NP: July 10, 1864 Sunday Mercury (New York): USS Hydrangea and the Action at Howlett’s Bluff, June 21, 1864



in July 1864

Editor’s Note: This letter to the Sunday Mercury appears here due to Bill Styple’s fantastic book Writing and Fighting the Civil War, which is where I first learned about these amazing soldier letters.  You can purchase a copy of Writing and Fighting the Civil War at Belle Grove Publishing.

United States Steamer Hydrangea.

[Special Correspondence of the N. Y. Sunday Mercury.]

A Little Brush—Mails—Daring Expedition—How it Began and Ended.


We had a brush with the Rebel iron-clads last week [on June 21, 1864 at Howlett’s Bluff]. It did not amount to much. The Canonicus had five holes put in her smoke-stack, but no other damage was done.1 The Monitor Tecumseh has left here for some other place—they say Mobile; also the tug Hare. The United States steamer Wilderness arrived the day before yesterday, bringing our mails and papers. The SUNDAY MERCURY was the first sought for. The boys offered ten cents a copy for it. An expedition left here on the 29th of June [1864]. It has returned, having accomplished its object. They went within two miles of Petersburg, and captured six men and two officers. As they were shoving off they were fired into by a Rebel artillery company, and one of the launches sunk. They got they [sic] men in the other launch, and made off safe with the exception of the following killed and wounded:—George White, coxswain, killed; Thomas Norton, leg badly; Peter Moore, breast; Theodore W. Weaver, first class boy, arm seriously. He jumped overboard and saved the body of George White, coxswain. The rest all got back safe. Great praise is due the officer in charge of the expedition, for the way he brought the wounded off.2 Have no more news.

Yours,                        CONGRESS.3

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Soldier Letters from the New York Sunday Mercury:


  1. SOPO Editor’s Note: This particular Action at Howlett’s Bluff between Union and Confederate ironclads occurred on June 21, 1864.  The USS Hydrangea, the ship of this letter writer, was sent off by Lieutenant-Commander Jonathan Barnes, the commander on the scene, to get his ironclads more heavy artillery ammunition for his big guns, specifically XV-inch and 150 pounder ammo.  As the author noted, the single turreted monitor Canonicus suffered some damage to her smokestack, with the official report noting four holes rather than the five listed here, but other than that no major results occurred.
  2. SOPO Editor’s Note: I cannot find reference to this little expedition in either the Army or Navy Official Records.  More research is needed here.
  3. “United States Steamer Hydrangea.” Sunday Mercury (New York, New York). July 10, 1864, p. 7 col. 3


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