Tuesday, May 31, 2011

June 1, 1861 (Thursday): 700 Shots-One Dead Chicken

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            Reports of Col. Daniel Ruggles, commanding Department of Fredericksburg,
                                                Fredericksburg. Va. June 1, 1861

                        Fredicksburg, Va., June 2, 1861
   SIR: I have the honor to state, for the information of the commanding general, that four of the enemy’s armed steamers commenced firing on our batteries at Aquia Creek yesterday morning, at about 9 o’clock and continued until about 4 p.m.  On our side nobody was hurt and no material damage was done to our batteries.  The enemy gave no indications of an intention to land, but hauled off to the Maryland shore at the close of the action.  This demonstration, thus perservered in, I arrived on the field about midday, and returned to this place at night.  The batteries were commanded by Captain Lynch and other nalval officers.  The conduct of my entire force, under the command of Colonel Bate, of the Walker Legion, until my arrival on the field, was admirable throughout the day.  The enemy is represented to have thrown four hundred and ninety-seven shots and shells, and our battery, under Captain Lynch, seventy-five.
       Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
                                                            DANIEL RUGGLES,
                                    Colonel, Provisional Army, Commanding Forces.
Col. R. S. GARNETT, Adjustant-General Virginia Forces.
P.S.-The colors were cut away from one of the enemy’s ships by a shot from our battery.

Between May 29 and June 1 the Union gunboats Pawnee and Thomas Freeborn fired nearly 700 shots at Confederate batteries at the landing and the nearby ridge commanding the Potomac at Aquia Creek, about ten miles northeast of Fredericksburg.  They damaged a railroad track and several houses, but the only casualty on the Confederate side was a chicken.  Rebel batteries struck the Pawnee nine times and caused the Thomas Freeborn to take on water.  The attack was not without military significance, as the Confederate batteries commanded a river approach to Washington.  Removing the batteries along the Potomac would be an early priority for Union planners.

Monday, May 30, 2011

May 31, 1861 (Wednesday): A Fumbled Change of Command

General William S. Harney

                                                          SAINT LOUIS, Mo., May 31, 1861

Colonel L. Thomas,
            Adjt. Gen. U. S. Army, Washington, D. C.:
   SIR: I received last evening paragraph 1 of Special Orders, No. 135 of May 16, from your office and instantly relinquished command of the Department of the West.  This morning your letter of May 27 reached me, and as other communications have been addressed to me from your office as department commander since may 16, and as I have learned the purport of telegraphic dispatches recently received from Washington by Colonel Blair and Mr. Gantt, of this city, I am led to conclude that it was not the intention of the President I should be relieved.  I shall, therefore, at once resume the command of the department, and I beg that the President may be assured that I am permitted to conduct operations here as my judgment may dictate. I anticipate no serious disturbances in the State.  I am sure that many of the reports which have reached the President relative to the condition of affairs in Missouri have proceeded from irresponsible sources.  Upon investigation here of complaints seemingly aggravated it has appeared in several instances that they were groundless or greatly exaggerated.  Matters are progressing as satisfactorily in this State as I could expect considering the very great excitement that has latterly pervaded the community.
       I am sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant.
                                                                                    WM. S. HARNEY
                                                                        Brigadier-General, U. S. Army

                                                                        Saint Louis, Arsenal, May 31, 1861.
      Brig.  Gen. W. S. Harney having relinquished command of this department, pursuant to Special Orders, No. 135 of May 16, 1861, from the Adjutant-General’s Office, the undersigned hereby assumes the command thereof, which thus devolves upon him.
                                                                                    N. LYON,
                                                            Brigadier-General, U. S. Volunteers, Commanding

Harney was one of four full generals in the Army at the start of the war and commanded the Department of the West out of Saint Louis.  Sixty-one, he had fought in Mexico and against Native Americans on the frontier.  Lyon was his subordinate, in charge of the arsenal.  Lyon had, at the behest of Representative Francis P Blair, on May 10 broken up the state militia encampment at Camp Jackson with numerous civilian casualties in the ensuing march of the militia to the arsenal.  Blair was closely connected to the Lincoln administration and had carried a letter dismissing Harney (thought too sympathetic to the South and too trusting of good intentions of state authorities) to use at his discretion.  In the confusion which followed, Harney was dismissed (outside of military form and custom), eventually giving way to Lyon by Mid-June.  Blair (styled a Colonel) assisted in Lyon in raising pro Union troops (home guards) from among the German immigrants of Saint Louis.  Harney had attempted to keep the piece by working with Governor Jackson and state militia leader Sterling Price, and the raising of immigrant troops excited much animosity in the state.  It can be argued Blair and Lyon saved Missouri from the Union, as they no doubt thwarted Governor Jackson’s secessionist designs.  But they also probably caused pro-South sentiment where little existed through their policies.  Harney remained in the Army until 1863.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

May 30, 1861 (Tuesday): The Outrage of Mrs. Lee

Mrs. Lee's letter to General Sandford (University of Washington Collection-click for larger view).

                                                HDQRS. DEPARTMENT NORTHEASTERN VIRGINIA,
                                                                                                Arlington, May 30, 1861.
Mrs. R. E. LEE:
   MADAM: Having been ordered by the Government to relieve Major-General Sandford in command of this department, I had the honor to receive this morning your letter of to-day, addressed to him at this place.
   With respect to the occupation of Arlington by the United States troops, I beg to say it has been done by my predecessor with every regard to the preservation of the place.  I am here temporarily in camp on the grounds, preferring this to sleeping in the house, under the circumstances which the painful state of the country places me with respect to the proprietors.
     I assure you it has been and will be my earnest endeavor to have all things so ordered that on your return you will find things as little disturbed as possible.
… I trust, madam, you will not consider it an intrusion if I say I have the most sincere sympathy for your distress, and that, as far as is compatible with my duty, I shall always be ready to do whatever my alleviate it.
     I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,
                                                                        IRVIN McDOWELL

Lee’s wife, Mary Anna Randolph Custis Lee, left Arlington House on May 15th, intending to return once she had removed and secured family relics such as silverware and several of Washington’s letters (she being the surviving child of Washington’s adopted son).  On her return she discovered Union troops occupying her home and that she would require permission to return.  “It never occurred to me, General Sandford (her letter began), that I would be forced to ask for permission to enter my own house and such an outrage as its military occupation to the expulsion of me and my children could ever have been perpetrated by anyone in the whole extent of this country.”  Ironically, the treasures she removed only traveled to Ravenscroft plantation in Fairfax County, soon enough to also be occupied by Union forces.  Mrs. Lee returned to the house only once after the war, for a last remembrance in 1873, the year she died.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

May 29, 1861 (Monday): McDowell Arrives and Sizes Up His Command

Fort Lyon, Alexandria, Virginia

Huntington Street Metro Station-Fort Lyon was in the area on Mount Eagle.

                                    HDQRS. DEPARTMENT NORTHEASTERN VIRGINIA,
                                                                                                            May 29, 1861

Lieut. Col. E. D. Townsend,
            Asst. Adjt. Gen., Hdqrs. of the Army, Washington, D.C.:
   COLONEL: I arrived here too late in the afternoon of the 27th to assume on that day formally, in orders, the command of the department, but I reported to Major-General Sandford at this place, and received from him such information as to the state of affairs as he was able then to give me.  I encamped the night of the 27th with the New Jersey brigade, and early on the morning of the 28th went to Alexandria, and was occupied from 5 a.m. till 9 o’clock at night in examining the position occupied by the troops and looks into the condition of the works.
          Defense works under construction.-The works at Alexandria had not been commenced nor even laid out as late as 10 o’clock a.m. yesterday, nor had the plans been definitely determined upon.  A want of tools in the first place, and in the second place of means of transportation for the men from the wharf in Alexandria to the hill to be fortified, and changes made necessary by a better knowledge of the ground, were the principle reasons given for the delay.  Both the Michigan regiment  and the New York Zouaves were bivouacked and encamped on the site, having but a few men in town.  I trust, therefore, that the navy Department may be requested to (retain) the Pawnee at her present station.  The works at the bridge-head of the Long Bridge were progressing finely, and the report to me was that the men were working diligently.  The main work covering the Aqueduct and the ferry opposite Georgetown was in a fair state….
            Subsistence and means of transportation.-Subsistence is furnished to the troops away from the vicinity of Alexandria by returns on the main depot in Washington.  This, and the utter absence of any wagons on this side, the want of means of communication on the part of some of the regiments, and the inexperience of most of the commanders, have caused the supplies to be irregularly and insufficiently furnished.  One regiment has hired on its own account, out of private means, some wagons to procure supplies.
……I beg to request that some of the recent graduates heretofore assigned to the duty of instructing the volunteer regiments by may be sent here for the same purpose and other duty…..The troops are occupying houses in some cases, and fields, and cutting wood for fuel.  Shall not rent and compensation be paid?  If so, funds are needed for that purpose, as well as the hiring of means of transportation where the same has not been furnished.
       I have the honor to be, colonel, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,

                                                                                    IRVIN McDowell,
                                                                        Brigadier-General, Commanding

McDowell has just been given command of all Union forces in Virginia east of the Alleghany Mountains and north of the James River except for an area sixty miles around Fort Monroe (Butler’s command).  It seems incredible, reading this summary of his first day in command, that he was able to take an army to battle six weeks hence at Bull Run.  You also get a sense of McDowell’s competence as a soldier, which is overlooked if all you know of him is the outcome on that single battle.  The fort on a hill spoken of is Fort Lyon, which commanded in its day a fine view of Washington.  It is near the site of the Huntington Street Metro Station in Alexandria on what is known as Mount Eagle.

Friday, May 27, 2011

May 28, 1861 (Monday): Davis to Richmond, Lee to Manassas

North Carolina map from 1860's, Goldsboro is on the line from Wilmington north to Richmond, in blue just below the "O" and "L" in North Carolina.

                                                                                    Richmond, Va., May 28, 1861
Hon. Jefferson Davis,
       President Confederate States of America, Goldsborough, N.C.:
    General Lee left the Manassas Junction this morning.  Passengers just from there report all quiet.  Fifteen hundred men from Fort Monroe were reported in Hampton yesterday, not molesting the people, but stealing property, &c.  Ruggles, at Fredericksburg, reports that the enemy, in force have landed six mile above Aquia.  This is doubted, but he will telegraph again.  General Lee is expected tomorrow night.  I send your dispatch to the governor.
                                                                                    R. S. Garnett,

Jefferson Davis was in Goldsborough (which was on the main stage route from Wilmington to Richmond) on his way to Richmond from Montgomery.  Congress had adjourned on the 21st, resolving to meet in Richmond in two months.  Military considerations no doubt played a role in moving the capital, but so also did the heat in Montgomery.  Davis would arrive in Richmond the next day, met by crowds at the railroad station and along his route to the Spotswood Hotel.  Lee was on a hastily arranged trip to Manassas, which was fast becoming a focal point for the Confederates, being vital to the security of Harper’s Ferry and points west. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

May 27, 1861 (Sunday): A Geography Lesson

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Richmond, Va., May 27, 1861.
Capt. E. Ruffin Jr., Virginia Volunteers:
SIR: You will proceed with the company under your command to Burwell’s bay, to watch the movements of the enemy, in order to give notice of his approach, should he land in that vicinity and attempt to penetrate towards the railroad. In that case you will immediately dispatch messengers to Suffolk and to Zuni, where the Norfolk and Petersburg Railroad crosses the Blackwater. You will then keep in front of the enemy, to observe his motions and retard his advance. Should it be necessary to communicate with you, such communications will be sent through the Smithfield post-office.
Very respectfully,
General, Commanding

The Civil War is not just history, but geography and you must always consider it in the context of existing roads and modes of transportation. Butler has landed troops in Newport News, Lee counters by sending Ruffin’s volunteer force to the opposite bank of the James to watch his movements. Zuni, (just below ‘Ivor’ on the map) is today a small town across a relatively narrow river (the Blackwater). But in 1861, a force could retreat to Zuni, fire the bridge, and cut a main artery to Petersburg and Richmond. Here we see Lee, a year before the Seven Days campaign, having to always keep an eye on any Union force coming near to the James, the river highway from Fort Monroe to Richmond.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

May 26, 1861 (Saturday): Habeas Corpus Denied

John Merryman (NPS)

                                    HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF ANNAPOLIS
                                                                                    Fort McHenry, May 26, 1861.
Hon. Roger B. Taney,
            Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States,
                                                                                    Baltimore, Md.
   SIR: The undersigned to whom the annexed writ of this date signed by Thomas Spicer, clerk of the Supreme court of the United States, is directed most respectfully states that the arrest of Mr. John Merryman in the said writ named was not made with his knowledge or by his order or direction but was made by Col. Samuel Yohe, acting under orders of Maj. Gen. William H. Keim, both of said officers being in the military service of the United States but not within the limits of his command.  The prisoner was brought to this post on the 25th instant by Adjt. James Miltimore and Lieut. William B. Abel by order of Colonel Yohe, and is charged with various acts of treason and with being publicly associated with and holding a commission as lieutenant in a company having in their possession arms belonging to the United States and avowing his purpose of armed hostility against the Government.  He is also informed that it can be clearly established that the prisoner has made open and unreserved declarations of his association with this organized force; as being in avowed hostility to the Government and in readiness to co-operate with those engaged in the present rebellion against the Government of the United States.
    He has further to inform you that he is duly authorized by the President of the United States in such cases to suspend the writ of habeas corpus for the public safety.  This is a high and delicate trust and it has been enjoined upon him that it should be executed with judgment and discretion but he is nevertheless also instructed that in times of civil strife errors if any should be on the side of safety to the country.  He most respectfully submits for your consideration that those who should co-operate in the present trying and painful position in which our country is placed should not by reason of any unnecessary want of confidence in each other increase our embarrassments.  He therefore respectfully requests that you will postpone further action upon this case until he can receive instructions from the President of the United States when you shall hear further from him.
    I have the honor to be, with high respect, your obedient servant,
                                                                        GEO. CADWALADER,
                                                Brevet Major-General, U. S. Army, Commanding

Sometimes lost in discussions of Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus is that the suspension did not first occur in the fullness of the war, but in May of 1861 covering  the line of Philadelphia to Baltimore.  The administration had entreated with the governor of Maryland and reached understandings limiting the movement of troops through the state on the way to the front.  These understandings were violated, and the governor ordered bridges leading to Baltimore to be burned to prevent continued passage of Union troops through the city.  Merryman, a state militia officer, participated in the firing of bridges and was arrested at home at 2 a.m. on May 25th and was brought to Fort McHenry.  Merryman’s attorneys sought a writ of habeas corpus, which was granted by Taney.  After consultation with the President, Cadwalader (a lawyer before the war) chose to ignore the writ, even though he was found in contempt of the Court.  Merryman was held without trial, never charged, and denied an attorney.  Within the next month, 350 persons had been arrested under similar circumstances and not charged.  Taney considered Lincoln’s actions to be a breach of his obligations as President.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

May 25, 1861 (Friday): The Defense of Tennessee

Governor Isham G. Harris of Tennessee

                                                                        EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT
                                                                        Nashville, May 25, 1861.
Hon. L. P. WALKER,
            War Department, Montgomery:
   SIR: Your dispatch of the 20th instant was placed in my hands by General Zollicoffer on the 22nd.  I sent Lieutenant McCall of the Confederate Army, to West Tennessee on yesterday for the purpose of mustering into the service of the Confederate States such of our West Tennessee regiments as may be willing to enter that service, and think it probable that the four regiments to be armed with muskets will be mustered into service within a day or two.  If, however, the whole number shall not be made up in that division of the State, I will make up the deficiency in regiments already formed in Middle Tennessee.  I do not think it advisable to station a regiment of Confederate troops in East Tennessee at this time.  We have about fifteen companies of the troops of the Provisional Army of Tennessee stationed at Knoxville, and sound policy requires that they should be continued there for the present instead of troops sent from or mustered into the service of the Confederate States.
….I am informed that there are a number of regiments, armed, equipped, and ready for the field in the States of Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana.  If this be true, it seems to me that every consideration of prudence and security requires that these troops should be stationed immediately upon the northern boundary of West Tennessee.  They will be more healthy, more comfortable, and more cheaply subsisted there than further South, and if there is to be a battle to prevent the invasion of the Lower Mississippi it must be fought in the northern part of West Tennessee.  I am concentrating such force there as I am able to arm, but such force as I may be able to concentrate there will, I fear, be unequal to the task of driving back so large a column of invaders as will be thrown on us in that quarter.
….Very respectfully,
                                                                        ISHAM G. HARRIS

Governor Harris of Tennessee grasped the strategic importance of the western part of the state early in the war.  Here he expounds on his ideas in a letter to Confederate Secretary of War L. P. Walker.  Confederate strategy was constrained by the demands of individual states that their troops be employed first and foremost in defense of their own territory, even when (as Harris points out) the defense of forward positions was often the best security for states behind the lines. Harris had suceeded Andrew Johnson (the future president) as governor and was again succeeded by Johnson when he became a Union military governor of the state.

Monday, May 23, 2011

May 24, 1861 (Friday): The Death of Ellsworth

Colonel Elmer E. Ellsworth-National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

                        Report of Lieut. Col. N. L. Farnham, First Zouaves, New York Militia

                                                            ALEXANDRIA, Va., May 24, 1861 5.18 p.m.
   SIR: It is my painful duty to inform you that Colonel Ellsworth, late commanding officer of the First Zouave Regiment, New York Militia, is no more.  He was assassinated at the Marshall House after our troops had taken possession of the city.
   I am ignorant of the details of the orders issued to the regiment, and await further instructions.  My men are posted advantageously in the streets.
   I remain, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
                                                            NOAH L. FARNHAM,
                                    Lieutenant-Colonel, Commanding First Zouaves.
     Commanding Department, Washington

The day after Virginia seceded, Union forces moved over the Long Bridge over the Potomac into Alexandria.  Greatly outnumbered, the Confederate force retreated.  Among the 3,000 Union troops was 24 year old Elmer Ellsworth, who had worked in Abraham Lincoln’s law office in Illinois.  Ellsworth and four men went to the Marshall House Inn to remove an 8 X 14 foot Confederate flag which was visible from the White House.  The innkeeper, Jackson, shot Ellsworth as he came down the stairs from removing the flag.  Jackson was immediately shot and killed by one of Ellsworth’s men.  President Lincoln was much moved by this first death of a Union officer and the young man’s body was brought to the White House to lie in state.  The shooting of Ellsworth became a rallying point throughout the North.  Until now the war seemed abstract, but Ellsworth’s death not only personalized the conflict, but brought with it animosity toward the South.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

May 23, 1861 (Thursday): Putting Out Fires

Chesapeake Female College Hampton (Virginia Historical Society)

                                                Report of Maj. J. B. Cary, Virginia Artillery

                                                                        Hampton, VA., May 23, 1861.
   SIR: I have the honor to inform you that quite a full regiment of the enemy, estimated, by count of companies, to contain eight hundred men, under command of Colonel Phelps, made a demonstration against this place this afternoon, between 4 and 5 o’clock, which seemed at first to wear a very ugly aspect, but which, happily, resulted in no damage, save the alarm of our women and children and the excitement of our citizens.
    I had nearly perfected my arrangements for the defense indicated in your instructions, by making preparations for the destruction of all the bridges leading across the main tributary of Back River as well as the Hampton Bridge.  Unfortunately, the absence during the day of the party chosen for the firing of the latter, and the consequent failure to have the combustibles on the spot, delayed operations so far that the enemy were in sight before the fire could be started, though it would have made sufficient progresss, I think, to have arrested their entrance into the town.  At this stage, meeting with Lieutenant Cutshaw, at his suggestion I sent him forward as my aid to demand of the colonel the intent of his approach with so large a body of men, and being assured that he came with no hostile purpose, but simply, as he said, by order of General Butler, to reconnoiter, and having received the subsequent assurance from him in person that he would make no attack upon our people nor injure their property in anyway unless he himself was molested, and coinciding in your view that defense at this point was useless and hopeless, I aided him in extinguishing the fire, and gave the assurance that he should not be fired upon by the volunteer force under my command (which, by the way, had by that time nearly retreated to the line of defense I intended to occupy and where I designed making my first resistence).  I also urged our citizens to abstain from any attack, which counsel, I am pleased to say, prevailed with them.  The entire body then marched into the town as far as the intersection of our main streets, halted for a short while, and then returned.
…..I have the honor to remain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
                                                                        J. B. CARY,
                                                Major Artillery, Virginia Volunteers.
Lieut. Col. Benj. S. Ewell,
     Active Virginia Volunteers, Williamsburg, Va.

The early days of war often exhibit a semi-comic aimlessness.  On May 23 Virginia voted to seceed from the Union.  Likely unaware of the fact, Union forces moved on Hampton without much reason, Major Cary's 130 man force moved to meet them with no real desire for a fight.  We are, at this point, only two months shy of Bull Run, and fast approaching a time when the idea of Union and rebel forces working together to put out a fire would seem unimaginable.  Cary was a native of Hampton and established a military institute in town.  In the photo above is the dome of the Chesapeake Female  College, from which the Confederates watched the Union advance and could observe activity at nearby Fort Monroe.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

May 22, 1861 (Wednesday): "Without Appearing to Threaten Washington City"

Brigadier General Milledge L. Bonham

                                                            HEADQUARTERS VIRGINIA FORCES
                                                            Richmond, Va., May 22, 1861.
Brig. Gen. M.L. Bonham, C.S.A.:
     GENERAL:  In the execution of the orders with which you have been furnished, relative to the command of the Alexandria line of operations, I need not call the attention of one as experienced as yourself to the necessity of preventing the troops from all interference with the rights and property of the citizens of the State, and of enforcing rigid discipline and obedience to orders.  But it is proper for me to state to you that the policy of the State at present is strictly defensive.  No attack or provocation for attack will therefore be given, but every attack resisted to the extent of your means.  Great reliance is placed on your discretion and judgment in the application of your force, and I must urge upon you the importance of organizing and instructing the troops as rapidly as possible and preparing them for active service.  For this purpose it will be necessary to post them where their service may be needed and where they can be concentrated at the points threatened.  The Manassas Junction is a very important point on your line, as it commands the communication with Harper’s Ferry, and must be firmly held.  Intrenchments at that point would add to the security , and, in connection with its defense, you must watch the approaches from either flank, particularly towards Occoquan.  Alexandria in its front will, of course, claim your attention as the first point of attack, and, as soon as your force is sufficient, in your opinion, to resist successfully its occupation, you will so dispose it as to effect this object, if possible, without appearing to threaten Washington City.
….Very respectfully, &c.,
                                                            R. E. LEE
                                                            Major-General, Commanding

This was written before next day’s vote on secession. Virginia is walking a fine line, not standing against the Union so much as attempting to prevent the use of its soil by Union troops moving against the Confederate states to its rear.  Lee gives early evidence of the strategic importance of Manassas and its line of communication to Harper’s Ferry.  South Carolinian Bonham was a Mexican War veteran who had commanded troops at Morris Island in the attack on Fort Sumter and was assigned to lead a group of mostly South Carolina troops in the Department of Alexandria.

May 21, 1861 (Tuesday): "These Rough Looking Men"

Confederate Troops Captured at Gettysburg

                                                Harper’s Ferry, Va., May 21, 1861
Col. R. S. Garnett, Adjutant-General,  Richmond, Va.:
…..The troops here are all raw and inexperienced-wanting even in the first elements of the school of the soldier-and there is a great scarcity of proper instructors.  Many of the captains are singularly ignorant of their duties.  Guard duty is very loosely done; and, indeed, there is apparent on every side the mere elements of men and arms, without the clothing and in camp and garrison equipage; and I fear that the exposure to which the troops have recently been subjected in the cold, rainy, weather will swell the list of sick, already large.  To make up, however, for this loose state of things, so striking to the professional eye, it must not be forgotten that a fierce spirit animates those rough-looking men; and, if called upon, even now, to meet their enemy, I have no fear of the result of battle.  There is a determination abroad among men who have collected from far and near to give a summary chastisement to any force which may have the hardihood to invade the soil of Virginia.  This spirit is invincible.
……I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
                                                                        GEO. DEAS,
                                    Lieutenant-Colonel and Inspector-General, C. S. Army.

These are Jackson’s men at Harper’s Ferry in May of 1861, an army in infancy as viewed by George Deas, a regular army officer of 23 years experience.  He was married to Elizabeth Garland, which made him borther-in-law of James Longstreet.  He served on the staffs of various Confederate Officers throughout the war and was, for a brief time, acting assistant Secretary of War.  This information comes from the excellent “Staff Officers In Gray” by Robert E.L. Krick. http://www.amazon.com/Staff-Officers-Gray-Biographical-Register/dp/0807827886

Friday, May 20, 2011

May 20, 1861 (Monday): McClellan Arrives

George Brinton McClellan

                                                                        CINCINNATI, May 20, 1861
Hon. Simon Cameron:
     Important to occupy Cumberland at once.  Advices indicate movement through it on Western Virginia to influence election.  Occupation of Cumberland will stop the movement.  I hope Ohio contingent will not be limited to nine-regiments-be brought up to twenty.  I have yet received neither instructions nor authority.  My hands tied until I have one or the other.  Every day of importance.
                                                                        GEO. B. McCLELLAN,

Say what you will of George McClellan, and many have said much, his character was of a consistent nature throughout the war.  Overestimating the danger at hand, impatient for authority, convinced that each challenge is grave.  This was George B. McClellan.

May 19, 1861 (Sunday): The Roar of Guns Off Sewell's Point

The Monticello

May 20, 1861.
…..Early on the morning of the 19th, I hurried on the guns and equipment, and repaired to Sewell’s Point, to expedite the works for their reception, and by 5 p.m. succeeded in getting three 32-pounders and two small rifled guns into position, while detachments of infantry and artillery, ordered from neighboring posts, occupied the battery and contiguous points. During all this time the Monticello, apparently not suspecting the operations going forward, was engaged in preparing for another effort, by calculating the range and distance and adjusting her guns to suit. With instructions to Captain Colquitt, of Georgia, who I gave all the forces and guns at the post, to continue the preparations, reserving his fire until the enemy renewed the cannon-ade. I returned to Norfolk. At 5.30 o’clock the Monticello again opened fire from all her guns and with much greater precision than on the preceding day. It was instantly returned, and with such effect that she was driven off and returned to Old Point. The engagement continued for an hour and a half without intermission on either side, and, though the enemy’s fire was well directed, one shell bursting within an embrasure and several others directly over the battery, while solid shot repeatedly passed through the embrasures and struck the crest and sides of the merlons, hurling masses of earth from the outside among the gunners, I am happy to inform you that no casuality of moment occurred to the troops, nor was material injury done to the battery.
…..I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant.
Major-General Lee,
Commanding Forces of Virginia, Richmond, Va.

A vivid account of what appears to have been a spirited exchange. The Monticello appears to have gotten the best of the exchange, although the Confederate fire was hot enough to drive her away. Colquitt, a Methodist Minister, was to go be under fire even more intense at places such as Antietam and Spotsylvania. After the war he served as Governor of Georgia and was also an early champion of the temperance movement.

May 18, 1861 (Saturday): Cannon Fire on Carrier Row

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Reports of Brig. Gen. Walter Gwynn, commanding at Norfolk

Norfolk, Va., May 20, 1861
The enemy fired on the unfinished battery at Sewells Point on the 18th, but did no damage. There were at that time no guns mounted or nearer than Norfolk…..
R. S. Garnett,
Adjutant-General, Virginia Forces

Both sides having gotten their dander up, the fight resumed the next day. Gwynn was 59 at the war’s outbreak, a West Point graduate who helped plan the attack on Fort Sumter and was a knowledgeable ordinance officer. He served in that capacity during the war before resigning his commission in 1863 to become the comptroller of the State of Florida. Little is written about Gwynn, but his post at Norfolk was an important one. Sewell’s Point has become even more important militarily 150 years later, as the home to many of the Navy’s carriers at the Norfolk Naval Station.

May 17, 1861 (Friday): Jackson The Diplomat

Stonewall Jackson (vmi.edu)

                                                                                    May 17, 1861
Col. R. S. GARNETT, Adjutant-General:
            COLONEL: Pursuant to instructions from Colonel Jackson, based upon a letter to me from Colonel French, aide-de-camp to his excellency Governor Letcher, I have this day assumed command of the Maryland volunteers in this State.  Numbers of the men, and especially a large number of the most valuable of the officers, have gone to Richmond and other points in Virginia.  As it is very desirable that all the Maryland men should be together, I respectfully request an order to be issued for them to report here, or at such other point as the General-in-Chief may designate.  I can control about three thousand two hundred of active and well-drilled men from Baltimore and vicinity.
….Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
                                                                                    F. J. THOMAS
                                                                                        Colonel, Commanding
   There are some of the Maryland volunteers who object to serving under Colonel Thomas, and, in order to secure their services, I would suggest that they be mustered into the service of the Southern Confederacy, and that none except those who muster into the service of Virginia be placed under command of Colonel Thomas.
                                                                                    T. J. JACKSON
                        Colonel, Virginia Volunteers, Commanding at Harper’s Ferry

Colonel Thomas went on to serve as an aide to General Joseph Johnston and was killed at 1st Bull Run. http://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=8238  It may seem surprising Jackson would take note of the interests of soldiers not to serve under a particular commander, but these are Maryland troops and early in the war it would have been important to consider the interests of men from this pivotal border state.  Better to accommodate them than to lose their services outright.

May 16, 1861 (Thursday): Enter Jubal Early

Photo of the boyhood home of Jubal Early in Franklin Co., Va.

                                                                                    LYNCHBURG, Va., May 16, 1861
Col. R. S. Garnett, Adjutant-General, Virginia Forces:
     COLONEL: I arrived here this morning, and have assumed command of the Virginia volunteers mustered into the service of the State at this place.  It was not possible for me to get here sooner, as I was compelled to make some preparation to enable me to go into the service.  I find that Lieutenant-Colonel Langhorne has mustered into the service two companies of cavalry, one from Lynchburg and the other from Before; also, seven companies of infantry, two from Lynchburg, two from Bedford, two from Botetourt, and one from Floyd.  Two companies reached here this evening from Roanoke, and will be mustered into the service to-morrow.
…I find matters here in quite a confused state, owing to the inexperience of the officers of all the departments.  Lieutenant-Colonel Langhorne has made no apportionment of troops among the counties to rendezvous here, and in fact, has made no call, specifying the number to be received at this place.  He has merely given notice, in the papers, that he would muster into service volunteer companies from the counties designated.  This has produced a good deal of uncertainty and confusion.  I do not wish this to be considered as a complaint against Colonel Langhorne.  It results from his entire want of experience in such matters.  I am satisfied he has been endeavoring to discharge his duty faithfully, but I would very respectfully suggest that it is rather out of the usual course to entrust to a mustering officer, of inferior rank, so large a discretion in regard to calling out volunteers.
….You will pardon the length of this letter, but I thought it better to embrace all the matters about which I want instructions, and about which it is necessary to communicate with you, in one letter than several.
      Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
                                                                                    J. A. EARLY
                                    Colonel, Volunteers, Commanding at Lynchburg, Va.

So enters Jubal Early onto the war’s stage.  Early, of Lynchburg, was a lawyer and state legislator who had voted against secession then followed his state to war.  Competent, but opinionated, Early was never hesitant to judge his fellow officers as we see here in his thinly veiled attack on the unfortunate Colonel Langhorne.  In any case, Langhorne would make a quick exit from the annuals of the war.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

May 15, 1861 (Wednesday):"Guarding the Wires"

The Railroad Bridge over the Monacacy

BALTIMORE, May 15, 1861-1.25 a.m.

I have just received the following telegram:

FREDERICK, May 14-11.10 p.m.
Danger is apprehended at the Monacacy Bridge to-night. An engine and cars were seized at Harper’s Ferry at 2 o’clock to-day. All connections west are cut off since 8 o’clock to-night. We are guarding the wires as far as our forces enable us. Please send an immediate relief. Answer quick as possible by telegraph.

What instructions have I upon this point, which is not within my department? Please answer immediately. Ross Winans is now in Annapolis under arrest.

Brigadier-General, Commanding.
Lieutenant-General Scott

Shriver was a lawyer from Frederick, a past member of the Maryland House of Delegates, and after the war postmaster of Baltimore. He was a charter member and past president of Independent Hose Company Number 1 in Frederick. As to the title used here, Brigadier-General, it is far less certain. In all likely, Shriver was officer of a small local force at best. When Butler asks Scott for instructions he mentions Ross Winans, the Maryland railroad officer we featured in an earlier entry for his involvement in attempting to transport a steam cannon to Harper’s Ferry to sell to the Confederates.

May 14, 1861 (Tuesday): Arriving in Grafton

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                                                            GRATON, VA., May 14, 1861

            Adjustant-General Virginia Forces, Richmond:
COLONEL:  I have the honor to report that in compliance with orders of the 4th instant, which failed to reach me in time for earlier action, I arrived in Grafton at an early hour this morning. The officers directed to report to me are not present,; nor is ther any volunteer or other force here.  I will at once proceed to ascertain the whereabouts of Major Goff’s command, which I hope to find soon, and will then endeavor to unite with one or more companies, with which I will return and take position in or near this place.  On account of the sparseness of the population here, it will be difficult to get the various companies to act in concert.
……There is great disaffection in this and the adjoining counties, and opposition to the lawful action of the State authorities is certainly contemplated.
         Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
                                                            GEO. A. PORTERFIELD,
                                                            Colonel, Virginia Vounteers
P.S.-Please direct my letters to Fetterman, one mile distant from Grafton, and the only post-office in this county to which letters can be met with safety.

Just as the Union had to contend with Maryland divided between Unionists and Confederates, the Confederates had to contend with a divided Virginia.  Here Porterfield, an officer who served in the Western part of the state with no distinction, reports his arrival at Grafton, a key advanced position in the west of the state.

May 13, 1861 (Monday): Butler Garrisons Baltimore

                                                            Washington, D.C., May 14, 1861.
Brig. Gen. Benjamin F. Butler,
            Commanding, Department of Annapolis, Md:
SIR: Your hazardous occupation of Baltimore was made without my knowledge, and of course without my approbation.  It is a God-send that it was without conflict of arms.  It is also reported that you have sent a detachment to Frederick, but this is impossible.  Not a word have I received from you as to either movement.  Let me hear from you.
            Very respectfully, yours,
                                                            WINFIELD SCOTT

On May 13 General Butler, later to become “The Beast” to Southerners because of his treatment of the citizens of occupied New Orleans.  In garrisoning Baltimore, Butler violated the agreement between President Lincoln and the governor of Maryland and mayor to refrain from even sending troops through the town if possible in order to maintain the peace.  There was an early split in administration policy underlying Butler’s actions.  Secretary of War Cameron wanted Maryland dealt with sternly, Scott wished to avoid conflict, and Lincoln wanted to delay confrontation until more troops were at hand.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

May 12, 1861 (Sunday): Lee Checks Jackson's Math

The Potomac crossing at Shepherdstown (photo by Steff, city-data.com)

                        Richmond, Va., May 12, 1861.
Col. T.J. Jackson,
       Commanding, &c, Harper’s Ferry, Va:
  COLONEL: I have just received your letter of the 11th instant, by Colonel Bennett.  I am concerned at the feeling evinced in Maryland, and fear it may extend to other points, besides opposite Shepherdstown.  It will be necessary, in order to allay it, that you confine yourself to a strictly defensive course.  I presume the points occupied by you at Point of Rocks, Berlin, and Shepherdstown are on our side.  I am glad to hear that volunteers are assembling.  Over two thousand arms have already been sent to you, and one thousand more have been ordered this evening.  If you only expect to receive sufficient volunteers to swell your force to four thousand five hundred men, I do not see how you can require five thousand arms, as you must now have nearly three thousand armed, besides the three thousand arms, above mentioned, ordered to you.  We have no rifles or cavalry equipments.  The latter may use double-barreled shot guns and buck-shot, if no better arms can be procured.  I will see to the quartermaster.  I fear no field battery can be sent you besides that now preparing.  The Fourth Regiment Alabama troops, from Lynchburg, have gone to you, and I have ordered two others from the same point.  Ammunition has also been ordered to you.  You know our limited resources, and must abstain from all provocation for attack as long as possible.
     I am, &c.,
                                                                        R. E. LEE,
                                                                        Major-General, Commanding

Jackson had written Lee the previous day on the need for more arms, and particularly artillery, as Union sympathizers were massed on the opposite side of the river at Shepherdstown with artillery.  Lee no doubt also felt constrained to hold Jackson’s natural aggressiveness in check.  Early on Jackson was focused not just on Harper’s Ferry but all of Western Virginia, especially Grafton.  The quartermaster referenced was John Harmon, who went on to fame as the profane wagon driver who kept Jackson’s men supplied and his heavy equipment moving.  Harmon was reluctant, according to Jackson, to accept a position but might if a commission was provided, which Lee ascents to here (a captaincy).  Finally, many historians claim the Confederates were greatly surprised by Unionist sentiment in Maryland during the Antietam Campaign.  Feeling in Western Maryland was clearly known to Lee and Jackson by May of 1861, as this letter attests.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

May 11, 1861 (Saturday): An Early Super Weapon

Viaduct over the Patapsco at Elkridge, Maryland

                                                                        RELAY HOUSE, May 11, 1861
The Secretary of War:
   From the dispatch I received from Captain Hamilton I fear that in the haste to inform you of the capture of the steam gun I may have laid myself open to the censure of having claimed more credit than belonged, therefore beg leave to briefly state the facts, viz:
   Yesterday I received information of the gun having left Baltimore.  I immediately informed Colonel Lyons, who was left in command of the brigade by General Butler, of the rumor.  He deemed it unreliable, and not worthy of notice.  I did not have full confidence in the report, but still thought it of sufficient importance to be looked after.  It was finally decided to send one company from Colonel Lyons’ regiment, one from my command, and two pieces from the light artillery.  I arranged for a train (by seizure), and had embarked the light artillery with their horses and the company from my command, and started the train.  When the company from Colon Lyons appeared I stopped the train, and they went aboard.  R. R. Hare, esq., a gentleman connected with General Butler’s staff, volunteered and went forward on horseback, and overtook the gun, which was in the charge of two men, and captured it alone, and with the assistance of the neighbors held it until the arrival of the train.  It has been brought into camp, and I shall set some machinist at work to-day to get some knowledge of it. 
                Your obedient servant,
                                                                                                EDWARD F. JONES,
                                                                                    Colonel, Sixth Massachusetts

The steam cannon described here was designed to hurl projectiles at long ranges, and also could function as a primitive machine gun.  There are no accounts of its use in combat.  The seizure described came about when four rebel sympathizers attempted to haul the weapon to Harper’s Ferry to turn over to Confederate authorities.  It spent the war guarding the approaches to the viaduct over the Patapasco at Elkridge, Maryland.

Replica of the Winans Steam Cannon at Elkridge, Md.  (Mike Radinsky and Elizabeth Janney-Elkridge Patch)