A few words from the founder, John E. Ellis-----
To try and explain the reason for this website can be summed up with one word: EMPATHY.
As many good things in life, this all came about
by pure accident (or by a higher power's design?).
In searching for my ancesters a number of years ago, I finally found the grave of a g-g-g-grandfather who was an Assistant Engineer in the CSN and then one thing led to another and a relative who I met only because of this research showed me archives records and documentation that he was on the ship CSS FLORIDA.
I had never heard of that ship which had come into Mobile Bay near where I live but considered myself reasonably informed in general. I mentioned this fact to a friend who said he had a book I could borrow to read up on the subject (Boykin's--Sea Devil of the Confederacy). At once, I was taken over by Captain John Newland Maffitt, who had suffered greatly in his personal life and in his naval professional life as a result of his Confederate service yet never faulted in his duty to family, friends or career. In fact, he was so outstanding I had to know more.
I could not understand how a person so great in his time can be so easily forgotten. As I studied the Confederate States Navy more, it became apparant he was not alone and when you read the words below you will see why I had to take up their cause.
I have spent years researching original records as I have a burning desire to get the facts right. It's only fair to those heros.
I now give talks and lectures and write on Capt. Maffitt, the CSS FLORIDA, and Admiral Franklin Buchanan and the CSS TENNESSEE and always adding to my knowledge.
The following are excerpts from two different letters (emphasis added) which best sum up most Confederate sailor's feelings. It all boiled down to their hurt from being excluded, even though they gave their all, from after war doings and writings which seemed to have the public believe there was only one ship on the sea or worse yet, that a navy didn't even exist. That's why this site is for the generally UNKNOWN sailor. It's their words--I only repeat them. Even many students of the war know little about the CS Navy or its operations.
The first letter
written in the 1870's was from a sailor (surgeons' steward) on the CSS
FLORIDA who maintained a correspondence with
Capt. Maffitt after the war.
This sailor had joined using a 'nom de guerre' or fictious name of George St. Clair. This was a quite common practice to keep family members from persecution if captured. Now it makes research very difficult. He actually had to tell Maffitt who he was as Maffitt would not have recognized him by his real name which was Tennessee (Tennie) Mathews, Jr. He published truthful articles on the ship to correct all the misinformation which had been published (or lack of information).
Here is the excerpt from his letter to Maffitt
that means so much to me:
"I have always felt sore over the fact that we were so completely overslaughed by the exploits of another vessel, and I am determined on every occasion where I see an opening, to write up the doings of the FLORIDA, and, in my humble way, endeavor to give her the prominence she so justly deserves in driving the Federal commerce from the seas."
Buchanan & Tattnall
The next excerpt is from James (Jimmie) Morris Morgan who wrote "Recollections of a Rebel Reefer". He was related to many important Confederate leaders and lived a full life after the war. He too was sore about the omissions. Here is part of a letter written in 1918 to Millage L. Bonham, Jr., with whom he carried on a 12 year correspondence. This is how it started:
From Mobile, in the autumn of 1918 the writer (Bonham) sent Morgan a postcard picture (view the postcard mentioned)
of the monument to Admiral Raphael Semmes , CSN. This evoked a letter in which Morgan complained:
"I believe that is the only monument to a naval man ever erected in the South. Tatnall, whose famous phrase "Blood is thicker than water", has resounded throughout the corridors of the English-speaking peoples for nearly three quarters of a century, and which will never he forgotten as long as the English language is spoken---Tatnall also commanded the famous MERRIMAC (CSS VIRGINIA) when that great ship was destroyed when he found it impossible to take her up the James River after the evacuation of Norfolk---well, there is not one Southerner in a thousand who even knows where Tatnall is buried, much less knowing about a monument for him. There is no monument for the gallant old Buchanan who commanded the MERRIMAC (CSS VIRGINIA) in the fights with the CONGRESS and the CUMBERLAND, and afterwards commanded the TENNESSEE at the battle of Mobile, and was so badly wounded every time he went into action. Neither is there any monument to Commodore Ingraham, the man who made the Austrians give up the naturalized American citizen, Martin Kotza, in Smyrna. Ingraham, with a little mosquite fleet, drove away the United States fleet from Charleston bar and legally broke the blockade for a time. I wonder if anybody knows where Commodore Hollins, who to protect American citizens, knocked down Greytown in Nicaragua, and who afterwards ran the blockading fleet away from the head of the Passes of the Mississippi, is buried. Nor have I heard of a grave-stone being erected to the memory of Isaac N. Brown who commanded the ARKANSAS in her remarkable fights and her wonderful dashes through the United States ironclad fleet, and Farragut's fleet of sloops-of-war at Vicksburg. I might go on with this list indefinitely, but what is the use?
Nobody cares about the sailor, but shame to the village in the South that has not a monument to a Confederate soldier, even if he was only a conscript home guard! Now that I have worked off my peevishness, as I am an old man, if you will kindly hold my stirrup for me, I will dismount from my high horse and talk about affairs which may interest us more."
They were there and I believe in them, so Tennie and Jimmie and the other Confederate sailors,
here is my monument in the sky to you and we'll also see what can be done here on earth as we go along and when I fall I hope someone will pick up the cutlass and LeMat and carry on.