Front Matter The Beginning of the U.S Franklin's Return Troubles After the War The Constitution The First President Washington's Troubles A Wonderful Invention Death of Washington The U.S. Buys Land War With African Pirates Death of Somers The First Steamboat The Gerrymander The War of 1812 "Don't Give Up the Ship" The Star-Spangled Banner Clinton's "Big Ditch" More Land Bought Jackson Stories Jackson's Presidency New Inventions Whitman's Ride The Mormons The First Telegraph The Mexican War The Slavery Quarrel Daniel Webster's Youth Webster's Speeches Early Times in California Discovery of El Dorado Rush to California The Underground Railroad The First World's Fair John Brown's Raid Lincoln's Youth The First Shot The Call to Arms The President's Decision Admiral Farragut The Monitor and Merrimac The Penninsular Campaign Barbara Frietchie Lincoln's Vow The Battle of Gettysburg The Taking of Vicksburg Riots, Raids, and Battles The Burning of Atlanta The March to the Sea Sheridan's Ride The Doings of the Fleet Lee's Surrender Decoration Day Lincoln Stories Lincoln's Rebukes A President's Son A Noble Southerner Hard Times in the South The Atlantic Cable Best Way to Settle Quarrels Our One Hundredth Birthday Gold for Greenbacks A Clever Engineer Death of Garfield The Celebration at Yorktown The Great Statue A Terrible Flood Lynch Law The Great White City The Explosion of the Maine The Battle of Manila Hobson's Brave Deed Surrender of Santiago The Hawaiian Islands The Annexation of Hawaii The Philippine War Assassination of McKinley The Panama Canal Roosevelt's Administration Two Presidents German Views The World War Since the World War

Story of the Great Republic - Helene Guerber

The Doings of the Fleet

The Southern Confederacy was now in a bad plight; for, while it had won most of the triumphs in the beginning of the war, it had lately lost heavily, and its resources were exhausted.

Besides, its seaports had fallen, one by one, into the hands of the Union, and now it had hardly any left. In 1864, two years after taking New Orleans, Admiral Farragut went to attack Mobile. He wrote home, saying: "I am going into Mobile Bay in the morning, if God is my leader, as I hope he is." True to his resolve, he ran into the bay, past the great guns of the Confederate forts, and in spite of the rams which tried to stop him.

To direct this battle, Farragut was tied fast to the rigging, and when one of his officers called out that they could not proceed on account of the torpedoes which had been sunk in the channel, he answered that this was not the time to think of torpedoes. Then, taking the lead, he bade his engineer run at full speed, and dashed safely ahead. Here, in Mobile Bay, took place a famous naval battle. The iron ram Tennessee  was captured only after a hard struggle, and the port was blocked so securely that not a single vessel could pass in or out. But the city itself was not taken till the next year, at the end of the war, and with the help of Union land forces.

About two months after Farragut steamed into Mobile Bay and captured the iron ram Tennessee, another Confederate ram, called the Albemarle, played havoc among the Union vessels blockading the coast of North Carolina. It had already done a great deal of damage, and was getting ready to do more still, when Lieutenant W. B. Cushing proposed to destroy it while it was lying at anchor at Plymouth.

Stealing into the harbor one dark October night, Cushing and fourteen men drew close to the ram before they were seen. When only twenty yards away they were discovered and fired upon; "but in spite of the bullets splashing into the water all around him, Cushing ran his small boat close up to the Albemarle, released his torpedo, and, bidding his men look out for themselves, set it off.

At that very moment a shot from the Albemarle  struck his boat, which was dashed to pieces; but a second later a frightful explosion was heard, and the ram was a wreck. As for Cushing and his men, they were struggling in the water in the darkness, surrounded by floating bits of wreckage. Only two of them managed to escape, and Cushing himself, although slightly wounded, swam bravely ashore and hid in a swamp, where some kind-hearted colored people found him and brought him food.

Cushing destroys the Albemarle


After hiding there all day, Cushing got into a leaky little boat he found near the shore, and, in spite of weakness and stiff muscles, paddled out to a Union ship, where the sailors were anxiously watching for the return of his launch. They saw him coming, but, failing to recognize him in this sorry plight, sternly hailed him, crying: "Who goes there?"

A weak voice answered: "A friend—Cushing; take me up." The men, hanging almost breathless over the ship railing, then cried: "Cushing! and the Albemarle?" 

"Will never trouble the Union fleet again," answered the same weak, hoarse voice. "She rests in her grave on the muddy bottom of the Roanoke."

You can imagine with what joy this news was received, and how eagerly hands were now stretched out to help Cushing on deck. There, all crowded around him to hear about it, and while the men mourned their lost companions, they heartily cheered Cushing, whose heroic deed will never be forgotten.

In the meantime, Porter, after gallantly helping Grant to secure the Mississippi, had taken part in an expedition up the Red River (1863-1864). Here army and navy together tried to crush the Confederates. But the army was beaten at the Sabine Crossroads, and the fleet became helpless when the water in the river became low. Indeed, before long the men perceived that there was not enough water left to float their vessels down the stream.

Porter was about to blow up his gunboats, so they should not fall into the Confederates' hands, when a Wisconsin lumberman suggested a plan by which they could be saved. Under his directions, dams were built, and the waters rose. Then the boats were sent downstream, and, passing through the dams, which were broken one after another, they safely reached navigable waters.

With another fleet, Porter then joined Butler's army in besieging Fort Fisher, near Wilmington, North Carolina. But the fort held out so bravely that Butler decided it could not be taken, and returned with the army to Fortress Monroe. Porter, however, would not give up, and he was so anxious to make a second attempt, that troops were sent back under another general, and the fort taken, in spite of the heroic defense of its garrison (1865).

The war was rapidly reaching its close, for it was plain that the Confederates would not be able to hold out much longer. By this time they had little left in the East besides Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Feeling that they must soon stop fighting, the Southerners now made an attempt to end the war without shedding any more blood. At their request, an interview took place, on a war vessel at Hampton Roads, between Alexander H. Stephens, the Vice President of the Confederacy, and President Lincoln with Secretary Seward.

Lincoln at Richmond


We are told that in the course of this interview Stephens, seeing Lincoln not willing to grant the terms he asked, urged that even Charles I. made certain concessions. To this, wishing to show that it was not wise to yield under certain circumstances, Lincoln quietly answered: "I am not strong on history; I depend mainly on Secretary Seward for that. All I remember of Charles is that he lost his head." Then, after a long talk, Lincoln said he could make peace only if the Confederates would lay down their arms, promise to obey Congress, and abolish slavery.

These terms the South would not accept, so the interview ended, and the war went on to the bitter end. About two months later, Lee, thinking the situation desperate, withdrew the Confederate troops from both Richmond and Petersburg, giving orders that all ships and ammunition be destroyed. When the Confederate army left Richmond, therefore, all the Southern rams on the James River were burned.

A colored man brought the news that the Confederate army had left Richmond, and the Union troops immediately marched in. When they got into the town they found it was not so well defended as they had supposed, for many of the cannons were "Quaker guns,"—that is to say, logs of wood painted black so as to look like artillery at a distance. Still, as the colored man explained, they were "just as good to scare with as any others."

Five Forks


Lincoln, hearing that the Confederates had left Richmond, now went there on Admiral Porter's boat, and as no carriage was ready for him, he walked slowly up the street. When the negroes heard he was in town, they rushed to meet him, kissing his hands and fervently crying: "May de good Lord bless you, President Linkum!"

But when some of the Southerners, watching him, saw him return the colored men's greetings by taking off his hat to them just as he did to the white people, they were offended, and said he lacked dignity. Those Southerners, however, had forgotten that Thomas Jefferson, a Virginia gentleman, used to do the same. When his grandson found fault with him for doing so, he quietly said: "You surely do not want me to be less polite than that poor man!"