Unfortunately I have not been able to learn the identity of this sailor who served aboard the USS Ticonderoga in 1864. He signed the letter only with the initials “C. W. J.” and addressed it to his sister. The letter was written just prior to the attack on Fort Fisher, North Carolina, which occurred in December 1864 and January 1865. The letter seems to describe the training of the ship’s crew in an amphibious assault which was actually executed on Fort Fisher. We know from the letter that the author was not a newcomer to the Ticonderoga, having served with it throughout the previous summer as they attempted to hunt down the CSS Florida.
U. S. S. Ticonderoga
Hampton Roads, Virginia
November 17, 1864
I now sit down to write you a few lines to let you know that we are still at Hampton Roads with the rest of the fleet and as yet I don’t see must prospects of us leaving here for a few days though our ship is all ready. Since we came here, we have put our armor of chain cable on again. Also the splinter netting inside of the ship. As for our ship, we are all ready but I suppose we are waiting for some of the rest of the fleet for there is a very large fleet here. I suppose that when everything is ready, it will be one of the largest that has attacked the Rebs yet.
The rebel privateer Florida arrived here a few days ago—also the Wachusett, the ship that captured her. She was captured right close to where we was in the summer and we would have taken her had it not of been for the South American dagoes or negroes for they gave us such bad coal that it was all burnt up before we got near there.
We have some lively time here—boat exercise, bug gun target practice, and many other things to attract ones attention. We had a fine time last Monday. The Admiral signalized for all the ships in the harbor to send all their small boats and men ashore for exercise so at the given signal all the boats left the ships and put for the shore. We was the first to land. We sent seven boat loads ashore and two 12-pound howitzers. It was a very fine sight to see all the boats out and their flags flying. One of the monitors is now firing at the targets and making things shake.
Whilst we was firing at the targets, our large pivot gun burst close to the muzzle, but as it happened, there was no one hurt. It tore a hole in the ship’s side just under the gun and we will have to get a new gun.
We have had some cold weather here for the past few days. This is the finest day we have had and it brings me so much to do that I haven’t time to write much. They are firing at the targets now all around us so I must go up and look at them so you must excuse me for this time. Write soon. Direct it to me (U. S. S. Ticonderoga, Hampton Roads, Va. or elsewhere) and it will follow me. Give my love to all. No more at present. From your affectionate brother, — C. W. J.