Captain James Bloom, MC, USN, Ret –

For what likely was most of his career, Captain Jim Bloom has been regularly releasing one page digest vignettes of events in naval history to a growing body of readers. Occasionally these cover medical topics, but I’m highlighting Jim’s work here because he is a brother medical officer. Jim – just recently retired – tells me that he still has a comfortable inventory. I quote his announcement of the 20th year of this work, and below that, a recent post. I’m sure Jim would love to add you to his distribution list if you send him your email address.

Honored Naval History Readers,With the release of today’s naval history vignette on Surgeon Longshaw from the Civil War the “Today in Naval History” offerings begin their 20th year of publication.  It has been both a privilege and a joy to discover, research, write, and release these stories.  Each is intentionally limited to one page in length and is bibliographically referenced.  For the last 19 years they have been released six times monthly, a frequency that maintains interest without overwhelming readers.  If you get half the enjoyment out of reading them that I do preparing them, I have been successful.

Over these years many readers have transitioned between duty stations, and even into retirement.  Now would be a good time to remind all readers that you can continue to receive these stories as you move through or out of the Navy, as long as you keep CAPT Bloom updated with your current e-mail address—military or civilian.  My ability to track e-mail addresses is feeble at best.

I would also like to publically thank the many readers who reply to the stories with comments, anecdotes, and corrections!  I appreciate your comments and they are often written into future editions!

If you are PCS’ing to a new e-mail server, or ending your Naval service, or you know someone who has dropped off the mailing list due to an e-mail change, simply e-mail the new information to CAPT Bloom at and I will update the distribution list.


CAPT James Bloom, Ret

                           16 NOVEMBER 1863
                      ASSISTANT SURGEON LONGSHAW
Civil War Charleston’s harbor was particularly well defended by forts at its entrance.  On the north, Sullivan’s Island boasted six fortifications, including the masonry Fort Moultrie.  To the south, Morris and James Islands boasted six more, and squarely athwart the entrance stood the formidable Fort Sumter.  These met RADM John A. Dahlgren’s Union attack in July 1863 with firm resistance, rough-handling his “invincible” monitors.  Unable to penetrate these defenses Dahlgren besieged “Brave Charleston.”  The resulting stand-off lasted 567 days during which Union guns continuously worked over these protective batteries.
Four months into this siege, on the evening of November 15th, Fort Moultrie opened a bombardment of Union Army positions at Point Cummings on the opposite side of the channel.  Union BGEN Quincy A. Gillmore asked Dahlgren for assistance, and the monitors LEHIGH andNAHANT were sent toward Sullivan’s Island.  In the darkness however LEHIGH grounded within easy range of Moultrie’s guns.  Such relentless direct fire would slowly pound even her armored bulwarks to pieces.  Her skipper, CDR Andrew Bryson, worked his crew feverishly but by morning she was still fast.
The coming of the dawn brought a renewed barrage by the enemy.  A desperate Bryson requested volunteers for what would surely be a suicidal mission through intense enemy fire–that of rowing a hawser out to NAHANT in a longboat.  Without hesitation LEHIGH’smedical officer, Assistant Surgeon William Longshaw, Jr., stepped forward.  He and five volunteers, Landsmen Frank S. Gile and William Williams, gunner’s mate George W. Leland, coxswain Thomas Irving and seaman Horatio N. Young, piled into the longboat.  Towing a line married to the hawser they set off for NAHANT.  As expected Confederate guns sprang to this new target with fervor, and as the boat rowed onward a lucky enemy shot cut the leader line.  Back to LEHIGH the doctor rowed, where a new line was secured.  Again as Longshaw and his party braved a hail of shot and shell an accurate Confederate shot away this second leader.  Unbelievably Longshaw and his men returned for a third attempt.  Amid a storm of metal their efforts succeeded this time without a casualty.  NAHANT and the tide saved the stranded monitor from destruction or capture.
When Dahlgren learned of Longshaw’s bravery he ordered a commendation, “to be read on every quarterdeck of the fleet.”  Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles further acknowledged in an official commendation, “the gallant conduct of Doctor Longshaw.”  Longshaw’s five assistants were awarded the Medal of Honor (officers were ineligible at that time); Leland and Irving also received meritorious promotions to Acting Master’s Mates.
Watch for more “Today in Naval History”  22 NOV 11
CAPT James Bloom, Ret
©2011 The Society for the History of Navy Medicine
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