Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Part Of Memphis' Defenses

The Memphis Battery Light Artillery which would be part of the Union 1st Tennessee Battery was mustered into service on October 31st 1863 at Memphis, Tennessee.

The Memphis Battery Light Artillery was made up of black men and was organized in Memphis, Tennessee.  They mustered into Union service for three years under the command of Captain Carl A Lamberg on October 31st 1863.  The Memphis Light was attached to the 1st Tennessee Heavy Artillery Regiment as Battery M.  A part of the 5th Division of the XVI Corps until January 1864, when they became part of the 1st Colored Brigade.

The regiment performed garrison duty in Memphis until April 1864.  One section of the Memphis Light was sent to Fort Pillow on February 15th 1864 where during the assault on the fort they manned two 6 pound James Rifles.  Almost every man from the 35 man detachment was either killed or listed as missing after Confederate Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest took the fort on April 12th 1864.  The next action the Memphis Light saw was in the Battle of Brice’s Cross Roads, where the unit had to abandon a section of guns that they spiked before leaving the field.

They were still part of the defenses of the city of Memphis, Tennessee until December 1864.  The men of the Memphis Light mustered out of service on December 11th 1865.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Golden Town

Helena, Montana got her name and became an organized town on October 30th 1864, after being founded by “Four Georgians”.

Helena, Montana became a place when gold was discovered by “Four Georgians” in a gulch near Prickly Pear on July 14th 1864.    The camp they created was known as “Last Chance”.  The town grew quickly and by early fall there were 200 souls, more or less living there.  A group of seven men met on October 30th 1864, to name the town, lay out streets and elect a governing body.

After several suggestions of names, a Scotsman; John Summerville offered Helena in honor of the town of Helena, Minnesota, with a northern sound to the name.  This caused southerners in the room to insist that it be pronounced like the southern town of Helena, Arkansas.  It wouldn’t be until 1882 that name settled into what we know today.

Monday, October 29, 2012

A Family Afair

Union Colonel Charles Rivers Ellet who commanded the USS Queen of the West, died October 29th 1863.

Charles Rivers Ellet was born June 1st 1843 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania the son of Charles and Elvira Augusta (Daniel) Ellet.  He was studying medicine at Georgetown University when the war started.

Ellet first served the Union as an Assistant Army Surgeon.  After his father started the Union Ram Fleet he got a transfer in the spring of 1862 to serve with his father.  Ellet received a promotion to Colonel on November 5th 1862 and the command of the USS Queen of the West.  He had her on the Mississippi below Vicksburg in February 1863, and captured several Confederate riverboats on the Red River.  Ellet and the Queen came under heavy fire at Fort DeRussy and the ship was run aground.  Ellet’s next command was the ram the USS Switzerland, which was steamed, passed Vicksburg in March 1863.  He became the second in command of the Mississippi Marine Brigade and was with them when they fought on March 22nd 1863 in the Battle of Miliken’s Bend.

Ellet became ill with typhoid and died at Bunker Hill, Illinois October 29th 1863.  He is buried in the Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Commemorative Medal

The Union Gillmore Medal given to men who fought in the Charleston, South Carolina area was first issued on October 28th 1863.

The Gillmore Medal was named after Union Major General Quincy Adams Gillmore, who commanded the troops that attempted to re-take Fort Sumter in 1863.  The medal is sometimes also called the Fort Sumter Medal it commemorates the Union troops who fought in the Charleston, South Carolina area in 1863.  The Medal was presented to all the men who served under Gillmore’s command, and was first awarded on October 28th 1863 by an order stating, “medals of honor for gallantry and meritorious conduct during the operations before Charleston".

The Gillmore Medal was suspended from a swivel without a ribbon, it attached to the uniform with a metal clasp.  The Medal was designed by the Ball, Black, and Company of New York City.  The Gillmore Medal was declared obsolete in 1905 when the Civil War Campaign Medal was created.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Nine Months To Save The Union

The 15th Vermont Infantry a Nine Month Regiment was mustered into Union service October 22nd 1862.

President Abraham Lincoln called for more Union troops on August 4th 1862 following the disastrous defeat of Major General George B McClellan’s Peninsula Campaign.  The 15th Vermont Infantry was a nine month regiment raised in response to this request.  The men were mostly recruited from Caledonia, Orleans, Orange and Windsor Counties. They went into Camp Holbrook October 8th 1862 at Brattleboro VT, and were mustered into the Union Army October 22nd 1862.  The next day the men of the 15th left by train for Washington, DC, where they would join the 14th Vermont Infantry at Camp Chase in Arlington, Virginia.

The 15th spent the winter and spring performing picket duty in defense of Washington, DC.  On June 25th 1863 the 15th became part of the First Corps, and were ordered to march to join the rest of Brigadier General John Fulton Reynolds Corps in the pursuit of Confederate General Robert E Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.  As they neared Gettysburg on June 30th 1863 at Emmettsburg, Maryland, the 15th along with the 12th Vermont Regiment were detached from the rest of the Brigade.  These two Vermont Regiments spent the Battle of Gettysburg guarding the First Corps trains near Rock Creek Church about 2 miles from the battlefield.  Following the defeat of the Confederates the 15th joined in the pursuit south, marching over South Mountain to Williamsport on July 14th 1863.

The men of the 15th found their nine months were up a few days later on July 18th 1863.  They were moved by train to New York City where they spent a few days during the New York City Draft Riots.  They arrived back in Vermont and were mustered out of service on August 5th 1863.  The 15th started with 942 men, out whom they had 78 die from disease, and 5 who were taken prisoner of war.
If you would like to read more about the 15th VT, check out Nine Months with the 15th Vermont Volunteers

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Preventing A Raid Into Kansas

The Battle of Old Fort Wayne [Battle of Maysville] was fought in Delaware County, Oklahoma; then part of the Indian Territory, on October 22nd 1862.

The Confederates started building a force for a raid into Kansas in July 1862.  Colonel Douglas Hancock Cooper built a force made up of Chickasaws, Choctaws and Creeks, which he led through the Indian Territory to Old Fort Wayne.  Old Fort Wayne was an abandoned Union garrison on the edge of the Betties Prairie.  Cooper was within supporting distance of Confederate General John Sappington Marmaduke’s Texans near Lowell, Arkansas.   He placed pickets in Maysville a small town on the Arkansas and Indian Territory border.

Union Brigadier General James G Blunt had a Division of about 3,500 men.  He received information about the Confederates located at Maysville, and was told the force there would be around 7,000 men, including General Stand Watie’s Cherokees.  Blunt’s men made a night march leaving on October 20th 1862 southward, arriving in Bentonville, Arkansas shortly after sunrise.  They made a second forced; 25 mile march, moving west on October 21st 1862.

At 5 am on October 22nd 1862 the Union 2nd Kansas Cavalry drove in the Confederate pickets at Maysville.  After following them over three miles the Cavalry ran into Cooper’s battle line with a heavy wood to their back.  Although the Union thought they were going to be facing about 7,000, in reality there was only about 1,500 men in Cooper’s line.  Both sides entered into an artillery duel.  Once Blunt had all his men up, they attacked Cooper’s thin line, opening a whole in the Confederate center.  Within a half hour Cooper’s men were in retreat with Blunt pursuing them for seven miles.  The Union had about 14 casualties.  The Confederates reported 150 losses including 50 dead.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Mortally Wouned In A Surprise Attack

Union General Daniel Davidson Bidwell died from wounds received while leading his brigade October 19th 1864 at the Battle of Cedar Creek.

Daniel Davidson Bidwell was born in Buffalo, New York August 12th 1819.  He received his education in local schools, and became a member of the Buffalo Militia.

When the Civil War started Bidwell became of private in the 65th New York Infantry, moving up in rank to Captain.  He helped organize the 74th New York Infantry, and then became the Colonel of the 49th New York Infantry in August 1861.  Bidwell and his regiment saw action during the Peninsula Campaign.  They were also in the Second Battle of Fredericksburg, the Battle of Salem Church and the Battle of Gettysburg.  Bidwell moved to lead a brigade in the Battles of Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor.  He was promoted to Brigadier General August 11th 1864.  Bidwell’s Brigade was part of the Sixth Corps and took part in Union Major General Philip H Sheridan’s Shenandoah Valley Campaign.  He was involved in the Third Battle of Winchester and the Battle of Fisher’s Hill.

On October 19th 1864 at the Battle of Cedar Creek the Confederates made a surprise attack on the Union troops.  By 7 am only the Sixth Corps was left contesting the Confederate advance.  Bidwell’s Brigade held the left flank.  It was while holding this line that he was mortally wounded.  His body was taken home and he is buried in the Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo, New York.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Take The Focus To Charlestown

The Battle of Charlestown fought October 18th 1863 was a part of the Bristoe and Mine Run Campaigns.

General Robert E Lee sent Confederate Brigadier General John D Imboden’s cavalry on a raid into the Shenandoah Valley to attack the Union garrison at Charlestown, West Virginia.  Lee was hoping this would move some of the Union forces in his front.  Imboden got to Berryville on October 17th 1863 where the Cavalry skirmished with a company of the Union 1st New York Cavalry, driving them into Charlestown.  The Union Commander Colonel Benjamin L Simpson was inexperienced having been in service only 17 days, believed that Charlestown was not the target, and so choose not to move his small force to Harpers Ferry.

Imboden advanced at dawn on October 18th 1863 driving the Union pickets in along the south of Charlestown.  The Union 9th Maryland made a stand in the Jefferson County Courthouse, and left one company from the Loudoun Rangers Cavalry and the 6th Michigan Cavalry to “take care of themselves”.  Imboden offered to negotiate a surrender with Simpson, but the Union General refused.  The Union Cavalry tried to fight their way out of Charlestown and head for Harpers Ferry, but northeast of town they ran into the Confederate 18th Virginia Cavalry and the 62nd Virginia Mounted.  The Union troopers found a weak spot in the Confederate right, cutting their way out.  The Cavalry lost 2 men killed, and 17 made prisoners.

Imboden still in Charlestown had his artillery brought up, and demanded the Union surrender a second time.  When Simpson turned him down again Imboden had the town shelled.  Under fire Simpson abandoned the courthouse and moved his men to a field near where the cavalry had fought.  Imboden had men in the woods facing the field, they fired and deadly volley into the Union soldiers.  Simpson finally surrendered.

The remains of the 6th Michigan and Loudoun Rangers were joined by the 17th Indiana Battery and Cole’s Maryland Cavalry from Harpers Ferry, arrived to reinforce the garrison, but were about 15 minutes to late.  There was a fierce fight throughout the afternoon, but they were not able to drive Imboden off.  Around 5 pm the 34th Massachusetts Infantry arrived at the fight having marched 18 miles from Barrysville.  They attacked Imboden, who choose withdraw under the cover of darkness with his prisoners and supplies stolen from Charlestown.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Inventor Of A Rifled Projectile

Charles Tillinghast James who invented an early design for ammunition for the James Rifle, was killed in a testing explosion October 17th 1862.

Charles Tillinghast James was born in West Greenwich, Rhode Island September 15th 1805 the son of Silas and Phebe (Tillinghast) James.  He was mostly self-educated and in the 1830’s was working in the mills in the Quinesbaug Valley in Connecticut.  He was well enough known that in 1834 Samuel Slater recruited him to overhaul the Steam Cotton Manufacturing Company in Providence.  After 1839 James was the half owner of the Brewster Coffin House in Newburyport, Massachusetts, while working on the Bartlett Mill, the Globe Steam Mill, the Conestoga Steam Mill, and the Graniteville Mill in South Carolina with William Gregg.

James developed an early rifled projectile and rifling system for artillery. James rifles and projectiles were used in the American Civil War. The greatest triumph of his system was the breaching of Fort Pulaski in Georgia.  It was during a demonstration of these new projectiles for the James Rifle in Sag Harbor, Long Island, New York that a shell exploded when a worker tried to remove a cap from the shell.  The explosion killed the worker and mortally wounded James, who died October 17th 1862.

If you are looking for information, check out General Charles Tillinghast James

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

One Of The First Veteran's Monuments

Josiah F Peck and James G Batterson reached an agreement on October 16th 1865 to place a monument in Bristol, Connecticut for the town’s veterans.

A committee was formed in 1865, under the suggestion of Josiah F Peck Sr, known as the Bristol Soldier’s Monument Committee.  The purpose was to raise money to create a memorial to its veterans.  It was decided that all of the town’s 3500 residences should donate one dollar towards the Monuments creation.  The committee also set up a subcommittee to organize a Strawberry Festival to raise additional funds.  On October 16th 1865 Peck reached an agreement with James G Batterson; a cemetery memorial salesman from Hartford, Connecticut, to furnish and set up the Soldiers’ Monument in Bristol.

The Monument was to be six feet wide at the base, and thirty-five feet high.  It was to be made out of Brown Portland Stone, quarried in Portland, Connecticut.  There was to be an inscription for the soldiers from Bristol who had fought and died in the late war to save the Union.  At the top of the Monument, facing east is an eagle carved out of the brownstone.  It is located in the West Cemetery, on the highest hill in the cemetery.

If you would like to see more about the Bristol Soldiers’ Monument  This is a good web site.

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Kentucky Unionist

Union Brigadier General James Streshly Jackson, a United State Representative from Kentucky was killed October 8th 1862 during the Battle of Perryville.

James Streshly Jackson was born in Fayette County, Kentucky September 27th 1823.  He attended Center College at Danville, Kentucky before graduating in 1844 from Jefferson College in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania.  He would also study law at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, practicing law afterwards in Greenup County, Kentucky.  When the Mexican American war started Jackson enlisted as a private in the 1st Kentucky Cavalry, but after participating in a duel with a fellow soldier, he was sure he’d be court martialed and so resigned in 1846.  In 1859 Jackson ran for Congress, he was elected to the Thirty-seventh Congress serving until December 13th 1861 when he entered the Union Army.

Jackson raised a company of cavalry that became the Union 3rd Kentucky Cavalry.  He was elected their Colonel on December 13th 1861.  He led the 3rd in the Battles of Shiloh and Corinth.  He received a promotion to Brigadier General of Volunteers July 16th 1862 and was placed in commanding a Brigade in the Union Army of the Ohio.

Jackson was shot in the chest and killed during the Battle of Perryville October 8th 1862.  He was buried originally in the Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky, but his body was moved and reburied March 24th 1863 in the Riverside Cemetery in Hopkinsville, Kentucky.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Setting Off A Diplomatic Crisis

On October 7th 1864, Rear Admiral Napoleon Collins in command of the USS Wachusett captured the CSS Florida in a harbor in Brazil, causing a diplomatic brouhaha.

Napoleon Collins was born March 4th 1814 in Pennsylvania.  In January 1834 he started with the United States Navy as a Midshipman, becoming a Lieutenant in 1846.  During the Mexican American War he served on the USS Decatur.

When the Civil War started, Collins commanded several gunboats, reaching the rank of Commander in July 1862.  He participated while commanding the USS Unadilla in the capture of Port Royal and Beaufort, South Carolina.

While in command of the screw sloop the USS Wachusett, Collins sailed into the neutral harbor of Bahia in Brazil.  On October 7th 1864 Collins captured the Confederate cruiser the CSS Florida in the harbor.  This set off a diplomatic crisis between Brazil and the United States.  Collins was court-martialed for illegally seizing the CSS Florida and sentenced to be dismissed from service, but as the capture of the Confederate ship was popular in the Union states, the court sentence was set aside.

Collins remained in the Navy after the war ended.  He became a Captain in 1866 and Rear Admiral in August 1874.  While commanding the South Pacific Squadron he died August 9th 1875 in Callao, Peru.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

A Hard Fought German Regiment

The 26th Wisconsin Infantry, a German regiment organized in Milwaukee, Wisconsin left the state for Washington, DC October 6th 1862.

The 26th Wisconsin Infantry was made up mostly of men of German decent and was organized at Camp Siegel in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  They were mustered into the Union Army September 17th 1862 and left for Washington, DC on October 6th 1862.  The 26th joined the 11th Corps at Fairfax Court House, Virginia.  They saw their first real action in Chancellorsville in May 1863, where they and the 119th New York were attacked by superior numbers of Confederates in an open field.  The 26th lost 177 men in that battle.  The 26th saw heavy losses again at the Battle of Gettysburg.  Their service continued with action at Missionary Ridge, Resaca, Kennesaw Mountain and Sherman’s March to the Sea.  They were part of the Union Army’s Grand Review in Washington, DC.

The 26th mustered out of Union service in Washington, DC June 17th 1865.  Of the 1088 men who served in the 26th, 188 officers and enlisted were killed and 77 died from disease.

A good web site to look at if you want to know more is the History of the 26th Wisconsin Infantry

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A Truce To Evacuate

The First Battle of Galveston was primarily a naval battle fought October 4th 1862 in the harbor of Galveston, Texas.

The Union began blockading Galveston Harbor in July 1861, but Galveston continued to be held by the Confederates.  The morning of October 4th 1862 saw the Union ship the USS Harriet Lane coming into Galveston with a flag of truce.  Union Commander William Bainbridge Renshaw sent her in to inform the Confederate authorities in Galveston that if they didn’t surrender, they would come under attack in one hour.  The Confederate commander in Galveston, Colonel Joseph J Cook refused to receive the communication.  The USS Harriet Lane returned to fleet.

Four Union steamers moved into Galveston Harbor, causing the Confederates in Fort Point to fire upon them opening the battle.  The Union ship returned the fire disabling one of the guns in Fort Point.  Renshaw and Cook sent officers to discuss an end to hostilities, but Cook turned down the Union commander’s demand for unconditional surrender.  Renshaw made preparation to being bombing the city again, when Cook; re-thinking his position, sent an officer back to negotiate a truce so that women and children could be evacuated from the city.

Cook used the truce to evacuate not just the women and children, but also to move all the Confederate troops, and supplies out of the city.  Although this placed the port city in Union hands, it was for just a short time, as the Confederates moved back in, which led to the Second Battle of Galveston in January 1863.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

His Death Caused The Burning Of A Town

Union Major John Rodgers Meigs was killed October 3rd 1864 under a cloud of controversy which led to the burning of a town in Virginia as retaliation.

John Rodgers Meigs was born February 9th 1841 the son of Major General Montgomery C and Louisa (Rodgers) Meigs.  He received an appointment to the United State Military Academy at West Point in 1859.  He took a short leave from the school following the First Battle of Bull Run to serve as aide-de-camp to Union General Philip Henry Sheridan.  Meigs returned to West Point graduating at the top of the class of 1863.

Following the Battle of Gettysburg, Meigs became a staff officer for Brigadier General Benjamin Franklin Kelly in West Virginia.  He saw action at the Battle of New Market, and was with Sheridan during the actions in the Shenandoah Valley.  Meigs received a brevet to Captain and then to Major for action in the Third Battle of Winchester and the Battle of Fisher’s Hill.

On the rainy night of October 3rd 1864 Meigs and two other Union soldiers were traveling to Union headquarters in Harrisonburg, Virginia.  They came onto three Confederate cavalrymen riding on the same road.  Both parties demanded the surrender of the other.  There was an exchange of gunfire during which Meigs was killed, one of the men riding with him was taken prisoner, and the third man escaped.  The man who escaped told Sheridan that Meigs was killed without the chance to defend himself.  Thinking Meigs had been murdered; Sheridan ordered the town of Dayton, Virginia to be burned to the ground as retaliation.

Meigs’ father had him buried in the Oak Hill Cemetery in Washington, DC, but would latter have him re-interred in Arlington National Cemetery.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

To Regain His Rights Of Citizenship

Confederate General Robert E Lee signed an Amnesty Oath October 2nd 1865, but his citizenship was restored.

On April 9th 1865 at the Wilmer McLean house in Appomattox Court House, Virginia, Robert E Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia to Union General Ulysses S Grant.  A little over a month later on May 29th 1865, United State President Andrew Johnson issued the Proclamation of Amnesty and Pardon.  There were fourteen classes of people who had been in rebellion against the Union, whom the Proclamation excluded.  If you were a member of one these classes, you had to make a special application directly to the President.  Lee wrote an application on June 13th 1865, which said, “Being excluded from the provisions of amnesty & pardon contained in the proclamation of the 29th Ulto; I hereby apply for the benefits, & full restoration of all rights & privileges extended to those included in its terms. I graduated at the Military Academy at West Point in June 1829. Resigned from the U.S. Army April '61. Was a General in the Confederate Army, & included in the surrender of the Army of N. Va. 9 April '65.”

Lee was made the president of Washington College in Lexington, Virginia on October 2nd 1865, the same day he signed his Amnesty Oath in compliance with the Proclamation of Amnesty and Pardon.  He did not however receive a pardon nor was his right to citizenship returned.

It would not be until August 5th 1975 that through a joint Congressional resolution, President Gerald R Ford signed the paper giving Lee back his right to be a citizen of the United States.

Robert E Lee’s Amnesty Oath stated that, “I, Robert E. Lee of Lexington, Virginia, do solemnly swear in the presence of almighty God, that I will henceforth faithfully support, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and the Union of the states there under, and that I will, in like manner, abide by and faithfully support all laws and proclamation which have been made during the existing rebellion with reference to the emancipation of slaves, so help me God."

Monday, October 1, 2012

I Grieve The Loss

Confederate Brigadier General John Dunovant was killed October 1st 1864 at the Battle of Vaughan Road, a part of the Siege of Petersburg.

John Dunovant was born 1825 in Chester, South Carolina the son of John and Margaret (Sloan Quay) Dunovant.  During the Mexican American War he was a Sergeant in a volunteer regiment and was wounded at the Battle of Chapultepec.  He joined the United State Army as a Captain in the 10th Infantry March 1855.

Dunovant resigned on December 29th 1860 and offered his service to the South Carolina militia.   He was present at Fort Moultrie during the bombardment of Fort Sumter.  He was stationed there when he became the Colonel of the 1st South Carolina Infantry July 1861.  Dunovant was cashiered November 1862 for being drunk, but was back commanding July 28th 1863 this time with the 5th South Carolina Cavalry.  In May 1864 the 5th with Dunovant was placed in Confederate Major General Wade Hampton’s Division a part of Jeb Stuart’s Cavalry.  They saw action at numerous engagements including the Second Battle of Drewry’s Bluff, the Battle of Cold Harbor and many of the encounters against Union General Philip Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley.  Dunovant was wounded at the Battle of Haw’s Shop May 28th 1864.  He was appointed to Brigadier General August 22nd 1864 and given command of a brigade.

On October 1st 1864; while fighting north of the James River, in a part of the Battle of Peebles’ Farm known as the Battle of Vaughan Road, Dunovant was shot and killed while leading his men in a charge.  After he fell in the frontal attack his troops retreated.  General Robert E Lee said of Dunovant to Hampton, “I grieve with you at the loss of General Dunovant and Dr. Fontaine, two officers whom it will be difficult to replace."  His body was taken back to Chester, South Carolina where he was buried in a family cemetery.