Returning from the three-year voyage to a divided nation, Lee crewed in the former whaler Robin Hood, recently purchased by the Navy along with other hulks for service in the “Stone Fleet.” Loaded with stone, the aging ships were sailed south and sunk as blockships off Confederate ports. After the Robin Hood was scuttled in the main channel off Charleston, South Carolina, in December 1861, Lee and other crew members of the sunken vessels returned north on board the government transport Cahawba.4
'Victory Has Perched on Our Banners'
A century and a half ago, the Union sloop Kearsarge and Rebel raider Alabama faced off in the Civil War’s most famous non-ironclad duel. Excerpts from ‘Kearsarger’ James Lee’s previously unpublished journal reveal how, after behaving badly in port, the Union ship’s crew became ‘the lion of the day.’On 10 January 1862, at the Charlestown, Massachusetts, Navy Yard on board the receiving ship Ohio, James H. Lee became a bluejacket in the U.S. Navy, signing up for three years.1 Although identifying himself as a farmer, the 22-year-old from Baldwinsville, New York—five foot four, with hazel eyes, light-colored hair, and a light complexion—was already marked as a seaman by the anchor tattoo on his left hand.2 His chest was badly scarred from an incident that occurred while serving in a whaling vessel in the Pacific. While ashore at a Spanish-held island, Lee had intervened in a brawl between fellow crew members and Spaniards and been stabbed repeatedly. Left for dead, he was later found to be alive, was brought back to the ship, and recovered sufficiently to resume his duties.3
Edited by Norman C. Delaney