Sunday, October 23, 2011

October 24, 1861 (Thursday): Target New Bern?

Remnants of Fort Thompson, New Bern NC
GOLDSBOROUGH, October 24, 1861.

J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War:
Your telegram of yesterday just received (9.30 a. m.). I have but thirty-five companies in the vicinity of New Berne and Fort Macon, including those in the batteries, and no reserve. The other forces are so scattered as to make it difficult to bring them together; hence I beg that re-enforcement be sent at once. Will keep you informed of the movements of the enemy. 


RICHMOND, October 24, 1861. 

General R. C. GATLIN, Goldborough, N. C.:
I send you in the morning train to-morrow a regiment and a battalion of seven companies of Georgians with one battery, to rendezvous at Goldsborough, and will send you further re-enforcement as soon as we know you are the object of attack. At present it is conjectural. A part of enemy's expedition sailed last night for the South, but to what point is unknown. General Cooper sends written orders. Don't move the Georgians from Goldsborough till you are sure that your coast is the point of attack. 

J. P. BENJAMIN, Acting Secretary of War. 

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 4, Part 1, Page 689

The confusion caused by the expedition of Sherman and DuPont is little noted, nor the apprehension caused by the appearance of a large Federal fleet in Hampton Roads.  Beauregard, as we recently saw, felt Richmond was threatened and linked the fleet's arrival to a possible movement by Banks to the Valley.  Richmond felt New Bern was the more likely target.  In reality, the fleet was sailing for Port Royal Sound in South Carolina.  This letter gives a good idea of the difficulties faced by Confederate planners.  True it was the Union had a massive amount of land to occupy to win the war, but it was equally the fact that Richmond's forces were stretched thin and would have difficulty dealing with the element of mobility the Union Navy provided the North.  Like their modern counterparts, the Navy of 1861 was (although small) capable of projecting force with mobility and tying down their opposite number's armies along the coasts.  Gatlin was 52, former Regular Army, and in charge of North Carolina's coastal militia.  Traveling through Arkansas while still in the Army, he had been taken prisoner by Confederate troops and only afterwards resigned from the U.S. Army, making him one of the few men to have been taken prisoner by an Army they subsequently fought for.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

October 23, 1861 (Wednesday): The Sherman Expedition Moves South

The Naval Component of Sherman's Expedition

Centerville, Va., October 23, 1861.

General J. E. JOHNSTON, Centerville, Va.:
DEAR GENERAL: It is reported that all that heavy armament was intended against Magruder, who has been fighting all day before yesterday; this might explain the plan of occupying the Valley of Virginia with Banks' column strongly re-enforced to cut off our retreat in that direction in case Richmond was taken. Don't you think it would be wise and proper to make a tremendous attack on Dranesville to relieve Evans and break through all their plans, for then we might turn the tables on them. I am going to visit the country from here to Sudley Springs. Will be back about 3 p. M.
Yours, truly,


Official Records, Series I., Vol. 51, Part 2, Page 353

Despite the victory at Ball's Bluff, the Confederates continued to overestimate McClellan's abilities and intentions.  The biggest threat to the South at the moment was the Sherman Expedition, which would ultimately land troops at Port Royal on the South Carolina coast.  His ships were seen near Fort Monroe and Richmond did not know where they were headed.  The possibility of a movement up the James to Richmond was obviously on the mind of Beauregard, who envisioned a retreat into the Shenandoah Valley.  Here, he suggests a preemptive attack in the direction of Leesburg to counteract a supposed movement of Banks to the Valley to cut off any retreat from Richmond.  It is easy, 150 years on, to be amused at Beauregard taking counsel of his fears.  The bigger lesson is neither side had a grasp on what the other could or would do in the Fall of 1861. 

October 22, 1861 (Tuesday): Death of a United States Senator

Ball's Bluff From Google Earth (Click On Image to Enlarge)


Numbers 31.
Washington, October 22, 1861.

    The major-general commanding, with sincere sorrow, announces to the Army of the Potomac the death of Colonel Edward d. Baker, who fell gloriously in battle on the evening of Monday, the 21st of October, 1861, near Leesburg, Va.
    The gallant dead had many titles to honor. At the time of this death he was a member of the United States Senate for Oregon, and it is no injustice to any survivor to say that one of the most eloquent voices in that illustrious body has been silenced by his fall. as a patriot, zealous for the honor and interests of his adopted country, he has been distinguished in two wars, and has now sealed with his blood his devotion to the national flag. Cut off in the fullness of his powers as a statesman, and in the course of a brilliant career as a soldier, while the country mourns his loss, his brothers in arms will envy while lament his fate. He died as a soldier would wish to die, amid the shock of battle, by voice and example animating his men to brave deeds.
    The remains of the deceased will be interred in this city with the honors due to his rank, and the funeral arrangements will be ordered by Brigadier General Silas Casey.
    As an appropriate mark of respect to the memory of the deceased, the usual badge of military mourning will be worn for the period of thirty days by the officers of the brigade lately under his command.
By command of Major-General McClellan:

Assistant Adjutant-General.

Series I. Vol. 5, Part 1, Page 291

Baker was a sitting United States Senator.  Although he served in the Mexican War, he had no military talent to speak of.  His body was brought back to Washington and funeral services were held on the 24th.  The President and Cabinet attended as did most of the diplomatic corp.  Mrs. Lincoln was there as well, as caused something of a controversy by appearing in lavender.  She supposedly told a friend she could not be expected to don black every time a soldier was killed.  Lincoln himself took the loss hard, as Baker was a close personal friend.  In fact, Baker supposedly carried a letter from Lincoln in his hat band at Ball's Bluff, a letter promoting him to Major General once he had won a victory.  Another funeral ceremony was held in New York with a procession down Broadway on November 10, when his body was put on board a steamer bound for San Francisco where he was buried in the San Francisco National Cemetary near the Presidio.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

October 21, 1861 (Monday): Disaster at Ball's Bluff

Baker Wounding Marker At Ball's Bluff

Report of Col. Charles Devens, Fifteenth Massachusetts Infantry.

Poolesville, Md., October 23, 1861.
 …..At daybreak we pushed forward our reconnaissance towards Leesburg to the distance of about a mile from the river, to a spot supposed to be the site of the rebel encampment, but found on passing through the woods that the scouts had been deceived by a line of trees on the brow of the slope, the opening through which presented, in an uncertain light, somewhat the appearance of a line of tents….I determined not to return at once, but to report to yourself, which I did, by directing Quartermaster How to repair at once to Edwards Ferry to state these facts, and to say that in my opinion I could remain until I was reinforced….Mr. Howe left me with his instructions at about 6.30 a.m., and during his absence, at about 7 o’clock, a company of riflemen, who had probably discovered us, were reported on our right upon the road from Conrad’s Ferry.  I directed Captain Philbric, Company H, to pass up over the slope and attack them, while, while Captain Rockwood, company A, was ordered to proceed to the right and cut off their retreat in the direction of Conrad’s Ferry, and accompany Captain Philbrick as he proceeded to execute the order.

Reports of Brig. Gen. N. G. Evans, C. S. Army, with correspondence.

Leesburg, Va., October 31, 1861.

…Early on Monday morning, the 21st instant, I heard the firing of my pickets at Big Spring, who had discovered that at an unguarded point the enemy had effected a crossing in force of five companies and were advancing on Leesburg.  Captain [Wm. L.] Duff, of the Seventeenth Regiment, immediately attacked him, driving him back, with several killed and wounded.
   On observing the movements of the enemy from Fort Evans at 6 o’clock a.m., I found he had effected a crossing both at Edwards Ferry and Ball’s Bluff, and I made preparations to meet him in both positions, and immediately ordered four companies of infantry (two of the Eighteenth, one of the Seventeeth, and one of the Thirteenth) and a cavalry force to relieve Captain Duff; the whole force, under thfer, who was directed to hold. Col. W. H. Jenifer, who was directed to hold his position till the enemy made further demonstration of his design of attack.  This force soon became warmly engaged with the enemy, and drove them back for some distance in the woods.
    At about 10 o’clock I became convinced that the main point of attack would be at Ball’s Bluff, and ordered Colonel Hunton, with his regiment, the Eighth Virginia Volunteers, to repair immediately to the support of Colonel Jenifer.  I directed Colonel Hunton to form line of battle immediately in the rear of Colonel Jeniffer’s command and to drive the enemy to the river; that I would support his right with artillery. 

Report of Col. Charles Devens, Fifteenth Massachusetts Infantry.

Poolesville, Md. October 23, 1861.
… At about 10 o’clock Quartermaster Howe returned and stated that he had reported the skirmish of the morning, and that Colonel Baker would shortly arrive with his brigade and take command.  Between 9 o’clock and 11 o’clock I was joined by Lieutenant-Colonel War with the remainder of my regiment, making, in all, a force of 625 men, with 28 officers, from my regiment, as reported to me by the adjutant, many of the men of the regiment being at this time on other duty.

POOLESVILLE,December 2, 1861.
…Stated concisely, the narrative would be this:
    General Stone directed Colonel Baker to go to the right and in his discretion to recall the troops then over the river or cross more force.  Colonel Baker made up his mind and declared it before he reached the crossing place, to cross with his whole force.
    General Stone directed five companies to be thrown into a strong mill on the right of Ball’s Bluff.  Colonel Baker allowed these companies to be diverted to the front.
    General Stone sent cavalry scouts to be thrown out in advance of the infantry on the right.  Colonel Baker allowed this cavalry to return without scouting and did not replace it, although he had plenty at his disposition.
   Colonel Baker assumed command on the right about 10 a.m., but never sent an order or messenger to the advanced infantry until it was pressed back to the bluff about 2.15 p.m.
   Colonel Baker spent more than an hour in personally superintending the lifting of a boat from the canal to the river, when a junior officer or sergeant would have done as well, the mean time neglecting to visit or give orders to the advanced force in the face of the enemy.
   No order of passage was arranged for the boats; no guards were established at the landing; no boats’ crews detailed.
   Lastly, the troops were so arranged on the field as to expose them all to fire, while but few could fire on the enemy.  His troops occupied al the cleared ground in the neighborhood, while the enemy had the woods and the commanding wooded height, which last he might easily have occupied before the enemy came up.

Report of Col. Charles Devens, Fifteenth Massachusetts Infantry.

            Poolesville, Md. October 23, 1861.
…About 12 o’clock it was reported to me a force was gathering on my left, and about 12.30 o’clock a strong attack was made on my left by a body of infantry concealed in the woods and upon the skirmishers in our front by a body of cavalry.  The fire of the enemy was resolutely returned by the regiment, which maintained its ground with entire determination.  Re-enforcements not yet having arrived, and the attempts of the enemy to outflank us being very vigorous, I directed the regiment to retire about 60 paces into an open space in the wood, and prepare to receive any attack that might be made, while I called in my skirmishers.  When this was done I returned to the bluff, where Colonel Baker had already arrived.  This was at 2.15 p.m.

Report of Col. Milton Cogswell, Forty-second New York Infantry.

NEW YORK, September 22, 1861.
…Colonel Baker welcomed me on the field, seemed in good spirits, and very confident of a successful day.  He requested me to look at his line of battle, and with him I passed along the whole front.  He asked my opinion of his disposition of troops, and I told him frankly that I deemed them very defected, as the wooded hills beyond the ravine commanded the whole so perfectly, that should they be occupied by the enemy he would be destroyed, and I advised an immediate advance of the whole force to occupy the hills, which were not then occupied by the enemy.  I told him that the whole action must be on our left, and that we must occupy those hills  No attention was apparently paid to this advice and Colonel Baker ordered me to take charge of the artillery, but without any definite instructions as to its service.

Report of Capt. William F. Bartlett, Twentieth Massachusetts Infantry.

CAMP BENTON, October 23, 1861.
…The enemy now opened on us from the woods in front with a heavy fire of musketry, which was very effective.  They fired low, the balls all going within 1 to 4 feet of the ground….It was a continual fire now, with occasional pauses of one or two minutes, until the last.  The rifled cannon was on the left in the open ground, in front of a part of Baker’s regiment, exposed to a hot fire.  It was not not discharged more than eight times.  The gunners were shot down in the first of the engagement, and I saw Colonel Lee carry a charge to the gun with his own hands.  The last time it was fired the recoil carried it down the rise to the edge of the bank.  The men of the Twentieth Regiment behaved admirably, and all that were left of them were on the field after the battle was declared lost by General Baker.

Report of Capt. Francis G. Young, of Colonel Baker’s staff.
…Colonel Baker fell about 5 o’clock.  He was standing near the left of the woods, and it is believed he was shot with a cavalry revolver by a private of the enemy, who, after Colonel Baker fell, crawled on his hands and knees to the body and was attempting to take his sword, when Captain Bieral with 10 of his men rushed up and shot him through the head and rescued the body.

Report of Col. Milton Cogswell, Forty-second New York Infantry.

NEW YORK, September 22, 1862.
….Captain Harvey, assistant adjutant-general, reported to me that, Colonel Baker having been killed, I was in command of the field, and that a council of war was being held by the remaining colonels.  I repaired to the point occupied by Colonels Lee and Devens, and found that they had decided on making a retreat.  I informed them I was in command of the field; that a retreat across the river was impossible, and the only movement to be made was to cut our way through to Edwards Ferry, and that a column of attack must be formed for that purpose.
….Having given these orders, I proceeded to the front, and finding our lines pressed severely, I ordered an advance of the whole force on the right of the enemy’s line.  I was followed by the remnants of my two companies and a portion of the California regiment, but for some reasons unknown to me, was not joined by either the Fifteenth or the Twentieth Massachusetts Regiments.  We were overpowered and forced back to our original position, and again driven from that position to the river bank by overwhelming numbers.  On the river bank I found the whole force in a state of great disorder….We were almost immediately surrounded and captured.  This took place shortly after dark, and my personal knowledge of the transactions of the day ended here.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 5, Pages 289-372.

Ball’s Bluff was a battle without a reason.  It was known that Evans was near Leesburg and McCall’s movement had not compelled him to fall back.  McClellan’s question was answered.  If the Union force had been able to press Evans, he simply would have fallen back on Manassas as per his instructions.  But Stone managed the battle from a distance and the kindest thing which can be said of Baker was that he was out of his element.  Baker had been promised a promotion by Lincoln once he had success on the field of battle, and there is little doubt Baker’s decisions were clouded by that possibility.  Evans, with his experiences on the frontier was a tough customer, his Mississippi troops tougher still.  He played his hand much as he had at Manassas, finding and maintaining the critical point on the battlefield.  In the carnage and confusion, Federal losses were 921, including 714 prisoners.  Confederate losses, were 149, with 33 killed.  Baker was dead, McClellan would now be (if anything) even more cautious, and Stone would be ruined and his reputation smeared.  Winter was coming, and the chilling realization of the cost of war setting in.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

October 20, 1861 (Sunday): Crossing the Potomac to Ball's Bluff

Colonel Edward D. Baker, Senator from Oregon

                                                                        CAMP GRIFFIN, October 20, 1861.
Brigadier-General Stone, Poolesville:
   General McClellan desires me to inform you that General McCall occupied Dranesville yesterday and is still there.  Will send out heavy reconnaissances to-day in all directions from that point. The general desires that you keep a good lookout upon Leesburg, to see if this movement has the effect to drive them away.  Perhaps a slight demonstration on your part would have the effect to move them.
Assistant Adjustant-General.

                                                            HEADQUARTERS CORPS OF OBSERVATION,
                                                            Poolesville, October 29, 1861
…On the 20th instant, being advised from headquarters of the movement of General McCall to Dranesville and to make a demonstration to draw out the intentions of the enemy at Leesburg,* I proceeded at 1 p.m. to Edwards Ferry with Gorman’s brigade, the Seventh Michigan Regiment of Volunteers, two troops of the Van Alen Cavalry, and the Putnam Rangers, sending at the same time to Harrison’s Island and vicinity four companies of the Fifteenth Massachusetts Volunteers, under Colonel Devens, who had already one company on the island, and Colonel Lee, with a battalion of the Twentieth Massachusetts Volunteers, and to Conrad’s Ferry a section of Vaughan’s Rhode Island Battery, and the Tammany Regiment, under Colonel Cogswell.  A section of Bunting’s New York State Militia battery, under Lieutenant Bramhall, was at the time on duty at Conrad’s Ferry, and Ricketts’ battery already posted at Edwards Ferry, under Lieutenant Woodruff.
   The movement of General McCall on the day previous seemed to have attracted the attention of the enemy, as just before my arrival at Edwards Ferry a regiment of the enemy had appeared from the direction of Leesburg, and taken shelter behind a wooded hill near Goose Creek, about 1 ¾ miles from our position at the ferry.

                                                            HEADQUARTERS CORPS OF OBSERVATION
                                                            Poolesville, October 20, 1861—10.30 p.m.
   NO. ---
   Colonel Devens will land opposite Harrison’s Island with five companies of his regiment, and proceed to surprise the camp of the enemy discovered by Captain Philbrick in the direction of Leesburg.  The handling and march will be effected with silence and rapidity.
   Colonel Lee, Twentieth Massachusetts Volunteers, will immediately after Colonel Devens’ departure occupy Harrison’s Island with four companies of his regiment, and will cause the four-oared boat to be taken across the island to the point of departure of Colonel Devens.
   Two mountain howitzers will be taken silently up the tow-path, and carried to the opposite side of the island under the orders of Colonel Lee.
    Colonel Devens will attack the camp of the enemy at daybreak, and, having routed them, will pursue them as far as he deems prudent, and will destroy the camp, if practicable, before returning.  He will make all the observations possible on the country; will, under all circumstances, keep his command well in hand, and not sacrifice them to any supposed advantage of rapid pursuit….
   Great care will be used by Colonel Devens to prevent any unnecessary injury of private poperty, and any officer or soldier straggling from the command for curiosity or plunder will be instantly shot.

                                                                                    CHARLES P. STONE
                                                            HEADQUARTERS CORP OF OBSERVATION,
                                                                        Edwards Ferry, October 20, 1861—11 p.m.
   Colonel:  You will send the California regiment (less the camp guard) to Conrad’s Ferry, to arrive there at sunrise and await orders.  The men will take with them blankets and overcoats and forty rounds of ammunition in boxes, and will be followed by one day’s rations in wagons.  The remainder of the brigade will be held in readiness for marching orders (leaving camp guards) at 7 o’clock  a.m. to-morrow, and will all have been breakfasted before that hour.
    Very respectfully, your most obedient servant,
                                                                                    CHAS. P. STONE,
                                                                                    Brigadier-General, Commanding.
Col. E. D. BAKER, Commanding Third Brigade

Reports of Brig. Gen. N. G. Evans, C. S. Army, with correspondence.

                                                                        HEADQUARTERS SEVENTH BRIGADE,
                                                                            Leesburg, Va., October 31, 1861.
….At 12 o’clock at night I ordered my entire brigade to the Burnt Bridge, on the turnpike.  The enemy had been reported as approaching from Dranesville in large force.  Taking a strong position on the north side of Goose Creek, I awaited his approach.  Reconnoitering the turnpike on Sunday morning, the courier of General McCall was captured, bearing dispatches to General Meade to examine the roads leading to Leesburg.  From this prisoner I learned the position of the enemy near Dranesville.  During Sunday the enemy kept a deliberate fire without any effect.
….                                                                               N. G. EVANS,
                                                            Brigadier-General, Commanding Seventh Brigade.
   A. A. G., 1st Crops, Army of the Potomac, near Centreville.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 5, Part 1, Pages 290-352 (various)

It started, as calamities do, with simple intentions and confused understandings.  McClellan wanted to see if Leesburg had been abandoned.  Stone, attempting to gain that information, sent a small party across the river who saw light through trees and believed it was a rebel camp with lax security.  Senator (and Colonel) Baker, with orders for his promotion to general at some future date undetermined from his good friend Abraham Lincoln in his hat band, was looking for an achievement to preface his advancement.  Evans, under orders to retreat to Manassas in the face of superior force, instead took position to await events.  Across the water from Harrison’s Island lay Ball’s Bluff, and disaster.

October 19, 1861 (Saturday): Looking For Rebels

General Israel B. Richardson
Report of Brigadier General Israel B. Richardson, U. S. Army.

October 19, 1861.

SIR: In obedience to your instructions, I left this camp yesterday at 3.30 p. m. to make a reconnaissance in the direction of occoquan, my force consisting of two regiment of infantry, of half battery of artillery, and one company of cavalry. The command proceeded as far as Accotink Creek, taking the Telegraph road. On reaching this stream I came to a halt, and sent half a company of cavalry to Pohick Church, the other half to the Accotink Village, and posted a company of infantry to our right on the road leading up the creek. This company on morning up the road fell in with enemy's pickets, who immediately ran into their camp across the creek and gave the alarm. The long roll beat some 20 minutes from three different camps on our right, showing that they were there in some force. After resting the command half an hour I sent to order in both detachments of cavalry, who soon came in, finding no enemy at the village or at the church. The enemy occupy the valley on the right of the road leading from the crossing to the church. from what I could learn, the road from Pohick Church to Occoquan is clear, and but few troops are at the latter place. Having finished the object of the expedition, I moved the command back to camp, where it arrived at 12 o'clock, having marched some 20 miles. I took this opportunity of moving forward our pickets, who occupy a direct line from Windsor Hill to the mouth of Dogue Creek. 
    I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Brigadier General S. P. HEINTSELMAN, U. S. Army.

Series I., Vol. 5, Part 1, Page 249

Israel Richardson was known as "Fighting Dick" Richardson for his tenacity in combat.  Although a poor student at West Point (38th in a class of 52), he showed ability in the field in Mexico and during the war before his death at Antietam in 1862.  The reconnaissance described here was one of the probes ordered by McClellan after General Stone mistakenly reported the Confederates had left Leesburg.   

Monday, October 17, 2011

October 18, 1861 (Friday): To Horse! Maybe, Not.

Governor Andrew G. Curtin of Pennsylvania
October 18, 1861.

If you can oblige Friedman, do so. That, with the authority given Campbell, will be about as much as we want from Pennsylvania.


HARRISBURG, October 18, 1861.

Honorable T. A. SCOTT,
Assistant Secretary of War:
You dispatch surprises me. I was led to expect a requisition for another regiment of cavalry, and have nearly enough companies to fill it. If Friedman raises the only regiment in Pennsylvania I must disband my companies for him. You may rest assured great dissatisfaction is growing out of the preference given to Philadelphia in cavalry, and if this regiment is authorized and country companies disbanded I must explain. I will send Friedman back. I can only do justice in that way. If you have cavalry enough from Pennsylvania, please say it positively and I will disband our companies and you will be relieved. Are you aware that you have eight German regiments from Philadelphia, two of cavalry?


October 18, 1861.

Governor CURTIN,
We shall endeavor to accommodate you. Do not disband. The cavalry department is now about filled.


Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 3, Part 1, Page 580

The cavalry was the first choice of many who raised regiments.  In Florida, for example, the governor complained on hearing of yet another cavalry unit being organized that any fighting there which required cavalry in that state would have to be the result of lamentable coastal defense.  In this instance, the able Governor Curtin of Pennsylvania has raised a cavalry regiment, only to find another from Philadelphia has been approved by the War Department (Scott was the assistant Secretary of War).  There were political as well as practical considerations.  Curtin had to be concerned with the appearance of Philadelphia receiving preference to the rural areas of the state. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

October 17, 1861 (Thursday): "To Save the Country"

Assistant Secretary of War, Thomas A. Scott

Honorable THOMAS A. SCOTT,

Assistant Secretary of War:

I gave General Sherman all the regiments he asked for. At least two of those originally intended for him, and promised to me, have been diverted from me. The artillery promised me to replace Hamilton's battery have not been given to me. I will not consent to one other man being detached from this army for that expedition. I need far more than I now have to save this country, and cannot spare any disciplined regiment. Instead of diminishing this army, true policy would dictate its immediate increase to a large extent. It is the task of the Army of the Potomac to decide the question at issue. No outside expedition can effect the result. I hope that I will not again be asked to detach anybody.


Major-General, Commanding.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 6, Part 1, Page 179

The Sherman referenced here is General Thomas West Sherman, no relation to the more famous one.  The expedition mentioned is the one which would result in the taking of Port Royal Sound in November of 1861.  Two things are worth noting.  First, the over-heated rhetoric of McClellan which is rather remarkable even at this juncture of the war.  Second, Sherman's expedition which is dismissed out of hand here, resulted in the landing at Port Royal Sound in November.  This would be the greatest amphibious assault until D-Day in World War II and the seizure of the sound was of great value.  It gave the North an anchorage of immense logistical value, and put Union troops on the ground in South Carolina, tying down troops there who were later to be desperately needed in places like Gettysburg.  The day after this letter, President Lincoln wrote Sherman to say he had promised he would not take any more troops from McClellan without his consent.

October 16, 1861 (Wednesday): Turner Ashy Attacks at Bolivar Heights

View Larger Map

Report of Col. John W. Geary, Twenty-eighth Pennsylvania Infantry.

Camp Tyndale, Point of Rocks, Md., October 18, 1861.
SIR: On the 8th instant Maj. J. P. Gould, of the Thirteenth Massachusetts Volunteers, acting under orders of major-General Banks, crossed the Potomac at Haper’s Ferry to seize a quantity of wheat held by the rebels at that point. Three companies of the Third Wisconsin Volunteers, and a section of the Rhode Island battery, under Captain Tompkins, were ordered to report to Major Gould, for the purpose of assisting in and covering the necessary movements of the operation.
….The object for which the river had been crossed having been accomplished, on Tuesday night I had determined to recross the river on Wednesday and permit the troops to return to their various regiments; but about 7 o’clock on the morning of the 16th my pickets stationed on the heights above Bolivar, extending from the Potomac to the Shenandoah River, about 2 ½ miles west of Harper’s Ferry, were driven into the town of Bolivar by the enemy, who approached from the west in three columns, consisting of infantry and cavalry, supported by artillery.
I was upon the ground in a few minutes, and rallied my pickets upon the main body of our troops in Bolivar. In a short time the action became general. The advanced guard of the rebels, consisting of several hundred cavalry, charged gallantly towards the upper part of the town, and their artillery and infantry soon took position upon the heights from which my pickets had been driven. The enemy’s three pieces of artillery were stationed on and near the Charlestown road where it crosses Bolivar Heights. They had one 32-pounder columbiad, one steel rifled 13-pounder, and one brass 6-pounder, all of which were served upon the troops of my command with great activity, the large gun throwing alternately solid shot, shell, and grape, and the others principally fuse shell.
While these demonstrations were being made in front a large body of men made their appearance upon Loudoun Heights, with four pieces of cannon and sharpshooters stationed at the most eligible points of the mountain, to bombard our troops, and greatly annoy us in the use of the ferry on the Potomac. The commencement of the firing upon our front and left was almost simulataneous.
In order to prevent the enemy from crossing the Shenandoah, I detached a company of the Thirteenth Massachusetts Regiment, under command of Captain Shriber, for the defense of the fords on that river. He took position near the old rifle works, and during the action rendered good service there. There then remained under my immediate command about 450 men. With these the fierce charge of the enemy’s cavalry was soon checked and turned back. A second and a third charge was made by them, increasing in impetuosity with each repetition, during which they were supported, in addition to the artillery, by long lines of infantry stationed on Bolivar Heights, who kept up a continuous firing. They were repulsed each time with effect. Under this concentrated fire our troops held their position until 11 o’clock, when Lieutenant Martin, by my order, joined me with one rifled cannon, which had been placed to cover the ferry, he having crossed the river with it under a galling fire of riflemen from Loudoun Heights.
I then pushed forward my right flank, consisting of two companies (A and G) of the Twenty-eighth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers. They succeeded in turning the enemy’s left near the Potomac, and gained a portion of the heights. At the same time Lieutenant Martin opened a well-directed fire upon the enemy’s cannon in our front, and Captain Tompkins succeeded in silencing some of the enemy’s guns on Loudoun Heights…..I instantly ordered a general forward movement, which terminated in a charge, and we were soon in possession of the heights from river to river. There I halted the troops, and from that position they drove the fugitives with a well-directed aim of cannon and small arms across the valley in the direction of Halltown. If any cavalry had been attached to my command the enemy could have been cut to pieces, as they did not cease their flight until they reached Charlestown, a distance of six miles.
…The foregoing is a correct official statement of the engagement at Bolivar Heights October 16, 1861.
Colonel Twenty-eight Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers.
Acting Assistant-Adjustant-General

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 5, Page 241

Turner Ashby lead a force of about 550 men against Geary’s command. Casualties were surprisingly light (under twenty killed on either side). There was something to recommend on both sides. Turner had shown initiative and audacity, Geary’s men had held up under a simultaneous cavalry and artillery attack (no mean feat early in the war). Bolivar Heights would be the scene of yet another engagement, this one more severe, in 1862.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

October 15, 1861 (Tuesday): Sherman Draws A Line On Fugitive Slaves

Colonel John Basil Turchin

                                                            LOUISVILLE, KY., October 15, 1861
Colonel Turchin:
   DEAR SIR:  Two gentlemen unknown to me, but introduced by Mr. Guthrie, say some negro slaves have taken refuge in your camp and are there sheltered.
   The laws of the United States and of Kentucky, all of which are binding on us, compel us to surrender a runaway negro on application of negro’s owner or agent.  I believe you have not been instrumental in this, but my orders are that all negroes shall be delivered up on claim of the owner or agent.  Better keep the negroes out of your camp altogether, unless you brought them along with the regiment.
     Yours, &c.,
                                                            W. T. SHERMAN,
                                                Brigadier-General, Commanding.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 4, Page 307

Not wishing to inflame sentiments in the border states, and not having the political capital to overcome the Democrats in Congress on the issue, the administration continued to enforce existing laws regarding slavery and, particularly, fugitive slaves.  Sherman here admonishes Colonel Basil Turchin, a Russian who had studied at the Imperial Military School at Saint Petersburg before coming to America just prior to the war.  Turchin would clash within a year with his next commander, Don Carlos Buell, over his views on treatment of the civilian population.  After famously declaring in May of 1862 "I shut my eyes for two hours.  I see nothing." his troops pillaged Athens, Alabama engaging in rape and looting.  Buell attempted to court martial him, but Lincoln intervened on his behalf.  

Friday, October 14, 2011

October 14, 1861 (Monday): Habeas Corpus Denied-Even In Maine

Grand Trunk Railway Station, Portland Maine
WASHINGTON, October 14, 1861.
Lieutenant General WINFIELD SCOTT:

The military line of the United States for the suppression of the insurrection may be extended so far as Bangor, Me. You and any officer acting under your authoirty are hereby authorized to suspend the writ of habeas corpus in any place between that place and the city of Washington.


By the President:

Secretary of State.

Official Records, Series I, Vol 51, Part 1, Page 497

Suspension of habeas corpus in Maine may seem an odd proposition.  But the motivating factor was proximity to Canada.  British neutrality extended to the colonists in Canada, but Confederate agents routinely went back and forth over the border and some Canadians held sympathies toward the South despite a general disapproval of slavery.  Eventually a volunteer defense force would be put together for defense of the Grand Trunk Railway system in Canada, to defend against threats from either side.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

October 13, 1861 (Sunday): Breckinridge Reports For Duty

John C. Breckinridge
BOWLING GREEN, October 13, 1861.

General S. COOPER:
Major Breckinridge is with this army. He has resigned his position of Senator in stirring address to the people of Kentucky. He will enter the army, if necessary, as a private soldier. Please say to the President that he will accept any position that may be tendered him. Permit me to suggest his name as a brigadier-general, either for the Kentucky brigade or for a separate column, to be directed through the strong southern-rights counties in Eastern Kentucky. I make this suggestion on my own responsibility, but with a knowledge of Major Breckinridge's views. 

S. B. BUCKNER, Brigadier-General. 

Series I., Vol. 4, Part 1, Page 445

Breckinridge was 14th Vice-President of the United States (under Buchannon) and ran against Lincoln for President in 1860.  He was elected to the Senate in 1859 for a seat which did not open until 1861 and was epelled from the Senate.  Arriving in Kentucky, pro-Union forces in the state senate lobbied General George Thomas to arrest him for pro-Southern views.  On October 2 he escaped arrest and here is reported by Buckner as available for duty.  Because of his slowness in coming to the Confederate cause it was thought by many, including Grant, that he was reluctant to take arms against the Union.  In November he received an appointment as Brigadier General.  He served under Albert Sidney Johnston at Shiloh, fought in most of the battles of the Army of Tennessee and eventually ended up with Early in the Valley Campaign of 64' before becoming the last Confederate Secretary of War. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

October 12, 1861 (Saturday): Jeff Davis' Intelligence From New York City

General Mansfield Lovell

                                                                        NORFOLK, October 12, 1861.
    President of the Confederate States, Richmond, Va.:
   DEAR SIR:  Learning by telegraph that my family had reached Norfolk under a flag of truce, I took this place on my way South for the purpose of having them with me.  I learn from Mrs. Lovell that the opinion of those in New York who ought to know was that a large expedition would shortly sail from new York and Boston for Savannah, or a point on the coast in that vicinity.  Mr. James Gallatin, of New York, an eminent financier and prominent Republican, stated as above in presence of Mrs. Lovell, and the several railroads draining a cotton-growing country, which converge at Savannah, give probability to the report.  He also said that ten of the small steamers about completed were to be sent to the mouth of the Mississippi.  Mr. Gallatin, although a Republican, is opposed to Lincoln and his cabinet, declaring that their removal must be preliminary to any attempt at peace.  An iron-plated steamer has been finished and has made a successful trail trip; another is in progress, and the expense proving less than was anticipated, a third has been ordered.  Recruiting is at a stand-still, and Mr. Gallatin said that next week they would be obliged to commence drafting in New York to keep the army full.  They are daily expecting an attack in Washington by our troops.  That city, however, is represented to be very thoroughly fortified and the troops in a good state of discipline.  No point has been left undefended.  When our advance was thrown forward to Munson’s Hill, McClellan had made all his arrangements to envelop and destroy them, when they fell back and thwarted his plans.  He had communicated his intentions to Mr. Cameron, who mentioned them to others, and McClellan thought the withdrawl was in consequence of knowledge thus obtained, grew indignant, and sent in his resignation, declaring that he would have nothing further to do with the army unless he had complete control.  This was last week.  General Scott is rapidly failing, and in a semi-comatose state.  There is evidently quarreling and disagreement between the generals and the cabinet.  The general tenor of the information I get is as favorable to us as we could hope.  They regard themselves as on the defensive, and McClellan will make no attack, except in the shape of a coup de main, and will not leave his base far to do that.  Business is said to be improving in New York.  I communicate these points hoping that, taken in connection with other information, they may assist you in deducing your conclusions.
    Respectfully, your obedient servant.
                                                                                                M. LOVELL

   The defenses of the Southern coast have received attention.  Anything which suggests itself we can discuss.
                                                                                                J. D.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 51, Part 2, Page 344.

The M. Lovell who sent Davis this interesting letter was Mansfield Lovell.  Along with General G.W. Smith, he served as a street commissioner in New York City until an opportune time came to head South for a commission in the Confederate Army.  Here he relates several items of intelligence gathered mainly by his wife in social circles in New York City.  The effort to take Savannah mentioned was an accurate report of the upcoming Port Royal expedition.  The iron-plated steamer mentioned was probably the Monitor, but it was just under contract and far from ready for trials.  Recruitment had slowed, and was always problematic in New York City, but the draft would not commence until August of 1862.  The report of the state of defenses around Washington was accurate, although the supposition of a trap set by McClellan against an advance to Munson’s Hill is questionable, although something he might have said in hindsight.  Lowell was most accurate in his assessment McClellan would not move to the attack any time soon.  His characterization of Scott’s health overstated the dire state of his condition, but it is true he was in failing health.  Overall, a fairly accurate bit of information.  Davis’ endorsement to Benjamin focused on the threat to the coast.  Lovell would command, and lose, New Orleans for which he was subject to a court of inquiry.  He was removed from field command, but served as a staff officer to Johnston.

Monday, October 10, 2011

October 11, 1861 (Friday): Corruption In Saint Louis

Brant House, Saint Louis (Library of Congress)

                                                                        QUARTERMASTER’S OFFICE,
                                                                        Saint Louis, Mo., October 11, 1861.

   GENERAL:  I take the occasion of the presence of the honorable Secretary of War and yourself to make certain inquiries.
  Is it competent for every member of the staff of Maj. Gen. John C. Fremont to issue orders in the name of the general, directed to me, and involving an expenditure of money?
  Am I bound to recognize any other signature than that of Captain McKeever, the regularly-constituted assistant adjutant-general of the Western Department?
  I desire to be instructed whether the simple approval of an account by the commanding general carries the weight of an order.
   There are heavy accounts, involving hundreds of thousands of dollars, that have come under my observation, which are approved by Maj. Gen. John C. Fremont, but in direct terms are not ordered.  It is doubtless the intention of the general to order the payment.  But as I understand the Army Regulations and the laws of Congress, an approval is not an order.  If I am mistaken in this, I desire to be corrected.
   Great latitude is taken in verbal orders.  And the general being in the field, I cannot stop to question the authenticity of these orders, and feel it to be my duty to see them executed, although I have not the authority on paper necessary to carry these expenditures through the Treasury.
   Accounts involving hundreds of thousands of dollars have been presented to me within the few days I have been here, informal, irregular, and not authorized by law or regulations.
   No quartermaster who understands his duty can pay this class of accounts without involving himself in irretrievable ruin.  I do not mean to say that these accounts are not just or should not be paid; but as they are outside of the regulations—in other words, extraordinary—they can be adjusted only by extraordinary authority.
   Some three days ago I telegraphed the Quartermaster-General, M. C. Meigs, a message; and I give you an extract from memory:  “If the reckless expenditures in this department are not arrested by a stronger arm than mine, the Quartermaster’s Department will be wrecked in Missouri along.”
   I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
                                                                                    ROBT. ALLEN,
                                                                        Major and Quartermaster.
General L. Thomas, Adjutant-General U. S. Army.

When Fremont arrived in Saint Louis he rented, at government expense of $6,000 per year, the elegant Brant mansion and surrounded himself with a hand-picked 300 man guard.  The going rate for any service authorized by Fremont, which often went to friends of Fremont’s from California was at minimum twice the going rate.  The administration was besieged with reports of corruption from Missouri, aggravated by Fremont’s lack of military success and (some believed) culpability in failing to support Lyons in his campaign to Wilson’s Creek.  The “Pathfinder” was blessed with Republican connections (being the party’s first presidential candidate) and a politically connected wife (whose father was the late Senator Thomas Hart Benton).  After the war, he was convicted in absentia as a swindler in French courts in connection with schemes involving the transcontinental railroad, but never served time.

October 10, 1861 (Thursday): Battle at Santa Rosa Island

Confederate Attack at Santa Rosa Island (Library of Congress)

Near Pensacola, Fla., October 10, 1861.
   SIR:  Satisfied from information received that the enemy contemplated opening fire upon us very soon, and desirous of avenging the annoyances he had recently caused my command, an expedition was projected against his outposts on Santa Rosa Island.  It was executed on Tuesday night, by 1,000 men, under Brig. Gen. R. H. Anderson, in a very handsome manner.  We attacked and drove in his pickets and outposts, routed a regiment of New York volunteers, Col. Billy Wilson; burned the camp and stores in the vicinity, including a large quantity of stores and provisions; inflicted a loss of about 50 killed, including a number of officers, from the best information we can get; wounded a number unknown; made some 20 prisoners, Major L. Vogdes, First Artillery, with them, and retired within our lines.
   Our loss is more severe than at first reported.  The men became much exhausted from the long and fatiguing march through the deep sand of the island, and no doubt a considerable portion of the loss was from this cause.  We might have easily defended ourselves against the troops on the island, but it was necessary to leave before the enemy’s shipping should open and destroy our transportation, and our means would not enable us to keep them off.  Thus far I hear of about 20 killed on our side, including 3 officers.  Many of them undoubtedly been massacred after being captured, from the appearance of their bodies which were delivered to us.  The enemy also have about 40 of our party prisoners, several of them wounded.
   The exact state of affairs will be communicated more in detail as soon as the reports of subordinates are received, when I will take occasion to do full justice to individuals for special acts of gallantry.  Each State and crops represented in the army participated in the affair, and the gallantry and good conduct of the troops were conspicuous.  Brig. Gen. R. H. Anderson conducted the expedition with a zeal and gallantry worth of high commendation.  At the close he received a painful wound in the left elbow, temporarily disabling him; but it is trusted we shall not long be deprived of his valuable services.
    I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
                                                                                    BRAXTON BRAGG,
                                                                        Major-General, Commanding
                                    Richmond, Va.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 6 Page 458

Anderson, later to gain acclaim as a division commander in the Army of Northern Virginia, led a night amphibious landing near Fort Pickens in an attempt to disrupt preparations for a Union bombardment of Confederate positions.  After landing, three columns and a demolition team surprised (at 0330) the 6th New York Zouaves and partially burned their camp.  Reinforcements from Fort Pickens, a mile away, came up and the Confederates made a retreat to their transports.  This became a close call, when the propeller of one boat was entangled in a hawser used to tow a barge. Anderson reported losing 87 men and the Union forces 67.  The raid was intended as a disruption, but it did not prevent the shelling of Confederate positions, which commenced shortly thereafter.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

October 9, 1861 (Wednesday): Lane vs Governor Robinson in Kansas

Kansas Governor Charles Robinson
LEAVENWORTH CITY, KANS., October 9, 1861.

His Excellency A. LINCOLN,
President of the United States:
    SIR: Since my return from Washington to Kansas I have labored earnestly and incessantly, as commander of the Kansas Brigade, to put down the great insurrection in Missouri. After the State authorities here had failed to collect a force worthy of the name, I, by my own individual efforts and those of my personal friends, despite the opposition of the governor of this State, succeeded in raising and marching against the enemy as gallant and effective an army, in proportion to its numbers, as ever entered the field. Its operations are a part of the history of the country. That brigade to a man are exceedingly desirous of continuing in the service under my command, and I am very anxious to gratify its members in that behalf; but as matters are at present arranged, I feel compelled to abandon the field.
    While the Kansas Brigade was being organized, Governor Charles Robinson exerted his utmost endeavor to prevent the enlistment of men. Since its organization he has constantly, in season and out of season, vilified myself, and abused the men under my command as marauders and thieves. For the purpose of gratifying his malice against me, he has conspired with Captain Prince, the commandant at Fort Leavenworth, to dissolve the brigade, and Captain Prince has apparently heartily espoused the cause in that direction. The latter-named person, in his official capacity, has refused to recognize my authority as commander, and wholly declined to respond to my lawful requisitions upon him for articles and supplies necessary to the efficiency and comfort of the brigade.
    There being no hope of improvement in this condition of things so long as I am in my present position, in order that I may with my brigade remain in the field, and the Government be sustained in this region, and Kansas be protected from invasion from Missouri, I earnestly request and recommend the establishment of a new military department, to be composed of Kansas, the Indian country, and so much of Arkansas and the Territories as may be thought advisable to include therein.
   After much consideration, and consultation with influential and intelligent gentlemen hereabout, I am decidedly of opinion that this at least should be done, and that the commandant thereof should have under him at least 10,000 troops.
    If this can be done, and I can have the command of the department, I will cheerfully accept it, resign my seat in the Senate, and devote all my thoughts and energies to the prosecution of the war. But if nothing can be done to remedy the evils complained of, I will, as above intimated, be compelled to leave my command, quit the field, and most reluctantly become an idle spectator of the great struggle, and witness, I have no doubt, the devastation of my adopted State and the destruction of its people.

Yours, truly,


Official Records, Series I., Vol. 3, Page 529

Lane's feud with the Governor culminated in the latter's impeachment in 1863, although he was not found guilty.  Lane is one of the lowest characters of the war, and Robinson's characterization of his men as marauders and thieves was for the most part accurate.  There is no recorded response from Lincoln.  The Captain Prince referred to was the regular Army commander at Fort Leavenworth.

Friday, October 7, 2011

October 8, 1861 (Tuesday): Sherman Goes West

General Robert Anderson

           No. 6                                        Louisville, Ky., October 8, 1861.
   The following telegraph order was received yesterday at the headquarters:

                                                                        WASHINGTON, D.C., October 6, 1861
Brigadier-General Anderson:
   To give you rest necessary to restoration of health, call Brigadier-General Sherman to command the Department of the Cumberland.  Turn over to him your instructions, and report here in person as soon as you may without retarding your recovery.
                                                                                    WINFIELD SCOTT.
   In obedience to the above orders, I hereby relinquish the command of the department to Brigadier-General Sherman.
    Regretting deeply the necessity by which renders this step proper, I do it with less reluctance, because my successor, Brigadier-General Sherman, is the man I had selected for that purpose.  God grant that he may be the means of delivering this department from the marauding bands, who under the guise of relieving and benefiting Kentucky, are doing all the injury they can to those who will not join them in their accursed warfare.

                                                                                    ROBERT ANDERSON,
                                                            Brigadier-General, U. S. Army, Commanding

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 4, Page 296

Anderson, 56 and “The Hero of Fort Sumter” had taken the advent of war much to heart.  Assignment to command in his native Kentucky only added to the mental and physical strain he felt and he was agreeable to stepping aside in favor of Sherman.  He stayed in Washington until 1863 as a functionary, but even that was too stressful and he retired in 1863.  He received a brevet appointment to Major-General in 1865 in recognition of his services and was present when the American flag was again raised at Fort Sumter.  Moving to France to seek relief from his physical ailments, he died there in 1871.

October 7, 1861 (Monday): Longstreet and Jackson Make Major-General

General Thomas J. Jackson
RICHMOND, October 7, 1861.

          Headquarters Army of the Potomac:
   GENERAL: I have had a conference with the President since his return on the subject of the organization of the Army of the Potomac, as recommended in your letter of the 28th ultimo,* and not received till after his departure for your headquarters..
    The President cannot persuade himself that the number of generals of all grades recommenced by the joint letter of yourself, General Beauregard, and Major-General Smith can be necessary for the number of troops now forming the Army of the Potomac. The inconvenience of so large an accession of general officers in the service would be felt in more than one way. Not the least of the subjection is that it could not be accorded without revolting injustice to the Army of the Potomac alone. Of necessity we should be compelled to make similar appointments in each of the other armies and military department,s and by this vast increase not only heaped the value of military rank, but augment the expenses of the war at a moment when its hourly increasing proportions admonish us that the most rigid economy is required.
    In view of all the facts and circumstances, the President has concluded that an addition to your army of two major-generals and two or three brigadier-generals will afford you as much assistance as could reasonably be required, and he had directed the promotion of Brigadier-Generals Longstreet and Jackson to the rank Longstreet and Jackson to the rank of majors-general. Your army will then have as general officers two generals; four major-generals of provisional army, namely, Van Dorn, Smith, Longstreet, and Jackson; thirteen brigadier-generals, namely, Bonham, Clark, Walker, Ewell, Jones, Kirby Smith, Toombs, Crittenden, Sam Jones, Whiting, Elzey, Early, and Stuart. Total, nineteen general officers, to whom will be necessary to appoint after you shall have made the changes recommended by the President in uniting the troops from each State as far as possible into the same brigades and divisions, so as to gratify the natural State pride of the men, and keep up that healthful and valuable emulation which forms so important an element in military affairs. The whole number of general officers will not state the number as matter of prudence, but you can make the calculation, and I feel sure you will admit that it is thus as fully officers will thus be about twenty-two in an army of--thousand men. I will not state the number as matter of prudence, but you can make the calculation, and I feel sure you will admit that it is thus as fully officered as armies generally are, and certainly more fully than any army we have in the field.
   Please to communicate this answer to Generals Beauregard and Smith, who joined in singing your letter to the Department.
    Your obedient servant,

Acting Secretary of War.

Official Records, Series I, Vol. 5, Page 892

What a curious collection the Confederate army in Northern Virginia was in October of 1861.  Joseph Johnston sulked over his relative standing among the generals of the Confederacy.  Beauregard joined in asking for even more generals in an army which could not have numbered much over 50,000 men, if that.  James Longstreet, offended at the promotions of G.W. Smith and Earl Van Dorn to Major-General, has threatened resignation.  And Smith, once promoted, signs a circular to the administration (not found) signs a letter with Johnston and Beauregard asking for more generals.  Longstreet's pen, and loyalty to Johnston, here finds its reward while Jackson is given his for his role at Manassas.  Davis and Benjamin helpfully acquiesce in this proliferation of generals, even while trying to limit it.  The army is left with two full generals and four major-generals to command a mere thirteen brigadier generals.  With no plans for action, one can only imagine what conceivable use could be made for so much gold braid.