The U. S. Navy and the Naval Battles of Charleston, 1863

By Syd Overall
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2014, All Rights Reserved

Editor’s note: This article is adapted from a presentation made by the author to the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable on February 12, 2014.


The Union Blockade

The Confederate bombardment of Fort Sumter was a 33-hour, one-sided ordeal which triggered the War of the Rebellion. Within a week, the basic policies of the war were determined. Two days after the surrender of the fort, President Abraham Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteer troops from loyal states to preserve the Union against the insurrection of seven Deep South States organized as the Confederate States of America. Four Upper South slave states then declared for secession. Two days later, Confederate President Jefferson Davis proclaimed the issuance of letters of marque to private ship owners to be Confederate privateers to attack United States non-combatant ship owners following the American practice in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Lincoln then proclaimed a blockade of the Confederacy. Three weeks after the insurrection at Charleston, on May 6, the Confederate Congress formally declared war on the United States.

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The Life and Death of H.L. Hunley

By Greg Pizzuto
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2008, All Rights Reserved

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in The Charger in the fall of 2001.


Horace Lawson Hunley, a lawyer and planter from New Orleans, understood the importance of the shipping trade to his beloved Confederacy. Hunley and his two partners, James McClintock and Baxter Watson, set out to create a three-man vessel that would travel underwater to assist in keeping the vital shipping lanes open for trade with Europe.

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Intrepid Mariners: John Winslow of the USS Kearsarge & Raphael Semmes of the CSS Alabama

By John C. Fazio
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2008, All Rights Reserved

March 9 to 27, 1847. Polk’s nasty little war of conquest against our southern neighbor was on. (“We had to have California.”) This was the war that Ulysses S. Grant would later characterize, in his memoirs, as “…one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation,” the war that he believed led directly and consequentially to our national fratricide, which he saw as “punishment” for our “transgressions.” General Winfield Scott (“Old Fuss and Feathers”) commenced his expedition against Mexico City by laying siege to Vera Cruz, which he took on March 27, overcoming stiff resistance.

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One War at a Time, Again: The Chesapeake Affair

By David A. Carrino, Roundtable Historian
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2014-2015, All Rights Reserved

Editor’s note: This article was the history brief for the March 2015 meeting of the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable.


During the Civil War the United States Navy committed a maritime violation of British sovereignty, which caused a serious international diplomatic incident and which led some in the British Empire to call for war against the U.S. This statement can refer to the November 1861 incident involving the British steamer Trent and the U.S. warship San Jacinto in what came to be known as the Trent Affair, but everyone who is interested in the Civil War knows about the Trent Affair. This statement can also refer to the less widely known December 1863 incident involving the Nova Scotian vessel Investigator and the U.S. gunboat Ella and Annie in what came to be known as the Chesapeake Affair.

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The Civil War, Chapter 17, Verses 1-51

By David A. Carrino, Roundtable Historian
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2014-2015, All Rights Reserved

Editor’s note: This article was the history brief for the October 2014 meeting of the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable.


The Philistines gathered together their armies to battle, and Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together. A champion went out of the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, whose height was six cubits and a span. He stood and cried unto the armies of Israel, “Choose you a man for you, and let him come down to me.” All the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were afraid. David said to Saul, “Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” David took his staff in his hand and chose five smooth stones out of the brook and put them in a shepherd’s bag which he had, and he drew near to the Philistine. David put his hand in his bag, took thence a stone, and slung it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, and he fell upon his face to the earth. David ran and stood upon the Philistine, drew his sword out of the sheath, and slew Goliath.

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Repositioning History’s Demarcations

By David A. Carrino, Roundtable Historian
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2014-2015, All Rights Reserved

Editor’s note: This article was the history brief for the September 2014 meeting of the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable.


In the early morning hours of April 12, 1861, a projectile from a cannon that may or may not have been fired by Edmund Ruffin flew toward Fort Sumter and became the first shot of the Civil War. The Fort Sumter garrison, which consisted of fewer than 100 men, was commanded by Major Robert Anderson and included among its officers Abner Doubleday, the mythical inventor of baseball. After the garrison endured a bombardment of over 30 hours, Anderson agreed to surrender the fort. On April 14 the Fort Sumter garrison evacuated the fort, but not until after the troops fired a salute. During this salute, a cannon misfired and killed Daniel Hough, which gave him the unfortunate distinction of being the first person to die in the Civil War.

For the most part, this very brief account of the Battle of Fort Sumter is factual. There is some dispute about whether or not Edmund Ruffin fired the first shot of the Civil War, but there is no dispute that the first shot occurred on April 12, 1861, and there is no dispute that the first person to die in the Civil War was Daniel Hough. Or is there? There are some who claim that the first shot of the Civil War was fired more than three months before shots were fired on Fort Sumter, that this first shot was fired by George Edward Haynsworth, and that the first person to die in the war was Robert L. Holmes.

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A Civil War First, or Not

By David A. Carrino, Roundtable Historian
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2015-2016, All Rights Reserved

Editor’s note: This article was the history brief for the September 2015 meeting of the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable.


If a person-on-the-street quiz were done in Cleveland, and the participants were asked to name the inventor of the automobile, the most frequent answer would almost certainly be Henry Ford. This same answer would almost surely be most frequent if the quiz were given in New York or Atlanta or Los Angeles or definitely Detroit. But the answer would be different if the quiz were given in Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, or certainly Mannheim. In Germany the inventor of the automobile is Karl Benz, and in reality Benz beat Ford by 11 years in the creation of an automobile. Sometimes, for reasons that are not entirely clear, inaccurate assignments are made to historical firsts. There are many historical firsts that are associated with the Civil War. For instance, as some, perhaps many, Civil War enthusiasts know, or think they know, the first submarine of the Civil War was the H.L. Hunley. Even Shelby Foote said so in Volume 2 of his Civil War trilogy when he wrote about the Hunley, “She was, in short, the world’s first submarine.” Or was she?

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The Man Whose Torpedoes Farragut Damned

By David A. Carrino, Roundtable Historian
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2017-2018, All Rights Reserved

Editor’s note: This article was the history brief for the September 2017 meeting of the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable.


One of the most famous quotes in U.S. naval history purportedly occurred at the Battle of Mobile Bay in August 1864, when Union Admiral David Farragut famously ordered, or maybe did not order, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.” Whether or not Farragut actually said these exact words, this quote has become one of the most esteemed wartime quotes in U.S. history, because it embodies the qualities of bravery and determination to press on even in the face of life-threatening danger. Farragut certainly deserves much credit for making this decision and for stating his decision in such forceful and memorable language. However, Farragut does not deserve all of the credit for this superb quote. In fact, some of the credit for this quote should go to a Confederate general. It may not be clear why a general in the Confederate army deserves some of the credit for something that was said by a Union admiral in a naval battle. The reason is that, without this Confederate general, there would not have been any torpedoes for David Farragut to damn, because it was a Confederate general, Gabriel J. Rains, who was chiefly responsible for the torpedoes in Mobile Bay and in other places that the Confederacy protected with torpedoes. (Gabriel Rains’ younger brother, George, also made an indispensable contribution to the Confederate war effort by implementing and overseeing the production of gunpowder. George Rains is the focus of the October 2017 history brief, which is titled The Chief Chemist of the Confederacy.)

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