Monday, August 29, 2011

John Evans: Civil War Sailor

U.S.S. Carondelet
(Courtesy of the Naval Historical Center)

When attempting to document the Civil War service of Sandusky Countians, it was difficult and at times impossible to identify those who served in the U. S. Navy. Unlike infantry regiments that were largely formed from specific geographic areas, there were few clues leading to the enlistments of Navy personnel. Generally those identified came from post-war biographical sketches, county histories, obituaries, records of veterans’ organizations, service records, and extant diaries and letters preserved by descendants. A recently discovered obituary appearing in the January 26, 1899 issue of the “Clyde Enterprise” revealed the extraordinary naval service of Sandusky Countian John Evans. Evans resided on East Street in Clyde, Ohio, where he died at the age of 72.

John Evans was born in Ireland, May 1, 1826, of English parents. He entered the English navy about 1850, serving for six years, part of the time during the war between the allied powers and Russia known as the Crimean War, and was in the siege of Sebastopol. After the close of the Crimean War, he was discharged and came to America, settling at Sandusky, Ohio in 1857, where he lived until 1861. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy at New York December 18, 1861 and served for over three years, being in the Mississippi and Gulf squadrons under Porter and Farragut, taking part in the naval engagements at Island No. 10, April 8, 1862; Fort Pillow May 10, 18626; Memphis, June 5, 1862; Vicksburg, May, June and July, 1863; and in the Red River Expedition under General Banks, where the Navy under Porter saved Banks’ Army from complete destruction.

For meritorious conduct, he was promoted to gunners mate, and was discharged from the U. S. ship Carondelet as gunners mate in charge. On May 17, 1865, he enlisted in Company C, 5th U.S. Veteran Volunteers, for one year, and was discharged March 25, 1866.

After his discharge he lived in Fremont, Ohio, two years, then moved to Sandusky where on February 1, 1869, he was married to Mrs. Nancy E. Reed. One year later, they came to Clyde, which has since been his home. He wife died in 1887, since which time he and his daughters have lived in the home on East Street where he died.

Besides possessing a remarkable naval and military record, deceased was an industrious, hard-working man, who had the respect of all who knew him. One daughter, Maria Evans, and four step-children survive him.

The Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships (Naval Historical Center) provides the following proud history of the Carondelet.

She was an ironclad river gunboat, was built in 1861 by James Eads and Co., St. Louis, Mo., under contract to the War Department; commissioned 15 January at Cairo, III., naval Captain H. Walke in command, and reported to Western Gunboat Flotilla (Army), commanded by naval Flag Officer A. H. Foote.

Between January and October 1862 Carondelet operated almost constantly on river patrol and in the capture of Forts Henry and Donelson in February; the passing of Island No. 10 and the attack on and spiking of the shore batteries below New Madrid, Mo., in April; the lengthy series of operations against Plum Point Bend, Fort Pillow, and Memphis from April through June, and the engagement with CSS Arkansas on 15 July, during which Carondelet was heavily damaged and suffered 35 casualties.

Transferred to Navy Department control with the other ships of her flotilla on 1 October 1862, Carondelet continued the rapid pace of her operations, taking part in the unsuccessful Steele's Bayou Expedition in March 1863. One of those to pass the Vicksburg and Warrenton batteries in April 1863, Carondelet took part on 29 April in the five and one-half hour engagement with the batteries at Grand Gulf. She remained on duty off Vicksburg, hurling fire at the city in its long siege from May to July. Without her and her sisters and other naval forces, the great operations on the rivers would not have been possible and Northern Victory might not have been won. From 7 March to 15 May 1864, she sailed with the Red River Expedition, and during operations in support of Army movements ashore, took part in the Bell's Mill engagement of December 1864. For the remainder of the war, Carondelet patrolled in the Cumberland River. She was decommissioned at Mound City, III., 20 June 1865, and sold there 29 November 1865.

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