Reading the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, even at random, never fails to produce something of interest. Continuing the last entry's focus on Left Coast (Civil War-era) fortifications, I want to put up at least two short pieces on San Francisco's Bay's most famous island, if not its most spectacular (saving Angel Island for still another entry). You know the one—what the Spanish named Isla de Alcatraces, or Pelican Island. Later just called Alcatraz. Or for you criminal types, The Rock.
Alcatraz was the centerpiece of harbor defenses, able to reach anything coming or going with her massive guns. For most of the Civil War period, the installation was commanded by William A. Winder, the son of a Confederate general. Sons of rebellious fathers are always looked upon with suspicion, never more so than during wartime. Winder served his country with honor, but nevertheless brought unwanted attention down upon his far-flung post.
Here is some correspondence from the Official Records about the time the Commander-in-Chief of Britain's Pacific Fleet came calling, and, as he saw it, was rudely fired upon by Captain Winder. Tomorrow, or tonight, look for another Alcatraz entry on how Captain Winder's loyalty subsequently came under question all the way back in Washington.
To summarize the following (click on individual telegrams for a slightly more readable view), Rear-Admiral Kingcome, making a courtesy visit, moved into San Francisco Bay with his flagship Sutlej. The day was so calm, his colors could not be discerned, and Winder fired a shot to bring to the unidentified ship. Kingcome took umbrage and wrote Winder's boss, George Wright. Winder gave his side of the story, but Kingcome wasn't entirely satisfied. A couple years later, the son of the Confederate general would have bigger problems (next entry).