Apr 13, 2023 - Sale 2633

Sale 2633 - Lot 60

Price Realized: $ 3,500
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 2,000 - $ 3,000
(CIVIL WAR--NAVY.) John E. Albert. Diary of a sailor on the USS Genesee, fighting its way up the Mississippi River. 96 manuscript diary pages. 12mo, original limp calf, tape repairs to joints, inscribed faintly "Log Book U.S.S. Genesee"; entries are irregularly dated, and best located by page numbers. Various places, 1 September 1862 to 31 July 1865

Additional Details

John E. Albert (1843-circa 1896) was raised in Newark, NJ. He begins this diary with his enlistment into the United States Navy on 1 September 1862. He was not a veteran seaman: "On board and didn't know what to do. Every thing appeared strange" (3 September 1862). He was soon placed aboard the steamer USS Genesee, which patrolled the Gulf waterways. The action in his first few months was fairly mild: "Contrabands came off from shore in a small boat. One of them was a woman in men's clothes" (28 October 1862, page 4). "Fired on a small saw mill for target practice" (13 November 1862, page 5). "We were informed by the Mount Vernon that the U.S.S. Columbia was wrecked last night. We got underway immediately and ran down to where she was to render her assistance. About 50 of her crew were saved by the Penobscot, the remainder fell into the hands of the enemy. . . . We fired into the Columbia to destroy her" (16 January 1863, page 8).

The Genesee's star turn was as part of a convoy up the Mississippi which made a valiant effort to pass Port Hudson on 14 March 1863. Albert describes this action at great length (pages 12-16): "A fire was started on the west bank opisite the batteries, so as to light up the river & make us a good mark for them, but a few shells from us soon knocked it out of existence. . . . The Hartford & Albatross succeeded in passing. Just as the Richmond & Genesee were rounding the point, the Richmond received a shot in her steam drum, which disabled her. This ship tried to tow her on up, but the currant being too strong for us, we had to turn round." The USS Mississippi was "abandoned and fired . . . the heat being so great her guns exploded as they became heated and sent their contents into the batteries as if in defiance to the last. A more beautiful sight was never witnessed and it will be remembered by all that saw & participated in the fight. . . . Our vessel was struck with an 80 pdr. rifle shot as we returned to go down again . . . it broke a 10-inch shell, exploding it and setting the ship on fire, which however was put out in a short time."

For the next several months, the Genesee was involved in numerous small clashes and other maneuvers. "A boat from the Hartford passed down the river with Admiral Farragut's secretary, also a boat with two contrabands. One had a dispatch sewed up in his breeches. It was from the Admiral to the flagship" (2 April 1863, page 18). "A boat's crew went on shore about 10 miles above B.R. [Baton Rouge] for fresh meat. They were fired upon by rebels. Our captain sent a boat with a flag of truce, warning them if they fired on our boat's crews again, he would burn their houses" (22 April 1863, page 19). "The ship ran up above an old dead tree which the rebels had a good range on. We opened fire the batteries & kept it up for two hours. The rebel shot fell thick & fast ahead alongside us. We were struck twice. One shot cut away a wind sail halyard" (14 June 1863, page 21). "Received news that Vicksburgh was ours. Fired a salute of 100 guns in honor of the event" (6 July 1863, page 23). "Sighted a blockade runner in the sound near Passagoula, gave her chase. She was run aground and fired by her crew & then abandoned" (11 September 1863, page 27). "Sent our rifle ashore to be sent to New York. We received another in its place. We were all very sorry to loose our old friend in whom we could depend. This rifle made the most acurate shooting of any gun in the service, nearly 1,000 shot & shell were fired from it into Rebeldom" (18 November 1863, page 29-30).

Right toward the end of the war, Albert recorded that "it is rumored that this mysterious movement of the fleet was to give our Army a chance to make an easy prey of Selma, which is situated above Mobile and is where the rebels manufacture all their cannon & all other implements of warfare" (12 March 1865, page 55-56). As a grim reminder of the horrors of war, "this morning at 6 a.m. saw an object floating down the bay. Sent a boat to ascertain what it was. Proved to be a dead man" (21 March 1865, page 57). Cannons went off to celebrate Lee's surrender, but soon "the fleet have their flags at half mast, report that President Lincoln & Secretary Seward were dead" (20 April 1865, page 67). In one of the latest naval incidents of the war, "reported that the rebel ram Webb had escaped from Red River and had passed New Orleans and probably she intended to enter this bay. We could not get underway for the ship is two foot in the mud" (25 April 1865, pages 67-68). The end of war did not end the danger to shipboard life: "Joshua Ricks (contraband) was drowned from the sloop. . . . The paymaster sold Jerry Black the deserter's cloths at auction, also Joshua Rick's, deceased" (27 May, 1 June 1865, pages 77-78).

The diary entries are followed by 9 pages of verses in German, plus 12 pages of detailed notes on sermons preached by the Rev. Samuel J. Knapp, 1867-1868. A good lively naval diary including one great extended battle account.