Now we have seen our New Year's come and go and I am, as so often the case, late with these blogs. There are reasons which seen to keep cropping up, but then again life happens. So... here folks is today's installment, I hope you like it. It is special for reasons explained at the end of this blog.
The war could have been turned on those days, ended much sooner but with the results that to the south of Canada there would today be probably two countries and not one Union.
Well that was not to be.
Move forward another 17 months and into history pops the USS Agawam pictured above at the left. Several Cdns served on that vessel and three would become heroes, two with the Medal of Honor and a third, and officer and national hero, gave his life. Later his name was kept alive with not one or two ot three..BUT SIX war ships. His name was Sam Preston from the Toronto/London area of Ontario. Much will be said about him in future blogs in this space.
Both the Naval and Army commanders of the day lay claim to coming up with an idea to finally end the war by destroying Fort Fisher and finally tying the end to the famous General Scott Anaconda noose to encircle the rebel states and thus cut off all support inbound of supplies and then end the UNCIVIL WAR once and for all.
Lt Preston of the Agawam and sailors Garvin and Neil became part of the plan to have about 15 men go on a suicide mission so dangerous that many apparently wrote letters home and did up their wills. The plan called for their stripping down the old decrepit naval vessel called the USS Louisiana of anything wothewhile and then loading it up with 10 barrels of about 50 lbs of gun powder each, towing into the shores close to the montrous fort and letting the tide carry it up to the shore line and then blow the vessel and thus pound a whole big enough inside of the fort to throw all inside into a state of confusion as thousands of northern troops entered and captured it and all still left standing.
The USS Louisiana, pictured on the right was sent 100 miles away to get stripped down and the gun powder was put in place and then the floating bomb, that could blow at any spark and sent all the crew to smitherines, was then sailed back back 100 miles. It was then on the right night, set to have the charges blown, sailed her along the side of the fort, fuses lit, and crews rowing the hell away before she did blow.
Sounded great. But most so sounding don't quite make it. Like this one.
Most of the fuses did not go off. The winds blew much of the powder away. The night light was too bright and so the vessel had to be pulled back and wait a few days, then sent in again. But still there was so much light that it had to be anchored about triple the distance away than that planned. And the tides did their best to further hep the Southern forces by seeing to it the the Louisiana drifted still father away. When the boom came... it was little more than a big bang. Though it could still be heard 20 miles away. But there was no damage to the fort.
Never the less Canadians John Neil and William Garvin were awarded Medals of Honor as were the rest of the crews but the officers could not get one as the rules so precluded such awards till years later.
All of this took place a few days before Christmas in 1864. Much more can be read about this at past blogs at... http://www.canadianmedalofhonor.com/1/post/2012/12/could-this-be-the-biggest-pre-xmas-gift-ever.html
and at... http://www.canadianmedalofhonor.com/1/post/2013/05/dates-contested-but-newfoundlander-earns-medal-of-honor-and-possibly-served-32-years-in-us-military.html
and more at... http://www.canadianmedalofhonor.com/1/archives/10-2013/1.html
This is how the massive fortification looked in 1864-5 and in recent years at the right. The troops were let off their ships to the right of these images and marched up to the front to make their attack. This was to happen after advance troops including Lt Preston moved forward to cut ditches for the marines to occupy to protect the later arriving naval and marine formations of men. The army would also be attacking from land approaches to the back of the fort.
He however had claimed in early life a birth in Ireland. Records also indicate claims of another date of birth and the use of the name Claude Joseph Patrick Nunney, though it seems, truth be told, that his real name was Stephen Sargent Claude Nunney.
Stephen was one of 8 children in a very poor family. He lost his Mom at age five and soon became one of thousands in England that had to be rescued and sent off to Canada and elsewhere for adoption or taking in by the churches. Stephen would go through two homes in Ontario as a youth starting at about age 12 or 13 and when the Great War started, he had already served a few years in the militia. He would soon be enrolled and sent back overseas in one of the expeditionary forces, and would show his bravery at Vimy, where he would be awarded a Distinguished Service Cross. Months later at Avion he would be awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal and not long after he would be awarded the Distinguished Service Order, posthumously for actions in France. This would later be upgraded to a Victoria Cross on 14 December 1918.
More can be read about this hero at... http://www.canadianmedalofhonor.com/1/archives/09-2013/2.html
The above image to the right is of John Grady who would join the navy at age 17 and spend the next 30 years in the US Naval uniforms of the day. At retirement and having served in 4 different wars he would retire with the rank of a Naval Captain, and would be the highest ranking Canadian navl man in the US Navy to be awarded a Medal of Honor.
That would come to him when he was deployed as a Lt at Vera Cruz Mexixo when the president had sent about 7,000 men ashore to put down the latest of indurrrections there.
Grady, New Brunswick born on Xmas Day in 1872, was involved in one of about 30 actions that saw a naval officer work with the army and marines and would be the only naval officer in those 30 actions that ended up with a MOH. In WW1 he added the Naval Cross to his proud chest.
More can be read about Grady at
There will be more on these heroes next Wednesday. Yup Wednesday... NOT MONDAY.
Monday had now been set aside for me to get back to doing some more very indepth research on all these heroes. Much time over the last year has been dedicated to this space and effective next week, the blog will be run only twice a week during most weeks, unless something needs spectial mention ASAP. They will run from now on, on Wednesday and Friday and the deadline also needs to be adjusted slightly, moving a bit later..from 4 pm to 6 pm.
Hope this works for all of you.
And by the way, I almost forgot to mention that...its time to say...
Today is the 200th and I truly hope you are enjoying it as much as I am writing it.
Over the past 13 months I have been blessed by having quite a few people come forth because of this column to share many an interesting story. Some of topic, but life goes on. Many with pictures and stories and documents about some of the heroes I have been researching for 13 years. Authors have contacting me, there have been talks of documentaries about this work and some exhibits have been or are being creating listing or using some of my materials.
But most of all, over the past year the blog has opened many doors leading to yet more discoveries about these heroes.
And to boot a few of you, well many of you, have sent in much encouraging comments and these have been much appreciated. This labour of love hopes to be continued but without financial support, you positive comments and the stream of new information coming my way are what keep me going.
Please continue to enjoy the ride, ask some of your friends to come along for the journey, and keep dropping me those notes and tidbits of information. And if any of you have an urge to jump into the fray and would like on some little research projects in your area about any of these fellows, I'd love to hare from you as well.
In the mean time, I hopefully we will both be facing this same screen next week.
cheers, and thanks for a great year of support to one and all, and to one and all a good night.. hehe