USS Varuna's Oscar Peck Reports On Board, April 24, 1862

JPK Huson 1863

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#1
varuna sink.JPG

Battle of Fort Jackson, April 24th 1862. USS Varuna never made it past those forts on the Mississippi but it wasn't for lack of effort. This era image, from Harper's image is wonderful. Captain Boggs kept his guns firing as the ship was going down. Seaman- Seaboy, Oscar Peck was there.


USS Varuna, is a long story albeit terrific. April 24th, 1862 Union Navy's Captain Bogg's ship was rammed four times in battle. CSS steamer Governor Moore twice, same, CSS cottonclad Stonewall Jackson. Boggs didn't quit- the Varuna pulled back, already sinking but kept firing until her decks were submerged. It has to be a thread here already, if not USS Varuna's story would take a better naval historian than me to do it justice.

Captain Boggs must have been an amazing guy- all heck in front of those Mississippi forts breaking loose, ships firing so close Confederate Lt. Captain Kennon, fired a hole through his own ship because he couldn't depress cannon far enough. " Withering fire " is heard a lot in Civil War discussions- from accounts USS Varuna's gun kept up a withering fire after being doomed. In the middle of this watery shambles, Boggs took note of a singular seaman's singular actions. He left us this. The account was picked up by Miller's post war.

13 years old. Goodness.

boggs oscar peck 1.JPG

I won't re-post the most famous photo we have of a powder monkey, it's so famous the boy gets a little lost. You just know that image is a lot like Oscar Peck.

boggs osscar peck 2.JPG

" I report myself on board ". I hope Peck married someone wonderful, they had 3 great kids and he stayed out of the water post war.
 

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JPK Huson 1863

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#2
You know, I'm the worst member here to do justice to the story of Varuna, Boggs and the Battle of Fort Jackson- it's a crazy, amazing story and would make an awesome 30 minute segment in a movie about the naval war. If anyone who knows this topic from the waterline up made it a thread, it'd be a great read.
 

DBF

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#3
I know 2 things about the Varuna - she was built in Mystic, CT & this:

The Varuna
by George Henry Boker

Who has not heard of the dauntless Varuna?
Who has not heard of the deeds she has done?
Who shall not hear, while the brown Mississippi
Rushes along from the snow to the sun?

Crippled and leaking she entered the battle,
Sinking and burning she fought through the fray;
Crushed were her sides and the waves ran across her,
Ere, like a death-wounded lion at bay,
Sternly she closed in the last fatal grapple,
Then in her triumph moved grandly away.


Five of the rebels, like satellites round her,
Burned in her orbit of splendor and fear;
One, like the Pleiad of mystical story,
Shot, terror-stricken, beyond her dread sphere.

We who are waiting with crowns for the victors,
Though we should offer the wealth of our store,
Load the Varuna from deck down to kelson,
Still would be niggard, such tribute to pour
On courage so boundless. It beggars possession. —
knocks for just payment at heaven's bright door!

Cherish the heroes who fought the Varuna;
Treat them as kings if they honor your way;
Succor and comfort the sick and the wounded;
Oh! for the dead let us all kneel to pray!
 

JPK Huson 1863

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#4
I know 2 things about the Varuna - she was built in Mystic, CT & this:

The Varuna
by George Henry Boker

Who has not heard of the dauntless Varuna?
Who has not heard of the deeds she has done?
Who shall not hear, while the brown Mississippi
Rushes along from the snow to the sun?


Crippled and leaking she entered the battle,
Sinking and burning she fought through the fray;
Crushed were her sides and the waves ran across her,
Ere, like a death-wounded lion at bay,
Sternly she closed in the last fatal grapple,
Then in her triumph moved grandly away.


Five of the rebels, like satellites round her,
Burned in her orbit of splendor and fear;
One, like the Pleiad of mystical story,
Shot, terror-stricken, beyond her dread sphere.


We who are waiting with crowns for the victors,
Though we should offer the wealth of our store,
Load the Varuna from deck down to kelson,
Still would be niggard, such tribute to pour
On courage so boundless. It beggars possession. —
knocks for just payment at heaven's bright door!


Cherish the heroes who fought the Varuna;
Treat them as kings if they honor your way;
Succor and comfort the sick and the wounded;
Oh! for the dead let us all kneel to pray!

Whoa, there's a poem? And Varuna was from CT? Thank you!! One of my favorite trips is to Mystic- it's so frustrating not knowing enough about ships because there's so much history there. Haven't been there for 20 years, over due for a road trip.
 

DBF

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#5
Mystic had a population of 2,500 at the start of the war but built lots of boats. They had several shipyards - the Mallory was where the Varuna was built and perhaps the most famous - the Galena - was built there as well, under the direction of Cornelius Bushnell (working with John Ericsson on Ironclads). It was reported that “Mystic shipyards launched 56 steamers during the war or 5% of Northern steamship construction”.

I grew up near Mystic and when my husband and I had our boat we loved going up the Mystic River. It’s a pretty, albeit, crowded area - with the best seafood anywhere, (in my opinion of course).
 
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#7
I''m more of a Lt. Beverly Kennon fan....

"to better cloak his vessel, Kennon waited near the river's shore until the right moment. He targeted the gunboat USS Varuna and charged. Kennon fired the ship's forward gun through his own and then rammed Varuna, twice. The U.S. Navy gunboat began to sink."


1862+Gov+Moore+ramming.jpg
 
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#8
The Varuna was originally built as a merchant ship with a little more class, i.e. she was supposed to have a section with luxury cabins. She was bought in the great hurry to purchase a US Navy. After her launch in Mystic she was taken to Brooklyn and heavily armed with 8" cannons and 30 pounder rifles. The decks were completely reinforced and changed into a warship. She had a powerful engine and could move with all the armament. What they didn't reinforce nor change was her thin merchant ship hull. This was her undoing.
 
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#9
Hello Everyone,

This is an interesting post on one of the most intense encounters of the war. As mentioned above, the Varuna was built in Mystic as a commercial vessel and quickly purchased by the USN. There is a good deal of information about her at the Mystic Seaport Museum including a model as built and a large half-hull model (both in storage). Upon examining her half-hull one can appreciate her fine lines as intended for screw propulsion. This also provided her commander Charles Boggs with a fast vessel ideal for breaking out once the forts were passed. Her speed and movement forward attracted the attention of both the LSM Governor Moore and RDS Breckinridge, both of which would end up ramming her.

The Moore would be her primary antagonist and was of similar size and also commanded by the aggressive Beverly Kennon. Kennon felt he had been slighted in the old service (USN), resigned and joined the CSN. His drinking habits, poor administrative decisions, and personality conflicts led to his resignation from the CSN in a matter of months. Angered by this he offered his services to the state of Louisiana and was given command of the Moore. Hoping to prove himself he handled the Moore aggressively, sank the only USN loss at the forts, but at a high cost. His vessel was completely 'used up' and his his crew suffered 64 killed and wounded out of 93 aboard. It remains the highest casualty rate of any Confederate vessel. His reputation was not enhanced as he was accused post battle of setting fire to his vessel before all the wounded were evacuated. This was never proven but the damage had been done.

Of interest, the Varuna was much more heavily armed than the Moore although of similar size. I think this reflects more on the availability of weapons to mount for the USN vs. the CSN, than any tactical ideas on armament. The Moore was also strengthened for ramming but the Varuna was not. I agree with Huson that a book length narrative comparing the careers and personalities of both Boggs and Kennon and their ultimate encounter would make a fascinating read. They were two warriors on the water that fate would bring together in a fight to the end.

All the best,
Bil
 

JPK Huson 1863

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#10
Hello Everyone,

This is an interesting post on one of the most intense encounters of the war. As mentioned above, the Varuna was built in Mystic as a commercial vessel and quickly purchased by the USN. There is a good deal of information about her at the Mystic Seaport Museum including a model as built and a large half-hull model (both in storage). Upon examining her half-hull one can appreciate her fine lines as intended for screw propulsion. This also provided her commander Charles Boggs with a fast vessel ideal for breaking out once the forts were passed. Her speed and movement forward attracted the attention of both the LSM Governor Moore and RDS Breckinridge, both of which would end up ramming her.

The Moore would be her primary antagonist and was of similar size and also commanded by the aggressive Beverly Kennon. Kennon felt he had been slighted in the old service (USN), resigned and joined the CSN. His drinking habits, poor administrative decisions, and personality conflicts led to his resignation from the CSN in a matter of months. Angered by this he offered his services to the state of Louisiana and was given command of the Moore. Hoping to prove himself he handled the Moore aggressively, sank the only USN loss at the forts, but at a high cost. His vessel was completely 'used up' and his his crew suffered 64 killed and wounded out of 93 aboard. It remains the highest casualty rate of any Confederate vessel. His reputation was not enhanced as he was accused post battle of setting fire to his vessel before all the wounded were evacuated. This was never proven but the damage had been done.

Of interest, the Varuna was much more heavily armed than the Moore although of similar size. I think this reflects more on the availability of weapons to mount for the USN vs. the CSN, than any tactical ideas on armament. The Moore was also strengthened for ramming but the Varuna was not. I agree with Huson that a book length narrative comparing the careers and personalities of both Boggs and Kennon and their ultimate encounter would make a fascinating read. They were two warriors on the water that fate would bring together in a fight to the end.

All the best,
Bil

Love to read one by someone who really knows this stuff! It was one of those unfortunate-fortunate searches, you know what I mean. Fortunate because this incredible, crazy, amazing battle inclusive of Varuna's sinking fight unfolded through around 10 accounts, unfortunate because hours and hours I'll never get back were spent on LoC, newspapers dot com, Hathitrust, etc. I'm just 'ok ' when it comes to digging, abysmal with both ships and the naval war. That entire passage is worthy of a 3 book tome, Varuna's engagement one of them.

I'm tired of pointing out ACW battles and events that would be awesome movies. They never do any. All we'd get would be Boggs as a vampire, flying from the deck as Varuna sank.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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#11
Kennon fired the ship's forward gun through his own and then rammed Varuna, twice. The U.S. Navy gunboat began to sink."

That was crazy. Read Kennon was so close his guns couldn't be depressed enough so he had to fire through his own ship. Whoa! There was a further comment in that ( just post war ) article that the hole was then used as a porthole but that part seems unlikely, no? Can't imagine more than just a hole didn't result- had to have blown quite a portion away?
 

USS ALASKA

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#12
...so he had to fire through his own ship.
Sirs / Ma'ams - question about this and the above posted illustration. Did gun carriages of the day allow the weapons to be depressed enough for that? Or did it take some extemporaneous 'modifications' - like with an axe - to be able to do this?
283

Thanks for the help,
USS ALASKA
 



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