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American HerosDaniel Boone And The Founding Of Kentucky
... Boone lived hunting up to ninety; And, what's s...
O captain. My captain. Our fearful trip is done; T...
Our fortress is the good greenwood, Our tent the ...
Lieutenant Cushing And The Ram Albemarle
God give us peace! Not such as lulls to sleep, But...
Charles Russell Lowell
Wut's wurds to them whose faith an' truth On war'...
Robert Gould Shaw
Brave, good, and true, I see him stand before me n...
The Cruise Of The Wasp
A crash as when some swollen cloud Cracks o'er th...
The Death Of Stonewall Jackson
Like a servant of the Lord, with his bible and his sword...
The Charge At Gettysburg
For the Lord On the whirlwind is abroad; I...
The Battle Of New Orleans
The heavy fog of morning Still hid the plain from...
Sheridan At Cedar Creek
Inspired repulsed battalions to engage, And taught...
John Quincy Adams And The Right Of Petition
He rests with the immortals; his journey has been long: ...
George Rogers Clark And The Conquest Of The Northwest
Have the elder races halted? Do they droop and end the...
Then far away to the south uprose A little feathe...
The General Armstrong Privateer
We have fought such a fight for a day and a night As m...
Farragut At Mobile Bay
Ha, old ship, do they thrill, The brave two hundre...
GOUVERNEUR MORRIS. PARIS. AUGUST 10, 1792. Justum et ...
The Burning Of The Philadelphia
And say besides, that in Aleppo once, Where a mali...
General Grant And The Vicksburg Campaign
What flag is this you carry Along the sea and sho...
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;...
Lieutenant Cushing And The Ram Albemarle
God give us peace! Not such as lulls to sleep,
But sword on thigh, and brow with purpose knit!
And let our Ship of State to harbor sweep,
Her ports all up, her battle-lanterns lit,
And her leashed thunders gathering for their leap!
The great Civil War was remarkable in many ways, but in no way more
remarkable than for the extraordinary mixture of inventive mechanical
genius and of resolute daring shown by the combatants. After the first
year, when the contestants had settled down to real fighting, and
the preliminary mob work was over, the battles were marked by their
extraordinary obstinacy and heavy loss. In no European conflict since
the close of the Napoleonic wars has the fighting been anything like
as obstinate and as bloody as was the fighting in our own Civil War.
In addition to this fierce and dogged courage, this splendid fighting
capacity, the contest also brought out the skilled inventive power of
engineer and mechanician in a way that few other contests have ever
This was especially true of the navy. The fighting under and against
Farragut and his fellow-admirals revolutionized naval warfare. The
Civil War marks the break between the old style and the new. Terrible
encounters took place when the terrible new engines of war were brought
into action for the first time; and one of these encounters has given
an example which, for heroic daring combined with cool intelligence, is
unsurpassed in all time.
The Confederates showed the same skill and energy in building their
great ironclad rams as the men of the Union did in building the monitors
which were so often pitted against them. Both sides, but especially
the Confederates, also used stationary torpedoes, and, on a number of
occasions, torpedo-boats likewise. These torpedo-boats were sometimes
built to go under the water. One such, after repeated failures, was
employed by the Confederates, with equal gallantry and success, in
sinking a Union sloop of war off Charleston harbor, the torpedo-boat
itself going down to the bottom with its victim, all on board being
drowned. The other type of torpedo-boat was simply a swift, ordinary
steam-launch, operated above water.
It was this last type of boat which Lieutenant W. B. Cushing brought
down to Albemarle Sound to use against the great Confederate ram
Albemarle. The ram had been built for the purpose of destroying the
Union blockading forces. Steaming down river, she had twice attacked the
Federal gunboats, and in each case had sunk or disabled one or more of
them, with little injury to herself. She had retired up the river again
to lie at her wharf and refit. The gunboats had suffered so severely as
to make it a certainty that when she came out again, thoroughly fitted
to renew the attack, the wooden vessels would be destroyed; and while
she was in existence, the Union vessels could not reduce the forts and
coast towns. Just at this time Cushing came down from the North with
his swift little torpedo-boat, an open launch, with a spar-rigged out
in front, the torpedo being placed at the end. The crew of the launch
consisted of fifteen men, Cushing being in command. He not only guided
his craft, but himself handled the torpedo by means of two small ropes,
one of which put it in place, while the other exploded it. The action
of the torpedo was complicated, and it could not have been operated in
a time of tremendous excitement save by a man of the utmost nerve
and self-command; but Cushing had both. He possessed precisely that
combination of reckless courage, presence of mind, and high mental
capacity necessary to the man who leads a forlorn hope under peculiarly
On the night of October 27, 1864, Cushing slipped away from the
blockading fleet, and steamed up river toward the wharf, a dozen miles
distant, where the great ram lay. The Confederates were watchful to
guard against surprise, for they feared lest their foes should try to
destroy the ram before she got a chance to come down and attack them
again in the Sound. She lay under the guns of a fort, with a regiment
of troops ready at a moment's notice to turn out and defend her. Her own
guns were kept always clear for action, and she was protected by a
great boom of logs thrown out roundabout; of which last defense the
Northerners knew nothing.
Cushing went up-stream with the utmost caution, and by good luck passed,
unnoticed, a Confederate lookout below the ram.
About midnight he made his assault. Steaming quietly on through the
black water, and feeling his way cautiously toward where he knew the
town to be, he finally made out the loom of the Albemarle through the
night, and at once drove at her. He was almost upon her before he was
discovered; then the crew and the soldiers on the wharf opened fire,
and, at the same moment, he was brought-to by the boom, the existence
of which he had not known. The rifle balls were singing round him as
he stood erect, guiding his launch, and he heard the bustle of the men
aboard the ram, and the noise of the great guns as they were got ready.
Backing off, he again went all steam ahead, and actually surged over the
slippery logs of the boom. Meanwhile, on the Albemarle the sailors were
running to quarters, and the soldiers were swarming down to aid in her
defense; and the droning bullets came always thicker through the dark
night. Cushing still stood upright in his little craft, guiding and
controlling her by voice and signal, while in his hands he kept the
ropes which led to the torpedo. As the boat slid forward over the boom,
he brought the torpedo full against the somber side of the huge ram, and
instantly exploded it, almost at the same time that the pivot-gun of the
ram, loaded with grape, was fired point-blank at him not ten yards off.
At once the ram settled, the launch sinking at the same moment, while
Cushing and his men swam for their lives. Most of them sank or were
captured, but Cushing reached mid-stream. Hearing something splashing in
the darkness, he swam toward it, and found that it was one of his crew.
He went to his rescue, and they kept together for some time, but the
sailor's strength gave out, and he finally sank. In the pitch darkness
Cushing could form no idea where he was; and when, chilled through, and
too exhausted to rise to his feet, he finally reached shore, shortly
before dawn, he found that he had swum back and landed but a few
hundred feet below the sunken ram. All that day he remained within easy
musket-shot of where his foes were swarming about the fort and the great
drowned ironclad. He hardly dared move, and until the afternoon he lay
without food, and without protection from the heat or venomous insects.
Then he managed to slip unobserved into the dense swamp, and began to
make his way to the fleet. Toward evening he came out on a small stream,
near a camp of Confederate soldiers. They had moored to the bank a
skiff, and, with equal stealth and daring, he managed to steal this and
to paddle down-stream. Hour after hour he paddled on through the fading
light, and then through the darkness. At last, utterly worn out, he
found the squadron, and was picked up. At once the ships weighed; and
they speedily captured every coast town and fort, for their dreaded
enemy was no longer in the way. The fame of Cushing's deed went all over
the North, and his name will stand forever among the brightest on the
honor-roll of the American navy.
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