Simon Stein Bassler was born in Myerstown, Pa. on March 24, 1838. But lived a good portion of his life in Schuylkill Haven, always referring to it as his home. Bassler had a military career that lasted 15 years, serving in the U.S.M.C. from May 8, 1860 and being discharged at Marine Barracks Portsmouth, N.H. May 8, 1864. 14 months later Bassler enlisted in the 9th U.S. Veteran Volunteer Infantry Regiment on July 19, 1865 as a Sergeant for the purpose of getting a commission. One month later he accepted a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 20th United States Colored Troops on the 22nd of August 1865. He was stationed in Louisianan with the regiment. After serving less than two months he was discharged on October 7, 1865. The Civil war was over and the services of the 20th U.S.C.T. regiment was no longer required. On August 10, 1866 while in Chicago Bassler once again enlisted in the U.S. M.C. and served at various Marine Corps Barracks in Boston and Washington D.C. he also had two sea tours on board the U.S.S. Swatarra in 1867 and the U.S.S. Ticonderoga in 1868. Bassler finished up his Marine career in 1870 serving as a school master at the Marine Barracks in Washington D.C. he was honorably discharged from the Marine Barracks and the Corps in Washington D.C. on August 10, 1870. This was not the end of Bassler’s military career he again enlisted this time in the U.S. Signal Corps on December 21, 1872 and was discharged after serving for five years on December 21, 1877 at Chicago, Ill. As a Sergeant. On July 1, 1891 Bassler joined the United States Weather Service and since that time he served at a number of important Weather Bureau Stations and also taught meteorology at the University Of Cincinnati Ohio. He retired from the Weather Bureau as a forecaster in July 1907 at the age of 69.
Bassler lived his life prior to entering the Marine Corps in Schuylkill Haven. What I found to be so interesting was Simon Bassler was a very literate person who’s letters were of the most excellent grammatical style and rhetoric of the time period. His letters were long, filled with detail . From 1861 to May of 1863 while serving on board the U.S.S. Susquehanna as part of the Marine detachment he was assigned as the Captains Clerk according to the info gained in Wallace’s Memorial to Patriotism. The Captains Clerk required the man to have a decent command of the English language, he must be able to read all incoming communications for the captain and be able to transcribe all the incoming and outgoing correspondences of the captain.
I have never found anything official to state that he was the captains clerk in his military records but one could assume with his style of writing and command of the language he was certainly capable to hold the position. From the later part of May to May 8, 1864 he was assigned at the Marine Corps Barracks in Portsmouth, N.H. Bassler penned thirty-eight letters to the local newspaper The Pottsville Miners Journal during this time period.
During the Civil War Marine Private Bassler served on the U.S.S. Susquehanna a three masted side-wheel steamer. Of 2,450 tons. She was 257 feet long had a beam of 45 feet and a draft when loaded 20’ 6” her maximum speed was 12.5 knots but averaged about 7 or 8 knots. At the time Bassler served on her she was armed with 2, 150 pdr. Parrot rifles, 12 lX – inch Dahlgren smooth bore, 1 12 – pdr rifle. The Susquehanna was launched on April 5, 1850, she served in the Mediterranean Squadron form 1856-1858 and 1860-1861 and then became part of the Atlantic Blockading Squadron in 1861.
Bassler remained onboard the Susquehanna from 1860-1863 he participated in the actions at Hatteras Inlet and Port Royal in 1861, In 1862 he was with the fleet when it attacked Sewell’s Point. Bassler served all along the East coast and into the Gulf of Mexico. In May of 1863 the Susquehanna was put out of commission and went in for repairs. Bassler was stationed at the Marine barracks for shore duty at the Portsmouth N.H. Navy Yard.
Prior to the outbreak of hostilities at Fort Sumter, which lies off the coast of Charleston S.C. on April 14th 1861. The Federal Navy’s home squadron consisted of twelve vessels, of these, four were in northern ports, two were small steamers and one a sailing type store ship. Most of the ships anchored in Southern ports were now commanded by Southern officers. Off the coast of Africa were the sailing sloops Constellation and Portsmouth, the store ship Relief, and the steamers Mohican, Mystic, Sumter and San Jacinto. The steam frigate Niagara was in the Pacific returning from a cruise to Japan and would not arrive in Boston until April 20th.
In the Mediterranean Squadron were three vessels the Richmond, Iroquois and the Susquehanna. The Frigates Congress and the steamer Seminole were off the coast of Brazil. Sailing from the East Indies were the Hartford , Dacotah, and sail sloop John Adams. And sitting in Northern Ports were the steam Frigates Wabash, Minnesota, Colorado and Roanoke.
As can be seen the Federal Navy was spread throughout the world. I am currently in the process of writing a book on men from Schuylkill County who served in the Navy and Marine Corps during the war. But I wanted too share with your great historical site a few of his letters.
The first letter published in the Pottsville Miners Journal by Bassler was a letter he penned to some friends in Schuylkill Haven. The friends in turn gave the letter to the editor of the Miners Journal Mr. Benjamin Bannon who was very interested in publishing letters from members of the military. In all future letters from Bassler they would appear under the title “A Naval Letter”. He always signed his letters with his initials, S.S.B.
Bassler was assigned to the U.S.S. Susquehanna and reported aboard on August 17, 1861.This letter is an interesting look at a cruise from the coast of Florida to the Mediterranean and a subsequent journey over land by marines and sailors to help re-supply Christian missionaries living in the holy land prior to the opening of hostilities and the firing on Fort Sumter, Charleston South Carolina.
U.S.S Susquehanna Alexandria, Egypt. February 10th , 1861
Dear Friends: The beautiful Island or reef of Key West, from whence I wrote last, is about five or six miles long and some two miles broad; it contains about 3, 000 inhabitants of mixed character. The private residences stand back from the streets and are surrounded on all sides by large pine, cocoanut, and orange, Lemon Bananas, plantain and other trees. The breeze coming from the sea during the day, and wandering like spirit voices through the waving branches of these trees make and keep up a solemn, melancholy, like music. There are several species of flowers and plants highly priced with us at home, as the “Cactus” and so on, growing wild and abundantly they’re in the very streets. It is delightfully to wander along the beach and see the innumerable quantity of beautiful shells and stones, corals, sponges and other curiosities that wash up on shore.
On the first of November we hoisted anchor and stood out for sea once more, bound for Madeira. Looking back over the lovely Island. I felt half sorry to leave it. Everything was so fresh and green, so full of life and motion, while with you at home the myriad leaves have fallen; the sweetly singing birds had fled to more genial climate. The glorious sun seemed cold and distant and the earth was wrapped in a snowy mantle. The first day at sea passed pleasantly. On the second day we had a sharp wind and troubled sea, causing the old ship to heave and roll like a drunken man: the waves dashed in through the hawseholes, completely wetting the berth deck. In the morning we passed the lower part of Florida and all, as they cast a long and lingering look behind, farewell to Yankee Land.
On the third day we however, had guite a time of it. The sun arose in all its effulgent magnificence. I then for the first time really enjoyed the grandeur, sublimity and glory of a sunrise at sea. You should have seen it. It is suggestive of great thoughts. The wind was still blowing furiously; the waves were rolling and tumbling grandly and the gallant ship was tossing and pitching and reeling from side to side, now up, now down, causing many ludicrous scenes and grotesque attitudes on here unsteady decks. The sky was however, clear and beautifully blue with the exception of here a mess of fleecy clouds. Towards evening the wind changed and all sails were set, and by the combined power of wind and steam we traveled along right smartly.
The fourth day was Sunday and we enjoyed another Sabbath at sea. In the forenoon we had church then a hearty dinner and a good smoke, after which bible class, and in the evening, prayer meeting. On the fifteenth at sea we met, spoke and passed the U.S. Steamship “Release” sent by our Government to convey provisions and things to the Christian sufferers in far of Syria. On the eighteenth we arrived and cast anchor at the Island of Madeira to coal the ship again. The lofty, cloud capped peaks, the deep ravines and vine-clad hills of far famed Madeira presented a magnificent sight. I have taken a sketch of Funehal, the Capital and shall bring it home with me. On the second day in Port one of our men, a Boatswain mate died, and was buried the following on the Island.
Friends it is awful, terrible to die away from home, from friends and loved ones. No kind face to gaze upon during the last moments; so gentle, friendly hand to close the glassy eyes to smooth the corrugated brow, to straiten the icy stiffening limbs. But how much more sad and terrible is that death bed or death Hammock, no matter where it may be at home, at sea, or abroad where the presence and power and saving grace of Jesus Christ is not felt. Dear Friends, stand up for Jesus even unto the last convulsive struggle of the death embrace. The rough coffin was aft on the quarter deck” All hands were piped to “Bury the Dead” an affecting funeral sermon was preached; the coffin lowered into a boat, rowed ashore and buried by the mess mates of the deceased: the band meanwhile, playing the dead marches.
Thus ended the career of a rough, daring, good-natured honest, blaspheming man-of-war-a-man. He lived and he died; what more can be said of him? His death produced not the least effect upon his shipmates.
Madeira is a fine Island, fifty-four miles long and twenty miles broad. It was first discovered by the Portuguese in 1419, being at the time uninhabited and covered with magnificent forests. It derived its name Madeira signifying “Timber” Prince Henry established a colony on its own the following year and furnished it with vine from Cyprus and the sugar from Sicily.
On the 27th of November we left Madeira and after speeding along its coast for several hours we stood out for sea again bound for the rock of Gibraltar. The passage was quite a short one, but full of interest. We had fine weather and saw quite a number of whales and other inhabitants of the deep oceans. On the 20th we anchored at Gibraltar. Early in the morning we saw the stupendous rock looming up out of the water and growing larger and huger as we approached it. Almost immediately after we came to anchor. The news was brought on board that Lincoln was elected.
On the 2nd of December we left Gibraltar very early in the morning and during the rainy and stormy weather. The storm continued through mostly the whole passage, which however, was short at best. For on the ….we arrived and anchored at Speszia, the American headquarters of this station. We were almost immediately “quarantined”. The next day our mail was on board. We lay several weeks at Spessia, which by the way is only a small country village. We enjoy on board on this ship advantages almost equal to those at homes. That is the beauty of this ship. We have enough to eat and drink, and sleep comfortably, have time to read and write, glorious opportunity for thought and reflection. We visit the shore and enjoy the privilege of hearing good sermons and attending bible classes and prayer meetings weekly. Here however our good old chaplain was transferred to the Flag Ship “Richmond”. The first Lieutenant now occupies his place conducting services and our meetings.
But to continue, On the 25th of December we left Speszia. For Naples. Christmas day was spent on the sea. After dark on Christmas evening we came in sight of Mount Vesuviuis and about four bells in the first watch (10 o’clock) we entered the bay of Naples and anchored close to the city. This was, without exception the finest site I ever saw. The weather was delightfully warm and a splendid moonlight night. The bay was very calm the beautiful city extending all around the bay. lamps brightly burning …rockets and other fire works flying up, up so far, delicious music floating on the air. Burning Vesuvious on one side, large and terrible looking men-of-war all around us; all this made magnificent picture and seemed more like a romance than reality. Naples is one of the finest cities in the world.
Mt. Vesuvious is some30 miles in circumference at its base and is 3,700 feet high. The top is divided into points. There are ever burning fires at its side and a continual cloud of smoke issues from its crater.
While strolling through the city, after having had a fine carriage ride through the grotto into the country. I experienced a sensation of approaching hunger and consequently, like a sensible fellow, I went into a café or saloon was full of richly dressed officers, beautiful ladies, soldiers and also some of our own men. I enjoyed a glorious meal, a few glasses of excellent wine and a good cigar. I understand enough to know that they were talking of Garibaldi and his bravery. Some of them turned to me and commenced a conversation which was however considerably one sided, but during the course of which I proposed “Three cheers for Garibaldi and Emanuel>” Such cheers you never heard.
February 12th 1861. On the 11th of January 1861 we left Naples and on the next morning by sunrise arrived at Messina on the Island of Sicily. The short passage was also a pleasant one. While going out of the bay we passed an English man-o-war, when our band played” God Save the Queen.” And in return their band struck up the “The Star Spangled Banner” The whole was grand and imposing. Messina is an important seaport of Sicily, very strongly fortified. The harbor is one of the best and safest in the Mediterranean. A shipmate bought a bucket of oranges and forty cigars and six strings of figs for an English Shilling (21 cents)
On the 19th day of January we left Messina for the coast of Syria, it becoming our duty to take gifts to the Christian families in Syria. On the 21st we passed the Island of Candis or Crete. On the 21st we arrived at Beirut, Syria.
On the 21st of January, quite a large party of well armed officers and men from our ship started from Beirut with the intention of making a journey through the Holy Land as far as Jerusalem and its vicinity. Our party was a unique looking one. The tout ensemble of the party was sufficiently formidable and terrible to inspire hordes of Turks and Arabs with an overwhelming sense of fear and dread. The officers were well provided with swords and revolvers, the men, with pistols, carbines, cutlasses, battle-axes and the ever-present sheath knife. At noon we left our ship and went on board an Italian steamer to go as far as Caiffa by water, from whence we took an overland route. Early the following morning we came in sight of Mt. Carmel. We landed at the base of the mountain.
The surf rolled heavily over the beach and there was considerable excitement as well as amusement in trying to affect a landing. The beach was full of staring natives in all manner of dress. We concluded to remain there until the next morning whereupon the party separated, some strolling about town, others playing billiards, or walking along the beach, and others visiting Carmel the cave, where the prophets lived, and the convent, now built on the top of the Mount.
Next morning we started for Nazareth, some were mounted on horses, some on mules and some on asses: the baggage and provisions being carried by camels. I won’t forget to say I rode an ass all the way. The scenery was magnificent. We traveled along the foot of Mt. Carmel and over a plain when we stopped to dine. The American flag was planted and under its colors we partook of a good substantial meal and drinking the water of Kishon. After a good rest and smoke we started off again. We passed numbers of caravans and a solitary horseman, and troops of flying steeds and mounted Arabs. We passed through several Arab villages, which looked more like a large collection of beehives built of mud and stone. Night came on us before we ascended the mountain at the foot of which lies Nazareth. So we crowned the mountain and an awfully craggy and precipitous one its too. And entered Nazareth by dark. We heard jackals, foxes, and other wild beasts around us and at one time supposed we had lost the right path. The advance guard with the guide, were halted, when they cried out “come on” which inspired us with new courage and we pressed on and at last reached the convent in Nazareth where we to lodge while we were in town. You can imagine how tired we were after riding all day on small, poorly fed though amazingly sure footed. After supper we turned in. Next morning a fresh supply of horses, (we were tired of asses) could not be obtained in time to start the day, so we remained in Nazareth.
On the 4th of February we packed once again and made our return to Caifon . Our ride back was a pleasant one we arrived late in the evening and stopped in the convent until morning when we back on board ship. In the morning we left for Egypt. On the 7th Egypt came in site and are now lying off Alexandria.
So much for this letter, next time I hope to take you to a different place.
The following letters written by Simon Bassler concern the movements and preparations of the Susquehanna in the amphibious expedition to Fernandina, Florida. After Fernandina was taken the entire Georgia coast was in Union hands. It was an easy bloodless victory for the Union Navy.
Fernandina was located on the northeast coast of Florida. This large Union naval force forced the confederates to evacuate the region.
The following letter is an excellent description by Bassler of the preparation a warship took on in preparing for action.
THEY ARE SNAKING THE RIGGINGS.
U.S. Frigate Susquehanna At sea March 1st, 1862
Editors Miners Journal: One of the best-appointed and best regulated fleets, left Port Royal under command of our gallant Commodore on the afternoon of Friday last. The purpose and destination was kept profoundly secret. The fleet consisted of the Flagship Wabash, the Susquehanna, the Mohican, Pawnee, Flag, Florida, Alabama, Seminole and a large number of others.....all fighting ships. A number of troops accompanied the expedition and a large company of Marines was formed from the guards of the different vessels. We are today all anchored here around the flagship. Commodore DuPont is giving final orders to the different commanders and perfecting his arraignments and plan of attack. It is evident that a hard fought battle is expected from the preparations being made on board the vessels of the fleet.
They are “Snaking the rigging”, that is the heavy stays are fastened to each other by means of ropes tied in a zigzag manner from one to the other all the way down from aloft: something like a grape vine growing about an arbor. This is done so that in case any of the rigging is shot away it will not fall on the deck. The iron stays of the huge smoke stack are taken down and rope ones substituted. Everything not absolutely necessary on deck in time of action is stowed below. The railings of the hatchways are taken away and some of the hatches are covered over with stout planks. Some of the boats are brought in aboard and the rest secured out of the way. A number of extra cots are slung and prepared for the wounded. Everything as far as the condition of the ship is concerned is ready for action. The men themselves are as ready for battle as the good old ship. The glorious news of the capture of Forts Henry and Donelson has just reached us. We have unlimited confidence in our Navy.
In the following letter Simon Bassler gives a good account of what life aboard ship is like for those at home wishing to join the navy or be a marine.
Life On the Ocean Waves
U.S. Frigate Susquehanna Port Royal, S.C. March 16th 1862
Editors Miners Journal: Flag Officer DuPont remained of Fernandina in his noble ship Wabash, while we were again sent to Port Royal. The distance between Fernandina and Port Royal is about ninety miles. We arrived here on the 8th inst. When we found a large mail awaiting us. I received three copies of the Journal one of which contained a local concerning the Marine Corps that I may perhaps take as a text for some future letter. Sufficient for the present to say to every intelligent and respectable young man that if they can make even but a half starving sort of livelihood out of this branch of the service, to remain out for it for their own sake.
If they have any desire to try “Life on the Ocean Wave,” which by the way is not what it is represented, let them go as a sailor.
The smell of tar and ropes, the frequently disagreeable duties and disagreeable weather the coarse food and the ridiculous assumption of power and authority of many of the officers takes away and utterly destroys the romance connected with a life on the brinny deep, as well as the finer feelings and aspirations of youth. Byron loved the ocean because he could wrap his cloak about him and look upon it in all it grandeur and sublimity with nothing to annoy or disturb him. Had he been a deck hand on deck, would we now have those fine thoughts and grand descriptions of the “ Deep blue sea?” Heigh Ho…the rule is circumstances make the man; of course every rule has its exceptions.
On the 13th last General Butler left here with his forces on the transport steamer Mississippi for Ship Island. We saluted him with fifteen guns to which his troops replied with the wildest and most enthusiastic cheers. Our crews manned the rigging and returned their cheers adding thereto a “Tiger” after which our band struck up Hail Columbia, Star Spangled Banner, Dixie and several other tunes. It is an evidence of patriotism when one’s flesh creeps, ones blood courses wildly through every vein, causing a strange cold sensation a;; over ones body and when the tears are forced into one’s eyes while there is great cheering going on and tunes like Hail Columbia being played. Some do not experience this. Are they therefore, not patriotic? What is Patriotism?
When our band struck up “Dixie,” Butler’s troops made the welken ring with the most vociferous cheers. I felt like an iceberg…so cold, strange and indescribable. What would a soldier do without music? What would religion be without music?
Having nothing of any importance to communicate to day, I will tell you of something of our every day life. Time with us is denoted by a bell each half hour adding one more stroke of the bell. For instance 12 o’clock noon is indicated by eight strokes of the bell or “eight bells “ as we call it. This being the highest [number of strokes. Then half past twelve is one bell, one o’clock is two bells, and so on up to four o’clock which again is eight bells . 12, 4 and 8 o’clock are known by eight bells. A sailor seldom asks “What time is it?” he says how many bells have gone?
All hands means the whole ship’s company…everybody. A ship’s crew is divided into watches. Port and Starboard. At sea one watch is always on deck and the other below. They relieve each other every four hours, except in the evening from four to eight o’clock which is subdivided into two watches…from four to six. And six to eight. These are called “dog watches” and change the crew so that each watch has alternately eight hours in their hammocks at night.
Hammocks are made of strong canvas with clews fastened at each end, and are slung upon hooks in the beams. One sleeps very comfortable in these swinging beds, (coffin for that matter). In the morning they are neatly lashed up and stowed away in places kept for them.
A sailor’s fare consists of beef, pork, bread, beans, flour, rice, apples, pickles, butter, cheese, molasses, sugar, coffee, tea etc. The blockading squadrons regularly receive fresh meat, potatoes etc twice a week. The crew is divided into messes, and each mess has generally two or three rations stopped, which they get in money and for which they purchase potatoes and what ever other provisions they may desire.
Quarters is equivalent to roll call in school. General Quarters calls all hands to their stations for action, or mock action, as the cause may be.
The paymaster’s department contains everything the sailor requires, such as clothes, soap, tobacco etc. At sea field music is seldom required. While under way one watch is always busy working the ship: those of the other watch sleep, read, sew, play games, of which chess, draughts and backgammon are the principal ones…..CARDS being prohibited.
The lookouts aloft keep watch for sails or land, while the “Officer of the deck” walks his post upon the quarterdeck. There is generally a great deal of noise, bustle and excitement in every part of the ship except that;
“Which sacred doth remain, for the lone chieftain, who, majestic stalks, silent and feared by all…not of the talks with aught beneath him, if he would preserve that strict restraint, which broken, ever balks conquest and fame.”
When anchored in port the routine of our life is somewhat different. Reveille is beaten at daybreak. At sunrise the Boatswain and his mate’s blow their shrill calls and each in the voices of a Senator, call out “ALL HANDS”, “UP HAMMOCKS.” When the men jump out dress, lash their hammocks, and stow them away, all of which occupies about ten minutes. Then the decks are washed down, bright work cleaned and everything put in order. At eight o’clock breakfast is piped and “the ardent” served out. At nine o’clock the hands are turned to, the flag raised and quarters beat. Sometimes during the forenoon the men are exercised at the guns, or drilled with small arms. At twelve o’clock dinner is piped and grog again served out. At one the hands are again turned to and provisions for the next day got ready. At three the band plays on deck until four, when supper is piped. After supper the band again plays until sundown, or retreat, when the flag comes down…the band winding up with the “Star Spangled Banner”. Then comes evening quarters after which the boats are hauled up. At dusk hammocks are piped down. The evening is spent in various ways until tattoo at eight bells when so disposed and not on duty, can turn in and go to sleep. After tattoo the band discourses excellent music for another half hour when all is quiet. Nothing now disturbs the quiet and calmness of the night, except the sentry’s half hourly assurance that “ALL’s Well”. Thus the day is spent. The description of one day answers for all ordinary days.
All sorts and conditions of men can be found in a man-of-war crew. Do you want a mechanic? You can find him here. Do you want a printer? You can find him here, perhaps in the person of a drunken old soldier. I have found every variety of occupation represented here. For some reason or other every one has had occasion to say “ Othello’s occupation’s gone, “ and morally, to break their own necks.
One might find material enough amongst all the heart histories of the heterogeneous crowd of men on these little, floating warlike worlds, to make an extremely interesting book. However, Cui bone!
The news that Norfolk was being abandoned brought orders from President Lincoln that` the Union fleet would bombard Sewells Point, in the hopes that the confederate vessel Merrimack would be drawn out and the fleet would be able to attack her. This attack also was used as a diversion so army units could be landed on the beach and advance toward Norfolk. While bombarding Sewell Point on May 8, 1862 the Susquehanna is able to observe the U.S.S. Monitor up close. As the Monitor sailed up close to the Susquehanna one can visualize the rush of sailors and marines to look over the deck at this new institution. The following letter describes the action at Sewells Point.
THE MONITOR IS THE GREATEST, QUEEREST, INSTITUTION EVER GOT UP
U.S.S. Frigate Susquehanna May 9, 1862. Hampton's Road, Va.
Editors Miners Journal: We had a glorious" days shooting" yesterday. The Susquehanna, San Jacinto, Seminole, Naugetuck and the Monitor bombarded Sewell's Point. Agreeably to Flag Officer Goldsborough's order we all got under way about noon yesterday and steamed up off Sewell's Point in fine style. Upon arriving as close as possible to the rebel batteries on the point, which is nearly opposite Fortress Monroe, we immediately opened fire upon them. The day was a magnificent one - clear, pleasant and just breeze enough to raise the smoke. The secession flag was plainly seen over the batteries on the Point. The bombardment was kept up briskly on our part for several hours. The water splashed, the sand flew about in torrents, and shells exploded with tremendous reports in and around their batteries.
We knocked down their flag staff, which was however, instantly replaced, dismounted some of their guns, scattered their sand battery, and what other damage or loss of life the enemy sustained we could of course not learn, as the sequel will show. The enemy did not appear to be very earnest, or else our shells and the flying sand must have prevented them from working their guns, as they fired only now and then, and most of their shots were directed at the Susquehanna and the daring Monitor. One rebel shell burst near the water close by our ship, and several whizzed over our heads, causing us to repeat our Port Royal politeness and courtesy to the enemy's fire, vis, bowing and dodging. The Monitor, which by the way, is the greatest, smallest, queerest "Institution" ever got up, closely hugged the shore and sent her shot with unerring precision at the enemy's stronghold. She steamed up alongside of us once during the action, when we all had a fine chance to see her. The enemy, notwithstanding the galling fire on our part, and their inability to work their guns, obstinately refused to haul down their colors. We shelled them, without receiving any loss or damage from them, for about four hours, when a dense black smoke across in their fortifications and near their flag. Soon licking flames surrounded and rapidly spread, the smoke becoming yet thicker and blacker. While this fire, caused by one of our shells, raged, we still kept pouring in our shot and shell. Their flag still defiantly flew and occasionally a shot came toward us. Some striking too short, others passing over us. We could not understand this game, this desperate holding out on their part. Soon however, we observed another column of smoke in the direction of Norfolk. Down the river, like a furious, wounded wild beast, came the Merrimac. A shout of joy sprang up at the hope of an engagement with that monster. Up the river a short way, near Newport News, we saw the remains of the Cumberland, the noble victim of the terrible Merrimac, and yet we were glad to try our luck with her. A desultory fire upon the Point was still kept up, more to hurry the Merrimac down than anything else, while the Monitor , who I believe can whip her unaided, steamed up so as to intercept her, should she really have the temerity to come down far enough. " But a change came over the spirit of our dreams" The Commodore ordered us all by signal to cease firing and return to Hampton Roads.
There are three foreign nations represented here in the roads; England by her war vessel, Rinaldo, France by the Gasseudi, and Norway by her corvette Nebion. These vessels lie close by the Susquehanna. During this week the President of the United States, and several members of his Cabinet visited Fortress Monroe. Time passes away quickly here. We regularly get the papers the day after they issued. The Baltimore boats also bring us daily mail.
I hope everyone enjoyed this small sample of the wonderful letters written by a U.S.Marine during the Civil War. It is great that we still have them and also that he lived in Schuylkill Haven and called it his home.