The Civil War Blockade Strategy Board: First Report
5 July 1861 — ORN, I, volume 12, pages 195–198. ORN (Official
records, navies). Officially known as the Official records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion.
WASHINGTON, D.C., July 5, 1861.
Honorable GIDEON WELLES,
of the Navy:
SIR: We have the honor to inform you that the conference, in compliance with your wishes, communicated through
Captain Du Pont, has had under consideration that part of your letter of instructions of the 25th ultimo which relates to
the necessity of occupying two or more points on the Atlantic coast, Fernandina being particularly mentioned as one of those
It seems to be indispensable that there should
exist a convenient coal depot on the southern extremity of the line of Atlantic blockades, and it occurs to the conference
that if this coal depot were suitably selected it might be used not only as a depot for coal, but as a depot of provisions
and common stores, as a harbor of refuge, and as a general rendezvous, or headquarters, for that part of the coast.
We separate in our minds the two enterprises
of a purely military expedition and an expedition the principal design of which is the establishment of a naval station for
promoting the efficiency of the blockade. We shall have the honor to present plans for both expeditions; but we will begin
with the latter, premising, however, that we think both of them should be conducted simultaneously.
Fernandina is, by its position, obviously
the most desirable point for a place of deposit, answering at one end of the line, to Hampton Roads at the other. In addition
to its position in this respect it enjoys several other advantages almost peculiar to itself and well suited to the object
It has 14 feet of water on the bar at low
water and 20 at high water, a convenient depth for all steam vessels of the Navy either propelled by screws or rode wheels,
rated as "second-class steam sloops," and under; for all of those rated as "first-class steam sloops," which are propelled
by screws, and by most of the same class propelled by side wheels when light, and by all the newly purchased and chartered
steamers of every description, with the exception, perhaps, of one or two of the very largest mail-packet steamers, when deeply
These depths are perfectly convenient for
the new sloops and gunboats now on the stocks, and for the ordinary merchant vessels purchased or chartered for freight.
The main ship channel over St. Mary's Bar
into Fernandina Harbor, though not direct, is by
no means tortuous or difficult. It is easily defined by buoys, and a range by means of beacons renders the passage of the
bar itself secure. A steam tug will always be at hand to take in sailing vessels when necessary.
Inside of the bar there is an unlimited extent
of deep-water accommodation, and also the protection of smooth water before reaching the landlocked basins.
The anchorage in Amelia River possesses the quiet and safety
of an enclosed dock. Repairs of all kinds may be carried on there without the fear of accidents arising from motion of the
The town of Fernandina and the wharves and depots of the Florida Railroad Company furnish conveniences
the value of which need not be enlarged upon. If the seizure were conducted so suddenly as to prevent the destruction of property
and buildings (which it would [be] difficult to replace), the facilities for landing and storing coal and other materials
will be found ready for use.
Another feature of this port, and one which
has appeared to us to be of sufficient importance to engage your particular attention, is the isolated position of Fernandina
territorially and in population. Fernandina is on an island, bounded by the ocean on one side, and having on the other an
interior, poor and uninviting in all respects, sparse in population, remote from large cities or centers of military occupation,
and not easily accessible by railroad or water communication.
By the census of 1850 the population of Fernandina
was about 600; it is now 1,000. St. Mary's was about 700; Darien was about 550; Jacksonville
was about 1,145; St. Augustine was about 1,934.
The distance by water from Fernandina to St.
Mary's is 9 miles; Fernandina to Brunswick is 35 miles; Fernandina to Darien is 51 miles; Fernandina, by railroad, to Baldwin
is 47 miles; from Baldwin to Jacksonville is 20 miles, and from Fernandina, by water, to Savannah, 120 miles; Fernandina,
by water, to Charleston, ---- miles; Fernandina, by railroad, to Cedar Keys, 154 miles, and from Fernandina to Tallahassee,
by the railroad to the Baldwin Junction (Alligator), nearly 200 miles (192).
With all the above-mentioned places there
is water communication, except Cedar Keys, Tallahassee, and
the railroad stations between them. But it is apparent that any military opposition of weight must come from Savannah
and Charleston, and principally through Cumberland Sound,
and the depth (less than 10 feet in some places) of this line of interior navigation would require the transportation of the
troops in the light steamers that are employed there. These steamers are so light and devoid of shelter that an expedition
would hardly be undertaken if Amelia Island
were properly garrisoned.
The environs of Fernandina form a natural
protection against an attack by land. They consist of marsh and sand, which alone compose the shores of the rivers and bayous.
We are careful to avoid making this communication
unnecessarily long by entering upon a comparison of Fernandina with other places in the same region of coast, such as Brunswick,
for example, which is now connected by railroad with Savannah, and being more in the interior is less healthy; or St. John's
entrance, which could be easily fortified against us, and has an insuperable objection in its bar; but we take pains to say
that such comparisons have formed a large part of our study of the whole subject.
We have not spoken of the peculiar advantages
of Fernandina as a depot and naval station without attaching a meaning to the word.
Although an open and rapid communication with
the Gulf of Mexico by the Florida Railroad to Cedar Keys, accomplished in eleven hours, would
undoubtedly be desirable, still it has not entered into our project to recommend the maintenance of this communication. To
do so would employ a force disproportioned to the possible benefit to be derived from it. The Central Railroad to Tallahassee, which connects with this road at Baldwin, is completed as far as Alligator, and for a certain
distance from Tallahassee east, about 20 miles. The country
on the line of the road is thickly wooded and has few inhabitants. A road of such length (154 miles) in an obscure and inhospitable
district may be easily rendered impassable.
Fort Clinch is not thought to be defensible in its present condition,
and the sand batteries on the shore can probably be easily turned.
The water is so smooth in ordinary times,
on the outer shore of Amelia Island, that a landing can be effected there with facility, and will, in our opinion, be advisable
at more than one point. This landing can not be covered by large ships, especially such as the screw frigates. Vessels of
small draft must be selected for this duty, and when the points of landing are fixed upon the lines of approach for the covering
vessels must be distinctly traced out.
The Florida Railroad from the west shore of Amelia Island,
across the river, is built on piles for the distance of about 1 mile, similar to the long bridges across the Bush and Gunpowder.
When the attack is made, one or more small
gunboats might take the back entrance through Nassau Inlet and Sound and prevent the destruction of this bridge by the rebels.
Nassau entrance is, no doubt, unguarded, Nassau Bar has only
5 feet on it, and even this depth is not to be relied upon. A rapid survey immediately preceding the attack will correct any
misapprehension on this point; launches may therefore be employed.
The preservation of this trestle bridge is
worth an effort; the remainder of the road can be replaced with less cost, because it runs through a naturally level country.
It is estimated that 3,000 men would take
and hold the place, with the assistance of such force as could be furnished by the fleet. After the place was taken a portion
of the defensive force would be found on board the vessels in port. Thus the number of troops to be added to the marines and
seamen employed in the attack and subsequent defense would not probably at any time exceed this number of 3,000.
The details of the expedition to Fernandina,
if decided upon, will fall under the several bureaus of the War and Navy Departments and the chiefs of the expedition, to
whom the conference will be always ready to offer such information and make such suggestions as may result from their careful
study of the ground.
The sailing directions for the port of Fernandina,
the instructions for the disposition of the buoys and beacons, the outer and inner anchorages, the pilotage, and the meteorology
of this section of the coast, will be hereafter furnished by the conference from the archives of the Coast Survey.
It is known that Fernandina is healthy and
that it can supply wood-and water in abundance. Its market supplies remain to be developed.
Finally, we will repeat the remark made in
the beginning of this report, that we think this expedition to Fernandina should be undertaken simultaneously with a similar
expedition having a purely military character.
We are preparing a brief report on the latter,
which we shall have the honor to submit in a few days.
S. F. DU PONT,
Captain, U. S. Navy,
J. G. BARNARD,
S. Engineers, Member.
A. D. BACHE,
Superintendent U. S. Coast Survey, Member.
C. H. DAVIS,
Commander, U. S. Navy, Member and
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…
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.
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 (USN) and
the Merrimack (CSN). Continued below…
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.
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.
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,
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.
Reading: American Civil War
Fortifications (1): Coastal brick and stone forts (Fortress). Description: The 50 years before the American Civil War saw a boom in the construction of coastal forts
in the United States of America. These
stone and brick forts stretched from New England to the Florida Keys, and as far as the Mississippi River.
At the start of the war some were located in the secessionist states, and
many fell into Confederate hands. Although a handful of key sites remained in Union hands throughout the war, the remainder
had to be won back through bombardment or assault. This book examines the design, construction and operational history of
those fortifications, such as Fort Sumter, Fort
Morgan and Fort Pulaski, which played a crucial part in the course of the Civil War.
Recommended Reading: Graveyard of the Atlantic: Shipwrecks of the North
Carolina Coast (The University
of North Carolina Press). Description: This outstanding
research of the shipwrecks off the North Carolina Coast includes: a detailed listing of shipwrecks along the North Carolina
Coast and Outer Banks; detailed accounts of most of the shipwrecks and, in some cases, the author gives extensive details,
e.g., he devotes a chapter to the Steam Packet Pulaski. Continued below...
The author provides a chronological listing at the end of the book, a detailed index, and descriptive drawings
of the various types of ships along with a map of the area. For anyone interested in ships, shipwrecks, the NC Outer Banks,
then this is a great read.