Santa Cruz County History - People



Old Soldiers: Santa Cruz County Civil War Veterans
by Robert L. Nelson

BLAISDELL, ISAAC L (1837-1902)

Santa Cruz Sentinel (March 30, 1886)

Headstone of Isaac L Blaisdell
Isaac L. Blaisdell
IOOF Cemetery in Santa Cruz

Reminiscences of the War (Written For the Sentinel) by I.L. Blaisdell

I enlisted in the U.S. Navy Oct. 8th, 1861 on board the U.S.S. Mohican, Captain Gordon Commander. She was a second class sloop of war, mounting two eleven inch pivot guns, six long thirty two pounder broadside guns, one eighty four pounder pivot rifle Dahlgren gun, with wrought iron breech over casting to strengthen the piece. This was capable of throwing shot or shell over five miles. She also carried one ten pounder Parrott rifle, on her topgallant forecastle, and two twenty four pound howitzers on the quarterdeck; in all twelve guns. She was a formidable ship, being considered equal to a vessel of the old style carrying 40 guns broadside, without eleven inch pivot guns. It is not generally understood the immense advantage these formidable guns give to a ship carrying them. They are capable of throwing solid shot three miles, and shell three and a half miles, and deliver their fire five or six points forward or aft the beam. These guns take fifteen pounds of powder to the charge for shell and twenty pounds for solid shot.

We were ordered first to New York, and then to the rendezvous in Hampton Roads, Virginia, where we cast anchor among the many gunboats and other war ships that had preceded us. This was the latter part of October. It was a grand sight, presented by the collection of war vessels and the transports, gathered for the purpose of descending upon some southern port. The destination at this time was unknown, save to the flag officer, Commodore Dupont, on board the flag ship Wabash, a frigate of the first class, carrying fifty two guns and a complement of 500 men. There were sailing ship, river steamboats, and tugs, the whole comprising this great expedition, the land forces being in the command of Brigadier General T.W. Sherman, and the naval forces under the command of Admiral Dupont. On Tuesday, October 29, 1861, this magnificent equipment of land and naval forces put to sea.

When about two or three days out a terrific gale came on, and the fleet became scattered in a short time. The side wheel steamer, Governor, went down, just after her crew had been taken off by the heroic efforts of the crew of the sailing frigate Sabine. The Isaac Smith was saved by throwing overboard her guns. On board our ship everything had been made secure. The hatches were battened down, and extra lashings were put upon the pivot and broadside guns. The wind piped among the shrouds and cordage a tune quite familiar, but not very pleasant; sometimes causing an unusual roll, so that the boats were dipped in the sea, that were secured at the davits. The fleet was all scattered on the morning of the second day, and rude winds still kept up a rage upon the face of the old ocean.

About ten or eleven o'clock on this day the sea was running very high, a cross-sea at that, as is generally found in the vicinity of Cape Hatteras. We were making good weather of it, and away down on our lee bow we discovered a steamer with her Union down, a signal of distress. We quickly bore away for her, and as we came nearer we could see her crew all stranding upon the hurricane deck. We could not come very near to the steamer, but hove a short distance to windward. A boat was with much difficulty lowered, and quickly followed by as many brave tars as were wanted. A long line was thrown in , and the next moment which was out from under her lee and pulling down toward the sinking vessel. Our boat could not come alongside of her on account of the tremendous high sea, so dropping as close as possible to her stern, the line, with running noose, was thrown from the boat up to the hurricane deck, where it was caught by one of the distressed crew. The noose was then slipped around the body under the arms, and then they had to jump overboard, after which they were hauled into the boat. It was a thrilling scene, and one never to be forgotten.

After they were all taken into the boat, they were brought close to the stern of our ship and one after another again slipped on the noose, and plunging into the sea, were drawn quickly up to the spanker boom by means of a whip or tackle, rigged for the purpose. They were pretty well exhausted and were very thankful for their deliverance, and after stowing away a liberal glass of grog, and donning dry clothing, they were distributed among the crew, pending our arrival at our journey's end. This steamer proved to be the Peerless, loaded with cattle for the soldiers and sailors of our expedition. It was pitiable to hear the poor dumb brutes bellowing as they resisted the efforts made to lighten the ship by forcing them overboard. We fired a few shots from our forward pivot gun into her, and in a few minutes she sank beneath the waves and was seen no more. Immediately after this eight bells were struck, and the boatswain's merry pipes were heard calling us to mess cloth, or supper, as landsmen would call it, it being four o'clock in the afternoon.

Our mess had just gathered around the cloth, which had been spread on the berth, on account of rough weather. I spoke to one of my shipmates to be helped to some hard tack, that was not within reach, when up jumped one of the rescued seamen, who had been placed in our mess, saying he had heard that voice before. Rising up in my place I took a hurried look at the stranger, and the next moment our hands came together in a genuine grip. This sea waif was no other than Jim Webb, formerly of the good ship Ocean Express, and was in her during the trip, which I am trying to write about in the "Sentinel". This is but one of the may strange dispositions of Providence experienced in everyday life.

It was not until the morning of Nov. 4th that this grand array of men of war and troop ships cast anchor near the entrance to Port Royal harbor, about 50 miles south of Charleston. Here was to be enacted on of the most brilliant naval engagements of modern times. The rebels had removed the buoys to the channel, and destroyed the lighthouses. Extensive fortifications had been erected upon Bay Point, called Fort Beauregard, also upon the south shore called Hilton head; this was called Fort Walker, the two mounting 42 guns. Some of these were Columbiads, throwing 130 pounds of shot, and none were less than thirty-two pounders. In connection with these there were less than thirty-two pounders. In connection with those there was a Commodore Tatnall's fleet of gunboats, stationed above the Forts, the distance between them being about two miles. The time was well improved between the 4th and the 7th in sounding and fixing buoys in the channel, and in laying plans for the approaching conflict. Many a heart beat with anxiety over the coming engagement. And I must confess that I was no exception to the general rule, and although often exposed to the dangers of the deep had no idea of how one would feel when death and destruction were going on around him.

I must now close, for time and space forbid my conclusion of this great expedition. Tomorrow we shall be under fire, so until then adieu.

Santa Cruz Sentinel (October 11, 1891)

I.L. Blaisdell has been granted an increase in pension.

Santa Cruz Sentinel (December 23, 1902)

I.L. Blaisdell was so dangerously ill Monday that hopes for his recovery were abandoned. He is not expected to live through the night.

Santa Cruz Sentinel (December 25, 1902)

Death of I.L. Blaisdell

On Wednesday morning Isaac L. Blaisdell died at his home on Ocean St. after a month's illness. For a quarter of a century the deceased had resided in Santa Cruz. He was born in Taunton, Mass. When a boy he moved to Providence, RI In 1855 he left home to follow the sea until 1861 when he returned home to enlist in the war. He served until 1863 on the ships Mohican and Pocahontas under Admirals Farragut and Dupont on the South Atlantic, West Gulf and Mississippi River. On Sept. 16th, 1863, he was honorably discharged, owing to disability. When the war closed he went to Idaho, and from the Santa Clara County, where he resided before coming to Santa Cruz. He leaves a widow and four children, Benjamin J., Edgar F., Frank L., and Miss Addie L Blaisdell.

Mr. Blaisdell served one term as Justice of the Peace. For about eighteen years he was the Financier of the A.O.U.W. In the Knights of Honor he was Financial Reporter.

The deceased had a war record to be proud of for he was in several of the most important naval engagements. He took pleasure in raising the flag on the Lower Plaza on holidays. He frequently wrote prose and poetry for the "Sentinel". Mr. Blaisdell was always pleased with the title of Naval Veteran, which was attached to most of the articles, which he wrote. Everything that was connected with the navy had his keenest interest. He was a good citizen, kindly natured, and always did his duty in whatever position he was placed.

The funeral of deceased will take place from his late residence 450 Ocean St. at 2 P.M. tomorrow (Friday). Friends and acquaintances of the deceased are invited to be present.

Santa Cruz Sentinel (December 27, 1902)

The funeral of I.L. Blaisdell took place Friday under the auspices of the I.O.U.W.


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