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Captain Mike Usina's recollections of bringing in the Atalanta


Captain Mike Usina's recollections of bringing in the Atalanta


Captain Mike Usina recalls bringing in the Atalanta one night in July 1864 with his pilot Thomas Mann Thompson.

Companion to Thomas Mann Thompson's letter to his daughter Lily


Captain Mike Usina


McNeil, Jim. Masters of the Shoals. Cambridge, MA.: De Capo Press. 2003


July 1854


Swing, Matt



Original Format



We approached the entrance to Wilmington Harbor on a beautiful moonlight night in July, only one day before the full moon. Before approaching the blockaders the officers and men were notified that the attempt was about to be made, with the chances very much against us. (There were thirty-five blockaders anchored there the afternoon before, counted from Fort Caswell.) But, I said that we had four hundred tons of meat for starving soldiers and I intended to make a run for it, and it any of them were unwilling to take the risk, they were at liberty to take the small boats and try to reach the beach. To their credit, not one man availed himself of the privilege. 

When i said to Mr. Thompson, our fearless pilot, "Tom, I am going to make the attempt, what do you think of it?" his answer was "I am ready, Sir, whener you are."


[Captain Usina said that as they slowly approached the union flagship, the engineer told him that he could not maintain steam at a low level, that we would have to either speed up or open the safety valves to vent off pressure, which would have alerted the blockaders to our presence. The captain told him to hold steady. As Thompson guided the steamer between the blockaders, she was spotted. The captain of the flagship ordered them to stop or he would blow them out of the water] Captain Usina continues:


"Hold on," I said, "until i speak to the engineer," which i did through the speaking tube; but instead of stopping the engines, he threw her wide open and she almost flew under our feet. Our neighbors soon found that we were not doing very much stopping and attempted to do the stopping themselves; but, fortunately for us, they failed to do so. 


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Captain Mike Usina, Captain Mike Usina's recollections of bringing in the Atalanta, Civil War Era NC, accessed July 14, 2024,