"Port Hudson [is] ours"Union Naval Acting Master Charles P. Washburn Two Civil War Naval Diaries, 1863-1864. In these two diaries, Charles Washburn gives daily accounts as he served aboard the USS Albatross in 1863 (helping in the capture of Port Hudson along the Mississippi River) and then aboard the USS Kansas during the early part of 1864 off the Atlantic Seaboard. A black leather-bound daily pocket diary (3.25" x 5") contains daily entries from January 1, 1863, through December 31, 1863. Though worn, this diary is in surprisingly good condition. A brown leather-bound daily pocket diary (3.5" x 6.75") contains daily entries between January 1, 1864, through December 31, 1864. This diary, too, exhibits expected wear but is in very good condition. All entries in both are in pencil.
Washburn joined the U.S. Navy in June 1861 as a coast pilot serving in the Gulf of Mexico and up the Mississippi River. He was promoted to an acting master later in the year. In 1862, Admiral David Farragut transferred him to the Albatross, a steamer built in 1858 but outfitted by the Union navy as a heavy gunboat and used to blockade the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi River. He remained on the Albatross until November 1863 when he was ordered to report to the US Steamer Kansas off the Atlantic Seaboard. While serving in the gulf, Washburn became ill and returned home. His appointment was revoked due to illness on July 20, 1864.
The 1863 pocket diary opens on January 1, 1863, as Washburn is "Attached to the U.S. Steamer Albatross as acting master lying at anchor off the city of New Orleans." The Albatross, which was preparing to sail up the Mississippi River to help clear the river of Confederate boats, was commanded by Captain John E. Hart and under the overall fleet command of Admiral David Farragut. For the next several months, as Confederate forces retained control of Port Hudson and Vicksburg, Washburn's Albatross shuttled troops along the Mississippi River between Plaquemine and Baton Rouge and points north of Port Hudson. On January 24, Washburn notes that "a steamer passed us with a negro Regiment on board bound for Baton Rouge." On March 11 from Plaquemine, Washburn states that "great preparations for an attack on Port Hudson by the combined forces of the Army and Navy" were occurring. "Troops all ready to march Admiral Faragut here with most of his fleet."
By March 20, a Union fleet that included the Albatross approached Vicksburg, 150 miles north of Port Hudson. For the next several weeks, the steamer continued moving up and down the river, often dodging enemy fire or engaging the enemy in battle. On April 9 near the mouth of the Red River, they captured an enemy steamer. The Albatross' activity along the river soon increased, as did his encounters with the enemy. Washburn also reports on Generals U. S. Grant and Nathaniel P. Banks' movements nearby, as the Union army and navy engaged the Confederates at Port Hudson more heavily. In early June, the Union assault on the port increased, but Washburn and his steamer remained four miles north. Still, he could hear the bombardment of the important port which was "going on all night it was terrific. . . . the firing from the Army was incessant all night" (June 10).
On June 11 while still anchored above Port Hudson, Washburn records the suicide of Captain Hart of the Albatross, who had contracted yellow fever and become delusional: "at 4:15 p.m. the Capt (Hart) shot himself in his own room with a pistol killing himself instantly." Still, the war raged on. On June 15, Washburn wrote that the "bombardment of Port Hudson" included "the incessant firing of musketry and big guns. [I] hear that the Arizona had several men taken prisoners while on shore off Morganza, reports that the Confederates are marching in shiny force this way. All of [Gen.] Banks transports are at anchor near as under the protection of the [USS] Hartford & us." The next day he was "doubtful whether General Banks can take Port Hudson." Finally on July 8, "News that Gen. [Franklin] Gardner of Port Hudson has offered to surrender hear that negotiations are being made. Great excitement. . . . Think Port Hudson has surrendered." On the following day, he wrote, "Port Hudson ours. At daylight all Gen. Banks transports left and steamed down river. Great rejoicing. . . . at 9 a.m. we got underweigh in company with the Hartford steamed down river landed at Port Hudson took a look on shore. The terms of surrender are unconditional. Hurah for our side. Port Hudson is a formidable place." After the Union victory at Port Hudson, Washburn and the Albatross continued to patrol the waters of the Mississippi, but by October, he records that the Albatross was in quarantine for Yellow Fever.
On November 9, Washburn left the Albatross for the Circasssian, bound for home. He arrived to see his wife and young daughter on November 24. One month later, he reported back to Admiral Farragut in Washington, where he received orders to board the USS Kansas, thus ending the first diary.
The 1864 diary opens as Washburn is attached to the "USS Steamer Kansas as acting master & executive officer lying at anchor off Newport News [Virginia]." The Kansas was constructed in 1863 as a U.S. Navy gunboat used to blockade Confederate waterways. Washburn remained with the ship until February 2 when he began his journey home "on account of ill health [January 29]." For the remainder of the year, he notes details of his life at home. According to an included retained copy of a letter from "Acting Master U.S. Navy" Washburn to Navy Secretary Gideon Welles, Washburn's ill health was a result of his three years of naval service.
Also included: orders dated November 14, 1865, from New Orleans for Captain Washburn, presumably healthy again, to the "command of Steamer Nashua. . . . You will proceed on board at once and get her ready for Sea as soon as possible"; a letter dated 1845 from family members to a young Charles Washburn, who had only recently left on his first expedition as a sailor; three calling cards printed "Mrs. Charles P. Washburn"; newspaper clippings, envelopes, and other items.
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