Naval Commodore Goldsborough Discusses the Capture of the CSS Nashville, Lincoln’s Reelection, and Teaching Former Slaves
Click to enlarge:
Select an image:
“…This wicked fratricidal interminable war when will it end - I believe it will continue until we have another election for President and I shall hope and pray that Mr. Lincoln will be reelected….”
Aboard the USS Florida, Goldsborough writes his wife about the search for the CSS Nashville, which had destroyed a Union vessel while running the Union blockade in February 1862. She then fled to the waters off of Savannah, Georgia, near where Goldsborough was stationed. JOHN GOLDSBOROUGH.
Autograph Letter Signed, “John,” to his wife, aboard the USS Florida, St. Simons, Ga., July 27, 1862, with original envelope postmarked “New York Aug 8 1862,” , 15 pp., 4 ¾ x 7 ¼ in.
“...The ‘Paul Jones’ Commodore Steedman arrived yesterday from Port Royal... She came here for a Pilot to take her into Ossabaw [Sound] where we learn the Confederate steamer Nashville is loaded with cotton - waiting for an opportunity to slip out, but has been prevented from doing so by the Gunboat Unadilla. The Gunboat Hudson and the Madgie from my division will accompany Steedman in his undertaking…the Nashville days are numbered. They must either destroy her or Steedman will capture her. Vessels have been coming in and out of Ossabaw [Sound] for some weeks notwithstanding as far back as May I asked the Commo. for a steamer to blockade that sound...This wicked fratricidal interminable war when will it end - I believe it will continue until we have another election for President and I shall hope and pray that Mr. Lincoln will be reelected. I want to see Stanton out of the War and either Mr. Holt or Genl. Dix at the head of that Department. Did you see the correspondence between Mr. Stanton and Genl. McClellan relative to the occupation of the White House as a hospital for our sick and wounded. McClellan floored him handsomely. There is no doubt in my mind that Mr. Stanton has been a great drawback to McClellan’s success and I firmly believe that he and Genl. Wool have been cooperating together to a friend somewhere in the North, published in all the newspapers about two months ago, where he claims the sole and entire credit of the destruction of the Merrimac. The old wretch, I believe he has been working against both LMG [his brother, Admiral Louis M. Goldsborough] and Genl. McClellan all the time and that was the real cause which induced the President to remove him from Old Point. I am glad he has not succeeded in obtaining the Thanks of Congress, which he so much coveted. They ought to have put him on the retired list long ago, he is a regular old Granny - ten times more so then John Gardner. I don’t think Wilkes will accomplish much up the James River, he is a poor stick. Lieut. Stevens in the Port Royal should have been appointed to the command of that Flotilla, he is a devil, me-care-go-ahead sort of a fellow and it would not take him long to remove those obstructions - provided they are removable...Since I divided my school I find they have all increased wonderfully. I now have over sixty scholars in the two schools ... They all know their ABC’s ... My mode of punishment is to whip the boys and tie the girls up by their thumbs until their big toe just touches the floor ... It works like a charm, and as they know they will be punished if they misbehave, the consequence is that very little punishment is inflicted….A disposition to shirk work is the sin of ninety-nine out of every hundred of these contrabands….even when they know that the work is solely for their own comfort ... the women are a degree better ...[August 1, 1862] …A coal schooner and an army transport with troops are to be landed on St. Simons. This last may bring down the ladies from Port Royal that were intended for our colony. ... What is right and proper for our students to learn is very much needed right now. They receive a commission from the government and a passport, and they stay for one year….”
St. Simons Island, one of the Georgia Sea Islands, was dominated by several large cotton plantations until the Civil War. Holding a strategic location and a lighthouse, Georgia Governor Joseph E. Brown ordered an artillery company from Macon, Georgia, to occupy the island. During the Union blockade, upwards of 1,500 Confederate troops occupied the island. When those troops were transferred to defend Savannah in February 1862, the planter elite left along with the soldiers, who also blew up the lighthouse before Union forces arrived. The U.S. Navy took control of the island, and the island became home to over 500 “contrabands” (freed slaves), as well as a contingent of Union African American troops. In April 1862, Susie King Taylor, along with other African Americans, arrived on St. Simons. Taylor had attended several underground schools in Savannah, and Union officers quickly seized upon her educational experiences. Obtaining books and other materials for her to set up a school on the island, Taylor taught 40 children by day and adults at night. She became the first African American to teach former slaves openly in the state of Georgia. When Union forces removed to South Carolina in October 1862, the school and the contraband colonies disbanded.
John Rodgers Goldsborough (1808-1877) was born in Washington, D.C. into a Navy family. His father was a Navy Department official, and his brother, Rear Admiral Louis M. Goldsborough, captured Roanoke Island during the Civil War. From 1824 to 1830, John Goldsborough served in the Mediterranean Squadron. He was promoted to lieutenant in 1837, and helped chart the East Coast as part of the Coast Survey between 1844 and 1850. President Franklin Pierce promoted him to Commander, and during the Civil War, Goldsborough’s USS Union participated in the blockade of Savannah, Georgia. He then commanded the sidewheel steamer Florida, became its captain in 1862, and served as senior naval officer while blockading Charleston, South Carolina. In the summer of 1862, he was put in charge of one of the so-called “colonies” of newly-freed slaves at St. Simons Island, Georgia. He left to command the Union’s blockade of Mobile, Alabama from March to September 1863. He finished his wartime service as an ordinance duty officer at the Portsmouth Navy Yard in Kittery, Maine. During a postwar mission as part of the Asiatic Squadron, he was promoted to Commodore.
“History – St. Simons Island.” http://www.stsimonsislandexperience.com/site/539680/page/123261
“St. Simons Island” & “Susie King Taylor.” http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org