Monday, December 31, 2012

His First And Last Battle

Union Lieutenant Colonel Julius Peter Garesché was killed December 31st 1862 at the Battle of Stones River in Tennessee.

Julius Peter Garesché was born April 26th 1821 near Havana, Cuba.  He was able to attend Georgetown College beginning in 1833.  After four years at Georgetown, Garesché received an appointment to the United State Military Academy at West Point.  He graduated in the class of 1841 and began his military carrier in the 4th United States Artillery.  After duty on the frontier and action during the Mexican American War he reached the rank of Captain in 1855.  Garesché was also a devout Catholic and he received recognition for services performed for the church from Pope Pius IX in the form of the Knight of St Sylvester medal.

When the Civil War started Garesché became the Chief of Staff with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel for Union Major General William S Rosecrans.  This placed him with the Army of the Cumberland in the Western Theater.  The Battle of Stone River was the first combat of the war for Garesché and on December 31 1862 as he rode with Rosecrans during the battle he was decapitated by a cannonball.  Shortly after Union General Philip H Sheridan found Garesché’s body and removed his bible and West Point ring from the dead body.  Garesché is buried in the Mount Olivet Cemetery in Washington, DC.

If you’re interested in reading more, check out, Eccentric Officer 'Knew' He Would Die in His First Battle and The Gallant Garesché

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Rescue Of The Men On The Monitor

John Jones a sailor in the Union Navy was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on December 30th 1862 in saving men from the Monitor.

John Jones was born August 25th 1841.

Jones served on the USS Rhode Island as a Landsman, which was the rank afforded to men who had been recruited and had served for less than a year.  The USS Rhode Island was side-wheel steamer and in late December 1862 she had been assigned the job of towing the USS Monitor to the waters off South Carolina.  On December 30th 1862 in heavy seas off Cape Hatteras, the Monitor was swamped and sank.  Jones at a risk to his own life rescued many of the men from the Monitor in a small boat.  His Medal of Honor citation says that while he was engaged “in the hazardous rescue of the officers and crew of the sinking Monitor, Jones, after rescuing several of the men, became separated in a heavy gale with other members of the cutter that had set out from the Rhode Island, and spent many hours in the small boat at the mercy of the weather and high seas until finally picked up by a schooner 50 miles east of Cape Hatteras.”

Jones would go on to reach the rank of Ordinary Seaman.  He died August 15th 1907, and is buried in the St Mary’s Cemetery, in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Creek To Creek

General Samuel D Sturgis
The Battle of Mossy Creek was fought December 29th 1863 in Jefferson County, Tennessee.

Union Brigadier General Samuel D Sturgis’ troops were camped near Talbott’s Station on the Mossy Creek, when he received reports of  Confederate Cavalry camped on the south side of the creek near Dandridge.  Sturgis decided to try to capture this cavalry by sending a portion of his force toward Dandridge.  Shortly after this half of Sturgis troops left on the morning December 29th 1863 Confederate Major General William T Martin’s cavalry moved from Morristown, Tennessee along Panther Creek and attacked the Union men who were left near Talbott’s Station.

Sturgis’ men fell back toward Mossy Creek, while he sent messages to recall the half of his men sent to Dandridge.  Martin’s troopers continued to drive the Union soldiers in their front.  At about 3 pm Sturgis’ other half arrived, and with these extra men the Union drove the Confederates out of Mossy Creek, pushing them back to Panther Creek.

Sturgis didn’t follow up the pursuit.  Martin continued his retreat towards Morristown, where they went into winter camp.  The Union side reported about 151 casualties.  Confederate casualties are unknown.

Friday, December 28, 2012

A Confederate Senator

Robert Jemison Jr took his seat December 28th 1863 as the Senator from Alabama in the Confederate Senate in Richmond, Virginia.

Robert Jemison Jr was born September 17th 1802 in Lincoln County, Georgia.  He owned several business including toll roads and bridges, a stagecoach line, grist and sawmill, and a hotel.  He also owned six plantations in Alabama totaling about 10,000 acres of land and about 500 slaves.  He lived on the largest known as Cherokee Place plantation in Northport, Alabama.  His main occupation was in bridge building.

Jemison was against Alabama succeeding.  He attended the Secession Convention in Montgomery, Alabama in January 1861, where he argued against taking that action.  Once the state joined the Confederacy however Jemison supported them finically.  He served in the Confederate Senate beginning December 28th 1863 through till the end of the Civil War.

Jemison died October 16th 1871 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama at the family home the Jemison Van de Graaff Mansion.  He is buried in the Jemison Family Cemetery in Northport, Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Last Boat

Not the USS Kate, but when she would have looked like
The USS Kate was purchased by the Union Navy December 23rd 1864 from J B Porter and Son of Cincinnati, Ohio.

The Kate B Porter was built at Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania in 1864.  She was purchased from J B Porter and Son of Cincinnati, Ohio December 23rd 1864 by the Union Navy.  They re-christened her the USS Kate and converted her into a gunboat.  She was commissioned at Mound City, Illinois under the command of Lieutenant W R Wells, and set to work patrolling the Mississippi River.  The Kate was one of the last Union ships on naval duty in the Mississippi River.

When the Civil War ended the Kate was order to the Tennessee River, where she went to work cleaning up the hulks of barges and gunboat which had been sunk.  In August 1865 she was sent to the Jefferson Barracks Reserve where she was disarmed.  The Kate was decommissioned at Mound City, Illinois March 25th 1866.  She was sold at auction and re-commissioned the James J Trover on April 12th 1866.  She ended her life stranded on the Missouri River about 300 miles below Fort Benton, Montana on June 21st 1867.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

An Independent Battery

The 26th Ohio Independent Battery, made up of men from the 32nd Ohio Infantry, was organized as a distinct battery on December 22nd 1863.

The battery was organized August 1861 as Company “F” of the 32nd Ohio Infantry at Camp Dennison in Cincinnati, Ohio.  They were detached under the command of Captain Theobold D Yost; when they were captured at Harper's Ferry September 15th 1862.  During the Vicksburg Campaign the unit was known as the Yost’s Independent Ohio Battery.  They were permanently detached from the 32nd on December 22nd 1863.

The men of the 26th Ohio Battery mustered out of Union service on September 2nd 1865 in Columbus, Ohio.  They lost 22 men during service all dying from disease.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Trapped By Their Own Torpedo

The CSS Savannah was burned December 21st 1864 by the Confederates when Union General William Tecumseh Sherman’s force threatened the city of Savannah, Georgia.

The CSS Savannah was an ironclad ram built by H F Willink at the Savannah Shipyard in 1863.  It was 172.5 feet long with a 34 foot beam and 12.5 foot draft.  The four inch thick iron armor covering her wooden haul was made in Atlanta.  The Savannah was armed with among other guns, two 7 inch rifled cannon and two 6.4 inch Brook guns.  Her top speed was about 6 knots and she carried a crew of 180.

The Savannah was launched February 4th 1863, and by June was in the Savannah River under Flag Officer William Hunter.  She wasn’t engaged in battle until Union General William T Sherman moved on the city of Savannah, Georgia at the end of his March to the Sea in December 1864.  She was unable to stop Sherman’s capturing the city.  The Savannah stayed there on the river covering Confederate General William Joseph Hardee’s retreat from the city on a pontoon bridge.

The Savannah engaged in an artillery duel December 20th 1864 with Union guns.  When she tried to escape the river she wound up trapped by one the Confederacies own torpedo mines.  On December 21st 1864 in order to keep the Savannah from being captured her commander had her run aground on the South Carolina side of the river, and set afire.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Holding The Bridge

The Battle of Altamaha Bridge [Battle for Doctortown Railroad Trestle] was fought December 19th 1864 in Wayne County, Georgia.

The Confederate 4th Bridge of the Georgia Militia under the command of Brigadier General H K McKay began setting up a defense of the Savannah and Gulf Railroad Bridge at the Altamaha River in early December 1864.  On the south side of the river at Doctortown they mounted two 32 pounder guns, set to sweep the bridge.

Union General William Tecumseh Sherman’s march to the sea was delayed just outside of Savannah, Georgia.  He sent troops to tear up the railroad along the Ogeechee River to the Altamaha Bridge.  On December 19th 1864 Union cavalry under command of Colonel Smith D Atkins attacked the bridge, doing some damage to the trestlework, but they were unable to capture the bridge or the Confederate’s 32 pounders.

The Union troops withdrew to the Ogeechee River.  This withdrawal left open the Confederate supply line into Savannah.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Northern Born Confederate

Northern born and raised, Confederate Brigadier General Johnson Kelly Duncan died December 18th1862 from malaria fever.

Johnson Kelly Duncan was born in Chanceford, York, Pennsylvania March 19th 1827.  He received an appointment to the United States Military Academy, graduating 5th out of the class of 1849.  He started his military career as a Second Lieutenant in the Third Artillery with fighting against the Seminole Indians in Florida.  In 1855 with the rank of First Lieutenant, Duncan left the army and moved the Louisiana.  He worked in New Orleans as an architect, surveyor and the Chief Engineer of the Board of Public Works.

When the Civil War started Duncan sided with those of his southern home, and enlisted in the Confederate service, becoming the Colonel of the 1st Louisiana Artillery.  He was promoted to Brigadier General January 7th 1862, and placed in command of the defenses of the Lower Mississippi.  When Union Admiral David Farragut captured Fort Jackson on April 28th 1862, Duncan became a prisoner of war.  After a prisoner exchange on August 27th 1862, Duncan was assigned to Confederate General Braxton Bragg as his Chief of Staff.  While on this duty, he contracted Malarial and died December 18th 1862 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Duncan is buried in the Confederate Cemetery in Franklin, Tennessee.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Give Him Up Or We Burn Your City

In an attempt to capture Confederate Silas M Gordon, Union troops burnt Platte City, Missouri December 16th 1861.

Silas M Gordon lived in Platte County, Missouri and had been fighting a kind of guerrilla war fare against Union troops and supporters in the area, including the September 1861 Platte Bridge Railroad Tragedy that killed and injured over a hundred.  Union troops had tried to capture Gordon in November at Bee Creek, but he got away after killing two Union soldiers.  In early December Gordon along with about 35 men captured the town of Weston, Missouri, and captured two Union soldiers.  They moved to Platte City, where the Confederates camped on the Platte County Courthouse lawn. 

Union General David Hunter issued orders from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas for the people of Platte City to deliver Gordon up or their city would be burned.  Union Colonel W James Morgan commanding the 18th Missouri marched from St Joseph, Missouri to Platte City where they set fire to the city and the courthouse on December 16th 1861.  While in that town they found two Confederate soldiers who were home on a furlough and took them prisoner.

Morgan ordered the two prisoners killed.  Despite pleas from the father of one the men, Black Triplett, Morgan took him and the other man Gabriel Case to Bee Creek.  At the same place where Union soldiers were killed Morgan had Triplett executed, and Case was bayonetted trying to get away on December 17th 1861.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Convention For Subvertion

The Topeka Constitution was approved December 15th 1855 by Free State voters in Kansas.

The Free State’er met in conventions first at Lawrence, Kansas in August and then at Big Springs, Kansas in September.  The third meeting, the Topeka Constitutional Convention held in Topeka, Kansas with the delegates assembling October 23rd 1855, to make the first effort to get Kansas a state constitution.  The Convention held by Free State’ers, voted to approve the anti-slavery Topeka Constitution on December 15th 1855.  It passed by a wide margin of 1,731 to 46.  The convention was held in an attempt to subvert officially elected pro slavery legislature.  The Constitution banned slavery, and stated that "every civilized male Indian who has adopted the habits of the white man" should be allowed suffrage.

The United States Congress rejected the Topeka Constitution.

If you are interested in reading more about this topic, check out Kansas Constitutions

Friday, December 14, 2012

An Active Kentucky Unit

The 28th Kentucky Infantry mustered out of service, after a long battle record on December 14th 1865.

The 28th Kentucky Infantry was organized in the New Haven, Kentucky area.  They mustered into Union service for a three year term in the command of Colonel William P Boone on October 8th 1862.  The 28th was made a part of the 16th Brigade of the Union Army of the Ohio in January 1862.

They moved around Kentucky and Tennessee doing guard duty on various railroads protecting them from Confederate raiders.  The men of the 28th saw action in many battles including Gordon’s Mills, Resaca, Kennesaw Mountain, Jonesboro, and Franklin.  The 28th was mustered out of duty December 14th 1865.

The 28th had 37 officers and enlisted killed, and another 75 died from disease during their service.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

An Officer Of Merit

Union General Conrad Feger Jackson from Pennsylvania was killed December 13th 1862 in action at the Battle of Fredericksburg.

Conrad Feger Jackson was born September 11th 1813 in Alsace, Berks, Pennsylvania the son of Isaac Jackson a devote Quaker.  Jackson’s father died when he was 5 years old and Jackson went to live with an Uncle, Joseph Jackson, in Chester County Pennsylvania.  He received his education at the local Quaker schools, before becoming a conductor on the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad.  Jackson was appointed by President James K Polk to the revenue service and during the Mexican American War he carried dispatches for General Winfield Scott.  After returning to Pennsylvania he took a job with a petroleum oil company in the Kanawha Valley area of Virginia, which was where he was when the Civil War started.

Upon returning to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Jackson organized what became the 9th Pennsylvania Reserve.  Jackson was appointed the Colonel of the 9th by Pennsylvania Governor Andrew G Curtin, and served with them throughout the Peninsula Campaign.  He received a promotion to Brigadier General on July 17th 1862 and was place in command of the 3rd Brigade of the Pennsylvania Reserves, leading them at the second Battle of Bull Run and Antietam.

On December 13th 1862 at Fredericksburg Jackson led his brigade at the right wing of the Confederate army.  He had just road forward to give an order to clear the ground in his front, when a Confederate volley hit him in the head, killing him and his aide.  Jackson’s division leader General George Gorden Meade said of his death, "The public service has also to mourn the loss of Brigadier General C Feger Jackson, an officer of merit and reputation, who owed his position to his gallantry and good conduct in previous actions."  His body was taken back to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where his buried in the Allegheny Cemetery there.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Send Military Support

United States Secretary of State Lewis Cass under President Buchanan resigned his office December 13th 1860 over the failure to send troops to stop the Southern states from succeeding.

Lewis Cass was born October 9th 1782 in Exeter, New Hampshire the son of Jonathan and Molly (Gilman) Cass.  He attended the Phillips Exeter Academy in his home town, before moving with his family to Marietta, Ohio.  He read for the law and became a lawyer.  Cass was a member of the Freemasons, becoming Grand Master in 1826 of the Grand Lodge of Michigan.  He served as the Governor of the Michigan Territory from 1813 to 1831.  Cass became the Secretary of War under President Andrew Jackson August 1831, and formulated and implemented Jackson’s Indian policies.  He went on to represent Michigan as a US Senator, serving as chair of the Committee on Military Affairs from 1845 to 1848.  Cass ran for President in 1848, supporting the Doctrine of Popular Sovereignty, which called for the people who lived in the territories to decide for themselves whether to or not to be slave holding areas.  His nomination caused a split in the Democratic Party.  Cass lost the election to Zachary Taylor.  He went back to the Senate, serving until 1857.

Cass began serving in 1857 as Secretary of State for President James Buchanan.  Cass resigned from his post December 13th 1860 because of Buchanan’s failure to send troop to protect Federal interest in the southern states.  He felt the action might have helped to avert the Southern states from succeeding.

Cass died June 17th 1866 in Detroit, Michigan.  He is buried the Elmwood Cemetery in Detroit, Michigan.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Building Pontoons Under Fire

Union engineers began before dawn December 11th 1862 building a pontoon bridge across the Rappahannock River, so troops could be moved into Fredericksburg.

Before dawn on the morning of December 11th 1862 Union engineers began assembling five pontoon bridges in three areas along the Rappahannock River.  Those who were putting them together across from the city came under fire from Confederate Brigadier General William Barksdale’s Mississippians.  Union artillery fired on the Confederate sharpshooters, but Barksdale’s men were well protected in the cellars of the houses along the water front.  After it became obvious that artillery wasn't working, Union infantry was sent across the river in pontoon boats to roust out the sharpshooters.  Union Colonel Norman J Hall volunteered to lead his brigade, with the 7th Michigan spearheading the landing for the job.

Commanding Union General Ambrose E Burnside was reluctant to send the men, saying to Hall that "the effort meant death to most of those who should undertake the voyage."  Burnside relented and at 3 pm with Union artillery softening the way, 135 men from the 7th Michigan and 19th Massachusetts headed across the river in the small boats.  Landing, the Union troops spread out into a skirmish line, fighting the Confederates street by street as the engineers went back to building the bridge.

Some of Burnside’s troops began crossing at 4:30 on the 11th, but most didn't get across until the next day.

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Laywer And A Soldier

Confederate Brigadier General John Carpenter Carter died December 10th 1864 from wounds received at the Battle of Franklin.

John Carpenter Carter was born December 19th 1837 in Waynesboro, Georgia.  He attended the University of Virginia in 1854, for two years before leaving to study law at Cumberland University under Judge Abram Carruthers.  Carter would stay at the Lebanon, Tennessee school after graduating as an instructor, and he would marry the Judge’s daughter.  He opened his own law practice in Memphis, Tennessee.

When the war started Carter became a Captain in the 38th Tennessee, and quickly moved up to become their Colonel.  He saw action at the Battles of Shiloh, Perryville, Stones River, Chickamauga and the Atlanta Campaign.  During the Battle of Jonesboro on September 1st 1864 Carter had temporary command of a division.  He was promoted to Brigadier General on July 7th 1864.  At the Battle of Franklin on November 30th 1864 while leading his brigade, Cater received a mortal wound, which caused his death on December 10th 1864.  He is buried in the Rose Hill Cemetery in Columbia, Tennessee.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Death On The Creek

The Tragedy of Ebenezer Creek on December 9th 1864 occurred when Union General Jefferson C Davis refused to let the escaped slaves following his Union Corps, cross the creek on his pontoon bridge.

Union General William Tecumseh Sherman had only twenty miles left on his “March to the Sea”, heading toward Savannah, Georgia.  Former slaves had started following his army as he began the march from Atlanta, but Sherman didn’t have the means to support them all.  With food being scarce the freedmen were encouraged to turn back, but on December 9th 1864 there were about 640 former slaves, men, women and children following the army.

Union Brigadier General Jefferson C Davis, the leader of the XIV Corps made a decision to rid himself of theses 640 souls.  Davis had the pontoon bridge laid out across Ebenezer Creek.  He ordered his troops to cross first telling the former slaves to wait for their own safety, in case there was fight in the front.  Once the Union troops were across the bridge Davis ordered the 58th Indiana to cut the line holding the pontoon, and the current moved the bridge about thirty-five yard away from the bank.  This left the former slaves trapped on the far side of the icy water.

At just about the same time Confederate cavalry under the command of Major General Joseph Wheeler arrived at Ebenezer Creek where the former slave had been left.  Many of the trapped men and women went into the river trying to swim across and were drowned, other were killed during the skirmish with Davis men on the other side of the river.  The Confederates left to find another way around the river, but they came back later to round up any of the former slaves left behind.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The First Dragoons Form

The Prattville Dragoons were organized December 8th 1860 in Autauga County, Alabama.

The original idea for forming a company was made by Samuel D Oliver of Robinson Springs, Alabama.  The Prattville Dragoons were organized December 8th 1860 in the parlor of George L Smith at Prattville, Alabama.  Each member of the company was presented with a cavalry uniform, made of black broadcloth with gold trim.  Their first Captain, as voted by the men was Jesse Cox of Mobile, Alabama.  There were 18 officers, 82 privates and 2 black cooks.  The men formed for their send off at the Prattville Academy, where they were presented with a silk flag, hand sown by the ladies of the town.

The Dragoons moved to camp in Pensacola, Florida were they were placed under Confederate General Braxton Bragg.  The men were issued arms and became a mounted unit, Company I of the 7th Alabama Infantry.  They took part in the Battle of Shiloh in April 1862.  In June 1862 most of the men reenlisted, becoming part of Company H of the 3rd Alabama Cavalry.  They saw action throughout the rest of war particularly at Barmlet’s Station and the Battle of Perryville.

The regiment reduced by heavy losses surrendered in North Carolina on April 26th 1865, as a part of Confederate General Joseph E Johnston army.

Friday, December 7, 2012

They Withdrew In The Night

A tactical stalemate, the Battle of Prairie Grover which was fought December 7th 1862 ensured the Union hold on northwest Arkansas.

Confederate Major General Thomas C Hindman moved his Army of the Trans Mississippi between two Union forces under the command of Brigadier Generals James Blunt and Francis Herron.  At dawn on December 7th 1862 Hindman moved first on Herron’s cavalry, however running into the Union infantry he lost ground.  The Confederates established a line northeast of Prairie Grove Church on a high wooded ridge.  Union artillery opened on Hindman’s line, setting up two failed Union attacks.  Confederate attacks were halted in the face of Union canister fire.  At the moment it looked as though Hindman would be successful in his attack against Harron’s troops, Blunt arrived on his left flank.
With the coming darkness of night, both side still held their part of the field.  They called a truce so that the dead could be gathered and the wounded tended to.  Hindman had blankets wrapped around the wheels of his cannon and silently withdrew during the night, giving control of northwest Arkansas to the Union troops.  The battle ended with about 1,250 Union casualties, and 1,300 Confederate.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Towing Other Ships

The USS Owasco a Union gunboat was delivered to the Navy December 6th 1861; she was named for the Owasco Lake one of the New York Finger Lakes.

The USS Owasco was launched at Mystic, Connecticut after being built by Charles Mallory.  She was a 691 ton Unadilla class screw steamer.  She was delivered to the Union Navy at the New York Navy Yard on December 6th 1861, and commissioned under the command of Lieutenant John Guest.  Leaving New York on February 5th 1862 the Owasco joined Commodore David G Farragut’s flotilla at Key West, Florida.  She captured two Confederate schooners on March 16th 1862 while on route to Ship Island, Mississippi.

The Owasco was one of seven steamers used to tow Union schooners safely in the current of the Mississippi.  When Farragut’s ships ran past Forts Jackson, and St Philip, taking the port of New Orleans in April 1862, one of the Owasco’s own, Quartermaster Edward Farrell was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.  She was with Farragut again when he moved up the river to just below Vicksburg, Mississippi.  On October 3rd 1862 the Owasco took part in the bombing of Galveston, Texas.  She continued blockading duty taking part in the capture of Brazos Santiago, Texas on November 3rd 1863.  The Owasco captured an English schooner carrying supplies for Confederate General John B Magruder on April 19th 1864.

The Owasco was decommissioned July 12th 1865 at the New York Navy Yard and sold off at auction.  She would be renamed the Lulu and was still sailing as a commercial ship in 1885.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Hold That Gap At All Hazards

The Battle of Ringgold Gap, a Confederate victory was fought November 27th 1863 in northwest Georgia.

The Battle of Missionary Ridge was disastrous to the Confederate Army of Tennessee and sent them limping into northwest Georgia.  Reaching the mountain pass of Ringgold Gap, Confederate General Braxton Bragg, needed time to get his wagons and artillery; which were bogged down on the muddy roads through, so he called on Major General Patrick Cleburne to hold the pass from the Union army “at all hazards, and keep back the enemy until the artillery and transportation” are secure.  Ringgold Gap was a narrow railroad cut used by the Western & Atlantic just outside the town of Ringgold, Georgia.

Cleburne’s men opened the battle with artillery about 3 am surprising Union Major General Joseph Hooker’s following force.  Hooker tried to regain the initiative attempting to outflank the Cleburne’s position.  Cleburne held his ground with two cannon and 4,100 men for five hours, not giving Hooker or his 12,000 soldiers any ground.  The Confederate wagons and artillery having made it through the Gap, at about noon Cleburne managed a successful retreat.  It was a costly fight for both sides, with the Confederates loosing 480 men and the Union 432.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Confederate Ship, Union Ship

The USS Ellis went down with a fight on the morning of November 25th 1862, after its commander had to have her abandoned.

The Ellis started life as the CSS Ellis when she was purchased by the state of North Carolina in 1861 at Norfolk, Virginia and turned over to the Confederacy.  She was placed under the command of Commander W T Muse, and sat to the defense of Fort Hatteras in North Carolina.  On February 10th 1862 she was taken by the Union after a desperate fight with the USS Ceres just off of Elizabeth City, North Carolina.
She then became the USS Ellis and as part of the Union Navy was assigned to the North Atlantic Blocking Squadron.  Under the command of Lieutenant C L Franklin she went into service in the rivers of the North Carolina coast.  The Ellis took part in the capture of Fort Macon on April 25th 1862, and destroyed a battery and salt works at Swansboro, North Carolina in August 1862.

The Ellis sailed up the New River Inlet in November 1862 under the command of Lieutenant William B Cushing.  She captured two Confederate schooners, but ran aground on November 24th 1862 as she sailed back down the river.  After dark Cushing had all of the Ellis’ equipment, guns, coal, and all but five crew members transferred to the captured schooners.  As the schooners went down the river Cushing and his five crewmen waited on the Ellis for a fight.  In the early hours of November 25th 1862 the Confederates opened fire on the Ellis.  Cushing refused to surrender his ship, so before leaving her he had fires set on board, and the one remaining gun loaded and pointed toward the Confederates so it would shoot when the fire reached it.  The Ellis blew up shortly after she was abandoned when the fires exploded her magazine.
Cushing and his men made their escape to the schooners and out the mouth of the inlet.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Waving The American Flag

Union Sergeant John Kiggins of the 149th New York was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on November 24th 1863 at the Battle of Lookout Mountain.

John Kiggins was born February 2nd 1837 in DeRuyter, Madison, New York.

Kiggins enlisted September 2nd 1862, and became a Sergeant on November 1st 1863.  On November 24th 1863 the 149th New York moved on Lookout Mountain from the Tennessee side of the mountain.  The plan was to overwhelm the Confederates on the Lookout Mountain by sheer force of numbers.  As the fight got rolling, a heavy fog layed over the lower mountain.  The men of the 149th found themselves stuck in between the Confederate line in their front and friendly fire coming from their rear.   Kiggins a Sergeant in Company D of the 149th could see the men were in a predicament, and he grabbed a large American flag, stood up on a stump and began waving it over his head.  This movement stop the fire on the 149th coming from their rear, but made Kiggins a great target for Confederates in his front.  Kiggins found nine bullet holes in his uniform, the top of his head was grazed by a bullet and one shot went through his thigh.  In the end the Union won the Battle the next day.

Kiggins would be wounded again May 25th 1864 in the shoulder at the Battle of New Hope Church.  He didn’t return to his unit until April 23rd 1865 at Raleigh, North Carolina.

Kiggins returned after the war to Syracuse, New York where he worked for the Whitman and Barnes Company a tool making company as a night watchman.  He was awarded the Medal of Honor on January 12th 1892.  The citation for the award reads, “Waved the colors to save the lives of the men who were being fired upon by their own batteries, and thereby drew upon himself a concentrated fire from the enemy.”  Kiggins died in Syracuse, New York September 29th 1914.  He is buried in the Bath National Cemetery in Bath, Steuben, New York.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Houses Trembled Ten Miles Off

Fort McRee located on the eastern tip of Perdido Key, Florida was continued to be fired on, on November 23rd 1861 by Union batteries and the USS Niagara.

Fort McRee was a bent elliptical fort built on a barrier island.  At its widest points the fort was 450 feet by 150 feet wide.  The wall that faced the channel was 366 feet long and about 35 feet above the water line during low tide.  McRee held 128 cannons, including twenty-four 32 pounders.  The fort was built before 1839 by William Henry Chase who oversaw the construction of all the Pensacola area forts.
In early January 1861 Union troops located at Fort McRee destroyed about 20,000 pound of gunpowder and evacuated to Fort Pickens.  On January 12th 1861 Confederate troops from Alabama and Florida occupied McRee.

On the morning of November 22nd 1861 Union batteries located at Fort Pickens opened on some Confederate steamers docked at the Navy Yard.  The ships escaped with very little damage, while the Confederate guns located at Forts Barrancas and McRee returned fire on Fort Pickens.  The USS Richmond and USS Niagara moved in firing on Fort McRee, shooting the Fort’s flagstaffs off.  The Confederate fire was able to do some damage to the USS Richmond.  Confederate General Braxton Bragg said of that day's battle, that "the houses in Pensacola, ten miles off, trembled from the effect; and immense quantities of dead fish floated on the surface of the lagoon, stunned by the concussion."  At about 5 pm with the tide going out the two Union ships had to withdraw and the guns of McRee fell silent.
The Battle took up again on November 23rd 1861 where it had left off.  The Union side firing around 5,000 rounds of ammo into Fort McRee did extensive damage.  Fort McRee’s Confederate commander Colonel John B Villepique sent word to Bragg that the fort was exposed, half his guns had been dismounted and the powder was in danger.  The Confederate only returned about 1,000 shots, killing 2 and wounding 13 Union men.  Fort McRee would survive the bombardment, but large chunks of wall were blown away or collapsed, and one powder magazine caved in.  Six Confederate soldiers died in the action.

Monday, November 19, 2012

First Battle In Indian Territory

The Battle of Round Mountain was fought in Indian Territory on November 19th 1861 near Yale, Oklahoma.

Confederate Colonel Douglas Hancock Cooper the commander of the Indian Department moved on November 15th 1861 with about 1,400 troops, including the 1st Choctaw and Chickasaw Regiment to bring Chief Opothleyahola the leader of a band of Union supporting Creeks and Seminoles, under Confederate control or drive them out of the territory.  Cooper’s men found Opothleyahola’s camp on the Deep Fork of the Canadian River empty.  On November 19th 1861 Cooper got information that Opothleyahola was working a fort near the Red Fork of the Arkansas River.

At about 4 pm on November 19th Cooper’s cavalry found the Indians had abandoned there camp on the Red Fork.  Trying to follow Opothleyahola’s people the 4th Texas ran into warriors at the foot of Round Mountains just inside the tree line.  There was a short fight and then Opothleyahola’s men set the prairie grass on fire, and retreated under that cover.

The next morning Cooper’s men found that Opothleyahola and his Union supporters had fled the area.  The Confederates called it a victory as they had drove Opothleyahola out of the territory.  By the end of 1861 the Indians had fled to Kansas.

If you are interested in reading more, check out BATTLE OF ROUND MOUNTAIN

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Scrawled The Verses Without Looking

Julia Ward Howe wrote “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” November 18th 1861, which would become a popular patriotic song during the Civil War.

The music was originally written about 1856 by William Steffe as the spiritual “Canaan’s Happy Shore”.  A Vermont man; Thomas Bishop used the tune to set the words of “John Brown’s Body”, which was used by his Massachusetts unit for a marching song.   Julia Ward Howe was at a public review of troops near Washington when she first heard the song.  Reverend James Freeman Clarke who had escorted Howe to the review suggested she should write new words for the song.

Howe was staying at the Willard Hotel in Washington, DC on the night of November 18th 1861, when she claimed to have awoken with words of the hymn in her mind.  She remember writing the lyrics this way, “I went to bed that night as usual, and slept, according to my wont, quite soundly. I awoke in the gray of the morning twilight; and as I lay waiting for the dawn, the long lines of the desired poem began to twine themselves in my mind. Having thought out all the stanzas, I said to myself, 'I must get up and write these verses down, lest I fall asleep again and forget them.' So, with a sudden effort, I sprang out of bed, and found in the dimness an old stump of a pen which I remembered to have used the day before. I scrawled the verses almost without looking at the paper.”

“The Battle Hymn of the Republic” was published February 1862 in The Atlantic Monthly.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The First Union Army Lady Doctor

Doctor Mary Edwards Walker a Union Army surgeon was awarded the Medal of Honor November 11th 1865 under the recommendation of Union General William Tecumseh Sherman.

Mary Edwards Walker was born November 26th 1832 in Oswego, New York the daughter of Alvah and Vesta Walker.  She worked on the family farm and took to wearing men’s clothing while working.  She was educated in the local school her mother taught.  After earning her own money to pay for it, Walker attended the Syracuse Medical College, graduating with a medical degree in 1855.  She married Albert Miller a fellow student and the two of them opened a practice in Rome, New York.

When the Civil War started Walker volunteered her service to the Union Army.  At first she was only allowed to operate as a nurse, as the Army didn’t have any other female surgeons.  She was at the First Battle of Bull Run.  Walker worked unpaid as a field surgeon on the front line at the battles of Fredericksburg and Chickamauga.  She was finally made a “Contract Acting Assistant Surgeon (civilian)" for the Union Army of the Cumberland in September 1863.  This made Walker the first female Union army surgeon.  She was captured April 10th 1864, behind the lines helping a Confederate doctor with an amputation and was sent to prison in Richmond, Virginia until exchanged.  President Andrew Johnson had her awarded the Medal of Honor after she was recommended by Union General William Tecumseh Sherman and George Henry Thomas on November 11th 1865.

Following the war Walker went on to write and lecturer about health care, temperance, and women’s rights.  She died February 21st 1919.  At her funeral there was an American flag draped over her coffin.  She is buried in the Rural Cemetery in Oswego, New York.

In 1917 the United State Congress removed Walker’s name along with 910 other Medal of Honor recipients from the Roll of Honor.  None of the 911 was asked to return their medal and Walker wore her until her death.

If you’re interested in reading more Dr Mary E Walker  is a good web site to start with.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The First To Leave The Senate

James Chestnut Jr a United States Senator, and Confederate General was the first Southern Senator to resign from the United States Senate on November 10th 1860.

James Chesnut Jr was born January 18th 1815 at the family home Mulberry Plantation in Camden, South Carolina, the son of James and Mary (Cox) Chesnut.  He was the youngest of fourteen children and the only surviving son.  The family was among the wealthiest of southern planters.  Chesnut graduated from the College of New Jersey in 1835 and opened a practice in Camden in 1837.  He married Mary Boykin Miller April 23rd 1840 [she is well known for the diary she kept during the War].  He quickly became a rising star in southern politics, becoming a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives in 1840, the South Carolina State Senate in 1852 and serving as its president 1856-58.
In 1858 the South Carolina Legislature voted to send Chesnut to Washington to replace United States Senator Josiah J Evans.  Although he defended states’ rights and slavery, Chesnut opposed restarting the slave trade and was not strongly in favor of secession.  Following the election of Abraham Lincoln, Chesnut felt he could no longer serve in his office as Senator.  He became the first of the Southern senators to resign their seats on November 10th 1860.

Chesnut was at the South Carolina secession convention in December 1860 and would be elected to the Provisional Congress of the Confederate States of America, a part of the committee who drafted the Confederate Constitution.  Chesnut gave the orders to open fire on Fort Sumter on April 12th 1861; he was serving as the aide-de-camp to Confederate P G T Beauregard.  In 1864 he was promoted to Brigadier General and commanded a South Carolina reserve unit until the end of the war.
Following the Civil War Chesnut returned to practicing law in Camden, South Carolina.  He died at his home in Camden, South Carolina February 1st 1885 and is buried in the Knights Hill Cemetery there.

Friday, November 9, 2012

A Department Of The Army

The Union Army’s Department of Kansas was created on November 9th 1861 with Brigadier General David Hunter as the commander.

The Department of Kansas was created from the Western Department on November 9th 1861.  The Department covered the area of the Colorado Territory, Dakota Territory, Indian Territory west of Arkansas, Nebraska Territory and of course Kansas.  It’s first commander was Union Brigadier General David Hunter.  The Department became a part of the Union Department of Mississippi on March 11th 1862.

There would be a Union Department of Kansas two more times before the end of the war.  The second time it was formed on May 2nd 1862 and included the same area except for Fort Garland in Colorado.  Dakota and Nebraska Territories were taken out on October 11 1862, and the Department was once again absorbed, this time into the Union Department of Missouri.  Then it came back again on January 1st 1864 with the original make up minus Fort Garland, but with Fort Smith, Arkansas added.  Shortly after November 9th 1864 the Department was once again merged into the Department of Missouri.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

There Could Have Benn A British Invasion

The Trent Affair occurred when a British mail packet was intercepted by the USS San Jacinto and two Confederate diplomats were removed from the ship on November 8th 1861 and held as contraband of war.

Union Captain Charles Wilkes the commander of the USS San Jacinto intercepted a British mail packet, the RMS Trent on November 8th 1861.  The British ship was boarder and two Confederate diplomats; James Murray Mason and John Slidell, were found on board and removed under Union custody.  The two men were on their way to England and France to try to get diplomatic recognition for the Confederacy and were traveling under the protection of the British flag.

The initial public reaction within the Union was to come together against Britain, but President Abraham Lincoln knew better then to risk a war on that front.  The Confederate states thought this might be the thing that would hurt Federal and British relations and bring them recognition.  In Britain there was outrage that their neutrality had been violated and they demanded an apology as well as the release of Mason and Slidell.  There was even a movement of English troops to Canada for a possible invasion of Maine.

There were several weeks of tension which was resolved when Union Secretary of State William Seward made a disavowal of Captain Wilkes’ action saying he had erred in not bringing the RMS Trent in for adjudication violating the policy of freedom of the seas.  There was no formal apology, but Mason and Slidell were released and allowed to continue on their diplomatic mission to Britain.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Small Hold In Missouri

The Battle of Clark’s Mill was fought November 7th 1862 in Douglas County, Missouri.

Union Captain Hiram E Barstow the commander at Clark’s Mill received intelligence that there were Confederate troops in his area.  He sent a unit toward Gainesville, while he moved with another unit toward the southeast.  Barstow’s group met a small Confederate force led by Colonel John Q Burbridge and they had a short skirmish.  Learning another Confederate unit commanded by Colonel Colton Greene was approaching from the north Barstow moved his men back to Clark’s Mill.  The Union troops opened up artillery and began a five hour fight with the approaching Confederates.  After five hours of fighting, the Confederates demanded Barstow surrender.  As the Union Captain was out numbered he accepted the terms.

After paroling the Union troops the Confederates burned the blockhouse at Clark’s Mill.

If you’re interested in reading more about the Battle of Clark's Mill is a good place to start.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Tenth Texas Governor

Pendleton Murrah became the tenth Governor of Texas November 5th 1863; he served until the end of the Civil War.

Pendleton Murrah was born about 1826 South Carolina or Alabama, he may have been the illegitimate son of Peggy Murrah or was an orphan.  Murrah received his early education through the charitable society of the Baptist Church.  He graduated in 1848 from Brown University.  Murrah moved to Texas where he started practicing law in Marshall, Texas.  He was elected in 1857 to the Texas State legislature.

When the Civil War started Murrah was a great supporter of the Confederate cause.  He served with the 14th Texas as their quartermaster in 1862, but had to resign due to poor health.  He became the Governor of Texas November 5th 1863.  Murrah and the Confederacy had issues over the impressment goods, conscription of soldiers, frontier defenses, and finances.  Even after Confederate General Robert E Lee surrendered Murrah continued to encourage Confederate troops to fight.  In May 1865 when Union troops entered Texas Murrah went to Mexico with other Confederate leaders.

Murrah’s health was not good and shortly after reaching Monterrey, Mexico he died of tuberculosis on August 4th 1865.  He is buried in Panteon Municipal Cemetery, Monterrey, Mexico.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Diseases Took There Toll

The 38th Iowa was mustered in for three years of Union service November 4th 1862, they were known as the Martyr Regiment.

The 38th Iowa Infantry was recruited from Bremmer, Chickasaw, Fayette, Howard and Winneshiek Counties.  They received their initial training at Camp Franklin in Dubuque, Iowa and mustered into Union service on November 4th 1862.  The Regiment moved on January 2nd 1863 to Fort Thompson in New Madrid, Missouri where they performed garrison duty, until June 6th 1863 when the men left for Vicksburg as part of Union Major General Francis Herron’s Division.

The 38th arrived near Vicksburg on June 11th 1863.  Union General Ulysses S Grant moved the Division to the southernmost part of his line to protect against Confederate Cavalry thought to be moving in from Yazoo City, Mississippi.  The 38th crossed the river on June 14th 1863 and went into camp at Warrenton, Mississippi.  The 38th and 34th Iowa Infantry consolidated on December 12th 1864.  During the Battle of Fort Blakely in Alabama on April 9th 1865; one of the last battles of the war, men from the old 38th charged redoubt #4 loosing 1 man killed and 8 men wounded.

The 38th had a total of 1037 men in its service.  Two men were killed, and 315 died from diseases.  The 38th lost more men to sickness than any other Iowa Regiment during the war.

If you’re interested in reading more about this Regiment A Brief History of the 38th Iowa is a good web site.