Guide to the Charles H. Ball Diaries, 1861-1865
A collection in the
Special Collections & Archives Department,
United States Naval Academy
589 McNair Road
Annapolis, MD 21402-5029
Prepared by: David D'Onofrio
Special Collections & Archives Department
United States Naval Academy
Ball, who served his entire naval career with the West Gulf Blockading Squadron, was first assigned to U.S.S. Pensacola (screw steamer), which took part in the Battle of Forts St. Phillip and Jackson in April 1862. On December 26, 1862, Ball was transferred to U.S.S. Albatross (screw steamer). During Ball's time aboard, Albatross successfully charged passed the batteries at Port Hudson, Louisiana on March 13, 1863, and launched attacks on Fort DeRussy on May 4, 1863, and again on Port Hudson later that same month. In June of 1863, Ball was detached from Albatross, and was ultimately transferred to U.S.S. Kineo (ironclad gunboat). Ball's time aboard Kineo consisted primarily of blockade duty off the coast of Texas, including Kineo's failed attack and seizure of the British schooner Sting Ray on May 22, 1864. On December 19, 1864, Ball transferred to U.S.S. Metacomet (side-wheel steamer), which served blockade and patrol duty in the wake of the fall of New Orleans.
Charles Ball presumably served out the remainder of the Civil War aboard Metacomet. On August 31, 1865, Ball resigned from the Union Navy.
Scope and Content Note
The Charles H. Ball Diaries, comprising 2.5 linear inches of documentation in two volumes, span Ball's Civil War service in the West Gulf Blockading Squadron of the Union Navy. The diaries are composed of first-hand accounts of various battles and blockading duties in the Gulf of Mexico, from New Orleans, Louisiana to Galveston, Texas, as well as personal duties, such as keeping watch and participation in foraging parties.
The first journal is the product of Ball's service aboard the U.S. ships Pensacola and Albatross, spanning the dates July 19, 1861 to May 27, 1863. The journal includes accounts of the capture of New Orleans, including the Battle of Forts St. Phillip and Jackson (April 24, 1862), and the raising and defense of the American flag over the mint in New Orleans (April 26, 1862). Additional entries discuss Ball's transfer to U.S.S. Albatross (December 26, 1862), the capture of Galveston by Confederate forces (January 3, 1863), the capture and subsequent escape of a Union spy (January 10, 1863), running the batteries at Port Hudson, Louisiana (March 14, 1863), and attacks on Fort DeRussy, Louisiana (May 4, 1863) and Port Hudson (May 24, 1863). In addition to recounting battles, Ball discusses other incidents, such as being tricked into stealing slaves (February 11, 1863).
The second journal is from Ball's service aboard the U.S. ships Kineo and Metacomet, spanning the dates January 31, 1864 to April 28, 1865. The journal includes accounts of blockading action off Galveston aboard the Kineo (April-May 1864), including an account of the failed attempt to seize the British schooner Sting Ray on May 22, 1864. Similar actions aboard Metacomet include the capture of the schooner Sea Witch (December 31, 1864), and the sloop Lillie (January 6, 1865), as well as numerous events while patrolling Mobile Bay in the wake of the eponymous battle, including the quartering of six escaped slaves, formerly impressed by the Confederates (February 22, 1865).
Research interests served by the Charles H. Ball Diaries include the history of the West Gulf Blockading Squadron, the Battle of Forts St. Phillip and Jackson, the Siege of Port Hudson, the Battle of Fort DeRussy, and the general nature of Civil War blockade duty.