"Craven's Fame Endures, Torpedo Boat 10 to Receive His Name"

BATH, Me., July 31 - The shipbuilders at Bath Iron Works here are rapidly pushing forward the work on Uncle Sam's torpedo boat 10, which was placed under contract last October. She is named the Craven, in honor of the hero of Farragut's memorable sea battle in Mobile Bay on Aug. 5, thirty-three years ago. Thursday will be the anniversary of the battle. Capt. Tunis Augustus Craven met death in attempting a brilliant exploit with the ironclad Tecumseh. He lost his vessel and his life while trying to send to the bottom the Confederate ram Tennessee, the destruction of which was the sole object of Farragut's raid into Mobile Bay.

The Tennessee lay near Fort Morgan. Farragut's fleet, led by the Tecumseh, steamed up opposite the fort, and Capt. Craven fired the opening gun of the battle, sending a 15-inch shell from the Tecumseh into the fort. Capt. Craven had asked for the position of honor in attacking the terrible ram Tennessee. The bay was planted with torpedoes, and the line marking them buoyed out, yet when the gallant commander saw a chance to close with the ram he drove the Tecumseh hastily over the line. The Tennessee was lying in the rear of the torpedo obstructions, and therefore beyond the line of buoys, and the Tecumseh struck upon a torpedo, careened, and almost instantly sank to the bottom, carrying down ninety-three officers and men. Only twenty-one were saved, among them John Collins, a pilot.

Collins said that he and Capt. Craven were alone in the turret at the time of the disaster, and feeling the vessel sinking beneath them hurried to the ladder to climb out. Craven reached the foot of the ladder first, but instead of going up he stepped aside and with a chivalrous wave of the hand said to Collins, "After you, pilot." "There was nothing after me," said Collins, "for when I reached the uppermost round of the ladder the vessel dropped from under me." The waters closed over the ship and her noble commander, whose deed that day was comparable to that of the dying Sidney upon the field of Zutphen, when passing to a wounded soldier the draught of which he himself was in sore need.

The loss of the Tecumseh brought the whole Federal fleet to a standstill directly in range of all the guns of the Confederate forts and ships. Under that terrible fire the scuppers of Farragut's leading vessels literally ran blood. It was then that the fighting Admiral arose to the occasion and placed his name by the side of that of Nelson. In order to get above the smoke which hung around the decks of his flagship Hartford, he climbed into the rigging and was lashed to the ratlines by some of the sailors. The Hartford was a wooden ship and was in the rear of the ironclads, but seeing the monitors timid about going ahead Farragut ordered his ship forward at full speed. While passing the monitors an officer cried out from the decks of one of them to beware of the torpedoes which had proved to fatal to the Tecumseh. Farragut then shouted the historic "Damned the torpedoes! I will take the lead!" In rushing on the Hartford rode over several torpedoes, but owning to some defects in the fulminates they failed to explode.

Seeing the Hartford speed up the bay toward Mobile, Admiral Buchanan set out for a chase with the ram Tennessee. It was flagship against flagship. Admiral against Admiral. The Hartford turned and the vessels came together bows on, but the ram sheered and received only a glancing blow. The Hartford gave the Tennessee a solid broadside, but the shot rolled off from her plated shield. At the same time the ram sent a 95-pound shot through the Hartford, killing and wounding thirteen.

In that crisis Farragut determined upon tactics the boldest known to naval warfare. He tried to drive the flagship upon the low protruding decks of the ram. The wooden hull of the Hartford would of course be crushed in the encounter, but with a hold full of water she would weigh down the Tennessee and send her to the bottom. The eagerness of the ram to avoid the blow made it the more evident the plan was feasible, and Farragut ordered his ship forward the second time. Fortunately for the Confederates' ram , the monitor Lackawanna came steaming up on the same hazardous errand and cut into the Hartford amidships, knocking two portholes into one, upsetting a heavy Dahlgren gun and completely demoralizing nearly all on board. Undaunted, the Admiral ordered his ship ahead again, but the Lackawanna, which had backed off, came up on the other side and barely escaped giving the flagship a second blow.

As the Tennessee backed away from the Hartford and Lackawanna she dropped into the midst of the main fleet and the battle of Mobile Bay began in earnest. The ram was the target at close range for 100 guns, the concentrated fire of which began to fell on her vulnerable spots. Two of the double-turret monitors, the Chickasaw and Winnebago, were stationed under her stern and poured 11-inch solid shot upon her shield. Her heavy iron port shutters became jammed by the heavy shots rained against them, and only with difficulty could be opened to run out the guns for firing. Admiral Buchanan and the pilot were both wounded, and, as a finishing disaster, the rudder chains were cut in two by an 11-inch shot from the monitor Chickasaw.

Buchanan was prostrated with a broken leg, and sent for Capt. J. D. Johnston, the master of the ship. He said quietly: "They've got me, Johnston. You'll have to look out for her now. This is your fight, you know." Johnston responded: "All right, sir. I'll do the best I know how." At that instant the vessel careened so as to throw Johnston off his feet. The Lackawanna, in a third attempt, at least, that morning, had at last put in her blow. She struck the ram while running at full speed, cut into her stern and crushed the plank ends for the distance of three feet above the water's edge to five feet below. The perceptible effect of the shock upon the ram was to cause her to list heavily.

The lost of the smokestack made it impossible for the engineer of the Tennessee to keep up enough steam to stem the tide, which was setting against her at the rate of four miles an hour. There was no rudder to keep the vessel in position for firing, and after consulting the wounded Admiral, Capt. Johnston went out upon the top of the shield with a white flag. One of the heaviest ships of the Federal fleet, the Ossippe, was then steaming rapidly forward, intending to skin the helpless ram. Seeing the flag of truce, Commander Le Roy of the Ossippe stopped his ship, but the momentum carried her heavily against the Tennessee. At that moment the commander hailed and said: "This is the United States steamer Ossippe. Hello Johnston, how are you? Le Roy - don't you know me. I'll send a boat alongside for you." Johnston and Le Roy had been bosom friends in the old Navy.

So the redoubtable ram, the last of her kind, struck to a vessel that had scarcely been engaged in the combat. The fortunes of war might have given the victory to Craven with his ship alone, had the Tecumseh been spared to come close with her in that first bold dash.

[return to newspaper articles]