branch Chief with the Defense Logistics Agency of the Department of Defense before retiring. He is a supporting member of the U.S. Civil War Center and the Civil War Preservation Trust and has also written Land Campaigns of the Civil War (2000). He lives in Seekonk, Massachusetts.

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Recommended Reading: Naval Strategies of the Civil War: Confederate Innovations and Federal Opportunism. Description: One of the most overlooked aspects of the American Civil War is the naval strategy played out by the U.S. Navy and the fledgling Confederate Navy, which may make this the first book to compare and contrast the strategic concepts of the Southern Secretary of the Navy Stephen R. Mallory against his Northern counterpart, Gideon Welles. Both men had to accomplish much and were given great latitude in achieving their goals. Mallory's vision of seapower emphasized technological innovation and individual competence as he sought to match quality against the Union Navy's (quantity) numerical superiority. Welles had to deal with more bureaucratic structure and to some degree a national strategy dictated by the White House. Continued below...

The naval blockade of the South was one of his first tasks - for which he had but few ships available - and although he followed the national strategy, he did not limit himself to it when opportunities arose. Mallory's dedication to ironclads is well known, but he also defined the roles of commerce raiders, submarines, and naval mines. Welles's contributions to the Union effort were rooted in his organizational skills and his willingness to cooperate with the other military departments of his government. This led to successes through combined army and naval units in several campaigns on and around the Mississippi River


Recommended Reading: A History of the Confederate Navy (Hardcover). From Publishers Weekly: One of the most prominent European scholars of the Civil War weighs in with a provocative revisionist study of the Confederacy's naval policies. For 27 years, University of Genoa history professor Luraghi (The Rise and Fall of the Plantation South) explored archival and monographic sources on both sides of the Atlantic to develop a convincing argument that the deadliest maritime threat to the South was not, as commonly thought, the Union's blockade but the North's amphibious and river operations. Confederate Navy Secretary Stephen Mallory, the author shows, thus focused on protecting the Confederacy's inland waterways and controlling the harbors vital for military imports. Continued below…

As a result, from Vicksburg to Savannah to Richmond, major Confederate ports ultimately were captured from the land and not from the sea, despite the North's overwhelming naval strength. Luraghi highlights the South's ingenuity in inventing and employing new technologies: the ironclad, the submarine, the torpedo. He establishes, however, that these innovations were the brainchildren of only a few men, whose work, although brilliant, couldn't match the resources and might of a major industrial power like the Union. Nor did the Confederate Navy, weakened through Mallory's administrative inefficiency, compensate with an effective command system. Enhanced by a translation that retains the verve of the original, Luraghi's study is a notable addition to Civil War maritime history. Includes numerous photos.


Recommended Reading: The Rebel Raiders: The Astonishing History of the Confederacy's Secret Navy (American Civil War). From Booklist: DeKay's modest monograph pulls together four separate stories from the naval aspects of the American Civil War. All have been told before but never integrated as they are here. The first story is that of James Bulloch, the Confederate agent who carefully and capably set out to have Confederate commerce raiders built in neutral England. Continued below...

The second is that of the anti-American attitudes of British politicians, far more extreme than conventional histories let on, and U.S. Ambassador Charles Francis Adams' heroic fight against them. The third is a thoroughly readable narrative of the raider Alabama and her capable, quirky captain, Raphael Semmes. The final story is about the Alabama claims--suits for damages done to the U.S. merchant marine by Confederate raiders, which became the first successful case of international arbitration. Sound and remarkably free of fury, DeKay's commendable effort nicely expands coverage of the naval aspects of the Civil War.

Recommended Reading: Lifeline of the Confederacy: Blockade Running During the Civil War (Studies in Maritime History Series). From Library Journal: From the profusion of books about Confederate blockade running, this one will stand out for a long time as the most complete and exhaustively researched. …Wise sets out to provide a detailed study, giving particular attention to the blockade runners' effects on the Confederate war effort. It was, he finds, tapping hitherto unused sources, absolutely essential, affording the South a virtual lifeline of military necessities until the war's last days. This book covers it all: from cargoes to ship outfitting, from individuals and companies to financing at both ends. An indispensable addition to Civil War literature.


Recommended Reading: Lincoln and His Admirals (Hardcover). Description: Abraham Lincoln began his presidency admitting that he knew "little about ships," but he quickly came to preside over the largest national armada to that time, not eclipsed until World War I. Written by prize-winning historian Craig L. Symonds, Lincoln and His Admirals unveils an aspect of Lincoln's presidency unexamined by historians until now, revealing how he managed the men who ran the naval side of the Civil War, and how the activities of the Union Navy ultimately affected the course of history. Continued below…

Beginning with a gripping account of the attempt to re-supply Fort Sumter--a comedy of errors that shows all too clearly the fledgling president's inexperience--Symonds traces Lincoln's steady growth as a wartime commander-in-chief. Absent a Secretary of Defense, he would eventually become de facto commander of joint operations along the coast and on the rivers. That involved dealing with the men who ran the Navy: the loyal but often cranky Navy Secretary Gideon Welles, the quiet and reliable David G. Farragut, the flamboyant and unpredictable Charles Wilkes, the ambitious ordnance expert John Dahlgren, the well-connected Samuel Phillips Lee, and the self-promoting and gregarious David Dixon Porter. Lincoln was remarkably patient; he often postponed critical decisions until the momentum of events made the consequences of those decisions evident. But Symonds also shows that Lincoln could act decisively. Disappointed by the lethargy of his senior naval officers on the scene, he stepped in and personally directed an amphibious assault on the Virginia coast, a successful operation that led to the capture of Norfolk. The man who knew "little about ships" had transformed himself into one of the greatest naval strategists of his age. A unique and riveting portrait of Lincoln and the admirals under his command, this book offers an illuminating account of Lincoln and the nation at war. In the bicentennial year of Lincoln's birth, it offers a memorable portrait of a side of his presidency often overlooked by historians.

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