Destruction of the Rebel Ram "Albemarle"


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, November 19, 1864

Harper's Weekly was the most popular newspaper published during the Civil War. These newspapers were read by millions of people during the war. Today, these newspapers are available on this WEB site for you to read and increase your understanding of the war.

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VOL. VIII.—No. 412.]




Entered according to Act of Congress, in the Year 1864, by Harper & Brothers, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court for the Southern District of New York.


WE illustrate on this page one of the most exciting incidents of naval warfare, and give a portrait of the chief actor concerned, Lieutenant WILLIAM B. CUSHING. The rebel ram Albemarle was one of the most formidable vessels which the Confederate navy ever floated. It played a conspicuous part in the capture of Plymouth last spring, and on that occasion sank the South field. She attacked the Miami also ; and a shot from the latter, striking the iron walls of the ram, rebounded and killed Captain FLUSSER of the Miami, who was an intimate friend of CUSHING It is said that for this reason Lieutenant CUSHING vowed vengeance against the Albemarle. This ram was the same which was engaged in the memorable conflict with the Sassacus, and two other heavily-armed double-enders on the 5th of May last —an event which was illustrated in the Weekly for June 4. The utmost, however, which these three vessels by their combined efforts were able to accomplish amounted to but a slight injury to the rebel iron-clad, though sufficient to compel its retirement. It has ever since been a source of considerable apprehension, and has made it necessary for Admiral LEE to greatly increase his naval force in the Sound. As early as last June Lieutenant CUSHING, then commanding the Monticello, submitted to the Admiral a plan for the destruction of the Albemarle. The plan was approved, and the Lieutenant withdrawn from the Monticello to perform this special service. Since that date Admiral LEE has been succeeded by Admiral PORTER, who has signalized his assumption of command by the destruction of the ALBEMARLE. After the conception of his plan Lieutenant CUSHING came to New York, and, in conjunction with Admiral GREGORY, Captain BOGGS, and Chief Engineer W. W. Wood, applied to one of the new steam-pickets a torpedo arrangement and returned to the Sound. The torpedo arrangement was invented by Mr. Wood, and was illustrated in the Weekly of October 1. The Albemarle had been lying at Plymouth for some weeks previous to its destruction. A mile below the town on the wreck of the Southfield a rebel picket was stationed. On the night of October 27 CUSHING, with a company of thirteen men, proceeded up the Roanoke River toward Plymouth. The distance from the mouth of the river to the ram was eight miles. The picket above-mentioned was passed without alarm, and the Albemarle was discovered lying fast to the wharf "with logs around her about thirty feet from her side." As the party approached the rebels opened fire from the shore, which was returned by the steam-launch. The approach was made in the form of a circle and with bows on, and when the logs were struck they were driven in some feet, the bows of the launch resting on them. "The torpedo-boom was then lowered," says Lieutenant CUSHING, " and by a vigorous pull I succeeded in

diving the torpedo under the overhang, and exploding it at the same time that the Albemarle's gun was fired. A shot seemed to go crashing through my boat, and a dense mass of water rushed in from the torpedo, filling the launch and completely disabling her. The enemy then continued his fire at fifteen feet range and demanded our surrender,

 which I twice refused, ordering the men to save themselves and removing my overcoat and shoes. Springing into the river I swam, with others, into the middle of the stream, the rebels failing to hit us."

CUSHING'S escape was so precipitate that he was not able to report the destruction of the ram from

his own observation, but formed his judgment from a conversation which he heard while concealed in the marshes close to the enemy's fort, and from the report of a negro whom he sent into the town for information. He had become exhausted in swimming, and had taken shelter in the immediate vicinity of the enemy. He was picked up by the Valley City on the night of the 30th, having made his way to that vessel in a skiff captured from an enemy's picket.

Lieutenant CUSHING is a citizen of New York. From the Richmond papers we learn that the Albemarle was destroyed, and that none of CUSHING's party were killed, only one of them, indeed, having been wounded. No lives were lost on board the Albemarle. The destruction of this vessel has given us possession of Plymouth.


WE engraved last week an illustration representing the arrival at the War Department of the battleflags captured from the rebels by General SHERIDAN. A few days after this event, on October 29, General TORBERT arrived in Washington with the pieces of artillery, nearly thirty in number, which were taken from the rebels in the battle of Cedar Creek. We give on page 714 an illustration of the reception of these guns at the War Department. These did not, of course, include those of our guns which had been captured by the enemy and were afterward retaken. The capture of guns from the rebel army of Virginia can only be accomplished after a severe struggle. The rebels hold on to their guns till the last, and only yield them because they must. This fact, taken in consideration with the large number of guns which SHERIDAN has captured in his recent campaign, indicates the severity of the fighting which has been done this fall in the Shenandoah Valley. Our superiority in cavalry has doubtless diminished the difficulty which has always attended the capture of artillery on our part.


WE engrave on page 745 an illustration which one of our artists in the West sends us, representing in a spirited manner the appearance of a battery of flying artillery going into position. The artillery of an army is one of its most powerful auxiliaries. It multiplies many times the effect of a single musket, and is equal to the addition to an army of several thousand men. As the cavalry represents the velocity and dash of onset, so the artillery represents the weight and volume of attack. It is of especial value in checking an advance of the enemy either in front or on the flank; and it is for this reason that an assailing column aims first at the adversary's guns, because these having been captured the lines of infantry are easily broken up and routed.


William Cushing
Albemarle Sinking

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