The Ship Island expedition

In June 1861 the whole crew of the CSS McRae, plus its Marine Guard, were involved in the successful action on Ship Island in the Gulf of Mexico, about 12 miles south of Biloxi, Mississippi. This island was the site of the construction of a Federal fort begun in 1859, but little had been completed of what became known as Fort Massachusetts by the beginning of the Civil War. A plan to occupy and fortify Ship Island for the Confederacy was conceived by MajGen David F.Twiggs during May 1861. In command of the McRae (in the absence of Lt Thomas IVlinger. CSN), Lt Alexander F.Warley was initially asked by Capt Edward Higgins, a member of Gen Twiggs' staff, to provide men for an expedition against enemy launches believed to be prowling in the Mississippi Sound. Joined by an additional 35 Marines under Capt Thorn, this force left New Orleans in the steamers Oregon and Swain on July 5, under the overall command of Capt Higgins. Failing to locate any of the enemy launches, Higgins determined to occupy Ship Island; and arriving off its shores on July 6, Higgins ordered 140 men plus an 8in gun, a 32-pdr, and two small howitzers put ashore under Lt Warley. According to this officer, the sailors and Marines ran up "the heavy guns through the sand, laying the platforms, and building sand bag breast-works in a manner calculated to gratify every officer in the expedition."

Three days later the Union steamer USS Massachusetts appeared off the island and exchanged fire with the Confederates, but

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Ship Island Captured Union ForcesFrench Infantry 1915Les Mines MarineOsprey Confederates Mississippi Uniform 1863

Lt David G.Raney Jr, photographed at Mobile in 1863, wears the undress uniform for officers of the CSMC, of gray with dark blue facings at collar and cuffs; rank is indicated by shoulder knots, collar bars and sleeve knots. He was appointed second lieutenant on April 22, 1861, and promoted first lieutenant on November 22 of that year. Commanding the Marine Guard aboard the ironclad ram CSS Tennessee, he was captured during the battle of Mobile Bay in August 1864. After parole Raney saw further action, and finally surrendered on the Tombigbee River, Alabama, on May 9, 1865. (Florida State Library, Tallahassee)

withdrew after being struck by "three or four damaging shots" from the shore battery, which was partially manned by the Marines. A correspondent of the Daily Delta of New Orleans reported: "The men worked like beavers, and fought with a wild delight. Four of tire enemy's balls fell successively near our battery, and within a space of thirty feet square. The balls were picked up by our boys, placed in our 32-pounders, and fired back at the scamps, with the compliments of our brave gunners."

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