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1862: USS Jamestown fails to catch the CSS Nashville and Capt Green gets court martialed.

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The CSS Nashville was a notoriously successful steam blockade runner during the first months of the civil war, and the northern press held her up as proof of the navy's ineptness at blockading. The truth was that the navy just didn't have enough steamers. So when the USS Jamestown failed to capture the grounded CSS Nashville in highly adverse circumstances one night, poor Captain Green had to formally account for is actions.


I've always liked the USS Jamestown because her draught is beautiful, and because her first deployment overseas was in 1847 when she (and the new Macedonian) sailed to Ireland loaded with food for the famine relief.

*** Note: I've done my best to clean up the scanning errors on the original text, but some are so screwy that I can't make heads or tails of the words! ***


Report of Commander Green, U. S. Navy, commanding U. S. ship Jamestown.

"May 24, 1862.

    Sir,    1 have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of
the 24th instant, euquiring into the circumstances of the running of the
blockade at Wilmington by the NashriUe and of her exit loaded with
cotton. In reply 1 respectfully state the facts relating thereto, so far
as I am informed, and which were immediately placed on record for
transmission to the flag-officer.
    Oii the 24th ultimo the Jamestown was obliged to haul oft from New
Inlet on account of a strong breeze froni the northward and eastward.
On the 25th, whilst on our retnrn, we fell in with the Mount Vernon and
communicated with her. As we came in sight of time light-house, late
in the afternoon, six steamers were discovered near the batteries bear-
lug the rebel flag, and apparently awaiting our approach. I did not
suspect that the larger steamer was the Nashville, but supposed their
intention was to endeavor to dispute the blockade, knowing probably
that the Jamestown was the only vessel on that side of the shoal, with
a view to cover the exit of other vessels loaded and waiting iiiside to
make good their escape.
    I was not able to fetcli far enough to windward to reach the steamers
on that tack, but stood in toward them until within 3 miles, when, not
wishing to place the ship so near the land as ~vonld 1)revellt maneuver-
lug, I wore ship in the hope of drawing them away from the land and
from under the protection of the batteries. We now discovered that
the largest steamer was aground, and as the wind was getting light
(about a 3-knot breeze), and it would be impossible to reach them before
Hi ght, I called for the opinion of the three senior sea officers as to the
best mode of procedure for attacking the enemy. Time opinion was
unanimous that the most certain way of insuring success would be to
euI(leavort() ol)tain the assistance of our steamers on the other side of
the shoal. I accordingly stood on to the shoal into 8 fathoms of water
and threw up several rockets and fired a gun to attract attention, but
without effect. The wind had become very light amid I concluded to
sent a boat across time shoal. She was sent imin charge of Acting Master
I Midshipmanl Bache, who volunteered, as did also Acting Master
Ehlery. In the morning, 26th, tIme Monticello came around and took us
in tow, and we stood in prepared to attack steamers and battemies.
The wind at this time sprung up from time northward and eastward, and
imicreased so that when within about 8 miles of time bar the sea and
wind had risen so much that it was evident the Monticello could not
manage the ship when brought into action head to wind and sea. I
was therefore compelled very reluctantly to cast ofL I directed Lieu-
tenant Commanding Braine to go in tIme Monticello and reconnoiter amid
endeavor to destroy the large steamer which was side-wheel and of
American build. Captain Braine S00~ returned and reported that time
steamer had got inside and beyond the range of his guns. At this
time the Victoria, steamer, arrived, amid I ordered her in to keep as close
a blockade as could be, and the Monticello to returmi to her position on
the other side. I was compelled to carry sail to clear time shoal, and
the wind and current prevented my returim until time 1st.
    On meeting the Victoria, which vessel was then in p)lain sight of the
light-house at Federal Poimit, Acting Master Warren, in command,
informed me of the plan pursued by him in blockading, which was to
take the bearings of a knowim irnint and keep just in sight during the
day, and when night set in to run in by compass close to the emmtranc

Page 266

and anchor, not showing any light. I had not heard of the reported
escape of the Aashcdlc at the time, nor do I think she could have got
out at New Inlet with a cargo, as at high tide there is but it feet on the
bar, and I have heard that was the draft of the steamer when light.
    I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Secretary of the Nary, Washington, D. C.:


"Commodore GoldsborouThese deserters informed me that the steamer Nashville, now called the William L.

Bragg, and sailing under English colors, ran in at New Inlet on the 26th of April.
Whilst doing so, she struck on the bar and lay there twenty-eight hours, during
which time a portion of her cargo was taken out by live tugs which went to her
    They state that while she lay on the bar the US Sloop of war Jamestown came to
within about 3 or 4 miles of her and then stood offshore.
    The Nashville is reported by them to be injured, having her port wheelhouse stove
in, and that she was towed to Wilmington."


Green was in big trouble!


The commander of the Steamer USS  Monticello gave his report of the incident:


"Report of Lieutenant Braine, U. S. Navy, commanding U. S. S. Monticello.

Beau fort, N. C., June 15, 18(12.
    Sin:    In reply to your letters of Julie 10 and 11, instant, in which you
require a full report of all the facts within my knowledge concerning
the late entrance of the Nashville into the port of Wilmington and her
subsequent escape from that port; also in detail an account of my action
in the matter, I beg leave to state that on Saturday, April 26, 1862, the
Monticello being at anchor off the western entrance Cape Fear River,
it 3: 30 a. in. we discovered a boat to the southward of Smiths Island
pulling up to the northward and westward along the line of Fryitig
Pan Shoals. We immediately got underway. The boat proved to be
a cutter in charge of Acting Master Bache, from the U. S. sloop of war
Jamestown. He brought news of a rebel steamer being ashore on the bar
at New Inlet entrance, near Federal Point light-house, with orders from
Commander Green, of the Jamestown, for the Monticello and steamer
Twtoria to proceed around the shoals. I directed the U. S. S. Victoria
to follow us, taking in tow the cutter belonging to the Jamestown, and
at 7 a. m. stood to the southward to clear the end of Frying Pan Shoals.
At 10: 30 a. m. made a sail to the eastward across the shoals, which
proved to be the Jamestown; stood across the shoal, and at it: 20 a. m.
telegraphed the following to the Jamestown: Shall I tow you? The
Jamestown signalized: Communicate, I wish to. 1 ran close to her
and was ordered on board by Commander Green. lie directed me to
take him in tow. At 12 meridian took the Jamestown in tow and stood
for New Inlet. At 2: 30 p. in. the weather became squally and thick;
wind increased from the northward and eastward; we were ordered to
cast off the hawser. We now stood in at full speed to New Inlet, and
at 3: 30 p. in. we were near the bar when we discovered a large side-
wheel steamer showing English colors lying in Cape Fear River, appar-
ently discharging cargo into tugboats alongside of her. I stood in as
close to her as the water would permit. She was beyond the reach of
our guns. At 4 p. m. stood out to the southward and eastward; at 4: 30
discovered the Victoria and Jamestown and stood for them, making the
following telegraphic signals: The strange steamboat is inside, safe,
discharging cargo; she is American built. I then received orders from
Commander Green to proceed around Frying Pan Shoals to our former
station; the Victoria was ordered iiito New Inlet. I immediately stoo(l
to the southward and around the shoal and om
instant, at 9. 13 a. in., anchored on our i the morning of the 27th
station oft the western bar, Cape
Fear River. The evening of the 27th instant two deserters froni the
Confederate Army stationed at Fort Caswell came oft to the ship in a
small boat; their names were Henry Garwood (private) and George
Henry (private). My letter to you, May 3 (1862), gave you all the infor-
mation I received from them. In that I stated the Nash cille struck on
the bar at New Inlet whilst trying to get in and lay there twenty-eight
hours, during which time a portion of her cargo was takemi out by tugs.
These deserters were sent to Beaufort, N. C., to be forwarded to you so
that they might give you personally all the information they possessed.
I remained at my station on the blockade until May 18, when I was
ordered by Commander Glisson to Beaufort, N. C., for provisions and
coal. At the expiration of forty-eight hours after may arrival there I
left Beaufort, N. C., and at 11: 30 p. in., on the night of the 21st of May,
I took up niy station on the blockade oft New Inlet. As regards the
escape of the steamer Nashville, I have no personal knowledge of it. I
was told l)y some officers that the contrabands which caine off from
New Inlet to the U. S. S. Chippewa said that the Nasliiille ran out of
New Inlet entrance to Cape Fear River on the miight of the 29th April,
1862. This, sir, is all the information I possess relative to the entrance
and egress of the steamer Nashrille.
I am, very resI)ectfully, your obedient servant,
D.    L. BRAINE,
Lieutenant, Commanding U. S. S. Monticello.
    Flag-Officer I~. M. GOLDSBOROUGH

The USS Victoria was also present, and her commander gave his account:
Report of Acting Master Warren, U. S. Navy, commanding U. S. S. Victoria.

Off Wilminqton Bar, June 15, 1862.
    Sin:    Your orders nmm(ler date of the 10th instant, directing me to
send a full report of all the facts within my knowledge concerning the
late entrance of the Nashville into Wilmington and her subsequent
escape from that port, has been received this day, and in reply I beg
leave to say that on the 26th of April, last, whilst lying off Fort Cas-
well, I received orders from Captain Braiiie, of time U. S. S. Monticello,
to accompany him around to New Inlet, the other side pf Cape Fear, to
assist him to destroy a large steamer said to be ashore there. We
immediately started around Frying Pan Shoals. Off the somithermi end
of the shoals I was sent to board a vessel some way off; which separated
 my vessel from the Monticello. On my way around I spoke the U. S.
sloop of war Jamestown working offshore, the wind blowing strong frommi
the northeast, amid she had lost one anchor. I spoke the Monticello, who
stated that the steamer above alluded to had floated oft amid gone into
the river. I was then ordered by Captain Green to go to the Federal
[?] channel and stay there for tIme present. TIme [?} returmied
to Fort Caswell to guard that channel. It being at that time too dark
to approach the channel, I kept underway all imight.
0mm the 27th, at daylight, I stood in, and at 8 oclock a. in. anchored in
9 fathoms of water. At 11:30 Igot underway and stoo(l in nearer the
channel. Seelming a steamer aground in the river, I stoo(l iii as near as
I dared to, and made the steamer imiside to be the Nashville (as I sup-)
posed). I iminediafely sent a rifled 30-pounder shell at her, but she
was too far distamit for me to reach her. At 3 p. m. the steamer floated
and went up the river. I kept umiderway till 6 oclock, sounding and
taking bearings. At 6 p. m. I anchored off the channel as imear as I
could judge.
    I have heard many stories about the Nashville, but this is all I know
about her.
All of which is most respectfully submitted.
Your obedient servant,
J.    I). WARREN,
Acting Master, Commanding U. S. S. Victoria.
    Flag-Officer L. M. GOLDSBOROUGH
Commanding North Atlantic Blockading Squadron

Captain Green had to relinquish his command and travel to Philadelphia to stand court martial. He would be aquited.
Edited by uss frolick
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The official findings of the court martial are as follows:



Letter from the Secretary of the Navy to Flag-Officer Goldsborough, U. S. Navy, transmitting
copy of the opinion of the court of enquiry.

NAVY DEPARTMENT, July 8, 1862.

    SIR:    I transmit herewith a copy of the court of enquiry
which was recently convened at Philadelphia for the purpose of inves-
tigating the causes of the escape of the rebel steamer Nashville from
capture while aground near New Inlet Nort
April last.    ,North Carolina, on the 24th of
The court, it appears, are of opinion that
The discretion of the senior officer, Commander Glisson, of the Mount Vernon, in
leaving the station when he did, without being relieved, was not well exercised, and
in a great measure tended toward the escape of the Nashville.

    As the Department can not give the detailed and specific instructions
which might remedy a want of judgment or discretion in subordinate
officers of a squadron, it must rely upon the vigilance of the flag-officer
for such supervision as will prevent a repetition of occurrences so little
creditable to the service as the escape of the Nashville.
I am, respectfully, your obedient servant,
Commanding, etc., Norfidk, Va.


Opinion of the court.

    The opinion of the court relative to the facts and incidents which
have come before them in their investigation of the failure to capture
the rebel steamer (supposed to be the Nashville) whilst aground on the
New Inlet Bar by the U. S. Ship Jamestown, commanded by Commander
Charles Green, is as follows:
    The court is impressed with the fact given in evidence that the James-
town was ordered to sea in great haste by the commanding officer of
the blockading squadron from Hampton Roads, through the urgency
of the Navy Department, without having completed her repairs, in
being unsupplied with the full complement of boats and anchors. In
the opinion of the court, the condition of the ship tended very much to
impair the efficiency of the Jamestown and to lessen the confidence of
the commander and officers in her ability to perform the service of the
blockade; written evidence is produced that Commander Charles Green
remonstrated against going to sea thus unprepared, but obeyed his
    The court is of opinion that the part of the coast of North Carolina
abont Cape Fear is one of the most exposed during the winter and
spring months, rendering very difficnlt and at times almost impossible
for a sailing vessel to maintain position, and frequently very dangerous,
especially with a defective outfit.
    It is doubtful, in the mind of the court, whether the force, consisting
of the Jamestown and three steamers, was competent to guard the two
entrances to the Cape Fear River and maintain a strict blockade, the
first being a sailing vessel and the last, steamers defective in their
machinery. There were no directions given to the commanders of
these vessels how to act or to what their attention was to be called,
and they were permitted to leave their stations for supplies without
being relieved by others

Page 273


    In the opinion of the court, the discretion of the senior officer, Com-
mander Glisson, of the Mount lemon, in leaving the station when he
did, without being relieved, was not well exercised, and in a great
measure tended toward the escape of the Nashville, as the guarding of
the New Inlet was left thereby entirely to the Jamestown, a sailing
vessel, with an armament inadequate, as has been proved, deficient in
an anchor and a first cutter, while the old channel was left to be
guarded by  ... steamers.
    It is the opinion of the court that Commander Green, on discovering
lights while at anchor to the northward of the bar, acted on the even-
ing of the 23rd of April with cautious prudence ... slipping his cable
and getting underway, aiid they are satisfied that lie used all (liligence
to keel) his ship as clear the entrance during the night as the weather
permitted. From the evening of the 28d to the afternoon of the 25th
it is shown that the state of the weather was such as to preclude his
maintaining a position under sail to intercept vessels bound in or out.
Had Commander Glisson left one of the three steamers in his company,
this could have been effected, as appears to the court was his duty to
have ordered. The court thinks that Commander Green should have
guided his movements by the time of high water an(l have sighted the
bar at that time, when vessels bound out or in would have, in all prob-
ability, made the attempt to run the blockade. The court was sur-
prised to find that no attention had been paid to this event, and that
no attention appears to have been given to the tides.
    There is little doubt, from the information derived from the witnesses
and the documents submitted to the court, that the Nashville passed
in on the morning of the 24th and grounded on the bar at that time,
where she lay some thirty-six hours, till the morning tide of the 26th
    The court is of opinion that after the discovery of the rebel steamer
aground on the afternoon of the 25th Commander Green had not
the force to attack her or effect her capture, by reason of the inade-
quate armament of the Jamestown, in having no guns of long range,
or with boats at night, being deficient in a first cutter. Finding him-
self so situated, he consulted his officers, wno coincided in his opinion,
when he made dilligent exertions to procure the aid of the steamers to
effect the capture or destruction of the rebel steamner. At the same
time, it is in evidence that those two steamers, the Monticello and Vic-
toria (the Mount lemon having left her station the day before without
a relief) were some distance off, and the Monticello defective in her
machinery, from which cause his [?] were retarded and frus-
trated by the delay which ensued. The court would also notice the
willful neglect and deviation of Acting Master Warren, in command
of the Victoria, from his orders, in giving chase to a schooner, thus
failing to join the Jamestown in the shortest possible tune.
    It is extremely doubttul whether the Jamestown and the two steamers
were of sufficient force to have made any successful attempt to capture
the rebel steamer after she had got off and within the par, or have
effected her destruction, although the Victoria was of light draft of
water, protected, as the rebel steanmer was, by the forts and the armed
tugs that had come to her assistamice. If it had been possible, it was
not deemed advisable to attempt it.
    The high character of Commander Green for energy amid attention to
his duties, which the officers of time Jamestown have borne testimony to,
has satisfied the court that Commamider Green, under the circamstamices,


and with desire to perform his duty, and that the escape of the Nash-
ville is in the manner to be imputed to the neglect of Commander
Charles Green, commanding the Jamestown at the time and place of
said escape.
Captain, and President of the Court.
Judge Advocate.

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Commander Goldsborough that the findings too harsh, and left a letter stating his opinion:


"Report of Flag-Officer Goldsborough, U. S. Navy, making comments upon the opinion of the

court of enquiry in the case cf Commander Green, U. S. Navy.

Nofoll, Ia., July 14, 1862.
    SIn: The opinion of the court of enquiry in the case of Commander
Charles Green, of the Jamestown, a COPY of which was recently for-
warded me by the Department, accompanied by remarks from the
honorable Secretary, contains some statements so unfounded in fact
and so calculated to injure others entirely innocent of wrong in the
premises, that I deem it incumbent upon inc to submit to you the fol-
lowing comments with regard to theni and the papers herewith tramis-
mnitted. It is very clear to my mind that the evidence adduced, instead
of being full and complete in relation to the affair involved, was but of
a very meager character, although it may have beemi the best, in absence
of important witnesses, that could have been obtained; and that upon
this the opinion is predicated.
It is stated that
The court is impressed with the fact given in evidence that the ~konesIown was
ordered to sea in great haste l)y the commanding officer of the blockading squadron
from Hampton Roads, through the urgency of the Navy department, without
having completed her repairs in being unfinished with the full complement of boats
and anchors.

    As this stands, and with the opinion separated from the proceedings,
one would naturally infer that I am the officer alluded to, and the
omission therefore to name who, in the minds of the court, that coin-
inanding officer was, is calculated to implicate me. The truth is, at the
time in view I was and had been for several weeks in the sounds of
North Carolina. I had nothing whatever to do with the preparation
of the Jamestown for service, nor did I order her to sea.
    Again, in alluding to the Jamestown and three steamers as being the
vessels detailed to guard the entrances to Cape Fear River, it is stated:
    There were no directions given to the commanders of these vessels how to act, or
to what their attention was to be called, and they were permitted to leave their
stations for supplies without being relieved by others.

    So far from there being the slightest truth in this conclusion about
directions to commanding officers, I doubt whether in the whole his-
tory of blockades such minute instructions ever were given to cruisers
as those furnished to all the vessels of the North Atlantic Blockading
Squadron engaged the blockading service; and iii support of this asser-
tion, and as a matter of justice to mnyself I ask that the accompanying
papers may be carefully examined. They are just such as were given
to the vessels alluded to in the opinion, and as have been given to
every vessel of this squadron sent on blockading service since a very
short time after I tirst took conmmand in it. If they contain no direc-
tions to commanders how to act or to what their attention is to be

Page 275


called, then I am incapable of issuing any that will, lint upon this
point the Department will judge for itself and decide upon the conse-
quence due to the courts retlections. It is not a little remarkable that
as tar back as last December the president of the court, Captain
Wilkes, obtained from me a printed copy of all these papers, except, of
course, those headed extracts, etc.; and, unless I am greatly mistaken,
Captain Riuggold, another member of the court, must also have been
simila rlv provided with them.
And it is further stated that
The court would also notice the willful neglect and deviation of Acting Master
Warren, in command of the Victoria, from his orders, in giving chase to a schooner,
thus failing to join the Jamestown in the shortest possible time.

    Upon this, very naturally, the Department has felt itself called upon
to dismiss Acting Master Warren from his command; but it now turns
out, from the proceedings of another court of enquiry, which were for-
warded by me yesterday to the Department, that Acting Master War-
i-eu was ordered by his superior officer, Lieutenant Comntuanding Braine,
to do the very thing which has brought upon him the courts censure,
and resulted in his displacement. So much for relying implicitly upon
mere expert testimony.
    I find that I omitted to notice in the proper place the remark of the
court about the vessels being permitted to leave their stations for sup-
plies without being relieved by others. No vessel of this squadron has
been allowed to leave her blockading station except in a case of abso
line necessity. Every available one had to be kept constantly on
blockading service, and thus an arrangement of relief vessels was
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Flag- Officer, (Comdg. North Atlantic Blockading Sqaadron.

Secretary of the Navy, Washington, D.C.

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Anyway, that's about all I can find in the published official records concerning the actions of the lovely USS Jamestown during the Civil War. My hope is that these documents might inspire someone here to build a model of her. Her detailed plans drawn by Howard Chapelle are available from the Smithsonian for $10.


Remember, there's more to the US Navy's history than just the Constitution, Congress, Constellation, Confederacy, or any other frigate with the "Con" prefix!

Edited by uss frolick
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