1861 October 12th

October 12 1861 Friday

Head of Passes, MS

Operations at the Mouth of the Mississippi

Go to October 13 1861

Atlantic Ocean. The Confederate privateer Sallie captured the American brig Granada.

USA. The US Navy Department implemented its plan to divide the region of the Atlantic blockade into two sectors, with the dividing line being the border between North Carolina and South Carolina. The implementation of this plan was delayed for a time as forces were gathered and the command structure agreed. Captain Louis Malesherbes Goldsborough USN was informed that the division of the Atlantic Blockading Squadron would take effect when Captain Samuel Francis Du Pont USN, the nominated commander of the southern squadron, departed from Hampton Roads with the expedition to capture Port Royal in South Carolina. Du Pont eventually departed on 29 October 1861 and that became the official date for the squadron to divide into the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron and the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron.

Florida. USS Dale, Commander Edward M Yard, captured the schooner Specie east of Jacksonville, bound for Havana with a large cargo of rice.

Kentucky. Skirmish near Upton’s Hill.

Louisiana. Incident at Bayles’ Crossroads.

Mississippi Reconnaissance to the Mississippi River began.

Head of Passes, Mississippi, also known as Mississippi River. Commander George Nichols Hollins CSN led a Confederate flotilla of small armed boats down the Mississippi River from New Orleans to make a surprise attack against the Union blockading ships at Head of Passes. The attacking so-called “mosquito fleet” consisted of the ironclad ram CSS Manassas, the armed steamers CSS Ivy, CSS Tuscarora, and CSS James L Day. The Confederate flagship CSS Calhoun remained in the rear, as did the armed gunboats CSS Jackson and CSS Pickens, seeking targets of opportunity. The boats were four flat-bottomed tugs each mounting two small guns, and a revenue cutter with seven guns, while the CSS Manassas was a converted seagoing tug that had been equipped with a 32-pounder gun and an iron beak, and then covered over with a rounded armoured deck.
The flagship of the Union fleet occupying the Head of the Passes was the 1,900 ton USS Richmond, a modern screw-driven sloop mounting seven Dahlgren 9-inch smoothbore guns on each side, and a rifled gun as a stern pivot. After anchoring by the lighthouse at the Head of Passes, she had remounted one of her broadside guns as a bow pivot gun. One single broadside from the USS Richmond carried heavier firepower than could be delivered by the entire Confederate fleet combined. Supporting the USS Richmond were the USS Vincennes and USS Preble, both of them sailing warships with 14 32-pounder smoothbores and 16 32-pounder smoothbores, respectively. The USS Vincennes also mounted a 9-inch smoothbore as a bow pivot gun which was intended to be off-loaded for a shore battery at the nearby lighthouse. The USS Water Witch was a side-wheel steam gunboat mounting one 32-pounder smoothbore and one 12-pounder rifled howitzer. It provided towing power for the sail vessels in unfavourable wind conditions. The fleet commander was Captain John Pope USN.
Hollins put the CSS Manassas at the head of his flotilla. Following closely behind would be CSS Tuscarora, CSS McRae, and CSS Ivy moving abreast. Each gunboat pushed a fire raft in front, which would be ignited on a signal from CSS Manassas indicating that she had defeated the USS Richmond. The USS Preble, anchored 200 yards upstream of the USS Richmond, was the first to detect the CSS Manassas. She raised a red signal light into her rigging as a warning and opened fire. The CSS Manassas presented only two and a half feet of armoured deck above the waterline and the shot of the USS Preble flew high over her deck. The CSS Manassas charged forward in a dense cloud of black smoke and sparks. The USS Richmond was lashed to a coal schooner on her port side, just off the lighthouse at the head of the Southwest pass on the east bank. The CSS Manassas struck the USS Richmond a glancing blow on her port side just astern of the bow, wedging its prow briefly between the coal schooner and the warship. The coal schooner tore loose and the CSS Manassas continued onwards and past the USS Richmond’s stern. One of the two engines of the CSS Manassas was torn loose by the impact and she lost power, turning away to move slowly back upriver. As a signal to release the fire rafts, she fired three rockets.
Alarmed by the fire rafts, the Union fleet slipped anchor and moved downriver along the Southwest Passage, firing at the CSS Manassas while doing so. Some projectiles knocked down one of the smokestacks of the CSS Manassas, the only vulnerable projections visible above the armoured deck. Filling with smoke while crew members cut loose the damaged stack, CSS Manassas ran aground on the mud on the west bank. The Union fleet headed to the southwest, pursued closely by the Confederate gunboats. The fire rafts grounded ineffectively on the west bank of the southwest passage, south of CSS Manassas, and the gunboats opened fire on the Union fleet.
The Union fleet proceeded rapidly downriver until, by sunrise, all but the USS Preble had grounded on the bar at the mouth of the river. The USS Richmond grounded on the bar and opened fire on the mosquito fleet. The Union fleet kept out of range and returned fire with their longer-ranged Whitworth rifled guns. By 10 am Hollins decided the mosquito fleet was running low on coal and ammunition and ordered the mosquito fleet back upriver to Fort Jackson. The CSS Manassas was towed back to the forts. None of the Confederate vessels were hit, and the USS Richmond was hit twice, but neither side sustained a single casualty. All the Union ships were soon repaired but “ram fever” infected the Union naval command for some time to come.


Union Gulf Blockading Squadron: Flag Officer William W McKean USN
USS Richmond, USS Vincennes, USS Preble, USS Water Witch

Confederate Mississippi River Flotilla: Commander George Nichols Hollins
CSS Manassas, CSS Ivy, CSS Tuscarora, CSS James L Day (CSS Calhoun, CSS Jackson, CSS Pickens not engaged)

Missouri. Confederate Partisan leader Meriwether Jefferson Thompson began operations at Ironton and Fredericktown.

Missouri. Incidents near St Louis at Cameron, Clintonville, and Pomme de Terre.

Missouri. The first Union armoured warship USS St Louis was launched at Carondelet.

South Carolina. The Confederate ship Theodora ran the blockade at Charleston with Commissioners James M Mason and John L Slidell aboard. The two men were on their way, via Nassau and Havana, for their diplomatic mission to Great Britain and France.

Union Organisation

USA: Adolph Wilhelm August Friedrich von Steinwehr promoted Brigadier-General USV 12 June 1862 to rank from 12 October 1861.

Commander in Chief: President Abraham Lincoln
Vice-President: Hannibal Hamlin
Secretary of War: Simon Cameron
Secretary of the Navy: Gideon Welles

Atlantic Blockading Squadron: Louis Malesherbes Goldsborough
Gulf Blockading Squadron: William McKean
Pacific Squadron: John Berrien Montgomery
Western Gunboat Flotilla: Andrew Hull Foote
Potomac Flotilla: Thomas Tingey Craven

General–in-Chief: Winfield Scott

Department of the Cumberland: William Tecumseh Sherman

Department of the East: Vacant

Department of Florida: Harvey Brown

Department of New England: Benjamin Franklin Butler

Department of the Ohio: Ormsby McKnight Mitchel

  • District of Grafton: Benjamin Franklin Kelley

Department of the Pacific: Edwin Vose Sumner

  • District of Oregon: Benjamin Lloyd Beall
  • District of Southern California: George Wright

Department of the Potomac: George Brinton McClellan

  • Army of the Potomac: George Brinton McClellan

Department of Texas: Vacant

Department of Virginia: John Ellis Wool

Western Department: John Charles Frémont

  • District of Western Kentucky: Charles Ferguson Smith
  • District of North Missouri: John Pope
  • District of Southeast Missouri: Ulysses Simpson Grant
  • Southern District of New Mexico: Benjamin Stone Roberts
  • Western Army: John Charles Frémont

Department of Western Virginia: William Starke Rosecrans

  • District of the Kanawha: Jacob Dolson Cox

Confederate Organisation

CSA: John Porter McCown promoted Brigadier-General PACS 12 October 1861.

Commander in Chief: President Jefferson Finis Davis
Vice-President: Alexander Hamilton Stephens
Secretary of War: Judah Philip Benjamin
Secretary of the Navy: Stephen Russell Mallory

Military Adviser to the President: Robert Edward Lee

Department No 1: David Emanuel Twiggs interim Mansfield Lovell awaited

  • District of Alabama: Jones Mitchell Withers

Department of Alabama and West Florida: Braxton Bragg

Department of Fredericksburg: Daniel Harvey Hill

  • District of Aquia: vacant

Department of Middle and Eastern Florida: John Breckinridge Grayson interim

Department of Norfolk: Benjamin Huger

Department of North Carolina: Richard Caswell Gatlin

  • District of Cape Fear: Joseph Reid Anderson
  • District of Pamlico: Daniel Harvey Hill

Department of the Peninsula: John Bankhead Magruder

  • Army of the Peninsula: John Bankhead Magruder

Department of the Potomac: Joseph Eggleston Johnston

  • Army of the Potomac: Joseph Eggleston Johnston
    • I Corps Potomac: Earl Van Dorn
    • II Corps Potomac: Gustavus Woodson Smith
  • Army of the Valley: Thomas Jonathan Jackson

Department of South Carolina: Roswell Sabine Ripley

Department of Southwestern Virginia: William Wing Loring

Department of Texas: Paul Octave Hébert

  • District of Galveston: John Creed Moore

Western Department: Albert Sidney Johnston

  • First Geographical Division: Leonidas Polk
  • District of Upper Arkansas: William Joseph Hardee
  • District of East Tennessee: Felix Kirk Zollicoffer
  • District of the Indian Territory: Benjamin McCulloch
  • Army of Central Kentucky: Simon Bolivar Buckner
  • Western Army: Benjamin McCulloch

District of Arizona: John Robert Baylor

Defences of Savannah: Alexander Robert Lawton

Forces in Richmond: Charles Dimmock

Army of the Northwest: William Wing Loring

Union Generals

Note: Italics, awaiting confirmation of the commission

Major-General USA

Winfield Scott
George Brinton McClellan
John Charles Frémont
Henry Wager Halleck

Major-General USV

John Adams Dix
Nathaniel Prentiss Banks
Benjamin Franklin Butler
David Hunter
Edwin Denison Morgan

Brigadier-General USA

John Ellis Wool
William Selby Harney
Edwin Vose Sumner
Joseph King Fenno Mansfield
Irvin McDowell
Robert Anderson
William Starke Rosecrans

Brigadier-General USV

Samuel Peter Heintzelman
Erasmus Darwin Keyes
Andrew Porter
Fitz-John Porter
William Buel Franklin
William Tecumseh Sherman
Charles Pomeroy Stone
Don Carlos Buell
Thomas West Sherman
John Pope
George Archibald McCall
William Reading Montgomery
Philip Kearny
Joseph Hooker
John Wolcott Phelps
Ulysses Simpson Grant
Joseph Jones Reynolds
Samuel Ryan Curtis
Charles Smith Hamilton
Darius Nash Couch
Rufus King
Jacob Dolson Cox
Stephen Augustus Hurlbut
Franz Sigel
Robert Cumming Schenck
Benjamin Mayberry Prentiss
Frederick West Lander
Benjamin Franklin Kelley
John Alexander McClernand
Alpheus Starkey Williams
Israel Bush Richardson
James Cooper
James Brewerton Ricketts
Orlando Bolivar Willcox
Michael Corcoran
George Henry Thomas
Ambrose Everett Burnside
Henry Hayes Lockwood
Louis Blenker
Henry Warner Slocum
James Samuel Wadsworth
John James Peck
Ormsby McKnight Mitchel
George Webb Morell
John Henry Martindale
Samuel Davis Sturgis
George Stoneman
Henry Washington Benham
William Farrar Smith
James William Denver
Egbert Ludovicus Vielé
James Shields
John Fulton Reynolds
William Farquhar Barry
John Joseph Abercrombie
John Sedgwick
Charles Ferguson Smith
Silas Casey
Lawrence Pike Graham
George Gordon Meade
Abram Duryée
Alexander McDowell McCook
Oliver Otis Howard
Eleazar Arthur Paine
Daniel Edgar Sickles
Charles Davis Jameson
Ebenezer Dumont
Robert Huston Milroy
Lewis Wallace
Willis Arnold Gorman
Daniel Butterfield
Horatio Gouverneur Wright
Edward Otho Cresap Ord
William Nelson
William Thomas Ward
John Gross Barnard
Innis Newton Palmer
Seth Williams
John Newton
Winfield Scott Hancock
Thomas Leonidas Crittenden
George Wright
Isaac Ingalls Stevens
Thomas Williams
George Sykes
William Henry French
William Thomas Harbaugh Brooks
John Milton Brannan
William Wallace Burns
John Porter Hatch
David Sloane Stanley
William Kerley Strong
Albin Francisco Schoepf
Lovell Harrison Rousseau
James Scott Negley
Thomas John Wood
Richard W Johnson
Adolph Wilhelm August Friedrich Von Steinwehr

Brigadier-General USA (Staff)

Montgomery Cunningham Meigs (Quartermaster-General)
Henry Knox Craig
Lorenzo Thomas (Adjutant-General)
James Wolfe Ripley (Ordnance)

Confederate Generals

Note: Italics, awaiting confirmation of the commission

General ACSA

Samuel Cooper
Albert Sidney Johnston
Robert Edward Lee
Joseph Eggleston Johnston
Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard

Major-General PACS

Leonidas Polk
Braxton Bragg
Earl Van Dorn
Gustavus Woodson Smith
Theophilus Hunter Holmes
William Joseph Hardee
Benjamin Huger
James Longstreet
John Bankhead Magruder
Mansfield Lovell
Thomas Jonathan Jackson
Edmund Kirby Smith

Brigadier-General PACS

Alexander Robert Lawton
Milledge Lake Bonham
Benjamin McCulloch
William Wing Loring
Charles Clark
John Buchanan Floyd
William Henry Talbot Walker
Henry Rootes Jackson
Henry Alexander Wise
Richard Stoddert Ewell
David Rumph Jones
John Clifford Pemberton
Henry Hopkins Sibley
John Henry Winder
Richard Caswell Gatlin
Daniel Smith Donelson
Samuel Read Anderson
Gideon Johnson Pillow
Benjamin Franklin Cheatham
Felix Kirk Zollicoffer
Daniel Harvey Hill
Jones Mitchell Withers
Richard Heron Anderson
Robert Augustus Toombs
Samuel Jones
Arnold Elzey
William Henry Chase Whiting
Jubal Anderson Early
Isaac Ridgway Trimble
Daniel Ruggles
George Bibb Crittenden
John Breckinridge Grayson
Roswell Sabine Ripley
Albert Pike
Paul Octave Hébert
Joseph Reid Anderson
Simon Bolivar Buckner
Leroy Pope Walker
Albert Gallatin Blanchard
Gabriel James Rains
James Ewell Brown Stuart
Lafayette McLaws
Thomas Fenwick Drayton
Thomas Carmichael Hindman
Adley Hogan Gladden
John Porter McCown
Daniel Marsh Frost

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