Captain George Holmes arrived at Savannah, Georgia, with Co A of the CS Marines on September 18, 1861, following which he probably supplied ships' guards for the so-called "Mosquito Fleet" commanded by Flag Officer Josiah Tattnall, which consisted of the converted river steamboat Savannah, the converted tug boat Sampson, the screw steamer Lady Davis, and the transport Resolute. With the approach of the Federal fleet to the bar of Port Royal, SC, on November 4, these four tiny vessels steamed out of the Savannah River and along the coast. Finding the enemy, "forty-four sail strong," off the mouth of the Port Royal Entrance, they fired shots at long range for about 40 minutes before retiring inside the harbor. They bravely repeated this tactic the next day, and once again dropped back into safe waters, the Savannah having received damage to her "upper works." Two days later, and following stormy weather, the Federal fleet finally got underway and forced a passage past Forts Walker and Beauregard, with the USS Minnesota, the flagship of Capt Samuel F.Dupont, leading the way.
With the Federal squadron bearing down on him, Flag Officer Tattnall gallandy ordered the commander of the Savannah, J .N Ai.affi t.,
A CS Marine Guard under Capt Reuben Thom was assigned to the ironclad CSS Virginia, converted from the USS Merrimack, and commissioned for service at Norfolk, Virginia, on February 17, 1862. (Naval Historical Center photo 58712)
to steam towards Hilton Head, following which she opened fire with her 32-pdrs upon the Minnesota. When that vessel began to return fire, and the paddle-wheel frigate USS Susquehanna gave chase, the Savannah made for the protection afforded by the shallow waters of Skull Creek. Going alongside Seabrook's Landing, most of the Marines aboard the Savannah were ordered ashore under Capt Holmes, and were marched to the relief of Fort Walker. About an hour later a contingent of sailors and the rest of the Marines from the Sampson, commanded by Tattnall, set out carrying naval ammunition to the same post.
Coming within about a quarter of a mile of the fort, Holmes went ahead alone to "see how matters stood." Meanwhile, Tattnall learned that the fort had succumbed to the ferocious bombardment and had been evacuated. Assuming that Holmes had been captured, he ordered the entire naval contingent to return to their vessels. As they withdrew, with Marine Lt David Raney Jr bringing up the rear, they were joined by numerous survivors from the Fort Walker garrison, and were fired upon by US Marines from USS Wabash under Capt Isaac T.Doughty, who had been sent out as a protective picket from Fort Walker. Captain Holmes made his own way back to Seabrook's Landing, and eventually rejoined his command after it had departed for safety aboard the Sampson.
During September 1861, Confederate Marines had limited involvement in the Federal boat attack on the privateer Judah moored in the Warrington Navy Yard (see above). On October 9 they were held in reserve during a Confederate raid on Union forces occupying Santa Rosa Island, although Marine Lts Calvin L.Sayre and Wilbur Johnson served as volunteer aides to Gen Richard HAnderson, who commanded the opera Lion. Lieutenant Sayre was wounded and captured, while "fearlessly using his revolver."
Captain Van Benthuysen's Co B of the CS Marines manned the lOin Columbiad on the stone wharf inside the Warrington Navy Yard during the Federal bombardment of the defenses at Pensacola on November 22-23. Meanwhile, commanded by Capt Thom, Co C served as infantry in the Navy Yard, but were withdrawn when two men were wounded by flying bricks after a shot penetrated the wall.
Shortly after the Federal attack on Pensacola, Thorn's company was ordered to Virginia. Arriving at Petersburg during early December 1861, they were described in the local press as being "a splendid company of men, numbering 110 - all active, young, and able-bodied... Their commander gives them the character of being the most desperate fighting men in the South, and woe be to the luckless Yankees that engage them."
Was this article helpful?