Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Private Hobbs’ Diary: “We found in the harbour three Gun boats. . . .”

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on February 2, 2013
U.S. Army chartered transport Saxon, 1862.


Alexander Hobbs was a private in Company I of the 42nd Massachusetts Infantry. It would be Hobbs’ and his messmates’ misfortune that Company I was one of the three companies of that regiment that eventually occupied Kuhn’s Wharf on the Galveston waterfront, and came under attack by Confederate forces in the early morning hours of New Years Day, 1863. Hobbs kept a diary that encompassed his experiences, which is now part of the collection at the Woodson Research Center at Rice University.

In an earlier post, we traveled along with Hobbs as he and his messmates boarded the chartered transport Saxon [1] at Brooklyn, and made the rough passage down the eastern seaboard, around the Florida Reef, and into the Gulf of Mexico to Ship Island, Mississippi. After a brief stop there for coal, Saxon continues on to the mouth of the Mississippi:

December 16
7 A.M. arrived at the entrance of the Mississippi after a very stormy and disagreeable night back lay-too for some hours waiting for day light to take a pilot the entrance of the river is through low marchy land which extends for (I think) twenty miles from the entrance the river is about three quarters of a mile wide and is very hansome
Pilot Town at the mouth of the Southwest Pass of the Mississippi. Harper’s Weekly via
We see the remains of many of the few rafts sent down by the rebels to burn Gen Butler [‘s] fleet passed forts St Phillips & Jackson which our gun boats took on thair way too New Orleans the marks of our shot could be plainly seen on the [fort’s] walls it is now garrisoned by a Massachusetts Regt  [2] [and we] stopped their untill the medical officer came on bord he found us all well and allowed us to proceed came to anchor at dark within twenty yards of the bank and within twenty miles of the city of New Orleans the scenery on the banks of the river for the most part has been delightful beautifull groves of orange trees which hung full of the golden fruit looked to us very inviting
December 17
Started this morning and arrived at the city at day-light we was all eager to see the “Cresent City”and enjoyed a fine viewfrom the deck of our vessail thare is little to see however as thare is but little business done now we had scarcely anchored before boats came off with fruit, pies, cake & bread the city is under Marsall Law but the poor are much better off than before it was taken by the Federals Flour which than sold for forty five dollars now sells from seven too ten dollars and others then as in proportion we expected to land here but orders came for us to go up the river nine miles to a town called Carrelton [3] accordingly in the evening we ran up the river but not knowing when to stop we went two miles further than we intended and stopped for the night beside a river Steamboat made to carry cotton with a saloon for passengers in the second story She is now laid up to dry and is used as a hospital
New Orleans, 1862Blank
December 18
Left and steamed down the river two miles and landed at Carrelton at 12 N. marched half a mile and piched our tents on a low wet pieces of land bounded on two sides by grave–yards one a rebel and the other the last resting place of Union Soldiers who had been camped in that vicinity thare was near four hundred from Maine, Mass, Vermt, New York, New Hampshire and some other states thare were two hospitals in the town, full of sick soldiers and it was a sad sight to see some each day carried to the grave without a friend to shed a tear over thair remains doubtless many tears will be shed when the sad tidings are wafted across the ocean to the home they left so lately I have wandered through grave yards before but never see so sad a place as this the graves are onely dug two or three feet deep and immediately fill with water the poor people praise Gen Butler and well they may some of the Ladies say all manner of bitter things about us “Yankees” and scoff at the idea of the Union ever being restored
 December 19
Friday gave all our clothes to the Washer women not expecting to leave here soon a few hours afterward the order came to strike our tents and go again on bord the transport we did not know where to find our clothes butafter hunting all over the town we returned to camp in dispare the order was countermandand we again piched our tents afterward some of our boys found thair clothes and before we left they were all recovered
December 21
 Broke camp at day light and marched to the bank and embarked on bord the good ship Saxon who was hawled along side the bank stopped a few hours at New Orleans and than proceeded down the river on our way to Taxes the day was verry fine and we had a fine view of the twenty miles passed in the night time on our way up a anchored at night in the river and proceeded toward and morning on our voyage after three days sail with a fair wind and a smooth sea
We arrived off Galveston [December 24] and was brought too by a shot across our bow from a United States Gun boat who spoke us and than signaled for a pilot At 2 P.M. The pilot came on bord but we were obliged to wait two or three hours for the tide to rise toward night we stood in across the bar and struck several times but got across in safety we found in the harbour three Gun boats the largest of which was the Harriet Lane who carried six guns also two Ferry boats [Westfield and Clifton] fitted up with some heavy guns and calculated for the harbour service as she drew only six or seven feet of water
The town is built on an Island connected to the main land by a bridg about two miles long the town form only contained about fifteen thousand inhabitants but nine out of evry ten have gone away since it has been occupied by by [Illegible: hily] by our gun boats

[1] Saxon was a relatively small, 413-ton screw steamer, built at Brewer, Maine, opposite Bangor on the Penobscot River in 1861. She was first registered at Boston, but would spend much of the Civil War under charter to the U.S. Army as a transport. She would continue in civilian for almost three decades after the war, before being abandoned in 1892. Mitchell, C. Bradford, ed. Merchant Steam Vessels of the United States, 1790–1868 (The Lytle-­Holdcamper List), (Staten Island, New York: Steamship Historical Society of America, 1975), 196.
[2] Probably the 31st Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.
[3] Carrolton was a town upriver from New Orleans from 1833 to 1874, when it was annexed to become part of New Orleans. During the Civil War, Carrolton was somewhat infamous for its various forms of vice, particularly liquor, that caused ongoing discipline problems for the Union military governor, Benjamin Butler. The general’s civilian brother, Andrew, was widely believed to be engaging in all manner of shady business dealings, operating mostly out of Carrolton.
Saxon illustration by Andy HallGeneralStarsGray