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Memoirs Memoirs of Rhode Island Officers who were engaged in the Service of their Country during the great Rebellion of the South.
by John Russell Bartlett, Secretary of State of the State of Rhode Island
Providence: Sidney S. Rider & Brother, 1867.

Thomas Poynton Ives

Thomas Poynton Ives, the topic of this story, was the son of Moses Brown Ives and Anna Allen (Dorr) Ives.  He is grandson of Thomas Poynton Ives and Hope (Brown) Ives, a great grandson of Nicholas Brown and Rhoda (Jenckes) Brown, and a descendent of Chad Brown, one of the earliest settlers of Rhode Island, contemporary of Roger Williams.  Among other things, Mr. Ives was owner of the farm on Potomomut Neck, now Goddard Park, at the time of his service in the Civil War.  Goddard Memorial State Park is in Warwick, Rhode Island.  On a cold January morning in 1851, Mr. Ives issued the orders to begin erecting the stone wall along the "new road".   It was with his foresight and determination that we have that magnificent quarried stone wall alongside Ives Road today as well as some of the plantings at the park itself.

"Thomas Poynton Ives, only son of Moses B. and Anna A. Ives, was born at Providence, Rhode Island, January 17th, 1834.  He received his early instruction in his native city, and much of it from Mr. Reuben A. Guild, the present librarian of Brown University.  His favorite amusement, after the confinement of the school-room, was in the management of his yacht on the waters of Narragansett Bay.  He was thus early led to devote much thought and attention to maritime affairs, and to cultivate that fondness for the sea which influenced his subsequent life.

As he grew towards manhood, he exhibited an increasing interest in the study of physical science.  After an extensive and thorough course of reading with Mr. Guild, Mr. Ives became a member of the scientific school of Brown University and received its degree of B. P., at the commencement of 1855.  He then pursued the study of medicine with Doctor J. W. C. Ely, M. D., of Providence, and at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, of the city of New York, with an attention which would have ensured success, had he desired to receive a diploma and to enter upon the practice of the profession.

He was desirous of an accurate acquaintance with the resources of the country awaiting their development by the schools of science.  With this view, he prosecuted, in 1856, an extended journey through the mineral regions of the west.  Here he gathered further materials for the superstructure of economic knowledge, for which he had laid an ample foundation.  During his first European tour he devoted much observation to industrial and charitable institutions, becoming familiar with statistics and details, which he hoped would one day be useful to his native state.  On his return, he was elected a trustee of the Butler Hospital, and of other philanthropic institutions, in which he always manifested a warm and generous interest.

On the decease of his father, in August, 1857, Mr. Ives succeeded to his place in the house of Brown & Ives, and to an ample fortune.  He was at liberty to indulge in any favorite pursuit, or, had he chosen private life, to consult no one's profit but his own.  With a love of hospitality and a keen sense of humor, which he had cultivated by intercourse with men, and by familiarity with the best authors, he, not unreasonably, as it seemed, looked onward to a life beneficial to others and pleasurable to himself.  He might have anticipated the varying of the fulfillment of important trusts and the cultivation of his Warwick farm with a voyage to Europe, whenever an especial display of its scientific or artistic treasures invited the pleasure-seekers or the students of the world.  Such hopes of the future soon gave place to stern and immediate duties.

As war became imminent, Mr. Ives resolved, with the conscientious devotion to duty which always distinguished him, to take his part in preserving our national life.  He would not procure a substitute, and sit down an unconcerned spectator, nor did he inquire how he could best make public calamities tributary to his private fortune.  In common with so many of his contemporaries, in vigorous manhood, Mr. Ives earnestly desired that Rhode Island should be surpassed by none of its fellows in devotion to the Union, from which, in an especial manner, it derived its stability and its title to respect.  There was much to stimulate this patriotic feeling.  Mr. Ives inherited a pride in his native state, and loved its history and traditions.  From the settlement of Providence his family had borne a prominent part in its affairs, and, in its earlier days, had contributed much to its commercial prosperity.  Some of them had aided in the adoption of the Federal constitution, and he had a filial desire that their work should not perish.   At the opening of the rebellion, he was just recovering from a severe attack of pneumonia.  Although further rest was deemed necessary by his friends, Mr. Ives left his sick-room and commenced preparations for active duty.   He offered to the government his own yacht, the Hope, and his personal services, without pay, in any department in which they might be available.   He determined to continue them to the end of the war, if he should be permitted to see it.

The navy of the United States, weakened by secessions and unfurnished with the vessels required by the new emergency, was to be reorganized and, augmented.  For every new or vacant place there were multitudes of applicants, besides those in the regular line of promotion.  Every means by which commissions were I secured was in eager requisition.  Though the patriotism of Mr. Ives's offer was appreciated, there was not, at that time, any expedition in view, in which vessels like the Hope could be available.  Through the friendship of Governor Sprague and the Honorable Henry B. Anthony, he received May, 1861, from Mr. Chase, Secretary of the Treasury, a commission in the revenue service.  This was not what he sought, but his sense of patriotic duty did not permit him to refuse what was tendered, though it offered no attractive prospect to ambition.  In his own words:  "I made application for service. I never applied for revenue service, but was ready and willing to take it anywhere."   He did not regret this preliminary experience, for, as he wrote at a subsequent period: "I have had ample opportunity to observe the folly of inexperienced men in accepting positions which they are incompetent to fill.'

The Hope was ordered to Williamsburg, New York to be armed in the United States dock-yard.  When fitted for service, she carried two twelve pound James rifled guns, and two field howitzers.  Her crew, besides the lieutenant and the executive officer, Mr. Henry G. Russell, [soon to be his brother-in-law] consisted of two quartermasters, the pilot and nineteen seamen.  Early in June, 1861, Mr. Ives received orders to proceed to Baltimore with the Hope.  On his arrival be entered at once on the discharge of his duties.  At that critical period the revenue service suddenly assumed an unwonted responsibility and importance.  It was laborious and not without danger, while its acts gave little employment to the telegraph and filled but small space in the journals.  The public attention was fixed on the enlistment of soldiers and upon naval vessels endeavoring to protect American commerce.  Little thought was bestowed upon officers engaged in the prevention of an evil as destructive to the interests of the United States as piracy on the high seas.  The slender mechanical resources of the south could not furnish its military supplies, and for many of these it relied upon the disloyal wealth of great northern cities.  The offerings to the cause of rebellion made by traitorous sympathy or by avarice, seeking to profit by public calamities, arms, stores, drugs, cloths, percussion caps, correspondence, were to be intercepted in their transit across the Chesapeake to the camps and arsenals of the south.   Ingenuity in the concealment of contraband goods, and cunning, wearing the disguise of innocence and ignorance, were to be encountered by a corresponding thoroughness and discernment in detecting subterfuges and equivocations.  It was the duty of the commander of the Hope to stop and examine all vessels, and to search and seize those in correspondence with the enemy.  There was need of unresting vigilance to ascertain the character and destination of nearly fifty vessels a day.  All this was to be done in a climate unfavorable even to firm health, and under an almost tropical sun.  Southern sympathy was loud and defiant, and the friends of the Union spoke only with 'bated breath.'.   The efficiency of the service required that its operations should be withheld from the newspapers.  There was no possibility of brilliant exploits, but an occasional exposure to a rebel bullet from the Virginia shore.  The civil officers of the United States were reluctant to act against their secessionist neighbors, and threw the whole responsibility on the commander of the Hope.  It was soon evident that whatever errors the Maryland functionaries might commit would not be due to excess of patriotic zeal.  Such service tested the persistency of a volunteer, but Mr. Ives applied himself to its duties with conscientious and quiet earnestness.  He did not turn aside to inquire whether his fulfillment of his orders were acceptable in the port of Baltimore.  Unpopularity on its exchange was the best testimony to the thoroughness of his work.  The effectiveness of the revenue service in cooperation with the naval blockade became manifest in the slow and embarrassed preparations of the south.  Although the transit of supplies and mails could not be wholly prevented, yet the amount was greatly diminished.  The moral effect was considerable, in discouraging the exertions by impairing the profits of northern allies of rebellion.  It was wearisome work during the long summer days even for the strongest constitution, but it upheld the government, and that was a sufficient compensation.  Mr. Ives thus expressed his feeling in a letter from the Chesapeake, July 28th, 1861: 'I have not gone into this work for fun or pay, but to add my mite to the good cause.  I consider it the duty of every one to do so in that line in which he is most fitted to act.  If not here, I would join Fremont's expedition on the Mississippi.  It is time now for every one to do what be can for his country, or he will presently find that he has no country to do for.'    The daily routine of service in the Chesapeake was occasionally varied by consultations with General Dix, and other officers of distinction, who knew Mr. Ives, and appreciated his careful observation and watchfulness in the discharge of his duty.   His experience in the bays of New England, in which he had gained a knowledge like that of a professional navigator, left him little to learn of nautical discipline and economy.  His men duly appreciated his care for their comfort and welfare, and manifested their feeling when he was transferred to a higher position.  At this time, Mr. Ives offered to build, at his own cost, a larger and more powerful vessel if he could be appointed to her command.  Before any action upon this proposal, an opportunity offered for gratifying his first desire of active service.  As the year was drawing towards its close, he received from his friend General Burnside, an earnest invitation to join him in a great expedition, whose object was not yet divulged, together with a promise of one of the best steamers in the army fleet.

On the 4th of November, 1861, Mr. Ives forwarded his resignation to the Secretary of the Treasury.  In his reply, Mr. Chase, after giving final instructions, thus communicated his sense of the conduct of Mr. Ives:  'In acceding to this proposition, I must express to you my thanks for the zeal and alacrity with which your personal services, as well as your vessel, were tendered for the public service under circumstances so creditable to your patriotism.'   Mr. Ives remained in active duty until November 12th.  The Hope was in constant service to the close of the war.  After a brief visit to Providence, in attendance upon his private affairs, Mr. Ives received from Governor Sprague, the commander-in-chief, a commission appointing him assistant adjutant-general in the state service, with the rank of captain.  By an order of the same date, he was 'relieved from duty, to take part in General Burnside's coast expedition, at the special request of General Burnside.'

Captain Ives entered with zeal upon the work assigned to him.  On the 2d of December, 1861, he proceeded to Philadelphia to superintend the preparation of the United States steamer Picket, of which he was to take command.  This was a propeller of three hundred and thirty tons, equal or superior to any of the army vessels, and designed by General Burnside for his flag-ship.  Her length on deck was one hundred and seventy-five feet, breadth of beam twenty-nine feet.  Her armament consisted of two twelve-pound Wiard steel rifle guns, one twelve-pound howitzer, and one twelve-pound mountain howitzer; which, together with her light draft, rendered her a formidable attacking boat in coast and river service.  When Captain Ives was ordered to discharge the crew of the Hope, they followed him to his new command, though the pay was less per month than in the revenue service, and the work more severe.  He was gratified with their assurance that 'they wanted to go with him.'  The labor in getting the Picket ready for sea was considerable, but Captain Ives needed no urging from the general, and early in December, she was ordered to New York, whence the expedition was to sail.

On the 17th, Captain Ives received orders to proceed at once to Annapolis, and report to General Foster, the commander of the post.  On his way, he passed most of the steamers of the army fleet, and arrived off the mouth of the Potomac on the 19th of December.  On the 22d, he received General Burnside on board, and was thenceforth constantly associated with him in the labors of the expedition.  The vessels gradually assembled at Annapolis, where many more days of hard work were spent in making ready before their departure for Fortress Monroe, where they were to be joined by a large body of troops.  On Saturday, January 11th, 1862, their destination first became apparent, through their orders.  Roanoke Island was to be taken as a base for further operations.  Captain Ives left Fortress Monroe at midnight, and, on the 13th, General Burnside, in the Picket, reached Hatteras Inlet simultaneously with Admiral Goldsborough.  He lay outside all night.  In the morning he crossed the bar with considerable difficulty and anchored within the inlet, being the first of the army fleet which came in.  A view of the low, narrow sandspits of this desolate region, covered by the tide at high water, and suggestive of perils on every hand, was, of itself, sufficient to inspire doubts and gloomy forebodings, even without the experience of 'Hatteras weather' which followed.

To approach Roanoke Island, it was necessary to enter the sound through a channel about two miles in length, called the swash.  This is so narrow, that in some places one of its banks can be commanded by a musket shot from the other.  The depth of water is variable and uncertain.  The inlet is obstructed at the entrance of the sound by a sand-bar, which serves as a barrier against the sea, whence its name, the bulkhead.  It was expected that this channel would be guarded by the naval vessels, and that, the passage being clear, the army transports would move up under their protection.  This expectation was not fulfilled.  New and unforeseen obstacles appeared.  The sailing qualities of some of the army vessels were but indifferent.  Some were of too great burden.  All were heavily laden with troops and stores.  It was necessary to lighten them, in some instances to the taking out of their guns, and, even with this relief, to wait for the next spring tides before they could be carried through the swash.  Not all of those in command of the army vessels were equal to the responsibility which they had assumed.  And it was scarcely to be expected that men who had made it the endeavor of their lives to avoid Cape Hatteras, would display the highest self-possession while anchored insecurely on its sands.  While the narrow harbor, which is but the entrance to the inlet and open to the sea, was crowded with vessels almost in contact, then came the most hazardous moment of the expedition.  The coast was swept by one of those fearful gales which have given to.  Hatteras a dismal celebrity in the songs of mariners, not inferior to that which it once derived from the neighborhood of the buccaniers.  More than one vessel was lost in sight of its companions.  The nautical skill available for the transports seemed unequal to the emergency, and a feeling of uncertainty as to the result began to pervade the fleet.

In this crisis of the expedition it was saved by the unresting vigilance and activity of General Burnside and Captain Ives.  He now proved the value of that nautical knowledge which had been the amusement of his youth.  The operation of carrying the army vessels over the bulkhead and into the safe anchorage of the sound went on under his direction.  It was in the neighborhood of the enemy, and suffered no intermission by day or night.  The tide ran through the inlet with exceeding swiftness, often encountering winds of great violence in the opposite direction, so that it was at times almost impossible to cross the harbor.  The eddies rendered the anchorage insecure and drove the transports into frequent collision.  After the labors of the day, Captain Ives was often aroused at midnight to give orders, amid the confusion of vessels crashing against each other.  He made himself familiar with the shallow and crooked channel, and, with untiring determination, in most unfavorable weather, conducted the work to a successful -issue.  It was at last accomplished, with incredible effort and in presence of the greatest discouragement.  Competent military observers bore ample testimony to the 'bravery, skill and imperturbable coolness with which Captain Ives did his own work, and other men's too.'   'At this perilous time the Picket did twice the work of any other vessel.  Though inferior in size and power to some of her companions, she contributed in an eminent degree to the saving of the army fleet, and was so handled as to receive no injury.'  The value of Captain Ives's services was acknowledged by all, and by none more warmly than by General Burnside.

While this was going on, the people, not yet enlightened by the experience of three years of war, became impatient of the delay; and, as the telegraph brought no intelligence, they passed speedily to doubts and fears.  Their feeling became known in the expedition.  Captain Ives, who was singularly indifferent to any publication of his own labors, contented himself with the following brief explanation of the obstacles overcome at Hatteras, in a private letter dated 29th January, 1862:  'If any one could be made to understand the difficulties we have had to encounter, he would not be impatient at our seemingly long delay.  Hatteras is the Cape Horn of the northern coast, and almost as perilous.  There is danger of a vessel's grounding, and if she once touches bottom the chances are that she never comes off again.  We have a large fleet of poor vessels, ill-sheltered in a small and crowded harbor.  It is capable of holding twelve comfortably, and sixty are here.  Vessels that two weeks ago we conceived it impossible to get over the bulkhead, are now safely over and preparing to start.'
It was not in the power of Captain Ives, to make any rapid progress until the 22d of January.  By the beginning of February, through the ceaseless exertions of the army fleet, enough of the national vessels were taken through the swash and across the bulkhead, after which, the gun-boats spent two days in practice with rifled cannon.  By daylight in the morning of the 5th of February, the Picket, General Burnside's flag-ship, was hurrying through the fleet with orders.  They moved up the sound, and anchored ten miles below Roanoke Island.  On the next day they proceeded five miles further.   On Friday, the weather being clear, some eighteen navy boats got under way, followed by the Picket leading five gun-boats of the army fleet.  The water off the shore of Roanoke is very shallow.  Caution is required in approaching it, and much was left to the discretion of individual commanders in taking such positions that their guns should tell effectually.  They came up in line until within two miles of the first rebel battery on the shore.  The position was naturally strong, and was well fortified and supplied with troops and heavy guns, which were used with great determination.  Eight rebel gunboats were drawn up in line behind rows of piles and sunken vessels, under the protection of the battery, and obstructed the advance.  Here, at ten minutes before twelve o'clock, the attack began.  The firing was rapid on both-sides, between the national fleet and the rebel batteries and gun-boats.  At one o'clock, a shell from the Picket burst among the corn husks of the barracks and set fire to the quarters of the garrison.  Dense clouds of smoke seemed to envelope the entire work.  Its fire slackened until the flames were partially subdued, when it recommenced. The gun-boats replied with increased vigor. The flames gained upon the garrison, and, after three hours, the shower of shot and shell from the batteries was reduced to the occasional discharge of a single gun.  Half an hour later, the Picket with other gun-boats worked in much nearer to the shore.  From her light draft, the Picket was able to approach more closely than some of her companions.  Gaining a shorter range, her shot and shell struck with great precision.  At last, the battery answered with its single gun but once in twenty minutes; then once in half an hour.  On the next day it was wholly silent.  During the bombardment, the rebel gun-boats attacked and were defeated, their flag-ship was driven ashore, and seven of its companions sunk or destroyed.

While the gunboats were thus employed, the transports moved up to the place appointed for landing the troops.  General Burnside (who had transferred his flag to another vessel) made a circuit of the fleet, and, coming alongside, ordered the Picket, and other army gun-boats, to cover the debarkation, a mile and a half below the fort.  They accordingly shelled the Woods which sheltered the enemy, causing him to retreat and to abandon his intention to contest the landing.  This was effected the same afternoon, the gunboats during the remainder of the day rendering assistance to the troops.  The contest for the possession of the island continued until Saturday afternoon.  During its progress, Captain Ives was in active cooperation with the army until its work was done.

On the day after the battle, the Picket, having on board Colonel Rush C. Hawkins and two companies of zouaves, made a reconnoissance to Nag's Head, on the opposite shore of the sound.  They hoped to capture General Wise, with the remainder of his 'legion,' but found that he had fled during the night, after needlessly firing all the dwellings in the neighborhood.

After the capture of Roanoke, Captain Ives resumed his former labors.  He was now in command of ten vessels, four of which were steamers.  All those which were needed for further operations were taken through the swash into the sound.  The work was accomplished amid severe gales, and was laborious and exhausting.  It was completed by the 18th of February, and was the last of the preparations for excluding the enemy from the waters of North Carolina.  Soon afterwards, orders were given for a rendezvous at Hatteras inlet.  The army welcomed the intelligence of the onward progress of the expedition.  On the morning of the 12th of March, the whole force left Hatteras Inlet, and the same night anchored eighteen miles from Newbern.  While passing through Pamlico Sound, the Picket captured two vessels loaded with grain.  Early the next day, the troops were landed on the shore of the Neuse, and marched toward the city along the river side.  The fleet kept the middle of the stream, which gradually narrows to less than two miles in width.  Its thickly wooded banks being well fitted to shelter an enemy, the Picket, with the other army vessels, preceded the column, and shelled the road in advance.  The march upon Newbern was covered by the gunboats, which passed safely through the barricades of iron-pointed spiles and sunken vessels.  On the 14th of March, the Picket actively participated in the obstinately contested battle, which ended in the surrender of the city after a signal victory of the army and navy of the United States.  On the 20th of March, the Picket accompanied General Parke on his way to Fort Macon, and assisted in covering the landing of his troops.  When this was effected, the Picket returned to Newbern, and soon afterwards was sent with despatches from General Burnside, containing the news of the bombardment and capitulation.  She had now been under steam and in constant employment since December 16th, 1861, and, in the judgment of those best able to appreciate her work, had rendered eminent service to the army of the United States.

During the remainder of Captain Ives's service in North Carolina, he was stationed in Roanoke river, the Picket acting as guard boat, and taking part in detached expeditions.  He accompanied General Foster, with about one thousand men, in an armed reconnoissance to Columbia, on the Scuppernong river.  It was entirely successful, and the place was surrendered after a slight resistance.  One of the most important operations in which he participated was the effectual closing of the Dismal Swamp Canal.  One of the chief outlets from Norfolk to the sea thus became useless to the navy of the rebellion.  In services of this kind the time passed until the 19th of April.  The army was then, for the first time, beyond the protection of the gunboats, and the work of the army fleet seemed well nigh accomplished.  On the 3d of May, Captain Ives received orders to proceed to Pamlico Sound, to relieve Colonel Howard, who had been stationed there since the main body of the army left the island for Newbern; and soon after, to report to Colonel Hawkins, the commander of the garrison at Roanoke.  As the naval work of the expedition was done, Captain Ives desired a position of more active service.  He continued in command of the Picket until the 12th of May, when, after a consultation with General Burnside, he was relieved from further duty.  On the 17th, the general returned the following reply to his letter of resignation:


Captain Thomas P. Ives, Assistant Adjutant General, Captain of Gun-boat Picket:

'Captain: -Your services in this department have been so conspicuous that I cannot accept your resignation without expressing to you my sincere thanks for your kind cooperation and valuable assistance during your service in this expedition.  I sincerely regret parting with you, and shall always remember with pleasure your gallantry, devotion to duty, and your high social qualities.  All the work for armed vessels in these sounds having been finished, no one can doubt the wisdom of your course in deciding to change your field of action in the Union cause.

Wishing you all success in your new field of labor,
I remain, Captain, very truly yours,
Major-General Commanding
Department North Carolina.'

In the arduous labors which won for General Burnside his honorable place in American history, he received no more conscientious or efficient aid than that of Captain Ives, who esteemed it sufficient reward that this, like his other services, was accepted as a free-will offering to union, law and freedom.  He not only desired no compensation, but was a generous contributor to the charities created by the war.

The services of Captain Ives in the waters of North Carolina attracted the attention of the government.  When, after an interval not longer than his impaired health required, he made application for service, it was answered by an appointment as acting master in the navy of the United States.  His commission bore date September 3d, 1862.  He was immediately appointed to the command of the United States steamer Stepping Stones, and, soon after, to that of the Yankee.  This was a gun-boat of three hundred and fifty tons, attached to the second division of the Potomac flotilla.  He readily accepted this duty, feeling no desire for the prize money, which was the chief attraction of the blockade.  The river service, while less conspicuous, was the more perilous.  In an unfavorable climate, it exposed its officers to the rifle-practice of enemies in the woods.

The Potomac flotilla was organized at the commencement of the war, to prevent communications between the Maryland and Virginia shores, and for occasional cooperation with the North Atlantic blockading squadron, and with the army of the Potomac.  Its officers were not only to keep guard and send boats to arrest smuggling and military correspondence, but to watch the proceedings of the enemy; to ascertain if he were building batteries, and to destroy thoroughly those which were taken or abandoned.  The river could not be kept open by the army alone, and for a long period it was preserved as a national highway by the unaided efforts of the flotilla.  It was to be in constant readiness to make reconnoissances, and to join in expeditions.  Minute and unceasing care was requisite in guarding against surprises.  Sailor pickets, and every precaution known to-naval service, were constantly employed.  When parties of the enemy's cavalry came down to reconnoitre, they were to be dispersed.  Extreme vigilance was exacted from the commanders, for the enemy was ever on the alert, seizing his opportunity to trade in articles of vital importance, and to capture and destroy our vessels.  He succeeded too well on one well remembered occasion, when the Reliance and Satellite were burned in the Rappahannock.  In the heroic discharge of these duties, the first commander of the flotilla lost his life.  But while the public attention was fixed upon the movements of vast armies, such services, whatever their value or their peril, afforded little opportunity for distinction, and only occasional materials for a bulletin.

On the 12th of September, 1862, Mr. Ives took his station at Aquia Creek.  The ordinary duty of the flotilla was the arresting of contraband trade, from Alexandria to the entrance of Chesapeake Bay.  It was also necessary to guard the Rappahannock.  The craft engaged in this treasonable intercourse were expressly fitted to elude detection.  Those engaged in navigating them were the most reckless and desperate of their class.  On no station was the duty more laborious, while, with the utmost vigilance, it was impossible entirely to suppress illicit traffic.  On so long a line of communications opportunities were sometimes found, and sympathizing associates were ever ready to prevent detection and capture.  With all these obstacles, large numbers of vessels were seized while stealing across the bay.  The haunts of the smugglers were broken up and their boats destroyed. (See report of Secretary of Navy.)

But the Potomac flotilla soon became a partaker in more stirring scenes.  Mr. Ives's command in it was contemporaneous with the campaigns of Burnside and of Hooker in northern Virginia; when nearly the whole population was, in its several ways, engaged in thwarting the efforts of the soldiers of the Union.  The country was swarming with enemies, who obstructed the rivers and hindered military communications.  Batteries and other annoyances, prepared by detached parties from the southern army, were often suddenly disclosed, and were to be overcome as they appeared; sometimes by single vessels of the flotilla, and sometimes by organized expeditions having the support of troops.

In all these different services, Mr. Ives was constantly employed.  Early in December, 1862, there was a sharp encounter between the Yankee and a rebel battery supported by rifle-pits; one of the attempts of the enemy to interrupt the communications of the army.  Failing in its purpose, the battery was evacuated and afterwards destroyed, only to be succeeded by many others, against which the same vigilance was constantly maintained.  During the winter, reconnoissances in aid of the operations of the army were constantly required.  In February, at the request of General Hooker, a thorough examination of the Rappahannock was made, both to ascertain its soundings and to destroy the vessels of the enemy.  Mr. Ives was an active participator in this work, which was of considerable duration.

A rebel conscription had been ordered in Virginia, and was to have been enforced in the counties between the Potomac and the Rappahannock, between the 12th and the 17th of February.  The scheme was defeated in this region by the ceaseless activity of the flotilla.  Important mails for Richmond were intercepted, and services of the highest value were constantly and silently performed.

During this critical period of the war, he suffered no relaxation to interrupt his duties, and lived on board his vessel, unless ordered to service elsewhere.  His marked efficiency in all departments of his profession, brought occasional relief.  Although his command in the navy was but temporary, he had conscientiously mastered the science of the profession, that in no event the country should receive injury through his want of skill.  His nautical attainments were so highly regarded by his superior officers that, in February, 1863, he was appointed a member of a board of examiners of masters' mates for promotion to the grade of ensign.  In such employment the winter wore away.  Through the constant vigilance of the flotilla, the Rappahannock was kept open from Port Royal to its mouth, and all attempts to close the Potomac effectually foiled.

The crisis of Hooker's campaign was now hastening on, and, in every part of Virginia, the greatest activity was manifested by both combatants.  The Nansemond river, always one of the principal avenues of communication with the south, gained additional importance, now that the situation of General Foster, in North Carolina, was regarded as critical; and the moment had arrived when, if ever, the rebel iron-clads must find access to the sea.  Fully aware of its urgency, the usurpers at Richmond spared no effort to erect forts on the Nansemond, and to obstruct the southern communications from Fortress Monroe.  A formidable force of artillery and sharpshooters was detached to support the rebel batteries, and to intercept reinforcements for the army in North Carolina.  The government could permit no delay in reopening the river.  A military and naval expedition was immediately prepared.  Mr. Ives was ordered to despatch the Yankee, without delay, to Newport News, and to report immediately to Admiral Lee, commanding the North Atlantic blockading squadron.  He arrived on the 16th of April, and was forthwith ordered to duty in the Nansemond.  He reached his station the same evening, and the military and naval forces at once prepared for clearing the river of the batteries which threatened so great injury to the army of the Union.

On the first day, the enemy opened fire with artillery and riflemen upon the gunboats and transports.  After a vigorous bombardment from the flotilla, continued nearly five hours, during which they lost several officers and seamen, the enemy's chief work was silenced.  On receiving further reinforcements from the flotilla, the national forces prevented the enemy's crossing the Nansemond for the relief of his detached forts.  A heavy firing from the flotilla, continued during twenty-four hours, defeated all attempts to erect new ones.  On the 20th of April, a fort supported by rifle-pits, which was the chief obstruction of the river, suddenly opened on the gun-boats.  Regiments from New York and Connecticut crossed the Nansemond two miles below Suffolk, in boats of the flotilla.  They landed under fire of the enemy, to which the flotilla made a vigorous and effective response.  The rebel intrenchments were carried by the bayonet, but not without loss to the United States.  Five guns and two hundred prisoners were taken.  The works were evacuated and blown up.  The enemy retreated from the Peninsula, abandoning their purpose to recapture Norfolk, or to hold the Nansemond, of which they never sought to regain possession.  Six days were spent in constant operations and hard fighting.  The chief burden was borne by the flotilla, which received honorable mention from the admiral in command.

The Nausemond having been cleared of obstructions, Mr. Ives returned to the Potomac and resumed his ordinary duties.
He was ordered to the Rappahannock on the 1st of May, to cooperate with General Hooker.  On the 9th, he was again at Aquia Creek, actively engaged in assisting the communications of the army of the Potomac.  Having borne his full share of the labors of those eventful days, he received the only recognition of its value which he desired.  In a letter of May 26th, 1863, Mr. Welles, Secretary of the Navy, thus informs him that his services were appreciated:  'Having been officially mentioned for efficient and gallant conduct, you are hereby promoted to the grade of acting volunteer lieutenant in the navy of the United States.'  Once more before the close of May, a gun-boat expedition ascended the Rappahannock.  Landing troops on its southern bank, the town of Tappahannock was seized, with large quantities of military stores.  A large number of slaves exhibited the liveliest joy at their emancipation; an incident which Lieutenant Ives regarded as by no means the least grateful in his public service.

On the 30th of May, 1863, Lieutenant Ives was appointed fleet captain, or adjutant of the flotilla, by Commodore Harwood, its commanding officer.  In this capacity he was the organ of communication of the commander-in-chief, transmitted his orders to the commanders of vessels, and assisted him generally as chief of staff.  Retaining his individual command and his right of seniority, he had now the active supervision of eighteen vessels, large and small; an amount of duty requiring all his time, and sufficient for the most robust constitution.  The greater energy was required, as the position was highly honorable, and many officers would gladly have succeeded to it when its former occupant was transferred to other functions.  In this responsible command he fully proved the wisdom of the choice.  He received the uniform approval of his superior officer, for his activity in maintaining discipline whenever any of his subordinates yielded to the temptations of the river service, or the seductions of the enemy.  An officer whose eminent distinction in the navy gives the highest value to his approval, well knew Lieutenant Ives at this period, and has paid this tribute to his memory:  'His marked efficiency in the command of his gun-boat, induced the commodore in command of the flotilla, to appoint him his aid (captain of the fleet) when that position became vacant.  The service required ability and untiring industry in its performance.  Lieutenant Ives brought to bear upon his duty, all the higher qualities of the gentleman and officer; was always prompt and cheerful in carrying out his Instructions, and never, that I recollect, in fault.  He had no previous training for the service on which be was engaged but in the management of his yacht, yet I noticed that he always performed his duties with the quiet composure of a man 'bred to the sea.'  He always seemed to act upon the principle of doing thoroughly what he had in hand, never looking for applause, or betraying for a moment the consciousness of having done well.  These are among the finer qualities of a good officer, and added, if possible, to the respect in which Lieutenant Ives was held by his associates in the regular service.  That he was subsequently promoted to the grade of lieutenant-commander, and was attached to the ordnance department, are additional proofs of his worth and its recognition.'

Early in June, Lieutenant Ives was again on the Rappahannock.  At the request of General Hooker, the Yankee, with other gun-boats, proceeded to Urbana, in order to protect the crossing of Colonel Kilpatrick's cavalry, which were then on their renowned expedition through Glocester and on the lower Rappahannock.  During its progress, the river was blockaded by the flotilla.  The famous raider crossed it in safety on his return.  His transit occupied an entire day, in the immediate neighborhood of the enemy, and his landing was at a distance of six miles from the point of embarkation.  That there was no attack during this hazardous operation, was due to the presence of the gunboats. (Report of the Secretary of the Navy.)

All the details of the second division of the Potomac flotilla were now under the management of Lieutenant Ives, and his performance of the duty was highly commended by his superior in command.  Later in the summer, during the critical period of the invasion of Pennsylvania, the vessels of the flotilla were stationed along the upper waters of the Chesapeake, to cooperate with the army where their aid could be available, and to guard against contingencies which would have arisen had the day of Gettysburg been less favorable to the arms of the United States.

In work of this exhausting character, amid the heat and malaria of the Potomac, the summer of 1863 wore away.  The autumn passed in comparative quiet in Virginia, and the flotilla was seldom diverted from its accustomed routine.  The services which it had rendered while Lieutenant Ives was one of its most efficient officers, were thus acknowledged by the Secretary of the Navy, at the close of the year:  'At all times and on all occasions, the flotilla has given active and willing cooperation to military movements.  While the army was in the vicinity of Fredericksburg, its services were invaluable.  It opened communication with the military forces, cleared the river of torpedoes, and drove the rebels from its banks.  They convoyed transports with troops and supplies going to the army, and returning from the battle-field with the wounded and the sick.  The vessels in this service are of light draft, and, as their construction is necessarily slight, those who serve on board of them in a hostile country are exposed to more than ordinary peril.  But, whether in clearing the banks of the Rappahannock of sharpshooters or removing torpedoes from its bed, no less energy and daring have been exhibited than by others, in vessels of larger proportions and with greater protection.'  (Report, December, 1863.)

As the winter drew on, Lieutenant Ives found his failing health unequal to further command, and, with great reluctance, he sought relief.  He had borne his full share of the public burdens, and might have resigned with honor.  But his fondness for the naval service increased his desire to be a partaker in the last labors of the war.  He had gained the respect of his brother officers, and the government was desirous of retaining him.  By an order of the Secretary of the Navy, December 3d, 1863, he was detached from the Potomac flotilla, and directed to report in person to the chief of the bureau of ordnance.  He was then, December 4th, ordered to Providence, to report for duty.  This consisted in attending daily at the foundry, and giving particular attention to the casting, boring, turning and finishing, together with the proof of guns and the inspection of shells manufactured there for the government.  When this was accomplished he felt entitled to relief, and addressed the following letter to the Secretary of the Navy:

' Providence, 26th February, 1864.
'Sir:  I beg respectfully to resign my appointment as acting volunteer lieutenant in the navy of the United States.
I feel the greatest reluctance in taking this step during the continuance of the rebellion, but the state of my health, the less urgent necessities of the service, and the favorable aspects of the war, seem fully to justify me in so doing.
When I was detached from the Yankee, I directed the acting assistant paymaster of that vessel to send my accounts to the fourth auditor of the treasury.  I presume that they are now in his office, and that there will appear to be an amount standing to my credit as due me for my services since I entered the navy of the United States.
As it is my purpose to draw no pay for any services which I have rendered to my country during the present war, I respectfully request that any sums so appearing on the books of the auditor may remain in the treasury, and that the accounts may be thus closed.
I have the honor to be, with great respect,
Your obedient servant,
Acting Volunteer Lieutenant United States Navy.
The Honorable GIDEON Welles, Secretary of the Navy.

On the 3d of March, Mr. Welles replied:  'The department declines to accept your resignation, as your services are valuable to the bureau of ordnance.'   Lieutenant Ives was officially assured that his motives were appreciated, and that if the duties assigned to him were too burdensome, he had entitled himself to further relief.

On the 4th of April, Lieutenant Ives received an urgent invitation from his friend Captain Wise, chief of the bureau of ordnance, to act as ordnance officer at Washington.  He did not feel at liberty to decline an appointment which his mechanical tastes and thorough scientific training amply qualified him to fulfill.  A distinguished officer in the navy of the United States has thus borne his testimony to the manner in which these new duties were discharged.   'The duties of an inspector of ordnance, especially at Washington, require talents of no ordinary character, combined with sound judgment and discretion.  There the standards of everything pertaining to that most important branch of our naval service are prepared and issued for the government of the other naval stations, and all experiments in gunnery are conducted. Lieutenant-Commander Ives was singularly fortunate in the possession of all these qualities, and never failed in a single instance to perform in a most satisfactory manner every duty assigned to him.   His rigid supervision of the workshop and the laboratory, and the accurate manner in which he conducted the experiments with the batteries and pendulums, could not have been excelled.'  His services in the scientific department were acknowledged, November 7, 1864, by promotion to the grade of lieutenant-commander.  These labors were continued until January 26, 1865, at which time says the eminent officer already quoted, 'his devotion to the country and to the duties of the service had so injured his health, that I felt bound to insist upon his going away.'

Such monitions he could no longer disregard, and, January 26th, 1865, wrote to the Secretary of the Navy: 'It is with extreme reluctance that I have to inform the department, that, owing to failing health, I am compelled to ask to be relieved from duty.  Although disinclined to address the department upon this subject, I feel it my imperative duty to do so, as I am advised that I cannot hope to reestablish my much broken health without perfect immunity from responsibility and labor, and a change of climate.'  In reply, the Secretary, although regretting the necessity, granted a leave of absence for six months, with permission to leave the United States.

On the 5th of April, he sailed for Europe.  Relaxation from the hard work of the past four years had a restorative effect.  The prospect of returning unity and peace, to which he had sacrificed the last hopes of his own recovery, refreshed his spirits, and gave a brief interval of apparently increasing strength.  While enjoying a summer's rest in Germany, he could the better appreciate the news which every week brought from the United States.

From the beginning, he had sympathized with every advance of public opinion towards national emancipation, and he was revived by the intelligence that our institutions were to be reestablished upon a broader basis of justice and of right.  As health seemed to improve, he hoped to return to the enjoyment of that American citizenship which he had given his best labors to preserve, and in which more than ever, he felt an honorable pride.  He looked onward to a life of the same earnestness in peace which he had displayed during the most laborious service and the darkest hours of war; by the fulfillment of public and private duties, developing institutions of benevolence which he had assisted in establishing, and making his private fortune the means of a generous hospitality.

With the most kindly expressions from those with whom he had served, his leave of absence was extended.  On the day when it expired, he passed beyond the need of its renewal.  While still cherishing a hope of the future, he was married at Vienna, October 19th, to Elizabeth Cabot Motley, daughter of. the Honorable John Lothrop Motley, Minister of the United States in Austria.  Immediately afterwards, he set forth on his return, but all hope vanished before a new manifestation of pulmonary disease, and he died at Havre, November 17th, 1865, in sight of the vessel which was to bear him to his native land. The experience of four anxious and troubled years has taught a juster appreciation of the unostentatious labors of men who were prompted only by a desire that the future of their country should be one of honor and not of shame.  In the most disastrous periods of its fortunes, some sought for the stars of the major-general as the earnest of political popularity - foreign embassies, the senate chamber, the presidential chair.  Few such hopes have been fulfilled, those who cherished them often attaining only an unfortunate notoriety, or happy in being forgotten.  We have learned respect for those who, with a finer sense of duty, accepted labors which promised little but the approval of conscience, and who gave life and health that the ascendancy of anarchy and barbarism might be averted from the homesteads of their fathers.  Some fell when victory was yet afar off, and rest in unknown graves; some gave the hope of future years, as truly the martyrs of civilization as if they had fallen in battle, and sound of muffled drum had given testimony of public sorrow.  Among those who answered to the call of Rhode Island there were many such as these, who went forth seeking nothing for themselves, anxious only that the liberty of which their state had seen the beginnings, should be the heritage of the whole land. Their labors have made the history of the future.  Let us not doubt that it will honor those who toiled unseen to reconstruct our national house upon a sure foundation; grateful that they have done a good work for the coming generations, though they laid but one stone in the rebuilding.

To Robert Hale Ives

These documents are made available free to the public for non-commercial purposes by the Rhode Island USGenWeb Project. Provided by Fred "Mr. Potato Head" Clarke. Transcription 2002 by Beth Hurd
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