The Best Confederate Naval Officers?

Mark F. Jenkins

Colonel
Member of the Year
Joined
Mar 31, 2012
Location
Central Ohio
Thank Goodness, I was afraid I'd get to the bottom of the thread and not see his name. :thumbsup:

Maffitt's one of my favorites to read about. Unlike Semmes, he seems to have had quite a sense of humor. I've said before that, Semmes might have accomplished somewhat more (debatable), but Maffitt's the one you would have wanted to sit and have a beer with. XD
 

Drew

Major
Joined
Oct 22, 2012
Maffitt's one of my favorites to read about. Unlike Semmes, he seems to have had quite a sense of humor. I've said before that, Semmes might have accomplished somewhat more (debatable), but Maffitt's the one you would have wanted to sit and have a beer with. XD

Agree completely and IIRC, Maffitt visited with J. Davis very early in the War to talk to him about building a Confederate Navy. Davis told him that wouldn't be necessary, the War wouldn't last long enough to require it.

Very telling in terms of the South's political miscalculation on Northern resolve.
 

Mark F. Jenkins

Colonel
Member of the Year
Joined
Mar 31, 2012
Location
Central Ohio
While he wasn't an officer, I think we should at least mention Stephen Mallory. His work in organizing a fleet from almost nothing is well worth credit, and was, along with Judah Benjamin and John Reagan, easily one of the most useful in Davis' cabinet.

Mallory was on my full list as well, but in the OP you specified officers. :wink:
 
Joined
Sep 28, 2013
Location
Southwest Mississippi
Mallory was on my full list as well, but in the OP you specified officers. :wink:
Mallory was the Secretary of the Confederate Navy.

He out-ranked everyone . . . even as a civilian.

:bounce:

(After all, the CSA was virtually identical to the USA in governmental structure)
IMHO, the man on that list that made the biggest individual contribution to the Southern war effort was certainly James Dunwoody Bulloch. Without him, no Florida, no Alabama, no Shenandoah, no Fingal to run the blockade and later become the CSS Atlanta, and he even managed through sleight of hand to get a Confederate seagoing ironclad into service (the Stonewall). He wound down his affairs and concluded his accounts almost perfectly, and to top it off he wrote a vital history of the entire proceedings (with some urging by his nephew, later President Theodore Roosevelt).
Agreed !

Bulloch was the most important man within the history of the Confederate States Navy.
 

JED740

Cadet
Joined
Nov 9, 2019
Semmes the Captain of the Alabama. The Alabama was an effective raider for a good little while. The commander if the CSS Florida who allowed the USS Waschusets to somehow tow his ship out of Bahia Brazil without doing any damage to the USS Waschusets maybe not so much on the top five list.
Leftyhunter
William C. Whittle, Jr
 

georgew

First Sergeant
Joined
Oct 1, 2010
Location
southern california
George N. Hollins showed alot of "zest" in the first couple of years of the war, then after the fall of New Orleans became sort of a non-factor.
Hollins is an interesting case. He was skilled but considered politically to be a bit of a "loose cannon". The big debate about him is whether his presence at the forts below NO would have made any difference. His recall just before the battle was one if not the worst timing of any of Richmond's decisions on the river. It can be argued that Hollins recall was both a disciplinary measure and a sign that his tendency to order or "acquire" assets for the NO station that the treasury had to find a way to pay for had reached its limit. Both Lt. Kennon (also a spender) and Lt. Read had a high opinion of him. Both of these officers tended toward independent decisions and Hollins sometimes had to reel them back in. Lt. Read wrote in his memoirs after the war that Hollins was planning another strike against Union vessels in the river at the time he was recalled to Richmond. The potential clinker was that Hollins had sent an officer across to take command of John Stevenson's privateer ram Manassas just before launching an attack on the Union blockaders at Head of Passes. A few months later Stevenson was Senior captain of what became the River Defense fleet's Southern Squadron at the forts. Just how well he would have worked with Hollins is anyone's guess. In defense of Stevenson, although he proclaimed the independence of the RDS boats loudly, he actually did make a number of attempts at cooperation. As it ended up virtually the entire crew of the Manassas less 3 officers decamped in October at the forts when Lt Warley took command and had to be replaced causing a 24-hour delay in launching the sortie. The reason for their departure was Warley's reading the naval regulations about sharing out prize money and a strong resistance to naval discipline by the rivermen privateers of Stevenson's original crew. Hollins was a bit unique in having experience both up river and down. His judgement about where the CSN's limited resources should be placed proved dead on.
 

georgew

First Sergeant
Joined
Oct 1, 2010
Location
southern california
Interesting scenario. You wonder how Hollins and Brown would have gotten along. I don't know enough about Sinclair to guess if he might have kept the other two action types from growling at each other. You also wonder if Hollins would have taken command of the Louisiana. It would have been interesting to see how the RDS Senior Captain (John Stevenson) got along with Brown. And then there was Warley. All of the above strong-minded action types including Stevenson. He'd finally been paid for the Manassas in February, so perhaps there was no longer a problem. If Brown had been appointed either Captain or First Officer of the Louisiana you suspect that the issue of mounting her guns might have been solved earlier. Her "black gang" wouldn't have gotten much sleep either until the steering engines and props were operational.
I have always thought that George N Hollins, Isaac Newton Brown and Arthur Sinclair would have been the best combination for
 

rebelatsea

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 30, 2013
Location
Kent ,England.
Brown and Stevenson - No ! I think Brown would have had him shot. Sinclair was appointed Captain of CSS Mississippi when it was too late, he was just the man they wanted in the first place. Louisiana's 2IC was Ok I think hew would have been perfect for Brown as his Captain. Alexander Warley should have been given command of the wooden vessels and a free hand to put navy into the RDS "fleet".
 

OldReliable1862

First Sergeant
Joined
Jul 2, 2017
Location
Georgia
Sinclair tried to argue his friend Farragut into joining the rebel cause, but the latter would never turn against the Union. Certainly the Union navy was much the better for having him!
 

georgew

First Sergeant
Joined
Oct 1, 2010
Location
southern california
Just a couple of points. The RDS boats were functionally an Army unit and most changes in their mission were actually issued by the General commanding at the forts. You can argue that the Army at the forts tried to dump that responsibility on the CSN with marginal success. Warley had a tough reputation as a disciplinarian as documented by Lt. Read. The establishment of the RDS by Richmond specifically stated that they were not part of or subject to the orders of the CSN. If Warley had been sent over I doubt he would have made much impact because he would not have any reliable marines on board to enforce his orders. Something no one ever mentions is that although all of the S. Squadron RDS vessels except the flagship Warrior list crewmen designated "marines." This is a misnomer. As nearly as I've been able to identify those billets were usually filled by unemployed rivermen or backup steamer officers who could not be placed on the vessel's table of organization. It took pressure from Gen. Lovell's brother to slap the RDS crews into some semblance of a standard organization. He achieved this through the mechanism of the unit's payrolls, which had a standard list of vocational descriptions and the different levels of pay for each. After the fall of New Orleans, a number of upriver RDS boats had a wave of resignations. Payrolls following them show that all of the "slots" were filled by moving crewmen up or by transfers between boats. In some cases, a marine was moved up to a senior officer slot. A small number of officers and crew from the Southern Squadron actually rallied and straggled up river and were used as replacements in the Northern Squadron. Examples were the Purser and Chief Engineer of the Warrior. Both were replacements in the Lovell. Oh, as a point of interest, I've never found any record of long arms being supplied for the marines of either squadron. There is some suggestion that a limited number of handguns were distributed. I would be very surprised if a number of the rivermen didn't bring their own sidearms. At Memphis, the Purser of the Lovell specifically states that he had to borrow a handgun from a senior officer to shoot at one of the Ellet rams. There is a tendency to forget that the shortage of real marines also affected the CSN vessels. We also forget there was a third naval force on the southern side at the forts - two converted State gunboats under state CDR Beverly Kennon. The State supplied the gun crews for these vessels, many from Co. G, Louisiana Heavy Artillery and a handful of other units. Just why the Army didn't supply gunners and infantry for the RDS Southern Squadron is a good question, as the Northern Squadron was suppled with Gen. Jeff Thompson's depleted force of Missouri State Guard infantry and artillery. In Thompson's memoirs he specifically states that this had been discussed with Gen. Lovell in NO in the early spring of 1862. Thompson also reminded Montgomery and Beauregard of this intended assignment as it allowed him to keep his rump unit intact and Thompson's state commission and rank of some relevence.
 

georgew

First Sergeant
Joined
Oct 1, 2010
Location
southern california
If we're going to talk about poor command decisions we have to mention the LSN. CDR Kennon (former Lt. CSN) was the senior officer of the two State gunboats at the forts. I think that everyone more or less expected a night action and a bit of chaos. There was a meeting of the senior officers of the CSN, LSN and RDS before the action where it was decided that each Captain was on his own when the flag went up. On an operational level, individual Captains tried to coordinate with the vessels next to them, but Kennon had allowed his other gunboat to moor across the river with no hope of any type of coordination. Lt. Warley (Manassas) tried to convince him to back up the ram and fight the Union vessels at the barrier. Kennon went upstream and heavily engaged Union vessels, finally sharing the sinking of Varuna with the ram Stonewall Jackson. With his ship shot to pieces, gun crews decimated, Kennon continued to engage and was stopped by his first officer, James Duke, who basically said "Why do this?" as their vessel was spent with the worst casualties of any vessel on the river. I suspect this is why the CSN never gave him a shipboard command after he was reinstated. Kennon was probably one of the most aggressive commanders in battle, but may have lost his sense of the overall situation during combat. He was a skilled commander for a torpedo unit as proved on the James River later, but not trusted by ADM Buchannan on the basis of an alleged drinking problem early in the war.
 

Phantom

Private
Joined
Feb 19, 2019
I would propose adding Captain Michael Philip Usina, one of the most successful blockade runner captains to the list. He made 28 runs through the blockade starting in 1863. After obtaining his British Master's papers he served as a junior officer on several blockade runners. He then commanded the Mary Celestia, Atalanta, Armstrong, Virginia, and Rattlesnake,
 
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