This is the second of a three-part series based on the personal letters and observations of Scott Dyer Jordan of Cape Elizabeth. The letters are part of an extensive collection of memorabilia relating to the Jordan family descendants, stored in the Archives Room of the Cape Elizabeth Historical Preservation Society.

Since its first battle February 1862, the new USS Carondelet was the most active of any of the river ironclads in its class during the Civil War. Known as the slowest steamer of the class, it was also the most active of any of the ironclad river gunboats, having been involved in a number of expeditions. Her stacks were painted with red bands to distinguish it from the rest.

During spring of 1863, Scott Dyer Jordan left Cape Elizabeth to make his way west to join the Mississippi Squadron of gunboats as one of 18 men assigned to the USS Carondelet. Military records indicate Jordan’s rank was acting ensign, with a pay grade of $1,300 per year. Here are some of his letters that detail his experiences:

Grand Gulf, May 13, 1863

I am now on board the steamship USS Carondelet in good health! I wouldn’t exchange this boat for any one in the whole fleet, I like the officers. We have no sick among us at present. This area is the loveliest place, I would like to live here… I don’t know where we shall go from here, nor when. Eight bells are struck, now I take charge of the deck.

James’ Plantation, New Carthage, May 16, 1863

We will be sailing today probably within five miles of Vicksburg where we remain for further orders. We heard this morning of the taking of Richmond and Fredericksburg by our Army. Our officers and crew feel pretty good about it, much better than our Secesh friend here does.

His name is Joshua James, his house has been used by the commissary to good advantage until recently when it was changed into a hospital for our sick and wounded troops and sailors. There are over 1200 of them in the house and in tents around it. The number increases daily. We are all in good health on our ship. Our doctor will not allow the sailors to go in the river bathing as he considers it very injurious to the health of all.

Yesterday we sent one of our sailors on shore with three officers and twenty men to pick some blackberries which grow here in abundance. They are three times as large as any I have ever seen. They brought bushels of them so we eat as many as we wish any time of day or night. The doctor says they are very wholesome in a climate such as this. But you will have to wait until the middle of August before you see them ripen on the Cape.

Vicksburg has been under continual firing for the past five weeks and is liable to fall any day. The Rebels are doing considerable damage up and down the banks of the river about one hundred miles below Vicksburg by firing into our transports. They conceal themselves in the woods on the river banks where the steamers are obliged to keep close to shore because of water depth. Following the extensive bombardment of Vicksburg the city surrendered 4 July 1863.

From the Steamship Carondelet at anchor off Jeff Davis Plantation August 8, 1863.

We bought a bushel of peaches today, 75 cents per bushel. We also bought chickens for $2 a doz. and 30 cents each for eight geese. The market on shore has become quite an institution, it not only supplies our ship with what we want, but other ships as well.

The Red Rover hospital ship came up from New Orleans but made no stop here. She passed close by and I saw Capt. Wells. He swung his hat to me while passing. The Flag Ship Black Hawk has between seventy and eighty men on their sick deck. The health of our ship remains good. The flies and mosquitoes are not near as numerous as they were, but there are roaches. Millions of them.

Due to the blockade we sent men into the country ten or twelve miles. They returned with twenty three head of cattle. We serve out a whole ox at once as we cannot keep beef overnight without spoiling, the men have as much as they wish. We continue to live first rate and have a very easy time. We have not fired our large guns for three weeks.

We have no officers below the rank of Ensign in the ward room. Master mates, assistant engineers and carpenters are below in steerage. Our uniforms will be changed soon. The gold band on the cap which has been worn by all Naval Officers from Admiral on down is to be dispensed with. Ensigns are to wear the wreath on the cap and in place of one stripe on the coat sleeve at the cuff, we have a star above three stripes. The changes to take place as soon as the material can be bought.”

(Jordan sends money home to his family enclosed in almost every letter, not all reaching its intended destination. Mail from home tells him what is happening there, who and how many were drafted, others who remain. Mention is also made of those who make sure to help his family with the haying or other farm chores and put by enough wood for the winter.)

December 6, 1863

We are still anchored at our old place and have the privilege of going where we choose. Our pilot and myself go hunting often. We get as much game as we want and always have wild game for dinner. Today is Sunday we are to have a roasted buckhorn for dinner. We have had them before and they are splendid eating. It is five days short of eight months since I came on board the Carondelet.

On Sunday every officer wears his dress uniform. Our Chief Engineer remarked that it was seldom we saw eight men at one table so near of a size and all dressed so nearly alike. One suit of clothing will fit either of us. There is but one half inch in height and very little difference in weight.

We were joined by our Commander, Paymaster and Doctor. Our Bill of Fare was as follows: Roast corn, roast beef, Irish potatoes mashed up hot with butter and boiled onions, canned peaches and pumpkin pies.

Aboard the Carondelet, plenty of food, little war action


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