Thomas Francis Wade
Thomas Francis Wade was a career Navy man who was an officer in the Pacific at the time the war broke out. He realized the importance of the navy to the North in suppressing the rebellion because of the thousands of miles of navigable waters and many coastal ports. He headed home and was on hand when the citizen town meeting was held in response to the call for support, and Capt. Wade spoke enthusiastically about service for the Union. In his first wartime assignment, now an acting Lt., he headed South on the Steamboat Brooklyn to search for blockade runners at the mouth of the Mississippi. Refusing the command of a shore ship, he volunteered for duty on the USS Richmond, headed to Key West where 50 vessels and land forces under Gen. Butler
came together and readied for attack on New Orleans. Adm. Farragut was in command of the flagship with the USS Richmond next in order to the flagship. He describes terrific battles before the Mississippi is secure.
“A flash ahead! They see us! We are engaged! Their shots strike us. The splinters fly. Men shriek, as, wounded, they are carried below, their life-blood dripp9ing on the deck like rain on a housetop. Poor Wadleigh, a gallant Christian officer, falls into my arms dead. ‘The Richmond’s’ guns are all ready. My division (the eight forward guns) open first, and are quickly followed by the others. It is terrific. Seems as if we were in the infernal regions. Fire-rafts come down to make it more infernal by their lurid glare. Still we pass on through the storm and are safe above the forts. One more link of the Rebellion is broken.”
“Day breaks; and who that saw that lovely morning can ever forget the scene of destruction and carnage it displayed? Friends look around to find who are missing; and hands are grasped in thankfulness to God for lives spared.
“But ‘tis not all over. Here come rebel gunboats, — seventeen in all, head on. One is steering for ’The Richmond.” Two hundred men stand on her unprotected decks. ‘First division, grape and canister. LET HER HAVE IT!’ One minute, and they disappear, mowed down like grass before the scythe. We hear the groans and curses of her crew as she drifts astern. Another comes. The same scene over again. So all took their fate, and were sunk, or disabled. Our gallant admiral greets us and we salute him. Three thousand gallant tars shout their repeated hurrahs that echo along the shores,”
Capt. Wade recounts the remaining work in securing the Mississippi to Vicksburg where forces have already subdued the enemy. Then the work that remained was along the southern coast from Florida to Texas, guarding against blockading Rebel ships. By the winter of 1864 Wade had new orders but visited home in Wayland first. His new assignment to command a vessel to clean the James River of torpedoes so that Gen. Butler could take the troops upriver to City Point was a dangerous one. Unfortunately his ship blew up, he was thrown 40 feet out and escaped with only a leg injury. But many were lost (no accurate account, but the estimate is 85 men and three officers).
Wade remained in service after the war but spent time in Wayland— often enough to remarry after his wife died, and to build a new house.