Friday, November 7, 2014

On This Day in History: Battle of Port Royal, SC

                                Carte de visite, Rear Admiral Samuel F. Dupont
                                On loan from Ambassaodor J. William Middendorf II

On this day in 1861, the U.S. Navy, Army, and Marine Corps carried out one of the early joint operations of the Civil War. Under the command of Flag Officer Samuel F. DuPont (nephew of Eleuthère Irénée du Pont, founder of the DuPont chemical company), a force consisting of 77 ships and over 12,500 soldiers attacked two forts guarding the entrance to Port Royal Sound and forced the surrender of the Confederate defenders. Employing a tactic that had already proven successful a few months earlier at Hatteras Inlet, DuPont’s ships sailed in an elliptical pattern between Forts Walker and Beauregard and bombarded both as they came in to range. Aiding the attackers was the fact that the forts were separated by a three-mile-wide channel and were not in mutually supporting positions. Fire from the Union ships steadily reduced both forts and after four hours of fighting, the Confederates abandoned their defenses. A small landing party of Marines went ashore to assume control of the forts before handing them over to Army Brigadier General Horatio Wright’s brigade.

DuPont won praise for his successful attack and was promoted to rear admiral the following July. Convinced of his abilities, the Navy sent him nine new ironclad warships and ordered him to assault the city of Charleston in 1863. Unfortunately for DuPont, the ironclads lacked the firepower to seriously damage coastal fortifications and were forced to withdraw after an unsuccessful bombardment. DuPont subsequently fell out of favor with the Department of the Navy and was replaced as commander of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron by Rear Admiral John Dahlgren. He died in 1865 and is buried in the du Pont family cemetery (Samuel was the only member of the family to capitalize the ‘d’) in Greeneville, DE.

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