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Denbigh Day-by-Day

When doing research on a specific subject, it's easy to become so focused on specific events that one loses track of all the other things that were happening at the same time.  No historical event occurs in a vaccuum; every event shapes, and is shaped by, those around it.  While Denbigh was   running the Federal blockade into Mobile and Galveston, the rest of the American nation was entering the final stage of its most tragic and costly conflict.

The following chronology is adapted from Stephen R. Wise’s Lifeline of the Confederacy (Columbia: University of South Carolina, 1988), Robert E. Denney’s The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Grammercy, 1992), and U.S. Navy's Civil War Naval Chronology, 1861-1865 (Washington: Navy Department, 1971). Note that some dates of Denbigh’s arrivals and departures are unknown, and so have been left out of this chronology.

Date Denbigh Elsewhere
September 10, 1863 Denbigh is written up in a Liverpool area newspaper as being fitted out "to go to China." This attempt at what a later generation would call "disinformation" fools almost no one, least of all U.S. Consul Thomas Dudley, who's been keeping a close eye on this particular vessel. Confederate troops evacuate Little Rock, Arkansas.

U.S. Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles forwards to Rear Admiral David Dixon Porter, commanding U.S. naval forces on the Mississippi, a request for gunboats to assist General William T. Sherman's operations on the Tennessee River.

October 19, 1863 Denbigh sails from Liverpool for Havana. In Charleston harbor, efforts are underway to recover the Confederate submarine H. L. Hunley, which sank on October 15 with all hands in over 50 feet of water. Early next year she will manage to sink the blockading ship U.S.S. Housatonic, but will herself be sunk in the process.
December 7, 1863 Assistant Secretary of the Navy Gustavus V. Fox forwards to the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron intelligence reports on Denbigh and other suspected blockade runners. Fox's boss, U.S. Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, sends a report to President Lincoln on the state of the blockade of Southern ports. According to Welles, the Navy's strength had reached 588 ships, manned by 34,000 officers, seamen and Marines, and mounting almost 4,500 guns.
January 10, 1864 Denbigh arrives at Mobile on her first blockade-running voyage. Confederate officers in Mobile are discussing the previous day’s message from President Jefferson Davis, warning that Mobile will soon be attacked by Admiral Farragut’s West Gulf Blockading Squadron.

Union calvalry begin operations between Memphis and Meridian, Mississippi.

March 14, 1864 Denbigh arrives at Mobile on her second blockade-running voyage. Fort De Russy on the Red River surrenders after an extended bombardment by Federal forces.
March 16, 1864 Denbigh clears Mobile for Havana. A Union landing party occupies the town of Alexandria, Louisiana without resistance.

The threat of the Confederate ram C.S.S. Albemarle, now being built on the Roanoke River in North Carolina, is causing some sleepless nights among the Union officers on vessels in Albemarle Sound.

April 14, 1864 Denbigh arrives at Mobile on her third blockade-running voyage, carrying (among other things) a large lot of cobbler’s tools. Union Admiral David Dixon Porter’s gunboats on the Red River are threatened by falling levels of water in the river.

Three years ago today, secessionists in Charleston were celebrating the surrender of Fort Sumter.

One year from today, President Lincoln will attend a play, "Our American Cousin," at Ford’s Theater in Washington.

April 16, 1864 Denbigh clears Mobile for Havana. The U.S. Army transport Gen. Hunter strikes a mine on the St. John’s River in Florida and sinks.

In Richmond, C.S. Secretary of the Navy Mallory requests Confederate representatives in England to have twelve small steam boilers and engines built for use torpedo boats.

April 30, 1864 Denbigh arrives at Mobile on her fourth blockade-running voyage. Three blockade runners -- Lavinia (ex-U.S.S. Harriet Lane), Alice and Isabel -- escape from Galveston under the cover of darkness and rain squalls. The Union blockading squadron off the port had been given urgent orders to prevent Lavinia's escape, and had set up special signals to be given if she was detected running out. Taking advantage of a heavy rain, though, the blockade runners took a channel along the shore that the Federals believed too shallow for Lavinia and got away. Lavinia passed within 100 yards of U.S.S. Katahdin, but the latter's captain, Lieutenant Commander John Irwin, could not see her clearly for the rain and, thinking she could not be Lavinia because of the depth of the water, gave chase without making the agreed-upon signal. Irwin didn't realize his mistake until dawn, by which time he was far out of sight of the other blockaders. Irwin continued the pursuit for two more days until, his coal completely exhausted, he came about and set sail for Galveston. Rear Admiral Farragut, commanding the West Gulf Blockading Squadron, would reprimand Irwin for "so great a dereliction of duty" in not making the required signal. Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles agreed with Farragut's assessment, but felt it was indicative of more serious problems within the squadron off Galveston: "it can not but be looked upon as a miserable business when six good steamers, professing to blockade a harbor, suffer four vessels to run out in one night." Despite official displeasure with his actions, Irwin retains command of U.S.S. Katahdin, and is later promoted to command U.S.S. Genesee, a much larger sidewheel gunboat.

Joe Davis, the five-year-old son of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his wife, Varina, accidentally falls to his death from the high veranda of the Confederate White House in Richmond, Virginia.

May 7, 1864 Denbigh clears Mobile for Havana. General Ulysses S. Grant, commanding the Federal Army of the Potomac, makes a sudden change in the direction of his advance, forcing General Lee to regroup his forces at a small crossroads called Spottsylvania Courth House, Virginia.

U.S.S. Shawsheen, a 180-ton sidewheeler, is caught by Confederate artillery on the James River. With his ship unable to move and under fire, Acting Ensign Charles Ringot surrendered the vessel. The Confederates took the crew prisoner and blew up the ship.

May 18, 1864 Denbigh arrives at Mobile on her fifth blockade-running voyage. Federal forces resume a series of ineffective attacks on the Confederate line at Spottsylvania Court House, six days after the initial, failed assault. Spottsylvania will prove to be one of the bloddiest battles of the entire war.

Confederate Admiral Franklin Buchanan, "Old Buck," manages to get the new ironclad ram Tennessee over Dog River Bar and into Mobile Bay. C.S.S. Tennessee greatly increases the strength of Confederate forces on the bay, and sets the stage for one of the most dramatic naval actions of the war.

May 26, 1864 Denbigh clears Mobile for Havana. Union General James B. McPherson, commanding an advance guard of General William Tecumseh Sherman’s advancing army, moves into New Hope Church, Georgia, just 26 miles from Atlanta.

Union Rear Admiral Farragut, watching Confederate boats setting out mines at the entrance to Mobile Bay, writes that he has "come to the conclusion to fight the devil with fire, and therefore shall attach a torpedo to the bow of each ship, and see how it will work on the rebels -- if they can stand blowing up any better than we can."

June 7, 1864 Denbigh arrives at Mobile on her sixth blockade-running voyage. Union General William Tecumseh Sherman continues maneuvering his forces north and west of Atlanta, trying to find weaknesses in the Confederate defenses.

The Confederate transport steamer Etiwan goes aground off Fort Johnson near Charleston, and is sunk by Union batteries on Morris Island.

June 14, 1864 Denbigh clears Mobile for Havana. At Cherbourg, France, Captain Semmes of the Confederate raider Alabama concludes that he will have to fight the U.S. Navy's steamer Kearsarge, which is waiting for him outside the harbor. Semmes judges that the ships are about evenly matched, and that he has a good chance of defeating the Union ship. He will be proven wrong five days later.
July 26, 1864 Denbigh clears Mobile for Havana. Mobile is now cut off from the sea – Denbigh is the last blockade runner to safely escape Mobile. In just over a week’s time, Admiral Farragut will lead his ships into Mobile Bay.

Union Rear Admiral Theodorus Bailey, commanding U.S. naval forces at Key West, writes to Secretary Welles that yellow fever is decimating his squadron. "The mortality on the island," he writes, "has reached as high as 12 to 15 in a day."

August 25, 1864 Denbigh arrives at Galveston on her eighth blockade-running voyage. The Confederate raider C.S.S. Tallahassee, slips into Wilmington, North Carolina through the Union blockade. Under her captain, Commander John Taylor Wood, Tallahassee destroyed or captured 31 U.S. merchant ships.

In Georgia, General Sherman’s troops begin moving south and east of Atlanta to cut off the city completely from supply or reinforcement.

November 12, 1864 Denbigh arrives at Galveston on her tenth blockade-running voyage. Commander Napoleon Collins of U.S.S. Wachusett arrives at Hampton Roads, Virginia, with the infamous raider C.S.S. Florida in tow. Collins had attacked and captured the Confederate ship in the harbor at Bahia, Brazil, in open defiance of that nation’s neutrality. The incident sparked an international dispute that would simmer for many months afterward.
December 10, 1864 Denbigh clears Galveston for Havana. U.S.S. Oliver H. Lee, a mortar schooner, captures the British schooner Sort running the blockade off Anclote Keys, Florida, with a cargo of cotton.

Nashville, Tennessee is buried under the snow and ice of a bitter winter storm.

General Sherman is busy probing the defenses of Savannah, Georgia and deploying his troops accordingly.

January 21, 1865 Denbigh arrives at Galveston on her eleventh blockade-running voyage. U.S.S. Penguin, under Acting Lieutenant James R. Beers, drives ashore the steamer Granite City near Velasco, Texas, about 45 miles southwest of Galveston. The blockade runner, which had served with the U.S. Navy before being captured by the Confederates off Louisiana, is a total loss.

Fresh from the capture of Savannah, General Sherman’s headquarters staff boards a steamer from Beaufort, South Carolina.

January 30, 1865 Denbigh clears Galveston for Havana. Acting Ensign James H. Kerens of U.S.S. Henry Brinker notices suspicious activity seen on the shore of the James River. Returning after dark, Kerens and his party discover and disarm two 150-pound Confederate mines hidden along the shore. The mines are then returned to Henry Brinker for detailed study. Kerens, in reporting the reconnaissance, concludes that "I cannot give too much praise to the officers and men who volunteered to go on such a dangerous expedition."

The new Confederate warship Stonewall, two days out from France, is running low on fuel. She alters course for Ferrol, on the Spanish coast. She will later be seized by the U.S. Navy at Havana.

General Sherman turns his army toward Columbia, South Carolina.

February 22, 1865 Denbigh arrives at Galveston on her twelfth blockade-running voyage. Confederate forces evacuate Wilmington, North Carolina. Once the Confederacy’s most important blockade-running port, Wilmington’s fate was sealed by the capture of Fort Fisher five weeks before. Rafael Semmes, former captain of C.S.S. Alabama, would later write of this event, "our ports were all hermetically sealed. The anaconda had, at last, wound his fatal folds around us."
March 18, 1865 Denbigh clears Galveston for Havana. South of Mobile, Alabama, Federal troops set out from Dauphin Island in a feint attack on the city. The city itself will not surrender for nearly four weeks, but its ultimate fate was sealed months before, at the Battle of Mobile Bay.

Commander William Macomb of U.S.S. Shamrock is completing work to refloat the wreck of C.S.S. Albemarle in the Roanoke River.

April 5, 1865 Denbigh arrives at Galveston on her thirteenth blockade-running voyage. President Lincoln visits Richmond, capital of the Confederacy, for a second day. U.S. Secretary of State William Seward is injured in a carriage accident.

Confederate guerillas seize the steamer Harriet DeFord in Chesapeake Bay. Pursued by a U.S. naval detachment, the guerillas run the ship aground in Dimer's Creek, Virginia and remove the cargo before setting her afire.

April 28, 1865 Denbigh clears Galveston for Havana. President Lincoln’s body lies in state in Cleveland, Ohio. An estimated 50,000 people file past the casket to pay their respects.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis is traveling through South Carolina, eluding Union patrols. U.S. Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles warns Rear Admiral Henry K. Thatcher, commanding the West Gulf Blockading Squadron, to watch for attempts by Davis or other Confederate leaders to escape to Cuba or across the Mississippi. "All the vigilance and available means at your command, Welles writes, "should be brought to bear to prevent the escape of the leaders of the rebellion."

May 23-24, 1865 Denbigh runs aground on Bird Key, near Galveston, and is shelled and burned by Union naval forces. The Union Army of the Potomac marches down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., during the Grand Review on May 23. The following day, General W. T. Sherman’s troops follow the same route, passing in review before the new president, Andrew Johnson, at the White House.

Jefferson Davis, who was captured by a Union cavalry patrol near Irwinville, Georgia, almost two weeks ago, is placed in leg irons.




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What's New?

new.gif (977 bytes) John Newland Maffitt and the Galveston Blockade | Chasing a Fox new.gif (977 bytes)
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"An Extremely Fast Boat" | The "Mobile Packet" | A "Bold Rascal" | Denbigh Today
Denbigh's Crew | The Erlanger Loan | Birkenhead-Built: An Unrivaled Legacy
Denbigh Primary Source Documents | Galveston During the Civil War | Denbigh, Clwyd, Wales
The U.S. Coast Survey and the Blockade, 1861 | The Ship's Library: Recommended Reading
Running the Blockade Into Galveston: A Personal Narrative | Denbigh Day-by-Day
Denbigh Portrait | Official Number 28,647 | Valve Chest Animation (300kb) | Investors
Links of Interest | Denbigh F.A.Q. | Denbigh's Engines | Denbigh's Boiler
Feathering Sidewheel


April 27-28 Side Scan Survey | May 7-10 Site Mapping
June 16-17 Sub-Bottom Profiling | Site Mapping, July 9-12, 1998 | Dive Trip, October 18-30, 1998
Underwater Images | 1999 Summer Field Season | Denbigh Site Plan
Jerry Williams Speaking Tour | Denbigh Project Benefit Dinner |
Denbigh Artifacts | 2000 Field Crew | 2000 Field Crew Photo Album |
The Denbigh Wreck Site: A Quicktime VR Panaorama
Connecting Rod Recovery, July 22-24, 2000 | Modeling a Shipwreck
Credits & Thank-Yous

J. Barto Arnold et al. 1998-2000, The Denbigh Project, World Wide Web,
Institute of Nautical Archaeology, Texas A&M University, E-mail: (  
Saturday, August 05, 2000 Revision.

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