This Day in the War: 1/14/09

Tuesday Jan. 14 1862

Gen. Ambrose Burnside was supposed to be leading an invasion force of nearly 100 ships to Hatteras Inlet, N.C. Instead he was spending his time on continuous rescue missions as the ships of his fleet were torn by fierce winds and storm. Many were being driven onto shoals and sandbars as their anchor lines were dragged or broke entirely. Burnside was seen on one tugboat personally leading a rescue party to the “City of New York” which was loaded with stores; he was willing to let the stores go but wanted to rescue the crew. All of this chaos was going on within the relative shelter of the inlet; many of the ships of the mission had not made it even that far, could not attempt the entrance as long as the wind blew, and were at the mercy of the storm on the open ocean. As this was taking place in the dead of winter the storm was probably not a hurricane in the technical sense, but few cared to debate the finer points of meteorological terminology.

Wednesday, Jan. 14, 1863

A year later, and high seas and high winds again pounded the coastline of North Carolina. Today these forces combined to bring low the USS Columbia. Part of the Hatteras patrol, Lt. Joseph P. Couthouy’s command ran aground. Despite the desperate attempts of her crew to free her, it proved impossible. They set her afire and then faced another problem: getting to shore without drowning. Amazingly, they succeeded in this and were overjoyed to have escaped with their lives. That turned out to be all they survived with: they were forced to surrender to the Confederates three days later.

Thursday, Jan. 14, 1864

Following in the footsteps of W.R. Browne and the USS “Restless”, Acting Master Sherrill and his USS Roebuck took over the task of terrorizing the salt suppliers of South Florida, or at least making life miserable for the parties transporting the valuable preservative. On this day, patrolling in Jupiter Inlet, Sherrill used small boats to pursue the British sloop “Young Racer”. This vessel, tragically for her captain, crew and owners, lived up to neither half of her name, and was overhauled in a short time. Before she could be captured, though, she was set on fire by her crew. Overloaded with salt, she sank rapidly.

Saturday, Jan. 14, 1865

The combined land and sea attack on Ft. Fisher entered its second day, with Navy gunboats firing at a rate of 100 shells per minute. Confederate defenders suffered 300 dead, and were unable to bury them due to the severity of the shrapnel. In fact, the fire was so intense that only one gun on the landward side of the fort was still operational, all the others having been dismounted by shellfire. While the Navy handled that part of the operation, the Army protected its rear against possible attack by Braxton Bragg, and prepared to move forward against the fort.

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