February 26, 1864 — Fort Sumter, South Carolina
Report of Acting Master's Mate William H. Kitching in regards to his capture in the waters near Fort Sumter, February 26-27, 1864:
I have the honor to report to you the capture of the USS Nipsic’s first cutter, with 5 men in my charge, while on picket duty in Charleston Harbor, on the night of February 26, 1864. I left the Nipsic between the hours of 5 and 6 p.m., and was towed up to the advanced monitor by tugboat, and at 7 p.m. shoved off from the monitor, with instructions to proceed up the channel in the direction of Forts Sumter and Moultrie. The night was thick and hazy and the tide was on the flood, running strong. I pulled leisurely up until I had got abreast of Fort Sumter, when I changed the direction of the boat and pulled toward the fleet. I had got about 150 yards from Fort Sumter when I caught sight of a dark object directly ahead, and almost immediately after was hailed, “Boat ahoy!” Under the supposition that the hail proceeded from one of our picket boats, I gave them in answer, “Nipsic’s first cutter,” as I did not wish the enemy to know the countersign. They hailed me again; I gave them the countersign “Patapsco.” they hailed the third time, and beginning to have suspicions that all was not right, I gave in return, “Catskill.” My object in doing this was that the rebels should not know the true countersign. I had scarcely returned the hail when I received a volley of musket balls, which passed over our heads, doing us no damage. I immediately ordered my men to take to their oars and pull strong, in the hope of escaping, for I could see that the enemy’s boat was superior to my own. I soon saw it was useless, so ordered my men to trail oars and give them a volley in return. I kept it up, but as no assistance arrived, I was forced to surrender, which I did, after throwing the arms overboard. None of my men was wounded; myself but slightly. As near as I could find out, there were 19 men in the enemy’s boat. We were taken on board their flagship, the Charleston, where we spent the night; the next morning were sent up to the city and placed under confinement. On the 17th of May I was sent to Macon, Ga., and my men to Andersonville. That is the last I saw of them. I have since learned they are dead.
The men under Kitching's command were: George P. Johnson, Martin L. Atkinson, Uriah B. Marshall, William O’Brien, and Lyman Holbrook.