1861 October 12th

October 12 1861 Friday

Head of Passes, MS

Operations at the Mouth of the Mississippi

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, 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 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. Supporting the USS Richmond were the USS Vincennes and USS Preble, both 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 south-west, 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.

ORDER OF BATTLE: HEAD OF PASSES, MS

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

Missouri. The first Union ironclad, 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.

Steinwehr, Adolph Wilhelm August Friedrich (Frederick ) von / Germany / Born 25 September 1822 Blankenburg, Brunswick / Died Buffalo, New York 25 February 1877
Lieutenant Brunswick Army / Colonel USV 29th New York Infantry 6 June 1861 / Brigadier-General USV 12 June 1862 to rank from 12 October 1861 / Resigned USV 3 July 1865
2nd Brigade Blenker’s Division Army of the Potomac December 1861-3 March 1862 / 2nd Brigade Blenker’s Division II Corps Army of the Potomac 3 March 1862-31 March 1862 / 2nd Brigade Blenker’s Division Mountain Department 1 April 1862-26 June 1862 / 2nd Division I Corps Army of Virginia 26 June 1862-12 September 1862 / 2nd Division XI Corps Army of the Potomac 12 September 1862-22 February 1863 / XI Corps Potomac 22 February 1863-5 March 1863 / 2nd Division XI Corps Army of the Potomac 5 March 1863-28 March 1863 / 2nd Division XI Corps Army of the Potomac 12 April 1863-25 September 1863 / 2nd Division XI Corps Army of the Cumberland 25 September 1863-28 November 1863 / 2nd Division XI Corps Army of the Cumberland 3 March 1864-16 April 1864

Commander in Chief: President Abraham Lincoln

Vice-President: Hannibal Hamlin

Secretary of War: Simon Cameron

Secretary of the Navy: Gideon Welles

  • Atlantic Blockading Squadron USN: Flag Officer Louis Malesherbes Goldsborough USN
  • Gulf Blockading Squadron USN: Flag Officer William McKean USN
  • Pacific Squadron USN: Captain John B Montgomery USN
  • Western Gunboat Flotilla USN: Flag Officer Andrew Hull Foote USN
  • Potomac Flotilla USN: Commander Thomas Tingey Craven USN

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.

McCown, John Porter / Tennessee / Born 19 August 1815 Sevierville, Tennessee / Died Little Rock, Arkansas 22 January 1879
USMA 1 July 1840 10/42 Artillery / Cadet USMA 1 September 1835 / 2nd Lieutenant USA 4th US Artillery 1 July 1840 / 1st Lieutenant USA 30 September 1843 / Regt Quartermaster 29 March 1847-12 January 1849 / Captain USA 9 January 1851 / Resigned USA 17 May 1861 / Captain ACSA Artillery 16 March 1861 / Lieutenant-Colonel ACSA Artillery 9 May 1861 / Colonel PACS Tennessee Artillery 17 May 1861 / Brigadier-General PACS 12 October 1861 / Major-General PACS 11 March 1862 to rank from 10 March 1862 / Paroled Salisbury, North Carolina 12 May 1865 / Brevet Captain USA 18 April 1847
2nd Brigade Western District 7 September 1861-24 October 1861 / Army of the West 20 June 1862-25 June 1862 / 3rd Division Western District 24 October 1861-28 February 1862 / McCown’s Command Western District 28 February 1862-April 1862 / 2nd Division Army of the West April 1862-27 June 1862 / McCown’s Division II Corps Army of Mississippi 27 June 1862-3 July 1862 / McCown’s Division Department of East Tennessee 3 July 1862-November 1862 / Department of East Tennessee 24 August 1862-22 September 1862 / Department of East Tennessee 27 September 1862-20 October 1862 / District of the Tennessee 27 September 1862-22 February 1863 / 3rd Division Hardee’s Corps Army of Tennessee November 1862-February 1863

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 the Indian Territory: Benjamin McCulloch
    • Army of Central Kentucky: Simon Bolivar Buckner
    • Western Army: Benjamin McCulloch
  • District of Arizona: John Robert Baylor
    • District of East Tennessee: Felix Kirk Zollicoffer
  • 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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