Saturday, April 30, 2011

April 30, 1861 (Tuesday) : Massachusetts Takes Care of Its Troops

Council Chamber, Boston, April 30, 1861

Brigadier-General Butler:
    General:  The propeller Cambridge, Capt. S.H. Matthews, owned and fitted jointly by the State of Massachusetts and the underwriters of Boston, is loading as a transport for the purpose of taking out supplies for the Massachusetts troops (of which a memorandum will be hereto appended), provided at the expense of the State, and intended to be charged to the General Government, which charge will be allowed or not, as the General Government may decide.
  You will note that in addition to the ordinary rations we have added a few articles which may be necessary for the comfort of the troops, for officer’s use, or for hospital purposes.  The largest item among these is preserved meats in tin, which ought to be carefully used as a reserve.  They will keep for years, are already cooked, and being the most concentrated form of carrying food, may be useful for camp service.  I learn this morning that colonel James’ Sixth Massachusetts Regiment is in great need of these at Washington and the vegetables now put on board.  We have added a small quantity of pipes and tobacco.


Yours, faithfully,
                               JOHN A. ANDREW,

Among the states of the Union, Massachusetts was the intellectual seat of abolition and the most ardent in favor of war.  Early on, that enthusiasm showed itself in the elaborate supplies sent to the front with their troops. 

April 29, 1861 (Monday): Authority Asserted

The 4th capital of Georgia, in Milledgeville.

Montgomery, April 29, 1861

Governor Joseph K. Brown
                          Milledgeville, Ga:
The organization of brigades and divisions belongs to the President, under the sixth section of the act “to provide for the public defense.”

The idea of state's rights animated the Southern states, but also created problems between the Confederate government and states over issues such as the organization of brigades.  Governors wanted their troops kept together and not scattered among soldiers of other states.

April 28, 1861 (Sunday): Three Thousand Potential Volunteers

Louisiana State Penitentary

BATON ROUGE, LA., April 28, 1861

His Excellency Jefferson Davis,
    President of the Southern Confederacy:
SIR:  Taking in view the present crisis which overhangs our country, and knowing tht in a few weeks the Southern Confedracy will be invaded by a Northern army, I would beg most respectfully, Mr. President, to call your attention to the facts that there are at this present moment some 3,000 or 4,000 men confined in the different penitentiaries of the seceded States who would be perfectly willing to take up arms for the cause of the beloved South.  Mr. President, there are many in here that have served in the Florida war, and also served with distinction in the battles of Cerro Gordo, Chapultepec, and Monterey.  I am a true Southern by birth and can assure you, Mr. President, that the same military spirit that pervades my country-men outside exists also amongst us within these prison walls.
     I am, sir, with great respect, your obedient servant,
            WM R. STRIPLIN

One distinguishing characteristic of the 1800's was the ease with which ordinary citizens (or prisoners, in this case) could communicate with their leaders.

April 27, 1861 (Saturday): Colonel T.J. Jackson to Harper's Ferry

Jackson's Headquarters at Harper's Ferry, now the Jackson Rose Bed & Breakfast


Maj. Gen. R. E. Lee, Commanding, &c:
   SIR:  You will direct Col. T.J. Jackson to proceed to Harper’s Ferry, to organize into regiments the volunteer forces which have been called into the service of the State, and which may be assembled in the neighborhood.
…..You will place Colonel Jackson, for the present, in command of the troops in that locality, and give him such general instructions as may be required for the military defenses of the State.  Direct him to make diligent inquiry as to the state of feeling in the northwestern portion of the State.  If necessary, appoint a confidential agent for that purpose, but great confidence is placed in the personal knowledge of Major Jackson in this regard.  If deemed expedient, he can assemble the volunteer forces of the northwest at such points as he may deem best, giving prompt information of the same.  Promptness in all these matters is indispensable.
      I am, very respectfully,


So enters Thomas J. Jackson onto the stage.  Jackson was born in Clarksburg, in the western portion of the state, and what is now (as a result of the war) West VirginiaJackson’s relationship with Governor Letcher of Virginia stood him in good stead during the famous Loring-Jackson dispute.  Jackson’s serious nature often overshadows for modern students that he was ambitious and sophisticated enough to understand the nature and advantages of political connections.  Likewise, the appointment of Jackson by Letcher is based not only on an evaluation of Jackson's military reputation, but also of his ties to and understanding of, the volatile situation in western Virginia.

April 26, 1861 (Friday): Kentucky In the Balance

Albert Sydney Johnston

LOUISVILLE, KY., April 26, 1861

L.P. Walker,

      Secretary of War, C.S.A.:
Sir: In accordance with your request I communicate to you on my return, as I can do so more fully and with less hazard than by telegraph.  I inclose this to you in care of Mr. Edward S. Ruggles, who I regard as worthy of confidence.  My father resigned April 9, and awaits orders from the United States Government.  I have sent Mr. Ruggles to intercept him on his return and warn him to avoid a Northern port.  Your friendly advice is solicited for him on this mission.  I saw Governor Magoffin to-day (I arrived last night) and he told me of his reply communicated to you by messenger.  He is satisfied that any precipitate action on the part of our friends will react and damage us.  The State is unarmed, with a border of 700 miles exposed to a furious foe.  That such is the case is the fault neither of the Governor nor of our party, but of those false leaders and imbeciles who preferred party advantage to the safety of our Commonwealth.


Johnston, of Louisville, Kentucky writes to the Secretary of War in reference to his father, Albert Sidney Johnston who has resigned command of the Department of the Pacific.  Despite the tone of the letter, A.S. Johnston did not immediately leave the Army but stayed on waiting for his successor.  Meanwhile, Kentucky Governor Magoffin refused a levy of 75,000 troops from President Lincoln and in May the state proclaimed its neutrality.  While both sides initially respected the neutrality, it was broken by both sides and Kentucky proclaimed its allegiance to the Union, although virtually divided by opposing armies.  One of these armies was lead by Albert Sidney Johnson, who in September finally joined the Confederate side.  His son, William Preston, would serve as a Confederate Colonel, and aide to Jefferson Davis (whom he was captured with at the end of the war.  After the war he become an instructor at Washington College and wrote two books of poetry.

Friday, April 29, 2011

April 25, 1861 (Thursday): A Surrender in Texas

Star of the West, from Frank Leslie's Weekly.

Reports of Maj. C. C. Sibley, Third U.S. Infantry, of the surrender of his command at Suluria, Tex.

Hdqrs. Bat. First, Third, and Eigth Infantry
                            Salubria, Tex., April 25, 1861.

SIR:  I have the honor to report that I have this morning surrendered this battalion, consisting of two companies of the First Infantry, with the adjutant and non-commissioned staff and band of the same regiment, three companies of the Third and two companies of the Eight Infantry, including nine officers, to the forces of the Confederate States under command of Earl Van Dorn.
   Two unsuccessful attempts have been made by me to escape with this command, the Star of the West (transport) having been captured before we were able to reach her anchorage, off Matagorda Bay, and on the night of the 24th of April three steamers, having some eight hundred men and some pieces of artillery on board, coming down the bay, and taking up such a position as to prevent our retreat in the two small schooners in which we were endeavoring to make our escape, and a fourth steamer, with some four hundred men, one 24 and two 6 pounder pieces of artillery, having early in the morning of the 25th taken up a position to prevent our escape by running out of the bay, I was obliged to capitulate under the most favorable terms which I could obtain.

Major Third Infantry, Commanding.

Trapped in Texas at the start of the war, denied free passage out, Sibley's command lost its way out when their passage, the Star of the West, was captured.  Here Sibley describes his surrender at Saluria, half way between Houston and Corpus Christi.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

April 24, 1861 (Wednesday): Government or Anarchy?

Map of Pennsylvania Railroad

P., W. & B. R. R. Co.,
Philadelphia, April 24, 1861

Hon. Simon Cameron:
Dear Sir:  Mr. Thomason, Mr. Sanford, and myself organized a plan to supply Washington with troops and provisions, &c, by way of Annapolis.  A part of this plan was for Fort McHenry to allow no hostile force to leave Baltimore to seize transports.  This we have not effected, of course, as we had no means to do it.  We want command of the railroad from Washington to Annapolis and of the telegraph.  This, of course, the Government must effect.  The rest we can do, and are doing as rapidly as we can.  We have assumed great responsibility, both pecuniarily and otherwise, but no good man ought in these times to shrink from any amount of responsibility within his reach.  It is a question between government or anarchy, and who can hesitate?
Your, truly,


Felton was in charge of the Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore Railroad Company and was active in defense of the Union from before the start of the War.  His trains brought Abraham Lincoln on the final leg of his trip to Washington to assume office, getting the President-Elect safely through a hostile Baltimore.  His company and private detectives, kept up a running duel with Confederate sympathizers under Isacc Trimble (also a railroad man) as Trimble's men burned bridges along the rail lines leading to Washington.

April 23, 1861 (Tuesday) Enter Robert E. Lee

Lee's Resignation Letter

Richmond, Va., April 23, 1861.

General Orders, No. 1.

In obedience to orders from his excellency John Letcher, governor of the State, Maj. Gen. Robert E. Lee assumes command of the military of naval forces of Virginia.


Lee, 54, graduated 2nd in a class of 46 from the U.S. Military Academy in 1829.  At this point, Lee commanded only Virginia State troops.

April 22, 1861 (Monday): "Sustain Baltimore"

Alabama State Capital, First Capital of the Confederacy

April 22, 1861.

Governor John Letcher, Richmond Va:
  In addition to the forces heretofore ordered, requisitions have been made for thirteen regiments, eight to rendezvous at Lynchburg, four at Richmond, and one at Harper’s Ferry.  Sustain Baltimore, if practicable.  We re-enforce you.


At this point in the war Davis, the Confederate President, labored on the disadvantage of being in Montgomery (the first Confederate Capital) and far from where many of early events were unfolding.

April 21, 1861 (Sunday): Lincoln Makes A Decision

BALTIMORE, April 20, 1861

To Governor Hicks:
   Letter from President and General Scott.  No troops to pass through Baltimore, if, as a military force, they can march around.  I will answer that every effort will be made to prevent parties leaving the city to molest them, but cannot guarantee against acts of individuals not organized.  Do you approve?


ANNAPOLIS, April 20, 1861.

To the mayor of Baltimore:
   Your dispatch received.  I hoped they would send no more troops through Maryland, but as we have no right to demand that, I am glad no more are to be sent through Baltimore.  I know you will do all in your power to preserve the peace.


President Lincoln personally opened talks with the governor and mayor on preserving the peace in Maryland.  Governor Hicks had preserved Maryland for the Union by delaying any action by the state on secession until there were numerous Union troops at hand, making the question moot.  

April 20, 1861 (Saturday): Destruction at Gosport Navy Yard (Norfolk)

CSS Virginia, formerly USS Merrimack, being rebuilt in dry dock at Gosport.

Report of Capt. H. G. Wright, U.S. Engineer Corps

…On reaching the yard it was found that all the ships afloat except the Cumberland had been scuttled, by order of Commodore McCauley, the commandant of the yard, to prevent their seizure by the Virginia forces, and that they were fast sinking.  One of the objects of the expedition-that of removing those vessels and taking them to sea-was therefore frustrated.

…We accordingly proceeded to construct in this gallery a platform of such materials as could be collected to a heigh above the surface of the water, and on this we placed the power (2,000 pounds) which we brought from the ship, established a train from the gallery to the outside and connected it with four separate slow matches.

…From what we could learn in Norfolk, I am of opinion that the attempt to destroy the dock did not succeed.  We were told that the mine did explode and that it did not.

Captain of Engineers.

Lieut. Col. E.D. Townsend,
     Asst. Adjt. Gen., Hdqrs. of the Army, Washington, D.C.

Wright had been told by Winfield Scott to keep in mind that, although the navy yard and its contents were important, Fort Monroe was more so.  MacCauley had scuttled 11 ships of various capability due to a perceived threat from a small Virginia force under Billy Mahone.  The mine described did not destroy the dock, as it was flooded in time to avert damage.

April 19, 1861 (Friday): Mayhem in Baltimore

Image of the Baltimore Riot of 1861

Statement of George M. Gill.

Baltimore, July 12, 1861

Hon. Geo. Wm. Brown, Mayor of the City of Baltimore:


My impression on that day was and still is that the events arose from a sudden impulse which seized upon some of our people, and that after the firing commenced and blood was shed many persons took part under an impression that the troops were killing our people, and without knowing the circumstances of provocation which induced the troops to fire.  Matters reached their height after Mr. Davis was killed, and the intense excitement resulting from this and other causes produced a state of feeling which for a time was beyond control on the part of the city authorities.

Yours, very respectfully,


Gill joined Baltimore Mayor Brown in trying to calm a mob which attempted to stop Union troops traveling through the city from continuing South.   The rail line was not continuous through the city and horses had to pull cars across to where the line resumed.  As the Pennsylvania and Massachusetts troops walked between the stops, a mob attempted to block their path.  Despite the efforts of the mayor and Baltimore police, bricks were thrown and a few shots came from the crowd.  The troops returned fire, killing 12 civilians.  Four of their number died.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

April 18, 1861 (Thursday) Harper's Ferry Arsenal Burned

Stock House at Harper's Ferry Arsenal (Park Service Image)

CHAMBERSBURG, April 19, 1861

   Finding my position untenable, shortly after 10 o’clock last night I destroyed the arsenal, containing 15,000 stand of arms, and burned up the armory building proper, and under cover of the night withdrew my command almost in the presence of twenty-five hundred or three thousand troops.  This was accomplished with but four casualties.  I believe the destruction must have been complete.  I will await orders at Carlisle.


General Winfield Scott

At his point in the war low ranking officers such as Lieutenant Roger Jones could find themselves in positions of great responsibility.  Jones actions prevented the loss of the arms spoken of to Virginia troops, but not that of the machinery at Harper’s Ferry for producing rifles.  Part of the machinery was sent to Richmond, part to Fayetteville, NC where they produced far more rifles than were destroyed at Harper’s Ferry.  Jones received the thanks of the President through Secretary of War Cameron.  The Senate was less kind, in November demanding an accounting of the losses, which came to $1,297,668.

April 17, 1861 (Wednesday): An Incident On A Train

Lowell, Massachusetts Historical Park (NPS Photo)

Report of Col. Edward F. Jones, Sixth Massachusetts Militia.


Capital, Washington, April 22, 1861

In accordance with Special Orders, No. 6, I preceded with my command towards the city of Washington, leaving Boston on the evening of the 17th April…..

On our way ____ _____, of Company H, Lowell, was taken insane and deeming it unsafe to have him accompany the regiment, I left him at Delanco, N.J. with J. C. Buck, with directions tht he should telegraph Mayor Sargent, of Lowell, as to the disposition of him, and we preceeded thence to Baltimore…

Jones' regiment would find more madness ahead in Baltimore.....

April 16, 1861 (Tuesday) An Icon Confronts A New Reality

Sam Houston, Texan.
Montgomery, April 16, 1861.

Col. Earl Van Dorn, Commanding in Texas:

COLONEL: The enclosed copy of a note in pencil, from the “News” office at Galveston, comes from a highly respectable and reliable source.  It indicates, among other things worthy attention, a change in policy on the part of the Government at Washington in respect to the forces of that Government in Texas.  It appears that fifteen hundred of these troops are to be concentrated at or near Indianola, and points to the complicity of General Houston in the business.  The whole subject is referred to your special consideration, in connection with your previous orders to capture the troops of the United States in Texas.
  By authority of the Secretary of War.
      I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,

The General Houston referred to was Texas legend Sam Houston, forced out as governor in February over his opposition to secession.  Colonel Van Dorn was killed in May of 1863 at Spring Hill Tennessee by a doctor who testified Van Dorn had "violated the sanctity of his home."

April 15, 1861 (Monday): North Carolina Refuses Levy of Troops

Governor Ellis of North Carolina.

RALEIGH, N.C. April 15, 1861.

Hon. Simon Cameron, Secretary of War:

Your dispatch is received, and if genuine, which its extraordinary character leads me to doubt, I have to say in reply that I regard the levy of troops made by the administration for the purpose of subjugating the States of the South as in violation of the Constitution and a gross usurpation of power.  I can be no party to this wicked violation of the laws of the country, and to this war upon the liberties of a free people.  You can get no troops from North Carolina.  I will reply more in detail when your call is received by mail.

Governor of North Carolina.

Editors Note:  Ellis would die on July 7, 1861, with his death attributed to overwork and the strain of the coming of war.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

April 14, 1861 (Sunday) Fort Pickens Reinforced

Pre-war diagram of Fort Pickens.

US Frigate Sabine
Off Pensacola, April 14, 1861

Hon. Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy, Washington:

SIR: I have the honor to inform you that immediately on the receipt of your order by Lieutenant Worden, on the 12th instant, I prepared to re enforce Fort Pickens.  It was successfully performed, on the same night, by landing the troops under Captain Vogdes, and the marines of the squadron under Lieutenant (John C.) Cash.  No opposition was made, nor do I believe the movement was known on shore until it was accomplished.

The Brooklyn, Captain (W.S.) Walker, and the Wyandotte, Lieutenant Commanding (J. R. M.) Mullany, were very skillfully managed.  They carried the landing party to the designated spot with accuracy in spite of the darkness of the night and not having the light house to guide them,, the light having been extinguished early in the evening.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Captain, Senior Officer Present

Although the Pensacola Navy Yard was surrendered on April 12 the Union forces still held Fort Pickens.  The reinforcement of the fort is described above.

April 13, 1861 (Saturday) Fort Sumter Surrenders


April 18 (1861)- 10.30 a.m.-via New York

Having defended Fort Sumter for thirty-four hours, until the quarters were entirely burned, the main gates destroyed by fire, the gorge walls seriously injured, the magazine surrounded by flames, and it door closed from the effects of heat, four barrels and three cartridges of powder only being available, and no provisions remaining but pork, I accepted terms of evacuation offered by General Beauregard, being the same offered by him on the 11th instant, prior to the commencement of hostilities, and marched out of the fort Sunday afternoon, the 14th instant, with colors flying and drums beating, bringing away company and private property, and saluting my flag with forty guns.

Major, First Artillery, Commanding

Written by the commander of Fort Sumter to Simon Cameron, Secretary of War describing the events of the 13th.

April 12, 1861 (Friday) Preparing to Attack Fort Sumter

Floating battery at Sullivans Island.

HEADQUARTERS, April 12, 1861

Dear General:  Plan of battle just determined on at Gregg's quarters.  Whiting, Huger, Gregg, Trapier, and Simons all agree that we greatly need infantry to defend the batteries from assault.  Four large steamers are plainly in view, and standing off the bar all day.  Unanimous opinion that a landing will be attempted, and fears that some of the batteries will be taken, unless supported.  Have made the best distribution of the troops we have, but need every man you can send.  Should you not be here personally to direct?  Such is the general opinion.  I send this by order of Simons, who is at Gregg's and left me here to write, and send without delay.

Very respectfully,


P.S.-We have no glass here, and have to rely entirely upon the eye to examine steamers.  Four plainly in sight, and another vessel out a short distance.  Fight expected tonight.

Written from Charleston, SC on the opening day of the war.  Wigfall had resigned from the US Senate on March 23 and writes here to General P.T. Beauregard regarding preparations for the shelling of Fort Sumter and defense of the batteries from the perceived threat of a Union landing party.  Wigfall went on to lead the Texas Brigade before resigning to serve in the Confederate Congress.  He regarded himself as a miltary genius, but was alone in that belief.