Thursday, February 28, 2013

February 28, 1863: U.S.S. Montauk destroys C.S.S. Nashville

C.S.S. Nashville

The C.S.S. Nashville was originally a United States Mail Service ship. She was a 1,200 ton, brig-rigged, side-paddle-wheel passenger steamer built at Greenpoint, Brooklyn in 1853. USMS Nashville blundered into Charleston after the fall of Fort Sumter, and the Confederates captured her and fitted her out as a commerce raider. She captured two prizes during her short career as a raider and then was sold for use as a blockade runner and renamed Thomas L. Wragg. Her deep draft limited her usefulness as a blockade runner and on November 5, 1862, she was commissioned as the privateer Rattlesnake. As Rattlesnake she was never able to get past the federal blockade and go to sea. On February 27, 1863, she ran aground in the Ogeechee River, Georgia. The next day, February 28, 1863, the monitor U.S.S. Montauk attacked the grounded vessel.
U.S. IRONCLAD MONTAUK,
Ogeechee River, Georgia, February 28, 1863.

SIR: I have the honor to report that yesterday evening the enemy's steamer Nashville was observed by me in motion above the battery known as Fort McAllister. A reconnoissance immediately made proved that in moving up the river she had grounded in that portion of the river known as the Seven-Mile Reach. Believing that I could, by approaching close to the battery, reach and destroy her with my battery, I moved up at daylight this morning, accompanied by the blockading fleet in these waters, consisting of the Seneca, Lieutenant-Commander Gibson, the Wissahickon, Lieutenant-Commander Davis, and the Dawn, Acting Lieutenant-Commander Barnes.

By moving up close to the obstructions in the river I was enabled, although under a heavy fire from the battery, to approach the Nashville, still aground, within the distance of 1,200 yards. A few well-directed shells determined the range, and soon [we] succeeded in striking her with XI-inch and XV-inch shells. The other gunboats maintained a fire from an enfilading position upon the battery, and the Nashville at long range. I soon had the satisfaction of observing that the Nashville had caught fire from the shells exploding in her in several places, and in less than twenty minutes she was caught in flames forward, aft, and amidships. At 9:20 a.m. a large pivot gun mounted abaft her foremast exploded from the heat; at 9:40 her smoke chimney went by the board, and at 9:55 her magazine exploded with terrific violence, shattering her in smoking ruins. Nothing remains of her.

The battery kept up a continuous fire upon this vessel, but struck her but five times, doing no damage whatever. The fire upon the other gunboats was wild, and did them no damage whatever. After assuring myself of the complete destruction of the Nashville, I, preceded by the wooden vessels, dropped down beyond the range of the enemy's guns. In so doing a torpedo exploded under this vessel, inflicting, however, but little injury.

I beg leave, therefore, to congratulate you, sir, upon this final disposition of a vessel which has so long been in the minds of the public as a troublesome pest.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

JOHN L. WORDEN,
Commanding, Senior Officer Present.

Rear-Admiral S. F. Du PONT,
Cmdq. South Atlantic Blockdq. Squadron, Port Royal, S.C.

Inside U.S.S. Montauk's turret; note the difference in size between the 11-inch gun
on the left and the massive 15-inch gun on the right side of the turret.

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