Two weeks ago, I had the grand intention of doing in-the-field research in preparation for future letter posts. My family and I had a vacation planned for the Outer Banks in North Carolina....more specifically...the Corolla area on the barrier islands. Living in the Washington DC area, my plan was to drive down I-95 south and cut over to I-295 on my way to I-64 in the Hampton, Virginia area. The plan was to visit and absorb the history of the Cold Harbor battlefield...part of the Richmond National Battlefield Park - Cold Harbor visitor center ( http://www.nps.gov/rich/historyculture/cold-harbor.htm). JWD fought at Cold Harbor in 1864 and I wanted have a sense for location and terrain.
After Cold Harbor, I was planning to continue down I-64 to Hampton and visit Fort Monroe ( http://www.civilwaralbum.com/misc/fortmonroe1.htm)...located just before the Hampton Roads Tunnel. JWD was there in 1862 prior to the launching of the Burnsides Expedition to the Outer Banks area of North Carolina...this will be seen in the next letter I post on October 19th.
Next, I planned a trip down NC-12 on the Outer Banks with a first stop at the wreck of the USS Oriental in order to take photographs of the still visible wreck from shore. In my blog dated August 25th, I gave a partial write-up of the connection between the "George Peabody Boat" (aka USS George Peabody) and the USS Oriental....( http://www.jwdletters.com/2011_08_01_archive.html). More on this below....
Lastly, I decided that another trip to the Hatteras point would complete the barrier island adventure. There, I planned to visit the Graveyard of the Atlantic museum along with visiting the tribute to the 48th PVI located in the parking lot of the museum. (http://www.graveyardoftheatlantic.com/)
Ok...so that was the grand plan! Unfortunately, a little thing called Hurricane Irene decided differently.
We ended up leaving a couple of days late due to the storm as well as the overall closure of the barrier islands to the general public...post storm. When we finally got going on the Monday of that week, I found out that most of the I-295 and I-64 corridor was without power...hence...the Cold Harbor battlefield and Fort Monroe were closed. This, however, was only the beginning. The hurricane was so damaging to the thinly protected sandbar called the Outer Banks, that part of NC-12 south of the Oregon Inlet and north of Rodanthe was literally washed away. The Oregon Inlet Bridge and the road south were closed. Given that the USS Oriental wreck is located on Pea Island, just south of the bridge, and that Hatteras was even further south...strike four! However, I must say that my little inconvenience is nothing, compared to the major disruption to the residents of Hatteras Island....
NC-12 at Mirlo Beach north of Rodanthe, NC (August 28, 2011) Photo from CNN.com
Some new info I found......
As I previously wrote, the USS George Peabody was the transport ship that carried the 48th PVI to battles on the North Carolina coast. Additionally, it was also identified as the ship that provided search-and-rescue for the passengers and crew of the Oriental when it ran aground in May of 1862. I was excited to hear that the same ship that transported my gg-grandfather, was also mentioned as the primary rescue craft for this doomed vessel. During a trip to a bookstore in Corolla, NC, I picked up a book, "Shipwrecks of North Carolina" by Gary Gentile, and searched to see if there was any more information about the USS Oriental.....it so happens that Mr. Gentile writes...
"Members of the 48th Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment stationed at Fort Hatteras, were involved in the rescue."
Hmm....could JWD have been involved? That...I will probably never know....
USS Oriental in distress, May 1864 - Harpers Weekly
USS Oriental from the beach on Pea Island
So...I guess the moral of this story is that you CAN make lemonade out of lemons...this little bit of information that I dug out of a bookstore on the Outer Banks, while bored and disappointed for not having been able to execute my research plan...ended up being the hit of the trip!
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