Civil War Brown Water Navies

The Civil War in NE North Carolina

Before North Carolina even seceded from the Union, Governor Ellis began purchasing ships for a North Carolina Navy. By June of 1861, the state had seceded and officers were appointed for the NC Navy by the Military and Naval Board. Commander William Muse, the head of the new state navy, and naval agent Marshall Parks, president of the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal Co., were charged with the task of evaluating the ships available for purchase. On their recommendation, the Caledonia, Loper, J. N. Smith, J. E. Coffee, and Fairfield were purchased and the steamers Kahukee and Albemarle were chartered.

Four ships were already placed in commission by the time the NC Navy was sold to the CS Navy in early July 1861 for $61,000: the Coffee (NCS Winslow), Caledonia (Beaufort), Kahukee and Albemarle operated in June and early July under the command of NC Navy officers. The Loper (CSS Raleigh), J. N. Smith (CSS Weldon Edwards), and Fairfield (CSS Ellis) were commissioned after the transfer to the CS Navy, although the Fairfield was placed under the command of NCN Lt. Cmdg. Coleman and used to haul troops and materials to Hatteras and Ocracoke during June of 1861.

The NCS Albemarle was not armed while in NC service. She was not suited for use as a gunboat, so she was used as a transport instead. NCN Lt. William Willis Roberts was placed in command. When the NC Navy was sold, the Albemarle was refused by the CS Navy. She was turned over to the quartermaster at Hatteras for use as a transport. She remained in this capacity up until the fall of New Bern to Union forces in March of 1862. After her capture, she was put into service as a transport of the Union. The Albemarle sank after striking one of the pilings driven across the Pamlico River near Washington, NC, later in 1862.

Roberts continued to command the Albemarle until late July of 1861. The ships were scheduled to be turned over to Confederate control on 25 July 1861. NCN officers had to apply for new  commissions to be accepted into the CS Navy; only three were initially accepted: Commander William T. Muse, Paymaster John Johnston, and 1st Lt. Peter U Murphy. On 16 July 1861, prior to the official date, Commander Muse was directed to have Roberts resign or be dismissed. The Albemarle was to be placed under the control of the quartermaster at Hatteras. Roberts refused to resign and was dismissed on 22 July 1861 for drunken behavior that was bringing the reputation of the NC Navy into disrepute. On the 27th, Lt. Crossan of the Winslow was ordered to relieve Roberts of the Albemarle and deliver her to the commander of Fort Hatteras.

The civilian crew of the Albemarle were paid off in New Bern on 29 July 1861 by Naval Agent Oliver S. Dewey. The crew consisted of: Samuel Salyer, pilot Samuel M. Bowen, engineer Andrew H. Farrall, mate Alex Laughinghouse, deck hand Brian Lofton, deck hand Pierce Ransom, deck hand Jno. M Kedslie, deck hand Henry Shaw, deck hand Witnesses to the payments were J. J. Roberson and Samuel Salyer. Alex Roberts was also paid for piloting the Albemarle from 25 May - 1 August 1861.

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