The Pacific Squadron
Commodore John B Montgomery 1859 – January 2, 1862
Acting Rear Admiral Charles H. Bell January 2, 1862 – October 25, 1864
Rear Admiral George F. Pearson, October 4, 1864 – 1866
The squadron included, at different times:
USS Lancaster, screw sloop-of-war, 24 × 9 in (230 mm) smoothbore Dahlgren guns, 1 × 2 in (51 mm) smoothbore Dahlgren gun, 2 × 30-pounder Parrott rifles, 367 men
USS Saranac, side wheel steam sloop-of-war, 9 × 8-inch guns, complement unknown
USS Wyoming, screw sloop-of-war, 2 × 11 in (280 mm) smoothbore Dahlgren guns, 1 × 60-pounder Parrott rifle, 3 × 32-pounder guns, 198 men
USS Narragansett, 2nd class screw sloop-of-war, 1 × 11 in (280 mm) gun, 4 × 32-pounder guns, 50 men
USS St Mary’s, sloop of war, 16 × 32-pounder guns, 6 × 8 in (200 mm) guns, 195 men
USS Cyane, sloop 20 guns, 200 crew
USS Camanche, Passaic-class monitor, 2 × 15 inch smoothbore cannons, 76 men
USS Shubrick, lighthouse tender steamer
“Flying Flotilla” or Potomac Flotilla
April 22 1861: Commander James Harmon Ward USN, commanding the receiving ship USS North Carolina at the New York Navy Yard, proposed a plan for the protection of the Chesapeake Bay and capital areas. Ward suggested a “Flying Flotilla” of light draft vessels be formed to operate in the Chesapeake and its tributaries. His superior officer, Captain Samuel Livingston Breese, commandant of the New York Navy Yard, endorsed his plan and it was submitted to Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles.
April 27 1861: Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles authorised Captain Samuel Livingston Breese and Commander James Harmon Ward to form a “flying flotilla” of light draft vessels to patrol Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.
April 27 1861: The Potomac Flotilla, or “Flying Flotilla” as originally termed, was established to operate in the Chesapeake and its tributaries.
April 27 1861: Commander James Harmon Ward USN assumed command of the “Flying Flotilla” or Potomac Flotilla. Ward’s flotilla acted independently under the direct orders of the Navy Department, although there was frequent transfer of vessels with the commands Atlantic Blockading Squadron and its successors.
May 1 1861: The first vessels were acquired for the new “Flying Flotilla” or Potomac Flotilla to patrol Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.
May 16 1861: Commander James Harmon Ward USN set out from the New York Navy Yard with three vessels, the USS Thomas Freeborn, USS Reliance and USS Resolute to form the first active force of the “Flying Flotilla” or Potomac Flotilla. Over five years of war the Flotilla employed many vessels, averaging between fifteen and twenty-five vessels.
May 20 1861: Commander James Harmon Ward USN arrived at the Washington Navy Yard aboard his flagship, the USS Thomas Freeborn to activate the “Flying Flotilla” or Potomac Flotilla. The designation of “Flying Flotilla” was dropped when Ward’s force arrived in the theatre of operations and was referred to by a variety of names, such as Potomac River Flotilla or Potomac Blockade or Flotilla in the Chesapeake. In early August 1861 the commander and the Navy Department began to consistently refer to the command as the Potomac Flotilla.
June 27 1861: Union Commander James Harmon Ward’s “Flying Flotilla” or Potomac Flotilla engaged the Confederate batteries at Mathias Point, Virginia. While he was sighting the bow gun of the USS Thomas Freeborn, Ward was shot through the abdomen and died within an hour. He was the first United States Naval officer to be killed during the war.
June 27 1861: Commander Stephen Clegg Rowan assumed interim command of the Potomac Flotilla, succeeding Commander James Harmon Ward.
July 10 1861: Commander Thomas Tingey Craven assumed command of the Potomac Flotilla, succeeding Commander Stephen Clegg Rowan.
December 2 1861: Lieutenant Abram D Harrell assumed interim command of the Potomac Flotilla, succeeding Commander Thomas Tingey Craven.
December 6 1861: Lieutenant Robert Harris Wyman assumed command of the Potomac Flotilla, succeeding Lieutenant Abram D Harrell.
July 1 1862: Lieutenant-Commander Samuel Magaw assumed interim command of the Potomac Flotilla, succeeding Lieutenant Robert Harris Wyman.
September 1 1862: Commodore Charles Wilkes assumed command of the Potomac Flotilla, succeeding Lieutenant-Commander Samuel Magaw
September 10 1862: Commodore Andrew Allen Harwood assumed command of the Potomac Flotilla, succeeding Commodore Charles Wilkes.
December 31 1864: Commander Foxhall Alexander Parker assumed command of the Potomac Flotilla, succeeding Commodore Andrew Allen Harwood.
July 31 1865: The Potomac Flotilla was discontinued and most of its remaining vessels were sent to the Washington Navy Yard to be decommissioned.
Operations of the Potomac Flotilla
Engagement with the Confederate batteries at Aquia Creek, Virginia, 29 May – 1 June 1861
Affair at Mathias Point, Virginia, 27 June 1861
Engagement with the Confederate batteries at Potomac Creek, Virginia, 23 August 1861
Engagement with the Confederate battery at Freestone Point, Virginia, 25 September 1861
Engagement at Cockpit Point, Virginia, 3 January 1862
Expedition up the Rappahannock River to Tappahannock, Virginia, 13–15 April 1862
Expedition up the Rappahannock River to Fredericksburg, Virginia, 20 April 1862
Expeditions to Gwynn’s Island and Nomini Creek, Virginia, 3–4 Nov, 1862
Engagement at Port Royal, Virginia, 4 December 1862
Engagement at Brandywine Hill, Rappahannock River, Virginia, 10–11 December 1862
Destruction of salt works on Dividing Creek, Virginia, 12 January 1863
Destruction of Confederate stores at Tappahannock, Virginia, 30 May 1863
Capture of U. S. steamers Satellite and Reliance, 16 August 1863
Expedition to the Northern Neck of Virginia, 12 January 1864
Expedition up the Rappahannock River, Virginia, 18–21 April 1864
Expedition to Carter’s Creek, Virginia, 29 April 1864
Expedition to Mill Creek, Virginia, 12–13 May 1864
Expedition up the Rappahannock River, Virginia, 16–19 May 1864
Expedition to the Northern Neck of Virginia, 11–21 June 1864
Expedition to Milford Haven and Stutt’s Creek, Virginia, 24 September 1864
Expedition to Fredericksburg, Virginia, 6–8 March 1865
Expedition up the Rappahannock River, 12–14 March 1865
Operations in Mattox Creek, Virginia, 16–18 March 1865
Coast Blockading Squadron / Atlantic Blockading Squadron
The Atlantic Blockading Squadron was a unit of the United States Navy created in the early days of the American Civil War to enforce a blockade of the ports of the Confederate States. It was formed in 1861 and split up the same year for the creation of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron and the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron.
Following President Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation of a blockade of Southern ports on April 19, 1861 the Navy Department found it necessary to subdivide the territory assigned to the Home Squadron. This resulted in the creation of the Coast Blockading Squadron and the Gulf Blockading Squadron in early May 1861.
In orders sent on May 1, 1861 Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles appointed Flag Officer Silas Horton Stringham to command the Coast Blockading Squadron. Stringham received this order and took command on May 4, 1861. His new command was to be headquartered at Hampton Roads, Virginia and was given responsibility for the blockading of the coast from the capes of the Chesapeake to the southern extremity of Florida and Key West.
On May 17, 1861 the Coast Blockading Squadron was re-designated the Atlantic Blockading Squadron.
On September 16, 1861 Stringham resigned as commander of the squadron following his receipt of a letter from Acting Secretary of the Navy Gustavus Vasa Fox that he felt indicated disapproval of his measures to enforce the blockade. Stringham’s resignation was accepted on September 18, 1861 and the same day Flag Officer Louis Malesherbes Goldsborough was appointed as his replacement. The transfer of command took place on September 23, 1861 when Goldsborough arrived at Hampton Roads. In communicating to Goldsborough about his appointment Gideon Welles stated that “more vigorous and energetic action must be taken” to enforce the blockade.
During the summer of 1861 a four-person board, chaired by Captain Samuel F. Du Pont, was formed to study the implementation of the blockade and make recommendations to improve its efficiency. In the board’s report of July 16, 1861, it was recommended that the Atlantic region be divided into northern and southern sectors. On September 18, 1861 the Navy Department reached the decision to implement this division with the dividing line being the border between North Carolina and South Carolina. The implementation of this was delayed for a time and on October 12, 1861 the Navy Department informed Flag Officer Goldsborough that the division of his command would be effective as of the date Flag Officer Samuel F. Du Pont, who was appointed commander of the southern squadron, departed from Hampton Roads with the expedition to capture Port Royal, South Carolina. Du Pont departed on October 29, 1861 upon which date the squadron was divided to form the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron and the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron.
The only major operation conducted by the Atlantic Blockading Squadron was the expedition that led to the capture of Hatteras Inlet, North Carolina August 26–29, 1861. This goal of the operation was to deny use of the inlet to Confederate shipping and this was accomplished with few casualties.
On May 17, 1861 there were only fourteen ships assigned to the squadron, along with the “Flying Flotilla” (later the Potomac Flotilla) which was being formed by Commander James H. Ward who had departed for the Chesapeake from the New York Navy Yard on May 16, 1861. In effect Ward’s flotilla acted independently under the direct orders of the Navy Department, though there was some transfer of vessels between the commands. With the acquisition and arming of civilian vessels the Atlantic Blockading Squadron grew to about three times its original allocated strength.
Flag Officer Silas Horton Stringham 4 May 1861 – 23 Sep 1861
Flag Officer Louis Malesherbes Goldsborough 23 Sep 1861 – 29 Oct 1861
North Atlantic Blockading Squadron
The North Atlantic Blockading Squadron was based at Hampton Roads, Virginia, and was tasked with coverage of Virginia and North Carolina. Its official range of operation was from the Potomac River to Cape Fear in North Carolina. It was tasked primarily with preventing Confederate ships from supplying troops and with supporting Union troops. It was created when the Atlantic Blockading Squadron was split between the North and South Atlantic Blockading Squadrons on October 29, 1861.
After the end of the war, the squadron was merged into the Atlantic Squadron on July 25, 1865.
Flag Officer Louis Malesherbes Goldsborough September 18, 1861 – September 4, 1862
Acting Rear Admiral Samuel Phillips Lee September 5, 1862 – October 11, 1864
Rear Admiral David Dixon Porter October 12, 1864 – April 27, 1865
Acting Rear Admiral William Radford April 28, 1865 – July 25, 1865
South Atlantic Blockading Squadron
The South Atlantic Blockading Squadron was tasked primarily with preventing Confederate ships from supplying troops and with supporting Union troops operating between Cape Henry in Virginia down to Key West in Florida. It was created when the Atlantic Blockading Squadron was split between the North and South Atlantic Blockading Squadrons on October 29, 1861. After the end of the war, the squadron was merged into the Atlantic Squadron on July 25, 1865.
Flag Officer Samuel Francis Du Pont September 18, 1861 – July 5, 1863
Rear Admiral John Adolphus Dahlgren July 6, 1863 – July 25, 1865
Gulf Blockading Squadron
The Gulf Blockading Squadron was a squadron of the United States Navy formed on May 6 1861, patrolling from Key West to the Mexican border. The squadron was the largest in operation. It was split into the East and West Gulf Blockading Squadrons in early 1862 for more efficiency.
Flag Officer William Mervine May 6, 1861 – September 21, 1861
Flag Officer William McKean September 22, 1861 – January 20, 1862
East Gulf Blockading Squadron
The East Gulf Blockading Squadron, assigned the Florida coast from east of Pensacola to Cape Canaveral, was a minor command.
Flag Officer William McKean January 20, 1862 – June 3, 1862
Flag Officer James L Lardner June 4, 1862 – December 8, 1862
Acting Rear Admiral Theodorus Bailey December 9, 1862 – August 6, 1864
Captain Theodore P Greene (interim) August 7, 1864 – October 11, 1864
Acting Rear Admiral Cornelius Kinchilo Stribling October 12, 1864 – June 12, 1865
West Gulf Blockading Squadron
The West Gulf Blockading Squadron was tasked primarily with preventing Confederate ships from supplying troops and with supporting Union troops along the western half of the Gulf Coast, from the mouth of the Mississippi to the Rio Grande and south, beyond the border with Mexico. It was created early in 1862 when the Gulf Blockading Squadron was split between the East and West. This unit was the main military force deployed by the Union in the capture and brief occupation of Galveston, Texas in 1862.
Rear Admiral David Glasgow Farragut January 20, 1862 – November 29, 1864
Commodore James Shedden Palmer November 30, 1864 – February 22, 1865
Acting Rear Admiral Henry Knox Thatcher February 23, 1865 – June 12, 1865
Mississippi River Squadron
The Mississippi River Squadron was the Union riverine or inland naval squadron that operated on the western rivers. It was initially created as a part of the Union Army, although it was commanded by naval officers, and known as the Western Gunboat Flotilla or Mississippi Flotilla. It received its final designation as the Mississippi River Squadron when it was transferred to the Union Navy in October 1862.
May 16 1861: The Union Western Gunboat Flotilla was formed under the command of the Union Army to operate in support of the armies on western rivers. Commander John Rodgers was the first commander, responsible for the construction and organisation of the fleet.
August 30 1861: Flag Officer Andrew Hull Foote assumed command of the Western Gunboat Flotilla, succeeding Commander John Rodgers.
May 9 1862: Flag Officer Charles Henry Davis assumed command of the Western Gunboat Flotilla, succeeding Flag Officer Andrew Hull Foote.
October 15 1862: The Western Flotilla operating on inland waters was discontinued and command of its forces formally transferred from the operational direction of the US Army to the US Navy.
October 15 1862: The Mississippi River Squadron was established from the former Western Gunboat Flotilla.
October 15 1862: Rear Admiral David Dixon Porter assumed command of the Mississippi River Squadron, succeeding Flag Officer Charles Henry Davis.
July 31 1864: Captain Alexander Moseley Pennock USN assumed temporary command of the Mississippi River Squadron, succeeding Rear Admiral David Dixon Porter.
November 1 1864: Rear Admiral Samuel Phillips Lee assumed command of the Mississippi River Squadron, succeeding Captain Alexander Moseley Pennock.
August 14 1865: The Mississippi River Squadron was discontinued.
During the Red River Campaign 0f 1864, the Mississippi Squadron was composed of 10 ironclad warships, 3 monitors, 11 tinclad warships, 1 timberclad warship, 1 ram and various support vessels, including :
USS Osage twin-turret river monitor
USS Neosho twin-turret river monitor
USS Ozark single-turret river monitor
USS Eastport casemate ironclad
USS Essex casemate ironclad
USS Benton casemate ironclad
USS Carondelet casemate ironclad
USS Cincinnati casemate ironclad
USS Louisville casemate ironclad
USS Mound City casemate ironclad
SS Pittsburgh casemate ironclad
USS Lexington timberclad
USS Moose stern-wheel steamer
USS Ouachita side-wheel steamer
USS Nyanza side-wheel steamer
The US Ram Fleet and the Mississippi Marine Brigade
In March 1862, the US Army authorised the noted civil engineer Charles Rivers Ellet to establish a flotilla of steam –powered ram ships for employment on the Western Rivers. Ellet converted several powerful river towboats, heavily reinforcing their hulls for ramming. These ships had light protection for their boilers, engines and upper works and the upper works were protected with wood and cotton bales. They were not originally equipped with artillery, but later most were fitted with guns. With the rank of colonel, Ellet led his force in action during the Battle of Memphis on June 6, 1862, where rams played an important role in the Union victory against the Confederate River Defence Fleet. However, Colonel Ellet died several days later of a wound received at that action.
The Ram Fleet included the following ships at different times:
USS Lancaster, USS Monarch, USS Queen of the West, USS Switzerland, USS Lioness. USS Mingo, USS Samson, USS Fulton, USS T D Horner
After the death of Colonel Charles Rivers Ellet at Memphis in 1862, his younger brother Alfred Washington Ellet took command of the US Ram Fleet. The US Ram Fleet was reorganised and renamed the Mississippi Marine Brigade in early 1863.
By the summer of 1862, Confederate guerrillas regularly harassed Union shipping and soldiers along the Mississippi and its tributaries. To counter the threat, Cmdr. David D. Porter and Col. Alfred Ellet proposed forming a special unit of soldiers to protect the Mississippi Valley from such bushwhackers. The War Department approved the idea and created the Mississippi Marine Brigade, with Ellet commanding as a brigadier general. In theory, the brigade was to operate much like the small, fast boats used during the Vietnam War to conduct quick raids in the Mekong Delta. In practice, it didn’t work that way.
The brigade was formally mustered into service in November 1862, composed of the 1st Battalion Mississippi Marine Brigade Infantry, the 1st Battalion Mississippi Marine Brigade Cavalry, and Walling’s Light Artillery Battery. The first two units were raised in Missouri, while the artillery battery was organized in Ellet’s home state of Pennsylvania. Like the Ellet ram fleet, which would be used to transport the brigade along the river systems, the Mississippi Marine Brigade answered only to Secretary Stanton. In fact, there even was confusion as to which branch of service it belonged. The Army’s judge advocate general declared the brigade was a “special contingent of the Army and not the Navy,” but Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, who commanded the Mississippi Valley, wrote that the officers and men of the Marine Brigade “are not subject to my orders.”
The Marine Brigade first saw action when it accompanied Gen. William T. Sherman in December 1862 down the Mississippi River to attack Vicksburg’s defences at Chickasaw Bluffs. Sherman’s advance up the Yazoo River was hampered by Confederates mines, one of which sank the ironclad Cairo. To clear the way, Ellet placed a large rake that protruded 45 feet from the bow of one of his rams and used it to break the cables holding the torpedoes to the bottom. When the torpedoes popped to the surface, his men were able to detonate them safely. Ellet’s ingenious idea was for naught, however, because the Confederates repulsed Sherman when he attacked the bluffs.
Over the next several months, the Mississippi Marine Brigade participated in several operations along the river. In March 1863, 200 Confederate guerrillas from Missouri attacked a fortification in Tensas Parish, La., that was manned by 400 marines. After being driven back to their boats, Ellet’s men tried for several days to drive off the enemy, but the Confederates finally withdrew on their own after capturing supplies and a number of wagons. The marines remained in the area through April but spent most of their time raiding nearby plantations for cotton rather than fighting rebels.
One of the more controversial members of the Marine Brigade was Charles Rivers Ellet, the 19-year-old son of Charles and nephew of Alfred. Young Charles commanded the Ellet ram Queen of the West and ran it past Vicksburg in February 1863 to make a raid up the Red River. When Confederates fired on his ship from the riverbank and mortally wounded one man, Ellet exacted revenge by burning plantations in the area. A reporter from the Chicago Tribune was onboard the Queen of the West and wrote how one Southern girl stood her ground and berated Ellet and the other Yankees as flames leapt up around her. “When she discovered that her abuse failed to move Colonel Ellet, just as the flames began to curl around the housetop, like a brave and gallant girl, as she was, she sang, in a ringing, defiant tone, the ‘Bonnie Blue Flag,’ until forest and river echoed and re-echoed with sweet melody.”
Charles managed to capture four Confederate ships on his Red River expedition, but the Queen of the West finally ran aground and was captured by the South. Ellet escaped by floating downstream on a cotton bale.
Just weeks later, Adm. David Farragut requested the use of two of the Ellet rams to assist him in operations below Vicksburg. Porter was away, so Colonel Ellet took advantage of his independent status and allowed Charles to take the vessels past Vicksburg during the daylight hours. Confederate batteries on the bluffs sank one of the ships and badly damaged the other. When Porter returned and learned of the fiasco, he furiously demanded of Alfred Ellet, “Will you please inform me by what authority you sent the rams … past the batteries at Vicksburg, in open day, and without taking any precautions to guard their hulls?” Ellet took full responsibility for the foolhardy mission, and Farragut was apologetic to Porter. Ellet continued in command of the damaged ram and remained with Farragut for operations against Port Hudson, La. Porter, however, warned Farragut to keep a close eye on the teenager or “he will go off on a cruise somewhere before you know it, and then get the ship into trouble.” Charles Rivers Ellet’s loss of the Queen of the West and a second ram within a matter of weeks did not endear the Mississippi Marine Brigade to the Navy.
The Marine Brigade participated in several operations associated with the 1863 Vicksburg Campaign, including the attack on Fort Hindman, Ark.; the Yazoo Pass Expedition; and the Battle of Port Gibson, Miss.
During that time, another controversial incident occurred in May when Confederate cavalry in Austin, Miss., fired on some of the brigade’s boats on the Mississippi. A few days later, Ellet landed his men near the town and began skirmishing with the rebels. Losses were light on both sides, but Ellet managed to drive the enemy from Austin. Ellet suspected the Confederates had stockpiled arms and ammunition in the town, but a search turned up nothing. When the residents failed to provide him useful information, Ellet decided to make an example of Austin for harbouring the rebels.
In his after-action report, he wrote, “I burned the town of Austin, having first searched every building…. As the fire progressed, the discharge of loaded fire arms was like volleys of musketry as the fire reached their hiding places, and two heavy explosions of powder also occurred.” One of the marines wrote, “Ellet sent the torchbearers ahead to burn the school, where books still lay open, and where problems in arithmetic, scratched upon blackboards, still waited to be solved. As the boats shoved off from the smouldering town, the academy burst into flames, belching smoke from every door and window.” One of Ellet’s own officers condemned the burning and claimed he never forgot “the sad scene of women and children left alone with their burning houses slowly eating away all hope.”
Within weeks the Mississippi Marine Brigade was involved in the burning of another town. In June 1863, the unit participated in a raid on Richmond, La., the seat of government for Madison Parish. A small detachment of Confederates contested the Yankees’ advance just outside town, but it was quickly brushed aside. The Union commander retaliated for the skirmish by burning down the town.
After the capture of Vicksburg, the Marine Brigade stayed busy in northeast Louisiana protecting leased plantations from marauding Confederate cavalry and guerrillas. Among the rebels they frequently encountered were two companies of the famous Confederate bushwhacker William Quantrill’s command that were sent to the area after being driven out of Missouri.
The brigade’s burning of private homes and towns earned it the undying hatred of Confederate soldiers and civilians. One marine wrote, “the Rebels swear vengeance on this Brigade, they hate us more than any other Regt. out, for they know well that we are determined to keep the Mississippi River open.”
The rebels were not the only ones who held the Marine Brigade in low regard. David Porter had little respect for any of the Ellets, and the feeling was mutual. Porter claimed that the brigade’s “robberies and house burning are shameful.” He also had a personal grudge against the Ellets. He accused them of being “guilty of some very dirty, underhand[ed] work toward myself … were guilty of gross falsehoods in making malicious statements, and lied deliberately after making them.”
Porter requested that the brigade be transferred to serve under General Grant, but Grant wasn’t keen on that idea. Instead, Grant wanted to break up the brigade by converting the rams to transport vessels and reassigning the officers and men. The only problem was that no one could find the Mississippi Marine Brigade. The assistant secretary of the Navy, Gustavus Fox, wrote to Porter that “Stanton will transfer them if you will only tell us where they are.” Porter replied that he would find them but informed Fox that the Marine Brigade had been “the most expensive affair, for the little done, ever got up in the country.” “If it should be permitted to operate independently,” he said, “the Navy would bear all the odium of its doings.” The brigade was finally located, but it was allowed to remain intact and joined Porter and Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks for the 1864 Red River Campaign.
The Marine Brigade lived up to its lawless reputation that year when it burned, looted and vandalized homes from the mouth of the Red River all the way to Alexandria, La. Banks and Porter could do nothing to rein in the unit because technically it was under neither officer’s command. The two were greatly relieved when they received word that the Marine Brigade was needed to patrol the Mississippi River because most of the region’s naval vessels were with Porter on the Red River. The brigade departed Alexandria on March 27 and destroyed every village and settlement along the Red River from there to the Mississippi.
About two months later, on June 6, 1864, the brigade participated in the last major Civil War battle fought in Arkansas. Confederate cavalry and artillery under Col. Colton Greene had been inflicting serious damage on Union shipping on the Mississippi River, and Gen. A.J. Smith, with the Mississippi Marine Brigade, was sent to run them off. Smith’s men attacked the rebels at Ditch Bayou, near the town of Lake Village. The Yankees eventually forced the enemy to retreat, but not before more than 100 Northerners were killed or wounded.
Afterward Union troops occupied Lake Village. Before they left, the marines and possibly other soldiers burned the newspaper office and other buildings, looted homes and shot livestock. The next day, the Yankees marched to Columbia, burned that town, and reboarded their vessels.
By then, the Mississippi Marine Brigade was a pariah to both the Army and Navy. Personal feuds within the Ellet family (which provided not only the commander but also three other officers) and the inability of military officials to control its lawless activities made the brigade ineffective in actually fighting rebels. By August 1864, War Department officials decided the brigade wasn’t worth its trouble and disbanded it. Having lost both his ram fleet and his marine brigade, Gen. Alfred Ellet resigned his commission in December and returned to engineering.
The Mississippi Marine Brigade and the ram fleet remained under the command of the US Army even after the transfer of the Western Gunboat Flotilla to the navy on 15th October 1862. It usually operated independently of navy command, providing the army with an amphibious force. It included artillery, cavalry and infantrymen aboard a fleet of boats equipped for combat and transportation.
On May 29 1863: The Mississippi Marine Brigade joined the fleet above Vicksburg.
There was often uncertainty about the status of the Mississippi Marine Brigade. A ruling of the Judge-Advocate General, dated 11 June 1863, seems to make the brigade a “special contingent of the army and not the navy,” but as late as 23 July 1863, Major-General Ulysses Simpson Grant wrote: “The officers and men of the Marine Brigade are not subject to my orders.” By order of the Secretary of War the army assumed full jurisdiction over the brigade in October 1863.
On 14 June 1863, the unit joined Brigadier-General Joseph Anthony Mower’s expedition to Richmond, Louisiana, and skirmished with the Confederates, losing 3 men wounded.
On 20 June 1863, Admiral David Dixon Porter reported that two 10-pounder Parrott rifles placed by the Mississippi Marine Brigade on the Louisiana side of the Mississippi River had much annoyed the Confederates for two or three days.
ON 19 June 1863, Brigadier-General Alfred Washington Ellet ordered work to begin on a casemate fort on the point opposite the city of Vicksburg. The fortification was completed in four days by the Mississippi Marine Brigade and was covered with a protective covering of railroad iron. The fort was erected and one 20-pounder rifled Parrott gun was emplaced under the direction of Lieutenant-Colonel George E Currie; the gun was commanded and sighted by Captain Thomas C Groshon. The Brigade also placed a small brass Dahlgren gun in a casemate near the Parrott. The Parrott gun was opened fire on Vicksburg early on 23rd June 1863. The Confederates responded by firing 17 rounds from five different guns. Fire from the Parrott gun in the fort was maintained until the end of the siege with a total of 98 rounds being expended. Considerable annoyance to the Confederate defenders was accomplished, especially by stopping work at the foundry and machine shop. The fort was repeatedly struck but without material damage and without loss of life.
25–30 June 1863, a detachment of the Mississippi Marine Brigade aboard the steamer John Rains joined an expedition to Greenville, Mississippi under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Samuel J Nasmith of the 25th Wisconsin.
30 June 1863: At Goodrich’s Landing, Louisiana, the Mississippi Marine Brigade lost one man killed.
The Ellet fleet was disestablished in August 1864, and its remaining ships were transferred to other duties.