Thursday, January 31, 2013

January 31, 1863: CSS Chicora and CSS Palmetto State raid the Federal blockade

A rare photograph of C.S.S. Chicora.

On January 31, 1863, C.S.S. Chicora and CSS Palmetto State raided the Federal blockading squadron off of Charleston, South Carolina.  Here how John R. Tucker, commander of the C.S.S. Chicora described the action.
C.S.S. CHICORA, January 31, 1863.

Sir: In obedience to your order I got underway at 11:30 p.m. yesterday and stood down the harbor in company with the C.S.S. Palmetto State, bearing your flag. We crossed the bar at 4:40 a.m. and commenced the action at 5:20 a.m. by firing into a schooner-rigged propeller, which we set on fire and have every reason to believe sunk, as she was nowhere to be seen at daylight. We then engaged a large side-wheel steamer, twice our length from us on the port bow, firing three shots into her with telling effect, when she made a run for it. This vessel was supposed to be the Quaker City. We then engaged a schooner-rigged propeller and a large side-wheel steamer, partially crippling both, and setting the latter on fire, causing her to strike her flag; at this time the latter vessel, supposed to be the Keystone State, was completely at my mercy, I having taken position astern, distant some 200 yards. I at once gave the order to cease firing upon her, and directed Lieutenant Bier, first lieutenant of the Chicora, to man a boat and take charge of the prize; if possible, to save her; if that was not possible, to rescue her crew. While the boat was in the act of being manned I discovered that she was endeavoring to make her escape by working her starboard wheel, the other being disabled, her colors being down. I at once started in pursuit and renewed the engagement. Owing to her superior steaming qualities she soon widened the distance to some 200 yards. She then hoisted her flag and commenced firing her rifled guns, her commander, by this faithless act, placing himself beyond the pale of civilized and honorable warfare. The Keystone State did not surrender, rescue or no rescue, and her escape ought probably to be regarded as a rescue. We next engaged two schooners, one brig, and one bark-rigged propeller, but not having the requisite speed were unable to bring them to close quarters. We pursued them 6 or 7 miles seaward. During the latter part of the combat I was engaged at long range with a bark-rigged steam sloop of war, but in spite of all our efforts was unable to bring her to close quarters, owing to her superior steaming qualities. At 7:30 a.m., in obedience to your orders, we stood inshore, leaving the partially crippled and fleeing enemy about 7 miles clear of the bar, standing to the southward and eastward. At 8 a.m., in obedience to signal, we anchored in 4 fathoms water off the Beach Channel. it gives me pleasure to testify to the good conduct and efficiency of the officers and crew of the Chicora. I am particularly indebted to the pilots, Messrs. Payne and Aldert, for the skillful pilotage of the vessel. It gives me pleasure to report that I have no injuries or casualties.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

J.R. TUCKER,
Commander, C. S. Navy.

Flag-Officer D. N. INGRAHAM, C.S. Navy,
Commanding Station, Charleston, S.C.
The faithless Union vessel that surrendered and then made a run for it when the Chicora steamed away was the U.S.S. Mercedita.

U.S.S. Mercedita

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