He served in the United States navy with slight broken service between enlistments, for upwards of 13 years if not more. During that time he would sail on no less than 12 war ships. In every one of his enlistments he declared being born in the US, mostly within the state of New York. Even his death certificate many years later would declare birth in the US. But it had been suspected for years that he was in fact born in Quebec. Baptismal papers shown on this site have now put an end to the nationality debate. He was clearly a Canadian, though it is possible he may have later taken out US citizenship.
There is an old saying that an army fellow is a soldier first and a tradesman, in whatever specialty, second. So too in the navy I guess, where Sam was a seaman and an ordinary seaman in the earlier days, but by trade he quickly became a storesman man and worked his way up to the Captain of the Hold. The hold being the place were supplies are stored. The captain being the enlisted man who's job it was to run that operation of receiving,storing,maintaining and keeping at the ready for the ultimate issue of the supplies when needed.
The earlier blogs told of Sam's service on the USS San Jacinto ship when two American bound vessels loaded with over 1200 colored men, women and children were destined for the slave market. The crews were arrested and the cargo of humans landed and freed.
Sam was also on the spot, as noted in a previous blog, and played a critical role when the famous Trent affair of early Civil War days took place.
This 292 ton 121 ft. long sailing barkentine (3 or more masts) had just been acquired by the US Navy in September of 1861. Commissioned by early Feb 1862 she was outfitted as a cargo ship and sailed off to Florida for duties in the Gulf of Mexico later that month. Here, duties would be as a cargo carrier for Commander (later famous Admiral) David D Porter 's fleet of 19 mortar schooners.
Its massive 13" mortar could hurl a shell 2.5 miles in 30 seconds. And when the shell weighing over 200 pounds landed it hurt people. The mortar itself weighed over 17,000 lbs., and that is before you add in the weight of its 4,500 lb carrying platform. It was designed to take out Confederate forts and it was about to prove its worth.
Entering the Mississippi River the Union knew it had to take out the forts known as St Philip and Jackson. Getting past them would gain access to a short sail away and the ultimate prize... New Orleans, the largest city in the entire Confederacy.
After a six day siege on the forts, said to have dropped over 1000 shells, both were conquered.
Sam's ship would have been down at the bottom away from the actual battle zone. And at a safe distance to still be close enough to dispense supplies as needed and perhaps also operate in its 2nd function, that of a temporary hospital ship.
Once these forts were silenced the Union fleet could move on to their primary target... New Orleans, some 80 miles up the river.
One of the participants in the battle would leave for history quite a description of the terror caused by the massive mortars.
He noted that... "the ground is torn up by the shells as if a thousand antediluvian hogs had routed it up. The holes are 3 to 8 ft. deep and very close together, some within a couple of feet. All that was wood is completely destroyed by fire, the brickwork is knocked down, guns are dismounted, gun carriages broken and the whole presents a dreadful scene of destruction."
At one of the forts the men actually mutinied at the end and forced the fort's surrender.
Throughout all of this it was Sam's ,job to ensure that the correct supplies were sent off as needed under no doubt very trying circumstances.
Still more on Sam next Sunday.
But before I leave I want to let you all know that there has been a major development in the Joseph Noil unveiling story.
Family have been found and we anticipate that they will be able to come to DC for the service on 29 April.
The US Veterans Affairs produced a blog about the event, a reader saw the notice and posted a comment that it was hoped relatives could be invited. Another viewer saw this, and did some immediate magic work with his wand and found family, and we now learn that the family knew of the relationship...but not that Joseph Noil was a Medal of Honor recipient. That blog is at... http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/26976/honoring-a-forgotten-medal-of-honor-recipient/
And I am pleased to note that the US Dept of Veterans Affairs gives this site credit for the work it has done on the Noil story and shares that credit with two other members of the Medal of Honor Historical Society of the US as well for their important contributions as well. (Our President Gayle Alvarez and Don Morfe whom you have read about many times in this space.)
Kudo's to Will for his waving his magic wand for the cause.
And that folks, is what all of these blogs are about. To spread these stories far and wide and keep them very much alive.
You can do your part by contacting the press in your hometowns and steering them to this website.
cheers till next week.