Civil War Brown Water Navies

The Civil War in NE North Carolina

How were the "mosquito fleet" ships aligned during the battle of Elizabeth City?

On page 74 of the squadron signal book, under the heading "Orders of Sailing", I found the following:


1st - In a line abreast, Flag Ship in the centre according to seniority of their commanders on the starboard and port beam respectively, the starboard taking precedence in all cases.


Unless I am mistaken, Lt. William Harwar Parker was the second highest ranking officer, followed by Lt. James Cooke, Lt. Charles Simms, Lt. James L. Tayloe, and Midshipman F.M. Harris. This would place Parker in the CSS Beaufort on the right of the CSS Sea Bird and Cooke in the CSS Ellis on the left. Charles Simms in the Appomattox would have been on the far right and Tayloe in the Fanny would have been on the left.


In "Recollections of a Naval Officer", Parker mentions that a boat passed the Beaufort on its way to the Sea Bird and delivered a message from Flag Officer Lynch. That would place the Beaufort between the Sea Bird and the fort, the starboard side of the Sea Bird. This tends to confirm that the fleet was following the alignment outlined in the signal book.

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Upon further review of the written accounts of the battle, I have concluded that the Appomattox had to be posted on the far left side nearest the Camden shoreline and the Fanny had to be on the far right side nearest the fort. Charles Flusser of the Commodore Perry reported that the Fanny approached him from the port side while the Ellis passed him on the starboard side and tried to turn to train her big gun on him. The commander of the Underwood reported passing the Sea Bird a couple of hundred yards off her port side in pursuit of two other ships and reported that she cut one of them off (the Ellis), that the cut-off ship circled around his stern (which would have put the Ellis circling left towards the Camden side of the river) and that this ship was boarded by the Ceres. The Underwriter continued on in pursuit of the retreating Appomattox.


The Ceres was posted on the far right flank of the Union flotilla, nearest the Camden shoreline. She boarded the Ellis as the Ellis was trying to turn and train her gun on the Perry. The two ships drifted aground on the Camden side of the river. They were later pulled off the bar by the Putnam.


Flusser's report of the Ellis passing within 10-15 yards of the Perry on the Perry's starboard side fits the "Orders of Sail" notation in Mid. Camm's  NC Squadron signal book. The Perry would have been on the Sea Bird's port side, the side on which the Ellis was posted. The Perry rammed the Sea Bird on the port side, which would have placed the Ellis nearby on his starboard side.


The Delaware was on the left flank of the Union flotilla, nearest the Pasquotank County side of the river. She made for the Fanny when the Fanny grounded near the fort at Cobb's Point. The Morse passed the Delaware and Fanny, continuing on in pursuit of the Beaufort. This account would support the idea that the Beaufort was on the starboard side of the Sea Bird, near the Pasquotank County side of the river. According to the "Orders of Sail", as the senior lieutenant commanding, Lt. Harwar Parker of the Beaufort would have been on the starboard side of the flag ship Sea Bird, the side nearest the fort.


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