Gunboat captured on Stono River

Georgia Sixth

Sergeant Major
Dec 14, 2011
I've been enjoying a book online courtesy of University of NC, the personal memoirs of a SC soldier with the delightful name of Arthur Peronneau Ford. He served the entire war in coastal defense, his Carolina battalion stationed at Charleston harbor. He gives an account of the capture of a Federal gunboat by an ambush of infantry and artillery. Here are his words:

At this time the Federal gunboats were very annoying in Stono River, coming as high up as possible daily, and shelling our pickets, and it was determined to make a diversion. Therefore, in January, 1863, our battery with Capt. Smith's and other troops were sent over to John's Island, and ambushed at Legare's point place to cooperate with two companies of Lucas' battalion and some other troops on James Island. The design was to capture the Isaac P. Smith. This vessel was an iron screw steamer of 453 tons, and carried eight 8-inch navy guns, or sixty-four pounders, and a 7-inch thirty-pounder Parrott
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gun. She was commanded at the time by Capt. F. S. Conover; and her crew consisted of 11 officers and 105 men.
The affair was completely successful. The gunboat in her daily ascent was taken by surprise, and after a short fight at only 75 or 100 yards distance, as she ran trying to escape, had her steam drum torn by a shell, and had to surrender. She had twenty-three men killed and wounded, while we lost one man killed. My howitzer was at a sharp bend in the river, and as the gunboat ran past, her stern was directly about 100 yards in front of the gun I served. It put one 8-inch schrapnel shell into her stern port, and I learned afterwards that the shell knocked a gun off its trunnions and killed or wounded eight men. A prize crew was put on board immediately and the vessel towed by a tug up the river, and later on to the city. While the prisoners were being landed, the U. S. S. Commodore McDonough steamed up the river and opened fire on us, but a few well-directed shots from our batteries soon made her desist and drop back down the river. At nightfall, our command returned to Charleston.

I wonder if such captures were attempted often along the riverways?
If you care to read more, here's the link:
Arthur Peronneau Ford. "Life in the Confederate Army; Being Personal Experiences ..."

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Mark F. Jenkins

Member of the Year
Mar 31, 2012
Central Ohio
Oh yeah, capture attempts were common. Successful captures were a little less common, but there were still plenty of examples. It's tough to say exactly how many there were, as, especially on the western rivers, Navy gunboats were generally avoided in favor of a nice fat target like a loaded cargo transport, and the records on those are not very complete.

There is a good deal of discussion of the capture of the Isaac Smith in ORN I:13, pp. 556-571, including a few Confederate reports.

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