Wednesday, January 30, 2013

January 31, 1863 (Saturday): Breaking the Blockade

Confederate Ironclads Engaging the Union Fleet (

Numbers 3. Report of Commander John R. Tucker, C. S. Navy.
January 31, 1863.
    SIR: In obedience to your order I got under way at 11.30 p. m. yesterday and stood down the harbor in company with the Confederate States steamer Palmetto State, bearing your flag. We crossed the bar at 4.40 a. m., and commenced the action at 5.20 a. m. by firing into a schooner-rigged propeller, which we set on fire, and have reason to believe sunk, as she was nowhere to be seen at daylight. We then engaged a large side-wheel steamer twice our length from us, on the port bow, firing three shots into her with telling effect, when she made a run for it. This vessel was supposed to be the Quaker City. We then engaged a schooner-riffed propeller and a large side-wheel steamer, partially crippling both and setting on fire the latter, causing her to strike her flag. At this time the latter vessel, supposed to be the Keystone State, was completely at my mercy, having a raking position astern, distance some 200 yards. I at once gave the order to cease firing upon her and directed Lieutenant Bier, first lieutenant of the Chicora, to man a boat and take charge of the prize; if possible, to save her. If that was not possible to rescue the crew. While the boat was in the act of being manned I discovered that she war endeavoring to make her escape by working her starboard wheel, the other being disabled. Her colors being down, I at once started in pursuit and renewed the engagement. Owing to her superior steaming qualities she soon widened the distance to some 2,000 yards. She then hoisted her flag and commenced firing her rifled gun, her commander, by this faithless act, placing himself beyond the pale of civilized and Honorable warfare. We next engaged two schooners-one brig and one barkrigged propeller-but not having the requisite speed, were unable to bring them to close quarters. We pursued them 6 or 7 miles seaward. During the engagement (near its termination) I was engaged at long range with a large bark-rigged steam sloop of war, but in spite of all our efforts was unable to bring her to close quarters, owing to her superior steaming qualities. At 7.30 a. m., in obedience to your orders, we stood inshore, leaving the partially-crippled and fleeing enemy about 7 miles clear of the bar, standing to the southward and eastward. At 8 a. m., in obedience to signal, we anchored in 4-fathom water off the Beach Channel.
It gives me pleasure to testify to the good conduct and efficiency of the officers and crew of the Chicora. I am particularly indebted to the pilots, Messrs. Payne and Aldert, for the skillful pilotage of the vessel. It gives me pleasure to report that I have no injures or casualties.
     Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

    J. R. TUCKER,
    Commander, C. S. Navy.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 14, Part 1, Page 209.

Under a moon three days short of full the Chicora and Palmetto State passed Fort Sumter on their way to confront the ten wooden ships of the Union blocking fleet.   The Palmetto State badly damaged the Mercedita, the Chicora put ten shots into the Keystone State.  Although first surrendering, it then raised its flag and outran the slower Chicora to safety.  By this time the sun was up and the Confederates headed seven miles out to sea in pursuit.  The Union fleet gave the rebels plenty of room and no more damage resulted.  The Keystone State, with 20 dead and 20 wounded, was towed to Port Royal.


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