Are there any Civil War stories that involve hurricanes ?

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RobertP

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The word hurricane may not have been as specific in the 19th century as it is now. From The Night Before Christmas, 1823:

"Now! Dasher, now! Dancer, now! Prancer and Vixen,
"On! Comet, on! Cupid, on! Dunder and Blixem;

"To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall!
"Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys‍—‌and St. Nicholas too:
 
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O' Be Joyful

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@huskerblitz posted the story of the Hurricane Expedition of 1861 that hampered the navy yesterday.

https://civilwartalk.com/threads/“expedition-hurricane”-of-1861.138436/#post-1646092

After pursuing the links further I found a site that has the estimated plots of the known storms for each year of the war. The mainland got off relatively in those years
Below is a map of the storms of 1861 and there are others at the link. Perhaps @AndyHall and the folks in the naval forum can shed more light.

track.gif


Only four storms to worry about for coastal dwellers in 1861. In mid August a category 1 storm ran the Florida Straits. On September 27-28 another category 1 storm tracked up the North Carolina coast to the New England states (not dissimilar to what is predicted for Hurricane Irene today). A small storm sputtered out on the North Carolina outer banks in early October. The last storm of the season was a category 1 that moved up from Florida to Maine in the first days of November:
https://markerhunter.wordpress.com/2011/08/27/earthquakes-and-hurricanes-acw/
 
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John Hartwell

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The word hurricane may not have been as specific in the 19th century as it is now. From The Night Before Christmas, 1823:

"Now! Dasher, now! Dancer, now! Prancer and Vixen,
"On! Comet, on! Cupid, on! Dunder and Blixem;

"To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall!
"Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys‍—‌and St. Nicholas too:
I did a newspaper search for 'hurricane' during the war years, and every December, there were dozens of 'hits' for ol' St. Nick! He was a staple in every paper at least once during the month.

In August (iirc), 1863 there were a several stories about a hurricane hitting Boston, of all places. Mention Navy Yard facilities there and in Portsmouth, N.H. damaged.

There were a couple of thousand stories altogether, but not many that could be directly related to the war. Monitor USS Weehawken made it into Port Royal safely, though it had been reported sunk, etc. (in February 1863, that probably wasn't a real hurricane). It does seem that the newspapers might call most any storm with high winds and rain a 'hurricane.' Like the one that blew a train off the tracks near Chicago. Most foundering ships reported were civilian.
 

Rob9641

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I seem to remember something about Charleston getting hit with both a hurricane and an earthquake during the war years, but I might be remembering wrong.
 

BarryR

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Well, we have civil war going on at my house, so to speak...I have been trying to get my wife to leave (We are in Tampa Bay) with the dog and head towards the Union and get out of the path of Irma..But noooooo she refuses to budge...and its almost too late now !!!
 
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Zack

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More information on the Expedition Hurricane of 1861 mentioned by @Specster

The title is a bit over-the-top

https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/02/the-storm-that-nearly-lost-the-war/?mcubz=0

The Storm That Nearly Lost the War
BY ALBIN J. KOWALEWSKI NOVEMBER 2, 2011 9:34 PM

During the first week of November 1861 the worst storm in years struck the Atlantic Seaboard. Lacking modern meteorological equipment and techniques to predict its arrival, millions of people were caught unprepared. Floodwaters swamped Newark, Manhattan and Newport, R.I. Violent winds splintered fishing fleets off New England. On Nov. 3, 26 people on board the 990-ton square-rigger Maritana drowned when their ship capsized near Boston Harbor.

As bad as the damage was, though, most Northerners feared the worst news was still to come. Just days earlier, in an aggressive campaign to take control of the Atlantic, the largest Union naval fleet ever amassed had set sail from Fortress Monroe in Hampton Roads, Va., for the South Carolina coast. When the wind and rain finally stopped, nearly everyone asked the same thing: Had the fleet survived the storm?

Eager to establish a coastal depot for the Union blockade in the heart of enemy territory, President Lincoln, Secretary of State William Henry Seward and their top advisers had secretly authorized the Navy to capture the Confederate garrisons at Port Royal, S.C., located midway between the leading Southern ports of Charleston, S.C., and Savannah, Ga. Thus far, implementing the blockade and securing the Southern coastline had proven difficult: for much of the summer, the Navy had struggled to provide adequate coverage of the immense maritime border stretching from Virginia to Texas. Rebel ships were getting through, and whispers of open Southern harbors made the Union look outmatched — all the more so given its poor performance in the ground war. Still reeling from the loss at Bull Run, administration officials were anxious to complete the blockade and finally strangle the southern war effort. Establishing a beachhead along the Southern coast could make all the difference.

03disunion-img-articleInline.jpg

Library of Congress Samuel F. DuPont

The blockade had also become a litmus test for what Capt. Samuel F. Du Pont, a 46-year Navy veteran, called “the international question.” The blockade had legal standing only if it worked, and its vulnerabilities raised the question whether the Old World would finally intervene, recognize Confederate independence and rescue its lost commerce. “[T]here are much greater interests involved in leaving a port uncovered than the getting in and out of vessels,” Du Pont noted in late September 1861. When paired with the North’s high tariffs, people everywhere wondered how long Europe would stand by counting its losses. Much depended on what England’s diplomat in Washington, Richard Bickerton Pemell Lyons, made of the situation: “If Lord Lyons finds out what has happened,” Du Pont said, alluding to the overburdened blockade, “Mr. Seward will have a hard road to hoe.”

The Union decision to go on the offensive, however, was as bold as it was haphazard. Du Pont had been tapped to lead the fleet weeks earlier, but Port Royal became the intended target only days before the fleet was scheduled to sail. During a late-night meeting at Seward’s home in Washington, General George B. McClellan, then-commander of the Army of the Potomac (he would be promoted to general-in-chief within weeks), agreed to divert 9,000 troops from the nation’s capital and an additional 5,000 from New York.

Du Pont’s combined force of over 70 vessels (frigates, tugs and colliers — all for transport or combat) met the army in Hampton Roads. The Union had the advantage so long as the fleet’s destination stayed secret and it sailed within the month. Du Pont knew the perils in waiting: “October,” he cautioned McClellan, “was the golden month for operations on our seacoast.” After that, he said, the sea turned violent.

The mystery and anticipation surrounding “The Great Naval Expedition” stood in stark contrast to other more troubling news that October. Two rebel diplomats recently assigned to Europe, James Mason and John Slidell, had escaped the blockade near Charleston, and because of faulty intelligence the Navy spent the rest of the month looking for the wrong ship. Then, a sitting senator was killed in the Union loss at the Battle of Balls Bluff. Suddenly, the fleet carried more importance than ever. “Those vessels,” wrote the Hartford Daily Courant, “are laden with the prayers and aspirations of the American people. … [M]uch of our future hangs upon the fulfillment of the design of this expedition.” Du Pont was confident: “If we can take, we hold.” But he needed to get there first. A few hundred miles to the south, a massive storm was forming into a hurricane and spinning straight toward him.

03disunion-imgexpedition-blog427-v2.jpg

Library of Congress The “Great Expedition,” on its way to Port Royal, S.C.
On Oct. 29 the expedition sailed under blue skies; by Nov. 1, the barometer had plummeted and the winds roared. The storm would rage for two straight days. Off the coast near Georgetown, S.C., the fleet broke formation and dispersed far in all directions, each vessel doing whatever it needed to stay afloat. The smaller transports pitched everything overboard, from cargo to cannon. The living quarters below deck were “hot and close,” Du Pont said, intensifying the danger as even the biggest ships began to “twist, roll and writhe.” The heavy seas flung trunks and “huge iron safes” from side to side. Cabins flooded, rudders snapped and mattresses were stuffed into shattered portholes. At one point during the harrowing but deadly rescue of the transport ship Governor, sailors above deck could hear “the bubbling cry of drowning men.”

Even the oldest of salts confronted the very real possibility that they might not make it. “A gloom rested on everybody,” wrote the New York Times reporter aboard the steamship Atlantic. Later he admitted, “We fancied how we should feel sailing back … having accomplished nothing; we recollected the fate of the Spanish Armada; we thought how the Southerners would pronounce the storm an interference of Providence, and the London Times would proclaim that even the elements were in favor of recognizing Southern independence.” Even more upsetting, he wrote, “We thought of the gloom that would be cast over the entire North.”

With no news arriving, Northern civilians tried to stay optimistic. From Connecticut to Chicago, newspapers had at first “reason to believe that the fleet escaped the worst of the storm.” But before long, it seemed as if their worst fears had come true. Not so in the Confederacy, where reports of the supposedly secret fleet had reached a few days before it set sail. “The blast of the storm has sounded in our ears like sweetest music,” gloated the Richmond Enquirer on Nov. 4. “[W]hether by the winds of Heaven, or by the blessing of Heaven on Southern valor, we trust soon to be able to announce that the fleet which sailed from Hampton Roads … shall never more return, unless, indeed, under another flag.”

As everyone awaited word from the Atlantic, the expedition limped into Port Royal Sound — worse for the wear, but in fighting shape. The storm had caused few casualties, and Du Pont was relieved when most of his fleet checked in. Unable to coordinate a ground assault because of the hurricane’s damage, however, he directed the campaign from sea. The battle for Port Royal began on Nov. 7; it ended in a decisive Union victory after five hours of sustained bombardment.

The victory electrified the North and helped stabilize the blockade, but the Union quickly lost what little leverage it had won in its dealings with Britain. The day after Du Pont took Port Royal, the Navy captured Mason and Slidell on board a private English mail ship off the coast of Cuba — sparking a second international crisis in the process.

Today’s meteorologists suspect that the hurricane in November 1861 hit with Category 1 force. Had it been stronger, the battle for Port Royal — and the war — may have ended differently. As it was, the Union leveled a strategic blow: “You can form no idea of the terror we have spread in the whole Southern country,” Du Pont boasted to a friend two days after the battle. The Union’s seafaring force had accomplished what its army had been unable to do. “The navy,” wrote The New York Times, “has once again proven its inestimable importance in this war.”

Follow Disunion at twitter.com/NYTcivilwar or join us on Facebook.

Sources: Baltimore Sun, Nov. 6, 1861; Chicago Tribune, Nov. 4 and 7, 1861; Hartford Daily Courant, Oct. 15, 28 and 31 and Nov. 4, 1861; New York Times, Oct. 28 and Nov. 3, 4, 7, 9, 14, 22 and 24, 1861; John D. Hayes, ed., “Samuel Francis Du Pont: A Selection From His Civil War Letters,” Volume 1; Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 12; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Atlantic Oceanographic Meteorological Laboratory, Hurricane Research Division; Michael D. Coker, “The Battle of Port Royal”; James B. Elsner and A. Birol Kara, “Hurricanes of the North Atlantic: Climate and Society”; Amanda Foreman, “A World On Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War”; Howard Jones, “Blue and Gray Diplomacy: A History of Union and Confederate Foreign Relations”; David M. Ludlum, “Early American Hurricanes: 1492–1870”; James M. McPherson, “Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era”; Craig L. Symonds, “Lincoln and His Admirals: Abraham Lincoln, the U.S. Navy and the Civil War.”
 

Specster

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More information on the Expedition Hurricane of 1861 mentioned by @Specster

The title is a bit over-the-top

https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/02/the-storm-that-nearly-lost-the-war/?mcubz=0

The Storm That Nearly Lost the War
BY ALBIN J. KOWALEWSKI NOVEMBER 2, 2011 9:34 PM

During the first week of November 1861 the worst storm in years struck the Atlantic Seaboard. Lacking modern meteorological equipment and techniques to predict its arrival, millions of people were caught unprepared. Floodwaters swamped Newark, Manhattan and Newport, R.I. Violent winds splintered fishing fleets off New England. On Nov. 3, 26 people on board the 990-ton square-rigger Maritana drowned when their ship capsized near Boston Harbor.

As bad as the damage was, though, most Northerners feared the worst news was still to come. Just days earlier, in an aggressive campaign to take control of the Atlantic, the largest Union naval fleet ever amassed had set sail from Fortress Monroe in Hampton Roads, Va., for the South Carolina coast. When the wind and rain finally stopped, nearly everyone asked the same thing: Had the fleet survived the storm?

Eager to establish a coastal depot for the Union blockade in the heart of enemy territory, President Lincoln, Secretary of State William Henry Seward and their top advisers had secretly authorized the Navy to capture the Confederate garrisons at Port Royal, S.C., located midway between the leading Southern ports of Charleston, S.C., and Savannah, Ga. Thus far, implementing the blockade and securing the Southern coastline had proven difficult: for much of the summer, the Navy had struggled to provide adequate coverage of the immense maritime border stretching from Virginia to Texas. Rebel ships were getting through, and whispers of open Southern harbors made the Union look outmatched — all the more so given its poor performance in the ground war. Still reeling from the loss at Bull Run, administration officials were anxious to complete the blockade and finally strangle the southern war effort. Establishing a beachhead along the Southern coast could make all the difference.

View attachment 157213
Library of Congress Samuel F. DuPont

The blockade had also become a litmus test for what Capt. Samuel F. Du Pont, a 46-year Navy veteran, called “the international question.” The blockade had legal standing only if it worked, and its vulnerabilities raised the question whether the Old World would finally intervene, recognize Confederate independence and rescue its lost commerce. “[T]here are much greater interests involved in leaving a port uncovered than the getting in and out of vessels,” Du Pont noted in late September 1861. When paired with the North’s high tariffs, people everywhere wondered how long Europe would stand by counting its losses. Much depended on what England’s diplomat in Washington, Richard Bickerton Pemell Lyons, made of the situation: “If Lord Lyons finds out what has happened,” Du Pont said, alluding to the overburdened blockade, “Mr. Seward will have a hard road to hoe.”

The Union decision to go on the offensive, however, was as bold as it was haphazard. Du Pont had been tapped to lead the fleet weeks earlier, but Port Royal became the intended target only days before the fleet was scheduled to sail. During a late-night meeting at Seward’s home in Washington, General George B. McClellan, then-commander of the Army of the Potomac (he would be promoted to general-in-chief within weeks), agreed to divert 9,000 troops from the nation’s capital and an additional 5,000 from New York.

Du Pont’s combined force of over 70 vessels (frigates, tugs and colliers — all for transport or combat) met the army in Hampton Roads. The Union had the advantage so long as the fleet’s destination stayed secret and it sailed within the month. Du Pont knew the perils in waiting: “October,” he cautioned McClellan, “was the golden month for operations on our seacoast.” After that, he said, the sea turned violent.

The mystery and anticipation surrounding “The Great Naval Expedition” stood in stark contrast to other more troubling news that October. Two rebel diplomats recently assigned to Europe, James Mason and John Slidell, had escaped the blockade near Charleston, and because of faulty intelligence the Navy spent the rest of the month looking for the wrong ship. Then, a sitting senator was killed in the Union loss at the Battle of Balls Bluff. Suddenly, the fleet carried more importance than ever. “Those vessels,” wrote the Hartford Daily Courant, “are laden with the prayers and aspirations of the American people. … [M]uch of our future hangs upon the fulfillment of the design of this expedition.” Du Pont was confident: “If we can take, we hold.” But he needed to get there first. A few hundred miles to the south, a massive storm was forming into a hurricane and spinning straight toward him.

View attachment 157214
Library of Congress The “Great Expedition,” on its way to Port Royal, S.C.
On Oct. 29 the expedition sailed under blue skies; by Nov. 1, the barometer had plummeted and the winds roared. The storm would rage for two straight days. Off the coast near Georgetown, S.C., the fleet broke formation and dispersed far in all directions, each vessel doing whatever it needed to stay afloat. The smaller transports pitched everything overboard, from cargo to cannon. The living quarters below deck were “hot and close,” Du Pont said, intensifying the danger as even the biggest ships began to “twist, roll and writhe.” The heavy seas flung trunks and “huge iron safes” from side to side. Cabins flooded, rudders snapped and mattresses were stuffed into shattered portholes. At one point during the harrowing but deadly rescue of the transport ship Governor, sailors above deck could hear “the bubbling cry of drowning men.”

Even the oldest of salts confronted the very real possibility that they might not make it. “A gloom rested on everybody,” wrote the New York Times reporter aboard the steamship Atlantic. Later he admitted, “We fancied how we should feel sailing back … having accomplished nothing; we recollected the fate of the Spanish Armada; we thought how the Southerners would pronounce the storm an interference of Providence, and the London Times would proclaim that even the elements were in favor of recognizing Southern independence.” Even more upsetting, he wrote, “We thought of the gloom that would be cast over the entire North.”

With no news arriving, Northern civilians tried to stay optimistic. From Connecticut to Chicago, newspapers had at first “reason to believe that the fleet escaped the worst of the storm.” But before long, it seemed as if their worst fears had come true. Not so in the Confederacy, where reports of the supposedly secret fleet had reached a few days before it set sail. “The blast of the storm has sounded in our ears like sweetest music,” gloated the Richmond Enquirer on Nov. 4. “[W]hether by the winds of Heaven, or by the blessing of Heaven on Southern valor, we trust soon to be able to announce that the fleet which sailed from Hampton Roads … shall never more return, unless, indeed, under another flag.”

As everyone awaited word from the Atlantic, the expedition limped into Port Royal Sound — worse for the wear, but in fighting shape. The storm had caused few casualties, and Du Pont was relieved when most of his fleet checked in. Unable to coordinate a ground assault because of the hurricane’s damage, however, he directed the campaign from sea. The battle for Port Royal began on Nov. 7; it ended in a decisive Union victory after five hours of sustained bombardment.

The victory electrified the North and helped stabilize the blockade, but the Union quickly lost what little leverage it had won in its dealings with Britain. The day after Du Pont took Port Royal, the Navy captured Mason and Slidell on board a private English mail ship off the coast of Cuba — sparking a second international crisis in the process.

Today’s meteorologists suspect that the hurricane in November 1861 hit with Category 1 force. Had it been stronger, the battle for Port Royal — and the war — may have ended differently. As it was, the Union leveled a strategic blow: “You can form no idea of the terror we have spread in the whole Southern country,” Du Pont boasted to a friend two days after the battle. The Union’s seafaring force had accomplished what its army had been unable to do. “The navy,” wrote The New York Times, “has once again proven its inestimable importance in this war.”

Follow Disunion at twitter.com/NYTcivilwar or join us on Facebook.

Sources: Baltimore Sun, Nov. 6, 1861; Chicago Tribune, Nov. 4 and 7, 1861; Hartford Daily Courant, Oct. 15, 28 and 31 and Nov. 4, 1861; New York Times, Oct. 28 and Nov. 3, 4, 7, 9, 14, 22 and 24, 1861; John D. Hayes, ed., “Samuel Francis Du Pont: A Selection From His Civil War Letters,” Volume 1; Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 12; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Atlantic Oceanographic Meteorological Laboratory, Hurricane Research Division; Michael D. Coker, “The Battle of Port Royal”; James B. Elsner and A. Birol Kara, “Hurricanes of the North Atlantic: Climate and Society”; Amanda Foreman, “A World On Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War”; Howard Jones, “Blue and Gray Diplomacy: A History of Union and Confederate Foreign Relations”; David M. Ludlum, “Early American Hurricanes: 1492–1870”; James M. McPherson, “Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era”; Craig L. Symonds, “Lincoln and His Admirals: Abraham Lincoln, the U.S. Navy and the Civil War.”

Nice work
 

Henry Brown

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More information on the Expedition Hurricane of 1861 mentioned by @Specster

The title is a bit over-the-top

https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/02/the-storm-that-nearly-lost-the-war/?mcubz=0

The Storm That Nearly Lost the War
BY ALBIN J. KOWALEWSKI NOVEMBER 2, 2011 9:34 PM

During the first week of November 1861 the worst storm in years struck the Atlantic Seaboard. Lacking modern meteorological equipment and techniques to predict its arrival, millions of people were caught unprepared. Floodwaters swamped Newark, Manhattan and Newport, R.I. Violent winds splintered fishing fleets off New England. On Nov. 3, 26 people on board the 990-ton square-rigger Maritana drowned when their ship capsized near Boston Harbor.

As bad as the damage was, though, most Northerners feared the worst news was still to come. Just days earlier, in an aggressive campaign to take control of the Atlantic, the largest Union naval fleet ever amassed had set sail from Fortress Monroe in Hampton Roads, Va., for the South Carolina coast. When the wind and rain finally stopped, nearly everyone asked the same thing: Had the fleet survived the storm?

Eager to establish a coastal depot for the Union blockade in the heart of enemy territory, President Lincoln, Secretary of State William Henry Seward and their top advisers had secretly authorized the Navy to capture the Confederate garrisons at Port Royal, S.C., located midway between the leading Southern ports of Charleston, S.C., and Savannah, Ga. Thus far, implementing the blockade and securing the Southern coastline had proven difficult: for much of the summer, the Navy had struggled to provide adequate coverage of the immense maritime border stretching from Virginia to Texas. Rebel ships were getting through, and whispers of open Southern harbors made the Union look outmatched — all the more so given its poor performance in the ground war. Still reeling from the loss at Bull Run, administration officials were anxious to complete the blockade and finally strangle the southern war effort. Establishing a beachhead along the Southern coast could make all the difference.

View attachment 157213
Library of Congress Samuel F. DuPont

The blockade had also become a litmus test for what Capt. Samuel F. Du Pont, a 46-year Navy veteran, called “the international question.” The blockade had legal standing only if it worked, and its vulnerabilities raised the question whether the Old World would finally intervene, recognize Confederate independence and rescue its lost commerce. “[T]here are much greater interests involved in leaving a port uncovered than the getting in and out of vessels,” Du Pont noted in late September 1861. When paired with the North’s high tariffs, people everywhere wondered how long Europe would stand by counting its losses. Much depended on what England’s diplomat in Washington, Richard Bickerton Pemell Lyons, made of the situation: “If Lord Lyons finds out what has happened,” Du Pont said, alluding to the overburdened blockade, “Mr. Seward will have a hard road to hoe.”

The Union decision to go on the offensive, however, was as bold as it was haphazard. Du Pont had been tapped to lead the fleet weeks earlier, but Port Royal became the intended target only days before the fleet was scheduled to sail. During a late-night meeting at Seward’s home in Washington, General George B. McClellan, then-commander of the Army of the Potomac (he would be promoted to general-in-chief within weeks), agreed to divert 9,000 troops from the nation’s capital and an additional 5,000 from New York.

Du Pont’s combined force of over 70 vessels (frigates, tugs and colliers — all for transport or combat) met the army in Hampton Roads. The Union had the advantage so long as the fleet’s destination stayed secret and it sailed within the month. Du Pont knew the perils in waiting: “October,” he cautioned McClellan, “was the golden month for operations on our seacoast.” After that, he said, the sea turned violent.

The mystery and anticipation surrounding “The Great Naval Expedition” stood in stark contrast to other more troubling news that October. Two rebel diplomats recently assigned to Europe, James Mason and John Slidell, had escaped the blockade near Charleston, and because of faulty intelligence the Navy spent the rest of the month looking for the wrong ship. Then, a sitting senator was killed in the Union loss at the Battle of Balls Bluff. Suddenly, the fleet carried more importance than ever. “Those vessels,” wrote the Hartford Daily Courant, “are laden with the prayers and aspirations of the American people. … [M]uch of our future hangs upon the fulfillment of the design of this expedition.” Du Pont was confident: “If we can take, we hold.” But he needed to get there first. A few hundred miles to the south, a massive storm was forming into a hurricane and spinning straight toward him.

View attachment 157214
Library of Congress The “Great Expedition,” on its way to Port Royal, S.C.
On Oct. 29 the expedition sailed under blue skies; by Nov. 1, the barometer had plummeted and the winds roared. The storm would rage for two straight days. Off the coast near Georgetown, S.C., the fleet broke formation and dispersed far in all directions, each vessel doing whatever it needed to stay afloat. The smaller transports pitched everything overboard, from cargo to cannon. The living quarters below deck were “hot and close,” Du Pont said, intensifying the danger as even the biggest ships began to “twist, roll and writhe.” The heavy seas flung trunks and “huge iron safes” from side to side. Cabins flooded, rudders snapped and mattresses were stuffed into shattered portholes. At one point during the harrowing but deadly rescue of the transport ship Governor, sailors above deck could hear “the bubbling cry of drowning men.”

Even the oldest of salts confronted the very real possibility that they might not make it. “A gloom rested on everybody,” wrote the New York Times reporter aboard the steamship Atlantic. Later he admitted, “We fancied how we should feel sailing back … having accomplished nothing; we recollected the fate of the Spanish Armada; we thought how the Southerners would pronounce the storm an interference of Providence, and the London Times would proclaim that even the elements were in favor of recognizing Southern independence.” Even more upsetting, he wrote, “We thought of the gloom that would be cast over the entire North.”

With no news arriving, Northern civilians tried to stay optimistic. From Connecticut to Chicago, newspapers had at first “reason to believe that the fleet escaped the worst of the storm.” But before long, it seemed as if their worst fears had come true. Not so in the Confederacy, where reports of the supposedly secret fleet had reached a few days before it set sail. “The blast of the storm has sounded in our ears like sweetest music,” gloated the Richmond Enquirer on Nov. 4. “[W]hether by the winds of Heaven, or by the blessing of Heaven on Southern valor, we trust soon to be able to announce that the fleet which sailed from Hampton Roads … shall never more return, unless, indeed, under another flag.”

As everyone awaited word from the Atlantic, the expedition limped into Port Royal Sound — worse for the wear, but in fighting shape. The storm had caused few casualties, and Du Pont was relieved when most of his fleet checked in. Unable to coordinate a ground assault because of the hurricane’s damage, however, he directed the campaign from sea. The battle for Port Royal began on Nov. 7; it ended in a decisive Union victory after five hours of sustained bombardment.

The victory electrified the North and helped stabilize the blockade, but the Union quickly lost what little leverage it had won in its dealings with Britain. The day after Du Pont took Port Royal, the Navy captured Mason and Slidell on board a private English mail ship off the coast of Cuba — sparking a second international crisis in the process.

Today’s meteorologists suspect that the hurricane in November 1861 hit with Category 1 force. Had it been stronger, the battle for Port Royal — and the war — may have ended differently. As it was, the Union leveled a strategic blow: “You can form no idea of the terror we have spread in the whole Southern country,” Du Pont boasted to a friend two days after the battle. The Union’s seafaring force had accomplished what its army had been unable to do. “The navy,” wrote The New York Times, “has once again proven its inestimable importance in this war.”

Follow Disunion at twitter.com/NYTcivilwar or join us on Facebook.

Sources: Baltimore Sun, Nov. 6, 1861; Chicago Tribune, Nov. 4 and 7, 1861; Hartford Daily Courant, Oct. 15, 28 and 31 and Nov. 4, 1861; New York Times, Oct. 28 and Nov. 3, 4, 7, 9, 14, 22 and 24, 1861; John D. Hayes, ed., “Samuel Francis Du Pont: A Selection From His Civil War Letters,” Volume 1; Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 12; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Atlantic Oceanographic Meteorological Laboratory, Hurricane Research Division; Michael D. Coker, “The Battle of Port Royal”; James B. Elsner and A. Birol Kara, “Hurricanes of the North Atlantic: Climate and Society”; Amanda Foreman, “A World On Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War”; Howard Jones, “Blue and Gray Diplomacy: A History of Union and Confederate Foreign Relations”; David M. Ludlum, “Early American Hurricanes: 1492–1870”; James M. McPherson, “Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era”; Craig L. Symonds, “Lincoln and His Admirals: Abraham Lincoln, the U.S. Navy and the Civil War.”
great story
 
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mofederal

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I don't think it was a big enough storm that it could have caused the loss of the war. They called it the Hurricane Expedition of November 2, 1861. It might have sunk some ships, and scattered the fleet, but they were able to reorganize quickly and win the Battle of Port Royal. Actually there were 8 hurricanes that year and 7 tropical storms.
 

Joshism

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1862 and 1864 were really mild years for hurricanes with no US landfall.

1863 had a tropical cyclone on the TX-LA border area and one that started in the FL Straits move north to hit the Outer Banks.
 
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Rusk County Avengers

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One hurricane story I'm surprised hasn't made it into this thread is how the CSS Alabama got caught in a hurricane in the North Atlantic I believe and ended up sailing through it, even into the eye, a rare accomplishment in those days I believe. If I had my copy of Semmes' memoirs handy I'd relate it here, but that'll have to wait.
 

bdtex

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1863 had a tropical cyclone on the TX-LA border area and one that started in the FL Straits move north to hit the Outer Banks.
During the Texans On The Teche tour in October last year,Dr. Donald Frazier told us that the Battle Of Bayou Fordoche aka Battle Of Sterling's Plantation on September 29,1863 was fought in the midst of a Category 1 hurricane or tropical storm.

2017-10-29 15.51.10.jpg
 
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Specster

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One hurricane story I'm surprised hasn't made it into this thread is how the CSS Alabama got caught in a hurricane in the North Atlantic I believe and ended up sailing through it, even into the eye, a rare accomplishment in those days I believe. If I had my copy of Semmes' memoirs handy I'd relate it here, but that'll have to wait.
The technology was not yet there to track and rate these storms in the 1860s. Yet, for a vessel of that era to go thru the eye of a hurricane Cat 3 or more is, IMO doubtful. There are some considerations such as direction of travel when departing - leaving was much harder than enter the eye. I find it pretty unlkely a ship could survive enter an eye in that era over 120 MPH.
 

Rusk County Avengers

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The technology was not yet there to track and rate these storms in the 1860s. Yet, for a vessel of that era to go thru the eye of a hurricane Cat 3 or more is, IMO doubtful. There are some considerations such as direction of travel when departing - leaving was much harder than enter the eye. I find it pretty unlkely a ship could survive enter an eye in that era over 120 MPH.
Noted, feel free to go read the memoirs of the officers, (there are several, I haven't even got a chance to read them all yet), if I had my copy of Semmes' "Memoirs of Service Afloat" I'd transcribe the account here. They may not of have had todays technology to rate a hurricane, but them being experienced sailors I'd reckon they knew what they were talking about.

For all his faults Raphael Semmes wasn't just a sailor, and officer with a law degree, who LOVED mixing it up in politics, he tried to be one of the early pioneers of meteorology, some consider him as such (the chapters in his CW memoirs covering it are EXTREMELY boring), and if he said they went through a hurricane, and others did as well, I'm inclined to think they may have.
 
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