“Our Ironclads on the James River”: The Collected Correspondence of “Garryowen”

During the Civil War, newspapers frequently published correspondence written by soldiers and sailors at the front. Some servicemen took the opportunity to act as quasi-reporters for particular publications, ensuring that their views and opinions regularly appeared in print. In May 1864, letters from an Irishman who went by the pen name Garryowen began to appear in the pages of the New York Irish-American. Over the course of the months that followed, he wrote at least 25 letters that were made available to readersThough the identity of Garryowen is unknown, we know he served as a Fireman aboard the ironclad USS Onondaga, and was presumably (based upon his chosen nom de plume) a native of Limerick. His correspondence offers a detailed insight into Union naval operations on the James River in the last year of the war, particularly with respect to activity at the Dutch Gap Canal, an effort to bypass a bend in the James and in so doing avoid formidable Confederate forts. The letters describe in detail the Onondaga‘s operations, including the actions she participated in, the construction of the canal, and interactions with the Confederates. There are frequent insights into life aboard ship: how the men passed the time, camaraderie and tensions among the crew, and the occasional excitement brought about by famous visitors, such as Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Francis Meagher. Garryowen was also an ardent Democrat and Fenian, and often took the opportunity to outline his positions on politics in both America and Ireland, providing an excellent insight into views that were shared by many serving Irishmen. As an addition to the Resources section of the site, I have sought to gather and transcribe Garryowen’s correspondence for the benefit of readers. Below you will find 25 of his letters, written between May 1864 and April 1865, which amount to over 20,000 words of correspondence from this Irish sailor. If I identify any further letters from Garryowen I will add them to this resource. The date of their original publication in the Irish-American is contained within square brackets.

A view of the U.S.S. Onondaga on the James River during the American Civil War (Library of Congress)

A view of the U.S.S. Onondaga on the James River during the American Civil War (Library of Congress)

[New York Irish-American Weekly 14 May 1864]

THE MONITOR “ONONDAGO”

U.S. MONITOR “ONONDAGO,”

JAMES RIVER, May 3, 1864.

To the Editors of the Irish-American:

Gentlemen- I am in receipt of my old friend and companion, the IRISH AMERICAN, for which I return many thanks. As I promised that you should hear from me occasionally, I will redeem that promise, though my facilities for writing are very meagre, however, the few spare moments I have I shall devote to letting you know of our progress since we left New York. We weighed anchor and proceeded from the Navy Yard on Monday afternoon, the 18th ult., and went down without any accident or interruption as far as Sandy Hook, the ship working to the satisfaction of all concerned; the weather being considered boisterous, we remained opposite the “Hook” until the Thursday following, when we started on our mission of death and destruction, for which purpose our “iron cave” (as I may call it,) was constructed. Saturday morning Cape Henry lighthouse hove in view, which indicated a speedy arrival at our then destination and about 10 o’clock we anchored off Fortress Monroe. We remained here until evening, when we went further up the river about ten miles, where we are now at anchor, fully prepared for any emergency. Our armor, or fighting material, consists of four heavy guns, two in each turret, of fifteen inch smooth bore and eight inch rifle, respectively, together with numerous small arms.

Our ship, it will be observed, is constructed with all iron, even the deck, with the addition of a timber deck laid over the iron one. She is considered one of the most formidable of the Monitors, and is looked upon to accomplish great results, as it is supposed that no shot can take effect on her, and when in action, all hands are down below, every man at his post. We are bound for “On to Richmond,” and, of course, will find it a “hard road to travel,” of which, however, I intend to keep you posted. More soon.

Yours very truly,

A GARRYOWEN BOY.

Officers on the deck of the U.S.S. Onondaga. The identity of the Irish correspondent, 'Garryowen', has not been established (National Archives)

Officers on the deck of the U.S.S. Onondaga. (National Archives)

[New York Irish-American Weekly 28 May 1864]

FROM THE IRON-CLAD “ONONDAGO”

U.S. MONITOR “ONONDAGO,”

JAMES RIVER, May 10, 1864.

To the Editors of the Irish-American:

Gentlemen- On the 5th instant we started with the “James River Expedition,” to combine with the army in the taking of “Richmond.” The expedition consisted of about a half dozen monitors, ten or fifteen gunboats and a numerous quantity of transports and tugs with troops on board, which they landed at a given point. The day was beautifully fine, and the mustering and starting of so many vessels was indeed magnificent, while it conveyed the impression that some hot work was near at hand, which “Uncle Sam’s” boys are eager for, in order to subdue the rebellion at once and go home. Nothing of importance occurred on the passage to attract attention until towards evening, when, while near as far as we wanted to go, a rebel “torpedo” struck the gunboat Eutaw, and sank her and some of her crew. So many stories are told about her that I can’t decide which to send; perhaps it is no difference. Enough that the boat is a total loss, with the most of her crew. So much for rebel ingenuity.

We are quietly lying at anchor here, twenty miles below Richmond, with everything ready for action at a moment’s notice, as our Lieut. Commander Cushman, is a most energetic man, and one the “rebs” will find hard to catch “napping.” Last Sunday morning, he addressed the “boys” on a matter of morality and discipline. He referred to reports reaching him of thieves being among the crew, as several articles, such as money, clothes, &c., were missing. He was sorry such was the case, but he could not admit that thieves were about; he attributed the loss to the forgetfulness and carelessness of the men themselves in putting away things for safety, and forgetting where they put them. He [illegible] several instance of this and cited them; but [illegible] disgraceful epithet of thief be discovered and attached to any one he should [illegible] him at once. He then congratulated the crew on their manly bearing and their willingness and despatch in obeying orders and promptness in executing them, and several other themes which I have not space nor time to mention. He spoke in a feeling, good-natured manner, which character fully abides in him, together with being a gentleman, a seaman, and a scholar.

The fire department, that most important part of the ship, is ably and skilfully officered, the chief engineer, Mr. Henderson, being a gentleman of superior mechanical attainments, and of a kind, friendly disposition, and unceasing in attending to his duties, of which he is a perfect master. His assistants, Messrs. Hull and Lewis, are equally assiduous in performing their duties, and are accomplished gentlemen, the latter being rather more communicative than most officers of this rank are- pleasant and agreeable, and will crack a joke with the boys, and with all that, get their work done up to the mark. Take them all in all, we have a good set of officers, a bully crew, and a ship that defies all the shot and shell the rebels will let fly at her; and when Richmond is taken, as it must be, and the rebellion subdued, then we will head our iron monster across the Atlantic and anchor in “Bantry Bay,” where we will soon plant the “Green above the Red.”

Very truly yours,

A GARRYOWEN BOY.

USS Onondaga on the James River (Library of Congress)

USS Onondaga on the James River (Library of Congress)

[New York Irish-American Weekly 11 June 1864]

FROM THE JAMES’ RIVER FLEET

U.S. MONITOR “ONONDAGA,”

JAMES’ RIVER, VA., May 26, 1864.

To the Editors of the Irish-American

While the roar of distant cannon is daily ringing through our ears, and while the hostile parties on both sides of us are measuring their strength and manuring the soil of Virginia with their hearts’ blood, we are remaining comparatively idle in the James, notwithstanding that the sensational reporters of the New York press would have their readers to understand that we have been in three or four engagements. Now, for the information of your half million readers, such are simply lies, concocted, no doubt, to magnify the importance of our presence here, and to gratify a hungry public with sensational news. Of the movements of the army I cannot say anything; but until such time as they can approximate the defences of Richmond much more closely we don’t expect to make any successful movement; at which time, however, you may rely that the Monitors will render a good account of themselves, especially the Onondaga. When she gets within range of Fort Darling, you may rely on seeing rebels scatter, with shot and shell in hot pursuit after them. Though not actually engaged in fighting, we are improving the time by making every preparation-occasionally sending one of our messengers of death through the woods to keep off prowling guerillas, as we now and then get reports that they are locating themselves along the river. In such cases we proceed to the scene of operations, when they seem to anticipate our movements and make themselves scarce.

I am just in receipt of a letter from home with the announcement that my young friend and companion, John Nash, had also joined the navy and sailed in the steamer or gunboat “Ostego” for these quarters. Well, just before the arrival of the letter bearing this intelligence, the steamer had passed us, going further up the river- the crew were waving their hats and handkerchiefs at us as they passed, but, not knowing at the time that my young friend was on board, I did not look particularly to see him, but now suppose he was one of those greeting us, he knowing I was on board here. The columns of the IRISH-AMERICAN have borne ample testimony to the bravery, chivalry and undaunted pluck of many an Irishman in the bloody contest now waging, but I doubt if any of them- even those who have sealed their devotion to the flag with their life’s blood- can outrival the genuine patriotism and high dashing spirit of young Nash. Having served two years in the Hawkins’ Zouaves, through all the battles they have been in, and their time having expired, they were honorably discharged; and now we find him ready to offer on the altar of his country, in a different branch of its service, his life for the preservation of those laws which secured to him and his countrymen peace and happiness. All honor to such noble principles, and may “He, who tempereth the wind to the shorn lamb,” protect and guard my young hero friend and companion, and return him safe home to the bosom of an attached father and mother and loving brothers and sisters; and may our unfortunate country soon enjoy peace, comfort and pleasure for her citizens, a consummation most devoutly wished for, but not until the Stars and Stripes shall wave triumphantly over every strip of land from Maine to Texas and from New York to New Orleans. Devotedly yours, &c.,

A GARRYOWEN BOY.

The USS Onondaga drawn by Alfred Waud (Library of Congress)

The USS Onondaga drawn by Alfred Waud (Library of Congress)

[New York Irish-American Weekly 9 July 1864]

THE ONONDAGO IN ACTION

U.S. IRON CLAD “ONONDAGO”

“DUTCH GAP,” JAMES RIVER,

VA., June 22d, 1864.

To the Editors of the Irish-American:

I avail myself of the earliest opportunity to inform the numerous readers of your journal of our recent actual engagement with the “Rebels.” The dull monotony which prevailed in this part of the river for the past few weeks was broken yesterday, by the whizzing of balls and shells around us. In order to allay the anxiety of those fond ones who are represented on board here by husbands, brothers, and sons. I will state that “nobody is hurt,” notwithstanding a vigorous fire was kept up for about six hours. Tuesday, the 21st of June, will be long remembered by the crew of the “Onondago,” as the day she, for the first time, encountered the enemy. Well and nobly she acted her part, and sustained the reputation she so richly deserves as being “monarch of all she surveys.” We were aware for some time that the rebels intended to build a battery some two miles above us on the ben of the river, and we occasionally sent a few shells daily in that direction, not having water enough in the river to ascend higher;- but notwithstanding our efforts to baffle them, they succeeded in firmly establishing themselves in the place designated. In order more clearly to illustrate our position, I might say that the course of the river in this locality resembles that of a “horse shoe”- with our four monitors, viz. Onondago, Tecumseh, Canonicus, and Saugus, at the left hand heel, the rebel battery at the toe, and the rebel iron clads at the right hand heel, from whence they can send us their respects across the peninsula thus formed, in the shape of shell and shot, which, however, is at random, as we are not visible to them, nor they to us: but their movements in the battery we can easily discern with the aid of a glass. At noon, on the day mentioned, the Tecumseh opened fire on the battery, which, to our surprise and consternation, elicited a reply from that quarter in the shape of a shell going whiz-zr-zr-zr over our heads; while eating dinner on deck under the awning, as is our wont this fine warm weather. Such a gathering up of tinpots, pans, mess-kettles, &c., &c., was never before seen, and the jokes and larks which usually prevail on such assemblages, were quietly dispensed with, and more sedate and solemn countenances substituted. A general rush was made for the hatchway; every man feeling that he had a duty to perform, and in less time that it takes to mention it, all hands were at “quarters.” We kept up a vigorous fire alternatively from both our “turrets,” accompanied by the other “monitors,” until night. The rebels, on the other hand, were no way sparing in their efforts to cripple us, as their shot and shell flew around, about, above, and below us; but failed to hit us at any time, except a small splinter of a shell which scratched our deck a little, doing no damage whatever.

What casualties occurred among the “Rebels,” I cannot say; but we observed that we dismounted one of their guns, and if not some of themselves, it is, indeed, marvellous. Today everything is quiet, and only that the President has come to visit us, everything would wear its usual aspect;- but, true enough, “Uncle Abraham” is in our midst, on a tour if inspection, I presume; he came on board here, just as I was writing, accompanied by his young son, Lieut. Gen. Grant, Major-Gen. Butler, and a host of gold laced gents of lesser note; they remained about twenty minutes, when they again departed. There were no demonstrations made, on our part, to receive them, and they came and we as other less distinguished visitors do.

Yours very truly,

A GARRYOWEN BOY.

The USS Onondaga on the James (Library of Congress)

The USS Onondaga on the James (Library of Congress)

[New York Irish-American Weekly 27 August 1864]

OUR IRON-CLADS ON THE JAMES RIVER

U.S. IRON-CLAD “ONONDAGA,”

DUTCH GAP, JAMES RIVER, VA.,

August 14, 1864.

To the Editors of the Irish-American:

Gentlemen- The dull monotony which prevailed here for some time past, was somewhat disturbed yesterday morning by the rebels opening upon us from their batteries and iron-clads on the other side of the Peninsula, which the curve in the river here forms. Your readers will no doubt recollect that in a former letter I compared the course of the river in this vicinity to a horse shoe, and my remembering the similitude they will more clearly understand or recognize our position. In the early part of the week, it was deemed necessary (for purposes which I am not at liberty to relate,) to transfer a portion of General Butler’s forces to the Peninsula so formed- or, otherwise, to the north side of the river- under cover of our monitors, which was accordingly done: and, in a short time, there appeared to our view quite a city of canvass houses. The enemy, as it subsequently appeared, were not slow in discovering this movement, and, anticipating further encroachments, concluded to interrupt the proceedings and give us as much annoyance as possible. As their “navy”, so-called is confined to a limited sphere of action, they availed themselves of this opportunity of giving practical evidence of their existence- (the distance from the camp to their anchorage being no more than two miles, and consequently within range,)- they commenced a vigorous shelling early in the morning;- but, providentially, our boys- as if anticipating this attack- had struck tents the night before, and moved farther back and away from the original settlement. Owing to this “change of base,” the rebels were foiled in their expectations. As it is though, they did considerable damage, having killed some 10 or 12, and wounded about 30- all soldiers. As numerous shells exploded and ploughed the parched earth about the original camp-ground, it was lucky that the change had taken place, or else the result would have been dreadful: but, taking a wide range of the country in their efforts to cripple us, a few stray shots landed in the right place and produced the result mentioned. Of course there was a great consternation about the camp, as we caw large bodies of soldiers hurrying to and fro, and unusual activity among our fleet. Everything was immediately put into fighting trim; decks cleared; hammocks “piped” up: the watch below aroused from their quiet slumbers; “all hands to quarters;” and every preparation on our part made to participate in the melee, should occasion require or an opportunity offer. our land batteries- of which there are 3 or 4- replied promptly and, I have no doubt, successfully. The south bank of the river, where they are located, commanded a high eminence, thereby affording the guns ample scope for sending their respects across to the enemy; hence it is that the bed of the river is too low to admit of our being essential participants in the affray. It is only when their “rams” or “Iron-clads” attempt to emerge from their pent-up condition, that we have a little exercise at them-an exercise that will result in another Alabama termination.

A little after the firing commenced, the mail steamer Wilderness proceeded on her way down to City Point, when a shell exploded over her, and only by her great speed she managed to evade it, it dropping right at her stern in the water. You may be sure her paddles executed some marvellous quick revolutions that time, and she “hugged” the shore closer than is customary. We tried some half-dozen rounds, but, seeing we accomplished no good, soon ceased. In the evening, Gen. Butler, with a portion of his staff, came on board and held a consultation with out brave and determined Captain and heroic Lieutenant Commander. What transpired I, of course, know not: and if I did, it would not do any one else any good. The General did not remain long, when he left for his headquarters. Thus ended one day’s operations, such as we were unaccustomed to, at least in this part of the river.

One of our seamen, named John Sullivan, a native of the county Cork, got severely wounded here a few days ago. It appears he was extricating a rifle from among a pile of them, when it went off- having been laid away loaded- the ball entering the fleshy part of his hand under the thumb, passing through the wrist, and then through the calf of his leg. The latter wound is not dangerous; the hand, it was first thought, would have to be amputated; but I subsequently learned that it would not be necessary to do so, and that he is getting along very well. He is at present in the Norfolk Marine Hospital. Sullivan was a kind, open-hearted, agreeable man, thorough going Irish nationalist, a practical seaman, and an experienced man-of-wars-man, having seen a good deal of service as such, both in the British and American navies. He told me several times that he declared on the quarter-deck of a British, in the presence of his superior officer-of course thoroughly British- that he hoped he would not die until he would avenge the wrongs done his native land by the government which he had the misfortune to serve under; a desire which he still cherishes, and hopes the day is not far distant when he can execute it. Truly might he repeated the concluding lines of one of the Immortal Davis’s best national songs:-

-“Never as a skulking slave I’ll tread my native soil on:

But were she free or to be fre’d, the battle’s close would fine me.

To Ireland bound, no message need from the girl I left behind me.”

More anon,

GARRYOWEN.

The USS Onondaga on the James (Library of Congress)

The USS Onondaga on the James (Library of Congress)

[New York Irish-American Weekly 3 September 1864]

OUR IRON-CLADS ON THE JAMES RIVER

U.S. IRON-CLAD “ONONDAGA.”

DUTCH GAP, JAMES RIVER, VA.,

August 21, 1864.

To the Editors of the Irish-American:

Gentlemen- Since my last addressing you, this place has assumed a more warlike appearance than heretofore, inasmuch as a large portion of the Army of the Potomac have been transferred to the north side of the James in this vicinity, where they have been hotly engaged, attended with success, during the past week. Of their immediate movements I cannot with certainty speak; nor do I feel inclined to draw on my imagination as to their results. Such an undertaking I will leave in the hands of the “indefatigables” of the New York dailies, who can pander to the appetite of a greedy public with all kinds of sensational news, true or otherwise: my desire being to furnish your readers with a reliable account of the position of affairs in this vicinity, and particularly of the part we ourselves play in this great drama of “The Life or Death of the Nation.”

The cutting of a canal here- I might say abreast of us- will, it is presumed, afford us an opportunity to develop our great power to crush the stronghold of rebellion; for, once within range of their forts and fortifications, we have no doubt of our ability to silence them and open the way for the “Grand Army” to pass through. I refrained from mentioning about this canal in my last least it might be contraband to do so: but seeing the operation fully reported in the New York dailies I feel myself no longer restrained. While on this subject I would like to ask what is the good of prohibiting one class of people from giving details- especially through the columns of a weekly paper- when another class is allowed to parade them before the world, at a time when they are scarcely commenced. Surely such information, through the daily press, reaches the rebel capital inside of forty-eight hours. But “He that runs may read.”

There has been considerable artillery duelling here this week between our batteries and the “Reb’s,” the avowed object of the latter being to annoy us or drive us away from our canal operations. But they “can’t do it.” Their range, so far, is decidedly wide of the mark, and, consequently, “the work goes bravely on.”

Gen. T.F. Meagher is on a visit to the “seat of war;” and, after viewing the canal operations, came on board our “Iron Home,” accompanying Major-Gen. Butler and a portion of his staff. Gen. Meagher was dressed in civilian’s clothes, but was soon recognized, though no demonstrations were made to convey that idea. The party remained about an hour, when they departed towards “Crow’s Nest,” where horses were waiting to convey them to headquarters.

The war clouds are hovering around us, the booming of guns are ringing in my ear as I write: and every indication that we will be soon engaged in a mighty struggle is apparent; but we have no fears, the Onondaga and her noble officers and crew will be heard from with tidings of joy and victory, that will neutralise the glorious achievements at Mobile, and cast a halo of renown over the names of Captain Smith and Lieut. Commander Cushman, equalled only by the Barrys, Perrys, &c., of our glorious navy. Hurrah, then, for the canal; and, then- “On to Richmond.”

GARRYOWEN.

[New York Irish-American Weekly 10 September 1864]

The commencement of the Dutch Gap Canal (Library of Congress)

The commencement of the Dutch Gap Canal (Library of Congress)

OUR NAVY IN THE JAMES RIVER

U.S. IRON-CLAD “ONONDAGA,”

DUTCH GAP, JAMES RIVER, VA.,

August 29, 1864.

To the Editors of the Irish-American:

Gentlemen- The past week has closed in greater quietude than I anticipated at the commencement, as the appearance of affairs at that time warranted me in predicting. We are not, however, without showing signs of our vitality, as we daily send a few shots from our land batteries in order to “keep the ball moving;” but it must not be inferred that we have all the fun to ourselves, as the enemy reciprocate with their usual promptness, their efforts, however, resulting only in the old Abrahamish conclusion of “Nobody hurt.”

The work on the canal still goes on vigorously, notwithstanding reports to the contrary which I have read in the New York papers. Indeed, one at the scene of action is amazed at the extraordinary exaggerations which occupy the columns of that press. For instance, we were reported once or twice as being engaged with the rebel rams, and having forced them to retire. We have not the least doubt of our ability to do so, or capture them; but that such a thing happened, has no foundation outside the imaginative brains of the author or inventor of the falsehood. The rams alluded to are ensconced in some secure corner or bend of the river, at a safe distance above us; and no inducement on our part will tempt them to “come on,” a la MacDuff. As is generally known, there is not sufficient water to allow us to ascend the river any higher, or else the rebel navy would ere now have been numbered among the things that are past- hence our present inactivity. But, as it is, we are of incalculable value, inasmuch as the rams aforesaid (in case of our withdrawal) would have no formidable enemy to encounter in their descent, and would sweep the river from City Point to Hampton Roads, thereby cutting off the supplies which are absolutely necessary for maintaining our grand army in the field. Thus it is that we are the “Gibraltar of the James.” Our glorious and time-honored banner, the “Stars and Stripes,” waves defiantly and triumphantly from our flag-staff. Our noble officers and heroic crew (as fine specimens of humanity as ever decorated the decks of any navy in the world,) are eager for the fray. Our sole ambition is to re-establish the principles and laws of our government as we found them, and as they have heretofore protected us and guranteed us the right of freemen and citizenship,- and if these rights and privileges have been impeded during the prosecution of the war, the government nevertheless stands, and we mean that it shall stand. Let us, then, make on more great effort, and the rebellion that had its back-bone “broken” some time ago at Fort Donelson and Shilo, will have its pedestals knocked from under it now; when we can once more retire in peace and comfort, and spend the evening of our life with our families, under our own “vine and fig tree,” with the consolation that we have fought the good fight and restored the Union and the government which was a shield and an asylum to the oppressed of all nations of the world; and henceforth our motto shall be- “Give us Liberty, or give us death.”

Yours, &c.,

GARRYOWEN.

The Dutch Gap Canal during construction (Library of Congress)

The Dutch Gap Canal during construction (Library of Congress)

[New York Irish-American Weekly 24 September 1864]

OUR NAVY IN THE JAMES RIVER

U.S. IRON-CLAD “ONONDAGA,”

DUTCH GAP, JAMES RIVER, VA.,

Sept. 6, 1864.

To the Editors of the Irish-American:

Gentlemen- The events of the past week have been comparatively dull; in fact, with the exception of a few occasional shots exchanged by our land batteries, we would suppose peace reigned supreme. We are, nevertheless, making gigantic preparations for that eventful moment when order “On to Richmond” will be given. Our canal is progressing rapidly and favorably. Our army is making slow but sure progress- the news is cheering and healthful from all parts. Atlanta is taken, which animates us equivalent to a reinforcement of men and ships. Our courage and determination is undaunted- our faith in pursuing it, are glorious beyond precedent; therefore, in a “little while,” when the cheering news of the fall of Mobile and Atlanta will have died away with the evening breeze, will come flashing over the wires the crowning glorious news that Richmond is ours. Rely on it, the last ditch is made- the last man occupies it: but a storm is gathering, the clouds look dark and troublesome, the waves of the James seem agitated, and a tornado is about bursting forth that will sweep in its course the last vestige of rebel power and authority from the throne it so long occupies. In accomplishing this great and noble purpose I frequently marvel over the unwarrantable credit which native Americans (as they call themselves,) claim in this connection, as they preface their remarks with the expressions, “I was born and bred in America, and, as such, wouldn’t yield to no d–––––d rebel one iota,” &c. Now, it appears to me that there are men who were born and bred out of America as self-sacrificing and patriotic as many defunct knights of the “dark lantern.” “I was born and bred in America”- as much as to say, I have more interest in the affairs of my country than you who have come here dependent on our hospitality and industry. Away with such cunning, narrow-minded expressions- it would be superfluous to refute them. But I would tell my “born and bred in America” friends, that the history of this war will chronicle as much, if not more, imported heroism, bravery, pluck, gallantry, and devotedness to the American Union than any “born or bred” fanatic can lay claim to. Such expressions are calculated to alienate the ties which should bind the native and adopted citizen, and the sooner they are discontinued the better. “That’s what’s the matter.”

Several refugees, contrabands, and deserters have come on board this last week; in fact, we have more or less of them every day, and their reports of the condition of the Southern people is humiliating, if we could indulge in any compassion for them; but that they are tired and sick of the war, there is no doubt, and only pant for the opportunity to safely declare themselves so. Our middling-well-to-do Northern families ought to consider awhile on their situation and that of their Southern neighbors- rebels though they are- and thank God they are enabled to keep “the wolf from the door,” and not have him prowling about empty culinary departments, as in the case of the “first families of Virginia.”

GARRYOWEN.

A USCT picket station near Dutch Gap Canal (Library of Congress)

A USCT picket station near Dutch Gap Canal (Library of Congress)

[New York Irish-American Weekly 8 October 1864]

OUR IRON-CLADS IN THE JAMES RIVER

THE NAVY AND ARMY SURE FOR McCLELLAN

U.S. IRON-CLAD “ONONDAGA,”

DUTCH GAP, JAMES RIVER, VA.,

Sept. 26th, 1864.

To the Editors of the Irish-American:

Gentlemen- The calm which precedes the storm is evidently upon us, as these last two weeks have passed over us tolerably quiet enough, though our quasi friends are determined that we should hear from them occasionally. I dare say they wouldn’t have any great objection to our stayinf here, if we’d only keep still; but when we keep cutting canals-erecting signal stations and “lookouts,” so as their movements can be discovered and immediately signalized- they can’t endure it; hence they employ all the faculties of their artillerists to annoy us, and, if possible, dismay us. To this end we daily receive their compliments, in good, round, solid shot and shells, from “Howlett’s Battery” and others in that vicinity. The great objects of their wrath are the canal operatives, in whose direction they have wsted an immense quantity of ammunition, without accomplishing any result, and the new signal tower recently erected by General Butler. This tower is built on a bluff known as “Crow’s Nest,” and is about 160 feet high from the bed of the river. It commands a view of Richmon and the surrounding country: and, consequently, of great annoyance to the enemy, who spare no efforts to demolish it: their balls fly in every direction about it, but so far have failed to hit it; and during this terrible target shotting, the “look outs,” on duty on top of it, remain, with signal-flag in hand, as unconcerned as the boy on the tree stealing apples, when the old man pelted him with tufts of grass. As our anchorage is immediately under this tower, you may guess we are kept on the qui vive; and though it may appear strange, it is nevertheless true, that this cannonading-though kept up vigorously- scarcely receives from us a passing notice, now that we are so accustomed to it. It was not so in the beginning, when we would hear a report of a gun it would attract our attention, and looks in all directions would be given to see where it came from; but, being metamorphosed into “old salts,” we now keep on the even tenor of our way, merely exclaiming, as the balls go whizzing bu us, “Go in, lemons.”

On last Wednesday and this morning, we were served with an extra dose of their medicine; they distributed their pills with an unusual degree of lavishness- in fact, we thought pandemonium was let loose upon us; but a few of our fifteen-inch and one hundred and fifty pound rifle soon ceased their vomiting, not caring, no doubt, to indulge too free in a game that more than one can play at.

We have had an unusual number of deserters from the “rebs” this week, who give a most gloomy account of affairs from where they left. The narratives of their escapes would furnish a few excellent items for the indefatagables of the dailles, and probably one or two from “your own” may not be out of place. It will be observed that their army at “Howlett’s Battery,” and in that neighborhood, are only divided from ours by the river, and this is one great obstacle they have to overcome in order to reach us: the other is the great difficulty to evade the sharp look-out kept upon all men, as there is a perfect reign of terror and surveillance on them; but, not withstanding all this, a man determined to be free, will be so at all hazards. Some that I have conversed with, escaped in this manner: They would procure a plank, and hide it away until their opportunity arrived; then taking advantage of the darkness of the night, and if two are together- which is generally so- they pile their clothes in a bundle on the plan, and one go to each end,  paddle with one hand and hold on with the other- and, as “Leander swan the Hellespont,” so they go. Once on the other side, they are within our lines, and find no difficulty in reaching us. As our captain is senior and division officer, we are the flagship pro. tem., and consequently all deserters, &c., are conducted on board her for examination, from whence they are sent North, rejoicing. Another instance of escape, and I am done on the subject. An intelligent (not contraband), well-educated young man, who was book-keeper in Richmond, ran the gauntlet from there this week and related to me his modus operandi. He was returning from dinner to his place of business, when he was tipped on the shoulder and told to “mark time,” and then toddle along to the camp of instruction for new recruits. “It’s a military necessity,” said his captors; and having no other alternative, go he should, and did. He got to the camp about 4 o’clock, and was for two mortal long hours a rebel soldier, when he skedaddled at 6 P.M. and headed for Yankee land. He is a shrewd, calculating young man, and knew how to “dodge” his jailers. Having a reasonable share of “Confederate scrip,” he secured the services of a guide for $150, and exchanged $360 (Confederate) for $10 in greenbacks; but his guide stole away from him at a particular period, when he then had to go it alone. Previous to stating, he procured a military coat, cap, haversack, and rifle. Thus equipped, he got along very well until he came in sight of the pickets. Fearing they would discover him, he lay down in a brush pile at the end of a corn field, not daring to stir; and to make matters worse, the pickets would turn their horses (they were cavalry) into the corn field to fodder, and would not be more than five or six yards from my hero. They took turn about at this business until morning, when they scattered; and my friend availing himself of this opportunity, started again, after being al night in the one predicament, not daring to stir. He did not go far, however, when he met another line of pickets (infantry), who immediately observed him. He was sure this time he was “gone up.” Seeing a picket approach him, he screwed himself up and prepared for strategy, which his “gift of gab” enabled him to do. Addressing the picket, he asks him-

“Any of our men pass around here?”

“What men?”

“Captain Clark’s scouts.”

“No; haven’t seen them. They might be around, though.”

“I know they are,” quoth skedaddler, “for I parted them a few minutes ago. I reckon I’ll find them.”

And he passed on without further ceremony or suspicion. His next difficulty was to find the way, which he did after great privation and hardships, he being 58 hours coming a journey that might be accomplished in six, and all that time without food or water. He is a Canadian by birth, and evidently able to account for himself. He was perfectly well satisfied with our manner of treatment, and expressed himself so; as, in fact, all of them do, as well they might, for they receive the same rations as ourselves, and are welcomed as though they were our brothers.

I fear I am trespassing too much on your valuable space; but I crave your indulgence this time, as there is one topic to which I cannot well refrain from, and that is the deep rooted and matchless sympathy of our “boys” for General McClellan. The surrender and occupation of Richmond by our troops could not have elicited more applause than his nomination at Chicago did; and his subsequent letter of acceptance caps the climax. Since the days of Jackson, no such candidate has appeared before the American people: and his election will be as unanimous as his nomination. Republican papers may labor under the belief- and try and gull their readers into the same- that the army and navy are not for McClellan; but I know the contrary. Let peace men dodge the question as they may, and clamor for peace on any terms, we want no such howl as that; we want only the peace which McClellan can permanently secure to us- the Union, the whole Union, and nothing but the Union, “at all hazards.” We (the crew of the Onondaga,) would suffer our bodies to be driven as a stake and burned, rather than submit to the Jeff Davis oligarchy; but, from recent information, I know that now he don’t represent the feelings or wish of the Southern people. With McClellan in the White House, the Southerners will lay down their arms, return to their allegiance, and “sin no more.” Rally, then, around our glorious young Chief; and in the ides of November such an overwhelming victory will be gained as to echo from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and across to our own dear native isle, cheering the despondent and elevating the down-hearted, whose throbbing hearts beat pitifully at the scenes enacted on this side of the Atlantic, their only refuge from tyranny and oppression.

Yours, very truly,

GARRYOWEN.

The USS Onondaga at Aiken's Landing during a prisoner exchange (Library of Congress)

The USS Onondaga at Aiken’s Landing during a prisoner exchange (Library of Congress)

[New York Irish-American Weekly 22 October 1864]

OUR IRON-CLADS IN THE JAMES RIVER

U.S. IRON-CLAD “ONONDAGA,”

“DUTCH GAP,” JAMES RIVER, VA.,

October 17th, 1864.

To the Editors of the Irish-American:

Gentlemen- Since the late advance of Gen. Butler’s forces to the north side of the river, matters have remained comparatively quite hereabouts; but it having been observed from our signal tower that the enemy were strengthening their position, we immediately determined to dislodge them. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, we opened on them from both turrets at intervals, and on Wednesday evening we kept up a vigorous fire for about three hours, during which time we drove them from their rifle pits, scattering them promiscuously. They considered that locality rather too hot for them, and have taken themselves to more secure quarters. We have likewise “squatted” a large portion of prisoners around the canal “diggings” to protect our operatives in that important work, so that hereafter, any shells bursting around these will tell fearfully on the rebels themselves- a la Charleston. Since this move, their firing has been like an angels’ visits, “few and far between,’ and the week’s war news might be summed up thus, “all quiet on the James.”

Since my last, we were visited by Admiral Porter, who, it appears, is to command this fleet, and not Farragut, as was reported. From Admiral Porter’s reputation, and ably assisted as he will be by our gallant Captain (Smith), who is one of the most skilful and experienced officers in the service, you need not be surprised at hearing stirring news from here shortly. Preparations are going on which will startle the nation, and cause such a panic in the gold market, as to create a furore.

The coming Presidential election is daily assuming more preponderance, and as the time is approaching, the chances for “Little Mac” are increasing. If the action of the crew of the “Gibralter of the James” be any criterion- and I see no reason why it should not- the hero of “Antietam” will receive an overwhelming majority in the navy, and, as far as I can see, in the army, also, in this vicinity. Last night at “quarters,” an informal vote was taken, as to how the crew stood, and out of about 160 men there were seven or eight in favor of the author of “To whom it may concern.” As the names were called out it was amusing and cheerful to hear- “for Little Mac”- thundering forth from everybody’s mouth (with the exceptions mentioned). The “Sweet German accent,” mingled with the rich “Irish brogue.” And to give “Caesar” his due, our officers took no occasion to manifest any displeasure at the result- they cheerfully admitting that every man had a right to choose for himself without fear or intimidation, and armed with this assurance, our “boys” went in with a will, determined that the “exile of New Jersey” should once more lead them to victory.

Rally, then, ’round the “Flag,” with a statesman, patriot and chieftain (tried in the balance)- at the helm, and our glorious frigate, “Constitution andUnion” will float off the breakers, and being thoroughly overhauled and refitted will be once more launched out and the trembling tyrants of Europe will be made shed tears of repentance for their aid and sympathy to a cause the most damning in its character, and the most mischievous in its proportions.

“The army and navy will make tyrants tremble,

And three cheers for the ‘Red, White and Blue.'”

GARRYOWEN.

The transport Linda of Philadelphia and possibly Onondaga in the background (Library of Congress)

The transport Linda of Philadelphia and possibly Onondaga in the background (Library of Congress)

[New York Irish-American Weekly 5 November 1864]

OUR IRON-CLADS IN THE JAMES RIVER

NEGROES BUILDING CELLS- A SECONF BOAT-RACE

U.S. IRON-CLAD “ONONDAGA,”

“DUTCH GAP,” JAMES RIVER, VA.,

October 31, 1864.

To the Editors of the Irish-American:

Gentlemen- Notwithstanding the apparent inactivity in military affairs, we are always busy at something or other in order to occupy our attention, and drive dull care away. To this end we prepared to make a short trip down the James on this day week, which was immediately carried into operation. The morning was beautiful and calm, old Sol peering over the tree-tops in all his majesty and splendor, dispelling the thick, murky fog which prevailed earlier in the morning, the fresh autumnal breeze pierced through the air, and all nature was gay. The loud mouthed cannons had not as yet commenced their daily avocations, and the lonely sentinel paced his beat on the parapet of “Battery Sayers,” with eager eye watching our movements. The first object which attracted our attention was the work on the canal, or great “Yankee ditch,” which is being put through by American citizens of African descent, in such a manner as to meet the most sanguine expectations of its promoters. The “quarters” wherein the “sable sons of liberty” are domiciled are the most ingenious structures of modern times. I have seen the “caves’ in Vicksburg, Mississippi, where the “chivalry’ sought shelter from Yankee “hail-stones,” but the caves of the “Ethiopians” of Dutch Gap surpass any underground burrowing contemplated yet, not excepting the catacombs of Rome. For half a mile on each side of the canal fronting the river, these caves are dug out or tunnelled, resembling pigeon houses,- or as a writer has it, “a colossal honey comb;” some of them having excavated fronts or open cuts, in the rear of which through a square aperture you find entrance into the inner circle, where the emancipated children of Adam are masticating “hard tack” and “salt horse” with impunity. There are, I suppose, a couple of thousand of them around this settlement, one-half of whom work at a time. On our return trip we saw our colored allies in their various employments- some improving, making additions, and building fireplace in their “covers;” while in another direction a small group might be seen wending their way with measured step and sorrowful countenances, bearing on their shoulders a deceased comrade, and having arrived at a lonely, secluded spot on the hill-side, depositing their burthen without any show or demonstration.

“Few and short were the prayers that they said

And spoke not a word of sorrow,

But quickly closed the grave on the dead,

And bitterly though on the ‘morrow.”

Nothing of any particular note occurred since then (save shelling the “Johnnies” occasionally), until Friday evening, when another boat-race was proposed by our sporting boys, who are always on the alert for fun. The report of the race in the IRISH-AMERICAn- which, by the way, is the recognized organ of the Onondaga– created quite a sensation “about deck;” in fact, it fell like a bombshell among us, all of whom gave it a cordial endorsement, save one, and he considering himself the “beau ideal” of nautical perfection, did not like to have his mane connected as coxswain of one of the defeated boats. Shakespeare has enlightened us as to what’s in a name; but I am at a loss to know what”s in my friend’s name that he should object to its being used in connection with a news item; at all events, he foams and splutters a good deal about it, which he had better reserve, as if he indulges in any more invectives I will take occasion to “show him up,” and dishevel the overgrown capilary vegetation of his physiognomy. But to the race. The boats entering on the first race were the “Life Boat,” Mr. Emmons (seaman), coxswain: “Gig,” Mr. Reed (Paymaster’s clerk), coxswain; “Whale Boat,” Johnny Morrison (Champion of the James), coxswain; and the “Launch,” William Martin (seaman), coxswain. They were all manned with as rollicking a set of tars as ever spliced the main brace. The distance to be run was about one quarter of a mile, around the tug Alert, laying ahead of us, and back. Having got fairly abreast they started “neck and tuck,” the “Whale Boat” coming in ahead. The crew of the “Launch” still believing they could whip the “Whale Boat,” tried it over again with the same result. Pending this race, our Lieutenant Commander picked out a choice crew for the “Gig,” fully determined on beating the “Whale Boat’ at all hazards. This match was agreed to cheerfully- Acting-Master Hays this time action coxswain of the “Whale Boat,” Morrison taking the stroke-oar, and Lieut. Commander Cushman acting coxswain of the “Gig.” Great excitement and enthusiasm was manifested in this race, and bets were freely offered and taken up. But to be brief, the two boats getting into line, the word “all ready” was given, and away they went, jerking through the water like porpoises, stem to stem, until nearing the tug, when the “Whale Boat” gained her own length ahead and made the turn first. But here comes the dilemma. Mr. Hays allowed her too much scope in turning, which, taken advantage of by the adroitness of Mr. Cushman, enabled the “Gig”to gain her lost ground, which she maintained with stubborn tenacity; the “Whale Boat” in the meantime close on her heels (if she had any), and when nearing our vessel the “Gig” was about an oar’s length ahead, when one of her crew- sure of victory- tossed his oar and swung his caubeen in the air, cheering heartily, when lo and behold you, the “Whale Boat” men gave a long pull, a strong pull, and pull together, which “dodge” shot them ahead and enabled them to gain the starting point first, thereby causing the “Gig” to lose the race- so say the “Whale Boat” men. In this contest both parties claim a victory, like our war veterans on terra firma; but fairly speaking, the “Gig” was ahead coming in, and would keep so only my enthusiastic countryman on the bow oar became too premature and excited; on the other hand, if the “Whale Boat,” on rounding the tug, kept her rudder “hard down” and backed on the starboard oars, instead of taking the wide sweep she did, she might throw a tow line to the “Gig,” and thus enable her to come in at a respectable distance behind her. Laying all jokes aside, it was a spiritedly contested race, and reflected great credit on the respective crews who acquitted themselves gallantly. I doubt if another vessel in the Navy can furnish such noble representatives of the “bone and sinew” of the land, as the crew of the Onondaga, and her brave and skilful officers. Speaking of the officers, reminds me to say that they were no party to the conniving manner in which the Republicans though to secure our votes; on the contrary, our efficient officers to a man repudiated the movement, and exerted themselves to guarantee each man the right and privilege to vote for whom he pleased, a privilege which was taken advantage of, thereby augmenting the chances of “Little Mac.” It is due to our officers to make this statement as an opinion to the contrary might prevail.

Yours, truly,

GARRYOWEN.

Confederate Battery on the James (Library of Congress)

Confederate Battery on the James (Library of Congress)

[New York Irish-American Weekly 3 December 1864]

OUR IRON-CLADS IN THE JAMES RIVER

U.S. IRON-CLAD “ONONDAGA,”

‘DUTCH GAP,” JAMES RIVER, VA.,

November 13, 1864.

To the Editors of the Irish-American:

Yours of the 28th ult., containing New York Electoral and State tickets, came to hand in good time, and I succeeded in distributing them beneficially; but the packages for this ship, sent by express, did not arrive till the day after the election, consequently they were of no use. However, owing to your forethought, we had enough without them. I am sorry at the result of the election; but it cannot be helped now, and we have only to make the best hand we can of it. You must excuse my not writing so regularly of late, as we have now little or no leisure time: the change of Admirals and of our Captain causes this, as all returns have to be made up. The utmost quiet, though, pervades here- nothing of any importance stirring. We still occupy the same position, and all hands are well. As, no doubt, many of your readers will be looking for your usual correspondence from this quarter, I make a note of this state of affairs for their information. At my earliest convenience you shall hear from me.

Yours very truly,

GARRYOWEN.

The USS Onondaga on the James (Library of Congress)

The USS Onondaga on the James (Library of Congress)

[New York Irish-American Weekly 17 December 1864]

OUR IRON-CLADS IN THE JAMES RIVER

U.S. IRON-CLAD “ONONDAGA,”

DUTCH GAP, JAMES RIVER, VA.,

NOV. 28, 1864.

To the Editors of the Irish-American:

Gentlemen,- The source from whence, for some time past, the opposition to my writing emanated having been removed, or, in other words, the gentlemanly officer who objected to it having been transferred to another vessel, I feel at liberty to again resume my correspondence with you, as I believe that our home friends are always anxious to hear from us, and of our movements so far as the same can be made public; and, as the IRISH-AMERICAN is in every one’s hand, I am determined the movements of our “iron sentinel” shall not be a mystery to them.

Since my last, nothing of any great importance, in a military or naval sense, has occurred; everything is comparatively quiet, though our pickets near “Howlett’s House” were surprised one night last week and a few captured. They however, subsequently, recovered their lost ground, but not the prisoners. We heard the noise and yells consequent upon this attach, and prepared ourselves accordingly; but there was no sight for us, and we did not “sail in.”

Last week witnessed our final boat race for the season, which resulted in our champion “Whaleboat” being beaten by the “Launch,” much to the satisfaction of some of the boys, who felt a little jealous of the growing popularity of the “whaleboat” and her chivalrous young Coxswain. My friend Cameron, who, by the way, is a noble specimen of a jolly man-of-war’s-man, was Coxswain of the “Launch” on this occasion, and is consequently the successor to the championship; but this should by no means detract from the reputation of the ex-champion of the “Whaleboat,” as he truly says it is no disgrace to lose one race out of three.

We have had our Thanksgiving Festival, and indeed the patriotic parties who were instrumental in getting it up are deserving of more than an ordinary share of praise for the creditable manner in which the affair was managed, as we received an abundance of Turkeys, &c., which made the berth deck resemble a poultry market on a small scale. After all being served the work of dissecting commenced; the cooks “pulled off their coats and rolled up their sleeves,” transferred the gobblers to the upper deck, and went through the process of immersion in the James with the said gobblers. On Thanksgiving morning the “galley” was the centre of attraction- roasting, baking, boiling, stewing, and all the pharaphernlia of the culinary department brought into requisition and under full headway. At the usual time, eight bells announced dinner, when there was a simultaneous attack on the enemy. Talk about storming the enemy’s works, and taking them by assault, but the attack on the defenceless gobblers throws Sherman’s flanking movements in the shade; for, in less time than it takes to tell it, they had all disappeared before the terrible onslaught of the sturdy sons of Neptune; and thus was fought the great battle of Thanksgiving on the James.

Having this temporarily enjoyed ourselves, had we no thoughts of those dear, fond and loving ones at home- did the question occur to us, what kind of a Thanksgiving had our wives and little ones? Oh, yes! It could not be otherwise, though we felt somewhat consoled and assured that the same bountiful and patriotic hands that provided for us, would not see them want for their Thanksgiving festival, as no luxuries, no comforts, no encouragement is so acceptable to the soldiers or sailors as the assurance that our families are not neglected. Let us only hear that they are looked after and cared for, and no dangers, no risks or privations will be too much for us to endure or encounter; with a willing cheerfulness will we strike the foes, and with our strong right arm to the rescue, our once happy, united and prosperous country will again take her place among the nations of the world, a terror to traitors at home and enemies abroad.

In the evening, while we were congratulating ourselves on the happy events of the day, we received a salute from our pugnacious friends- the “Rebs.” Having discovered a new iron-clad- the “Mahopac”- they determined to give her a welcome in the shape of mortar shells from “Howlett’s Battery,” in which exercise they indulged to a considerable extent. Their shots were aimed mighty accurate- one of the shells having hit the “Mud Digger,” at the canal, in the ribs and sent her to the bottom. At this juncture we were called to quarters, and commenced firing a few of our 15-inchers, scattering terror and dismay among them, which soon caused them to cease their vomiting. For about two hours a brisk cannonading was kept up by both parties, which resulted in immense quantities of metal being wasted, and “nobody hit.” About dusk it was “all quiet on the James” again and remains so yet.

Lieutenant Commander Cushman, commanding this vessel, has been order to the “Wabash,” and left on Thursday evening, and Commander W.A. Parker has taken his place here. This change makes us Flag Ship for this Division and the Commander Divisional Officer. Our old crews’ time is expiring now every week, and the boys are going home- in twos and three at a time. Of course new hands fill up their places. Among the last that left us I must mention my kind friends, John Mulligan, Richard Jeffers and Patrick Kirk, three as pleasant and genial “sons of the sod” as ever broke “hard tack” or eat “salt hoss.” Their uniform conduct and behaviour while with us had earned for them the esteem of all their shipmates, which was testified by the cordial adieus which they received when departing from us. As this will probably meet their eyes, I take this occasion of returning my heartfelt and sincere thanks to my friend Jeffers for the precious present he bestowed on me some time ago, and he may be assured that I will kindly remember him every time I use it.

There are plenty of rumors afloat here as to our intentions, none of which I can trace to any reliable source; and even if I could, it would be rather imprudent for me to give them ventilation. There is one thing, however, that I will keep your readers accurately posted on affairs at “Dutch Gap,” which at no distant day is to become the great centre of attraction. “When Greek meets Greek, then comes the tug of war.”

Yours very truly,

GARRYOWEN.

'...Mortar shells from Howlett's Battery...'. The Confederate Battery at Howlett House which fired on the U.S.S. Onondaga and other Federal vessels on Thanksgiving Day, 1864 (Library of Congress).

‘…Mortar shells from Howlett’s Battery…’. The Confederate Battery at Howlett House which fired on the U.S.S. Onondaga and other Federal vessels on Thanksgiving Day, 1864 (Library of Congress).

[continued in the same 17 December 1864 issue of New York Irish-American Weekly]

U.S. IRON CLAD “ONONDAGA,”

AIKENS LANDING, JAMES RIVER, VA.,

December 5, 1864.

To the Editors of the Irish-American:

Gentlemen- The heavy firing which I observe is reported in the dailies as being heard in the vicinity of Dutch Gap, on Tuesday last, resulted from a spirited engagement we had with the enemy’s battery at “Howlet’s House.” As they seemed to indulge rather freely in their compliments to the canal operatives, we concluded to move up and let them have a dose of our patent 15-inch pills. Having anchored within range, the business of the day commenced about 11 a.m. We opened from both turrets, our firing averaging one shot in two minutes; the “Johnnies” were not behind time either, they giving shot for shot, as their battery mounts seven or eight heavy guns. We were assisted by the one-turreted iron-clad, Mahopac, her first engagement; and the three Union shore batteries also participated. We kept up a vigorous fire for three or four hours, our 150-pound rifle shells exploding right in their midst, which could not help doing severe mischief. Having satisfied ourselves with the morning’s work, and concluding we did harm enough for one day, we dropped down to this anchorage, where we are overhauling and examining our machinery preparatory to the coming campaign. We will, however, be back again at our old station before that is made public, and no doubt have another set-too with our pugnacious friends, just for the fun of the thing, as attacking land batteries from an iron clad is only play work, for the enemy’s shells can have no effect on us. It’s the rebel torpedoes and other impassable obstructions in the river that prevents us from bombarding Richmond long before now; but there are measures in progress to overcome these even, which measure, however, will have to be carried out before made public. It may be well to mention that we came out of the engagement without a scratch.

“Aiken’s Landing,” where we now are, is more of a business and war-like place than the “Gap,” though only four or five miles below it. Here is laid a pontoon bridge, for the accommodation of the Army of the James, and at both sides of it a fleet of gunboats, transports, river steamers, coal vessels, canal boats, &c., forming a galaxy of marine architecture resembling somewhat the bay of New York, opposite the Battery. Aiken’s house and out-houses, situated on the bank of the river, and commanding a splendid view of the now historic stream, the scene of so many strifes and battles, is a respectable two-story, square built, brick building, with porch extending the whole front length, and, notwithstanding the ravages of war, is in a high state of preservation, still occupied by its original inhabitants, except the head of the family- and this individual, up to recently, managed to play a neutral game in the controversy now pending, and it remained for a countryman of ours to ascertain the fact that he was a rebel in disguise, or a sham Union man. I had intended at the time to acquaint you with the modus operandi of this transaction, but it then escaped me. We had an “old salt” here named Casey, (Billy Casey, not Corporal Casey,) a half-devil-may-care-sort-of-a-fellow, who was ready and willing for anything, even spiking a gun in the enemy’s possession. Well, this Casey had a dingy boat, not much larger than a wash-tub, in which he prowled about the river, having a roving commission, and it a “reb” was within 5 miles of him, Billy would actually smell him. In this capacity he visited Mr. Aiken’s dwelling, rather piteously, and asked that gent for a drink of milk; he was told there was none on hand, “Sure, sir,” said he, “it’s not the milk I want, only just to find the shortest route to the rebs, as the Yankees call them. I’ve jumped a Yankee gunboat, and am bound for Dixie, and I think you can direct me in the right path.” The bait took, and the unsuspecting Aiken was trapped by Yankee Pat; who, having possessed himself of sufficient evidence to convict his client, returned by a circuitous route to the fleet, and in a short time afterwards Mr. Aiken was a prisoner. I have this from Billy’s own lips, but give it in a condensed form, as I could by no means give the original narrative, with the slang, gestures, and emphasis of the author, in his own peculiar style; but your readers can draw on their own imagination for that.

On Thursday last, a long, low, black, rakish-looking, bark-rigged craft, with smoke stack forward of the main mast, hove in sight. She was the “What is it” for a considerable time, and after a good deal of “guessing” (among us Americans), she turned out to be a French corvette, mounting 4 guns only, with the French Consul on board for Richmond. I noticed a four-horse hack at the landing all morning, but could not imagine what it was for; but the mystery was soon cleared- for it was to convey the Consul across our lines. But I am told (how true it is, I don’t know,) that the enemy would not receive him. However, the corvette is at anchor here het; but what is going on in the premises, is all Greek to us outsiders- (I was going to say Americans again).

I believe I have reached the end of my narrative for the past week; and as the Holidays will be bear at hand when this makes its appearance, I will wish you and the readers of the great exponent of Irish national principles- the faithful IRISH-AMERICAN- a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, and a great many of them, and will also assure you and them, that the “boys’ on the “Iron Sentinel” in the James, will give a good account of themselves when the proper time cones, and after finishing up the business here, there are other “spots” on the ocean that will claim our attention; thither shall we go, and make one powerful, irresistible effort to redeem our fettered, native land, burst the chains that bind her hand and foot, and maker her what she ought to be-

“Great, glorious and free;

First flower of the earth and first gem of the sea.”

Yours, always,

GARRYOWEN.

Aiken's House (Library of Congress)

Aiken’s House (Library of Congress)

[New York Irish-American Weekly 24 December 1864]

OUR IRON-CLADS IN THE JAMES RIVER

U.S. IRON-CLAD “ONONDAGA,”

DUTCH GAP, JAMES RIVER, VA.,

Dec. 11, 1864.

To the Editors of the Irish-American:

Gentlemen- Having completed our overhauling and repairing of machinery on Monday last, we got steam up that night and found everything satisfactory; next day we proceeded up the river to our old anchorage at the Gap, where we found before us the Ironclads “Cannonicus,” “Saugus” and “Mahopac,” all single turreted monitors, which, with ourselves, comprise the fleet now here.- It was whispered around that on arriving at the Gap we were to make a combined attack on the enemy’s work at Howlett’s House, and above it on the river side. This was accordingly done, the monitors taking position as their names indicate above, while we lay astern of them under the “Crow’s Nest” signal tower, and directed our attention to the batteries above Howlett’s, the distance supposed to be about two thousand yards. At the appointed time we opened fire simultaneously, and continued pouring shot and shell into their works- as could be observed from the signal tower- for about four hours. We have not ascertained what damage was done, but, perhaps, may reasonably conclude that our work had the desired effect, and caused consternation among the “Johnnies,” if not creating vacancies in their mess tables. The bombardment for the time was short, sharp and vigorous, and I must say that we had not all the fun to ourselves, as they replied shot for shot, and manifested to the last convincing proof that they were “still there.” On our side there was some slight damage done to one or two of the monitors, but “nobody hurt.” The “Saugus” received a solid shot on her turret, having no more effect than making a slight indentation of about three inches; the “Mahopac” received about half a dozen taps on her turret, which, striking, glanced off, except one, going through the one inch flange plates on top of the turret, and passing harmlessly by the pilot-house. This goes to show, however, that the rebels can do some good shooting; and also settles the question of the fighting proprieties of the monitors- let the torpedoes be cleared from the river, and Richmond falls in less than twenty-four hours. “That’s what’s the matter.”- Notwithstanding that we were as conspicuous as any of the other monitors, yet, strange, we received “nary” scratch. We are beginning to think there is some charm or supernatural spell about us, for we have lain here at the gates of Richmond, as it were, all summer, exposed to the rebel guns, and have had a brush, more or less, every day with our antagonists. Yet up to this they have not as much as touched us. But we have had, in the meantime, some narrow escapes. For instance, after the last engagement, when the retreat from quarters was sounded, we “lay up” on deck to view the scene after the battle, and while thus assembled forward of the turret in a group, a rebel shot came “whirling”and plunged in the river at our feet.- Then there was skedaddling at locomotive speed; and no wonder, fir if it had a half foot more elevation, and had reached ten or fifteen feet farther, there would have been some widows made that evening, and not a few, at best, would have lost their appetites: Providentially, however, we came off with a slight sprinkling. My friend Thompson, being at the “head,” was more scared than hurt, as he beat a hasty retreat in good order, looking pale, bilious and genteel, which caused some laughter at his predicament, eliciting from him the query, “What are ye laughing at?- do ye think a fellow is afraid of them things?” Well, nobody said he was; but we noticed he made himself scarce in that locality, and so we all died. The work on the canal is progressing, but not finished, as is generally supposed, and the less said on the great national (!) undertaking the better. The weather during the fore part of the week was beautifully fine, representing the clear Indian summer, with bright moonlight nights, but towards the last week it changed into a bitter cold, accompanied with rain and sleet, which makes it very disagreeable and uncomfortable for our boys, who have to stand watch and keep a vigilant look out, inasmuch as the build of these ironclads affords no protection from the fury of the wind and weather. If the “stay at homes,” whose “voices are still for war,”would evacuate their comfortable firesides, and stand watch one night in this weather, my word for it the war would be finished in a short time. But no; protected by their breastwork of “greenback,” they “howl” for more victims to the national slaughter house, their hearts are callous to the sufferings of their fellow-creatures, who are not only ourselves exposed in the front, but the mental anxiety which prevails over us for the fate of our wives and “little ones” whom we have left behind for the mercy of the cold winter’s blast and the whims and caprices of an unforgetful and disinterested community, as some have shown themselves to be. But, thank God, New York is not without her noble and patriotic people, which was so gloriously manifested to us on the late Thanksgiving festival, which will never be forgotten by the brave “defenders of the flag” on board the “Onondaga.”

Yours truly,

GARRYOWEN.

Dutch Gap Canal in November 1864 (Library of Congress)

Dutch Gap Canal in November 1864 (Library of Congress)

[New York Irish-American Weekly 7 January 1865]

OUR IRON-CLADS IN THE JAMES RIVER

U.S. IRON-CLAD “ONONDAGA,”

DUTCH GAP, JAMES RIVER, VA.,

Dec. 25, 1864.

To the Editors of the Irish-American:

Gentlemen- With the exception of occasional firing on the canal (which is not yet finished), no other demonstration of a war-like character has occurred here for the last two weeks; and instead of being the originators of news, we are only the recipients- some of which is not a little amusing to us, especially that furnished by the rebel press, as instanced in their account of sinking an iron-clad here by one of their projectiles ripping her like a streak of lightning! This is the most bare-faced falsehood I have seen for a long time; but I suppose it helps to keep up the tottering prospects of the bogus confederacy. The iron-clad alluded to us safe and sound, and with sufficient buoyancy to do efficient service in the noble cause which she is destined for. I have already given the facts in regard to the engagement which called forth this lying paragraph, and on them the public may rely.

The only special event which has occurred since, is the arrival of the gay and beautiful steamer M. Martin, having on board Lieut. Gen. Grant and lady, accompanied by some ladies and a portion of his staff, on a visit, I presume, to this section of the country, and to view the lines of Maj. Gen. Butler, who commanded the Army of the James. The distinguished party disembarked opposite where we lay, and carriages were in waiting for them, to convey them to the front. What made this arrival more remarkable, was the fact that among the gay decorations of the steamer was to be seen, conspicuous, our darling “Irish Green,” with its yellow harp in the centre-

“The Harp that once through Tara’s halls,

The soul of music shed;”

and the total absence of any English symbol to contaminate its rich and dazzling beauty. The French tri-color was there, and any quantity of State and National flags, but nothing English. This was gratifying to us at least, as we hope it meant something. Only just think of it- the greatest General in the world sailing under the Irish immortal green! On beholding this proud emblem of our slumbering nationlity our hearts revived within us, and our eyes kindled with admiration as we looked heavenward, and the oft-repeated vows were renewed, that we should be spared to strike the blow that would enable that flag to show itself and be recognised among the nations of the earth, and Emmet’s epitaph be written. There stood on the deck of an American “iron-clad” that morning, with set teeth and knit eyebrows, as brave and unflinching a group of warriors as ever handled pike or drew sabre, and with but one determination, resolved that, when this “cruel war is over”-

“Ireland must be free,

From the centre to the sea-

And hurrah for liberty,

Says the Shan Van Vocht!”

Yesterday we were visited by seven or eight rebel deserters, who are scarcely yet done congratulating themselves on their hair-breadth escape from cold, hunger and destitution in its worst forms. They give a most heart-rending account of the condition of the rebel army, which, I presume, is familiar to your readers; and it any doubt remains on their minds (as there did on mine some time ago) as to its truth, it may now be removed, as I am fully satisfied from these reports and my own conclusions that the rebel cause has found its “last ditch,” and that immediately in our front.

There is nothing holding it together now only the tenacity of a few individuals who looked upon the Northern people as the scum of Europe and the “mudsills” of society. Having lost all their niggers, they are unwilling to return home and work for their living, considering it beneath their dignity, and, like all other criminals, believing they might as well hang for a sheep as a lamb. “That’s what’s the matter.”

Christmas on the James has passed soberly and quietly, nothing occurring more than the date of the month to remind us of that holy festival; though many an anxious mind turned towards home, around which clustered so many and fond recollections of times past and gone, but which, I hope, will revive again, and that next Christmas will see us enjoying peace, comfort and happiness, with our glorious banner waving triumphantly on every house-top from Maine to Texas; and that something will accidentally have happened that would annex our own loved “Island of Sorrow” to the constellation of stars as a “make-up” for our unsparing devotion and servitude to the best form of government the world has ever seen, notwithstanding the imperfections of the powers that be.

Enclosed you will find $3 50c. for seven copies for three months, which you will please forward with my own to my address. The subscription would be for a longer period, only the subscribers’ time will expire then, they don’t know where they will be permanently located afterwards. They are determined, however, the IRISH AMERICAN will find them out wherever they go. You might change the address from Fortress Monroe to James River, as we will get them a mail earlier.

Yours, &c.,

GARRYOWEN.

Confederate Battery at Howlett's House (Library of Congress)

Confederate Battery at Howlett’s House (Library of Congress)

[New York Irish-American Weekly 14 January 1865]

OUR IRON-CLADS IN THE JAMES RIVER

U.S. IRON-CLAD “ONONDAGA,”

DUTCH GAP, JAMES RIVER, VA.,

Jan. 1, 1864.

To the Editors of the Irish-American:

Gentleman- As far as our movements are concerned, we are comparatively idle, in a warlike view, though still keeping sentinel of the “James,” a position which is very necessary, inasmuch as we nullify the action of the rebel navy, they not deeming it prudent to encounter us, a piece of forbearance which they wisely seem to adopt, as we would soon make short work of their rams and iron clads, a la “Alabama.” They boasted that in our recent engagement at Howlets, they “ripped a Yankee iron clad like a streak of lightning, and sunk her.” Now, I was, of course, “to the fore,” yet I have seen no evidence of the truth of the assertion, nor anything leading to such a conclusion; their shells and “iron bolts’ flew harmlessly about us, and dropped off the other monitors, like water off a duck’s back; and in support of this I will refer them to the list of “iron clads” in the Porter-Butler fleet, where they will find the supposed sunken vessel. So much for rebel veracity. In our local affairs we find sufficient exercise to while away the time, and in fact our consciences will not reproach us for designating our vessel the “Novelty Works” of the James.” Every day brings forth a new enterprise, as our officers are live men, and they like to keep things moving, provided, however, they are not the propelling power themselves. This, of course, is not to be expected; and in order to fulfil the Scriptures, they inculcate the doctrine that he that “sows must reap.” By the way, talking of the Scriptures reminds me to say that our evangelical luminaries of the “Turret” prayer meetings have been for some time non est. I hear it whispered about that the “brethren” did not find it as paying a “dodge” as they expected in the shape of reaping favors at headquarters, consequently they dissolved partnership, and now “all hands,” including the boatswain’s mate, go it alone, to the evident satisfaction of all concerned. I am well pleased, however, to observe that the legitimate church meetings on the Sabbath are well attended, thanks to the pious and humanitarian efforts of our indefatigable and Christian officers, who spare no pains in providing for our spiritual as well as temporal welfare. It is not alone through the teachings of the Rev. Missioner that we are converted and made feel the influence of religion, but in perusing the numerous tracts and pamphlets which they promiscuously scatter around, in order to enlighten the sinner, and rescue him from the deep pit of crime in which he is engulphed. Oh! this navy is a heavenly institution, and for the life of me I can’t see why people- misguided people as they are- don’t embrace it, and guarantee themselves a speedy transmission from the world of sin and misery to that heavenly paradise where the “wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest.” If there are any who doubt my assertions, let them come at once and view the front, and if “Johnny Reb.” don’t disenthral them, and create a vacancy, then I know nothing about it. Verily, verily, the day of Pentecost is coming.

A rich,- or , as our illustrious Commander-in-Chief would say,- a “big thing” occurred here in the engine department a few evenings ago, while at “quarters.” It is the duty of the senior officers to report sword-in-hand the presence of his division, and our acting senior engineer at the time, when about performing this duty, asked a Seaman (who, by the by, happened to be an Irishman,) to bring him the sword from the store room. The exiled “Son of Erin” not exactly understanding the message, procured a “hand-saw,” and in pure naval style presented it to the aforesaid officer. Imagine his dismay at being presented with a saw to report his division to the chief engineer, and, I think, you will join us in the laugh, which we all enjoyed, until relieved from quarters, after which, however, the transaction “spread,” as indicated by the “loud and prolonged” laughter at the less-table in the steerage that evening; and I was specially importuned that the readers of the IRISH-AMERICAN should have the benefit of it: so there it is. We have had another new novelty in the engine department in the shape of a rebel pig; a fact; and she or he, I don’t know which, goes around the department, snorting and grunting with the usual amount of impudence which characterizes that species of quadruped. I can’t say who introduced his swineship, but he seems to enjoy his warm quarters with evident satisfaction; and to judge from the color of his hair he is evidently of African extraction, not that I by any means insinuate that he bears any relation to the two colored gem’men in the department; no, indeed, that would be “hoggish,” and I am a respecter of persons.

The weather here is very changeable, though not so cold as, I perceive, you have it. Still it tells fearfully on the crew of an iron-clad, as it afford no protection, such as bulwarks and other house coverings, to be found in other vessels. The James River has no appearance of freezing up, and I think it will remain open all winter. This day inaugurates the New Year, which I hope before its end, will see the rebellion crushed, never more to rise again, and our glorious free Republic again take her place as the asylum for the oppressed of all nations.

Yours very truly,

GARRYOWEN.

'...Having hit the "Mud Digger," at the canal, in the ribs and sent her to the bottom.' General Butler's forces were engaged in an ultimately unsuccessful project which involved digging a canal to try and bypass some of the Confederate batteries on the James. This photo is the dredge boat that 'Garryowen' witnessed sinking on Thanksgiving Day 1864 (Library of Congress).

‘…Having hit the “Mud Digger,” at the canal, in the ribs and sent her to the bottom.’ General Butler’s forces were engaged in an ultimately unsuccessful project which involved digging a canal to try and bypass some of the Confederate batteries on the James. This photo is the dredge boat that ‘Garryowen’ witnessed sinking on Thanksgiving Day 1864 (Library of Congress).

[New York Irish-American Weekly 21 January 1865]

OUR IRON-CLADS IN THE JAMES RIVER

U.S. IRON-CLAD “ONONDAGA,”

DUTCH GAP, JAMES RIVER, VA.,

Jan. 8, 1865.

To the Editors of the Irish-American:

Gentlemen- The only event of importance that transpired here this week is the blowing out, or rather the blowing up, of the remaining end of the canal. This long looked for event failed in accomplishing the object for which it was designed. I have frequently referred to this work in my correspondence, and consider it superfluous to recapitulate what I have already said relative to its modus operandi. The difficulties and dangers of its operatives, their domiciles, mode of living, &c., all of which was anything but agreeable or attractive, I have also alluded to, and it now only remains to tell what at present seems to be the finale of this stupendous national blunder. Its length is about two hundred yards; depth of water channel, fifteen feet; and about sixty of eighty feet wide; the necessary excavation having been performed under the most trying circumstances, to bring it to this perfection the end or bulkhead was allowed to stand for the purpose of blowing it out by the process of mining, which was done (that is the mining,) and charged with about thirty tons of powder, which, instead of blowing it out in the river, (as was anticipated,) raised the solid mass in one heap, when it descended again to the place from whence it came, with the exception of about ten or twelve feet of the surface, which scatter in different directions, thereby causing more harm than good, as it opens a clear view to the rebels on the opposite bank to take deliberate aim at any further attempts that may be contemplated.- This bulkhead served as a screen to the operatives, and hid them from view of the rebels, whose shelling heretofore was mere “guess” work, which, by the way, was “purty” accurate; but now the “gap” is opened, and they have a clear range of anything and everything that comes into the canal. To my mind the condition of affairs now stand thus, relative to said canal:- A an pursuing his legitimate avocations, may proceed safely through a narrow lane, but when comes to the end he is beset by a gang of ruffians and highwaymen, who pounce upon him and commence an indiscriminate onslaught, which reveals to him the fact that he is approaching dangerous ground, and if he can by any strategy retreat, therein he finds his only security, with what is left of him. Now apply this to the iron-clad or gunboat going through the canal, allowing it is finished completely. When she would get at the end, her trouble and difficulties would commence, not from the batteries, rams, or any other visible impediment, so much as from the infernal torpedoes which lie concealed in the bed of the river from this junction to Richmond. Besides, an iron-clad going through the canal can’t see at either side of her, to range her guns so as to fire on the rebel batteries until she gets at the mouth of it; whereas, if she was to proceed around the regular course of the river, she could hammer away right and left, and demolish everything in view; and it would make no difference against here to have to travel 6 or 7 miles farther. It is an old and true saying, “Never take the byeway while the highway is open for you;” and in this case, is quite applicable. It must not be construed that I am a fault-finder of the doings of men of great skill and knowledge, and who can penetrate and overcome the obstacles to success, in whatever form they may appear; but, now that the horse is stolen, we know who left the stable unlocked; or, in other words, a looker-on knows who does the most fighting. It matters not to say now, we had this or that opinion of the undertaking at the commencement. That is our own private judgment; and as we were not consulted, we reserved our opinion, but now give it pro bono publico. What will be done to overcome this disappointment and render the work serviceable, I cannot tell. Some say the batteries will have to be taken by storm with a powerful land and naval force; others, that Lieut. Gen. Grant can afford to keep Lee penned up, and smoke or starve him out, while Thomas, Sherman, Sheridan, and the balance of the “lesser lights,” will be playing hop-a-doodle-doo around the remnant of the would-be Confederate States of North America.

On Tuesday morning, a blockade-runner, in the shape of a “wild goose,” made her appearance in the river, and was successfully running the blockade between our vessel and the gunboat Massasoit, when the latter vessel sent her boat and three men in chase, to overhaul and capture her, which was finally executed after considerable, her goose-ship flanking and dodging her pursuers, until one of them hit her a bat of his oar on the topknot, which caused her to surrender, no doubt reluctantly. She was stowed away in the bow of the boat, and conveyed on board, where I am sure she was satisfactorily disposed of. What amount of prize money she will realize- deponent knoweth not. This is the only blockade-runner we have seen here yet, and the first “wild goose chase” I had the good fortune to witness, though I have often heard and read of one.

Another [illegible], of a personal nature, occurred a few days ago, which I will let you have. A group of teamsters were waiting with their mules and wagons for their turn to cross the pontoon bridge, where I happened to be looking on at the time. Seeing the ship’s name on my cap-band, one of them approached me, when the following dialogue ensued:-

‘You’re from the Onondaga?

“Yes.”

“Do you know who ‘Garryowen’ is aboard her?”

“Yes.”

“Our chaps get the IRISH-AMERICAN,” and read his letters. He’s one of the officers, I suppose?”

“No: he’s only a fireman.”

“Fireman!- h–l! They haven’t many firemen like him in the navy, though there are some bully scholars, privates, in the army. If I went aboard I’d like to see that monitor and that fireman, as you call him.”

“Well, when you come aboard I’ll show him to you. What is your name?”

“Flaherty. I must go; the bridge is clear. Whoa, haw; get up. Bill, what are you about there-galang,” &c., and that was the last I saw of Mr. Flaherty, from the Army of the James. Doubtless when he sees this, he will find out who “Garryowen” is, without coming on board.

Enclosed you will find $2-00, for four more copies of the “Irish,” as we call it. The boys say they must have it, and so ought every Irishman.

Yours, very truly,

GARRYOWEN.

The bend in the James River (Library of Congress)

The bend in the James River (Library of Congress)

[New York Irish-American Weekly 4 February 1865]

OUR IRON-CLADS IN THE JAMES RIVER

U.S. IRON-CLAD “ONONDAGA,”

DUTCH GAP, JAMES RIVER, VA.,

Jan. 22, 1865.

To the Editors of the Irish-American:

Gentlemen- I will not be much trespass on your columns this time, as matters and events have been so quiet on the James the last two weeks that there is nothing worthy to communicate as an item. The canal fiasco has put an end, for the present, to all hostile demonstrations in this neighborhood. The operatives and dredging machines evacuated, and nothing remains of the “great Dutch Gap canal” but a ditch with a stream of water running through it, not sufficient to float a skiff; and instead of the recent flood clearing it, it only helped fill it ip. So your readers may conclude to hear no more of the canal in connection with this war- and I believe the same may be said of its illustrious originator. It is a remarkable coincidence that both collapsed at the same time.

The flag of truce boat, New York, is making regular trips here, exchanging prisoners. They are a used-up crowd, on both sides, and in a most melancholy condition.

Peace rumors are circulating ver free here; but the only peace commissioners we recognise or pay any attention to, are the Porter-Terry bulletins. Theirs is the way, and the only way, to make peace; and if we could only crawl up to Fort Darling, there would be such a howl of despair through the rebel dominions, and such a skedaddling from Richmond, that nothing could arrest the locomotive speed of Jeff and his minions until they would find themselves secure on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande, and even then they would keep “marching on.” Well, from appearances elsewhere, I think the game is nearly blocked, and that, before the “ides of March,” the last man and last ditch will be found.

A considerable portion of our men’s time has expired, and they are going home every day by the dozen and twenty. This makes us “stay-behinds” feel lonesome; but your correspondent’s time will soon come, when he will appear before you vis-a-vis, and render an account of his stewardship. At the same time, I think he can procure a successor, as among our new-comers there are some “knights of the quill,” which, I have no doubt, are capable of making some rich developments.

Yours, very truly,

GARRYOWEN.

The USS Canonicus on the James (Library of Congress)

The USS Canonicus on the James (Library of Congress)

[New York Irish-American Weekly 11 February 1865]

THE NAVAL FIGHT ON THE JAMES RIVER

(From our own Correspondent)

U.S. IRONCLAD “ONONDAGA,”

DUTCH GAP, JAMES RIVER, VA.,

January 30, 1865.

Gentlemen- Almost a death-like silences has prevailed here this time past, especially since the suspension of operations on the canal- which silence was suddenly brought to a close on Monday night, the 23d inst., about eight o’clock, by the heavy and continued firing of cannon and mortars from Howlett’s and the “swamp” batteries (both rebel), directed towards our signal tower and the batteries in the vicinity of the “Gap.” We were, at the time, out of range, as we lay about a mile below, near Aiken’s Landing, but could see and hear distinctly the flying and whizzing of the rebel missiles as they came whirling through the air. We of course surmised that something was up, and were in a state of anxious expectancy. It was with some misgivings the watch below turned in, and we were not altogether disappointed in our calculations, for about 11 o’clock all hands were beat to quarters. This was followed by the wildest turmoil and confusion, turning out of hammocks, lashing them up, stowing them away; one looking for his shoes, another for his cap, and some even, by some unaccountable means, minus their pantaloons; but through the exertions of the master-at-arms and ship’s corporals, in less that ten minutes the berth-deck was cleared of all encumbrances; Jack was at his station, and the divisional officers reported “all accounted for.” A peep at the berth-deck of a man-of-war on such an occasion as this, would well repay a visit, and must be seen to be realized. At quarters, the preliminaries incident to preparing for action are gone through with, the engines and turrets are revolved, fires spread, coal-heavers and firemen are expert in the performance of their duties, as if propelled by some electrical influence. Gunners and gunners’-mates are on the qui vive; messenger-boys are “telegraphing” their respective messages and instructions from headquarters; engineers are looking at and tapping gauge cocks; they see that the journals are all oiled, and everything ready for going ahead; and in less time than it takes to mention it, the ship is reported “all ready.” Standing at our stations from 11 o’clock until 4 A.M., momentarily expecting a “crash of arms,” or of ship’s sides, and not receiving any, we were, however, signalled that the rebel rams were ripping up our obstructions at “Trent’s Reach;” when we immediately commenced to weigh anchor, and dispute their right to thus interfere with our works. Unfortunately, while our vessel was swinging to her anchor, the engines under full head of steam, our starboard quarter struck on the south bank of the river, causing the port engines to stop suddenly, accompanied by a violent jar and pounding under that overhang. Every effort was resorted to, to move the engines, but all were fruitless, and we had to rely on our starboard engines for locomotion. In this predicament, it was deemed inadvisable to encounter the enemy; and having no time for deliberations, we dropped down to Jones’ Landing, about one mile below us, where we could protect the pontoon bridge and base of supplies for the Army of the James. There we lay, daylight revealing to us the aspect of our position, which appeared to the uninitiated as a retreat; but on looking into the facts, it will be pronounced the safest plan. We were determined, however, not to remain long idle; and finding the port engines would not work, two tugs were hitched on to us, one on each quarter, and, aided by our starboard propeller, we proceeded to the scene of action, the countenances of our brave boys beaming with joy and gladness, as every foot we advanced confirmed the fact that we meant business, and that we would soon show what brave hearts and iron wills, backed by fierce determination, can do. Our anticipations were accelerated by the announcement, from an officer on horseback on the bridge, as we steamed up, that he had orders from General Grant to obstruct this channel. This was received on our part with visible symptoms of approbation, as it indicated the impossibility of retreat, a word unrecognized among the crew of the Onondaga. Approaching the scene of action, we observed the force and strength of our antagonists to consist of two iron-clads and one wooden gunboat. I might here mention that we were accompanied by the steamers Massasiot and Hunchback, and the torpedo boat Spuyten Duyvil (late Stromboli). Arriving within proper range, we let go anchor, as did the other vessels; and at 11 o’clock, as “Greek met Greek,” then commenced “the tug of war.” We were the first to introduce ourselves to our Richmond visitors, in the shape of a 15-inch solid shot, from which they no doubt concluded we were about to receive them in a substantial manner. This was the signal for an exchange of civilities, which was warmly reciprocated on both sides for the space of about three hours; and, on comparing notes, with the following result:- A shell pierced the magazine of the gunboat Drury, causing her to explode, and shivering her to atoms- her crew sharing the fate that awaits all traitors and abettors to treason and the overthrow of the best form of government ever designed by the wisdom of man. Several shots struck the reams, one of them retreating early from the “muss;” the remaining one holding out, and at one time evidently steering to “butt” us, when a shot from our rifle gun in the after turret went through her port-hole, killing one man, mortally wounding three, and slightly wounding seven- the shell exploding in their midst, as we subsequently learned from four deserters, who managed to slip from them. Instantaneously with this, a 15-inch solid shot from our forward turret struck her on the knuckles, ripping about 10 feet of iron plating and carrying away her flag and staff; she then, deeming prudence the better part of valor, rounded to, and took refuge under the guns of Howlett’s battery. We received one shell through the smoke-pipe; another struck two of our small boats floating at the stern, cutting through the “dinkey” above the water-mark, ripping through the sides of the champion “whale-boat,” causing her to sink; another 7-inch conical shot, from a Brook’s rifle, struck our after turret, making a dent of about three-fourths of an inch, starting 3 or 4 bolts, glancing off, tearing the wooden deck in its progress for about 3 or 4 feet, and fracturing the iron casting of the deck-light over the port engine, and all ending with “nobody hurt.” The gunboat Massasoit received several taps, one smashing up her boat swinging on the davits, the splinters of which wounded five men slightly, and a piece of shell one man severely. This is the amount of our casualties; and thus ended the rebel tete-a-tete at Dutch Gap.

Notwithstanding we were the victors, we were anything but satisfied, not being able to follow them up. We then dropped down below the canal, to see and fix our machinery, which we succeeded in partially doing, the port propeller only working at intervals. We were at the same time sanguine that the rams would be intercepted in their retreat, as from the great curve in the river here it placed our forces in their rear, and that if they remained under cover of Howlett’s battery, we would have a brush with them next day. Acting on this hypothesis, next morning we steamed up; but lo! the nest was there, and the birds flown. Why they were not intercepted at the west end of the canal with torpedoes? Why the torpedo boat, Spuyten Duyvil, did not act her part and, as her name implies, rip things in “spite of the Devil/” Why they were allowed to pass Fort Brady? These are all pertinent inquiries, which as yet remain to be answered; and from the look of affairs, one would naturally suppose there was “something rotten in Denmark.” It appears that, when once they got clear of the “Gibraltar of the James,” they blessed their stars and thanked God they were “out of the wilderness.” So far as we are concerned, we did our duty nobly, gallantly, and fearlessly- never flagging, demonstrating the availability of the Onondaga to be “boss” of Dutch Gap, a reputation which our enemies have admitted we are justly entitled to, for our stubborn tenacity in maintaining our position here for the last nine months, exposed to their fire and returning their salutations with compound interest; and whatever may be our final career, there is one thing accomplished, and that is, we have made our mark, and earned our reputation as noble defences of the “Gap.”

The day after the battle, a rebel picket-launch came floating along, and was soon “gobbled up” by us. She is a curious looking affair, and somewhat resembles and Indian “dug out,” or canoe, on a large scale. She has got a boiler and propeller engine in her, in good condition, and had 7 or 8 torpedoes. How or why she was abandoned by the rebels, remains to be seen. We at first thought it to be some “infernal machine;” but, approaching her carefully, she turned out to be quite harmless. Our engineers put her in serviceable condition, after which they took a short cruise in her towards the canal, when her former owners, at “Howlett’s,” discovered the party, and sent them a message from one of their “bull dogs,” but failed to hit their mask.

Everything has assumed its usual quietness again. No further demonstration of a hostile character has taken place; thereby verifying the adage that “after a storm comes a calm.” We have been lately visited by several distinguished persons, including generals and their staffs, and with no less a personage that Vice-Admiral Farragut, who looks hale and hearty, smiled approvingly on the heroes of Dutch Gap, as he paced the deck of our “Iron Leviathan.” He had a short stay, but was evidently well pleased.

I hope I have not trespassed too much on your valuable space; but as the IRISH AMERICAN is looked upon by its readers as likely to have the most reliable version of this affair, I have endeavored (I admit very feebly) to realize their anticipations.

Yours, very truly,

GARRYOWEN.

Winter Quarters, Fort Brady (Library of Congress)

Winter Quarters, Fort Brady (Library of Congress)

[New York Irish-American Weekly 18 February 1865]

OUR IRON-CLADS IN THE JAMES RIVER

U.S. IRON-CLAD “ONONDAGA.”

DUTCH GAP, JAMES RIVER, VA.,

Feb. 6, 1865

To the Editors of the Irish-American:

Gentlemen- Since our late engagement nothing of any importance has occurred here, which affords me an opportunity to repel the base and undeserved slanders of the writers and agents of the daily press, who, without any knowledge of our situation, rush into print with the obnoxious epithet of “coward” prefixed to our brave warriors and heroes, who for months have held at bay the rebel squadron, and, when they dared to show their noses, whipped them so badly, that they went whirling through the James without stopping event to pick up some of their torpedo launches, which they were forced to leave behind- and for this unexampled display of muscle and bravery we are, forsooth, cowards. Verily, verily, the millenium has come! If a battered turret, a riddled smoke-pipe, and a torn deck, are evidences of cowardice, then, indeed, we are cowards; but a specimen of such cowardice the rebs don’t care about meeting very often. If the “Father of Lies” were to blow his trumpet and summon all his disciples to his sulphuric abode, I don’t see how the army correspondents could escape. I thought it bad enough last Summer, when they had us engaged with the rebel squadron aforesaid, and credited us with having driven them back, whereas we never saw a rebel ram or iron-clad until the late visit they paid us, much to their disappointment; and now, when we were actually engaged with them and sent them hors de combat, as they themselves admit, the Bohemians of the dailies have it that we “turned tail and run.” If they had only reversed this, they might have hit the nail on the head; but the navy is not, nor I hope ever will be, a political machine. “That’s what the matter,” in a nutshell.

It is strange that the rebels give us all the credit for their defeat, as we read in the Herald of the 30th ult., in a paragraph from the Richmond Examiner. Giving an official account of this affair, it says:- “The rams soon silenced the shore batteries, but received several shots from a Yankee monitor (Onondaga), which started some bolts and plating, killing five men; and their (the Onondaga’s) fire was so disastrous and effectual as to compel them (the rams) to retire under the guns of ‘Howlett’s.'” The article is not within reach of me at present: but I read it, and if these are not the exact words, they are at least the substance, without any exaggeration. Now, when the rebels acknowledge so much, the statements in the “loyal papers” can be taken for what they are worth. I have, in my last letter, explained the cause of our dropping down the river, to which I could add other satisfactory reasons, if needed; but admitting, for argument sake, that nothing happened to us, and we groped out way up in the dark (for it was as dark as pitch) what would be the result? Why, the most disastrous that could be imagined. And thanks to our brave captain’s forethought, who, in this critical emergency, was cool, calm, and collected- to him we owe our presence here now; and to him the numerous shipping, bridges and warehouses on the James are indebted for their preservation- opinions to the contrary notwithstanding. As I said, admitting we went up- well, the rebels did not come down on a fool’s errand: they were well provided with torpedo boats, and other instruments of destruction, which we, single-handed as we were, by any means of strategy or prowess could battle. We could fight the rams, it is true; but the torpedo-boats, like hornets, would swarm around us in the dark, and cause such a “rise” in Yankee patriotism as would cast the gold speculators of Wall street in the shade. And for not committing such a rash act we are cowards! The gallant itemizers of the press who hang around headquarters are prodigious specimens of pluck- the kind of pluck exhibited in telegraph offices, sending “special dispatches.” I presume we had one of them on board the morning we were going into action; how he came there, I can’t say; but I happened to be standing near a genteel-looking, tall specimen of a Bohemian, and when we were going through the bridge he asked the pontoon men for “God’s sake” to take him ashore, as he did not want to go up. He was taken ashore on a pontoon-boat; and I imagined, by the “cut of his jib,” (as he wore a pen in his ear,) that he was an “army correspondent,” or one of those camp-followers or stragglers who furnish sensational items for a living, being useless rubbish in any other capacity. Be that as it may, the naked truth of our career, – stripped of all sophistry, as it appears in the IRISH-AMERICAN- will obtain more credit among the reading public, than all the dispatches of the daily press put together. The news must necessarily be slow, but when it appears it will bear one recommendation on its face, and that is- “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” It may be superfluous to contradict such a habitual lying medium as the daily papers are; but if I suffered this to pass unnoticed, the half-million readers of the IRISH-AMERICAN, who anxiously look to this correspondence as containing the most reliable news from the James (as my opinions about the canal turned out to be) might construe my silence into an acquiescence of the truth of the report in question. And as the Apostle Thomas would not believe in the presence of his Divine Master, until he would see His wounds- so if the Thomases of New York or elsewhere will comer here, they can see, believe, and be convinced; and when the Onondaga is again in action, I hope these “correspondents” will be there, in propria persona, and look “before they leap.”

We have been recently reinforced by the iron-clads Atlanta and Saugus, who will act in the capacity of “little Gibralters.”

Yours, very truly,

GARRYOWEN.

Garryowen made many lyrical references in his correspondence. Among his most frequent was “That’s whats the matter”, which is a reference to the song of the same name, written by Stephen Foster in 1862.

[New York Irish-American Weekly 25 February 1865]

OUR IRON-CLADS IN THE JAMES RIVER

U.S. IRON-CLAD “ONONDAGA,”

DUTCH GAP, JAMES RIVER, VA.,

FEB. 15, 1865.

To the Editors of the Irish-American:

Gentlemen-The utmost quiet still prevails in this vicinity; and were it not that the cry from Richmond is still for war, we would, from appearance, indicate there was a “cessation of hostilities,” but the powers that be have determined otherwise. It appears the “Commissioners” and our illustrious President could not make both ends meet, we are therefore obliged to find the last man and the last ditch. Well, there is one point gained, the Lincoln and Johnston men have got their ultimatum, and the peace mongers are played out. So far so good. Now is the time for the advocates of a vigorous prosecution of the war to step to the front. Now is the acceptable time. They will be served daily with doses of “Davis & Lee” anti-Union pills, warranted an infallible and speedy cure for coughs, colds, rheumatic and spasmodic pains, and all the ills that flesh is heir to. These “Pills” are made up in the great central laboratory of Richmond, and issued by letters patent, with the broad seal of the “Confederate States” engrossed thereon. Walk up, gentlemen Republicans, Abolitionists and “War Democrats,” and partake of these wonderful and unerring pills! No matter about the quota. Your services are absolutely necessary now. And when a quietus is put on the rebellion and the pills exhausted you will have ample time to cypher out about the quota. It was and is somewhat pleasant to criticize military and naval operations around the saloons and restaurants of Broadway and the Bowery, the “music of your sweet harmonious strains” is now requisite in the vicinity of the James and Appomattox. Gen. Sherman would also accommodate a few enterprising young men with the “sinews of war,” and introduce them to the heart of the Confederacy. So walk up, gentlemen, to the Captain’s office, “touch the pen and take the bounty.”- Yours, very truly,

GARRYOWEN.

The interior of Confederate Fort Darling (Library of Congress)

The interior of Confederate Fort Darling (Library of Congress)

[New York Irish-American Weekly 11 March 1865]

OUR IRON-CLADS IN THE JAMES RIVER

U.S. IRON-CLAD “ONONDAGA,”

DUTCH GAP, JAMES RIVER, VA.,

Feb. 26, 1865.

To the Editors of the Irish-American:

Gentlemen- With the exception of the various salutes fired here, from the different forts and batteries, in honor of our numerous victories, everything remains quiet on the James. Rumors, in the meantime, are ripe; and we nightly expect a nocturnal visit from our adversaries of the rebel fleet, which, when they do come, will find us amply prepared to receive them with a “Cead mille failthe,” and embrace them so affectionately that it is extremely doubtful if they can retrace their steps again. So, we say, by all means come on. If words nor grass had no effect at Hampton Roads, we will try the virtue of solid shot and shell at Dutch Gap. I was always of the opinion that this locality would be apt to furnish the “last man and last ditch,” and events seem to point to the correctness of that supposition. At all events, the hand-writing is on the wall.

The aspect of Irish-American affairs affords us unspeakable satisfaction; the dawning of a new era of Irish nationality, inaugurated by the spread of Fenianism, the only unerring cure for Ireland’s sufferings and misrule, and we say, God speed the good work. As is always the case, we observe that there are tares among the good wheat- some pious, holy, and zealous Catholics, who fear compromising our holy religion. Ah! my brothers in the faith, falter not; be Fenians in the right sense of the word; labor for the overthrow of every form of tyranny over the mind of man; and if we are perfect in every other action, the sin of liberating our country will never condemn our souls. However, it only remains for us- “Irish,” “Fenians,” “Nationalists,” or whatever you like to call us- to keep on the even tenor of our way; to be respectful to our clergy, to our Church, to be watchful of her interests, to be steadfast in her faith, to adhere with tenacity to her spiritual instructions and teachings, and by loving her more we will not love Ireland less; but by no combination of circumstances, no warnings of secret intrigue or “plottings,” should we deviate, or appear luke-warm, or disengage ourselves from the sacred obligation of endeavoring to free our native land. this is the “Alpha” and “Omega” of our existence. To this alone- apart from our religious obligations- we must direct our thoughts, our actions, our talents, our energy, our wealth, our sacred honors, and our lives.

“Prepare! prepare, in joy or care,

To fill the gap of danger;

And silent force will run its course

To swamp the subtle stranger.

Within that gap, our chains we’ll snap,

And conquer all before us:

If we prepare to do and dare,

With the Green Flag flying o’er us!”

Rally! then, my countrymen, around the standard of Fenianism; it is the only organization that is at all compatible to the wants of Ireland’s regeneration. The “opportunity” is approaching. The war clouds are clearing over the American horizon; the proud Stars and Stripes will ere long float defiantly and triumphantly from the house-tops of Richmond; the rebel traitors will hide their diminished heads in shame; and then our glorious eagle will spread her wings and span the broad Atlantic; she will alight on the perfidious carcass of proud England, accompanied with an auxiliary of a million of veteran warriors, whose vengeance will be let loose upon her to avenge the wrongs of centuries, which she indulged in with impunity; the epitaph of Emmet will be written in letters of gold; our country and our flag will once more take their place among the nations of the world, and Ireland, the “gem of the ocean.” will be herself again.

Yours, very truly,

GARRYOWEN.

The Water Battery on the James, ready to fire (Library of Congress)

The Water Battery on the James, ready to fire (Library of Congress)

[New York Irish-American Weekly 8 April 1865]

AFFAIRS ALONG THE JAMES RIVER

(From our own Correspondent)

U.S. IRON-CLAD “ONONDAGA,”

DUTCH GAP, JAMES RIVER, VA.,

March 26, 1865.

Gentlemen- Availing myself of a few hours liberty ashore since my last letter to you, and having an opportunity to view the front of our lines and those of the rebels in this vicinity, it occurred to me that my observations might be of some interest to you readers, especially as circumstances would seem to indicate that hereabouts is destined to be found the “last man and the last ditch,” so long anxiously looked for. The course of the James River at Dutch Gap is so familiar to your readers, and the public in general, that it would be superfluous to refer to it here, further than to observe that at this point, on ascending this winding stream, and crossing overland at the junction where the canal or “gap” is cut,” you again strike the same river, and by taking a retrograde movement, you continue ascending the course “on to Richmond.” The distance in this direction- which is occupied by our pickets, and confronting the rebels- from the Gap to Fort Brady is about three miles, and from thence to Fort Harrison about one mile. This our extreme right of the Army of the James, which was permanently secured, after some hard fighting, last Fall, and which has proved of great advantage to us, both in a military and naval point of view. The enemy’s works, commencing with the “Howlett House” on our front, form a continuous line of fortifications along this route, including Fort Darling, to Richmond,- mounting, on the aggregate, about 100 guns and some 10 or 12 mortars. Arriving at Fort Harrison, I learned your correspondent, Dolan, was lately removed to some other station, but understood that he is indefatigable in his exertions and pleadings for the cause of the “Old Sod.” Retracing my steps I proceeded towards the “trustle bridge” at Aiken’s Landing, which I crossed to the south side of the James, and headed my course for “Crow’s Nest” signal tower, where I duly arrived and was received with a real old-fashioned Cead Mille Failthe by my young friend and enthusiastic countryman, John McElroy, a genuine, whole-souled Fenian, and an Irishman worthy of the name and race he belongs. He invited me to his “log cabin,” where something more exhilarating than the strong March wind which then prevailed, awaited me- and we “cheered up our spirits by letting some down.” Our conversation naturally turned on that which should concern all of our countrymen- the ways and means of freeing Ireland. Fenianism, said my ardent young friend is, I think, the great panacea for our country’s disease; and it to offer up our lives as a sacrifice on the battle-fields of Ireland is the aim and object of the Fenians, then, indeed, the Signal Corps of the Army of the James are with them. As proof of their sincerity, he furnished me the names of the leading members, that I might forward them to you for publication in this connection, assuring me, at the same time, that at the earliest possible moment (an order for an advance movement being now pending,) he would forward you their subscriptions for your patriotic journal, and also a remittance towards the funds of the Brotherhood. The following are the names alluded to- John McElroy, John Chambers, —- Harrington, Patrick Duffy, Dennis Lally, James Toman, F. Dolan (your correspondent from the Army of the James), Thos. L. Bovey, Maurice O’Brien, Edward Hawkins, John Mack, Corporal Wm. O. Miller, Franklin H. West, Pierce White, Chas. Emmons, all of the Signal Corps, and Corporal T. Ryan, 3d Rhode Island, Army of the James. You will observe others besides Milesian names here, but they are, nevertheless, in this movement, as “Irish as the Irish themselves.” I might mention that in the course of our interview, the time of my friend to go on duty having arrived, we repaired to the summit of the signal tower, the climbing of which forcibly reminds [illegible] ascending of “Jacob’s Ladder,” and there, as it were, “in the clouds,” over looking the broad expanse of the “seat of war,” the pros and cons of Ireland’s predicament were entered into, and the conclusion arrived at was-

“Who would be free,

Themselves must strike the blow.”

While thus engaged in our observatory, we noticed a large gathering of ladies and civilians below, with a fair sprinkling of gold laced officials among them. On inquiry we learned that it was no more or less that Maj. Gen. Meade and family, accompanied by Admiral Porter, and their respective staffs, viewing the front. The most curious of the kid-gloved gentry essayed on the signal-tower, and in breathless accents desired to see Richmond, which my friend, with true Celtic urbanity, gratified them with, by “setting” the telescope in the direction of the centre of treason and the home of the authors of all our adopted country’s misfortune and trouble. No doubt some of the Eastern journals will be illuminated, one of these fine mornings, with pen and ink sketches of observations from the seat of war in front of Richmond, “by a reliable gentleman now on a visit up the James River,” &c.,- all of which they saw at a safe distance, as the “soldier saw Bunratty” in Ireland.

As I was about bringing this letter to a close, it was announced that President Lincoln had arrived on a visit to the iron-clad fleet; and repairing on deck, I observed that illustrious gentleman on a tug proceeding towards the head of the fleet, and afterwards slowly descending in a row-boat viewing the iron “mud-turtles” as he passed. Our crew were drawn up on the port-side, rigged and equipped with Sharp’s rifles, and on his passing present arms, which Father Abraham acknowledged and passed on.

There are a numerous fleet of iron-clads here now, consisting of the Onondaga, Saugus, Sangamon, Atlanta, Lehigh, Mahopac, and Manadnock, together with a lot of vessels too numerous to mention.

Our antagonists are very still; not a sot to be heard on either side; but the prospects for an early movement are visible, and therefore we know not what a day may bring forth. In the meantime, I expect I will have the pleasure of perusing the number of the IRISH-AMERICAN containing these lines in the great metropolis of the United States.

Until then, I remain, yours, very-truly,

GARRYOWEN.

Fort Darling (Library of Congress)

Fort Darling- “One reason why we did not go to Richmond” (Library of Congress)

[New York Irish-American Weekly 22 April 1865]

RETURN OF “GARRYOWEN.”

305 W. 39TH St., NEW YORK.

April 10, 1865.

To the Editors of the Irish-American:

Gentlemen- It is a pleasing circumstance that immediately after the occupation of Richmond my term of service as a feeble “defender of the flag” expired; and as the iron-clad “Onondaga,” with which I was so long connected, participated, together with six other iron-clads and about a dozen gun-boats, I will briefly refer to the action taken by them in the glorious and triumphant event.

On Saturday night, the 1st inst., at about 12 o’clock, at a given signal, the fleet, numbering about eighty guns, opened simultaneously on the rebel batteries along the James from Howlett’s to Fort Darling, and kept up a furious and terrible bombardment for about four hours, compelling the rebels to evacuate, which they did, during the Sunday and Monday following, and the works and city of Richmond subsequently occupied by our forces.- As the events transpiring with this result are fresh in the memory of your readers, it may be only necessary for me to add that the wildest enthusiasm and excitement prevailed along the James as our gunboats ascended cautiously to Richmond-the work of dragging and clearing torpedoes being first carried out successfully by the small boats of the fleet, conspicuous among which and foremost to Richmond was the launch of the monitor “Onondaga,” under the skilful management of her Coxswain, John Cameron, who is a splendid specimen of a young “old salt.”- Among the steamers first to ascend were Admiral Porter’s flagship “Malvern,” with President Lincoln on board, who was cheered loudly; and the first boat to descend was the late rebel flag truce boat “William Allison,” with Vice Admiral Farragut on board, who, on leaving the Richmond wharf, observed the flagship entering, thereby demonstrating that the President was among the earliest visitors to the late rebel capital. Among other distinguished visitors I may mention Chief Engineer Henderson and Paymaster Brown of the “Onondaga,” on behalf of the navy; but not desirous of prolonging their stay only merely to satisfy themselves that Richmond was ours, these gentlemen returned immediately, and were among the first to confirm the glorious and triumphant news that the Stars and Stripes was floating proudly and defiantly over the hot-bed of treason, thus practically ending naval operations in that vicinity.

On my arrival home and subsequent intercourse with my countrymen, it affords me sincere pleasure to observe and bear testimony to the rapid and permanent growth of Fenianism among them, and the deep-rooted hold it has taken among the community in general. This is highly gratifying to all lovers of liberty and independence, and especially to those of us who are laboring with might and main to overthrow the greatest form of tyranny and oppression that ever wielded over the fairest portion of God’s earth; and let the most timid and lukewarm of our countrymen, whose “hopes” are buried, observe that, though “broken-hearted and lonely, Ireland yet hopes that her chains will be broken, when, with her harp’s shattered strings restored, she can sound the song of triumph, and place the garland of affection o’er the nameless grave of her martyred Emmet.”

In conclusion, allow me to return my sincere and heartfelt thanks to the officers and crew of the “Onondaga” for their uniform kindness and indulgence to me on board of that vessel, and I hope they will be soon permitted to return to their respective homes, and enjoy that peace and comfort which is so conformable to the human race.

Very respectfully your obedient servant,

GARRYOWEN.

The completed Dutch Gap Canal (Library of Congress)

The completed Dutch Gap Canal (Library of Congress)

References

New York Irish-American Weekly.

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Categories: Navy, New York, Resources

Author:Damian Shiels

I am an archaeologist based in Ireland, specialising in conflict archaeology.

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One Comment on ““Our Ironclads on the James River”: The Collected Correspondence of “Garryowen””

  1. June 2, 2016 at 1:30 pm #

    Reblogged this on Lenora's Culture Center and Foray into History.

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