Saturday, July 30, 2011

150 Years Ago -- What Shall Be Done With Them?

Benjamin Franklin Butler.Image of Benjamin Butler via Wikipedia

On July 30, 1861, Union General Benjamin Butler wrote to the War Department about the nine hundred runaway slaves that were now residing within his lines, specifically, "First. What shall be done with them? and, Second. What is their state and condition?"

On May 24, three runaway slaves who were working on nearby Confederate fortifications escaped and fled into Butler's lines at Fort Monroe, Virginia.  Their owner, Colonel Charles Mallory, came to Butler to demand them back.  The fugitive slave law obliged Butler to return them, but he refused, claiming that the property of those in rebellion to the United States could be seized as contraband of war.  Butler put them to work on his own lines.

Butler then wrote to the War Department, telling them what he had done and asking for further instructions.  Secretary Simon Cameron finally approved of Butler's contraband reasoning and told him to keep any that came into his lines, but to do nothing to encourage more slaves to run away.

Butler didn't have to do anything.  Word spread quickly through slave camps, and now, just two months later, Butler had nine hundred within his lines, "three hundred of whom are able-bodied men, thirty of whom are men substantially past hard labor, one hundred and seventy-five women, two hundred and twenty-five children under the age of ten years, and one hundred and seventy between ten and eighteen years, and many more coming in."

Butler's report (after the jump) gives his reasons for withdrawing from the village of Hampton and explains how that aggravated the problem.  After asking the questions "What shall be done with them?" and "What is their state and condition?" Butler, a lawyer by trade, gave his answers.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

150 Years Ago: McClellan Takes Command

George B. McClellan. Library of Congress descr...Image via Wikipedia

On July 27, 1861, Major General George McClellan was appointed commander of the Federal Division of the Potomac.

The Division of the Potomac consisted of Irvin McDowell's Department of Northeastern Virginia and Joseph Mansfield's Department of Washington.  Nathaniel Banks's Department of the Shenandoah was also added to McClellan's purview.  The armies of these departments were combined to form the Army of the Potomac.

McClellan, 34, was one of the first Northern heroes of the war after his recent successes in western Virginia.  On the day he took command in Washington, he wrote home to his wife Ellen* about his experiences...

...I find myself in a new & strange position here -- Presdt, Cabinet, Genl Scott & all deferring to me -- by some strange operation of magic I seem to have become the power of the land. I almost think that were I to win some small success now I could become Dictator or anything else that might please me -- but nothing of that kind would please me -- therefore I won't be Dictator.  Admirable self denial!  I see already the main causes of our recent failure -- I am sure that I can remedy these & am confident that I can lead these armies of men to victory once more...

Just after the rout and panic at Bull Run, the War Department began the work of gathering up the scattered army by setting up rallying points around the city of Washington and announcing that they would be the only places where rations would be distributed.   The three-month volunteers that did not reenlist were sent home and Northern governors hurried new three-year volunteers to the city.

McClellan quickly went to work shaping his new army -- rounding up stragglers, weeding out incompetent officers and training the new recruits to be soldiers.

*The letters from McClellan to his wife are widely quoted in books on the Civil War, but there is some controversy about their authenticity and accuracy.  The originals are gone, but portions were copied into a notebook by McClellan.  His daughter, working with the original letters, added to the transcripts later.  For more on the letters, check out two posts at Civil War Bookshelf  -- Dimitri Rotov's problems with the letters and Stephen Sears's response.

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Monday, July 25, 2011

150 Years Ago: Changes

On Thursday, July 25, 1861, several changes occurred in the wake of the Battle of Bull Run.

Union General George McClellan arrived in Washington to replace Irvin McDowell.  A general order was issued outlining the extent of his new command.  General William Rosecrans replaced McClellan as commander of the Department of the Ohio and the "Army of Occupation, Western Virginia."

Nathaniel Banks replaced Robert Patterson as commander of the Army of the Shenandoah.  Patterson, 69, had done a poor job of containing General Joseph E. Johnston's army in the Shenandoah Valley, allowing the Confederates to join with Beauregard at Bull Run.  Patterson was relieved of command and given an honorable discharge, ending his service in the Civil War.

General John Frémont finally arrived in St. Louis to take over the newly created Department of the West.  Frémont had been named to the command on July 3, and had spent much of the intervening time in New York trying to buy weapons and supplies.

Union General Jacob Cox, commanding the Kanawha Brigade of the Department of the Ohio, got behind Henry Wise's position at Tyler Mountain on July 24, forcing Wise to retreat to Charleston, Virginia (now West Virginia).  As Cox approached the town, Wise retreated again.  The Federals occupied the town on July 25.

The U.S. Senate passed the Crittenden-Johnson Resolution by a vote of 30-to-5.  The House had previously approved the measure on July 22.  The resolution stated that the war was being fought "to defend and maintain the supremacy of the Constitution and to preserve the Union" and not for "overthrowing or interfering with the rights or established institutions of those States."  The measure was seen as necessary for keeping the slave states of Kentucky, Missouri and Maryland in the Union, but in a couple of weeks Lincoln would sign a confiscation act allowing for the seizure of property, including slaves, from rebellious citizens.

Robert M. T. Hunter replaced Robert Toombs as the Confederate Secretary of State.  Toombs, the only member of Jefferson Davis's cabinet to voice opposition to the attack on Fort Sumter, had resigned to join the Confederate army.  He received a commission as a brigadier general on July 19, and served as a brigade commander in Joe Johnston's Confederate Army of the Potomac.

At Mesilla, in New Mexico Territory, the Union garrison at Fort Fillmore attacked John Baylor's Confederates in a brief skirmish.  The Union assault was repulsed and they eventually retreated back to the fort.  When Baylor moved on the fort the following day, the Union troops abandoned it and retreated toward Fort Stanton.  Baylor pursued, capturing stragglers by the dozens before overtaking the Federals and forcing their surrender at San Augustine Springs on July 27.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

150 Years Ago: Quote of the Day

"Witnessed for the first time a military funeral. As that march came wailing up, they say Mrs. Bartow fainted. The empty saddle and the led war-horse —we saw and heard it all, and now it seems we are never out of the sound of the Dead March in Saul. It comes and it comes, until I feel inclined to close my ears and scream." 

-- Mary Boykin Chesnut, A Diary from Dixie

Friday, July 22, 2011

150 Years Ago: The Aftermath of Bull Run

Bull Run 1stImage via Wikipedia

Monday, July 22, 1861.  George Templeton Strong declared in his diary, "Today will be known as BLACK MONDAY.  We are utterly and disgracefully routed, beaten, whipped by secessionists."

Union General Irvin McDowell's army had been routed by the Confederates at Bull Run.  The rout met up with the mother of all traffic jams at the bridge over Cub Run, and suddenly the rout had become a panic.  The army practically sprinted back to Washington.  The citizens there were astonished to see this tired, beaten rabble stream back into the city, and feared that a Confederate invasion was imminent.

And the casualties were staggering -- 450-500 killed, 1100 wounded, and a staggering 1500-1800 missing.  The hospitals were quickly filled to overflowing.

The bars were full too.  Walt Whitman wrote in Memoranda During the War,
As afternoon pass'd, and evening came, the streets, the bar-rooms, knots everywhere, listeners, questioners, terrible yarns, bugaboo, mask'd batteries, our regiment all cut up, &c. -- stories and storytellers, windy, bragging, vain centres of street-crowds. Resolution, manliness, seem to have abandon'd Washington. The principle hotel, Willard's, is full of shoulder-straps -- thick, crush'd, creeping with shoulder-straps. (I see them, and must have a word with them. There you are shoulder-straps! -- but where are your companies? Where are your men? Incompetents! never tell me of chances of battle, of getting stray'd, and the like. I think this is your work, this retreat, after all. Sneak, blow, put on airs, there in Willard's sumptuous parlors and bar-rooms, or anywhere -- no explanation will save you. Bull Run is your work; had you been half or one-tenth worthy your men, this would never have happen'd.)

Horace Greeley, whose editorials and "Forward to Richmond" headlines in the New York Herald had helped bring this battle on, was beside himself with grief.  In a few days he would write to Lincoln, "If it is best for the country and for mankind that we make peace with the Rebels at once and on their own terms, do not shrink even from that."

Confederate President Jefferson Davis finished work early on July 21st.  He then chartered a train to Manassas Junction, arriving while the battle was raging.  Coming up from the rear, he encountered the remnants of used up units, stragglers, malingerers, and concluded that the battle was lost.  But he finally met up with his generals, Johnston and Beauregard, and discovered the true magnitude of the victory.  He urged a vigorous pursuit.  Johnston still had a few fresh troops, but nothing ever came of it.

The Confederate army was badly disorganized, and their casualties were staggering too -- 400 killed, 1600 wounded, some mortally, including Barnard Bee, who died on July 22.  He was the one who had given Thomas Jackson the appellation "Stonewall."

There was some controversy about what Bee said, and whether he meant it in a complimentary manner.  One witness claimed that Bee was complaining about Jackson not engaging his men in battle.  "Look at Jackson standing there like a damned stone wall."  Or did he realize that Jackson was forming the final line that must be held.  "Look!  There is Jackson standing like a stone wall!  Rally behind the Virginians!"  Whatever the accurate quote or the meaning behind the quote, the name stuck to Jackson and Bee was not around to settle the controversy.

The Confederate army rounded up a whole horde of prisoners, some 1200, including a U.S. congressman, and collected all manner of equipment that had been abandoned by the Union soldiers in their flight.

This decisive battle would not decide the war.  Far from it.  The North would redouble its efforts.

Lincoln met with General-in-Chief Winfield Scott and his cabinet through the night of July 21-22.  They sent wires to General George McClellan in the mountains of western Virginia first telling him to move his army into the Shenandoah Valley, then to stay where he was and await reinforcements, then telling McClellan to report to Washington.

The day after the battle, July 22, Lincoln signed a bill for the enlistment of 500,000 three-year volunteers, then three days later signed another bill for 500,000 more.  McClellan would soon take command of a new army of these three-year volunteers, the Army of the Potomac.

In the South, the mood was jubilant, with many thinking that independence was just around the corner.  In the coming weeks though, many would wonder why the Confederate army had not finished up the victory and driven on to Washington.  Fingers would be pointed at each of the principals, Johnston, Beauregard, and Davis, and the controversy would swirl for many years.  Each man wrote a postwar memoir that kept the issue alive. 
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A Bull Run Story -- Wilmer McLean

Wilmer McLean lived by Blackburn's Ford, one of a few places where you could wade across Bull Run.  On July 18, 1861, elements of Union General Irvin McDowell's army made a reconnaissance-in-force at the ford and were repulsed by the Confederates.  Much of the action took place around McLean's house; a Federal shell landed in his fireplace during the artillery exchange.

Later, in 1863, McLean moved his family 200 miles away to a tiny one-horse two built up around a crossroads called Appomattox Court House.  On April 8, 1865, a messenger knocked on the door and asked to use the house.  Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant needed a place to meet.  Lee surrendered to Grant in the parlor of McLean's house.  McLean thereafter was able to tell people that the war started in his front yard and ended in his front parlor.

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

150 Years Ago: The Battle of Bull Run

Manassas National Battlefield - Pic 12Image by via Flickr

Continued from yesterday's post...

On Sunday, July 21, 1861, the Battle of Bull Run took place in northern Virginia.  Union General Irvin McDowell's Army of Northeastern Virginia moved out of its Washington entrenchments and marched south to confront General P. G. T. Beauregard's Confederate Army just south of Centreville.

Because it was a Sunday, there was a big crowd of sightseers who had driven down from Washington for the day.  There were a few congressmen and senators in the crowd, and even some Union officers who had somehow gotten separated from their men.  They narrated the action for the civilians in attendance.

Beauregard's line stretched along the south side of a stream called Bull Run.  The left of the line guarded a stone bridge where the Warrenton Turnpike crossed the stream.  Far to the east, the right side of the line guarded the Orange and Alexandria Railroad bridge.  Here and there along the line, masses of men guarded the fords, the few places where you could get to the stream to cross it.

McDowell's plan was to move off to his right, to the west, and cross Bull Run upstream at Sudley Springs Ford, far to the left of the Confederate line.  He would then move back to the east and strike the Confederate left flank, hopefully rolling it up and smashing the Rebel army.

Unbeknownst to McDowell though was that General Joseph E. Johnston's army from the Shenandoah Valley had broken free of the Union army confronting it there and had hurried east to link up with Beauregard's army, evening up the odds.  Johnston's Army of the Shenandoah had been coming in for the past two days and was still coming in while the battle was raging.

One thing that was working in McDowell's favor was that Beauregard had planned an attack on the enemy's left flank as well.  To that end, he had the majority of his army on his right side, far away from McDowell's point of attack.

Union General Irvin McDowell had his army in motion by 2:30 a.m. on the 21st.  Some 5000 men were held in Centreville in reserve.  Some were sent to the fords and the stone bridge to make warlike moves, keeping the Confederates focused here instead of upstream where McDowell's main thrust, 14,000 men, would come.

The advance was as bad as the one that had put the army in Centreville, the one that took two and a half days to go 22 miles.  The green troops were still having trouble marching, and there was a lot of starting and stopping, missed directions, snarls and bottlenecks.  It took until 11 a.m. to get the entire flanking force across the stream.

Meanwhile, General Tyler's men moved up close to the stone bridge and opened fire with his artillery.  Historian Bruce Catton describes this as "a slow, desultory cannonade which did little more than announce that the Yankees had got up early."  One consequence of this action though was that a shell ripped through the tent where a young staff officer, Captain Edward Porter Alexander, was sleeping.  Alexander was up quickly and scouted around until he discovered McDowell's flanking attack.

Alexander notified Colonel Nathan "Shanks" Evans, who commanded the extreme left of the Confederate line.  Evans had two small regiments, some cavalry and artillery, about 1100 men in all.  He left four companies to watch the stone bridge and took the rest of his men north.  Around 9 a.m. they were waiting in an open field north of the bridge.  When the Federal column appeared, they opened fire and the battle was underway.

McDowell's officers could never quite get the attack going right.  Instead of a heavy blow, the attack was an uncoordinated series of light taps.  It was proving quite difficult to get the green soldiers from a long marching column of fours into a fighting line four regiments wide.  Evans was badly outnumbered, but holding his own.

But the Union attack gained some momentum.  McDowell finally had his entire flanking force across at Sudley Springs Ford and enough units were getting into the fight now to cut up Evans's regiments.  Evans sent back desperate appeals for help and Barnard Bee's brigade joined the fight.

McDowell sent word to Tyler at the stone bridge to make more of a fight there.  Tyler sent William Tecumah Sherman's brigade forward.  They waded across Bull Run north of the bridge and joined the attack against Evans and Bee and pushed them back south of the turnpike, across a muddy creek, and up an imposing hill.  It was named for the Henry family who had a farmhouse on the crest.
Over on the right, the Confederate commander, now Johnston who outranked Beauregard, recognized what was going on and began shuffling more troops to the left.  But it would take some effort for Johnston, even with Beauregard's help, to realign his entire army in the midst of the battle.

Wade Hampton and Francis Bartow added their men to the Confederate forces and the battle suddenly boiled down to a struggle for Henry House Hill.  Evans's brigade was shattered, Bee's was falling back, and Bartow was trying to rally his Georgians when he was shot dead.  Beauregard was suddenly there, rallying the line.  A shell exploded nearby, killing his horse, but he was unhurt.  They just had to hold on until Johnston could get fresh troops up.

Map:  Morning, July 21, 1861

Then, Thomas Jackson's brigade deployed in a line just past the crest of the Henry House Hill.  Jackson had found the perfect place for a defensive line.  His fresh troops waited for the Yankee onslaught.  Bee, his regiments now in almost complete disarray, rode back to Jackson and said, "General, they are beating us back."  Jackson replied, "Sir, we will give them the bayonet."  Bee rode back to what was left of his unit, gestured at Jackson's brigade, and yelled, "Look!  There is Jackson standing like a stone wall!  Rally behind the Virginians!"

That was it for Bee.  A bullet struck him in the abdomen, mortally wounding him, but the name would live on.  From then on, Jackson would be known as Stonewall and the men with him on Henry House Hill would be the Stonewall Brigade.

A mixup in uniforms affected the outcome of the battle.  McDowell sent two regular artillery batteries forward.  These commanders, Captains J. B. Ricketts and Charles Griffin, got ahead of the infantry and were exposed to deadly musket fire, but were blowing Jackson's line apart.  One of their shots went through the Henry house, killing 84-year-old Judith Henry, who was a helpless invalid in one of the bedrooms.  These gunners saw some men in blue approaching.  Thinking it was infantry help they had requested, they held their fire.  The men were from the 33rd Virginia of Jackson's brigade.  They opened fire and a Union officer who witnessed it from afar wrote later that "it seemed as though every man and horse of that battery just laid right down and died right off."

But as mid-afternoon approached, it seemed that the Union army might win the day.  The breakthrough was imminent.  Johnston and Beauregard had called in every available man.  But the Union attack had lost all cohesion -- the units had broken down with officers separated from the men and stragglers heading for the rear.

The turning point came around 4 p.m., when the last of the fresh Confederate troops plunged into the battle.  Jubal Early's brigade from the right and Edmund Kirby Smith's brigade, the last of Johnston's men from the Shenandoah Valley, fresh off the train joined Jackson's line.  Beauregard launched a counterattack.

The three-month men in McDowell's army decided they had had enough and began to fall back.  It was orderly at first with pockets of resistance, but suddenly the whole Federal army was in retreat, heading back across the bridges and fords of Bull Run.

The civilian onlookers got caught up in the retreat back to Centreville.  At a bridge over a creek called Cub Run, a Confederate shell arced in and wrecked a wagon, blocking the bridge and adding to the panic and confusion.

From The Coming Fury by Bruce Catton...
"The bridge was blocked. Drivers on the Centreville side of it whipped up their horses to get out of danger, and the drivers on the Bull Run side incontinently did the same, getting guns and wagons and carriages into a complete tangle, with horses rearing and kicking, teamsters swearing, ladies from Washington beginning to scream, the press of civilian vehicles constantly feeding in new elements which killed any faint hope that this traffic jam could be resolved. Some carriages trundled down to the little stream, lurched up on the far side, and made off for Washington as fast as maddened horses could take them. Here and there a mounted officer took fire along with all the rest and tried to ride through everything at a bucketing gallop. People who were on foot began to run, cavalry was coming up to kill and maim -- and, all at once, utter panic descended on everybody in sight.

The great drifting mass of fugitive soldiers, already out from under what little discipline they had ever known, moved faster and faster and became a wild, frantic, scrambling mob which generated its own unendurable pressure. Teamsters cut their horses loose and scrambled on their backs to ride to safety, leaving guns, caissons, and military supplies for anyone who cared to pick them up. Ambulances carrying wounded men to hospitals were left by the roadside. Soldiers who had thought they were too exhausted to do more than put one heavy foot in front of another found they could run very nimbly, and they dropped whatever they were carrying -- muskets, haversacks, canteens, anything -- so that they could run even faster. It was gabbled up and down the wild rout that armed Rebels were close behind; for some odd reason, the pursuing Confederates, believed to be as ruthless as Cossacks, were all thought to be riding black horses and frightened men were forever shouting: "Black horse cavalry! Black horse cavalry!"

The 22-mile trip that had taken two and a half days one way took less than a day the other way. McDowell still had a reserve force in Centreville and hoped to form a line there. Around 6 p.m., he wired Washington to say that he had been driven from the battlefield and "we have now to hold Centreville until our men can get behind it." The men got behind Centreville and kept going. McDowell later wired to say, "The larger part of the men are a confused mob, entirely demoralized. It was the opinion of all the commanders that no stand could be made this side of the Potomac." Even later, after another attempt to regroup at Fairfax Court House failed, McDowell admitted, "Many of the volunteers did not wait for authority to proceed to the Potomac but left on their own decision."

Map:  July 21, 4 p.m. to dusk
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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

150 Years Ago: The Eve of the Big Battle

The painting Capture of Ricketts' Battery, dep...Image via Wikipedia

Saturday, July 20, 1861, was the eve of the largest battle to this point in the Civil War, the Battle of Bull Run.

The firing on Fort Sumter and President Lincoln's war proclamation was three months ago, in April, and so far there had not been a lot of action.  Many people, in the North and the South, thought this would be a short, limited war.  One decisive battle would show those damned Yankees (or Rebels, depending on your side) a thing or two, and then all this foolishness would be over.

It just seemed logical that the big battle would take place in northern Virginia between the two capitals, Washington and Richmond, and public opinion on both sides was pushing for the battle to happen soon.  "Forward to Richmond" screamed banner headlines in the North.  Now wasn't soon enough.  Many had hoped that Richmond could be taken by today, July 20, when the Confederate Congress would be convening in their new capital for the first time.

Union General Irvin McDowell had been pushed into this battle.  McDowell knew his army wasn't ready to fight.  The belief that the war would be a quick one had led Lincoln, when he proclaimed war and called for 75,000 militia immediately after Fort Sumter, to sign these initial recruits to three-month enlistments.  Now the three months was ending and the enlistments were expiring and many men in McDowell's army would be going home soon.

New recruits were pouring in to replace them, but it would take time to train them and organize them.  The three-month men weren't even trained properly.  Most of the officers, including McDowell himself, had never led troops in battle.

In late June, McDowell had submitted a plan of operations to the War Department.  He had stayed away from the grandiose plan of taking Richmond and concentrated on the Confederate army in his front.  He estimated that P. G. T. Beauregard had 25,000 men (he actually had closer to 20,000) amassed near Manassas Junction behind a stream called Bull Run, and that was as far as McDowell planned to go for the immediate future.

Two other armies, both called the Army of the Shenandoah, complicated the picture.  The Union Army of the Shenandoah, led by Robert Patterson, faced General Joseph E. Johnston's Confederate Army of the Shenandoah.  McDowell's plan called for Patterson to keep Johnston busy so that he could not rush to Beauregard's aid.

Map: July 1861 -- The Bull Run Campaign Overview

McDowell was ordered to begin his advance on July 9, but that wasn't much time and delays were inevitable.  And McDowell was pushing for more time, knowing that his army was not ready for a fight, until Lincoln finally told him, "You are green, it is true; but they are green, also; you are all green alike."  McDowell began his advance a week late.  

Over in the Shenandoah Valley, Patterson was facing the same problem as McDowell with three-month men in his army whose enlistments were ending.  Patterson had also been given vague orders -- he wasn't sure if he was supposed to attack Johnston or just maneuver against him.  Johnston sent his cavalry, led by J. E. B. Stuart, to harass and confuse him, and Patterson maneuvered himself out of the campaign, settling in Charlestown, twenty miles away from the nearest Confederates, where he reported that "it would be ruinous to advance, or even to stay here, without immediate increase of force."  Johnston marched his men to the Manassas Gap Railroad line and began shuffling them east to Beauregard.

That would not have mattered if McDowell had advanced quickly.  He could have dealt with Beauregard's army before Johnston arrived, but his worst fears about his army were realized when they began to move.  The line of advance crept forward with the men spending more time standing around than marching.  Marching for miles with full packs in the hot July sun was beginning to seem much more complicated than marching around a parade ground.

When McDowell's army finally reached Centreville, just two or three miles from the Rebel position, they had eaten all their rations.  McDowell paused for two more days to get his wagon trains and the rest of his army up, and all the while, more and more of Johnston's army was linking up with Beauregard's.

McDowell and his officers had also been spending the time doing reconnaissance of the Confederate position.  Their line on the south side of Bull Run stretched from the stone bridge on the left where the Warrenton Turnpike crossed the stream to the Orange and Alexandria Railroad bridge on the right.  A reconnaissance-in-force on Blackburn's Ford in the center of the Confederate line was repulsed on July 18, convincing McDowell to try a flanking attack.  He would take a substantial part of his force to the right, around the Confederate left, crossing Bull Run upstream at Sudley Springs Ford.

Map:  July 18, 1861 -- The Confederate line, the Union army concentrating at Centreville, the recon and skirmish at Blackburn's Ford

In fact, both commanders would plan attacks on the other's left.  Beauregard had a grand Napoleonic plan to mass his men on his right and wheel them around to catch McDowell in the left flank.  The plan didn't have much hope of success with his green army, but it didn't matter.  McDowell would beat Beauregard to the punch and catch Beauregard with most of his men massed far away from the point of attack.

McDowell began getting his men into motion after dark.  They would all be moving by 2:30 a.m., July 21.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

150 Years Ago: Movements and Proclamations

There would be a battle around Bull Run in the area around Manassas Junction soon, but on July 19, 1861, Union General Irvin McDowell was concerned about concentrating his army around Centreville, Virginia, and feeding them.

The Army of Northeastern Virginia had marched from the environs of Washington to within just a couple of miles of General P. G. T. Beauregard's position behind Bull Run, but the 22-mile march had taken two and a half days.  The green troops led by green commanders had marched so slowly that they had eaten all their rations and now McDowell was waiting for wagon trains to resupply them.  The line had also strung out through the north Virginia countryside, and McDowell would have to wait another couple of days for all the stragglers to catch up.

Out in the Shenandoah Valley, Union General Robert Patterson had maneuvered himself completely out of the action, leaving General Joe Johnston free to take his army out of the valley and link up with Beauregard's army at Manassas.  Johnston marched south, then took the Manassas Gap Railroad straight to Beauregard.  Some of his troops were already arriving at Manassas Junction, but some would still be arriving as the battle was raging on July 21.

After yesterday's reconnaissance-in-force at Blackburn's Ford had been repulsed, McDowell was considering a flanking move around the Confederate left.

Also on this date, in western Virginia, Union General George McClellan issued a proclamation praising his army for their recent victories:
Headquarters army of Occupation, Western Virginia, Beverly, Va., July 19, 1861.
soldiers of the army of the West:
I am more than satisfied with you. You have annihilated two armies, commanded by educated and experienced soldiers, intrenched in mountain fastnesses and fortified at their leisure. You have taken five guns, twelve colors, fifteen hundred stand of arms, one thousand prisoners, including more than forty officers. One of the second commanders of the rebels is a prisoner, the other lost his life on the field of battle. You have killed more than two hundred and fifty of the enemy, who has lost all his baggage and camp equipage. All this has been accomplished with the loss of twenty brave men killed and sixty wounded on your part.

You have proved that Union men, fighting for the preservation of our Government, are more than a match for our misguided and erring brothers. More than this, you have shown mercy to the vanquished. You have made long and arduous marches, with insufficient food, frequently exposed to the inclemency of the weather. I have not hesitated to demand this of you, feeling that I could rely on your endurance, patriotism, and courage. In the future I may have still greater demands to make upon you, still greater sacrifices for you to offer. It shall be my care to provide for you to the extent of my ability; but I know now that, by your valor and endurance, you will accomplish all that is asked.

Soldiers! I have confidence in you, and I trust you have learned to confide in me. Remember that discipline and subordination are qualities of equal value with courage. I am proud to say that you have gained the highest reward that American troops can receive — the thanks of Congress and the applause of your fellow-citizens.

Geo. B. Mcclellan, Major-General.

Union General John Pope issued a proclamation to the inhabitants of northern Missouri:
St. Charles, Mo., July 19, 1861.
To the People of North Missouri:
By virtue of proper authority, I have assumed the command in North Missouri. I appear among you with force strong enough to maintain the authority of the Government, and too strong to be resisted by any means in your possession usual in warfare. Upon your own assurances that you would respect the laws of the United States and preserve peace, no troops have hitherto been sent into your section of the country. The occurrences of the last ten days have plainly exhibited that you lack either the power or the inclination to fulfil your pledges, and the Government, has, therefore, found it necessary to occupy North Missouri with a force large enough to compel obedience to the laws. So soon as it is made manifest that you will respect its authority and put down unlawful combinations against it, you will be relieved of the presence of the forces under my command, but not till then.

I, therefore, warn all persons taken in arms against the Federal authority, who attempt to commit depredation upon public or private property, or who molest unoffending and peaceful citizens, that they will be dealt with in the most summary manner, without awaiting civil process.

Jno. Pope, Brigadier.General U. S. A., Commanding.
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Monday, July 18, 2011

Armies: The Army of the Shenandoah (CSA)

CSA General Joseph E JohnstonImage of Joseph E. Johnston by via Flickr

The Confederate Army of the Shenandoah was a short-lived unit.  It began as Virginia state troops that captured the U.S. Arsenal at Harper's Ferry in April 1861 and quickly grew into a 12,000-man force under the command of General Joseph E. Johnston.  The army merged with Beauregard's Army of the Potomac at the First Battle of Bull Run, and eventually this new, larger Army of the Potomac would become the foundation of the Army of Northern Virginia.

On April 18, 1861, with 360 Virginia state troops advancing, the U.S. Army garrison abandoned the United States Armory and Arsenal at Harper's Ferry after an attempt to torch the buildings and destroy the machinery.  Harper's Ferry residents doused the flames and saved the machinery.  The state troops quickly occupied the arsenal and sent the gun-making machinery south. 

Major General Kenton Harper of the Virginia Militia was placed in command, and some 2000 state troops were quickly concentrated in the area.  Brigadier General Thomas Jackson succeeded Harper in command on April 28.

In May 1861, Virginia transferred her state forces to the Confederate government, and General Joseph E. Johnston took command of this force in the Shenandoah Valley.  By July, he had almost 12,000 men under his command.

The Army of the Shenandoah was organized into four brigades with J. E. B. Stuart's cavalry and artillery support.  The brigades were led by Brigadier General Thomas Jackson, Colonel Francis Bartow, Brigadier General Barnard Bee, and Brigadier General Kirby Smith.

This army was needed at Manassas to try to even up the odds as Union General Irvin McDowell advanced with the 35,000-man Army of Northeastern Virginia against the 20,000 men of General P. G. T. Beauregard's Confederate Army of the Potomac.

Johnston slipped away from the Union army in his front, also called the Army of the Shenandoah and led by General Robert Patterson, and transferred his men by rail to Manassas.  The Army of the Shenandoah linked up with the Army of the Potomac on the battlefield, with most of Johnston's army arriving as the battle was raging.

After the Confederate victory, the merger was made permanent.  On October 22, 1861, the Department of Northern Virginia was created with Johnston commanding.  It combined the District of the Potomac (Beauregard), the Valley District (Jackson), and the Aquia District (Holmes), and officially ended the Army of the Shenandoah.  Johnston's original Army of the Shenandoah would be a vital part of the new, larger Army of Northern Virginia.  Johnston commanded until he was seriously wounded at the Battle of Seven Pines when he was replaced by Robert E. Lee.

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150 Years Ago: Blackburn's Ford

Situation July 18. Confederate UnionMap via Wikipedia (Click to enlarge)

On Thursday, July 18, 1861, around noon, Union troops under Irvin McDowell approached Centreville, Virginia.  Expecting to find the enemy there, McDowell sent a brigade from Daniel Tyler's division, some 3000 men, to reconnoiter.  They advanced into Centreville, found it empty, and marched on to Bull Run.

At Blackburn's Ford, one of the many crossings of Bull Run, Tyler ordered Colonel Israel Richardson to probe the position.  This was the center of Beauregard's line, and Richardson ran into James Longstreet's brigade hidden in the dense woods south of the stream.  Tyler had a hard time disengaging from the enemy, but eventually retreated back to Centreville with news for McDowell about the Confederate postion.

The Battle of Blackburn's Ford, a reconnaissance-in-force, was a fairly meaningless skirmish, a prelude to the much bigger First Battle of Bull Run on July 21.  The skirmish led McDowell to decide against a frontal assault on the Confederate line.  He would try to flank the left side of the Confederate line, crossing farther upstream to the north.

Also on this date, at Richmond, Virginia, Confederate Secretary of the Navy Stephen Mallory provided a report on the cost of converting the captured U.S.S. Merrimack into an ironclad.
The frigate Merrimack has been raised and docked at an expense of $6000, and the necessary repairs to hull and machinery to place her in her former condition is estimated by experts at $450,000.  The vessel would then be in the river, and by the blockade of the enemy's fleets and batteries rendered comparatively useless.  It has therefore been determined to shield her completely with 3-inch iron placed at such angles as to render her ball-proof, to complete her at the earliest moment, to arm her with the heaviest ordnance, and to send her at once against the enemy's fleet.  It is believed that thus prepared she will be able to contend successfully against the heaviest of the enemy's ships and to drive them from Hampton Roads and the ports of Virginia.  The cost of this work is estimated by the constructor and engineer in charge at $172,523, and as time is of the first consequence in this enterprise I have not hesitated to commence the work and to ask Congress for the necessary appropriation.

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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Armies: The Army of the Potomac (CSA)

The Confederate Army of the Potomac was short-lived.  It merged with the Army of the Shenandoah during the First Battle of Bull Run, and eventually became the First Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia.

The army began as state troops mobilized along an "Alexandria line," a long front stretching across northern Virginia from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Chesapeake bay.  These troops were organized and Brigadier General Milledge Bonham was placed in command.  He was soon replaced with General P. G. T. Beauregard, who was tasked with organizing and training the raw troops from throughout the South and planning a response to the Northern invasion around Alexandria.

In July 1861, Beauregard had some 20,000 troops massed around Manassas Junction behind a sluggish stream called Bull Run.  They were organized into eight brigades with artillery and cavalry support.  The brigades were commanded by Bonham, Richard Ewell, David Jones, James Longstreet, Philip St. George Cocke, Jubal Early, and Nathan Evans.  Theophilus Holmes commanded the reserve brigade. 

Union General Irvin McDowell was advancing with some 35,000 troops, the Army of Northeastern Virginia.  Beauregard needed General Joseph E. Johnston's Army of the Shenandoah, some 12,000 men, to even up the odds with McDowell.

Johnston slipped away from the Shenandoah Valley and joined up with Beauregard.  The two armies linked up on the Bull Run battlefield, with some of Johnston's army arriving as the battle was raging.  Johnston outranked Beauregard, but mostly deferred to Beauregard's arrangements and plans for the upcoming battle.  After the Confederate victory, the merger of the two armies was made permanent.

On October 22, 1861, the Department of Northern Virginia was created with Johnston commanding.  It combined the District of the Potomac (Beauregard), the Valley District (Jackson), and the Aquia District (Holmes), and officially ended the Army of the Potomac.  Beauregard's original army would comprise the First Corps of this new army, which would eventually become known as the Army of Northern Virginia.  Johnson commanded until he was seriously wounded at the Battle of Seven Pines on May 31, 1862, and was replaced by General Robert E. Lee.
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150 Years Ago: Developments in the Bull Run Campaign

On July 17, 1861, the advance guard of Union General Irvin McDowell's Army of Northeastern Virginia occupied Fairfax Court House, Virginia, on its way toward its encounter with P. G. T. Beauregard's Army of the Potomac at Manassas.  Meanwhile, over in the Shenandoah Valley, Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston began to move away from the Union army in his front, that of General Robert Patterson, to make his way to Manassas to link up with Beauregard.

At Fairfax Court House, advance elements of McDowell's army occupied the town without incident.  The Confederates, the advance units of Beauregard's army, evacuated the town just prior to the Federals arrival, leaving behind a quantity of supplies, and settled in just south of the town.  Federal cavalry ran them off, but the infantry was too tired to take up the chase.

Beauregard had asked for help.  He needed Johnston's army in the Shenandoah Valley to join up with him to even up the odds against McDowell for the impending battle at Manassas.  Confederate President Jefferson Davis ordered Johnston to move over to Manassas, and Johnston began on this day.

Johnston had to break away from Patterson's Union army in his front, but that was no problem.  J. E. B. Stuart's cavalry was keeping Patterson busy, and Patterson, in violation of his vague orders to contain Johnston, had moved over to Charles Town instead of advancing directly on the Confederate position.  Johnston moved his troops to the nearest railhead and began moving them to Manassas Junction.
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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Armies: The Army of Northeastern Virginia (USA)

Gen. Irwin McDowell with General George B. McC...Image of Irvin McDowell and George McClellan via Wikipedia

The Department of Northeastern Virginia was created on May 27, 1861, and Brigadier General Irvin McDowell was placed in command of its army.

McDowell was responsible for the area of Virginia in front of Washington.  He was expected to take the raw volunteers that were streaming in, the first units to respond to Lincoln's call for militia after Fort Sumter, and somehow organize them into an army.  Before he could do this, the government and popular opinion prodded him into an advance on General P. G. T. Beauregard's Confederate Army of the Potomac.

The Army of Northeastern Virginia was routed at the First Battle of Bull Run on July 21, 1861.  After the defeat, on July 25, the Department of Northeastern Virginia was abolished and merged into the Military Department of the Potomac, then formed the nucleus of Major General George McClellan's Army of the Potomac.

Prior to the First Battle of Bull Run, the Army of Northeastern Virginia was the largest ever assembled in American history, some 30,000-35,000 men.  Many of these early recruits were signed to three-month enlistments, limiting McDowell's options.  Some units' enlistments ran out on the eve of the battle, and they returned home to muster out rather than fight.

The Army of Northeastern Virginia consisted of five divisions led by Brigadier General Daniel Tyler, Colonel David Hunter, Colonel Samuel Heintzelman, Brigadier General Theodore Runyon, and Colonel D. S. Miles.  Runyon's Fourth Division was held in reserve.

There was also a unit from the United States Army Corps of Engineers and another from the United States Topographical Engineers, a balloon detachment.
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150 Years Ago: The Bull Run Campaign

Irvin McDowell, General during the American Ci...Image of Irvin McDowell via Wikipedia

On July 16, 1861, the Bull Run campaign began when Union General Irvin McDowell moved his Army of Northeastern Virginia out of Washington area, southeast into Virginia toward General P. G. T. Beauregard's Confederate Army of the Potomac.  The advance would lead to the first major battle of the Civil War, the First Battle of Bull Run, on July 21.

McDowell's army was the largest ever assembled in American history to that point, some 35,000 men.  Facing him, Beauregard had 20,000 encamped at Manassas Junction behind a small stream called Bull Run.

Two other armies complicated the campaign.  Union General Robert Patterson's Army of the Shenandoah had crossed the Potomac and moved south to confront General Joseph E. Johnston's army, also known as the Army of the Shenandoah.  Patterson's vague orders called for him to keep Johnston busy in the Shenandoah Valley and prevent him from moving east and reinforcing Beauregard.  If Joe Johnston could reach Beauregard with his 12,000 men, the odds would be a lot more even.

McDowell was being pushed into a battle that he didn't think his army was ready for.  He wanted more time to organize and train them, but he was under intense time constraints.  Almost everyone, North and South, thought this would be a short war.  The Northern public especially was clamoring for an advance on Richmond and a decisive battle that would win the war.

Another time constraint:  McDowell's army (and Patterson's too) would soon be unraveling.  A product of the belief in a short war, the first wave of Union volunteers after the firing on Fort Sumter were signed to three-month enlistments.  Now the three months was almost up.  If McDowell was going to use this army, he would have to do it soon.

McDowell wanted more time, expressing the need for more training for this still green army.  Lincoln had tried to reassure him, saying, "You are green, it is true, but they are green also; you are all green alike."  This was true enough, but the Confederates weren't having to make a grueling march to get to the battle.  Lincoln had directed McDowell to move out by July 9.  Arrangements had taken longer than expected, but McDowell was finally on the road a week late.

And as McDowell was beginning to move, Johnston was parrying with Patterson in the valley, sending J. E. B. Stuart's cavalry against Patterson's advance units and forcing the old general to sit this one out.  Johnson would soon slip away, but would not reach Beauregard until July 20-21.

McDowell should have had enough time to reach Beauregard and give battle before Johnston showed up, but his misgivings about his army would be realized as soon as they were on the move.

The advance was a mess.  The men had never marched in formation for hours in July heat with full gear, and officers had never led men in a long march.  It was a vastly different experience than marching for an hour or so around a parade ground.  Bottlenecks and long halts quickly developed.  By the evening of the 16th, McDowell's advance was in Fairfax Court House, where they drove off enemy skirmishers and made camp.  The next day, the troops were exhausted and could only cover six miles.  It took until July 18 for the advance to reach Centreville, close to the Confederate position, and would take another two days for McDowell to get the rest of his army up.  He would finally be ready for an attack on July 21.
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Thursday, July 14, 2011

150 Years Ago: Sullivan Ballou's Letter

On July 14, 1861, one week before the Battle of Bull Run, Major Sullivan Ballou of the 2nd Rhode Island Regiment penned a letter to his wife Sarah.  An edited version was featured in the Ken Burns documentary The Civil War.  There are several versions with minor differences, but the original letter is gone, perhaps buried with Sarah.
July the 14th, 1861

Washington DC

My very dear Sarah:

The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days - perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write you again, I feel impelled to write lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more.

Our movement may be one of a few days duration and full of pleasure - and it may be one of severe conflict and death to me. Not my will, but thine 0 God, be done. If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing - perfectly willing - to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt.

But, my dear wife, when I know that with my own joys I lay down nearly all of yours, and replace them in this life with cares and sorrows - when, after having eaten for long years the bitter fruit of orphanage myself, I must offer it as their only sustenance to my dear little children - is it weak or dishonorable, while the banner of my purpose floats calmly and proudly in the breeze, that my unbounded love for you, my darling wife and children, should struggle in fierce, though useless, contest with my love of country?

I cannot describe to you my feelings on this calm summer night, when two thousand men are sleeping around me, many of them enjoying the last, perhaps, before that of death -- and I, suspicious that Death is creeping behind me with his fatal dart, am communing with God, my country, and thee.

I have sought most closely and diligently, and often in my breast, for a wrong motive in thus hazarding the happiness of those I loved and I could not find one. A pure love of my country and of the principles have often advocated before the people and "the name of honor that I love more than I fear death" have called upon me, and I have obeyed.

Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.

The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me - perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar -- that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.

Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have oftentimes been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness, and struggle with all the misfortune of this world, to shield you and my children from harm. But I cannot. I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near you, while you buffet the storms with your precious little freight, and wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more.

But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the garish day and in the darkest night -- amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours - always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.

Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again.

As for my little boys, they will grow as I have done, and never know a father's love and care. Little Willie is too young to remember me long, and my blue eyed Edgar will keep my frolics with him among the dimmest memories of his childhood. Sarah, I have unlimited confidence in your maternal care and your development of their characters. Tell my two mothers his and hers I call God's blessing upon them. O Sarah, I wait for you there! Come to me, and lead thither my children.


Ballou and 93 men of his regiment were killed or mortally wounded at the Battle of Bull Run.  Ballou was on a horse in front of the regiment when a six-pounder solid shot struck him in the leg and killed the horse.  He was carried off the field and the shattered leg was amputated.  He died a week later and was buried at Sudley Church.

In March 1862, Rhode Island Governor William Sprague, a personal friend of Ballou's, traveled to the battlefield to retrieve the bodies of several Rhode Island officers.  The body of Sullivan Ballou was missing.  Witnesses claimed that the body had been exhumed, decapitated and desecrated by soldiers of the 21st Georgia Regiment the previous winter.  Sprague found ashes, bones, a blanket with tufts of hair, and two shirts that he claimed belonged to Ballou.  The remains were transported back to Rhode Island and reburied in Providence at Swan Point Cemetery.

The letter was never mailed.  It was found in Ballou's trunk after the battle.  Sprague later reclaimed it and delivered it to Sarah.  She never remarried.  She died in 1917 and is buried next to her husband.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

150 Years Ago: Corrick's Ford

Robert S. GarnettImage of Robert Garnett via Wikipedia

On July 13, 1861, military operations in the aftermath of the battle of Rich Mountain came to an end.  The Confederate forces under Colonel John Pegram surrendered to George McClellan, and Union General Thomas Morris's Indiana brigade caught up to Robert Garnett's retreating Confederates near Corrick's Ford on the Cheat River.

The two forces fought a running skirmish and Garnett deployed skirmishers to cover his retreat.  As he was attempting to recall the skirmishers and move to another nearby ford, he was shot and killed by a Union volley.  Garnett was the first general officer on either side to be killed during the war.  The Confederates retreated in disarray, leaving behind a cannon, forty wagons and their commander's body.

In recognition of his service and two brevets for gallantry in the Mexican War, a Union honor guard conveyed his body to his relatives, who buried him in Baltimore, Maryland.  Four years later, the family exhumed Garnett's remains and secretly re-interred him in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York, next to his wife and son, who had died before the war.  His grave was unmarked for fears of anti-Southern sentiments.  In May 2011, a small headstone was placed on his grave next to the family's larger marker.

The Confederates were gone and the region was securely in Federal hands.  Although he had planned the excursion into western Virginia and the Rich Mountain campaign, George McClellan received accolades far out of proportion to his actual participation in the battles.  He became the North's first war hero.

Also on this date, Harper's Weekly featured a cartoon, "Double-Quick Step to Richmond."  Almost everyone, North and South, thought that this would be a quick war, and "Forward to Richmond" was the cry in the North, especially from Horace Greeley's New York Tribune.  The pressure was on for General Irvin McDowell to march his army south to capture the Confederate capitol of Richmond, Virginia, and end the war.  After McDowell's ignominious defeat at the Battle of Bull Run, McClellan was called to Washington to take command of the Army of the Potomac, leaving William Rosecrans in command in western Virginia.

Also, John Clark (D-Mo.) became the first representative ever to be expelled from the U.S. House of Representatives.  By a vote of 94 to 45 Clark was expelled for taking up arms against the Union.  He was a brigadier general in the pro-secessionist Missouri State Guard.  He was a senator in the First Confederate Congress and a representative in the Second Confederate Congress.
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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

150 Years Ago: Mopping Up

George B. McClellan. Library of Congress descr...Image of George McClellan via Wikipedia

On July 12, 1861, the forces under Union General George McClellan were busy following up their victory the previous day at Rich Mountain in western Virginia (now West Virginia).

With Union forces in their rear, the Confederate positions at Rich Mountain and Laurel Mountain were in jeopardy.  During the night of July 11-12, General Robert Garnett and Colonel John Pegram evacuated the positions at Laurel Mountain and Rich Mountain, respectively.  Both headed toward Beverly.

Garnett made it to the turnpike that led south to Beverly, but he was erroneously informed that the enemy had already occupied that town.  He headed northeast on much more primitive roads.

Pegram's men passed through Beverly and headed north on the turnpike toward Leadsville.  The men were demoralized, exhausted, and hungry, and Pegram stopped and made camp by the Tygart River.  After conferring with his officers, he finally decided to surrender to McClellan.
near Tygart's valley River, six miles from Beverly, July 12, 1861.
To Commanding Officer of Northern Forces, Beverly, Va.:
sir: I write to state to you that I have, in consequence of the retreat of General Garnett, and the jaded and reduced condition of my command, most of them having been without food for two days, concluded, with the concurrence of a majority of my captains and field officers, to surrender my command to you tomorrow, as prisoners of war. I have only to add, I trust they will only receive at your hands such treatment as has been invariably shown to the northern prisoners by the South.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,

John Pegram, Lieutenant-Colonel P. A. C. S., Com'dg.
In the early morning hours of July 12, the Federals advanced to find the Confederates gone.  McClellan occupied the camp at the Rich Mountain gap, then proceeded on to Beverly, occupying the town around noon.  From there, he replied to Pegram the following day:
Headquarters, Department of the Ohio, Beverly, Va., July 13, 1861.
John Pegram, Esq., styling himself Lieutenant-Colonel, P. A. C. S.:
sir: Your communication dated yesterday, proposing the surrender as prisoners of war of the force assembled under your command, has been delivered to me. As commander of this department, I will receive you and them with the kindness due to prisoners of war, but it is not in my power to relieve you or them from any liabilities incurred by taking arms against the United States.

I am, very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

Geo. B. McClellan, Maj.-Gen. U. S. A., Commanding Department.
 Meanwhile, General Thomas Morris's men took up the pursuit of Garnett.  They were easy to trail over the muddy roads by following the footprints and the discarded equipment.  Morris caught up to them and fought a running battle the following day.

Also on this date, Albert Pike concluded another treaty between the Confederate government and the tribes in the Indian Territory; this one was with the Choctaws and Chickasaws.

Unrelated to the Civil War, James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok fought his first gunfight on this date at Rock Creek Station in Nebraska.  It wasn't much of a fight since the other participants were unarmed.

Details are sketchy, but Dave McCanles showed up with two friend and his 12-year-old son.  He wanted some money that was due him and got into a heated argument with the stationmaster.  One version has Hickok intervening and McCanles threatening to drag him outside and beat him.  "There will be one less son-of-a-bitch when you try that," Hickok supposedly replied.  When McCanles moved toward him, Hickok shot him in the chest with a rifle.  Another version has Hickok shooting McCanles while hiding behind a curtain.

The other two men attempted to flee, but were wounded by Hickok and killed by the other station employees.

At the trial, the McCanles son was not allowed to testify, or even to enter the courtroom.  The jury heard only testimony from the station employees and ruled that they had acted in self defense.

In 1867, Harper's New Monthly Magazine published a greatly embellished account of the incident, claiming that Hickok had faced down the deadly McCanles Gang and killed nine men single-handedly.  Supposedly, Hickok was gravely wounded in the shootout and later had eleven bullets removed.  The legend of Wild Bill was born.
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Monday, July 11, 2011

150 Years Ago: Rich Mountain

Maj. Gen. William Rosecrans, USAImage of General William Rosecrans via Wikipedia

On Thursday, July 11, 1861, the battle of Rich Mountain took place in Randolph County, Virginia (now West Virginia).

Union Major General George McClellan, commanding the Department of the Ohio, had come to western Virginia in late May, occupying Grafton, a key junction on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.  He then sent a detachment to rout a small Confederate force at Philippi on June 3.  He then spent several weeks consolidating his forces and securing the portion of the railroad that ran through this mountainous country.

He was opposed by Brigadier General Robert Garnett who commanded some 5000 men at Beverly, a vital turnpike crossroads.  Garnett had been unable to get reinforcements or recruits from the pro-Union population, and was reduced to staging raids on Union supply lines.

When McClellan was finally ready, he moved forward to take on this force and capture Beverly.  He commanded an imposing force of 20,000, but some 5000 were were scattered throughout the countryside guarding the railroad, bridges and roads.

He found the Confederates entrenched on Rich Mountain and Laurel Mountain, protecting Beverly on the west and north respectively.  He split his force into two columns that marched on the positions in a coordinated advance.  From Philippi, Brigadier General Thomas Morris marched to confront the force at Laurel Mountain.  McClellan, with his principal lieutenant, Brigadier General William Rosecrans, moved from Buckhannon toward Rich Mountain.

Morris was in position on July 7 and engaged the Confederates in a series of small skirmishes over the next few days that convinced Garnett that he would be attacked from the north.  He concentrated most of his men on Laurel Mountain, leaving just 1300 under Colonel John Pegram on Rich Mountain.

Even with an overwhelming advantage, McClellan was hesitant to launch a frontal assault on Rich Mountain.  The Confederates had a strong position and a prisoner had convinced the general that he faced many more men than were actually there.

A young civilian, David Hart, appeared in the Union lines and told Rosecrans of a path that led around the left flank of the Confederate position.  Rosecrans took the young man to McClellan and, after deciding that Hart could be trusted, came up with a new plan.  Rosecrans would take his brigade of 1900 men -- the 8th, 10th and 13th Indiana, and the 19th Ohio Regiments -- south of the Confederate position and attack the Confederates from the rear.  McClellan would wait with the rest of the men and make a frontal assault when Rosecrans launched his assault.

At 5 a.m. on July 11, Rosecrans's force headed off with David Hart in the lead.  It was slow going, taking eight hours to get seven or eight miles through the mountain forest, but Rosecrans finally emerged a mile or two in the rear of the Confederate position.  After a sharp fight that lasted almost two hours, Rosecrans personally led a charge that overwhelmed the Confederates.  McClellan never made the planned frontal assault.

From McClellan's official report:
Headquarters, Department of the Ohio, Rich Mountain, Va., 9 a.m., July 12, 1861.
Col. E. D. Townsend: We are in possession of all the enemy's works up to a point in the right of Beverly. I have taken all his guns, a very large amount of wagons, tents, &c.--everything he had — a large number of prisoners, many of whom were wounded, and several officers prisoners. They lost many killed. We have lost, in all, perhaps twenty killed and fifty wounded, of whom all but two or three were in the column under Rosecrans, which turned the position. The mass of the enemy escaped through the woods, entirely disorganized. Among the prisoners is Dr. Taylor, formerly of the army. Col. Pegram was in command.

Colonel Rosecrans's column left camp yesterday morning, and marched some eight miles through the mountains, reaching the turnpike some two or three miles in rear of the enemy, defeating an advanced post, and taking a couple of guns. I had a position ready for twelve guns near the main camp, and as guns were moving up, I ascertained that the enemy had retreated. I am now pushing on to Beverly, a part of Colonel Rosecrans's troops being now within three miles of it.

McClellan submitted a second report a little later:
Beverly, July 12th, 1861.
Col. E. D. Townsend, Washington, D. C,:
The success of to-day is all that I could desire. We captured six brass cannons, of which one is rifled, all the enemy's camp equipage and transportation, even to his cups. The number of tents will probably reach two hundred, and more than sixty wagons. Their killed and wounded will amount to fully one hundred and fifty, with one hundred prisoners, and more coming in constantly. I know already of ten officers killed and prisoners. Their retreat is complete.

I occupied Beverly by a rapid march. Garnett abandoned his camp early in the morning, leaving much of his equipage. He came within a few miles of Beverly, but our rapid march turned him back in great confusion, and he is now retreating on the road to St. George. I have ordered Gen. Morris to follow him up closely.

I have telegraphed for the two Pennsylvania regiments at Cumberland to join Gen. Hill at Rowlesburg. The General is concentrating all his troops at Rowlesburg, and he will cut off Garnett's retreat near West Union, or, if possible, at St. George.

I may say that we have driven out some ten thousand troops, strongly intrenched, with the loss of 11 killed and 35 wounded. The provision returns here show Garnett's force to have been ten thousand men. They were Eastern Virginians, Tennesseans, Georgians, and, I think, Carolinians. To-morrow I can give full details, as to prisoners, &c.

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Sunday, July 10, 2011

150 Years Ago: Expulsion

On Wednesday, July 10, 1861, Daniel Clark (R-NH) introduced a resolution in the U.S. Senate to expel ten Southern senators -- William Sebastian and Charles Mitchel of Arkansas, Thomas Clingman and Thomas Bragg of North Carolina, James Chesnut of South Carolina, A. O. P. Nicholson of Tennessee, John Hemphill and Louis Wigfall of Texas, and James Mason and Robert Hunter of Virginia.
Whereas a conspiracy has been formed against the peace, union, and liberties of the people and Government of the United States; and in furtherance of such conspiracy a portion of the people of the States of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Texas, have attempted to withdraw those States from the Union, and are now in arms against the Government; and whereas [the senators from those states] have failed to appear in their seats in the Senate and to aid the Government in this important crisis; and it is apparent to the Senate that said Senators are engaged in said conspiracy for the destruction of the Union and Government, or, with full knowledge of such conspiracy, have failed to advise the Government of its progress or aid in its suppression: Therefore,

Resolved, That the said Mason, Hunter, Clingman, Bragg, Chesnut, Nicholson, Sebastian, Mitchel, Hemphill, and Wigfall be, and they hereby are, each and all of them, expelled from the Senate of the United States.
After a short, but intense debate the resolution passed the following day by a vote of 32 to 10.

Of the ten expelled senators, William Sebastian was the only one who did not participate in Confederate politics or military service.  He practiced law in Helena, Arkansas, until the town was occupied by Union troops.  He then moved to Memphis, Tennessee, and died there on May 20, 1865.  In 1877, the Senate revoked the expulsion order against him and paid full compensation to his children.

Also on this date, the Federal government reached an understanding with newspaper correspondents not to convey by telegraph any news of troop movements.  From the diary of William Howard Russell...
The Government have been coerced, as they say, by the safety of the Republic, to destroy the liberty of the press, which is guaranteed by the Constitution, and this is not the first instance in which the Constitution of the United States will be made nominis umbra. The telegraph, according to General Scott’s order, confirmed by the Minister of War, Simon Cameron, is to convey no despatches respecting military movements not permitted by the General; and today the newspaper correspondents have agreed to yield obedience to the order, reserving to themselves a certain freedom of detail in writing their despatches, and relying on the Government to publish the official accounts of all battles very speedily. They will break this agreement if they can, and the Government will not observe their part of the bargain. The freedom of the press, as I take it, does not include the right to publish news hostile to the cause of the country in which it is published; neither can it involve any obligation, on the part of Government to publish despatches which may be injurious to the party they represent. There is a wide distinction between the publication of news which is known to the enemy as soon as to the friends of the transmitters, and the utmost freedom of expression concerning the acts of the Government or the conduct of past events; but it will be difficult to establish any rule to limit or extend the boundaries to which discussion can go without mischief, and in effect the only solution of the difficulty in a free country seems to be to grant the press free licence, in consideration of the enormous aid it affords in warning the people of their danger, in animating them with the news of their successes, and in sustaining the Government in their efforts to conduct the war.

Also, Albert Pike concluded a treaty between the Confederate government and the Creek Indians.  Pike would arrange nine treaties with the various tribes in the Indian Territory. 

Thursday, July 07, 2011

150 Years Ago: William Tillman

On Sunday, July 7, 1861, the Confederate privateer Jefferson Davis captured the schooner S. J. Waring about 150 miles off the coast of Sandy Hook, New Jersey.  The Confederates put a five-man prize crew on the schooner and headed her toward Charleston.

It would not end well for the privateers.  Aboard the S. J. Waring was an African-American serving as the ship's cook, William Tillman (also spelled Tilghman).  He was told that he, like the ship and the cargo, was Southern property and would be sold into bondage when the ship reached the South.

On the night of July 16, Tillman went to the captain's cabin with an axe and killed the captain and first mate in their sleep.  He then went up on deck and killed the second mate.  He tossed the bodies overboard, then forced the remaining members of the prize crew to surrender.  Tillman, two other crew members who had remained on board, a passenger, and the two surviving members of the prize crew sailed the ship to New York, arriving there on July 22.  Tillman was awarded $6000 in prize money.

Also on this date, the U.S.S. Resolute encountered and successfully swept two moored mines in the Potomac River.  Following the battle of Aquia Creek, the Confederates had placed the mines near where the creek joined the river.  This was almost certainly the first time the Confederates used mines, but they would sink some 40 ships with them during the war.

John Ellis, the governor of North Carolina, died at Red Sulphur Springs, Virginia (now West Virginia).  Ellis had been in ill health for some time and had traveled to Red Sulpher Springs to recuperate.  Henry Clark, the speaker of the state senate, had assumed Ellis's duties when he left the state and served out the remainder of his term. 
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Wednesday, July 06, 2011

150 Years Ago: the Sumter's Prizes

Portrait drawing of American Civil War Confede...Image via Wikipedia

On Saturday, July 6, 1861, Confederate raider Raphael Semmes, commanding the C.S.S. Sumter, arrived at Cienfuegos, Cuba, with seven prizes of war -- "the brigantines Cuba, Machias, Ben Dunning, Albert Adams, Naiad; and barques West Wind and Louisa Kilham, property of citizens of the United States."

After running the blockade on June 30, Semmes had been a busy man.  On July 3, he captured an American merchant vessel, the Golden Rocket, off the coast of Cuba.  The ship's Northern ownership was confirmed and she had no cargo (she was searching Cuban ports for a load of sugar), so there was nothing left to adjudicate.  Semmes ordered the Golden Rocket burned.

On July 4, he captured two more merchant vessels, the Cuba and the Machias.  These were U.S. ships with neutral cargoes, so, following the laws of the sea, Semmes took them to a neutral port for adjudication of the cargoes.  Cienfuegos was convenient, but Semmes had another reason for taking them to Cuba.  From his official report:
I have sought a port of Cuba with these prizes, with the expectation that Spain will extend to cruisers of the Confederate States the same friendly reception that in similar circumstances she would extend to the cruisers of the enemy; in other words, that she will permit me to leave the captured vessels within her jurisdiction until they can be adjudicated by a Court of Admiralty of the Confederate States.
The Sumter arrived at Cienfuegos on the evening of July 5 with her prizes, but it was too late to enter the harbor.  While loitering outside the harbor, two ships were spotted.  The Sumter gave chase and soon captured them as well.  Before she could enter the harbor on the morning of July 6, a steamer was spotted towing three more U.S. ships out of the harbor.  Semmes waited until the ships were in international waters, then captured them too.

The Cuban authorities were at a loss.  They had no instructions for a situation such as this.  While the Cubans waited to see if Spain would, like England and France, declare its neutrality, Semmes appointed a local citizen as a "prize agent" to protect the ships and their cargo.

Semmes hoped "that some of the nations, at least, would give an asylum for my prizes, so that I may have them formally condemned by the Confederate States Prize Court, instead of being obliged to destroy them."

Spain soon issued a proclamation of neutrality, and the Cuban authorities released the vessels to the United States.
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