Confederate Colonel William Lamb rescued four British-manufactured 12-pounder Whitworth rifle-cannons, including this one,
from the wreck of the Modern Greece, which he subsequently used to protect many other blockade-runners from capture at
Wilmington with its legendary long range accuracy.
Whatever the case, the commanders of the Cambridge and
Stars and Stripes planned to either capture or destroy the
Modern Greece. They pulled up close to the stranded vessel
and opened a heavy cannon fire on her. As soon as the
projectiles began flying toward them, the captain and crew
of the Modern Greece abandoned ship and headed for the
beach in lifeboats. They reportedly all escaped to safety.
oon after the Union gunboats launched their
attack, artillerists in Fort Fisher joined the fight.
Surprisingly, the Confederates directed some of
their shots at the Modern Greece.
“We were unable to account for this maneuver at the time,”
reported Commander Parker of the Cambridge, “but I have since
learned that the officers at the fort fired at the steamer solid shot
to admit water into her and thus prevent our shells from explod-ing
the large quantity of powder in her hold, and also to insure
her sinking in case we should try to tow her off the beach.”
The Richmond Daily Dispatch later reported, fairly accu-rately
as it turned out, that she carried 100 tons of gunpowder
Gunners on the Stars and Stripes and Cambridge kept up
a steady fire on the Modern Greece for almost three hours
before temporarily suspending the attack. Later that morn-ing
the gunboats moved in for a second round of shelling,
this time with the intention of destroying the stranded
blockade-runner. They were “making very good firing” at
the Modern Greece when a few well-directed shots at the
Union ships from Fort Fisher forced them to haul offshore.
Confederate General French assigned salvage operations of
the Modern Greece to Colonel Collett Leventhorpe, whose
unit, the 11th Regiment North Carolina Troops, was
stationed at Camp Wyatt on Confederate Point, only
about half a mile from the shipwreck. In less than 48 hours
after the Modern Greece ran aground, Colonel Leventhorpe
“got out and landed a large quantity of arms.” Some of
his soldiers allegedly pilfered goods from on board —
champagne, wine, foodstuffs — for personal consumption
or to sell on the black market. Leventhorpe supervised the
work on the Modern Greece for one week before being
relieved by Colonel William Lamb, the newly appointed
commander of Fort Fisher.
Lamb arrived at Fort Fisher on the afternoon of July 4, 1862.
The man most associated with the strongest seacoast fortifi-cation
in the Confederacy salvaged as much of the Modern
Greece’s cargo as he could before Union gunboats or the sea
managed to claim her. Hundreds of soldiers, mostly garrison
troops from Fort Fisher and nearby Camp Wyatt, performed
the work, and sometimes under dangerous conditions. The
FROM HISTORY OF SEVERAL REGIMENTS AND BATTALIONS FROM NORTH CAROLINA IN THE GREAT WAR, 1861-’65
WBM june 2013