The Best Station of Them All
The Savannah Squadron, 1861-1865
Publication Year: 2012
The Best Station of Them All is the story of the Confederate navy’s Savannah Squadron, its relationship with the people of Savannah, Georgia, and its role in the city’s economy.
In this well-written and extensively researched narrative, Maurice Melton charts the history of the unit, the sailors (both white and black), the officers, their families, and their activities aboard ship and in port.
The Savannah Squadron worked, patrolled, and fought in the rivers and sounds along the Georgia coast. Though they saw little activity at sea, the unit did engage in naval assault, boarding, capture, and ironclad combat. The sailors finished the war as an infantry unit in Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, fighting at Sayler’s Creek on the road to Appomattox.
Melton concentrates on navy life and the squadron’s place in wartime Savannah. The book reveals who the Confederate sailors were and what their material, social, and working lives were like.
Published by: The University of Alabama Press
Download PDF (148.7 KB)
Title Page, Copyright
Download PDF (166.0 KB)
Download PDF (164.2 KB)
List of Illustrations
Download PDF (164.6 KB)
Download PDF (174.9 KB)
This is Bob holcombe’s book. for more years than i’m willing to admit, whenever we met, Bob would ask: “how’s the savannah squadron coming?” never with ex-asperation at the lack of progress but with interest and enthusiasm, and sympa-thy for a fellow writer burdened with real- world responsibilities that devoured re-search and writing time. Bob kept my good intentions fresh. and as i struggled ...
1. The Georgia Navy
Download PDF (199.4 KB)
...all eyes were on charleston. south carolina’s efforts to negotiate with the new republican administration had been rebuffed. There was no agreement on for-merly shared property—like the newly built fort sumter in charleston’s outer har bor. The u.s. army had occupied it, moving there in the dead of night from The move infuriated the south. from ossabaw sound below savannah, susan ...
2. Tattnall: The Legend Comes Home
Download PDF (178.9 KB)
...in february seven seceded states sent representatives to Montgomery, alabama, to bring the long anticipated south ern confederacy into being. The transi tion pe-riod left Georgia’s armed forces in limbo. henry Wayne wrote com mander Morris that naval matters now depended “upon the whim of the Provi sional Government”— so much so that Georgia might lose control of Master hall and the ship he was ...
3. The Georgia Coast Guard
Download PDF (231.3 KB)
...on the first sunday in March, commanders Morris and Kell, in their navy dress blues with new state brass, attended service at christ episcopal church, with Bishop stephen elliott in the pulpit. The church was old savannah’s social as well as spiritual center. This sunday it was bright with the uniforms of the city’s military elite— the chatham artillery, oglethorpe light infantry, and savannah volunteer Guards. ...
4. “Old Abes Blockade Is No Good in This Section”
Download PDF (254.7 KB)
...lincoln’s call for volunteers to invade the south forced the last south ern army and navy officers to search their hearts, make a decision, and seal their fate, one way or another. They wrestled with their conscience, caught up in the crosscurrents of a month after sumter some who had chosen the south and sent in their resig-nations were still trapped aboard u.s. ships. assistant surgeon John W. sandford ...
5. “All We Want Is to Be Let Alone”
Download PDF (284.8 KB)
John Maffitt didn’t like the Savannah. he denigrated her to everyone who would listen. she was a fraud, he said, a frail little passenger steamer gussied up with a few guns and called a warship. he thought Tattnall’s entire flotilla a perfect example of stephen Mallory’s chuckle- headed incompetence.1 Maffitt was full of grand ideas: attack new york city and burn its navy yard. import arms and equipment and ...
Download PDF (216.6 KB)
...as Bulloch, huse, and anderson adventured overseas, Josiah Tattnall was trying to build a squadron. he was a good man for the job—famously courageous, a disciple of discipline, and a gifted teacher who protected and guided his young officers with fatherly concern. and they thought the world of him. To John Kell, Tattnall was “a perfect gentleman and sailor.” James Bulloch called him “as gallant ...
7. The Bermuda Shows the Way
Download PDF (170.4 KB)
...henry Decie spent the summer ferrying confederates between england and the continent. To divert attention from those missions he kept a high profile challenging British yachts to races. at the end of august he sailed for the confederacy. fearing the blockade off savannah, he made port at Jacksonville, florida, and left the Camilla under the har bormaster’s care, taking the railroad to savannah.1...
8. A Future Navy
Download PDF (194.1 KB)
When the Mosquito fleet acquired the Firefly, Tattnall gave her to lieutenant oscar Johnston. she broke down on her trial run. Tattnall cautioned Johnston to be frugal in repairing her and offered the Savannah’s carpenter, robert Bain, to oversee repairs. But the primary prob lems were with the machinery, and the little steam yacht was laid up at alvin Miller’s shop. Johnston thought Miller “the most ...
9. Port Royal
Download PDF (185.2 KB)
While the south celebrated its first victories at Big Bethel and Manassas and basked in the glow of independence, hard men in the north planned retribution. and the u.s. navy was building its strength. frigates and sloops of war hurried home from foreign stations, and construction and purchasing added scores of new vessels. north ern shipyards turned out new warships in quick time. Gunboats mount-...
10. Enter the Fingal
Download PDF (190.7 KB)
...now that Bulloch had his first ship contracts (and understood something of the tactics and po liti cal resources of the u.s. ambassador, charles francis adams), the need for a quick return to the confederacy for consultation and a reconsideration of his instructions seemed imperative. and he had a major arms shipment to bring a man better schooled in the traditions of the old navy might not have acted ...
11. “Happy Hearts and Happy Homes Are Now No More”: The Battle for Port Royal
Download PDF (196.1 KB)
While the Fingal awaited her turn at the coaling wharf in st. George’s, captain Du Pont’s scattered fleet began to regroup off the carolina coast. The weather subsided and one by one the ships topped the horizon, altered course, and joined in the flagship’s wake. When the c.s.s. Savannah arrived in Port royal sound, The sound had been robert Gibbes’s childhood playground. and it was the ...
12. Bringing the Fingal Home
Download PDF (178.4 KB)
Makin wanted to run for Port royal. Bulloch and anderson decided not; it would be savannah as planned. Bulloch wanted to get the Fingal inside the block ad-ers and hug the shore as closely as he dared. Major anderson understood the strategy: “My naval education had taught me that of all things most dreaded by the commanders of men of war that of being in shoal water near a coast was the ...
13. The Fingal, Tattnall, and Robert E. Lee
Download PDF (212.8 KB)
The Georgia- carolina coast had been without a military commander since Beau-regard’s departure for virginia six months earlier. Du Pont’s threat brought the region back to the government’s attention. The War Department created the Military District of south carolina, Georgia, and east florida, and gave Major General robert e. lee the job of defending it against an invasion already in progress. on ...
14. The Enemy Outside
Download PDF (216.7 KB)
The new year opened with four blockaders off Tybee Bar. Down in Wassaw around romerly Marsh were two gunboats and a large steamer, and one of the gunboats was snooping up Wilmington river again.1 There were also three old hulks—part of the Great stone fleet of derelict whalers and merchantmen intended to be sunk in the roadsteads of charleston and savannah to close the ports. con fed-...
15. Lee Goes, and Tattnall Follows
Download PDF (203.0 KB)
March brought a dose of winter—overcast and bitterly cold. on the third a storm hit. The wind blew up to gale force, driving torrents of rain. The Savannah and Talomico both dragged their anchors and grounded near fort Jackson.1The administration ordered General lee back to richmond.2 as he left coo-sawhatchie, federal gunboats were pushing up the savannah river, probing the ...
16. The Ladies’ Ironclad Gunboat
Download PDF (169.6 KB)
...over the same weekend that Mallory ordered Tattnall to virginia, John stoddard of the ladies’ ironclad Gunboat steering committee asked Georgia Militia general henry rootes Jackson to build their ironclad. some of Jackson’s state troops were already building small boats for the army at harding’s shipyard near alvin Miller’s foundry. from rowboats to ironclads was a leap; but General Jackson had a boat-...
17. Pulaski Goes Up
Download PDF (187.7 KB)
The first day of april was pleasant enough, sunny and warm with a brisk wind blowing. But the next night the wind died and swarms of mosquitos appeared. The weather turned “miserably hot,” and clouds of mosquitos and sand flies assaulted The Savannah towed Gunboat no. 2 down to Battery lee below fort Jackson to exercise the men at the guns. To test the strength of the new earthwork, the Sa-...
18. The Lull
Download PDF (210.6 KB)
...new orleans, where the brothers Tift were building their ironclad, was under siege. Down the Mississippi, David farragut’s and David Dixon Porter’s squad-rons were pounding forts Jackson and st. Philip. captain William B. robertson, commanding fort Jackson’s water battery, described the bombardment at night: “The mortar shells shot upward from the mortar- boats, rushed to the apexes of ...
19. Ironclads for Savannah
Download PDF (213.0 KB)
...up the river, hidden away at Purrysburg, the brothers Tift were working on the Fingal. They began buying tools—carpenters squares and rules, wedges, chisels, augers and bits, several big grind stones, carpenters’ hammers and sledge hammers and caulking mallets and spare handles for them all, caulking irons, rip saws and crosscut saws and hacksaws, water buckets and dippers, cotton and manila rope, ...
20. The Interim
Download PDF (176.3 KB)
The savannah squadron suffered through the summer. Dysentery was rampant. so were “rice field dropsies” and “intermittent river fever,” which of ten evolved into dangerous, and lingering, pulmonary prob lems. in late august the city received a fright when Dr. T. B. ford diagnosed a case of smallpox aboard the Savannah. city health officer Dr. lewis falligant was called, and he concurred in ford’s diagnosis ...
21. “The Poetry of the Profession Is Gone”
Download PDF (236.7 KB)
The Atlanta’s captain would be commander William McBlair, a bluff, hearty vet-eran of the quarterdeck with silver hair, a lantern jaw, and a ready smile. now fifty- five, McBlair had ridden out the slave patrols and routine postings of the old navy alongside farragut, Buchanan, Tattnall, and others whose stars had ascended, while his had not. his first command in the confederacy was a shore battery near Gosport. ...
22. Training and Trials
Download PDF (178.1 KB)
...on De cem ber 5 all hands aboard the Atlanta were roused at four forty- five to greet a cold, black morning and a rising wind. Below, firemen stoked the furnaces. While the boiler heated, the crew weighed the stern anchors then went to breakfast. at 8:00 A.m. sailors invaded the junior officers’ quarters to raise the bow anchors and the Atlanta, with a moderate gale blowing, dropped down to fort Jackson ...
23. Christmas, 1862
Download PDF (191.0 KB)
The McBlairs were watching the mail. virginia was sending a turkey for christ-mas, and the commander had promised to let Willie’s mess have it for christmas din ner. The Atlanta’s captain had been invited to dine with the Pelots.1Two days before christmas Dabney scales went to town to shop for his mess. it was warm for De cem ber, the temperature in the low sixties.2 scales dined with ...
24. The Promise of Ironclads
Download PDF (241.7 KB)
The yankees were gathering at Port royal. Their fleet was crowding the har bor, no doubt preparing for an assault on charleston or savannah. This would be a perfect time for the Atlanta to strike. That was the kind of defense Tattnall relished—and savannah wanted. The Atlanta’s crew was green and the ship not shaken down, but she was further along than the Virginia had been when Buchanan took her ...
25. The Revolving Door
Download PDF (322.4 KB)
...a year to the day after orders carried him away from savannah, commander richard Page’s path brought him back. after the battle of Port royal he had been posted to the great naval manufacturing and repair facility at Gosport navy yard. When norfolk was lost he salvaged most of the yard’s heavy equipment and built a new naval foundry at charlotte. While isaac Brown was winning glory on the ...
26. “With a Few Blows Crushed Out All Hope”
Download PDF (221.3 KB)
William a. Webb knew as much about fighting monitors as anyone in the con-federacy. as captain of the Teaser he’d been present at the dawn of armored combat, watching ringside as the Monitor and Virginia slugged it out. During Tattnall’s tenure in hampton roads he’d trained a team to board and capture the yankee. he studied her weaknesses1 and awaited an opportunity to exploit them....
27. The Aftermath
Download PDF (251.9 KB)
Joel Kennard gave the department a thorough report of the Atlanta disaster. he stated the time the Atlanta opened the action—five minutes until five—and laid out Webb’s plan of battle: torpedo one monitor, then shoot it out with the other. he described the ironclad getting aground, afloat, then aground again, and the monitors closing in on her. he could only speculate on the reason for Webb’s ...
Download PDF (201.7 KB)
...commander Webb might have thought his protest to Gideon Welles had some effect, for the Atlanta’s officers were soon transferred to fort Warren in Boston harbor. But fort lafayette was an entry point into the north’s prison sys tem, and fort Warren, on George’s island at the outer reaches of the har bor, was the country club of prisoner camps. early in the war it housed po liti cal prisoners from ...
29. Fall, 1863
Download PDF (181.1 KB)
...autumn in savannah was marvelous. People working indoors longed to be out, and families lingered on porches in the early evening. at naval headquarters, cap-tain hunter may have barely noticed the weather. he was trying to run a squadron so depleted by transfers it could barely function. hunter and Tattnall had both come to rely on commander Thomas Brent’s administrative efficiency, and he was ...
30. The Great Christmas Riot
Download PDF (207.3 KB)
...on the second sunday in no vem ber the first hint of winter arrived, the wind blowing hard and cold from the northeast. four sailors from the Savannah chose that night to desert. about ten o’clock Bosun’s Mate Martin hurried aboard and told the officer of the deck that several women in town had heard some of his shipmates talking about taking over their picket boat and fleeing to the enemy.1 ...
31. Early 1864
Download PDF (228.4 KB)
...in early De cem ber fort Warren’s command changed. colonel Dimick was out, replaced by Major stephen cabot of the 1st Battalion heavy artillery, Massa-chusetts volunteers. Gibbes called him “a Boston cur—a cod fish- stinking, onion eating, Black republican.” cabot cut the prisoners’ ration drastically and answered a storm of complaints with word that he was feeding the required ration. he ...
32. In the Doldrums
Download PDF (201.7 KB)
...for the officers at fort Warren, the departure of Doctors freeman and Gibbes deepened their despair. early in their captivity a promise had come from con-federate commissioner of exchanges robert ould that at the first opportunity he would get them exchanged. They heard they would be exchanged for the Harriet Lane’s officers, but their hopes were dashed. They heard again and again about ...
33. The Florida Boys
Download PDF (208.9 KB)
...for company K of the 7th florida volunteers, hard duty was the only duty they knew. They were skirmishers in the army of Tennessee. Whether attacking or de-Wednesday, february 25, 1864, dawned foggy and cold, and it stayed cold all day. The federals began feeling the army’s front at dawn. The skirmishers held their ground, trading fire with union infantry all morning and well into the after-...
Download PDF (178.5 KB)
When old John Boston died, the savannah Republican editor, James sneed, suc-ceeded him, both as collector of customs and head of the confederate states De-pository. To keep the books sneed hired charles hardee, who counted among his uncles both savannah cotton merchant noble hardee and General William J. Before the war charles worked for his uncle, noble, then founded his own ...
35. The Water Witch
Download PDF (270.3 KB)
...since the monitor assaults on fort Mcallister, a lone gunboat had been keeping the blockade in ossabaw sound. The Cimarron, Sonoma, and Fernandina had each marked time there, but by the spring of 1864 a little side- wheeler called the Water Witch was holding the sound. Built in 1852, she’d seen her share of gunboat diplomacy, slave patrols, and coast surveys. John rodgers had sailed her to cuba ...
36. After the Capture
Download PDF (177.0 KB)
The wounded arrived at the liberty street naval hospital at dusk. There were fifteen injured yanks, seven of them officers and two petty officers, “wounded, with a few exceptions, in the head, with sabres,” reported the savannah Republican. assistant Paymaster Billings described the hospital as “a most commodious dwelling which faced one of the numerous squares in that beautiful old city.” Dr. Pierson found ...
37. Securing the Prize
Download PDF (198.9 KB)
The yankees already knew they’d lost her. around nine thirty friday morning, as the rebels were trying to get the Water Witch into the vernon, the blockader Fernandina saw a man signaling furiously from ossabaw island. it was Peter Mcin-tosh, the black sailor who had slipped overboard and escaped.1 When the Fer-nan dina heard his story she steamed full speed for fort Pulaski and the telegraph. ...
38. The Newlyweds
Download PDF (184.9 KB)
The ranking Chattahoochee officer in the new savannah contingent was lieutenant George W. Gift. he expected to soon command the Water Witch. a Tennes see veteran of the old navy, Gift was gregarious and confident (overly so, many thought), a man of big ideas, and a big talker who too of ten confounded his critics by backing up his talk with success. he had already made his name in the con-...
Download PDF (223.1 KB)
...in late July the Savannah lost three of her black crewmen. attorney D. a. Byrne wrote commodore hunter on behalf of William P. ryan, who sought to recover his slaves edward, William, and charles. Byrne said ryan “has never given his consent for these boys to enlist in the navy—nor has he permitted any agent for him to do so.” hunter had to order their return to their owner.1...
40. John Thomas Scharf, Midshipman
Download PDF (192.6 KB)
...for the navy, the Water Witch had become a white elephant. But to people around White Bluff, a warship in the vernon river was exciting. and her young officers—few as they were—added a new dimension to the low country society.one of these young blades was John Thomas scharf of Baltimore.1 a veteran of the first Maryland artillery in lee’s army, thrice wounded in battle, scharf had ...
41. Savannah Feels the Pressure
Download PDF (218.2 KB)
...sixteen months after being ordered overseas, robert c. foute returned to the con federacy. While in Paris, foute had been promoted to lieutenant. and there he had fallen in love. life could be good for a confederate naval officer in europe. But at home, the country was fighting for its life. so he volunteered for assignment foute left france on august 6 with thirteen other naval officers (in clud ing sa-...
42. Savannah Goes Up: The Squadron Shattered
Download PDF (237.3 KB)
...on De cem ber 8, John Tattnall’s marines were called into the trenches. They left fairfield in a driving rain and marched to King’s Bridge on the ogeechee, just above the savannah & Gulf railroad bridge. There they dug in, wet and chilled to the bone. assistant surgeon Marcellus ford went along to look after them.To hinder the yankees’ crossing the ogeechee, the rebels burned King’s Bridge. ...
Download PDF (188.7 KB)
...off Wilmington, north carolina, admiral David Dixon Porter and Major Gen-eral Benjamin Butler had fort fisher under siege. Wilmington and its flow of sup-plies were vital to the army of north ern virginia. General lee wrote Major Gen eral W. h. c. Whiting that Wilmington must be held. chase Whiting replied: “stripped as we are of forces, we shall have little time before the enemy will be upon the ...
Download PDF (188.7 KB)
The Macon, three years abuilding and less than a year in service, was rotten; so rotten that sailors could pull chunks of wood from her planks—even her timbers—with their bare hands. so rotten that the action of her engines had hogged her nearly eighteen inches. and she arrived at augusta crippled. above shell Bluff she hit something and bent one of her propeller shafts. With her six guns she should ...
45. Richmond, the “Aye, Ayes,” and Sayler’s Creek
Download PDF (195.6 KB)
The Wilmington and savannah sailors reached richmond just before midnight on february 27. They formed up at the car shed and marched two miles through the city. When it started to rain the column halted. The officers sought shelter, leaving the men in formation in the rain. They stood it for half an hour, then broke ranks to find someplace dry. That brought the officers running. They took ...
46. The End
Download PDF (185.1 KB)
...in savannah the federals expelled the families of all confederate officers. The sorrowful group—reported to be a hundred in number—made their way to sister’s ferry. General fry asked hunter to send the steamer Leesburg to rescue them. hunter gave the job to Joel Kennard. Then fry added another duty. Major General young wanted some of the torpedoes taken up from the river below augusta. chief ...
Download PDF (697.6 KB)
Download PDF (237.9 KB)
Download PDF (282.6 KB)
Page Count: 532
Publication Year: 2012