Friday, May 18, 2012

Loss Of The United States Steamer Columbla.

There are three reports on the loss of the Columbia, these reports are very long.  But you will find them very intereesting these reports are given by the officer's that were in the action.  And for you who had an anceston on the Columbia may find him here.  After the reports you will find a list of 45, men saved from the Columbia, plus the names stated within the reports.

Report of Acting Ensign James S. Williams.
United States Flag-Ship Minnesota, Newport News, Va., January 23, 1863.

Sir : In accordance with your orders, I herewith furnish you a report of the circumstance attending the loss of the United States steamer Columbia on the 14th instant.

At 5.30 p. m. of the 14th, the ship was headed in for the land, with a man at the lead, intending to anchor in 7 and a half fathoms of water. Weather mild, but hazy.  Gradually shoaling our water until 6.30 p. m., when the man in the chains called half-seven, upon which the engine was stopped, and hands at their stations for anchoring, the commander and executive officer being on the bridge, Acting Master Howell on the forecastle, and myself upon the quarter-deck. Almost immediately upon stopping the engine white water was discovered ahead, when, upon throwing the lead, I found we had 2 and a half fathoms, the man in the chains calling 7 and a half.

Upon seeing white water the bell was struck to back the engine, but before it could be done the ship was in the breakers with but eight feet of water, (she drawing 11 feet aft.)

Every effort was now used to lighten the ship by throwing overboard coal and pig-iron until she swung broadside on the beach, when she began to thump very hard, and roll so as to render it impossible to work to any advantage, and the sea making in fast. At 11.20 p. m. I was ordered to take the gig and (being supplied with signals) to make all haste in reaching one of the vessels off New Inlet, we lying, as near as I could judge, off Masonboro', North Carolina, aud about half a mile from the beach. The sea being very rough on Wednesday night I made but little headway, and at daylight of the 15th it set in a hard gale from the S.SW., so that I did not arrive at the nearest vessel (the Cambridge) until 4.20 p. m., and reported the case to Captain Parker, who immediately got underway and ran down abreast of the wreck, and anchored until daylight of the 16th, when we found the Penobscot off the wreck, and also that he had succeeded in taking off about thirty persons, besides Master's Mate Morse and five men, who came to her on the 15th in a boat.

On the 16th it blew a heavy gale from the SW., with heavy sea, and wind hauling into NW. in evening. At 8.30 a boat from the wreck came off in charge of Master's Mate Bourne, bringing eight or ten persons and the paymaster's clerk.

Mr. Bourne reported to me that the ship had worked in about four times her length and was thumping very hard, and that the guns had been spiked and thrown overboard, and the foremast cut away, which eased her greatly. At 9 a. m. of 16th the Cambridge and Penobscot ran in and fired on the shore with their rifled guns until a battery on shore opened on the Columbia, which vessel had a white flag flying. Upon the gunboats stopping their fire the batteries ceased, and the wind and sea being very high, so that a boat could not reach the wreck, and the sea making a breach over. About noon a boat was seen to leave the wreck for the shore, and in a short time after a large number of people  were seen on the beach, and it was supposed they had landed. At night the wind moderated, and on the morning of saturday it was smooth as a pond, and two boats were seen running from the wreck to the shore. At 9 a. m. of the 17th the gunboats ran in and opened their fire on the wreck and shore, which was returned by the batteries on the beach.

The rebels having possession of the vessel, and before leaving her they bent, on our ensign by one corner and ran it up. At 10.30 the gunboats hauled off and anchored, and the rebels boarded the wreck again ; and at 3 p. m., or about that hour, she was discovered to be on fire ; and at 9 p. m. she was nearly burnt out, the fire getting quite dim. At 9.30 p. m. I took passage in the Mount Vernon for Beaufort, and have proceeded on to here with all possible despatch.

There are now missing 12 officers and about 40 men, all of whom, I think, landed on Friday.

I am, respectfully, your obedient servant, JAS. S. WILLIAMS, Acting Ensign,

Report of Lieutenant Commander Joseph E. De Haven, United States Gunboat Penobscot, Of New Inlet, N. C, January 17, 1863.

Sir : I have to report that, on the morning of the 14th instant, at about 10 o'clock, while on my passage from Beaufort to join the fleet off New Inlet, and when about twelve miles distant therefrom, I heard several guns fired inshore, and soon afterwards made a vessel apparently aground.

I immediately stood in for her, and made her out to be the United States steamer Columbia, Acting Volunteer Lieutenant Jos. P. Couthouy, ashore in the breakers.

A boat from the Columbia boarded me when about a mile off, from the officer of which I learned that the vessel went on shore the evening before, and that the guns fired were signals of distress, the vessel being so firmly aground as to render futile all hopes of saving her.

I immediately sent back the Columbia's boat to board the ship, and one from this vessel to sound the water. It was not considered safe to board the Columbia as the wind was blowing a heavy gale from the south, and the surf was very heavy around the vessel; but the pilot finding good water nearly up to where the ship lay, I run this vessel in within a cable's length of the Columbia, and anchored in four fathoms water. Mr. Jack, executive officer of this vessel, volunteered to pick a boat's crew and go in to the relief of the Columbia. I gave him the launch, with eleven picked men, who also volunteered, and he went in, but soon sent me back word that he could do nothing more than save the crew,which I ordered him to do as fast as possible. Mr. Jack anchored the launch as near as practicable to the Columbia, and went in with the Columbia's boat and his own crew under the bows of the Columbia, where a tremendous surf was running at the time, and took a line from the vessel to the launch, I at the same time signalling to Captain Couthouy to abandon, if necessary, which signal was not understood by him, he, I presume, having no telegraphic dictionary.  By means of the line from the steamer's bows to the launch some thirty of the crew were hauled through the surf and saved, but night coming on Captain Couthouy refused to send any more men that night, and the boats were called alongside, with the exception of the launch, which was left in position for recommencing operations in the morning, with the Columbia's boat alongside of her for a tender. But about 10 o'clock, the gale still increasing, and the Columbia's boat having been swamped, the officer in charge of the launch returned on board with that boat.

At 12 the sea ran so high that in order to save my own vessel (I only having one anchor) I deemed it prudent to get under way, and gave the order to heave up the anchor and stand off to sea.

At daylight Friday morning we were several miles from the unfortunate steamer, but made for her directly. We were at this time joined by the Cambridge, Commander Parker, senior officer, off New Inlet, and we stood in together for the Columbia, coming to anchor nearly in our old position of the day before. We had no more than got our anchors down before the emmy opened fire on us from the shore with several batteries, every shot going over our deck, which rendered it necessary for us to change our position, firing, however, with our 20-pounder Parrott, the roughness of the sea preventing us from casting tyloose our 11-inch Dahlgren. The firing from the shore was still kept up, mostly at the Columbia, many of their shots penetrating her, which vessel soon hoisted a flag of truce, which was not regarded by the enemy.

At about 10 a. m. the Columbia sent a boat through the surf, with two officers and five men, with a letter from Captain Couthouy, informing me that he was ready to blow up his vessel as soon as his crew could be taken off. This communication I sent on board the Cambridge to Captain Parker, but, as the gale was still increasing, it was not considered prudent by him to send in boats, but to lay by the Columbia until the wind moderated, and then to save all we could.

At 12 m. the enemy ceased firing on the Columbia, and boarded her from the shore, the captain of that vessel having surrendered her.

Nothing was saved from the Columbia, with the exception of the chronometer and sextant, which are on board this vessel, subject to the orders of yourself or the Navy Department.

On the morning of this date, the weather having moderated, we again went in company with the Cambridge, both vessels opening -at short range upon the Columbia, and driving from her a large number of men, who were probably at work stripping the vessel. A rebel flag was flying over her at the time of the action. Several batteries opened upon us from the shore, many of their shot going over us, but fortunately not hitting us. After firing eleven times with my 11-inch gun I found that the carriage was split, rendering its further use dangerous to the ship's company, on reporting which to Captain Parker he ordered me to join the fleet off New Inlet, and send another vessel to his assistance.

I give you hereAvith a list of the officers and crew of the Columbia who were saved, and are now on board this vessel, the others, with the exception of one officer and a boat's crew on board the Cambridge, are probably all prisoners.

The gallant manner in which Acting Master Chas. E. Jack conducted himself was highly creditable, and I would most respectfully recommend him to the favorable consideration of the Navy Department, as I would also the men who volunteered to accompany him, the following being a list of their names and rates :

Patrick McMahan, captain fore, acting cockswain ; Henry McDonald, master at arms ; James Pike, boat's mate ; John Welsh, captain after-guard ; Henry Scott, cockswain ; Thomas Brannon, captain fore ; Thomas Gibson, quartermaster ; Nicholas Flanigham, seaman ; George Eaton, seaman ; James Parker, seaman ; Charles Galaway, landsman.

I also send you the statement of Paymaster's Clerk Henry H. Fanning, relating to the disaster to the Columbia.

I have the honor to be, sir, most respectfully, your obedient servant, JOSEPH E. DE HAVEN.

Report of Paymaster's Clerk H. H. Fanning.
United States Gunboat Penobscot, January 17, 1S63.

Sir : In obedience to your instructions, I herewith submit an account of the loss of the United States steamer Columbia, Joseph P. Couthouy, acting volunteer lieutenant commanding.

On the afternoon of Wednesday, January 14th, we left the Fishing Grounds and proceeded back to our regular anchorage. About 6 o'clock p. m. Mr. Howell, acting master, in charge of the deck, sent word to the captain, who was in his cabin at dinner, that the man at the lead reported ten fathoms of water,but that he thought we were too near inshore, as the two houses here appeared very near. The captain sent back word to let her run until she was in seven and a half fathoms, and not to bring her to anchor before that time.

Immediately after sending said word to the officer of the deck the captain came up from his cabin and stood on the bridge about three minutes, when Mr. Morse, acting master's mate, who was on the forecastle, sang out, "white water ahead." The captain immediately ordered the engines reversed, but before they were reversed the ship struck, and the breakers appeared all around us.  After the ship was hard and fast aground the yards were braced around and sails set on the foremast in hopes of getting her bow off; the coal in bags was then thrown overboard, which did not seem to ease her at all. The engines stopped working in about half an hour after she struck in consequence of the sand getting into the boiler.

About 11 o'clock p. m. a boat was sent in search of the fleet, in charge of Acting Ensign Williams and ten men, as we received no response to our signal guns and rockets. At 12 o'clock, the ship continuing to pound and thump very heavy, the foremast was cut away, which eased her very much. At daylight Thursday, January 15th, our small boat, with Acting Ensign Williams, appeared in sight off our starboard bow, about three miles from the ship. At 10 o'clock a. m. a sail appeared in sight. We immediately commenced firing signal guns, when it bore down to us, and proved to be the United States gunboat Penobscot. We sent a boat out to her in charge of Acting Master's Mate Morse, when she came to anchor very near us, right on the edge of the breakers. At 3 o'clock p. m. the Penobscot's boat came under our boat and took a line out to her launch at anchor between us and the Penobscot.

We then commenced to send the crew, one by one, out to the launch on a life-line; up to dark we sent thirty- two men. During Thursday night the wind increased to a gale, and the sea made a clear breach over the ship, and she pounded and thumped fearfully. About midnight the first lieutenant, Acting Master Balch, sent word forward to the men to look out for themselves, as the ship was going to pieces. The men all came aft to the quarter-deck, and some of them lashed themselves to the rigging of the mainmast, and some to the stanchions. During the forepart of the night the Penobscot made signals to us which we did not understand. At daylight the Penobscot again stood inshore, having put further out to sea during the night. At 7 o'clock a. m. Friday, January 16th, the rebels fired on us from a battery on shore on our starboard quarter, the first shot passing over us within one foot of our smokestack. On their continuing to fire on us the captain ordered the white flag run up, when they ceased firing. As soon as the Penobscot had got well in towards us, the captain ordered the American ensign hoisted, union down, and let the white flag still fly; upon which the rebels reopened fire on us from two batteries on shore, just astern of us, the shell bursting very near us. The quarter-boat was then lowered, and Acting Master's Mate Bourne and seven men, together with myself, put out to the Penobscot with a despatch for the captain, and also carried out the ship's chronometer and sextant. Upon the captain ordering away the quarter-boat the paymaster asked permission to go in her, but was refused, as the captain said both the paymaster and his clerk could not go. I being sick at the time, the paymaster allowed me to go in his stead. Up to the time I left the ship she had not made any water, or injured herself in any way, except the machinery, which was badly broken. As soon as the rebels commenced firing on us the captain ordered our six twenty-four-pound howitzer to be spiked with rattail file and thrown overboard, which was done. The thirty-pound rifle gun on our forecastle still remained on board, though, I believe, spiked. From the time the ship first struck the captain seemed to loose all self-possession, and left everything to his first lieutenant, Acting Master Balch.

In conclusion, I would state that it was the general topic of conversation amongst the officers and men aboard the steamer Columbia how nobly and daringly the Penobscot came to our assistance during our imminent peril, and had it not been for her not a man on board would have been saved.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Paymaster's Clerk on hoard the United States Steamer Columbia.

List of men saved from the Columbia, how on board the Penobscot.

1. Esrom Morse, Master mate.
2. E. S. Bourn, Master mate.
3. H. H. Fanning, Paymaster Clerk.
4. John Rice, Quarter master.
5. Henry Maye, Quarter master.
6. John Savage Jr., Quarter Gunner.
7. Francis Williams, Seaman.
8. R. J. Henderson, Seaman.
9. John Green, Seaman.
10. Daniel Laughlin, Oed. seaman.
11. John Serley, Seaman.
12. Stephen Edeworth, Ord. seaman.
13. John M. Clehlan, Ord. seaman.
14. William Gosser, Ord. seaman.
15. Philip Clark, Ord. seaman.
16. Fred. S. Davis, Ord. seaman.
17. Thomas Branighan, Landsman.
18. John Kelly, Landsman.
19. William O'Conner, Landsman.
20. Jas. McGrath, Landsman.
21. William K. Wilson, Landsman.
22. Michael H. Fox, Landsman.
23. George Wood, Landsman.
24. Andrew Houghion, Landsman.
25. Alonzo Mahan, Landsman.
26. Jas. W. Mead, Landsman.
27. William Hans, Landsman.
28. Jno. Cain, Landsman.
29. George N. Thompson, Landsman.
30. Patrick Kelly, Landsman.
31. William Stanley, Landsman.
32. Thomas Divine, Landsman.
33. Jno. Beard, Coal Heaver.
34. Winlow Myers, Coal Heaver.
35. Chas. Knight, Coal Heaver.
36. Robert Kennedt, Coal Heaver.
37. Sylvester Carravel, Officer's Cook.
38. A. S. Salter, 2nd., class Fireman.
39. Jno. Welsh, 1st., class Fireman.
40. Jno. Johnson, Officer's Steward.
41. Jno. Roberts, 2nd., class boy.
42. W. B. Shultzer, 1st., class boy.
43. Samuel Weller, 1st., class boy.
44. Jno. W. Gaffney, 2nd., class boy.
45. George Wetherber, 2nd., class boy.

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