Lest We Forget

By Lieutenant Commander Thomas J. Cutler, U.S. Navy (Retired)

George Watts, a former Sailor in the U.S. Navy, was among those men who had remained on deck. He was nervous, and when someone touched him on the arm, he "whirled around like somebody had stuck a knife in me."

"You're wanted in the second cabin," the man told Watts.

Looking anxiously about, Watts followed the man to the cabin. When he entered, he saw the "frisky French lady" removing her dress. As the cabin full of men watched, she also removed her wig and makeup!

From the feminine crinoline cocoon emerged Confederate Colonel Richard Thomas, dressed in a fine regimental uniform. The other men began opening the "lady's" trunks and arming themselves with the cutlasses, carbines, and pistols they found inside.

It did not take long for the armed men to capture the ship and, after putting the crew and innocent passengers ashore and bringing aboard an additional contingent of Confederate soldiers, the St. Nicholas , now the CSS Rappahannock , headed out into the Chesapeake and captured a number of prizes.

Like the battle at Bull Run a short time later, this early Confederate success was demoralizing to the Union cause and was widely hailed in the South. The colonel and his daring accomplices were lionized in Virginia, and at a ball given in their honor, much to the delight of those attending, the colonel appeared dressed not in regimental uniform but in the feminine attire that had served as his earlier "camouflage."

But just as the fortunes of war were to eventually change in favor of the Union, so went those of the audacious, skirted colonel. When he tried a similar venture a month later, the plan went awry and, once again dressed in hooped skirts, he was led off to a Union prison.

Lieutenant Commander Cutler is the author of several books, including A Sailor's History of the U.S. Navy and Brown Water, Black Berets .
 

Thomas J. Cutler is a retired lieutenant commander and former gunner's mate second class who served in patrol craft, cruisers, destroyers, and aircraft carriers. His varied assignments included an in-country Vietnam tour, small craft command, and nine years at the U.S. Naval Academy, where he served as Executive Assistant to the Chairman of the Seamanship & Navigation Department and Associate Chairman of the History Department. While at the Academy, he was awarded the William P. Clements Award for Excellence in Education (military teacher of the year).

He is the founder and former Director of the Walbrook Maritime Academy in Baltimore. Currently he is Fleet Professor of Strategy and Policy with the Naval War College and is the Director of Professional Publishing at the U.S. Naval Institute.

Winner of the Alfred Thayer Mahan Award for Naval Literature, the U.S. Naval Institute Press Author of the Year, and the U.S. Maritime Literature Award, his published works include NavCivGuide: A Handbook for Civilians in the U.S. Navy; A Sailor's History of the U.S. Navy [one of the books in the Chief of Naval Operations Reading Program]; The Battle of Leyte Gulf; Brown Water, Black Berets: Coastal & Riverine Warfare in Vietnam; and the 22nd, 23rd (Centennial), and 24th editions of The Bluejacket's Manual. His other works include revisions of Jack Sweetman's The Illustrated History of the U.S. Naval Academy and Dutton's Nautical Navigation. He and his wife, Deborah W. Cutler, are the co-editors of the Dictionary of Naval Terms and the Dictionary of Naval Abbreviations.

His books have been published in various forms, including paperback and audio, and have appeared as main and alternate selections of the History Book Club, Military Book Club, and Book of the Month Club. He has served as a panelist, commentator, and keynote speaker on military and writing topics at many events and for various organizations, including the Naval History and Heritage Command, Smithsonian Institution, the Navy Memorial, U.S. Naval Academy, MacArthur Memorial Foundation, Johns Hopkins University, U.S. Naval Institute, Armed Forces Electronics Communications and Electronics Association, Naval War College, Civitan, and many veterans' organizations. His television appearances include the History Channel's Biography series, A&E's Our Century, Fox News Channel's The O'Reilly Factor, and CBS's 48 Hours.

More by this Author

BROWN WATER, BLACK BERETS
The men of the U.S. Navy's brown-water force played a vital but often overlooked role in the... Read More
BATTLE OF LEYTE GULF
The last great naval battle of World War II, Leyte Gulf also is remembered as the biggest naval... Read More
DUTTON'S NAUTICAL NAVIGATION, 15TH EDITION
As paper navigational charts are replaced by vector images on computer screens, magnetic compasses... Read More
A SAILOR'S HISTORY OF THE U.S. NAVY
Also Available in an Audio Edition from Audible via Amazon Essential reading as part of the Chief... Read More

Events and Conferences

Guest Lecturer
12:30pm, “Shifley Lecture Series,” U.S. Naval Academy Museum, 118 Maryland Ave., Annapolis, MD /... Read More

 
 

Conferences and Events

2014 U.S. Naval Institute History Conference

Wed, 2014-10-01

The 2014 Naval History Conference is hosted by the U.S. Naval Institute and the U.S. Naval Academywith support from The William M...

Defense Forum Washington 2014

Newseum - Knight Conference Center

2015 WEST Conference

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