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HISTORIAN CALLS CONFEDERATE HERO’S CRUISE “BRILLIANT”
BY Nan Fairley

Lauderdale County, Mississippi



  • Lauderdale County was Formed under Second Constitution (1832-1869) - December 23, 1833 Lauderdale County, an original county of the Choctaw Cession of 1830, was the third of the sixteen counties created by the act of December 23, 1833.;
    the county seat is
    Meridian.
HISTORIAN CALLS CONFEDERATE HERO’S CRUISE “BRILLIANT”
BY Nan Fairley
  1. This article appeared in the “Meridian Star Newspaper” on Sunday, July 12, 1987 as part of a weekly series entitled, “Paths to the Past”.

    Far from the sea, a Confederate Navy hero lies buried in Meridian’s Rose Hill Cemetery. An unpretentious tombstone notes that Charles W. “Savez” Read was a Confederate veteran, but leaves unmentioned the heroics that earned the native Mississippian the title of “Paul Jones of the South.”

    During the Civil War, Lt. Read earned that distinction by compiling a “brilliant record, unsurpassed by any other officer of his rank in either the Union or Confederate Navies,” the Dictionary of American Biographies states.

    Perhaps his most exciting exploit has been described by naval historian Richard S. West as “….the most brilliant, daredevil cruise of the war.”

    His path to fame began when he graduated in 1860 from the U.S. Naval Academy, according to information compiled by his great-grandson, John Maynard of Pasadena, California.

    When Mississippi seceded from the Union, Lt. Read resigned his commission and reported to the Confederate Secretary of the Navy in 1861. The young sailor’s first assignment for the Confederacy was a sailing master on the Cruiser McRae.

    Promoted to “Lieutenant-for-the-war,” Lieutenant Read participated in several successful expeditions from Ship Island to New Madrid, Missouri.

    In an unsuccessful engagement against Admiral Farragut’s fleet below New Orleans, he took over the McRae when the captain was mortally wounded and fought the losing battle “with gallantry,” naval records state.

    Lieutenant Read’s reputation grew on his next assignment as commander of the Stern gun division aboard the CSS Arkansas, when he helped claim six wins for the Confederates.

    On his record of “gunnery, coolness and determination,” he was next assigned to the Cruiser Florida, stationed in Mobile Harbor. He remained with the ship until May 1863, as his date with destiny approached.

    When the Florida captured the Union Brig Clarence, bound from Brazil to Baltimore, the Confederates laid daring plans.

    The 23-year-old Lieutenant then volunteered for a run up the Atlantic shore. Armed only with a boat howitzer, some small arms, 21 men and a commission issued by Captain John Maffitt to operate as a Confederate Raider, Lieutenant Read took command of the Clarence and began his journey into history.

    On his “dare devil cruise” the young officer would claim 22 ships for the Confederacy between Charleston, South Carolina and Portland, Maine, in as many days.

    The first capture of his historic journey came on June 6, 1863, when he took and burned the Windward. Lieutenant Read then quickly vanquished two more Yankee ships.

    Deciding to run along the coast, he continued to capture and burn Union ships. In one sea battle, he was transferring his crew to the captured Tacony when another enemy ship approached. With nothing more than a wooden cannon, put on the deck to give his brig a more warlike appearance, he tricked the enemy and captured yet another prize for the Confederacy.

    As word of Lieutenant Read’s triumphs reached the Union command, the Secretary of the Union Navy was prompted to send ship after ship out to search for “this wolf who is prowling so near.”

    His many pursuers did not know Read was out of ammunition for his single howitzer. Before they could catch up with the speedy sailor, he had captured yet another boat to use, the Archer.

    Sailing boldly into Portland, Lieutenant Read Chose the cutter Caleb Cushing as his next target. Under cover of the night, he tried to slip the ship out of the harbor. But as his men searched for weapons and ammunition, the wind failed them.

    Steamers and tugboats soon surrounded Lieutenant Read and his crew. Using all of the (five) available projectiles on board, Lieutenant Read made desperate, but unavailing, efforts to escape.

    After their capture, the Confederate sailors were imprisoned at Fort Warren in Boston Harbor, but Lieutenant Read’s service to the Rebel Navy was not over yet.

    Released in a prisoner exchange, he was to serve again, with his last command of the war on the ram William Webb. Their vessel disguised as a Union cotton transport, Lieutenant Read and his crew ran the gauntlet of the Federal fleet in the Mississippi River as they headed for New Orleans.

    Just short of the Gulf, the USS Richmond blocked his ship. Lieutenant Read burned his ship before being captured in the last naval engagement of the Civil War.

    Free again in 1865, the naval hero went into the merchant service as an owner captain. He later became a Mississippi riverboat pilot and one of the harbormasters of New Orleans.

    Lieutenant Read’s adventurous life ended in Meridian, in 1900 while he was seeking medical attention from an old friend, Dr. C.A. Rice, then superintendent of the East Mississippi Hospital.

Submitted by David Pickett Poster-#-65-
Submitted by
Elizabeth Hagwood Poster-#-4-



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