Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Skirmish at Island Mound

The first engagement by African-American troops during the Civil War occurred on 29 th October 1862 at Island Mound in Missouri.

Captain James M Williams formed a regiment out of former slaves from Missouri and Arkansas in Kansas, even before President Lincoln declared the Emancipation Proclamation. In August 1862 these men became the First Kansas Colored Volunteers. They weren’t mustered into the US service until January 13th 1863, but were armed with Austrian and Prussian muskets.
On October 27th the 1st Kansas Colored were part of the force sent to Bates County,MO to break up a guerrilla force located near the homestead of John Toothman. Their scout located a large party of Confederate’s serving under Bill Truman and Dick Hancock, with the Missouri State Guard under Colonel Jeremiah “Vard” Cockrell. The Union finding a larger force than expected, fortified their position with fence rails, calling their location “Fort Africa”. The second day passed with both sides sending out skirmishers.

By the 29th the Union troops were running low on ration. Skirmishers were sent out to create a diversion, so that a party could out and forage. While the Kansas men were eating the foraged food, the Rebels set a fire to the south of camp. The Union men set a back fire to keep the original fire form reaching camp. The Union forces sent out John Six-Killer a Cherokee scout and his slaves that had enlisted with him. They were to move just beyond the fire, remaining in sight of camp. They were drawn out into a skirmish and advanced out of sight. A second party under Lieutenant Joseph Gardner were dispatched to Six-Killer’s aid, but soon were also engaged out of sight. The Battle continued to grow in size. Union casualties were eight killed [1 white officer, 6 blacks, and the Cherokee John Six-Killer], and eleven wounded. The Rebels lost about 30 men. The 1st Kansans Colored Volunteer would become the 79th US Colored Troops on December 13th 1864.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Second Time

Major General James G Blunt’s Union cavalry caught up to Major General Sterling Price’s Confederate cavalry at about three pm on the October 28th 1864 in Newtonia,MO. The rebel force was retreating after its foray into Missouri, when it made a rest stop about two mile south of the town. The Federal army spotted Price’s supply train on the Cassville road. This would become the second battle of Newtonia.

The Union’s 16th Kansas and 2nd Colorado formed two lines and charged the fleeing supply train. The skirmishers that the Confederate sent out were in no condition at this point of the war to put up much of a resistance, and were soon push back. General Joseph Shelby brought in his “Iron Brigade”, he road to the front, dismounted and lead the attack that flanked the smaller number of Union troops, pushing them back into a cornfield on the Matthew H Ritchey property. The fighting continued here until Federal reinforcements and cannon under General John B Sanborn showed up, causing the Rebels to retreat at nightfall. By the next morning Price and his men had retreated across the prairie and into Indian Territory.

Although this was a ruff fight the casualties were light. The Union side lost about 400 soldier and the Confederates 250.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

He Hoped the Slaves Would Rise Up

On October 16th 1859 perhaps the first shot of the Civil War was fired by twenty-two men, five of whom were black.

The abolitionist John Brown led a group of 21 men; five of whom were black, on this date in 1859 against the Arsenal in Harper’s Ferry,VA [now located in WV]. John Brown hoped to use the weapons that would be captured to begin a slave revolt in South. The raid began that night when a free black man named Shepherd, who worked for the B & O Railroad as a night baggage porter was shot. The sound woke Dr John Starry at about 1 am.  Starry walked from his home to investigate the noise and was confronted by the raiders. Starry stated that he was a doctor, but that he could do nothing more for Shepherd, Brown’s men let him go. The Doctor went straight to the livery, took a horse and rode to Charleston,VA to alert people of the raid.

John Brown and his men found themselves surrounded by local militia and angry citizens. They took up refuge in a building adjacent to the Armory known as the Engine House. Brown's group had taken 60 hostages, mostly prominent people from Harper’s Ferry. The Secretary of War requested assistance of a unit of United States Marines, A unit of 86 led by Lieutenant Israel Green was sent. In need of an officer to lead this force, non other than Colonel Robert E Lee who was on leave near by, was assigned the job, with Lieutenant J E B Stuart as his aide-de-camp. These Marines arrived on the 18th, and after trying to negotiate with Brown, the Engine House was stormed with most of the raiders killed or captured. [9 to 12 {the numbers differ} of the raiders were killed, including two of the black men and two of John Brown’s sons]

John Brown was seriously wounded. He was taken to Chalestown,VA [now WV] were he was tried for treason, convicted and hung on December 2nd 1859.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Infantry, Cavalry, Artillery, Oh My

On October 15 1864 while on a march across Missouri, Major General Sterling Price sent a detachment of men to take a Federal storehouse located in Glasgow, Missouri.

Glasgow, Missouri was said to hold a depot of weapons, and supplies, and on the morning of October 15th 1864, a combined unknown number of Confederate mounted infantry, cavalry, and artillery attacked the town. With the artillery firing and rebel troops advancing on Glasgow, the Union troops there, numbering about 800 strong fell back to fortifications located on Hereford Hill.  Here they formed a line of defense. Union Colonel Chester Harding became sure that his line could not withhold another attack, and he surrendered around 1:30 in the afternoon. Harding’s men had destroyed some of the stores, but the Confederates left town three days latter with rifles, overcoats and horses. This victory gave Price’s men a much needed boost in morale.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Not Hill's Finest Day

October 14th 1863 found General Robert E Lee’s soldiers destroying the Orange and Alexandria Railroad.

Confederate General Ambrose Powell Hill’s Corp stumbled onto a couple of retreating Corps of Union forces near the Bristoe Station, that he believed was the end of Union General George Gordon Meade‘s army. Hill reinforced his line, but still didn’t make any ground against Union troops. The Union army was withdrawing toward Manassas, with Meade carefully protecting his western flank. Lee’s offensive at Bristoe had petered out, with Meade well entrenched and the Confederates running low on supplies. Lee pulled back slowly toward the Rappahannock River and tore up the Orange and Alexandria Railroad as they left the area. For the Confederate forces it was a costly battle, with their losses being 1,300 to the Union’s 546. Hill lost standing with his commanding officer after battle with responsibility for the high losses of men being placed on him.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Staying Out of Sight

J.E.B. Stuart finding himself cut off by retreating Federal troops on October 13, 1863, hid in a ravine until the Union soldiers moved on.

After Gettysburg the Confederate army retreated behind the Rapidan River. The Union advanced steadily. On October 13, 1863 Gen JEB Stuart along with Gen Fitzhugh Lee [nephew of Gen Robert E Lee] and Gen Lunsford Lindsay Lomax’s Brigade had a run in with the rearguard of the Federal 3rd Corps near Auburn,VA. They concealed themselves in a wooded ravine, until the Union force had pasted.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Custer Fell Back

General George Custer was attacked at Brock’s Gap on October 6th 1864 by a force of Confederate cavalry under the command of Colonel Thomas L Rosser .

Brock’s Gap is located in the Shenandoah Valley, and in the fall of 1864 the area was a hot prize between the two armies. Union General Philip Sheridan was burning his way down the valley, hitting farms, towns and crops in the field. The soldiers of the “Laurel Brigade" under the command of Rosser, wished to remove the threat of these troops. They caught up with Sheridan’s rear, being lead by Custer on October 6th 1864 near Brock’s Gap. Custer was able, with the help of artillery to hold a hill, until dark fell and Custer’s men fell back.


Thursday, October 2, 2008


On October 2nd 1864 the First Battle of Saltville by regular and home guard Confederate units against Union troops that included black cavalry.

Saltville,VA had an important salt works. The battle began on Sunday morning that was cold and foggy. Confederate trenches completely ringed the town’s hills. From this vantage point the Rebel troops were able to hold off Union advances. The Battle was a Rebel victory, but was marred by the killing of captured and wounded black troops.

These are good web sites for more info

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Gold Took Her Down

Rose Greenhow was a heroin of the Confederacy,  she drowned  October 1st 1864, while trying to get away from a grounded ship with $ 2,000 in gold.

Maria Rosatta O’Neal was born 1817 in Port Tobacco,Maryland. She received the nick name Wild Rose at an early age. Her father John O’Neal was killed by one of his slaves when she was young, leaving her mother Eliza with a cash poor farm to manage. To help with finances, Rose was sent to live in Washington,DC with an Aunt who ran a boarding house. She married Dr Robert Greenhow in 1835, and was the toast of Washington society.  They were blessed with four daughters.

As a member of Washington’s high society Rose traveled in important political, and military circles. These connections allowed her to become a top Confederate Spy. She passed information to General PGT Beauregard regarding the Union plans for the First Battle of Manassas, perhaps changing the out come of the day. She was arrested in Aug of 1861 by Allan Pinkerton, and transferred to the Old Capitol Prison in January. Even while in the prison Rose was able to get and send information to the Confederate government. In May of 1862 Rose and her 8 year old daughter were deported to Richmond,VA.

Rose spent 1863 and 1864 in Europe, traveling through France and Britain raising sympathy for the Confederacy among European aristocrats. While in London Mrs. Greenhow wrote a book about her time in prison, which sold well in England. In September of 1864 she headed home on the “Condor”; a blockade runner, carrying $2,000 in gold sewn into her dress for the Confederacy. The ship was run aground near Wilmington, North Carolina October 1st 1864, and Rose was drowned while trying to escape in a rowboat.