“All our shots were good line shots”: USS Patapsco dispatches a blockade runner

With the sunrise on November 5, 1864, the Federals outside Charleston harbor once again noticed a familiar site off Sullivan’s Island – a grounded blockade runner.  The grounded ship presented a target to the gunners on Morris Island.  But sensing those weapons were firing ineffectively, Rear-Admiral John Dahlgren ordered the USS Patapsco to action.  Lieutenant-Commander John Madigan filed this report of the day’s work:

In obedience to your signal at 9 a.m. of this day, I opened fire upon the small sloop that was on the beach in front of Fort Moultrie. As I was at anchor at the time, and laying stern toward the sloop, I commenced firing with the 12-pounder Dahlgren howitzer, hitting twice in thirteen shots. We were then about 2,700 yards distant from the sloop.  I concluded the 150-pounder rifle would make shorter work of the destruction in view, on account of the size of its projectile, so I got underway and steamed around to bring the 150-poundr rifle into play and commenced firing with it at the sloop. I was now fired upon by Fort Moultrie, the enemy using shells and shot which would certainly have hit this vessel had she not been continually changing her position by steaming and drifting; one shell burst nearly over us and two pieces struck the vessel, doing no damage beyond staving the gig slightly and bruising one of the torpedo spars. Finding us so hard to hit the enemy ceased after firing a few shots. When I had fired ten shots with the 150-pounder rifle I anchored at my station, in obedience to signal, having struck the sloop once and set her on fire.

The Patapsco fired 23 shots between the two guns used, scoring only three hits.  Madigan did not use his XV-inch gun, as that was reserved only for Confederate ironclads.  And we might also note the need to maneuver the monitor in order to bring the Parrott rifle in play.  As mentioned, shore batteries from either side also fired widely that day.  Was it just a bad day for the gunners all around?  Maybe the weather had a lot to do with it, as Madigan further explained:

All our shots were good line shots, but being in a strong tideway it was difficult to keep the vessel steady so as to preserve our aim.

But those three hits did the work, as the ship was burning when the Patapsco moved back on station. Madigan went on to say at the close of his report that the ship appeared to be loaded with cotton and turpentine.  Such indicates the sloop was out-bound instead of running in.

The Charleston Mercury mentioned the destruction of a blockade runner which may be the same, though some particulars varied:

The schooner Mary was captured and burned on Saturday afternoon by the enemy, off Morris Island. About 35 bales of cotton were saved, while about one hundred bales of cotton and thirty-five boxes of tobacco were lost.

Once again, the blockade had worked.  Though not quite as efficiently as designed.

(Citations from ORN, Series I, Volume 16, page 42; Charleston Mercury, November 7, 1864, Page 2, Column 1.)

One thought on ““All our shots were good line shots”: USS Patapsco dispatches a blockade runner

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s